Monday, June 29, 2009

Daily Report: Poolside Lunch

Our friends Andy and Cynthia came to visit today. We went together up to Faustina Pool Resort for lunch. Andy was right: It's the kind of place where you could just sit all day and enjoy watching the trees grow. We had a fantastic time.

In the evening, I took a night off from playing my video game, and instead watched a couple of educational programs: Weapons of Ancient Greece on the History Channel (knew all of those already), and a hugely interesting program on the history of fractals on The Australia Network.

Went to bed early and read my book, "The Forest" a historical fiction collection of short stories taking place at 200-year intervals in The New Forest of Southern England.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Obama Arrogates Slimy Bush Practices On Gitmo

I can't say that this is a good idea.

President Obama doesn't have enough support in Congress to close the prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo. So what he plans to do is use the wrong-minded policies that his predecessor used — that the Executive Branch can "write its own laws" regarding all things war-related — to bypass Congress.

In other words, President Obama is going to say, "President Bush was right: Guantanamo is solely the Commander In Chief's purview; Congress has no say in what the President does there." Then he is going to say, "By the way, I'm closing it. No vote necessary, thanks."

I have several problems with this:
  • First, it affirms the Bush Administration's belief that it can act as the sole arbiter in these matters, and it affirms the Constitutionally-questionable decisions the Bush Administration made in exercising that belief. As far as political trade-offs go, that's pretty poor: Giving credence and legal footing to all of the moral slippage the U.S. made in recent years by using it as a precedent, in exchange for something that could have been achieved with better politicking.
  • Second, doing an end-run around Congress does not strengthen the Obama Administration's position in this matter (although the hypocrisy that will evince itself when the Republican members of Congress say, "You can't do that... even though we liked it when Bush did," will be rich). It's not going to improve matters, especially stepping on Democrat congressional toes along with Republican congressional toes. In the long run, stirring things up like this will not pay dividends.
  • Third, while America elected Obama, inter alia, to close Guantanamo, they also elected him to be a straight shooter... and instead they get this poor display of if-he-cheated-so-can-I crooked politics. America doesn't want another Clinton, and — for God's sake — it certainly doesn't want another Bush.
I'll give Obama 5 points for the goal, but subtract 10 points for the plan of obtaining it.

Anonymous Liberal says that Obama will not be closing Guantanamo, and really is using his Bush-begotten "authority" to imprison terror suspects indefinitely:
I suspect that Obama entered office with the intention of ending the Bush administration's policy of indefinite detention, believing that he could either charge or release everyone currently in custody. And he can. The problem he's discovered is that there are a group of people — certain legacy Bush administration detainees — for whom there is not enough admissible evidence to successfully try but for whom there is enough "evidence" to make a strong public case that the person is dangerous. ...

The result is a difficult political problem. If these people are released or charges are brought against them and then dismissed by a court, Republicans will pounce, accusing Obama of endangering the American people. All of the "evidence" against these people — most of it inadmissible — will quickly find its way into the media through Republican leaks. We've already seen how Republicans reacted to the prospect of moving Guantanamo detainees to domestic prisons. Their reaction to this would be ten times as aggressive. And if, God forbid, any of these released detainees was ever involved in a future terrorist attack, the political consequences for Obama would be disastrous.

I guess this is a long way of saying that I think the best explanation for what's going on here is simple political cowardice. I suspect that Obama, if not subject to political pressure, would not be in favor of indefinite detention. But I think he's unwilling (or at least very wary) of giving the Republicans this kind of political fodder to attack him with. That's not a defensible reason for doing the wrong thing, of course, but I suspect that it is the explanation. Doing the right thing in this case would carry significant political risk.
Of course, as always, Glenn Greenwald writes stuff that everybody should read.

And Rachel Maddow (from Glenn's post) really nails it:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daily Report: Wedding At Kingston Lodge

Our friends Harry and Bhebs got married today at Kingston Lodge, so Epril and I went. Pretty much everybody we know from Cagayan De Oro was there, and we had a good time.

Kingston Lodge is a very nice place to have a small-to-moderate-sized wedding reception with lots of various spaces for sitting, good backdrops for photos, very good food, and a moderately sized place for dancing.

They also held the wedding service there, and Kingston Lodge isn't as good a place for that: There is no single large enough place for lots of people to bear witness to a marriage. Harry and Bhebs got married in this small room about the size of a bedroom, and nobody could hear what was being said. (Perhaps when it is sunshiny, instead of threatening to rain like it was today, marriages are held elsewhere on the grounds of Kingston Lodge... though I didn't see anyplace better-suited for a large crowd.)

Well, anyway, it was all about spending time with the newlywed couple on their special day, and we did get to do that. Best of luck to the new Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins.

(By the way, after 24 hours, Tyson doesn't seem to be having any problems related to the chicken he ate last night. Epril is more sure that it wasn't an entire chicken leg that Tyson swallowed, but a large hunk of chicken without such a large bone. Maybe she is right. I hope so.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Daily Report: Tyson Strikes Again

Today it was over to Mike and Emelyn Bird's house for Fiesta. They had a bunch of food (spaghetti, afritada and humba, fruit salad, and barbecue). We took Tyson along to play with Mike's dog, Apple. Tyson and Apple spent hour after hour rollicking and wrestling about, overflowing with joy, oblivious to the rest of the world in their disport...

