Monday, November 30, 2009
I live on a corner of this little village. On the corner across the street is a little shrine. Tonight, the intersection on which that corner rests, was raised a large tarp, lights were put up, and the place was turned into a chapel. Mother Mary was wheeled out of the church across the plaza, and brought to my corner, where the benignant icon would cast her Mona Lisa smile down upon worshippers of a quiet candlelit overnight vigil. This is done every year on the full moon before Jasaan's annual big fiesta.
Of course, when I mean quiet, I mean sermons shouted into microphones and doxologies sung at top volume, drums and horns; when I mean candlelit, I mean bright flourescent lights and everybody holding candles; and when I mean overnight, I mean until 4:30 in the morning.
Here is The Virgin's arrival at the temporary chapel. (The original video has great contrast in the low light... but looks like it got lost a bit when uploading to YouTube.)
Here was one of the quieter moments of the vigil.
Well, I stuffed some tissue in my ears, sandwiched my head between two pillows, and turned the fan all the way up to create some white noise, and that managed to keep the sound out of my ears just enough to allow me to get some sleep.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Also, the most famous members of the Philippines Eagles were in attendance, sitting at the President's table, and they did some speaking as well: Former Senate President and former Ambassador to The United States, Kuya Ernesto Maceda was there. Kuya Joey De Venecia, who was instrumental in exposing governmental corruption in the NBN/ZTE broadband case, was there. Congressman Kuya Rodolfo Plaza and Congressman Kuya Rufus Rodriguez both got up to speak... and the previous four Kuya all got up to offer kind words to the fifth Kuya, the keynote speaker of the evening, former President of The Philippines, and current Presidential Candidate Kuya Joseph Estrada. The big ballroom was filled to capacity and standing in the wings.
Below is the Presidential table: From left to right, you have (1) Kuya Ferdinand Bernisor, National PEIL (Membership and Protocol) Director, (2) Kuya Joe Longcob, the incoming National President of Eagles, (3) Kuya Ernesto Maceda, 4) Kuya Joey De Venecia, (5) Kuya Nilo Raymundo, founder of The Philippine Eagles, (5) Kuya Rufus Rodriquez, (6) Kuya Joseph Estrada, (7) Kuya Vincente Avila, outgoing National President of Eagles, (8) Kuya Erlquin Lim, National Vice President of Eagles, (9) Kuya Rodolfo Plaza, (10) Kuya Miguel Piso, and (11) Kuya Sonny Raypon, District Governor for Eagles of Northern Mindanao.
President Kuya Estrada seemed to entertain the crowd greatly... although I have to say that I missed the humor: For the dry and uninteresting political bits, he spoke in English; then for the self-deprecating and humorous bits, he broke into Tagalog. (Although, in referring to his time in jail, he did say, "No one can argue now: I'm a man of conviction.")
(Just a note: I'm writing about President Estrada as a fellow Philippine Eagle in a blog post about The Philippine Eagles. I'm omitting discussion (pro or con) about President Estrada's political career on purpose.)
Anyway, it was another lovely evening. I did get to shake Erap's hand (and I have Mike Turner to thank for his split-second camera handling for getting the handshake (sort of) on film) and had my photo taken with Congressman Plaza as well. After that, Epril and I caught a taxi back to Jasaan... with a quick stop at Jollibee drive-through on the way. (The dinner was good... but not filling.) We were home right around midnight.
Conressman Plaza and myself:
President Estrada and myself: Yes, it's a crap picture. I had about 2 seconds to get my camera out, turn it on, hand it to Mike Turner, and say, "Get a picture of this," before offering my hand to the former Philippines President, and Mike had about 1 second to point and shoot before Mr. Estrada was gone. Well done, considering.
The banquet hall was filled with
Eagles members from around The
Philippines as the 28th annual
National Congress began.
Lots of awards were handed out.
Here, the National President Avila of
The Eagles (second from the right)
and National Vice President Lim
(second from left) congratulate 2
kuyas for their good work.Epril and I went into Cagayan De Oro tonight to attend the first night of the 28th annual Fraternal Order of Philippine Eagles National Congress being held at the Grand Caprice Hotel in the Limketkai area of town. We had a nice time. There were lots of Philippine Eagles members from all over the Philippines, and we made some new friends, as well as saw our usual friends from the local chapter that I belong to. We hung out mostly with Mike Turner. Lots of awards were handed out. There was dinner, free beer, and for entertainment, there was a beauty contest with 16 very pretty ladies from the area. Provincial Governor Oscar Moreno was there as well.
The crowd had a good time cheering on the girls, and shouts of "Mabuhay Aguilar!!" were heard all evening.
Since everybody likes pictures of pretty girls, below are the contestants in the beauty pageant. Actually, Epril and I were surprised, because many of these contestants are the same girls at the various "bikini open" contests in and around Jasaan that I am frequently asked to judge.
And, as a bit of video, here is Governor Moreno serenading the beautiful contestants.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Adventure comes in many forms, and I can imagine that — like that guy who illegally climbs buildings around the world and then parachutes off — there must have been lots of planning, thought, and no small amount of guts that went into pulling this off, and what must have been maximum excitement and adrenaline in the attempt.
And, like that aforementioned Human Spider guy, the fact that this is (currently, and hopefully for the foreseeable future) limited to just this one couple who are harmless (in and of themselves), I think it's all a bit of a laugh and nothing else.
