Monday, September 28, 2009

The Most Underappreciated Band Of All Time

The thing about the Grateful Dead is that my grandparents could have enjoyed this music... my parents... anybody. It's low-impact, folksy, mellodious, winsome, and adult. It can play in the background or it can occupy you fully. It's timeless (you feel some of their songs would have been right at home around a civil war campfire 130 years ago... or in a New Orleans honky tonk 100 years ago... or in a beatnik café 60 years ago) and at the same time so indicative of the hippie era that they outlived (and outperformed) by two-and-a-half decades.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daily Report: Happy Anniversary Baby

We were all up nice and early today. I was, as per usual, up to get to work.

Susan and Epril were up early because we were having the dirt in front of our house along the road sodded with grass today. They rode out with Ron (who kindly supplied us with a ride) to the place that sells the grass turves to pick up about 2,000 pounds of 8 x 8 inch squares of Bermuda grass... only 2.5 pisos each, installed.

The grass is now down, and well... lets just hope that it "grows into the part" because right now it looks a bit like a lumpy checkerboard. (I recommended that somebody get one of those big rolling drums to flatten everything out, but people just looked at me funny. Obviously they've never heard of such a thing.)

It was Epril's and my first anniversary today. We decided to have a party to celebrate the occasion, which was held at the swimming pool of Basamanggas Resort, where we were married. Epril bought me a nice shirt for as a gift. My anniversary present to Epril (and myself) — a new camera — unfortunately was delayed in its arrival from America. (Mike Bird was supposed to be back from Ohio before our anniversary, but his mother's health problems delayed his departure/arrival by more than a week... perfectly understandable. He'll be here next weekend.)

Anyway, we had (as usual) tons of food including the standard sacrificial swine. Everybody ate and swam and sang karaoke. I'd say about 25 friends stopped by throughout the day to wish us well and have a bite to eat. We had a lot left over! That's a first for a party that I've put on.

Anyway, we've got photos.

Purple for both of us.
I like this photo: Everybody is so excited.
People stopped by, congratulated Epril and me, ate, had a swim, and then went on their way.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

American Sports May Have Cheerleaders But...

... Y'all can't touch this.

That's accomplished with nothing but several hundred people standing in jackets with different front color, back color, and lining color... plus a ton of crazy-accurate choreography.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Depending On Your Point Of View

(taken and edited for clarity from here)

The funny thing is, down here in Cagayan De Oro, we all like to talk about how cheap it is compared to the far-too-expensive Manila. And of course, out here in Jasaan, things in general are cheaper than they are in Cagayan De Oro.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Update On The Randy Stirm Boat Situation VIII

Another story by Jigger and Herbie today in the Gold Star Daily. This story covers the testimony by 2 witnesses who talked about the incident. I can't surmise exactly what impact the witnesses have on the actual case; it seems to just corroborate that Randy's boat was boarded by the Navy and a fisheries officer, was ordered impounded, and was towed. In addition, it basically gives direct quotes to what happened when the Navy chased Randy's boat after it left the pier.

One thing I did find new was that the crew of Randy's boat claimed to have gotten permission (from who, the story does not say) to leave the dock for open waters, which led to the now-famous YouTube chase between Randy's boat and the Navy vessel.

Perhaps Randy will leave a comment explaining the significance of the quotes in this story. I've obviously missed them based on the context and content.

Paying For Healthcare

An interesting article.

This makes sense to me.

Right now, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, it costs $13,575 to insure the average American family for one year.

Using my own made-up numbers (but consider them generally accurate for argument's sake), lets say that in order to pay for this new Healthcare Plan, your family's taxes go up $500 per year.

Then, through a complete streamlining, modernizing, and simplifying of the American health care system (read the article above) — which is what the deep-down, unread-by-anybody-but-experts, inner guts of this new Healthcare Plan do — the cost of a family's insurance is lowered by $1,000 per year. In addition, the current cost (paid by the insured) to provide health care to the uninsured is estimated by Center for American Progress to be an additional $1,100 per family... which will also be subtracted. So, for $500 per year in taxes, the average American family would see their insurance expenses go down by over $2,000 per year. Seems like a good deal to me.

I'm not the biggest fan of taxes and government spending, but I'm not so hidebound about the notion that I would militate against paying $500 in taxes to lower my expenses by $2,000. (I can see how the most dogmatic Libertarian types would be against that... fair enough... but that's not me.)

I really know very little about this Healthcare Plan, but I am a fan of order and efficiency. I'm pretty sure that as things stand right now, the American health care system could use some upgrading. This certainly seems like a good time to do it.

Well, think about it this way: Without any fixing (and nobody, especially insurance companies, seems inclined to do any fixing voluntarily), in 10 years Kaiser estimates that the insurance that costs $13,575 now will cost $30,083 per family. Is that a cost that you and your employer are willing to pay? If not, fixing the problem now might be the way to go.

The Future of Colleges

I've learned a lot working for my company, not all of it related to the medical industry. One of the neatest things I've learned about is online education, which my company provides when it rolls out new software or new ways of doing things.

I log in to the corporate website, go to my Continuing Learning page, and at 8:50 a.m. I click on "take this course", put on my headphones (with microphone built in), and wait. A program called Centra opens up. There on the right side is my name along with the names of several other people. Filling up the rest of the screen is a blank window. At 9:00 on the dot, our professor for the day starts talking. The screen fills up with our professor's computer screen. Class begins. If we have a question, we click on the raised hand, and our name starts to flash, and the professor turns on our microphones, and we ask our questions. If necessary, the professor can switch from her desktop to one of the students' desktops, and everybody else can watch. And, naturally, the whole event is recorded for playback anytime you want forever and ever.

