Friday, October 30, 2009

Best Halloween Costume Ever

I couldn't think of a better title to this blog post than the one originally given to this video. Seriously: Watch this video and be highly impressed.

Daily Report: Jeepney Time

Another parade this morning. This time the local Catholic schools were having a sports day. (No majorettes in skimpy skirts, sad to say.)

Tyson enjoys the parades.

Tonight, being Friday, we decided to go to Spooks for the evening. Unfortunately, with no motorcycle, that meant going by Jeepney: A 40 minute trip becomes an hour and 20 minutes, it's cramped, it's noisy, and it sucks. But it is cheap, as it cost Epril and I a dollar to go the 20 miles from Jasaan into CDO.

We did a little bit of shopping at Gaisano Mall before going off to Spooks.

At Spooks, there was the usual outstanding buffet put out by owner Mike. (All you can eat for 180 pisos — $3.25.) There were roasted potatoes, garlic rice, and a nice vegetable dish to start things off. Then there was a chicken curry with nan bread, the old Filipino favorite of kinelaw, plus roast beef, deep fried shrimp, spaghetti with meat sauce, and beef patties stuffed with mushrooms. There was also salad fixings for those of you on a diet.

I hung around with the guys and chatted about law and order here in The Philippines in general, and Cagayan De Oro specifically. The girls, I'm sure, chatted about equally weighty matters.

Anyway, being the day before Halloween, all Spook's staff were dressed up for the occasion. After all, can you think of a better place to spend a spooky evening than at Spooks?
Unfortunately for Epril and I, it was back in the Jeepney for the ride back to Jasaan at 8:00. Fortunately though, the ride going back is a much better thing: On the way there, the jeepney would stop and pick somebody up every quarter mile or so, and when it got to CDO, it would drop somebody off every quarter mile or so. On the way home, the Jeepney started from the depot and didn't pause once until we were more than halfway there, and only a couple of times after that. We actually made it home in almost the same amount of time as it would have taken on the motorcycle.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Farmville Article (With Quote From Me) Up On NYT

I've now been quoted in The New York Times. That makes 2 out of 4 of New York's major newspapers I've been quoted in (N.B.).
The game seems to have mesmerized people from all walks of life. Every night for the last two weeks, Jil Wrinkle, a 40-year-old medical transcriber in the Philippines, has set his alarm for 1:30 a.m., when he will wake up, roll over and harvest his blueberries.

"I keep my laptop next to my bed," he explained by phone. "The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is harvest, then I harvest again at 10 in the morning, then again in midafternoon, then in the evening, and then again right before going to bed."
Heh. The only downside to this is that, unless at some point in the future I get mentioned in a larger forum for something more popular than Farmville, chances are anybody googling my name forever and ever will be directed to this article above all others.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Kuya On Big Brother

An acquaintance of mine from the Eagles Club in Cagayan De Oro, my kuya Tibo, is currently a finalist on the most popular show in the Philippines, "Pinoy Big Brother."

I know Tibo only a little. But, if you're so inclined to be in a voting mood (and you happen to know how to do all that), put in a vote for Tibo whenever the chance comes up.

The Next Big Leap In Computing

It may not look like much to you, but what you are looking at is going to be very important to scientific and mathematical computing in the future... starting now.

This is the Tesla from the graphics card company, NVidia. It is a "GPGPU", which basically means a video card that helps a computer perform computations not related to graphics.

You see, a few years back, graphic card designers realized that if you put a small, specialized computer onto a graphic card (a computer called a GPU... "graphic processing unit") that takes away from the main computer (the CPU... "central processing unit") the duties involved in sending an image to your computer screen, everything works a whole lot better.

The specialty of a video card's GPU is "floating point calculations" which is just technospeak for "big number crunching", which is, in essence, what computer graphics boils down to: Number crunching. (Computer CPUs are more diversified in their function, so aren't a fraction as good as an otherwise-equally-fast GPU at number crunching.)

Now, question: What do supercomputers do? You know: Those room-sized computers that measure weather and nuclear explosions and genomes? They are number crunchers too... but they do their number crunching by stringing together dozens or hundreds of those ineffecient CPUs to do their mathematical work.

So, that brings us to the "GPGPU"... a "General purpose GPU": This Tesla is essentially a video card, but instead of using its number crunching talents to send images to your computer monitor, it helps the CPU do any number crunching task assigned to it. In essence, it's an ultra-micro supercomputer... and it's only $1,500.

The real kicker is that you can take 3 of these Tesla GPGPUs and put them inside one single desktop computer to work together and instantly have a supercomputer that can do up to 12 trillion floating point calculations per second (which is called "12 terraflops") for a tiny fraction of the purchase and operating cost of an old room-sized supercomputer, but just as powerful.

So why is this important? Well, to people who work with number crunching (and that's a lot of people), this is the equivalent of the introduction of the first handheld scientific calculator. Basically, it takes the power of supercomputers, and the tasks they can perform, and the information they can provide, and the discoveries that they can uncover, and makes it all available to everyone, everywhere, whenever, however.

Very cool.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Warning: Sentimental Baby Video Ahead

Our friends, The Schreuders, welcomed their son David into the world on October 14, 2009. Congratulations!

Daily Report: Who Me?

I had a phone interview with the New York Times this morning. No, really.

Epril got me started on this Facebook game called Farmville. Not one to do anything at any speed less than full bore, and any effort less than full-assed, I studied the game and its mathematics, and determined the best way to get to the highest level as quickly as possible. I figured that I could reach my (arbitrary) goal within 4 weeks; I just needed to log on every 4-5 hours (yes... even at night) and do some game maintenance. So, I got started. Now I'm about halfway there.

(Epril helps me out with the game maintenance... as she generally goes to sleep later than I do. I help Epril out by doing game maintenance for her when she is out during the day. It's too involved to discuss in this post.)

I was looking at a blog on Farmville, and the blog owner had posted their own idea about the best way to "level up" in the game. I posted a comment outlining my own plan, and how great it was. People were generally impressed and/or amazed that somebody would be that dedicated to a silly little game.

Anyway, a New York Times reporter who is writing a story on the phenomenon that is Farmville (with 16 million users, or something outlandish like that), read my comment, and decided that I would be a great example of a "Farmville Fanatic", and he got in touch with me. We chatted by phone for about 15 minutes about the game. As of now, that's that.