When hundreds of copycat party crashers come out of the woodwork to emulate this couple's success and start causing real problems, then of course I'll sing a different tune. But for now, I'm just amused.
Wikipedia is like that for me. I'll read about one subject... and then I'll have to open up all of the links inside that subject... and then all the interesting links inside those subjects... and on and on and on. (I've still got Wikipedia links stored in my "Favorites" bar that I haven't gotten around to reading yet after I looked up "William Rufus" and ran out of time and energy after 6 hours of "surfing".)
Providentially, Andrew Sullivan has discovered a big bag of Wikipedia crack cocaine: A collection of 50 interesting Wikipedia entries.
Copybot compiles 50 interesting entries. Here's the one for Parsley Massacre:There are 49 more entries here. Don't click if you have a low resistance to internet sciolistic varia; you'll lose a day over it.In October 1937, Dominican President Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina ordered the execution of the Haitian population living within the borderlands with Haiti. The violence resulted in the killing of 20,000 to 30,000 Haitian civilians over a span of approximately five days, which would later become known as the Parsley Massacre due to the shibboleth which Trujillo had his soldiers apply to determine whether or not those living on the border were native Dominicans who spoke Spanish fluently. Soldiers would hold up a sprig of parsley, ask "What is this?", and assume that those who could not pronounce the Spanish word perejil (called pèsi in Haitian Creole, persil in French) were Haitian. Within the Dominican Republic itself, the massacre is known as El Corte ("the cutting").
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I got up to my office and turned on my work computer. Nothing. No go. No familiar click-sigh sound of electronic redivivus. I crawled to the stygian underbelly of my jungle perch where my computer lives and unplugged/replugged everything and tried anew. This time I got the click-sigh; this time I got the login screen. I typed my name and password, and then wandered off with my coffee to watch the sunshine dry out the neighborhood. When I came back, my computer was off again. No click-sigh with any further attempts.
Without this computer — not "without A computer" but "without THIS computer" — I'm unemployed.
I guessed that the 110% humidity of the last 48 hours somehow killed my power supply. I unplugged the computer, opened up the case, and found 7 years of dust bunnies living inside... 7 years of open-window office, floor-dwelling, smoke-ash-cat-dog-air-breathing. I could barely see the motherboard.
Since there is no computer store in Jasaan, I decided to take my computer to Ron Schreuder's internet café and clean it out using his blower, and try unplugging-replugging everything on the inside (not just the power cord on the outside). I went there, blew every dust bunny to kingdom come, unplugged the power supply to the mother board, unplugged the memory, the expansion cards, the processor, and pretty much anything else that looked pluggable, and then tried the computer again.
It worked fine. I still have a job.
I spent pretty much the rest of the day in front of my computer. I spent my lunch break randomly surfing the internet. (We don't "surf" anymore do we? We don't even use that term anymore. Now we stride purposefully on our daily internet walks; we know where we are going and don't deviate or let the waves of the internet guide us. Well, I do "surf"... sometimes... like today.)
I didn't even know it was Thanksgiving today until I got an e-mail reply from my company's medical Q&A team that started off, "Good morning! Happy Thanksgiving!"
p.s. I finally got up that video I mentioned in the post below.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Since the family house was fine, I joined Mike Bird (who had lost 50 feet of fence and a couple of his beloved papaya trees) in helping the neighborhood clean out the cement drainage culvert (about 1 foot wide by 2 feet deep) which feeds the nearby rice paddies. It's clogging was causing a bit of water to still flow through the wrong parts of the neighborhood. I grabbed a shovel and a hoe and got to work clearing out several tons of bamboo, torn up fence, coconuts, and truckloads of sandy mud. I spent the morning in the rain, soaking wet and heaving and hoeing.
At midday, I went back home, had some lunch, and then took a nap.
I bought Epril an iPhone for her upcoming birthday. She's loving it. It even has built-in television, radio, and WiFi internet in addition to being a phone. As soon as they figure out how to incorporate a refrigerator and toilet into one of these things...
Anyway, I was pretty exhausted after this morning. I haven't put my back into anything in a long time! It was off to bed early.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
My reaction is this: Welcome to Filipino politics.
This massacre was basically the assassination of the wife of a guy who was running for governor, everyone who was with her at the time, and apparently several other bystanders. I'm not sure why it happened, or more specifically who it happened to, or what was supposed to be accomplished (other than in the most general "get the other candidate out of the race" sense).
Most importantly though is this: What happens inside the ARMM area of Mindanao — with all the Muslims, the MILF, and the thieving bandits who pretend to be associated with the MILF — pretty much stays in the ARMM area. (When it does spill out to the Christian areas, it doesn't get as far as Cagayan De Oro... let alone Jasaan.)
In fact, a good analogy would be living in Delaware... on the far side of Philadelphia, and hearing about a redneck massacre in West Virginia: About the same distance both in miles and cultures.
The fact is, if I ever run into any jungle warriors in this part of Mindanao, it will be the Communist rebels, who theoretically could make it as far as Jasaan. As I've mentioned before, while they can be a nuisance and can kill, they are pretty much a joke.
The lesson to be learned from this crime against humanity, democracy, and The Philippines? Stay as far away from politics, politicians, and political causes in this country as you can.