Having experienced this first hand, I'm not surprised to learn about the future of colleges: $99 per month for all the classes you want to take, as fast as you want to take them. There is something to be said for getting all your required English lit, history, science, math, and language classes out of the way on the cheap.

Eventually of course, people will start taking their 101 classes on the internet as well for $99 per month... and then their 201 classes... et cetera, et cetera. Eventually — within the next 10 years, say some — the first time a (non-elite, average) college campus will see a living person is when they come to drop off an application for a Masters Degree.

It may not be the most prestigious way to earn a Bachelors degree, but considering that you will save yourself $115,248 out of the $120,000 that you'd be spending on a 4-year private school with the $99 per month plan, I don't doubt that more than just a couple of students will be making the switch to doing their undergraduate degrees online.

Of course, this leaves colleges (who will probably be missing your $120,000 quite a bit) in a heck of a pickle. A newspaper-industry sized pickle.
To anyone who has watched the recent transformation of other information-based industries, the implications of all this are glaringly clear. Colleges charge students exorbitant sums partly because they can, but partly because they have to. Traditional universities are complex and expensive, providing a range of services from scientific research and graduate training to mass entertainment via loosely affiliated professional sports franchises. To fund these things, universities tap numerous streams of revenue: tuition, government funding, research grants, alumni and charitable donations. But the biggest cash cow is lower-division undergraduate education. Because introductory courses are cheap to offer, they’re enormously profitable. The math is simple: Add standard tuition rates and any government subsidies, and multiply that by several hundred freshmen in a big lecture hall. Subtract the cost of paying a beleaguered adjunct lecturer or graduate student to teach the course. There's a lot left over. That money is used to subsidize everything else.

But this arrangement, however beneficial to society as a whole, is not a particularly good deal for the freshman gutting through an excruciating fifty minutes in the back of a lecture hall. Given the choice between paying many thousands of dollars to a traditional university for the lecture and paying a few hundred to a company like StraighterLine for a service that is more convenient and responsive to their needs, a lot of students are likely to opt for the latter—and the university will have thousands of dollars less to pay for libraries, basketball teams, classical Chinese poetry experts, and everything else.

What happens when the number of students making that choice reaches a critical mass? Consider the fate of the newspaper industry over the last five years. Like universities, newspapers relied on financial cross-subsidization to stay afloat, using fat profits from local advertising and classifieds to prop up money-losing news bureaus. This worked perfectly well until two things happened: the Internet made opinion and news content from around the world available for nothing, and the free online classified clearinghouse Craigslist obliterated newspapers' bedrock revenue source, the want ads. Suddenly, people didn't need to buy a newspaper to read news, and the papers' ability to subsidize expensive reporting with ad revenue was crippled. The result: plummeting newspaper profits leading to a tidal wave of layoffs and bankruptcies, and the shuttering of bureaus in Washington and abroad.

Like Craigslist, StraighterLine threatens the most profitable piece of a conglomerate business: freshman lectures, higher education’s equivalent of the classified section. If enough students defect to companies like StraighterLine, the higher education industry faces the unbundling of the business model on which the current system is built. The consequences will be profound. Ivy League and other elite institutions will be relatively unaffected, because they’re selling a product that's always scarce and never cheap: prestige. Small liberal arts colleges will also endure, because the traditional model—teachers and students learning together in a four-year idyll—is still the best, and some people will always be willing and able to pay for it.

But that terrifically expensive model is not what most of today's college students are getting. Instead, they tend to enroll in relatively anonymous two- or four-year public institutions and major in a job-oriented field like business, teaching, nursing, or engineering. They all take the same introductory courses: statistics, accounting, Econ 101. Teaching in those courses is often poor—adjunct-staffed lecture halls can be educational dead zones—but until recently students didn't have any other choice. Regional public universities and nonelite private colleges are most at risk from the likes of StraighterLine. They could go the way of the local newspaper, fatally shackled to geography, conglomeration, and an expensive labor structure, too dependent on revenues that vanish and never return.

By itself, the loss of profitable freshman courses would be devastating. And in the long run, Web-based higher education may not stop there. Companies like StraighterLine have the hallmarks of what Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen and entrepreneur Michael Horn describe as "disruptive innovation." Such services tend to start small and cheap, targeting a sector of the market that established players don't care much about—like tutoring in introductory courses. "This allows them to take root in simple undemanding applications," Christensen and Horn write. "Little by little, the disruption predictably improves… And at some point, disruptive innovations become good enough to handle more complicated problems and take over, and the once-leading companies with old-line products go out of business."

Read the whole article.
Of course, colleges are fighting back. They have refused to accept transfer credits from online companies like StaighterLine. (Some colleges have partnered with Straighterline though and are acting as "launderers" for these credits... transferring them in, and then allowing them to be transferred out.) But, the accreditation system is an artificial and procrustean barrier (accepting unknown credits from unknown community colleges while rejecting the same credits from online sources which, in some cases, might even be providing a better product) whose protections will not last forever.
But neither the regulatory nor the psychological obstacles match the evolving new reality. Consumers will become more sophisticated, not less. The accreditation wall will crumble, as most artificial barriers do. All it takes is for one generation of college students to see online courses as no more or less legitimate than any other — and a whole lot cheaper in the bargain — for the consensus of consumer taste to rapidly change. The odds of this happening quickly are greatly enhanced by the endless spiral of steep annual tuition hikes, which are forcing more students to go deep into debt to pay for college while driving low-income students out altogether. If Burck Smith doesn’t bring extremely cheap college courses to the masses, somebody else will.