Other than that, my day was completely empty of anything other than work / sitting at the computer. Work sucked, by the way. Just one of those days. The pizza stand concurrently had it's worst day ever, selling half of the previous worst day's record. But, a friend from Cagayan De Oro stopped by on his way to the north of the island to pick up some pizza, which was nice. The Filipino version of "Christmas Break" started this week, and all of the students are out of school for about 3 weeks. I think that that had a lot to do with the decrease in sales; we are probably in for a slow period.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

U.S. Diplomat Advises Mindanao Bloggers

I didn't hear about this going on. Otherwise, I might have attended.
"Every quote, every image, every video that you post can capture the attention of the whole world."

US deputy chief of mission Leslie Bassett gave this message to some 500 bloggers from all over the island who graced the 3rd Mindanao Bloggers Summit here last Saturday.

Bassett called for responsible blogging even as she reminded bloggers that any information or data they post on the Net could be seen by millions around the world and could shape impressions on Mindanao.
My blog, in my humble opinion, presents an overall positive view of what life is like here in Jasaan. I do consider myself on the forefront of promoting Jasaan specifically, and the state of Misamis Oriental, it's capital of Cagayan De Oro, and the island of Mindanao. However, it should be realized that that is more an accident of content than a measured effort on my part.

Since I didn't hear the entire speech, I may be wrong about this: However, I totally disagree with Ms. Bassett's (or at least this newspaper article's) insinuation that "responsible blogging" engenders a responsibility to "shape impressions" (and by this, I would assume that this means to "[positively] shape impressions") on Mindanao. I certainly wouldn't consider holding my tounge about anything negative I encounter here in Jasaan. Hell: For all I know, Ms. Bassett may have been thinking about my posts regarding the Rany Stirm Boat Situation specifically when she made that statement.

Bloggers are not promoters; their responsibility is only to their own story they wish to tell (within whatever legal and moral framework they may have been placed). They are individual sets of eyes and ears who report on their own interests and what they see around them. Jungle Jil is a "household newspaper". What I and my family and home encounter day by day goes on this blog... and that includes the not-so-nice stuff I have — and have yet to — encounter.

Daily Report: Pool Party

Sunday afternoon: My one truly sacrosanct time of rest and relaxation. Sometimes I shamelessly squander my Sunday afternoons in front of the television, sometimes (like today) I make good use of it.

Today Epril and I joined the Birds at Kahulogan Pool Resort... one of the five pool resorts in the purlieu of Jasaan, for which our little village is locally famous. Epril and I brought along 5 pizzas from the restaurant (still chugging along at a suprisingly steady level) while the Birds supplied humba and adobo.

We had a wonderful day eating, drinking, swimming, and chatting. Surprisingly, we wound up renting a bungalow right next to our old friend, Daddy Aldrin, the MOR Radio deejay who emcee'd our wedding party. We hadn't seen him in several months. (He occasionally sends a "shout-out" to me on his radio show though, and I reply with an occasional text.) He's a very nice fellow. We gave him and his wife one of our pizzas. Here we are with Aldrin below in the photo. I don't know who the 2 guys in the background are.

In the evening, our friend Ron Schreuder stopped by the pizza stand with his wife and kids and had dinner. They gave birth to a newborn boy last week whom Epril and I have yet to stop by and see. After that, I watched a bit of History HD, and then Discovery Travel and Living with Anthony Bourdain as he worked his way through New York City's best ethnic restaurants. (Boy, watching that show made me miss New York City: Oh, the food.)

Meanwhile, Epril was actually back at Kahulogan resort for yet another pool party with a "texting group" she belongs to. I don't know how it works, but apparently there are chat groups via mobile phone here in The Philippines. I guess that this one Epril is a member of is comprised of people mostly from the Jasaan area. Epril went back to the pool resort for a couple of hours for that.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fantastic Show On National Geographic

Living in Asia, one can never tell how far behind the times our cable programming is that of Europe's and America's. However, a new show is playing here on National Geographic called "Meet The Natives". I watched the first episode last night and it was fantastic.

I certainly have thought — and I'm sure many of you have too — whenever watching those National Geographic documentarians harshing their way through dense tropical jungle to spend time with some remote native population who live lives only slightly more advanced than those of cavemen... I have thought: What would those natives think of the world which the documentarians came from, with the cars, the houses, the hustle and bustle, the technology?

Well, National Geographic brought five men from a tiny Pacific Island, who knew nothing of "the outside world" to England for a month, gave each of them camcorders, and let them loose. (I understand that there was also a foray into America as well with a different set of Islanders.)

I was a little surprised at the ignorance. I would have thought that even people from such a deep distance in the jungle would have known that other cultures sit down at tables to eat their meals instead of sitting on the ground, or would have known what beer is.

What I enjoyed most about the show was that these natives aren't unwise. They are obviously ignorant and unlearned, but you can't fault them that. Their points of view are interesting, but not particularly profound (at least so far). What is most interesting is the commonalities they are able to find, the differences they are able to overlook (or appreciate), and their reaction to all of it. Most importantly though, these men can look at our world through simple eyes and see the obvious... but things that we, as modern folks... have simply stopped thinking about.

Anyway, here is a news article on their visit (very highly recommended). Below is part of the video of the series, which seems to be found in its entirety on YouTube if you are not able to receive National Geographic at home, or attend their programming schedule.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Dan Band Now Featured On Jay Leno

My old high school classmate Dan Finnerty is now one of Jay Leno's "correspondants". Funny stuff.



Daily Report: Festival Friday

It seems that Friday is the popular day for extramural school activities here in Jasaan. Today was another short parade. All the school kids involved in various scouting groups marched, and apparently it was a day of playing sports and such.

Doreen, my niece, is going to a small nursery school down the road from my house called The Potter's Hand. They put on a pageant of international costumes, where students each got dressed up in outfits from various countries (with identifying sashes, as a help). First, there was a parade through town... and past my house as per usual.

Next, each of the students got up at the town pavilion and did a little talk about their country. Doreen, being half-African, naturally was assigned to Kenya. I think that Doreen is always going to wind up being assigned "Africa" at school whenever geographically varied assignments are handed out. Her teachers probably figure it is their responsibility to teach Doreen to take pride in her heritage and be assigned to study it whenever possible. I think she does take pride. Also, I think that the Filipinos are thrilled to have somebody who is, racially, a little different from the standard-but-narrow ancestral span that makes up the entirety of the Filipino people.