Just as an afterthought: I really hope that this is a turning point for The Philippines... although I won't hold my breath. My personal opinion is that The Philippines should impose the death penalty for any political murder... be it candidate, family member, aide, or the murder of any other person killed in an attempt to derail the democratic process of selecting a government.
Then Epril and I got word from the in-laws that the family home across town was getting flooded. They had moved to high ground. My father in law, Eddie, came up to our house (at the highest point in town) with kid sister Dimple, but momma and the other kids stayed behind. I walked with Eddie back down to where the flooding was. We saw that everyone was okay out on the highway (actually holed up at Mike Bird's half-built restaurant), and then we walked back through the neighborhood to the family house, but unfortunately we couldn't get close: A huge raging flood was passing in front of us. We could see the house... about 50 meters away, and a meter lower than where we were standing in water up to our shins. I must say it didn't look at all good. I don't know whether the wooden structure will hold out through the night.
We walked back to the main highway, got the rest of the family together, and then walked back up to my house.
I was a little surprised to see that all of my family was actually in good spirits overall. They were even a little bit light-hearted despite the pluvial hell we were walking through... with toppled trees, raging torrents at our ankles, and a rather chill breeze... despite the property loss we were facing.
We'll see what tomorrow holds.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Apparently this guy named Adam Lambert passionately kissed another guy during his American Music Awards performance the other night.
Of course, people kiss all the time... but it's usually a guy and a girl. Everybody loves that kind of kiss... even if it's between unmarried guys and girls; goes all the way back to Tristan and Isolde, you know... or at least Woodstock. Hey: In this day and age, even Madonna and Britney can kiss and the world won't come screaming to a halt; Bob Guccione has made a billion dollars peddling the Art of Lesbos over the last 4 decades to the hairy-palmed of America.
The kiss that raunched a thousand twits.But if two guys kiss? Oh hell! "Keep it in the bedroom," people shout! "I'm all for gay pride, but you don't need to be up in my face about it," people complain. "What if children saw that?" Predictions of a 2012-style end-of-the-world bar-be-qued humanity are bouncing around the internet like little electronic Book-of-Revelation Chicklets.
Heheh. In the realm of iconoclasm, this really is as good as it gets: Watching rational, educated-but-ignorant people lose their little minds over a kiss between the "wrong" people.
I vote for frequent man kisses on TV, just to annoy these people even more. A daily supply of deep-breath-going-in-gasp-coming-out, head-wiggling, mustache-mixing, Adam's-apple-touching man kisses.
Wolverines! **A tongue-in-cheek or sarcastic rebel yell, based on the movie "Red Dawn", in which a group of American high-school students calling themselves "Wolverines" engage in a guerrila war against an occupying Soviet army.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Susan (my sister-in-law... the pizza shop is hers, not mine) wants to expand to a place down on the highway in one of the nearby larger towns. I think we would probably come closer to 40-50 pizzas per day in that location. We'd be paying rent there though, so it is a matter of either charging 5 or 10 pisos more per pizza, or having a lower profit margin.
We went to David Schreuder's baptism today at church, and a party afterwards. I'm a little bit pressed for time at the moment, so I'll put up photos in a separate post later in the day that will appear below this one.
Epril and I went on a date tonight into CDO. We had Japanese for dinner, and then watched "2012". That had to be the most incredibly stupid, incredibly entertaining movie I've ever seen. "2012" is to action movies what The Three Stooges is to comedy. It took the "escaping death by a hair's breadth" to ridiculous, almost farcical extremes. I can recommend it highly to anybody who is willing to deposit their rational thought at the theatre entrance.
The weather here has been chilly. (And yes... by chilly, I mean warm by American/European standards.) There have been lots of drizzles too; an ugly time of year. Jasaan is getting ready for it's big fiesta though, with bands practicing on the city green, people setting up stands everywhere, planning big dinners. (Obviously lots of pizzas will be sold.)
Mike Bird is building a chicken stand down on the highway. He should be open for business in a couple of weeks. He's been getting chicken-cooking lessons from a local chicken-cooking master, and is perfecting his own recipe. It should do well.
The church in Jasaan.
This picture makes the
deceptively small; the
retable in the back is
3 stories tall.
David has 2 adorable
older sisters.Sorry it took me an extra day to get these photos up. But here they are. I was asked by David Schreuder's father, Ron Schreuder, to be a Godfather at David's baptism today. Epril and I went to Jasaan's Catholic church and joined in the event. Mike Bird was also asked to be a Godfather. The rest of the people I did not know, but Ron's mother (arrived from Holland) was also there for the event.
The baptism was after the second church service of the day (which is performed almost entirely in English, as opposed to the first service, which is performed in Visayan). There were 3 babies being baptized today, so there was a bit of a crowd (as always seems to be the case at Filipino baptisms) up at the alter today. I'm there, standing behind Ron and his wife Marla, holding David.
All in all, there were 7 Godfathers. I don't know why in The Philippines, babies have multiple Godparents... and all male in David's case. My sister and I each have one Godfather and one Godmother. So I'm now a Godfather to 2 of my friends' children. Fortunately, it doesn't make me responsible for tuition to Princeton or anything. At least I hope it doesn't.