Which means the day is coming — sooner than many people think — when a great deal of money is going to abruptly melt out of the higher education system, just as it has in scores of other industries that traffic in information that is now far cheaper and more easily accessible than it has ever been before. Much of that money will end up in the pockets of students in the form of lower prices, a boon and a necessity in a time when higher education is the key to prosperity. Colleges will specialize where they have comparative advantage, rather than trying to be all things to all people. A lot of silly, too-expensive things — vainglorious building projects, money-sucking sports programs, tenured professors who contribute little in the way of teaching or research — will fade from memory, and won’t be missed.

But other parts of those institutions will be threatened too — vital parts that support local communities and legitimate scholarship, that make the world a more enlightened, richer place to live. Just as the world needs the foreign bureaus that newspapers are rapidly shutting down, it needs quirky small university presses, Mughal textile historians, and people who are paid to think deep, economically unproductive thoughts. Rather than hiding within the conglomerate, each unbundled part of the university will have to find new ways to stand alone. There is an unstable, treacherous future ahead for institutions that have been comfortable for a long time. Like it or not, that's the higher education world to come.
Obviously, colleges and universities and the accompanying research facilities will never completely disappear, but I do think that a big adjustment is on the way... especially in terms of prices for undergraduate degrees. College lectures, just like I am seeing happen in the medical transcription industry, can be outsourced for a fraction of the price.


By the way, I really think that this is one of the greatest threats to human progress ever, and I'm not trying to be hyperbolic or anything. Think about how much innovation, discovery, and progress comes out of the research of Universities in every field of human endeavor. Now, cut that research by 50% or more. Who is going to pick up that slack? The governments of the world? (Yes: Probably governments... but it won't be enough.)

Granted, the largest Universities may be able to withstand some downturn, but all of the less-important stuff — the local ecological studies, the small inquisitions into minor fields that lead to bigger and bolder questions by bigger and bolder researchers — those will all be in danger.

Humanity may have a great tradition of the "garage inventions", and corporate R&D is always bringing us new and exciting things, but those are for profit; when it comes to finding things out for no other reason than "I want to know", universities are the foundation of human curiosity. We will never get as far without them and without the dreamers and visionaries who are employed by them to pursue knowledge purely for knowledge's sake.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fox News Lies

Well, Fox News lies a lot... but this is a bit de trop.

Fox News printed this full page ad in several major national newspapers (The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post), essentially accusing the other news networks of not covering the recent "9/12 Washington Tea Party".

Not only did those networks cover the event, but the inset photo in the lower right of the advertisement was stolen from CNN's coverage of the event.

Anyway, if you want to watch 6 minutes of a CNN news anchor making Fox News look like twats, watch the video below.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Update On The Randy Stirm Boat Situation VII

One thing that is important to remember about this whole saga is that, contrary to what people in Gingoog might want you to believe, this really isn't about one boat fishing where it should not have been. This is a fishing territory war between the fishermen (and their bosses) who operate out of Gingoog Bay, and the fishermen (and their bosses) who operate out of neighboring Macajalar Bay (of which Jasaan is one of the biggest ports).

Doubt it? Then check out this bit of news from Randy:

For several months, Jasaan has had a temporary police chief, filling the spot until a permanent replacement could be found. This fellow is planning on retiring soon, so at the end of last week he was moved off to police headquarters for his quietus, and another senior officer was found to take his place as Chief of Police here in Jasaan.

This new police chief just happens to be from Gingoog.

Last night, 4 days after taking the job, this police chief apparently went out on Macajalar Bay in a police auxillary boat and arrested 3 Jasaan fishing boat captains for illegal fishing and threw them in the Jasaan jail. These boat captains at the time were allegedly all asleep on their boats, engines off, nets out of the water, drifting, waiting for a call from the other boats in the fleet that were out searching for fish. They apparently were released from jail by a very suprised and embarassed local BFAR (Bureau Of Fisheries And Aquatic Resources) director this morning.

Obviously, the local boat owners are pretty upset about the whole thing. A WTF meeting with the presumably-unaware-and-uninvolved Mayor Jardin is probably going to be coming up today or tomorrow.
In other news, Randy was telling me last night how even the "doctored" coordinates that claim Randy's boat was fishing in Gingoog waters prove he is innocent.

Although munincipal waters stretch out from the cost for 15 kilometers, Gingoog does not have a 15 kilometer stretch of water. Gingoog is at the bottom of the U-shaped Gingoog bay, which is also bordered by the munincipalities of Medina on the left side of the "U", and Magsaysay on the right. Based on the official maps, the 3 towns' respective waters form sort of a "Mercedes Benz logo" in the middle of the bay, with the lower triangle (which is much less than 15 kilometers in extent) belonging to Gingoog. The Navy's record shows Randy's boat was apprehended in what is officially Magsaysay waters in the right-upper triangle. (For the record, Randy claims that his boat was further northwest in open waters, and claims that his GPS proves his point.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The World's Dumbest Smart People

Check out this pop quiz of Oklahoma high school students:

How much do you want to bet that there are 10 million Chinese and 10 million Indians who can actually answer these questions correctly (and tons more difficult questions), and who are going to ensure that a vast portion of America's 20 million students never get a career beyond flipping burgers or doing pedicures?

Update On The Randy Stirm Boat Situation VI

Jigger and Herbie over at Gold Star Daily have another front page story up on Randy and Cherry Stirm's ongoing saga against the Navy and Gingoog City Government.

Most of the claims covered in today's story has been covered (and debated) here on Jungle Jil over the past couple of weeks. Click on the "Randy Stirm" label below to see a reverse-chronological listing of all this blog's posts regarding this subject.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Bit Of The Philippines, A Bit Of Technology

This video below works for me on 2 levels: First, it really captures The Philippines perfectly on so many levels: The people, the culture, the atmosphere. Second, every frame of this video was shot on the new Canon 7D, a $1,900 SLR camera, and put together with standard video editing software, meaning that (with a little bit of effort) pretty much anybody's home movies can look like this now.