Finally, the kids put on a little dance routine about happiness and understanding and worldwide cooperation that I'm sure you've seen kindergartners perform a dozen times before: The teachers stand in front mouthing and eventually singing the words to the song and adding the choreographic visual cues, while a various collection of little faces, from the empty-eyed, to the earnest, to the distracted, mumble/shout/mouth the words to the song, all looking forward to doing something that involves more running, jumping, and laughing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Daily Report: Three for Tea

Not much happened today. I walked Tyson early on. Then late morning our friends from Thailand, Geoff and Fe Bowers, and their newborn, Samuel at 4 months, stopped by for a visit on their way to doing some property hunting on Camiguin Island.

Samuel is a highly cute baby... very interactive and happy.



Work was terrible today. I was very tired and spent the early part of the afternoon in bed taking a nap. Therefore, I didn't even commence working until 3 in the afternoon.

For the evening, I played a little bit on the Playstation 3, watched some History HD, and then called it quits at about 9:00.

The pizza restaurant sold another 25 pizzas again yesterday, and sold out entirely today... although I'm not sure of the exact number. Cool.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Daily Report: Better Or Worse

I forgot to renew my visa. Stupid... but I was distracted. I'm 12 days overdue. Bird was at Immigration today and asked and found that my fine would be 1,200 pisos, which is a relief: I thought it would be 5 times that. I wish I would remember in the interval between expirations/renewals to upgrade my visa to whatever marriage visa is available, instead of the 2-month tourist visa, but one's visa is like one's septic tank or fan belt: When everything is copacetic, you're lucky if you think about it at all.

I had a mild pain in my rib after the motorcycle accident, which was of no concern... until I sneezed 4 times in a row last week. Now it's a constant nagging ache in my side. Ibuprofen helps. I guess it is one of those facts one has to face as one moves away from youth: The process of healing is no longer guaranteed to be a straight line of improvement; setbacks and recrudescence are now the norm.

The pizza restaurant sold 23 pizzas today. Toppings are doing very well, which surprises me: I thought plain cheese pizzas would be most popular, but we haven't sold a single pizza without toppings yet. Also, I was surprised that we sold more pizzas at lunch than at dinner today. I felt a little let down because we sold less pizzas today than on opening day; but before we opened I claimed that I'd be surprised if we sold more than 20 pizzas per day, so the restaurant is actually exceeding expectations. Also, that is just for a Tuesday; we'll see if the weekend spikes the demand. Finally, we are currently only selling by word of mouth and passersby: Word about us has likely not spread far in only 2 days of operation. We're thinking about fliers or something.

The best thing about our pizza stand is the location: We're one block away from the city square here in Jasaan, which plays host at least 1 or 2 nights per week to various events which draw hundreds or even thousands of people. That is one of the reasons I want to make a mobile version of our restaurant: So that we can get right out to the dozen monthly gatherings around Jasaan to sell pizzas. With on-site sales, maybe we could get up to 100 pizzas per day on average. Who knows? Even as I said in the post below that this business is really just a "rice money" operation... it wasn't created to make huge profits... but that isn't to say that it can't or never will.

I watched another 4 episodes of Star Trek (The Original Series) this evening. I'm just about done with the third season. I have enjoyed it a bunch. Shamefully, I haven't watched much of the Cignal HDTV since getting it... but that was specifically because of the temporary desire/obligation to watch Kirk snog nubile alien babes dressed in tinfoil bikinis. Tomorrow, it will be back to learning about Egyptian ruins and World War 2 dogfights.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Daily Report: Grand Opening

So what have you been doing with your week, Jil? Why opening a pizza restaurant of course. Well... it's more like a pizza stand. Well... a pizza hut, if you'll pardon the pun.

Yes, after months of experimenting with various recipes, my family and I (in collaboration with Bird) have now opened up the world's best-pizza-for-the-money pizza shop. We stuck with the amankan bamboo structure to keep it inexpensive in case the effort fails badly. (We have less than $500 invested in the business all told, and that includes Bird's imported pizza oven.)

Before:
After:

An 8-inch pizza is 40 pisos (85 cents) and toppings are 5 pisos (10 cents) each. The stand has 14 toppings on offer: Pepperoni, chicken, ham, hotdog, liempo (pork), mushroom, pineapple, onion, sardine, bell pepper, egg, tomato, olives, and bacon.

Below was my lunch today: Ham, pineapple, mushroom, and olives... 60 pisos ($1.25).

The business isn't really for me (or Bird), but for our families. Now they have a little business seed that they can nurture, and all we hope for right now is that the place makes enough money to provide a little extra income for food.

Opening night, we sold 25 pizzas... having to close early when we ran out of pizza sauce. If we get to the point where we are selling enough pizzas, first we'll expand this location into an outdoor café with seating (we've got a 4 x 8 meter space to expand into behind the shack), then we'll add a mobile restaurant (motorcycle with sidecar pizza oven), and then we'll look into other locations.

But overall, this particular business is more a lark and a whim than the serious hope-to-retire-with-millions enterprise; the big(ger) plan is still in the works. For now though, if anybody within 20 miles of us wants pizza — proper Italian-style pizza; not the Filipino hot-dog-topping-and-Velveeta version — then we are the only place to go.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How To Recognize A Racist

If somebody calls you a racist, and as part of your defense against this accusation, you offer up the fact that you let black people use your bathroom when they stop by, then... trust me on this... you are indeed a racist.

Anyhoo: What we got ourself here's a good ol' fashion Lousiana Justice of the Peace who refuses to marry none of them black folks to white folks. Not because he's a racist, mind. No sir! He's just got a lick of concern that them half-an-half boys an gals won't grow up to be nothin. So he just ain't gonna hitch no interracial couples to make no interracial babies. Ain't nothin to do with no racism, hear? An we all know darn well that ain't no half-black baby ever grown up to be somebody in these United States... 'ssuming you ain't countin that Muslim fella in the White House.

But they alls welcome to pee in my bathroom any ol' time they please.

A Panegyric For My Princess

My pandiculating pixie, my supraliminal sylph, my hypnopompic houri.



Today was my turn to wake Epril up. I do this by tickling her hands; I've never met anybody with ticklish hands before — as in halfway through this video where you see her snatch her hand away and pretend to be annoyed — but there you go. As I've said before, nobody wakes up happier to start the day than Epril, and it is one of the reasons I love her so much. Here is video evidence of that fact, and a nice bit of memory for posterity, my matutinal maelid, as seen through my eyes.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm

I've been paying for Ednil to go to the local community college to study Hotel and Restaurant Management.

It turns out that if Ednil wants to be allowed to take the final exams, she has to pay money to take the test... and not a small amount. Then, if she wants to get her final grade, she has to pay the teacher money... and not a small amount.