I thought it rather amusing that the priest was reading out of a baptismal breviary upon which are printed the words "water, an endangered natural resource".
So Ron and Marla welcome a freshly-minted Christian into their lovely family.
After the baptism, of course, was a luncheon. Ron, owning a bakery, had a whiz-bang cake baked for David, whom I'm sure appreciated the effort fully. (It's a bit embarrassing, but I don't have one close-up photo of David from today. Sorry. Maybe somebody will e-mail me one in his cute christening outfit with white satin bow-tie and bowler cap.)
Anyway, Ron greeted the guests with a nice speech, and then there was an absolute ton of food (all of it great) to be enjoyed. Oh... and there was this pinapple-coconut flan served which was the most amazing dessert I've ever had in The Philippines... I have to have Epril get the recipe from Marla.
Well, Epril and I offer up our congratulations to David and his parents. Good luck and long life little guy.
Friday, November 20, 2009
But really, in my opinion, it's just one of the most beautiful boats ever.
By the way, the court case mentioned in this ABC video was settled back in April of this year... in favor of BMW Oracle. Game on.
Thailand is helping Thai men purchase condoms that fit by giving out free "penis measuring devices" (it's basically a little tape measure) that covers the "standard Thai circumference of 49 to 56 millimeters."
For those of you not willing to do the calculations, those circumferences lead to the conclusion that the standard penis diameter of Thai men is 15.6 mm to 17.8 mm, or 6/10ths of an inch to 7/10ths of an inch. Yes... you can hold your fingers apart to do a little measuring (pun intended); don't be embarrassed.
It's a bit amazing how PR campaigns can sometimes backfire in the most unexpected ways. I doubt anybody is focusing on the "Wow! Good idea to encourage more effective condom use in Thailand." Instead, we've got everybody around the world holding their fingers 6/10ths of an inch apart, and laughing at Thai erections.
(p.s. Note that the original article says that the 49-56 mm is a measurement of "width", which would make the average Thai thickness well over 2 inches... which would place the entire country in porn star range. As someone who has been to Pattaya's gay bars and seen the boys dancing: It's circumference... trust me.)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Well... that's what I'm reporting anyway. You see, it's the gun that the bad guys don't know you have that you eventually wind up using. It's the gun that the bad guys are aware is awaiting them should they come visiting that will never get used. And what's the point of having a gun that never gets used? Nothing of course. What's the difference between a gun that never gets used and no gun at all? Nothing of course. So: The word being spread is that I now have a big fuck-off, massive-hole-making, cannon of a gun in my house. No you can't see it. You'll just have to trust me that it's there. (News in this village travels so fast... the bad guys will know about my gun-that-will-never-be-used in no time flat.)
Mike Turner recommended I get a paint gun like the one that he has. Looks exactly like an M16. It's a thought, but I don't want to spend $400 on my gun-that-will-never-be-used when I can spend $0. (By the way: Paint gun battle groups are really popular here in The Philippines... although it does strike me as a bit twee to go into the jungles of Mindanao with toy guns to fight when you can drive a couple miles down the road and encounter NPA rebels with real guns fighting real soldiers.)
Ron Schreuder stopped by today and asked Epril and I to be Godparents to his newborn boy, David. Baptism will be this Sunday here in town.
It's been a very quiet week here otherwise. Actually, I don't have a thing to do until December, other than Sunday's baptism. I kind of like it that way.
I've been watching Gene Simmon's Family Jewels, which is immensely entertaining. It's an unapologetic and highly entertaining look into the private life of a highly wealthy and charismatic rock star and his family. And, unlike Ozzy Osbourne and his family, Gene Simmons (bass guitar player of the band Kiss) and his family are all highly intelligent and witty (his son especially), well-balanced, good-looking, and possessing common sense and fundamentally sound values. Also, unlike The Osbournes, Family Jewels makes an effort to set things up for the Simmons' to do for entertainment value. (In last night's episode, Gene and (common-law) wife Shannon go to The Kentucky Derby. Gene is very much against gambling, so Shannon bets $100,000 of Gene's money on the horse she said "had the jockey with the best colors", leaving Gene apoplectic. You'll have to tune in to find out whether this bet is like other episodes, where Gene gets suckered by Shannon's elaborate jokes (like convincing him she spent $9 million on a British castle, or had adopted a baby without telling him). However, the news coverage of the bet should give you a hint.
My mother was talking about looking at the stars from her back porch in Upstate New York the other night, and how clear they were. Here in the Philippines, for reasons I'm not entirely sure about, the stars twinkle and are more colorful than they were where I grew up in New York State. Some of the stars twinkle so much that I would say it would be more accurate to say they are "flashing" or "strobing". Some of the stars appear red or orange too. But, on the downside, even on a crystal clear night here in The Philippines, the number of stars and their brilliance and brightness does not compare to what I used to be able to see in Upstate New York.
Congressman Massa today sent his constituents an e-mail explaining his vote. Since I have very little knowledge of the bill myself, and I'm more apt to believe the conclusion of somebody who has reached that conclusion in a way that forces them to speak out / act / vote against their original position on an issue, I'm allowing my own opinion on this to be guided by that of my Congressman:
Congressman Massa's basic conclusion was that the bill does not accomplish what he hoped it would (provide healthcare for the vast majority of uninsured Americans), and in fact entrenches and legitimizes many of the current problems by putting them under the auspices of the federal government.