In the interest of full disclosure, the people filming did use several different lenses on the camera, a manual boom system, and external microphones for the interview audio. So, it wasn't just the Canon 7D camera being used to make this film.

My Hero

The world's best crossdressing comedian, Eddie Izzard, has raised £200,000 for charity by running (seriously) 43 marathons in 52 days. No... not in heels.

Good Sunday Times article:
"So, Eddie," I pant, extending my Dictaphone. "Why (gasp) Are you running? (gasp) Is (puff). It (puff). A Forrest Gump (pant) thing?"

The satyr-like comedian frowns, forehead glistening with sweat. "No," he says. "Forrest Gump didn’t know what he was running for. He just got up one day and started running and grew a big beard. I know what I’m running for: Sport Relief." He pauses. "And ... my beard is under control."

Dems Still Dumb, Notwithstanding Earlier Glimmer

I mentioned here how Democrats might finally be deciding to go "fully partisan" on the Healthcare plan because no matter how much they negotiated downwards with Republicans on the Healthcare Bill, no Republican would vote for any Democrat bill whatsoever: The original bill that Republicans hated with a fiery passion had an equal chance of passage as a compromise bill that Republicans only marginally hated.

Here's your proof.
CNN has learned that – barring some unforeseen change — Democratic Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus will unveil a health care proposal Wednesday without the support of the three Republican senators — Charles Grassley, Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe — he's been negotiating with for months. ... Wednesday, when the Senate Finance Chairman unveils his bill, all indications are he will be doing it without the support of Republicans he has spent hundreds of hours negotiating with.
To sum it up, the Democrats wimpishly gutted their own historically-large piece of Healthcare legislation on the always-false hopes of getting a few Republicans to vote for it, all for nothing... which was exactly what was expected.

Here is a word that I've co-opted from the field of mathematics: Idempotent. Idempotent is an adjective that describes an action which, if repeated, does not bring further results, or improve upon the original results from the first time the action is made. Repeatedly pressing the fast-forward button on your tape recorder to make it go faster is an idempotent action. Washing your hands repeatedly is an idempotent action. Negotiating your healthcare bill downward and downward and downward with Republicans hoping to win their support is another.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Daily Report: Plans and Meetings

I was up nice and early again. I'm also starting to eat breakfast again, which is a change from just coffee.

Jun stopped by early to pick up my motorcycle. Last week I had the bike painted with some cool color-shifting paint that I had shipped from America in a friend's balakbayan box. (Balakbayan boxes — the "official" boxes that Filipinos living overseas use to send items back to family here — aren't searched or subject to tariffs (that I am aware of), so you can send paint in them, which normally would require all kinds of paperwork and approvals and meeting of regulations for shipping.) The bike used to be red, but now it is purple... and when the light hits it, it turns green. Jun has taken the bike back to (1) put a final polish on the paint job, (2) paint the front fender the same color, which didn't look right with its faux-carbon-fiber appearance, and (3) see if the electrical output of the engine can be upgraded to run the extra headlights that I have added that keep draining the battery.

There are two gray farings on the each side of the bike that I'm having recreated in local narra hardwood that should be finished this week. After that, I'm having the seat reupholstered in brown leather (probably leather-looking polyester that is water proof). Next, I'm going to have versions of the metal "floor panels" fabricated in copper. Finally, I'm going to have some copper chrome paint shipped from America and I'm going to have all of the plastic and metal "highlight pieces" (rear view mirrors, front plaque, rear cargo rack, transmission cover) changed to copper. As a finishing touch, I'm thinking of having custom bodywork screws made, capped with copper 5-centavo pieces. (Can anybody tell me if that is illegal in The Philippines?)

By the way, Alsa, where I bought the paint, has some of the wildest paints on the planet... color shifting paint, paint that changes color with heat, paint that glows in the dark, paint that looks like marble or granite or wood grain when sprayed on, real chrome paint in a variety of colors... and many of their paints are even sold in (very advanced, 2-chamber) spray cans. Check them out.

Later in the morning, I went to City Hall and met with Mayor Jardin. I talked with him about (1) starting a branch of The Philippine Eagles here in Jasaan, which he was very interested in, but directed me to another fellow in town who he feels would be more helpful; (2) about getting a business license for our soon-to-be-built pizza stand, which he informed me I would not need until after the place was built and could be inspected; (3) about putting some low bushes and grass on the 2-meter wide strip of city property that runs between the street and open sewer in front of my house, to which he referred me to the city engineer (who came over to the house, inspected the area, and gave his approval).

After that, I spent the day working.

In the evening, I invited Ayan (not Ian, as I had spelled it previously... sorry), who runs the beauty pageants, over to my house. I've got a good idea: Ayan knows lots of beauty queens and I know that lots of fellows who read my blog want to meet nice Filipina girls. Since the online dating/introduction services are filled with thousands of girls of random and unknowable integrity, honesty, background, and beauty, I figured that I (with Epril's and Ayan's help) would find and post one local beauty queen every week on this blog (a "Jungle Juliette") who is interested in meeting foreign guys. We here will interview the girl, make sure she's nice, get personal information to put up along with some photos, and then you readers can get in touch with me for her e-mail address. It will be a money-making scheme insofar that, on the honor system, if one of you ever marries a Jungle Juliette, you send us (Epril and I will be sharing with Ayan) a token of your appreciation. Otherwise, it will be free. Also, if I set you up with a correspondence with a Jungle Juliette, I ask that you keep me updated with how things are going, so that I can make sure that nobody is getting played or cheated, and if I find that one of the girls is making promises to several guys that she couldn't possibly keep, or misrepresenting herself, or misleading people, I can put a stop to it. (UPDATE: Via private e-mail, Mike asked me how I would protect the girls from getting played or cheated. The girls will be keeping me updated as well, and the same rules apply to the guys as apply to the girls.)