And that is for every one of her classes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fox News: Then Liars Now Hypocrites

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Fox News falsely claimed in a full-page newspaper advertisement that no cable news network other than themselves covered the Tea Party march on Washington, rhetorically asking how all the other news networks could have missed something so important.

So, what cable news channel failed to send any reporters to the 75,000-person gay rights march in Washington this past weekend?

Of course.

(As John Stewart did comedically point out, Fox News did take the time to send a news team out to a deserted New Jersey suburban sidewalk for an 8-minute-and-16-second broadcast to talk about a small anti-Obama protest that had occurred there earlier in the day.)

Remember kids, there are "fair and balanced" people out there who are paid to make you stupid.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Daily Report: At Least Epril Had Fun

I'm going to give up trying to figure out when the rainy season is here. We haven't gone more than a day without a rain shower. Fortunately, rainy weather here isn't like back in New York, where rainy weather was measured in days of rain, not hours or minutes.

On the work front, I (and 5 other people) had lost my psychiatric hospital account to the Indian team. However, the team of 20 there couldn't keep up with what 6 of us were able to do easily every day. My company doesn't mind that Indian workers are so much slower, of course: Their workers are paid based on production, not time. It does make me wonder though how long Indians who speak and understand English well enough to grasp high-level medical terminology will last at whatever crappy amount they are getting paid (around a quarter of what I am paid, plus one third production... thus one twelfth) before going on to something else.

I made a bit of a mistake today: My work computer is still running Internet Explorer 6.0, and every time I tried to upgrade it, the restrictions on my computer stopped me. I finally found a way around those restrictions and upgraded to IE 8.0. I wouldn't have believed it, but there was a reason why we can't upgrade: My company's punch-in / punch-out time clock website won't work with IE 8.0. Fortunately, 8.0 will revert back to 6.0 when it is uninstalled without question or problem.

With all of the clouds moving through, there was a very nice sunset today. Here is what I saw from my office.
I complained about the color of the rice paddy yesterday, and today the sunset colors aren't right: In all the places that weren't red or organge, the sky was a fantastic aubergine. However, that color shows up properly on my camera's view screen, but seems to be lost when viewed on Epril's laptop or my work computer. Does anybody see a vibrant purple sky on their computer screens? I suppose I could go out and buy a copy of Photoshop and color correct the photos back to the way they are supposed to look, but checking to make sure it isn't a local hardware problem first makes sense.

Epril invited her friends over tonight and they all hung out on the rooftop, drank Cagayan Cocktail, and had a blast. (I stayed downstairs and watched Star Trek.) Below is Emmy, Yeng, Donna, and Ardelyn. Epril wants me to find husbands for them. Any takers?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Daily Report: Jungle Sunday

Sunday morning and we were up early. Actually every morning, everyone is up early in Jasaan... but especially on Sunday for the 6:00 a.m. church service. Epril and I took Tyson for a walk.
As per usual, the church is filled to standing room only. There are loudspeakers outside the church for people standing in the street to hear the service.
Close to the church is Jasaan's munincipal hall. It's a new building and quite nice. The old one is next door to it and still houses certain town offices.
Another parade... this time for the church. I actually don't quite grasp the significance of walking around icons like this. Maybe they want The Virgin Mary to get some fresh air. Well, it's still fun to watch.
Epril riding on the new bicycle. We actually bought the bike for my father in law, but Epril has been enjoying it as well. No crashes yet.
In the afternoon, I walked with Tyson over to Bird's house. I love the color of fully-ripe rice paddies. It really is one of the most vibrant greens in nature. (I see that my new camera is a bit weak on reproducing green properly. This picture doesn't do reality justice at all... as any of you who have seen a rice paddy just before harvest can attest.)
The Bird house: Mike kept it all simple on the outside, but it's nice on the inside. He is right next to a large stream, and has his own rice paddy in the back, lots of fruit trees and vegetable gardens and spice gardens. As you can see, he also has a lot of plants. There is a small flow of water running through his side yard from an above-ground culvert to the rice paddy over which he has built a cute little bridge (not visible in the photo below).
The large stream looking downriver at some bamboo huts.
And looking upriver into the jungle.
I'm not in the mood to write much today... so that's it for now!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Daily Report: To Give The Poor Dog A Bone

Another morning, another walk with Tyson, and more photos. Don't worry: it's a small village; I'll run out of things to photograph soon.

Being Saturday morning, the school was empty, so I stepped inside the school yard with Tyson and took a picture.

Filipinos are convinced that Tyson will attack them, swallow them whole, and poop them out as rabies-infested chunks, and so they run screaming from him whenever he comes prancing down the street. Tyson of course is much more interested in sniffing garbage and other dogs genitals than eating people, but that doesn't convince anybody. What's really frustrating is that the streets are filled with people's dogs running around loose, and nobody pays them any mind. I think it is the misconception that since Tyson is on a leash, he must be dangerous.

Well, people are seeing us walking every day, and they are slowly coming to the realization that Tyson is harmless... or at least harmless when he is for a walk on his leash. I wouldn't want to dissuade anybody from the deadly possibilities of hopping over the fence to my house at 3 a.m. to pay Tyson a visit.

I walked down to the market and bought some pig bones for Tyson from the butchers there. They gouge me a bit, charging me 15 pisos (35 cents) for something that they were only going to throw away to the other stray dogs waiting around. No big deal.

Tyson walked the entire way home with a fleshy scapula and dangling sinews gripped tightly in his huge teeth, tugging along at the leash as happy as could be. As Tyson pulls on his choker collar, his breaths become heavy, loud, and labored... less like a panting, and more like the sound from a horror movie where the soon-to-be-eaten characters can only deduce the presence of the ravenous monstrosity stalking them by the amplified sound of its fetid breathing. The mouth-breathing, big-toothed, bone-crushing, drooling-bloody-chunks Tyson is probably not the best image to proffer a population whom I am trying to convince of Tyson's benevolence. Heheh. No really, ma'am, he's a very friendly dog. Can I help you climb down from there?

I stayed home last night and ate pizza and watched Star Trek with Bird. Epril went into CDO to visit with the Expats Ladies. I told her to be home at 9:00. Something happened last night which has never happened in The Philippines before: At exactly 9:00 on the dot, Epril arrived home. That's right... A Filipino actually arrived precisely on time last night. You see? The law of Filipino Time can actually be broken.

Here is a 360-degree view of the view from the rooftop garden of my house. One of the local high schools is having band practice at the city park nearby.

Nobel Peace Prize To Obama?

That falls a bit on the ridiculous side of idiotic.