Until food was served.

Tyson totally knows what "misbehave" is: Otherwise, his misbehavior wouldn't be so sneaky and surreptitious. So, from a good distance away, he sized up the plate of chicken on the low table, bolted across the room, and had an entire chicken leg (meat and all) in his mouth and down his gullet like an egret eating a fish before anyone could react. I made a dash to wrap my hands around Tyson's throat to stop him from swallowing, but was too late. Stupid little fucker.

Of course he barfed the leg up an hour later, and Mike Bird made a dash to grab it, but Tyson sucked it back down again before Mike could reach him.

I'm not worried about the "splinter" thing that people talk about regarding dogs and chicken bones: He didn't chew the bone; it went down whole... unsplintered. I'm hoping the bone stays in his stomach until he (a) regurgitates it and doesn't swallow it again, or (b) it gets digested there until it is soft and malleable enough to navigate his intestines. If the bone makes it into his digestive tract and gets stuck there, it's back to the vet for his dumb ass... this time for surgery.

Regardless, it is back to poo patrol for us here at the house.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Daily Reports: Passing

Tyson is back home with us. We've put him on human food instead of dog food. The fact is, with Tyson eating anything that is put in front of him, we can make some pretty cheap dog food ourselves using rice and offal (pig liver especially), and we give him the water from the pot that was used for boiling the offal for his drinking water to add iron and vitamins. His poo is much better now, and his belly is almost as big around as his ribcage. (I don't think that the cheap local dog food that we were buying was very enriched, and if we bought the more expensive dried stuff (or go really crazy and buy the canned stuff) from the big grocery chains in Cagayan de Oro, we would be spending almost as much money on feeding Tyson as we do on any other person in the house.)

I finally watched that "Neda" video. I cried after. That's the hardest thing I've ever had to watch. I both would and would not recommend you watch it. It gives the struggle for freedom, the fragility of life, and the evil that man is capable of a whole new meaning.

I also see that Michael Jackson died. As far as Andy and I are concerned, he died years ago. He was given too hard a life, too extreme of circumstances, too few friends with too poor advice, and he didn't cope. Now will come the finger pointing and obligatory hand wringing and whitewashed pop-icon hagiography, and then the world will be a better place knowing that Michael Jackson's story will never see another sad chapter.

(In rather morbid synchronicity, Farrah died today too: Another great-then/tragic-now pop icon.)

San Pedro Street, in the subdivision of Kimaya, the suburb of Jasaan, is having Fiesta this weekend. Most of the people living on that street are descended from Leyte and this weekend is Leyte's official Fiesta. We stopped by tonight and there was a stage set up, and 100 people enjoying some karoake.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back On The Homestead: Brief Vinnie Blogging

Those of you who followed my blog back in my Thailand days will remember Vinnie Blogging. Vinnie (Vincent, or "V" as he is called by all others) is my sister's boy. I put up weekly baby pictures of him for a couple of years... but it kind of petered out after a while.

Well, as you can see, Vinnie is all grown up now, and will be starting college this fall. He is visiting his grandparents in Upstate New York this week. Here he is driving Grandpa Paul around the yard while Weekend Farmer Nancy stands in the background.

Visiting grandparents has to be the best part of being a kid. For me, I had the best grandparents a kid could ever hope to visit: My mother's parents lived out in a fishing village on the end of Long Island and had a sailboat, a private beach, the world's friendliest Doberman (hence my love of the breed), and my grandpa had a woodworking shop in the cellar where we would make (quite fantastic) toy boats. Fresh seafood all the time there... steamed clams and broiled scallops especially. What's best is that their house was right next door to the East terminal of the Long Island railroad... a young boy's biggest joy: Real trains! My father's parents lived outside of Albany on a farm with tractors, cows, a pond, the world's largest hayloft, and acres upon acres of woodland for deer hunting and exploration. The large old farmhouse was filled with antique and mysterious farm implements, and my grandfather would sit at his organ and play Scott Joplin and smoke cigars. Real homemade maple syrup on blueberry pancakes every morning there, and fresh-baked bread.

Ah... Vinnie... want to trade places?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Daily Report: Initiation

Tyson went to the vet today. He's been having loose stools. Considering that he eats just about every piece of foul refuse he comes across in his day, it's not surprising that his insides went wrong. I tried him on antibiotics for a week: I looked closely (but not too closely) at his poo and never saw any worms, so I figured it was bacterial.

The veterinarian, however, declared that Tyson was 50% worms by weight, and needed to stay in the animal hospital for 3 days. So there he is. I'm sure he's miserable right now, and will probably come home traumatized from being "abandoned" by his family like that.

Tonight, I was initiated into the Philippine Eagles. I got in my Barong and was was there for the 6:00 initiation, which started right on (Filipino) time at 7:15 p.m.