Oh: I've got a new camera on the way. Bird is picking one up for me in America... 50% less than what it costs here in The Philippines. It will be Epril's first anniversary present. Then, we should have photos back on the blog.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Daily Report: Family News

Payday yesterday, so shopping and paying bills today. Now broke again until next payday. Sigh.

Tatay (my father-in-law, Eddie) is now guarding our house at night. He mostly just sleeps on the front porch, but we have the "official" guard outside the fence. Tyson guards too. Tatay is up at 5:00 every morning though, cleaning the house from rooftop to front walk. Throughout the day he putters as well.

Momma is her usual feisty self. Due to a longstanding animosity between her and Epril's best friend, Fatima (likely due to the teenager of ten years ago enticing Epril out to eat too much sugar, wink at boys, wear makeup, and listen to Chuck Berry records), she finally chased Fatima out of the house in tears with disparaging remarks. Unfortunately, Fatima's boyfriend Mark, a good friend of mine, left as well, and that pisses me off. They had been staying in the spare room for the last 4 months. (Momma also chases off any and all of Susan's boyfriends on a regular basis, hence Susan's inability to find a husband.)

I figured that Momma never was going to like Fatima — with Mark being collateral damage — so I just let it happen to clear the air. This was 6 months in the making. I'm not going to get involved in Susan's affairs, so that's not my concern; however, as much as I hate to say it, the next time Momma chases one of my friends out of my house or makes people feel unwelcome, she will be asked to leave. Unfortunately, Momma has an extremely long list of people she dislikes, so this is likely going to happen eventually. It's a 50-50 probability that if asked to leave, Momma will decide to become more friendly and Christian to our friends and guests, or an equal probability that she'll just leave in a huff and not talk to us again (like she has before).

Let's see... who else? Young Doreen started preschool recently. I've nicknamed her Buckwheat because of her smile and her uncanny ability to be simultaneously cute and annoying.

Kid sister Dimple is still the brains of the family, studying hard in 3rd grade and speaking English well. She comes up and sits next to me while I work and rests her head on my arm.

Crystal (nicknamed "Inday", which means "kid sister", but she's getting a little old for that moniker, being 13 years old) is becoming a real beauty, but she is a bit of a gadabout and will disappear with her friends after school until late in the evening. Obviously that infuriates Momma to no end... purposefully or accidentally, I can only guess.

Ednil is now going to the local community college for hotel and restaurant management. She seems to be enjoying it, studying hard, making friends, and engaging in some clubs at the school as well. I think I'll upgrade her category from "shy" to "the quiet one."

Epril is interested in beauty tips now and watches YouTube for makeup lessons. I was the one who originally got her into dresses and makeup, and she is quite the duck to water in that regard. About other things though she is a little bit ADHD-ish. I'm thinking maybe she would like to go to study cosmetology or something.

Susan is spending most of her time doing the laundry and cooking the meals. This coming week she is going to start putting down a hard-and-fast pizza recipe for the little pizza stand we are going to make and will be giving out samples. The money she makes from that should go towards food and clothes and other stuff for the family.

Tyson is now 50% good dog and 50% bad dog. He's smart too... or at least wily as all hell. He makes conscious decisions to behave; he knows what he is supposed to do and then makes a decision to do it, not based on reward or punishment but really based on right or wrong (and his desire to be right or wrong) it seems.

He really can't be bribed with treats even: Last night, Tyson was hanging out under the dinner table waiting for food to fall. Susan tried to get Tyson outside by holding a piece of chicken in her hand and slowly backing towards the door. Tyson was all interested until he realized that if he took the chicken, he would wind up outside where he didn't want to be, and went back under the table, and had to be pulled out manually. (Maybe next time he'll make the right choice, eh?)

I've actually been letting Tyson run around the neighborhood loose, and he's very good about staying away from people... I think because he knows he scares them: Anyone who pays him positive attention he will come up to slowly, wearing his biggest smile (he has really perfected the "dog smile", I must say); anyone who shies away from him he shies away from in turn. He's also fairly good about not straying too far. However, sometimes he gets confused or starts following his nose and winds up in other people's yards or living rooms. Usually this is because he is just trying to make friends with another dog in the neighborhood, who retreats from Tyson's playful overtures in the street — or (accidentally?) invites Tyson in — to the safety and comfort of their masters' property: Tyson follows right along, and I wind up in a kitchen down the street pulling Tyson out from under the table while my patient and politely smiling neighbors listen to my apologies.

I've also finally found a way to really exercise Tyson: I'll take him out to the street, get on my motorcycle, and drive down the street while he sprints alongside. We'll go 200 yards down the street at 20 miles per hour, 400 yards up the street, and then 200 yards back to the house. In the span of 3 minutes, Tyson is done and dusted — and, for the moment, the happiest and most exhausted dog in the world.

Anyway, everyone is happy now and at peace. The days come and the days go, and my family and I are moving through them without much expectation of drastic turns for the worse nor better.

Knock on wood.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Update On The Randy Stirm Boat Situation V

So the folks at Gingoog have finally pressed charges against Randy: Active fishing in municipal waters. Randy says he's innocent of this charge because (even if he were in municipal waters) his fishing booms are (were) hand operated, not powered.

Remember how I said that the Navy provided a receipt with the original coordinates (outside Gingoog waters) where they boarded his ship, and then submitted a different set of coordinates (inside Gingoog waters) afterwards? Apparently Randy signed this second receipt. Apparently the Gingoog people thought it would be a good idea to submit as evidence a photo they had of Randy actually signing this piece of paper. Apparently the Gingoog people didn't notice on the edge of the photograph the M-16 gun barrel pointing at Randy's ribcage while he was signing it. Randy and his lawyer got a laugh out of that one. "With enemies like these..." eh?