I'm quite confident — since President Obama does talk about... and plan for... peace and harmony a whole lot more than our last President, or any American President in recent history — that a Nobel Peace Prize would be (should have been) in Obama's future. But now? After what? That speech in Cairo? The fact that he only took one diplomatic step backward instead of the standard 2 or 3 with Israel? Making Russia happy by scrapping a missle program that was pointless anyway? Getting North Korea to come back to the bargaining table to get more no-strings-attached free shit from the U.S.? That interracial beer party?

I have a feeling that people who have worked longer, and achieved more for peace on Earth are feeling a little let down right now.

What Is Up With The Piso?

I wonder who put the Philippine Piso on amphetamines? Over the last month, it has suddenly bounded 8% in value.

I really wonder if it's true as some suggest: that big money players in The Philippines do this occasionally for a profit? They get a couple billion pisos in the bank, somehow strengthen the value of the piso a whole bunch, and then trade in all their pisos for dollars as soon as a certain level is hit.

Well, those of us who are paid in dollars and buying in pisos obviously aren't liking it much.

White House Going To Start Attacking Media

It makes sense really: Whether you approve of the Obama White House or not, it is undeniable that certain rather unfair or conflated memes reported recently have really screwed them up... death panels, promoting the Olympics, the President's address to school children, et cetera.

The old way White House of doing things was: (1) Give your message to the media; and (2) if they get your message wrong, give them the same message again. The new way will be: (1) Give your message to the media; and (2) if they get it wrong, argue with the media about how they got it wrong.

It's perfectly understandable. If the White House manages to keep the debate focused on the actual issues instead of petty nitpicking or even misleading hyperbole designed solely to derail the Democrats' plans, then I support it... not because I support everything The White House proposes, but because I support good information over chicanery, honest debate over dissembling, and knowledge over ignorance.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Most Amazing Video I've Seen In A While

I seriously cannot tell you just how much this surprised me. After watching this video, you will never think of an accordion the same away again.

Daily Report: Morning Walk

I took Tyson out for a walk this morning and took the new camera along.

As I stepped out of the front gate with Tyson, this was looking off to our right, toward the rising sun with the mist still masking the hills in the background. That is kid sister Kristel standing on the corner, waiting to go to school.
We walked east one block and then south one block, and came to the northeast corner of the village square. It's really quite lovely and is always filled with people enjoying themselves. At night, the lamp posts are beautiful.
We then went 2 blocks west and 1 block north, and came to Tyson's good friend, Mini Me. (He has a different name, but I call him that for obvious reasons.) Tyson actually played well with Mini Me today... usually he drops one heavy paw on Mini Me, Mini Me starts barking, and play time is over.
There are also 2 Bichon Frese type dogs tied up on the roof of a house near the park. They have a line that their leashes are attached to, and they run along the porch roof. They bark when they see Tyson, and for reasons unknown, nothing seems to annoy and frustrate Tyson more than these 2 dogs up on the roof. He barks and jumps and twirls and barks some more. Every time we go for a walk, this happens. Actually, I think this is the favorite part of his walk.

Well, it was back one block to the east to home. Here is the grass we had put in. It doesn't look too good right now. I had the folks who put the grass down spread fertilizer dirt underneath the turves and the final result was a bit lumpy. I had Tatay buy a big plastic barrel (left edge of photo) to fill with water and roll down the dirt after it rains, but that hasn't helped. I guess it will just do its own thing now.

Finally, it is up to my office. As I sit at my desk, this is the view to my left, looking West. That's Jasaan Central School and the front gate through which all the students pass. You can actually see the ocean off on the left edge of the photo.


UPDATE:

At 8 a.m. there was a parade. They do this about once every 2 weeks it seems. This is the third or fourth parade in the past month though... so even more frequently as of late.

I could hear all the bands warming up in the town plaza. As I was standing out on my rooftop garden, this truckload of students went by on their way to the parade, saw me up here and everybody yelled and cheered and waved... so I took their picture.

At 8 a.m., the police truck went by the house, as per usual, sirens blaring, announcing the start of the parade, as the parade goers marched behind. This woke Epril up and she joined Tyson and me on the roof in her pajamas. (She's always happy and pretty in the morning... even when awakened involuntarily by police sirens.)


The parade was the usual fare, with each school being led by the school van, followed by 3 or 4 majorettes carring the school initials, followed by twirlers, followed by a band consisting solely of xylophones and drums, and then the students, and then the teachers in the rear.


Our new 12 megapixel Sony DSC T900 camera is about the size of a deck of playing cards, except thinner, and also shoots 720p high-def video:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Propose The Star Trek Channel

There has been over 700 hours of Star Trek television programs and 25 hours of movies recorded so far. I'm sure there is a bunch more Star-Trek-related programming out there too... let's call it an even 800 hours.

If there was a Star Trek Channel, you could have a 1-hour daily talk show, repeated once per day, for a total of 2 hours. You could run one movie per day, repeated once per day for a total of 4 hours. The remaining 18 hours would be divvied up between 9 episodes, repeated once per day, from the 700 episodes available.

Or something like that.

I wonder why something like that hasn't been done yet? Universal Studios certainly could do it if they wanted to, and that channel would certainly get more viewers than some of the other obscure cable channels out there.

An all-Simpsons channel would be welcome too, of course.

Any other all-one-program channels anybody would like to propose?

People Like Him Eventually Do Things Like This

Joe Arpaio is a controversial sheriff in Arizona who fights crime by subjecting prisoners to humiliation tactics, including the famous pink prison uniforms, chain gangs. It works, and the man is very popular with most people in his county, though is disliked by others.

Based on his prison programs, one can automatically make several accurate assumptions about the person behind the badge: He's a bombastic, arrogant, headstrong demagogue, and more than a little sadistic: Traits he does not deny, but instead cherishes and claims are the secret to his success.

But what happens when a man like this runs into opposition? He does what any Procrustean law enforcement officer with too much power does: He starts targeting his opposition for arrest... namely Don Stapley, Arpaio's county supervisor, who has been trying to rein in "America's Toughest Sheriff".

After Arpaio's first arrest of Stapley a year ago, the charges were all thrown out. So Arpaio has tried again with 93 new charges. This time around though, Arpaio has a problem: He can find no local prosecutor willing to take the case to court. Arpaio has had to fly in some high-priced prosecutors (the ones who went after Clinton back in the day) from Washington to take on the case. Sorry, but if your case is so toxic that nobody within 100 miles will help you out with it, you really should get a hint that you are on the wrong track.