Unfortunately, H.R. 3962 will not deliver these goals. Its primary strategy is to achieve more and better care by the federal government's regulation of the private insurance industry. But the so-called "Public Option," which is supposed to compete for customers with private providers, is too weak to be much of a competitor. Estimates are that it will attract only six million customers; and this will make its risk pool too small and too dominated by lower-income, less healthy purchasers whom the private companies do not much want anyway. This will ensure our national dependence on publically subsidized and partially regulated private insurance, provided through employers, the permanent and central element of U.S. health care for the indefinite future. But if private insurance sold to employers was the answer, we would not be in the mess we are.I recognize that the reasons that Congressman Massa voted against H.R. 3962 were because it wasn't "left / liberal" enough, and I agree with his thinking: If you're going to have a massive new government program on par with Social Security in scope, (a) there's no arguing that it is going to be liberal since the main haeccity of liberalism is big government programs (and vice-versa), and (b) there's no sense doing a big liberal program like this it if it's going to be liberal milquetoast.
More importantly, I appreciate the fact that Congressman Massa was willing to vote against the wishes of his party, and willing to vote against a bill that utterly fails to deliver what he hoped it would. I recognize that there may have been an element of political thinking involved in his vote, since NY-29 is a generally Republican district, but calculated thinking like that can be respected if it leads to behavior in line with your conscience. (The Fighting 29th blog disagrees with the political aspect of this vote.)
Personally, I think that Congressman Massa is doing a good job so far.
Because you have previously been in touch about health issues, I am writing to let you know why I voted "no" on the 2009 major health care reform bill (H.R. 3962). Being accountable to you for my actions, perhaps you will forgive a detailed response.
Since entering Congress on January 6, 2009, I have devoted more time and thought to health care reform than any other issue. Health care has been discussed this year in every one of my more than 60 town halls and 300 house parties. My staff and I read, digested and replied to over 15,000 letters, faxes, emails and phone calls, went over countless briefs, white papers, studies and analyses, reflecting every possible perspective and interest.
Not a single day went by without representatives of professional health care providers, patients, specific disease groups, insurances companies, unions, academic experts, think tank executives, medical students, medical supplies sales people, hospital executives and a surprising number of sick people, contacting us. Every single voice and concern was carefully listened to.
Various draft bills were read and discussed with Congressional colleagues and the House leadership. I continuously listened and read; and tried my very best to absorb and understand all this information.
At the very beginning of this debate, I made clear my support for a single-payer health system. This is rooted in experiences in the US Navy and as a survivor of a deadly cancer. Achieving health care reform is - and remains - a very high priority.
Having spent much of the last ten months studying, listening to constituents and considering this, I could not support H.R. 3962, the health reform bill presented to us by House leadership. This position is best for my constituents and best for our country.
Now let me briefly explain my vote.
At the start of the debate earlier this year, many agreed the objectives were to: make clinically needed health care available to all Americans; to ensure health care is affordable for most individuals and families, so more Americans could pay for their own coverage; bring total annual health care expenditures into line with the rest of the developed world, below 17.7% of gross domestic product; ensure consistently high quality care; and reduce the total money spent on system waste, fraud inefficiency and poor management.
Unfortunately, H.R. 3962 will not deliver these goals. Its primary strategy is to achieve more and better care by the federal government's regulation of the private insurance industry. But the so-called "Public Option," which is supposed to compete for customers with private providers, is too weak to be much of a competitor. Estimates are that it will attract only six million customers; and this will make its risk pool too small and too dominated by lower-income, less healthy purchasers whom the private companies do not much want anyway. This will ensure our national dependence on publically subsidized and partially regulated private insurance, provided through employers, the permanent and central element of U.S. health care for the indefinite future. But if private insurance sold to employers was the answer, we would not be in the mess we are.
Private insurance premium costs will continue to increase and more people will lose access to care. Further, the individual mandate forcing private citizens to buy mostly private care or face substantial annual fines, may not be constitutional. And burdening private businesses with the legal burden of providing health care insurance will leave them at a serious competitive disadvantage with foreign companies who face no such costs. Many firms will be fined and further harmed for not providing care.
The bill, compared to the size of the problem, does little to truly force out waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement; and this in turn increases the money that must be raised either by new revenue streams or reductions in existing health programs, to pay the new bills.
The bill leaves rural health care providers permanently disadvantaged. And the expansion of Medicaid eligibility could lead to significant pressures for higher New York state taxes and county real estate taxes. The middle of an economic down-turn is a bad time for tax raises.
It does very little to increase the number of primary care or family physicians who, along with advanced practice nurses and nurse practitioners, are central to more prevention and wellness programs. Overall, this bill makes our national health care system administratively more cumbersome, bureaucratic and unnecessarily expensive.
So I entered the House of Representatives on Saturday, November 7th, 2009 and voted "no." This decision bitterly disappointed some of you. It saddens me too, as the nation badly needs a system which can do a better job of helping us to be healthier, at lower costs. Unfortunately, the House bill's passage through the Senate and a subsequent conference will almost certainly further weaken an already-flawed piece of legislation.
So what can I say to those who need health reform now?