After that was drinking and karaoke. I never sing karoake, but the big datu insisted, so I got up and sang "New York, New York".

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Daily Report: Gatherings

On Sunday, I invited all the Kano currently living in Jasaan (that I know of... that would be three of us total) and their wives over to my house for lunch: Mike and Emelyn Bird, and Ron and Marla Schneider. (Ron is from The Netherlands, and owns a bakery, bar, and internet café here in town. Marla is expecting their second child.)

We had a nice dinner amidst the shade and plants and cool breeze found on my rooftop garden. It was a lovely afternoon. We drank Cagayan Cocktails, and then Mike discovered that the new orange-flavored vodka that goes by the brand name "Bar" vodka (it's only 50 proof, oddly enough, but costs $1.75 per bottle) mixes beautifully with Lipton iced tea. By the end of the afternoon, we were putting the finishing touches on a second bottle.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some Great Links For Proscan TV

Check out this great article on Proscan TV, and here's another one on Lasko 4910.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Daily Report #1804

This week has been almost completely empty of any activity... and thankfully so. Last week was so full of bad stomachs, missed meetings, obligations, chores and worries that a string of days where no responsibilities outside the usual is so welcome.

On the other hand, my Nightblade character in The Elder Scrolls is running around like crazy, doing quests, leveling up, and killing lots of Daedric menaces.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Daily Report: Confusion and Focus

On Saturday morning, I was up nice and early and in my formal barong. My orientation and initiation to The Eagles was today. I rode into CDO and was at the restaurant right on time for orientation. Unfortunately, nobody else was there: The orientation had been changed to the day before... but I was sick on Tuesday and missed the meeting at which that fact had been announced. Therefore I was unable to be initiated that evening. I still went to the initiation as a guest though.

Since there were about 40 new people to be initiated, and 7 of them were not able to make the orientation meeting on Friday, a second orientation and initiation was scheduled.

Epril spent Saturday at a birthday party. I thought that was the day she was going to deliver the school supplies, so when she went I didn't go along. I failed to realize that I had been invited to the party too... and all of my friends were there wondering where I was. Oops. My apologies to all who attended.

On Sunday, I spent the day playing my video game. I totally would have failed out of college if games like this had been around then.

Monday was the day that Epril went out to the country with the Expats Ladies Charity group and distributed a truckload of school supplies to poor children... and where she caught a cold. I went out to Mike Bird's house in the evening, and we sat and talked about our business plans. Things are moving along in that area... but in a different direction than we originally intended.

On Tuesday, I had the makeup orientation meeting for The Eagles back in CDO.

My work performance has suddenly picked up remarkably. I hope it stays that way. I think it is directly linked to how much I like my job. For a while now, I've had good reason to dislike work, as there were a whole slew of major changes about 7 or 8 months ago that really turned my earning potential topsy-turvy. In a self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating circle of work-related antipaty, things just got worse... and all the platitudes and attempts at positive thinking on earth wouldn't change my true feelings: It's not easy on the psyche to go from earning fifty dollars per hour to earning fifteen dollars per hour... even if a fair amount of that decrease was, as mentioned, self-induced. Then, suddenly, things improved: I don't know why it was this particular moment, but I woke up on Monday and things seemed easier, less disagreeable, more manageable. I'm not back to my original earning levels, and never will be... but I'm substantially closer than I was just last week. The Greeks call it metanoia: A profound change of spirit and mind... seeing the light.

There: You're all caught up now. I'm going to get back to work.

Friday, June 12, 2009


A policeman laid down his life for a boy who was held hostage before dawn yesterday in Baungon, Bukidnon.

Officials identified the officer as PO2 Leo Nalitan, a member of the Baungon Municipal Police Station. Nalitan was killed when he shielded the boy after the alleged hostage taker, Renato Balboa, threw a grenade.
Full story here.

Fact Check Of The Day: Far Right Is Not Far Left

I've got some time to kill while my company downloads new software onto my computer.

Right Wing Claim: Since the crazy guy who shot up the holocaust museum hated Bush, Republicans, Fox News, and Jews, he must be a left wing radical, since left wing radicals hate all those things too.

The fact is, there are two camps who virulently hate all things Republican: Those far to the left of standard Republican thought, and those far to the right of it.

It's kind of weird behavior, the way that folks on the (regular) right are pretending that Neonazi skinheads and abortion doctor killers aren't members of the fringe far right school of thought. They are doing it because they don't want to be associated with these people. Therefore they are trying to do the impossible: Grab these people way off on their right and lob them over their heads all the way to the far left side of the political spectrum.

Listen guys: Nobody (except for opportunistic idiots who lack the mental facilities to make you look bad any other way) is trying to suggest that the murderous and violent crackpots who dwell on the far right psychotic fringes of thought have anything to do with standard (misguided but innocuous) folks of mainstream Republican thinking and policy. The fact that you're putting all this effort out to get people to believe that the holocaust-denying, anti-semetic, racist, gay-bashing, immigrant-hating, abortionist-murdering people who live in John Birch's nether regions are somehow directly related to a Middlebury Women's Studies major just makes you look silly.