It's really a logical and obvious progression of behavior: A law enforcement official who uses heavy-handedness against enemies of the law is a man who will inevitably use heavy-handedness against the enemies of the law enforcement official himself.

At Least He Got That Accomplished

I remember writing several times (although I can't find any links to prove it... but those of you who read my blog regularly will remember what I did say) that one of the main reasons I liked Obama best for President was that he would help restore the world's opinion of America, and boost its reputation on the world stage.

That happened:
The United States is the most admired country globally thanks largely to the star power of President Barack Obama and his administration, according to a new poll.

It climbed from seventh place last year, ahead of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan which completed the top five nations in the Nation Brand Index (NBI).

"What's really remarkable is that in all my years studying national reputation, I have never seen any country experience such a dramatic change in its standing as we see for the United States for 2009," said Simon Anholt, the founder of NBI, which measured the global image of 50 countries each year.

He believes that during the previous administration of George W. Bush the United States suffered in the world ranking with its unpopular foreign policies but since Obama was elected, and despite the recent economic turmoil, the country's status has risen globally.

"There is no other explanation," Anholt said in an interview, referring to the impact of Obama.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Camera, Big Doggie

In celebration of the arrival of our new camera... a couple of puppy photos... 7 months old.



Product Review: Cignal Versus Dream Satellite

NOTE: After reading this article below, click here to see an update one year later, in which I explain how Cignal is now better than Dream.



I have finally gotten Cignal (website, wikipedia) satellite HD television in my home and I am simply thrilled with the high-definition picture. I'm apparently only the 10th person on the island of Mindanao to have HDTV. Installation price (includes dish, HDTV box, first month's subscription fee, HDMI cable, and setup/installation) was 9,200 ($195) for me in Jasaan; 500 pisos less for folks in CDO. Monthly fee is 1,290 ($27) with the high-definition package. (The standard definition package only costs 6,200 ($132) pisos to install and 390 ($8) pisos per month.)

Currently, I only have 4 high-definition channels to watch. Well, there really are 7 channels of high(er) definition, but I only watch 4: (1) History HD, (2) FX HD, (3) VOOM HD, and (4) HBO HD. There is also (5) Star Sports HD (but only partly... 50% is broadcast in standard definition), (6) a Sony Channel which often broadcasts in HD, but I haven't seen anything worth watching on it yet, and (7) a Disney Channel which seems to have a high quality picture that might be an upgraded standard definition signal (but I haven't really looked... all cartoons and stuff). ESPN HD is on the way... there is a place holder in the channel listing.

I also have Dream Satellite (website, wikipedia) here at the house as well (installation cost 6,490 ($138) pisos and monthly fee 650 pisos ($14)), which gives me the ability to do a side-by-side comparison of the two products. (Really side by side: My 60-inch Sony HDTV allows me to view two signal inputs side by side on the screen.)

So, here is my personal comparison review of Star Satellite TV versus Cignal Satellite TV:

(A) As far as the standard definition television broadcasts go, Cignal only has 20 channels on offer, and they aren't good at all (for me). You get all of the standard Philippine channels as you would expect (plus a couple of new ones) plus HBO, Cinemax, CNN, AXN, 2nd Avenue, Bio, and cartoons. No Discovery, History Channel, or sports at all. However, there is Pinoy Box Office.

(B) Dream Satellite has 38 standard definition channels on offer. Here, you get (in comparison to Cignal) the addition of National Geographic, Discovery, History channel, Animal Planet, BBC News, and sports, but you lose HBO and Cinemax.

Here is my summary:


THE CHANNEL LINE-UP

If you don't have a high-definition TV yet, you have no reason to get Cignal... EXCEPT: (a) it has several extra Tagalog channels that Dream does not have, (b) it's cheaper, and (c) it has more movie channels. If you get Dream, you will have more channels to watch... especially if you are a sports fan, or a fan of educational/documentary programming. Oh: The on-screen program guide for Cignal is vastly better than Dream. With Cignal, you can watch TV in the upper left corner of your screen while you browse, while Dream completely cuts out all video and audio while you look around at what is on. Also, Cignal provides you with a brief summary of what is on each channel as you scroll by it, while Dream requires you to click and expand the listing before being able to see that information.


THE PICTURE

Cignal is simply better. Every channel that we viewed side by side had crisper edges, brighter colors, and less noise. Also, during several rain storms, the Cignal signal has not been cut off while Dream has. You can click on the photo below to see the large version of the two broadcasts (Cignal on the left). One word of qualification though: The Cignal signal is passing through an HDMI connection, while the Dream Satellite is going through an RCA connection. This may provide an improved Cignal picture that you may not experience on your own television if you use an RCA connection with Cignal. Also note that the two broadcasts are not perfectly contemporaneous: Cignal is about 1 second ahead of Dream, hence the images are not exactly the same.



THE FUTURE

Since purchasing Dream 6 months ago, my channel lineup has decreased by 4 channels, and no channels have been added. In the 3 days I have had Cignal, I've already had one new channel start broadcasting. Cignal satellite is partnered with Smart here in The Philippines, and seems to be the stronger and growing business. I currently don't have the same confidence in Dream. And also, Cignal has high-definition, which really is the future. Of course I can't predict too much about the future, but based on what was, what is, and what obviously will be, Cignal is better-positioned right now for growth and progress.


YOUR OPTIONS

Personally, for standard definition television, I think that Parasat Cable (website) at 1,150 pisos ($24) per month with 96 channels is the best deal if you can get it. For the person who wants to pull out all the stops and have it all and are not particularly cost-sensitive, I would recommend getting Parasat and Cignal HD. For those of you limited to only satellite options, Dream and Cignal both have their pluses and their minuses. You'll have to make your own choice based on the details I've laid out for you here.


A FINAL NOTE

This article was written on October 7, 2009. All information provided in this review is constantly changing and may not be correct at a later date. Please use the links provided to confirm the current prices or channel packages, as they may have changed since this writing.

UPDATE ONE MONTH LATER:

Complaint: Most of the HD channels (Disney, ESPN, Star Sports, National Geographic, Star Movies) are actually broadcasting the majority of their programming in standard definition (or occasionally 720P which on my 60-inch screen looks a little better than SD, but is patently not HDTV to anybody who watches in my house). So, you're expected to pay approximately 100 pisos per channel per month for high definition that isn't even high definition. Though it's not Cignal's fault that ESPN (especially ESPN) and the other channels are broadcasting SD content on their HD channels, it's still a bit of a scam to be calling them HD channels.