Whether or not any act emerges from Congress, the health reform process will go on; and I am sworn to work with all constituents to build a better system. In the days ahead you will be hearing from me on continuing steps to reform our nation's health care system.
We cannot give in to apathy or cynicism. That would be a betrayal to us and our children.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Obama's rather unique bow/handshake
to Japan's Emperor has many upset.So President Obama bowed to the Emperor of Japan.
I would say, "When in Rome/Toyko..." but President Obama bent knee to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Queen Elizabeth as well, so obviously it is this U.S. President's policy to show subservient respect to royalty.
The State Department says that American leaders "need not bow." If I wanted to engage in a bit of sophistry, I could focus on how "need not" is a far cry from "should not" but again...
The fact really is that Obama is the most powerful man on Earth. Nobody, foreign or domestic, can claim he has less power, less influence, less credibility — or, at least honestly make that claim — because he chooses to respect royalty on their terms instead of his own. The Japanese trade wonks aren't thinking, "Oh, he'll be a total pussy when we start raising tariffs," because he bowed to the emperor. I doubt OPEC decided to get uppity with oil supplies because of Obama's obeisance to Arabian courtly protocol.
The fact is, President Obama is a get-along kind of guy. He's willing to "humanize" himself on the world stage to score points with other peoples and other cultures. A bow here and there to a country's revered titular head is at worst harmless, and at best endearing to those people for whom bowing is not just required, but a privilege.
Yes: Other national leaders chose not to bow, probably out of respect to their own sense of national pride, and responsibility to their constituencies (and hopefully not out of disrespect for an obsolete style of government, or sins-of-the-father animosity toward the Emperor himself); Obama's act was for the Japanese people alone... an attempt at cultural outreach.
If Americans want to get bent out of shape because of Obama's bending, they can go right ahead; however, they really shouldn't take it so personally. The way I see it, King George III was 220 years ago, and America is now grown up and confident enough to proffer up a leader who can be simultaneously demanding of respect while engaging in a bit of harmless and friendly diplomatic truckling.
(Oh... I just remembered something I had written in Thailand when President Bush met King Bhumibol there. Read it for a comparison.)
Sunday, November 15, 2009
What is really fascinating here is that, by computer analysis, this guy was able to turn the various morphemes of language (which are entirely a function of timbre, not pitch) into recognizable speech based entirely on pitch, not timbre. To then transfer it to an analog format (a piano) is truly brilliant. Also, note that the "song" is voice specific: It is the voice of a young boy.
I was up and working early today so that I'd be done by the time the Pacquiao fight started. My Cignal HD subscription gave me a free Pay Per View of the fight on high definition... so obviously my house was the premiere place to be in Jasaan this morning for the big event. Epril and I (and Tatay) invited all our friends over to watch. (There was also a good sized crowd outside the house as well.)
As expected, Manny gave Miguel Cotto a serious beatdown. The first round was a bit of a surprise, with Cotto coming on strong. Then, the fight turned on a dime in the second round, was essentially over by the fourth round (but took until the sixth round to be certain), and then the last 6 rounds were really just a formality.
I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with Steve from England, who lives down the road on the town square. He's a part of the Royal Merchant Navy. A very nice fellow.
After that I played video games all evening, ate some very delicious corn on the cob, and had a bottle of San Miguel beer. Not a particularly exciting day (other than the fight), but enjoyable.
Friday, November 13, 2009
The only factor is what supplies have to be brought from Earth. There is lots of iron and oxygen on the moon, so carbon would have to be brought from earth for smelting and fuel. (There already is aluminum, silicon, magnesium, phosphorus, and sulfur on the moon.) Nitrogen would be needed for food and fuel. Probably lots of other minor elements as well such as tungsten, cobalt, and chromium.
But one thing can now be scratched off that list... probably the most important (being the most necessary for human life, and also the heaviest) on the list... is water. There is water on the moon.
So what does this mean now? Considering the amount of water that otherwise would need to carried to the moon (or manufactured there at great expense) and the price tag involved in that, the cost of setting up and maintaining a moon base (and manufacturing a deep space exploration enterprise on the lunar surface) has gone down quite a bit. (Scratch hydrogen off the list too.) The more elements that can be discovered on the moon, the fewer things that have to be packed onto rockets and blasted there from earth, the more the cost goes down.
So what does this mean in the future? It means that in an instant, the pathway to manned exploration of space has become markedly clearer... maybe sooner than we think.
It stayed like that for 2 days. Now, this morning, it suddenly is back to normal.
Technology scares me.
In Farmville, for instance, you earn "coins" by playing the game. However, certain objects in the game are only obtainable by spending "Farmville Cash", which (more or less) is only obtainable by getting out your credit card and spending some real money...
Or: You can participate in various marketing gimmicks to earn Farmville Cash. You can take surveys, get trial memberships in various services, or some other outside-the-game undertaking with a third party business. (These third party businesses pay the game developers who referred these potential and actual customers real money... millions and millions of dollars.)
Many of these are scams. One scam requires you to provide your mobile phone number before you can get your Farmville Cash, which results in a $10 per month charge to your phone bill forever and ever. Another scam sends you a free CD-ROM, but unless you return it within so many days (read the fine print), you are billed $190.
The fact is, as this article states, Facebook and these gaming companies are actually built on these scams. Read here, as the owner of Zynga games, which developed Farmville, crows about how much money his company made off of scammed customers.