The Gingoog people also claimed in the court papers they submitted that when Randy's boat fled from the dock that day, it had to be chased for over 7 kilometers before the Navy was finally able to catch up with them. I guess they don't have YouTube in Gingoog either.

I have to say that Randy is really optimistic — if not outright panglossian — about this whole thing. He (and his lawyer, I assume... a law professor, who is no dummy) really is confident that he is going to send the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Gingoog to jail. Randy has also filed a lien lis pendens against these politicians' houses in America... the "freezing of assets". Apparently there is a Gingoog fisheries agent with way too many expensive items in her portfolio to befit her salary, who is also in Randy's crosshairs.

I really must say that I am interested in seeing how this all works out. It really would be unprecedented for The Philippines to have one little guy (figuratively, natch) to take out so many big guys... and as decisively, totally, and definitively as this. I'll admit, I've moved past a friendly concern for Randy and into a rather louche enjoyment of the bathos I may be witnessing here on the part of the Gingoog city government.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Daily Report: A Perfect Trade

I was up again this morning at 5 a.m. There was an e-mail from my supervisor stolidly asking why I wasn't working my scheduled hours lately. Fuck.

So, I sat there actually enjoying my morning instead of getting to work. I'm still going to continue getting up nice and early: I like to get stuff done in the morning, like reading the news and writing in my blog, and the sooner I get started at those things, the sooner I finish and more I get done before starting work at 9 a.m.

At 6 a.m., the power went out... and stayed out. Fuck.

I went downstairs where Epril was still in bed and gave her a morning cuddle. She suggested we take advantage of this morning in the dark ages, and get up and take a walk. A fantastic idea. We put Tyson on the leash, and walked him through town, a mile and a half out to Mike Bird's house, getting there at about 7 a.m. Bird was still in bed, but got up when we arrived (adding his apologies for sleeping in so late). We wandered around Bird's gardens, had coffee and watched Tyson and Apple cavort... first in the water of Bird's fish pond, and then in the nearby dust: What a mess. Bird was leaving for America today, so he was happy to be getting a jump on the day... although the lack of electricity at his house meant that he couldn't print out his plane tickets.

After that, it was back to the house where the power was still out. Then, Epril and I hopped on my motorcycle and rode over to visit with Uncle Bobby and Auntie Puring. Uncle Bobby is getting his hands on some special hardwood, and is going to find somebody to carve it for me. Believe it or not, the carved wood piece is going to go on my motorcycle.

From there, Epril and I rode up to Faustina and had a swim in the cold spring water. I've purchased some plants from the folks that run Faustina to put along the road in front of my house. They are ready to be picked up as soon as we get a truck up there.

Then, in the late mid-morning, with the power still out, I went down to the grocers and did some shopping. Then came home and cooked lunch... pasta in tomato sauce. After that was a shower.

Then Randy Stirm dropped by for a visit and we chatted for a while. Then I took a nap.

Then, at the late, late hour of 1 p.m., the power finally came back on.

That's the way I'd live every day, if I could afford it... which I can't.

Oh. Here's a reason why I love living in The Philippines: Driving back from the pool, past the town square, there was this group of 5 cute teenage girls walking in front of the Catholic school in their prim and pleated lazuline school uniforms with the white pilgrim's collar, white dainty ankle socks, and black Mary Janes. As I drove slowly past, the cutest of the cute looked at Yours Truly — a 40-year-old guy whose personal opinion lays claim to no particularly outsanding lineament or physique — nudged her friends, and said, "Wow, he's so handsome."

Heheh. I'll bet (wife's presence notwithstanding) I even could have stopped and chatted those girls up and they wouldn't have run away screaming and gagging and laughing at the attempt... as any sensible American teenaged girls would have done. Ah, who needs reality?

But seriously: I know that one of you readers paid those girls to say that, and I do appreciate it. You brought (bought) a little light into my middle-aged ego.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Daily Report: Jungle Morning and Police Brass

I've been getting up at 5 a.m. for the last 2 days, and starting work at 7. I've been telling myself for years that getting up and working betimes is the biggest key to having a good day. I remember that fact about every 6 to 9 months... and then eventually forget within a week or two. I'll try to remember for a longer period this time around... maybe even to simply not forget.

Besides: Sunrise in the jungle is a glorious thing. There is the mist that hangs in the valley air midway up the face of the nearby foothills, creating ever-darkening silhouettes of green jungle slopes, eventually fading in the distance to a deep gray sage. Roosters crow from all around the Jungle Perch, from different locations, different distances, different volumes; it's the start-the-day Dolby-sound-check aubade of every little tropical village on the planet I've ever visited. Plumes of smoke rise from behind and between the nearby corrugated roofs, signaling the first garbage burning of the day. Cough. A jeepney trundles by on the narrow street below occasionally, with its stereo turned to an almost respectful volume, playing the standard selection of love songs from the 1970's. The Catholic Church across the town square bells out the call to matins with the first light, and then plays some recorded messages about God's love over loudspeakers throughout the dawn. When the sun finally peaks over the hill, it hits the giant old mahogany trees in the schoolyard in front of me from a completely new direction than the usual evening shadows I've been used to.

Then, suddenly, across the street, somebody starts up their chainsaw motorcycle, and within the span of 2 minutes, the street below is filled with the sound of schoolkids yelling, scooters blaring, cars honking, and dogs barking, as the student population files in from all around: The noisiest part of the day. Then, only short minutes later, the school bell rings (a traditional plangent bell of olden days... not the fire-alarm brr-rrring of modern schools) officially signaling an end to the dawn. The skies clear of mist and smoke, and the day begins.