FINAL RECOMMENDATION: Avoid Cignal HD unless you are willing to shell out more than 100 pisos per channel of fake high definition (except for The History Channel HD which broadcasts 100% true 1080i HDTV, and HBO HD which is about 90% true 1080i HD). That, combined with Cignal's very poor standard-definition lineup makes it rather difficult to justify choice.

At some point in the future, Cignal may (probably will) have enough SD and HD channels (real HD channels with real HD content) to justify signing up, but for now, hold off on the purchase. (And that is exactly what happened: Cignal doubled their HD lineup in October of 2010. See here for update)
ANOTHER UPDATE:

National Geographic has gone to full 1080 HD, joining History HD and HBO HD... a step in the right direction. Still waiting for ESPN, Star Sports, Disney, Sony, and Star Movies to go from "pretend" HD to full HD.

Call It A Successful Test

When I bought Epril's little laptop computer last March, it was filled with pirated software from the computer store. (Whaddya want? It's The Philippines.) The unlicensed anti-virus software cancelled itself after a couple of weeks. I figured, "Let's go without anti-virus software and see just how bad it gets."

Epril only uses her computer for web surfing and playing the little collection of pirated puzzle and board games that were installed. All of her e-mails go through Yahoo, and she doesn't export anything except photos to her Friendster account, so I figured whatever viruses she managed to get, she was totally quarantined based on her computing habits. By doing this, I figured that I'd be in a "format c:" situation sooner or later... and then would just get a licensed version of Windows installed. But, surprisingly, Epril's computer has chugged along without a single hiccup... even as she downloaded and installed enough free gizmos and plug-ins from God-knows-where to give any computer junkie an aneurysm.

(My work computer is connected to the same home network, but is probably the most hack-proof non-military computer out there, due to my company's very strict protections and limitations: The number of file types that can be written to the hard drive without administrator privileges is limited to a number that can be counted on one or two hands (obviously .exe is at the top of the list of excluded file types). You can't even open up a thin-client program in a browser that isn't on the list of programs approved by my company. And of course, this is all backed up by daily-updated, centrally-monitored, turned-up-to-11, Symantic antivirus software.)

So we got our new camera, and before I hooked it up to Epril's computer, I put on some new anti-virus software. After a little over 6 months without virus protection, how many viruses did Epril have on her computer?

53.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Define Irony

Hereyago: "Leader Hakimullah Mehsud met reporters Sunday in South Waziristan, according to the journalists, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the news media."

They're not even allowed to mumble to themselves?

The 2010 Elections

Pretty much everybody who writes about politics is predicting that the upcoming 2010 midterm elections won't favor the Democrats. Most predict a loss of 2-3 Senate seats and 20-30 seats in The House of Representatives.

It's a combination of several factors:
  • First off, midterm elections have almost never favored the party of the President (save for 2002, when "9/11" and war was still on everyone's mind).
  • Second, demographics for midterm voters have always tended to be (1) older and (2) whiter than Presidential elections (although younger and nonwhite voters have been steadily climbing in these numbers recently).
  • Third, Democrats haven't been playing a particularly strong hand in Congress, and Republican attacks on them have been relentless and have definitely penetrated the American political consciousness to some extent.
  • Fourth, while the stage may (or may not) have been set for economic recovery, chances are that a year from now, Americans will still be unhappy with the state of the economy, and will blame the party in power.
Therefore, nobody will be surprised if Republicans regain some lost ground in next year's elections. Unfortunately (and please excuse the concern trolling), Republicans may mistakenly view these expected gains as a general-public repudiation of Democrat plans or the so-called "liberal agenda", and mistakenly believe that it represents a confirmation that their current political views are, after all, not in dire need of adjustment.

That, of course, is short-sigtedness akin to an ill person having a few days of good health and considering himself cured. The Republican party is losing young voters, minority voters, and voters in pretty much every region of America outside of the Southeasetern states. The single data point of the 2010 midterm elections will not contradict this, and the 2012 Presidential elections (when all of the young/non-white people who skipped the midterms come back to vote again) will prove this.

My opinion is that if the Republicans walk away from the 2010 elections with more seats in Congress, but having learned the wrong lessons from their gains, then in long-run, it will be worse for them than having gained no seats at all.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Update On Olympics Post

Nate Silver, probably one of the best people on the planet when it comes to looking at statistics and drawing conclusions, examines the voting delegates of the IOC and makes some rather astute and dramatic observations regarding the fairness of the Olmympic site selection process.

He sees things a bit differently than I do. If anything, his conclusions are much more fair and unbiased than my own. You'll have to excuse this obviously self-contradictory and illogical statement I'm going to make: I don't agree with the final solution / adjustment that Nate Silver's mathematics brought him to regarding the delegate and voting procedure, but I fully agree that the mathematics and thinking he used to reach that solution / adjustment is the best process possible.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sleeping Beauty V3.1

Here's a fun fact: Sleeping Beauty, the tale of a spell-bound sleep and a princely kiss was originally a story of a necrophilic shag / date rape in the woods, cannabilism, and executions.

I'll say it again: Have yourself a wander through The Straight Dope. It answers all the questions you didn't even think to ask.

Rio Wins The Bid To Host 2016 Olympics

Common knowledge, I know... but blogs are for putting up one's thoughts and here are my thoughts: I'm glad that Rio De Janiero is going to be hosting the next Olympics instead of Chicago. The Olympics is one of only a few worldwide events (some would say the only worldwide event) and I think that it should be spaced out diplomatically and democratically based on the following criteria: (1) Continent/Region, (2) Country, and (3) City.

So here is the breakdown of Summer Olympics since 1940 by Continent/Region...
  • Europe plus Russia, 9 times, not including 2012.
  • East Asia plus Australia, 5 times.
  • North America, 4 times.
  • South America, never.
  • Africa, never.
  • Middle East plus India, never.
I'm not calling for equivalency here — I don't think that the next 18 Olympiads should be limited to the bottom 3 continents/regions on the list. However, I do think that they certainly should get some special consideration for putting together a reasonable and respectable bid.

And there is no arguing: Rio certainly is a world-class city in its own right, and will be able to slap together (if nothing else) one hell of a show.

p.s. I hereby propose that all Olympic swimmers in 2016 wear the famous Brazilian fio dental (dental floss) bikini for all events.

p.p.s. Just to encourage a bit of conversation, I propose the following 10 cities for consideration:
  1. Bombay
  2. Istanbul
  3. Dubai
  4. Cairo
  5. Riyadh
  6. Buenos Aires
  7. Johannesburg
  8. Bangkok
  9. Singapore
  10. Kuala Lumpur

p.p.p.s. Where are Republicans on this? They are happy to see America lose because it can be called a loss for President Obama as well.