Fortunately, as this practice is quickly becoming a major issue, these scams are being pulled from Facebook, but that does not mean that they are gone forever. Be careful when you sign up for these online "lead generating" gimmicks. You could get burned.
Now, in a proper way to engage in the marketing of one's product, Tony of Newsy.com contacted me via e-mail to plug a news video his company had made about this very subject, and requested I embed it in this post. By all means.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Coming from New York, I haven't experienced many earthquakes. One other one actually, while in college: There are fault lines in New York State. That one felt more like a large truck driving over speedbumps in front of my house... like a rumble that lasted for about 2 seconds. This one, as described, was completely different, a very gentle swaying, like being afloat.
Anyway, no damage or anything according to the press release.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Newsweek, February 27, 1995Heheh. Too bad that unfiltered data includes 15-year-old Newseek articles, eh Mr. Stoll?
The Internet? Bah! (By Clifford Stoll)
I'm uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.
Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.
Consider today's online world. The Usenet, a worldwide bulletin board, allows anyone to post messages across the nation. Your word gets out, leapfrogging editors and publishers. Every voice can be heard cheaply and instantly. The result? Every voice is heard. The cacophany more closely resembles citizens band radio, complete with handles, harrasment, and anonymous threats. When most everyone shouts, few listen. How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it's an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can't tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.
What the Internet hucksters won't tell you is tht the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don't know what to ignore and what's worth reading.
And the first step to that long-hoped-for end — actually writing a rule book — has now been made. You see, there actually is one Jihadist group that al Qaeda looks up to, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group who was fighting against Gadhafi's regime in Libya. The Libyan government was able to do something that the U.S. Government was not able to do: Negotiate with terrorists. What the negiotiations yielded may be the most important tool against al Qaeda ever: A 417-page guide to honorable jihad; a jail-house lucubration authored by the senior-most members of this senior-most Muslim insurgent group outlining ethics and behavior in jihad; thankfully, it is very good news for people who want to see less bloodshed... especially of innocent people.
Tyson has figured out that if he waits for just the right moment, he can dash through the back door of our pizza restaurant, vault over the counter, and make his way out into the community to frolic with the other dogs and terrorize chickens (and people... inadvertently). First time he did that, we attempted to just watch more carefully the door he snuck through. The second time, we had to coop him up. Now, he spends his days up here in my office with me. In the evening, after I finish working, he goes on a 15-foot rope in the front walk, which also allows him access to part of the living room, but safely away from the restaurant door.
The pizza restaurant has settled in and is doing almost exactly what I predicted it would: About 20 pizzas per day. I'm very happy at the way the family is getting behind the idea and putting some effort into it.
In the afternoon, Epril and I rode into Cagayan De Oro. (Another Jeepney ride, sigh.) First, we met up with our friend from Thailand who is visiting, Eric. He's spending the week in Cagayan De Oro meeting up with some ladies he had been chatting with online. He's coming out to Jasaan this weekend. We had dinner with Eric and Mike Turner at Sentro, and then we were all off to our CDO Eagles Club General Membership Meeting for November. (Eric was a guest.)
This particular meeting went on for quite a while, covering a lot more subjects of discussion than usual. It finally ended at 9:00, at which point lots of beer drinking ensued. The Eagles' District Governor, Kuya Sonny Ray, convinced Eric to join Eagles, and Epril and I will be going back to CDO tomorrow night for a special initiation of Eagles... a new branch called Eagles Builders, comprised primarily of people involved in the construction industry: Engineers, contractors, craftsmen, real estate, et cetera. Since Eric is involved in Real Estate back in America, it is a reasonable thing for him to join Eagles Builders.
Epril and I got a ride back to Jasaan with our fellow Eagle and village resident, Kuya Francisco, aka "Boing". We got home just before midnight.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Heh. We went over all the possibilities in the comments section of how students could be that stupid. Turns out it was probably the people from Strategic Vision, LLC, giving the test who turn out to be the idiots.
I went to bed last night with an empty stomach. Before going to sleep, I took my Zyban (anti-smoking, good-sleep, happy-morning pill) and a Tramadol (for the remnant of my sore rib). Three hours later, I woke up and I felt really queasy and chilled. I ran to the bathroom and...
In my stomach was 3 things: The exceedingly harsh chemicals that make up Zyban and Tramadol, a bunch of stomach acid, and about a pint of saliva. I may not have swallowed drain cleaner at any point, but by God and without exaggeration, that's what came up. It burned like you can't imagine. Oh the agony. I had Epril bring me water, and then when that did nothing, bring me milk... which helped a little.
Now I've got a fantastically bad sore throat, and it feels like my uvula is ready to fall off and the way it's flopping around makes me talk funny. I've got a pile of throat lozenges and chewable antacids to help dull the pain.
I've learned my lesson: I will never ever take medicine on an empty stomach again.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I enjoy some of W.I.G.'s music too: It travels the range between low-impact neo-psychodelic electronica (not so good) to a hippie pop Coldplay kind of sound (quite good).
Saturday, November 7, 2009
John captures every Glen Beck vocal mannerism, every gesture, every fear-mongering trick, every tortured logical twist, every gimmicky emotional outburst perfectly. If you don't live in America, or aren't familiar with Glen Beck: Yes... it's hyperbole and it's funny, but it's not as far from the truth as you would think or believe.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Hulu has been that way for a while...