In the evening, it was off to General Membership Meeting #9 and Induction Ceremony of The Cagayan De Oro branch of The Fraternal Order of Philippine Eagles. My, my... such a weighty title, eh? It was a formal night with induction of new members (again) so a barong was the required dress. (I notice that some Filipinos have a more standard, less-sheer, less-decorative, guayabera-style shirt that they wear instead of barongs when they want to "tone it down" a bit. I might get one of those myself.) Tonight, all of the big name Eagle members of regional police and law enforcement were at the meeting: Colonel Yap, director of the NBI, Colonel Armillio, Cagayan De Oro's Chief of Police (whom I tried talking to: a laconic fellow if there ever was one), a commodore from the Coast Guard, the PNP director for Region X, and several other major law-enforcement dignitaries.

General Lomibao, national director of the LTO (The Philippines' Department of Transportation), gave the keynote address. He talked about his new plan to improve road safety in The Philippines by licensing more drivers and vehicles, enforcing better adherence to traffic laws, and collecting more fines. (Upon my meeting him during the social hour, I mentioned my own road safety pet peeve in The Philippines: The fact that people almost never turn down their high-beam headlights for oncoming traffic at night.)

Epril spent the evening sitting with the Lady Eagles. Now that she is getting to know them, she is opening up a little bit and getting more comfortable and sociable. She's a bit younger than her counterparts though, and is still quite diffident with them, as compared to her comportment with her Expatriates Ladies Charity friends. She's getting there though... in her own time.

After that, it was a nice ride home to Jasaan... and there weren't even that many blinding oncoming headlights on the road for a change. I actually enjoy my drives going from the frenetic streets of Cagayan De Oro back to the rustic environs of Jasaan. The route is perfectly staged to move me through gradually more peaceful places as I drive along: From the first few minutes of the drive on CDO's pitted and patched highway filled with speeding taxis, disco jeepneys, and filthy lorries, surrounded on both sides by dingy shop houses and slapdash factories... to the last few minutes, driving alone through the jungle in patch-lit darkness on a smooth and silent stretch of road. Back home.

Daily Report: The Unfixed Contest

I was a judge tonight at a beauty pageant... the first in about 7 months. This girl, Ayan, puts on these shows and will invite 6 local business owners or other grandees of the village to chip in 1,000 pisos each to pay for the show, and in return will make them judges.

It's not a bad thing that it has been 7 months since the last beauty pageant because the girls never change. It's the same gaggle of 13 or 14 girls whom I've seen in the past 3 shows. That's not necessarily a bad thing: Most of them are easy on the eye, while some are definitely "9's".

Tonight's pageant was in the barangay of San Nicholas, Jasaan's most distant and rural neighborhood, literally over the mountain and through the woods (and across the river). I went after sundown, but could still sense the once-in-a-lifetime vistas I was going through. I'll have to make a trip back out there in the daylight.

Anyway, the San Nicholas Miss Bikini Open (as usual) started an hour late. First the girls came out in fanciful costumes and headdresses and capes and whimsical sceptres... the "fantasy dress".

Then there was a speech from Jasaan's tourist director... in Visayan, but obviously touting the many tourist attractions of San Nicholas... like the nearby sari-sari store, and Kuya Sanchez' collection of prize-winning fighting cocks.

Next, the girls came out and did the "rugged shorts", in cutoffs and bikini tops. I noticed during the competition that there was a crowd of about a dozen 10-year-old boys sitting clustered down in front of me, and when contestant #13 came on, they all cheered wildly. I looked around at the crowd: Nobody else was cheering. Hmm.

Then, after this second promenade, the results of the first promenade were announced: #13 was the winner. I had her tied for 6th place with 3 other girls. Hmm.

Now let's get this straight: Contestant #13 was not a pretty girl in my book. Fine body if a bit under-curved, tall, great hair, and above average poise and grace (but not the best of the group). Anyway, how 5 other judges (presumably unanimously) decided that #13 scored well enough that not only should she win this first of four promenades, but the mathematical significance of their preference was enough to offset my having scored her comparatively low, was beyond my figuring. I figured the curve I was grading on was probably too narrow: With the highest scoring 10 out of 10, and the lowest scoring 5 out of 10 (and #13 scoring 7 out of 10). Perhaps the other judges scored more broadly.

At the end of the third promenade ("2-piece swimwear" in which contestant #13 scored a 7 out of 10... 5th place), #13 was announced the winner of the second promenade. Again, the young male claque in the front continued to wildly give it up for #13 (and no others). Since crowd reaction was 2 out of the 10 points, I gave her the 2 points and most everybody else got a comparative 1 point. I did watch the crowd constantly: The reaction to #13 was pretty localized to these kids, whereas other contestants got a smattering of reactions from all over the place.

Anyway, the final event was the "bikini grind", where the 13 contestants had to come out and get the crowd riled up with a sexy dance. The first 12 dancers came out and did their best imitation of a go-go dancer... and it was very much like the average go-go bar, where you had some show dancers who take center stage and drive you crazy, and then you have the girls who kind of shuffle around and you barely notice are there. They all did the best that their morals and talent would allow them for 60 seconds or so. The scoring here was 6 points for the "sexy" and 4 points for the "applause."

Then #13 came on stage. She came out to the thunderous Vienna-boys-choir cheers of her fan club, struck a couple of modeling poses, shuffled her feet around and wiggled her hips like she was waiting in line for the ladies room at a disco, and then walked off stage after 15 seconds. I gave her 5 points... 1 for the sexy plus 4 for the applause.

It was enough to put her in second place overall when the final tally was reached. I've heard through the grapevine that Ian and her friends aren't too happy that their favored candidate inadvertently got torpedoed. Well, the fact is I really did score everything perfectly fairly. The fact that Miss #13 performed (and looked) so poorly that even 5 other judges' scores couldn't offset that fact is certainly not my fault.