Face it. Please: Skin heads, anti-semites, racists, ultra-nationalists, abortionist killers, and hyperreligious whackos are all people who take the Republican tenets of pro-Jesus, pro-life, pro-guns, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and anti-government... crank them up to 11... and then toss racism or anti-semitism or conspiracy theories or revolutionary thought into the mix... and boil it down to a fine decoction of hatred and potential violence. That says absolutely nothing about the source of their beliefs or the people whom they got those beliefs from. OK?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An Article That Talks About The Air France Crash

I haven't been following too closely, but apparently that Air France jet crashed off the coast of Brazil by going through some terrible weather.

Here is something interesting: Most commercial airliners have no access to ground-based weather reports. To put it simply, there is no "Weather Channel" for commercial airliners to tune into. (Although private jets do have that technology via an XM-radio style weather gadget.)

To sum it up, commercial airline pilots have (1) the radar in the nose of the aircraft, and (2) reports from other aircraft to rely on. That's it.

Daily Report: Double Day

Epril went into CDO and renewed my tourist visa again at Immigration. This time it was 2,800 pisos (about $60). We're so bad: We should have switched it over to a marriage visa months ago, but the fact is once we get the new tourist visa, we don't think about The Visa Situation basically until the next visa is about due. Then, since the marriage visa takes a while, we come to the screw-it-and-just-get-the-tourist-visa-again decision. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Epril also went in to Cagayan De Oro to help the Expats Ladies Charities get all of the school supplies they purchased for poor kids up in the mountains. I'm not sure when they are going to deliver all of those things... but soon, I imagine.

Mike Bird was over for dinner. We watched The Dark Knight on Blu Ray. Mike is a cinematiste who prides himself on his virtu of "chick flicks", and has until now avoided films like The Dark Knight, figuring them to be targeted to 12-year-old boys. It took me months of badgering until he finally sat down tonight and watched the Batman movie... and he liked it just fine. Next on the list is Kung Fu Hustle. I have a copy of "Beavis and Butthead Do America" hiding once I've got him softened up. I figure that if I throw a couple of pitchers of Cagayan Cocktails into the mix, he'll be laughing at Ace Ventura's fart and booger jokes in no time.

It's been cloudy here for the entire week so far, which is rare; the weather normally rolls by pretty quickly, so that morning weather conditions rarely match afternoon or evening.

The Jungle Jumpers (my basketball team) wound up taking third place in the consolation finals. They probably could have won, since the team that "illegitimately" beat them with a 3-should-have-been-2-pointer won first place. Now, there are other games going on at the pavilion behind the house in the town square with huge crowds cheering. I suppose it is all of the various town champions from around the area playing. Maybe I'll stop by some time.

Tyson caught a bit of a stomach bug recently, and I've put him on antibiotics. Even though there is no vet in town, we can buy antibiotics over the counter here, so I just bought some amoxicillin and am giving him 50 milligrams twice a day... just a little pinch of the pill's powder on some human food. So far it seems to be working quite well as his stools have improved immensely.

Swine Flu In Pattaya

Twenty-one cases of swine flu have been discovered in Pattaya. This brings the world total to 74 countries with 27,737 cases and 141 deaths. (The Philippines has a few dozen cases as well up in Manila.)

To quote one person: Flying Air France is more dangerous.

Well, another person did say that there are various stages of virulence of a flu virus, and what scientists are scared of is what happens if/when the flu reaches "stage 3".

I suppose a dash of hope mixed in with my sardonicism might be appropriate.

Watch Out, Here They Come

I'm reading a good book called "The World Is Flat" by Thomas Friedman, which talks about how the global business playing field is being leveled by technology. The book talks about the concept that "it used to be better to be an average person in America than to be a genius in India" and that now that is no longer the case.

When you've got uneducated kids like this on the streets of India, able to schmooze tourists in 8 different languages just to earn a dollar, you really better start believing that in the near future, "average in America" = "royally fucked".

Of course, there have always been sharp little multilingual Indian kids selling trinkets to tourists in Mumbai. The difference is that now they can take their skills to the internet and help you make your airline reservations from Boston to Tampa. Soon, they'll be America's accountants and paralegals. Eventually, they'll be networked into every facet of American business, from managing retail inventory, to providing laboratory and radiology and diagnostic services, to systems monitoring and maintenance, to banking and investing, to traffic control.

To put it simply: If they don't need to touch it to work on it, you can bet that they'll be doing it.

The book explains it in stark detail: When it comes to Master's and Doctorate level job skills, America doesn't have to worry because Indian scientists and engineers don't want Americans to earn as little as they do; they want to earn as much as Americans... and that is what will happen. But, when it comes to the rote work, the drudgery, the labor, and the people who don't engage in original and critical thinking, there is going to be a global readjustment in compensation and value of work, and it will be downward. (It's why I'm keen to get out of my current profession sooner rather than later.)