Chronos at Little Green Footballs said it best:
This is where the rhetoric of "FAIL" leads — they’re openly celebrating when America loses, just because Barack Obama is President. And even though this Olympic bid was also promoted by George W. Bush. This completely puts the lie to the excuse that those who say they want Obama to fail really mean they want his policies to fail. No, they want Obama himself to fail, and if that means America fails too, they’re just fine with that.
And, as always, my hero, Andrew Sullivan:
Criticizing a president is one thing — and important. Hoping he fails — even to the point of celebrating a national loss — is a sign of partisanship that has become pathologically blind to any sense of perspective or patriotism.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Another Big Storm Coming

This one is apparently even bigger than the last one. As per usual, Mindanao will probably be spared the worst of it.

As a note to readers unfamiliar with The Philippines layout, the article mentions "Cagayan", which is a state in the far north of the archipelago, which is about as far removed from the southern city of Cagayan de Oro, where I live, as the state of Washington is from the city of Washington DC.

Let's hope that people are able to better remove themselves from this upcoming onslaught better than the previous.

Daily Report: Big Motorcycle Accident

Tonight in the town of Tagoloan, Epril and I had a head-on crash with another motorcycle that was driving into oncoming traffic down our lane. Miraculously, luck and some incredible moment-of-disaster driving on my part saved Epril and me (and the stupid motherfucker who hit me) from no injury more serious than bruises. But, my motorcycle was completely shattered... the other guy's motorcycle was minimally damaged. Of course, since I don't have a Filipino driver's license (and my New York one expired... oops), I'm responsible for the whole thing. As far as the police (and the stupid motherfucker who hit me) are concerned, that's the end of the matter.

Looks like I've paid The Stupid Tax again. I really don't feel like talking about it other than that.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Daily Report: Weather Clear

There really is one reason why the island of Mindanao is the best place to live in The Philippines: It never gets hit by a typhoon. I think that the mile-high cordillera of huge volcanic mountains along the east cost of this island is big enough to redirect a hurricane... push it north.

Regardless, we have had a week of principally grey skies and rain. But I welcome this little foray into foul weather... or, sorry, welcome only insofar as a cool temperature and basalt sky make for a nice break from hot and sunny; not the death and destruction stuff up north. I checked the satellite and there is an entire string of big hurricanes lined up like bowling balls aimed at these ten-pin islands.

I was told by my friend Ron that Jasaan Central (elementary) School across the street from me is one of the better public schools in the country. I walked through there, and it certainly is a lovely place. (Actually, for some odd reason, I have yet to see an elementary school in The Philippines that didn't have some fantastic tropical visual appeal to it; I might do a photo essay on that someday.) I think Jasaan Central School has a good idea: At 7:30 every morning, they crank up the stereo, play loud dance music, and the entire school gets out and jumps and runs and shouts and dances.

Here at the house, we have this giant leylandii-style tree — exceptionally tall and pencil-thin — that the house was built around. It grows up from the flower bed in the garage, through an opening in the second floor balcony, and continues on upward for another 50 feet after that. Unfortunately, with the recent high winds (we miss the typhoons but still get 10%) the trunk has developed a significant arc to it, and the tree seems totally unwilling to revert to its former erect state. It hasn't snapped; it's just all droopy now. At its worst, it was bowed to 90 degrees out over the street. Tatay and I managed to flop the thing, like a giant unconscious drunk passed out in the wrong direction, from its precarious streetward lean to an inward direction that uses the various interior walls as a bit of a crutch, and then we tied it off with lots of thick rope. Still: At the end of it all, we're going to have to chop the tree off at the midruff and let it try again.

I've been watching the BBC's documentary on the Ganges river on Blu Ray over the last couple of nights. Great stuff. There is actually HDTV broadcasts here in The Philippines now. See? Right now they only have 2 high-definition channels (for $9 per month... History Channel and a travel and food channel called Voom) but they promise more. I'm seriously debating getting HDTV, even at this early stage with only the 2 channels: After all, about 75% of the TV that I watch consists of either History and Discovery Channels, or travel and food programs. I'm going to make some inquiries. (Update: I see they have already added high-def HBO as well. Cool.)(Update II: Based on the channel lineup of nearby Singapore cable company, Star Hub, I would say that the next high-def channels to be added here in The Philippines would be HD Discovery, HD National Geographic, and two HD sports channels.)

Before You Go Off Half-Cocked

I was a bit surprised (as I'm sure you would be) to read on Malkin's site that Democrats on a Senate committee had rejected an amendment by Republicans that, if immigrants wanted to receive healthcare benefits under the proposed government healthcare plan, they would be required to show photo identification (UPDATE) instead of the currently proscribed social security card or birth certificate.

As usual, if you want to understand something (instead of just get upset about it), Michelle Malkin is the last person you should rely on for your information.

My initial thought was, "Isn't targeting a segment of the American population such as 'immigrants' (based on what? accent? skin color? whiff of ethnic food on their breath?) for special scrutiny sort of illegal?"

Yes, it is. And it turns out, yes, Malkin was using a red herring by talking about "immigrants": The Republican amendment wanted everybody in America to provide photo ID in order to get healthcare. The "brown scare" was (as per usual) created out of thin air by Malkin. (And, for those of you who may not know, Michelle Malkin is one of the most important Conservative voices in America.)

So, once having cut through the hysteria and having gotten down to the facts of the matter, of course, a person with a modicum of curiosity like myself wonders why Democrats would vote against requiring photo ID at a hospital. Seems reasonable, right?

Well, for starters, it turns out that Democrats don't like that idea for the same reason that Democrats don't like requiring people to show photo ID's to vote: People without photo identification are usually poor, and keeping them from receiving healthcare is slightly worse than keeping them from voting.

Second, the only photo ID to prove American citizenship that illegal immigrants, or non-citizen legal immigrants, cannot obtain is a passport. So, if somebody shows another photo ID such as a driver's licence, it doesn't prove anything about their citizenship anyway. Either everybody has to go out and get a passport, or America has to finally get a national ID, which Republicans hate the thought of.

Third, how many 6-year-olds do you know with photo ID? Would a barely-conscious 95-year-old man in a nursing home — whose last photo ID expired in the 1980's — have to go out and get a new ID?

So, as always, keep in mind when you read things like this (as I immediately suspected when I read it): There are people out there who are paid to make you stupid. Get the facts.