Oh well, I doubt I'll be invited to judge another beauty contest again.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Media Matters E-Mail Checker

People don't send me those political pass-it-on e-mails anymore. The reason is because if (inevitably: when) they send me a bogus e-mail claiming Obama's Supreme Court nominee is a cyborg powered by Downs Syndrome baby parts, I vigorously research the false claims, create a response with facts (and links to those facts), and then proceed to e-mail not just the person who sent me the e-mail, but to every e-mail address all the way down the re:re:re:re:re: list that I can find.

It seems people don't mind spreading ignorance... just as long as nobody tells them they are spreading ignorance: As I mentioned above, the response that people have to finding out they have been spreading ignorance is not to start taking a minute before hitting "Send" on the chain e-mail about Obama's Trade In Your Car for Bible Ashes Plan to find out whether such a thing might just be bullshit, but instead they just avoid spreading the ignorance to the one person who will tell them (and everyone else) that they are spreading ignorance. So therefore, much to my surprise, I no longer get e-mails claiming Obama's healthcare plan will force grandpa to have an abortion.

Of course, my friends and family (and your friends and family) probably still spread ignorance via the Out Box... just not to me. So, it's up to you now to (oops) get yourself accidentally removed from your (and my) friends' and family's e-mail lists. If you happen to get an Obama's free sex changes for illegal immigrants e-mail, go to the "Media Matters E-Mail Checker", and see if they have yet written a response to your particular Obama's speech to school children will turn them into sodomites e-mail. (They probably have.) Then, hit "Reply" on the ignorance-spreading e-mail that you've received, copy and paste the Media Matters response in there. Then — before hitting Send — find all of the other e-mail addresses down the list that this particular e-mail has been sent to, and copy them into the CC box so that they can be educated too.

(Believe it or not, based on my experience, when you do this, you'll actually receive anywhere from about 6 to 10 responses per 100 people (mostly complete strangers) you e-mail with your reply to the false information, thanking you for taking the time to try and stop the spread of ignorance. The other 90-94 people who got the e-mail but you never hear back from consist of (A) 80-90 people who are equally thankful, but just don't bother to say so, (B) 4-8 people who are angry that somebody has proven that the Obama's new GM cars have to be parked facing Mecca in order for the battery to hold a charge claim is false, and (C) 1 red-faced friend or uncle or coworker who is desperately trying to remember how to get into the Microsoft Outlook settings for "E-mail groups" so that he or she can delete your e-mail address from the "Make People Stupid" e-mail group they had created.)

Have fun. Fight ignorance.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Website For Stan

How many of you have heard of "The Straight Dope"? It's a website that attempts to answer various questions. Do you remember my old blog's subtitle, "Stuff You Didn't Know You Wanted To Know But Are Happy To Know Now That You Know It"? The Straight Dope website is the real deal.

Recent questions they have answered:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Update On The Randy Stirm Boat Situation IV

I talked with Randy again yesterday. He was thrilled about the newspaper article yesterday which was essentially an unsolicited tacit sign of support from Governor Moreno — or at least as much... and as tacitly... as a politician of his standing and position can give. The Stirms have yet to speak with Governor Moreno, or convince him of anything, so the fact that the Governor's office put out a presuppositious statement that help is available at the State House is highly significant.

Randy agrees with me that his case will eventually be settled out of court. His lawyer is expecting a settlement and damages that will be just beyond the 7-figure range. "Call it 'a one followed by a lot of zeros'," Randy suggested. The Stirms are now broke and selling off their belongings one by one, so obviously the sooner a settlement is reached, the happier they'll be.

A couple of people in the comments section have been ranting about "all the crimes" the Stirms have committed, and rules they have broken, and jail time they will serve, and deportations they will face. The fact is that 3 weeks after the incident, The Stirms have yet to receive word of a single charge actually having been filed against them, and no warrant or subpoena has yet to arrive at their house. Even the few comparatively-insignificant charges that Gingoog officials hinted at in one newspaper article have yet to materialize anywhere outside of those few lines in The Gold Star Daily.

Given that fact, and the fact that no politician — especially a Governor — would step into the fray with supportive words for some putative American scofflaw, I think we can consider those hyperbolic and unfounded accusations hereby debunked. If the Stirms were genuinely guilty of something... a crime serious enough to lose a 2-million piso boat over... then obviously 3 weeks on, after all the TV interviews, the newspaper articles, and the massive publicity, some official legal action would have already surfaced. Some official mention of those crimes would have been made, at least as a defense or counterclaim against the Stirm's constant woe-is-us-Gingoog-is-bad accusations. They haven't. The Wheels of Justice in The Philippines may turn slowly, but when political careers and reputations are on the line, those things which need to be done... which can be done... are given the priority they deserve. The official silence we hear against the Stirms is — to use the old hackneyed phrase — deafening.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Daily Report: My Grandstand

Today was a holiday in Jasaan, "Araw Ng Jasaan." There was a big parade through town this morning, right by my house. It seemed like everybody in town was in the parade, as it went on for almost 90 minutes. Epril and I stood in the rooftop garden of our house and watched everybody pass by, waving, and receiving a thousand waves in return.

Every city department was marching. Every Barangay hall was marching. (Everybody wore colorful matching T-shirts.) Every school band was marching. (The little 8-year-old majorettes were the cutest thing ever in their flouncy skirts and jaunty caps.) The high schoolers all marched in their uniforms. Major Jardin passed by with the rest of City Hall.

Jeez, I need to get a new camera.

There was a big party in the evening, with some famous musical act named Black Jack playing at the city pavillion. I listened to it for a little while at the proper sound and crowd level... once again from my rooftop garden about 150 meters away.