The main point of the book: Prepare your kids with critical thinking skills, with focuses on hard science and engineering, with an underlying broad skill set that will make them professionally dynamic and versatile, or watch them get run over by kids like the one in this video... or more accurately, the millions of his countryfolk who are as sharp as he is, and can actually afford to go to school.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Chicken Farming In The Philippines: A Good Idea?

I'm putting up this post as a bit of an open forum. If you have anything to add to it, let me know in the comments.

Yesterday, I went out to visit a chicken farm. I had heard before from two different expatriates that chicken farming is a great (and, more importantly safe) way to make money in The Philippines. Specifically, contract growing for big corporations.

The chicken farm I visited today was exactly the operation that had been described by these two expatriates: A chicken farm that grows chickens for the San Miguel corporation. (Yes: The beer company, and no, I don't know either.)

Here is how it works: You have a big chicken barn that holds, say, 15,000 chickens (exactly like the one in the photo below). The San Miguel corporation comes and drops off 15,000 one-day-old chicks and enough feed to raise them. In 30 days, the San Miguel corporation comes back and pays you 12.75 pisos (27 cents) per chicken. You have to return 96% of the chickens (i.e. a 4% mortality rate), or you are penalized 100 pisos per chicken over that number. After the chicken barn sits empty for 7 days, another 15,000 chickens will be dropped off... creating a 37-day cycle, or approximately 10 flocks per year. At a 96% delivery rate, that works out to 180,000 pisos ($3,800) per flock, or 1.8 million pisos ($38,000) per year.

(In addition, the chicken dung collected from one flock is worth about 30,000 pisos, or $6,300 per year.)

Building a barn like this, according to Mr. Lopez, the farm's owner, cost 1 million pisos ($21,000) about 7 years ago when it was built, including all the feeders, heaters, and other bits and pieces. Renting one hectare of land costs between $400 and $600 per year. Water is supplied by well. Other than a few lights, there is no electricity being used. The heaters that are used to keep the chicks warm during the first few days run on natural gas. It takes only 2 employees to manage the flock.

Another benefit of this business is that all of the money goes directly from the San Miguel Corporation to the farm owner, so employee pilferage is limited only to chickens... and with an accurate accounting of the flock plus deceased, that can be easily detected and thwarted.

So, there are the details. Any thoughts?

UPDATE, April 2010:

Okay. I've finished my year-long study of the chicken industry in The Philippines, and I now have my own business model put together, and I'm looking for investors. Here is my conclusion: Contract growing is the least profitable method of chicken growing in The Philippines. The numbers cited above are generally correct, however the barn requirements for San Miguel corporation are more stringent (and much more expensive) now for new growers. Also, with some growing contracts, the number of flocks per year is probably closer to 5 or 6, rather than 10.

I'm not going to give away the secrets I learned in my year of study, but I now am confident that I know the absolute cheapest way to grow a 1.2 kilogram chicken in The Philippines, and I know how to do it in a way that gets more business, higher profit, and better growth than any other farm in the country. I've had one Filipino chicken farmer and one American chicken farmer study my conclusions, and they both agree that I've found the secret. Now, I just need investors.

So, if you are interested in reading about how to make real money in chicken farming in The Philippines, click here for what I found out and my investment opportunity.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Daily Report: Chicken Farm Tour And Then To Bed

I ate some bad chicken last night, and was paying for it this morning. (The most frustrating part was that I only had a couple of bites.) First thing upon waking up this morning, I lost almost a gallon of fluid on the toilet. This is the fourth episode of bad stomach upset I've had since moving out to Jasaan two months ago. Whenever I move to a new location here in Asia, there seems to be a period of adjustment for my gut... but getting hit 4 times in 3 months is the worst so far. I need to be more careful about what I eat.

After I spent some time in the bathroom, Epril and I joined Auntie Puring and Uncle Bob on a trip out to visit a chicken farm. I've never been to a chicken farm, and I'm interested in the possibilities it offers as a business here in The Philippines. (Several local expatriates have mentioned it as well.) We rode out to visit a friend of Auntie's, one Mr. Lopez, who owns a medium-sized chicken growing operation. Epril and I spent an hour with Mr. Lopez walking around the facility and visiting the barns and asking questions. We learned quite a bit.

By the time I was done walking around in the hot sun, with my stomach already upset, I was entirely whipped. I made it back home, drank about a liter of Gatorade, and crawled into bed at about 10 in the morning. I woke up at 3 in the afternoon, and felt like I had been chewed up and spit out. I had to cancel my trip into CDO tonight for the Eagles meeting, and then went back to sleep.

At about 7:00, I woke up and had a nice long, hot shower, and that seemed to help. Then, I ate a plate of plain spaghetti (with a bit of salt and butter... just like when I was a kid) and that got me about three-quarters back in shape.

We spent a couple of hours watching a Korean TV show that Epril had purchased on DVD called Boys Before Flowers. Not very good, as it was mostly a show designed to get girls to giggle and squeal at the cute boys kissing the cute girls, but it was better than most things that you find on television in The Philippines.

By the time I went back to bed at 9:30, my body was feeling almost back to normal, but I had a headache.

Worth Pondering

Crazy Christian abortion-doctor-killer dude is in custody, and telling anyone who will listen that he has more crazy Christian abortion-doctor-killer friends out there, and they are planning more attacks.

Doesn't this sound exactly like the reasons given for why The United States waterboards people? Doesn't it sound like a perfect opportunity to put those "waterboarding isn't torture" claims to the test... to see how America reacts? Get that shit on video like average police interrogations: A terrorist withholding information vital to save American lives (with the added bonus of having the terrorist/prisoner actually corroborating the fact this time instead of denying it) gets waterboarded.

Who's got a problem with that?

Just curious.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Daily Report: By Water

Mike Bird's baby girl, Annabelle, was baptised today. We went to the church for the 9:00 baptism. I was one of the godfathers, and had to stand there with Mike and Emelyn as a show of support. I wore my suit. (I only wear socks, long pants, and shoes that aren't sandals about once every 2 months or so. I feel like such a goon getting all dressed up now.)

After the baptism, it was over to Basamanggas Resort for a christening party and early lunch.

In the afternoon, Mike and Emelyn, and Epril and I took the extended family (and friends) up to Faustina pool resort for a day of swimming and having fun. The leftover food from the christening party served as a late lunch. Tyson came along as well, and did a very good job cavorting without upsetting all of the other visitors there. (He mostly just goes off and chases chickens and cats, but always comes back.) We had a grand time. The teens put on some hilarious innertube relay races in the big pool, and the little kids splashed in the kiddie pool.

In the evening there was rain. I stayed home and played more "Elder Scrolls" while Epril went and watched The Jungle Jumpers play their first game in the division finals. They finally lost their first game... in overtime. Apparently the other team scored a 3-pointer that should have only been a counted as a 2-pointer, and it cost them the game. Oh well. Apparently they are still in going; they have another game soon.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Trekkie Reviews The New Star Trek Movie

If there is one thing that I am more than anybody else, it is a Trekkie. Being a Trek fan hasn't offered much as of late, but back in the day I knew more than and spent at least as much time enjoying Star Trek as any Trekkie. (And no, I didn't wear uniforms or collect memorabilia... but I did win the Trek Trivia Challenge at the 1995 Houston Star Trek Convention.)

So hence is an official Trekkie review of the new Star Trek movie. The fact is that I could go on for hours talking about Trek and this movie, but I won't. In fact, it's not necessary. I'll cover the movie in one paragraph: The movie plot is the standard bad-guy-in-an-evil-looking-ship-is-going-to-destroy-earth fare, and The Enterprise is the only thing standing in his way. It's a fine story in the Star Trek tradition, and worth the price of admission if you're a Trek fan -- and maybe even if you're not... exactly like the previous 10 Star Trek movies. (I will note that this particular Star Trek movie is the highest-rated episode so far among movie reviewers.)

What I'm going to focus on is the new "original" Enterprise crew. It's really what people want to know: What do hard core Trekkies think of the new actors playing some of the most well-known, worshipped television characters in history?

Well, here is one Trekkie's take, working through the characters from lowest to highest in rank:

The old Pavel Chekov versus the new Pavel Chekov: The new one wins. The old Chekov was a second-season addition to Star Trek to draw in younger fans with a Davey Jones lookalike, while adding in a bit of a glasnost theme as well. There really was little other point to the original character, and little other thought put into him. The new Chekov is what the old Chekov character could have been: An over-exuberant, over-excited, kid who by dint of youth and inexperience combined with unparalleled genius, can come up with solutions that nobody else is capable of envisioning, all without losing his "boyish charm"... A nontrifling Wesley Crusher on amphetamines.

Click here for the rest of the article.

The old Scotty versus the new Scotty: A tie. The old Scotty came across as a seasoned veteran... if not confident, at least always competent. The new Scotty is more... well... new. He's a younger character, also excitable, and is guessing and groping for answers, and coming across more as a guy who is able to think quickly and move quickly than his old(er) version. The old Scotty: You got the impression that he was born in that engine room, and you always knew that in the end, if all else failed, Scotty and his baby would save the day. The new Scotty: He's more like Han Solo with the Milinneum Falcon: He won't hesitate to pick up a sledgehammer and smack things until they work if necessary, which is cool in its own way.

The old Uhura versus the new Uhura: The old one is a clear winner. Out of all the characters in the new movie that Trekkies will talk the most about, Uhura is the clear standout and I'm sure will cause a 50-50 split among Trekkies. In the original series of the 1960's, putting a black woman on the cast during the height of the racial strife in America was a bold move... but Roddenberry and company weren't going to get too bold with the character. Therefore, Uhura was always slightly in the background; she was always calm and collected. The new Uhura is just simply emotional, and it's very unbecoming. Her love interest in the movie is a logical choice, but also very inappropriate to the original character. It's obvious that people are trying to take Uhura in a new direction, but I don't like it.

The old Sulu versus the new Sulu: The old one is a slight winner. The funny thing is, that the old Sulu character (played by a gay man) doesn't come across as gay as the new one. Maybe that's a nod to George Takei... but I hope not. The new character overall comes across as an MIT geek. He reminds me of that Mythbuster guy, Grant Imahara. He's not a bad character, but he's not the Sulu... yet. I do give the writers of the movie credit for recognizing Sulu's nerdiness though and playing it up: On the verge of a deadly covert operation, Sulu volunteers his martial arts training. The look on Kirk's face, moments before a deadly showdown with only Sulu at his back, as Sulu admits he has only studied "fencing" reflects my "MIT feeling" well (notwithstanding the fact that this new Sulu does, in fact, kick ass).

The old Dr. McCoy versus the new Dr. McCoy: The new one wins. The McCoy character has always been a curmudgeon, but the old McCoy was never the physical presence necessary to stand toe to toe with Kirk or Spock, let alone believably get involved in the action aspects of Star Trek. The new McCoy keeps all of the best aspects developed by Deforrest Kelley, and puts it into a man who fits better in the mix. I daresay there is soupçon of Commander Riker in this new McCoy... just a dash, but enough to give him some leadership qualities.

The old Spock versus the new Spock: Believe it or not, the new one wins. The old Spock is iconic, but the new Spock captures the idea of Spock perfectly. Where the old Spock would stand calm and implacable, the new Spock has a face that gives subtle hints of... not emotion... but of a mind that is certainly keeping emotion at bay. The new Spock is dynamic while still managing to be affectively flat. His debating skills are brought to the fore much more often, and he is a much more deliberate person in his approach. The old Spock was much more restrained and deferent, while the new Spock behaves like he knows he is the most knowledgeable person in the room, but at the same time manages to cope significantly well when he is confronted with better ideas. I simply adore this new Spock.

The old Captain Kirk versus the new Captain Kirk: I have to say that it is the old one this time around. But there is a reason for that: You can't duplicate William Shattner, and the original Kirk is so original and quirky that there isn't a single feature (other than his cavalier behavior) that can be captured. The new Kirk still tries to get laid, still likes a good punchup, still comes up with last-second crazy ideas, but overall you just get the sense that he is a kid who gets by on luck more than cunning, whereas with the original Kirk it was the opposite. That isn't referring to the movie's story line either: You could see in the original Kirk's eyes a knowledge that the odds didn't matter... he had somehow cheated the odds in advance. With the new Kirk, you see behind the eyes somebody who is praying that he guessed right.

There is a great example of this difference in the Captains Kirk that can be found in how the two Kirks approach the Kobayashi Maru test (a test to determine how future commanders face a no-win certain-death situation), which plays prominently in this new movie. In the movie, the new Starfleet Cadet Kirk hacks the test program so that the enemy ships are weak enough to be defeated. In the paperback book version of the tale, the original Starfleet Cadet Kirk hacks the test program so that when the captains of the enemy ships find that they are facing THE James T. Kirk, most feared Starship Captain in the galaxy, they all get scared and run away. That sums up the difference between these two Kirks perfectly: Style counts.

Anyway, I think that the new Star Trek cast overall is excellent. They are giving the original series, which ignited so many imaginations when it first aired, the opportunity to revisit the original intentions of the show, and build upon the original successes while smoothing over some of the rough parts. I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing this new original crew doing more movies.

Daily Report: Trek

Epril spent the day in Cagayan De Oro with Ednil shopping for school. Ednil starts college next week, and needed her uniform and books and notebooks.

In the evening, Epril joined me for another trip into Cagayan De Oro. I had a pre-induction Eagles meeting at 6 p.m. It really was just a meeting to collect dues, make sure that application forms were in order, and to tell all prospective members to (1) come to the next general membership meeting this coming Tuesday, and (2) that orientation and initiation is an all-day affair next Saturday. It took about an hour all in all.

After that, Epril and I went and watched Star Trek. Epril has never seen any Star Trek before. She didn't even recognize Leonard Nimoy (who makes a guest appearance in the movie).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why You Don't Get Into Fights With Thai People

A foreign guy spoiling for a fight in a Bangkok bar gets knocked out cold. From the video, it certainly looks like he deserved it. One thing to note though if you aren't familiar with Thailand: If you aren't in a muay thai boxing ring, this is how every fight in the country goes down; sucker punches and getting jumped from behind are a 100% hard and fast rule... not the exception. I've never seen a one-on-one fight there, and doubt that there has ever been one in Thailand's history.

Hat tip to Eric for the link.

Daily Report: Stomach Turning

Epril and I rode in to Cagayan De Oro tonight. Payday: Time to hit the ATM. It's one of the drawbacks of Jasaan: There is no ATM here. There is one (oddly enough) at the entrance to the Northern Mindanao Shipping Facility about 10 miles away... all by itself next to a guard shack. I've never used it though since getting money always equates with spending money with me, so going all the way to CDO is always in the cards.

We went to Spooks for a while and chatted with friends. After that it was off to Bigby's for dinner.

Since moving to Jasaan, my milk product intake has dropped to zero. Tonight, I discovered that it has made me a bit lactose intolerant: I had the cream of mushroom soup (delicious) and by the time I finished it, my stomach was quite unhappy; I had to visit the rest room after eating it. Fortunately, the upset didn't last more than a few minutes and I enjoyed the rest of my dinner.

After that it was off to do some shopping at SM grocery store. Just the products that we can't get in Jasaan.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Daily Report: Goodbye June

Mike Bird purchased the Playstation 3 game "Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" for me while he was in America. It's exactly the kind of game I like best: Fantasy-style role playing, where you have an entire world to roam at your leisure, and any number of quests to be given, any number of skills to work on, and any number of paths to follow. My inner 12-year-old geek is going wild.

I put in 6 hours playing it on Wednesday night, and another 6 hours tonight.

No, I'm not interested in online multiplayer games like World of Warcraft. Playing MMORPG games like World of Warcraft is like going into the world's largest men's room: Everyone is there to do the same thing and ignore each other while they do it and try to convince themselves that they are the first people to have done it in any particular place. I like being alone, going at my own pace, with everything in the world waiting patiently to be discovered by me.

Anyway, I'll probably rein in to a couple of hours per day within a week or so: The Harem is going nuts with my commandeering of the living room each night.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Vice Mayor Has Quite An Attendance Record

When Vicente Emano was Mayor of Cagayan De Oro from 1998 to 2007, he quite purposefully and knowingly (and against the pleading of scientists and scholars) built a bridge across the Cagayan River that went right through (and hence destroyed) the un-excavated archaeological remains of Huluga, an ancient settlement, and the oldest known evidence of human activity in The Philippines. Mayor Emano actually said at the time, "For me, the bridge is more important than heritage." (Ironically, the bridge that was then-Mayor Emano's pet project is almost completely unused today.)

While Vicente Emano may go down in history as being remembered for the cultural atrocity of Huluga, apparently he isn't done annoying people yet: It seems that at his new job as the Vice Mayor, he is garnering himself a whole new host of critics: He has missed 95 of the 96 sessions of city council. One local blog calls him "the laziest vice mayor ever." The fact that his 95th absence comes only 2 days after Mayor Jarula fined or suspended 42 workers... 39 of them for tardiness and/or absences, makes this story particularly rich.

Daily Report: Bird's Bamboo Bungalow

I had a fine day of work today. Epril sat with me for much of the day with her laptop, keeping me company. I find I do more work when I have somebody sitting next to me. In the afternoon, Epril had about half a dozen of her friends over for a little get together.

In the evening, it was over to Mike and Emelyn Bird's house out in the suburb of Jasaan called Kimaya. The vespertine light in the picture below doesn't do his house justice: He's done a nice job building a traditional bamboo house with all the trappings of modern comfort. The gardens are quite nice, using the natural rocks as well as white and pink coral. He is building a fish pond out back, he has a badminton court off to the side, a vegetable and spice garden, and chicken coop.

The lawn, however, is definitely a work in progress.

He purchased the land (I would guess about an acre) alongside a large brook, and about half of the land is rice paddy, the other half is a hodgepodge of good soil, hardpack, boulders, and even some sedge over in the lowest lying corner (where the fish pond is going in). The raised house is fully bamboo, except for the bathroom, which has a cement foundation.

Michelle Malkin: A Perfect Example of Hypocrisy

Michelle Malkin (America's most famous and most disliked Filipino) when the sun comes up on Monday:
"Tiller's family is grieving. Those who have jumped to score political points before Tiller is even buried are no better than the Phelps family thugs of the 'Westboro Baptist Church' who respect no bounds of civility.

Unfortunately, some are not content to leave it at that for now. They fail to respect that there is a proper time and place to indulge in political battle. ... [I]t's too much to ask the cable news networks and hyper-partisan snipers on the Internet to have the decency to restrain themselves.

Prepare for a wall-to-wall onslaught of gleeful finger-pointing on the Left..."
Michelle Malkin when the sun goes down on Monday:
"And now this: Shooting at military recruiting center; 1 dead, 1 wounded; suspect is anti-military Muslim convert. No condemnation from the White House yet.

Too early to say anything about suspect, motives, etc. But these facts are worth bearing in mind:

Flashback: Special report: Tracing the Left's escalating war on military recruiters

Flashback: The continuing war on recruiters that the Left doesn't want to talk about"
I really can't see how it is possible to be intellectually honest and write things like this.

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Visa Limitations In Thailand, PI Beckons Anew

Thailand has a new visa regulation in effect. Due to the fact that Thai Airways is losing money hand over fist because tourists aren't coming anymore, the rule is now that after doing three 15-day visa runs to the border (they used to be 30-days at a time), on the fourth visit, the only way you will be allowed back into the country is through an airport.

Just remember kids: In The Philippines, you only have to renew your tourist visa once every 2 months, and you don't have to leave the country to do it — just go to the nearst Bureau of Immigration. Cost: About 3,000 pisos. Number of times you can go back and renew: At least 9 or 10.