And no: Proxy servers do not work.
I'm assuming this is because broadcasting television content over the internet is going against some law (either new or previously unenforced) about licensing or something.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The fact is, for reasons totally unknown, Americans vote very differently for their local and state officeholders as compared to their national officeholders.
Look at the three most liberal states in the nation: California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. Governors there? All Republican (or... were Republican). On the flip side, look at Kentucky, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming: Four highly conservative states... but the people there elect Democrat governors. Look at New York City, one of the densest concentration of liberal voters on the planet: They've elected Republican mayors for 20 years straight, and did so again Tuesday night.
So, when somebody tells you that electing Republicans at the state level somehow demonstrates a vote against Democrats at the federal level, remind them of Mitt Romney and Arnold Swarzenegger and Michael Bloomberg, and how even the most liberal places in America will elect Republicans to local office but Democrats to national office.
As I've said many times before: With me, how much I get done at work is directly proportional to how much I get done before lunch (which now comes an hour later). I'm pretty much worthless in the afternoons.
It rained tonight. I took Tyson for a walk in the rain; he didn't seem to mind.
Of course, the rain took out both satellite TV systems. Fortunately, I had a movie loaned from Bird to watch: "The Hangover". I didn't know anything about it before watching. It was exceptionally funny. As an added bonus surprise, the singer at the end of the movie is (once again) my old high school classmate, Dan of The Dan Band. (By the way, he is on Leno tonight, Wednesday, if you can tune in.) Also, what is it with Daily Show Correspondents (first Stephen Colbert, then Steve Carrell, and now Ed Helms) moving on to movie stardom? The Daily Show is replacing Saturday Night Live as the way up.
Last year, President Obama selected Republican Congressman John McHugh to be Secretary of the Army. McHugh represented New York's 23rd Congressional District ("NY-23"), which is basically the northern edge of New York State along the St. Lawrence River. A special election was scheduled to be held last night to determine who would replace Congressman McHugh.
NY-23 is a very Republican district. They have voted Republican quite literally since the Civil War. Now, something has to be understood: There are different varieties of Conservatives (i.e. Republicans). New York conservatives like the ones who live in NY-23 are not the same as, say, the Conservatives you find in Alabama or Utah. New York Conservatives don't place things like opposition to abortion and gay marriage, or support of evolution and "Christian values" very high up on their list. In addition, NY-23 is a poor area that relies heavily on government subsidies in farming and military bases: They aren't prone to listen to "limited government" messages and cuts in spending quite as much as in other places.
The New York Republican party did not hold a primary to determine a candidate. Based on their knowledge of NY-23 demographics, they selected a State Senator named Dede Scozzafava to be the Republican candidate: A politician who was pretty much the typical New York Republican, i.e. pretty liberal on the social issues, moderate on the fiscal issues, and conservative on the governmental/political/diplomatic issues. (The Democrats chose an almost-unknown fellow named Owens to be their candidate... fully expected to lose, really.)
That's the set-up of this story.
What happened was that when the "national" Republican pundits — which means basically the Far Right of the Republican Party — found out about this Scozzafava person, they got really upset. They essentially decided she wasn't "conservative enough" — even though she was generally a fine fit for NY-23. These national Republican pundits (generally ignorant of the makeup of NY-23) decided to throw their considerable influence behind the obscure Conservative Party candidate in the campaign, a guy named Hoffman, who essentially fit their own definition of what a Republican should be.
With this mainstream support came additional high-end endorsements from around the country, including Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, Tom Delay, et cetera, et cetera. Hoffman's campaign gained momentum from the point where he was almost not visible on polls... to neck and neck with the other 2 candidates... to the point where (as he sucked more and more support away from Republican Scozzafava) he was in a dead heat with Democrat Owens.
Scozzafava, having been torn apart in the national Republican media for her voting record, and seeing her campaign going down in flames because of the out-of-state Republican resistance to her politics and candidacy, decided to drop out of the race the weekend before the special election. Meanwhile, Conservative Hoffman was running on an ultra-conservative platform, stirring up "the base", but not offering many concrete solutions to NY-23 problems (and, in fact, essentially describing them in one local newspaper interview as "parochial concerns" [note]Actually, it was Dick Armey, sitting next to Hoffman at the interview, who made the "parochial concerns" remark. Hoffman didn't disagree.).
Republican Scozzafava, realizing that one candidate was more likely to understand and help NY-23 than the other, endorsed Democrat Owens.
Anyway, the election happened tonight and Democrat Owens beat Conservative Hoffman by 4 or 5 points. For the first time ever, a Democrat now represents NY-23.
Now of course, you would think that the common wisdom here amongst the conservative pundits would be, "Oops. We probably shouldn't have messed around and handed that congressional seat to a Democrat." But you'd be wrong. Conservative pundits actually don't care about the loss to the Democrat: They are only happy that they didn't elect a Republican that didn't meet their definition of "conservative". No really.
So, what can be learned from the NY-23 election?
From this point forward, Republican pundits (and the right wing "base" who they cater to) will go to the primaries and chase out as many moderate Republican candidates as they can in favor of staunch conservatives. (Their next stated goal is to lose the upcoming Florida election for its U.S. Senate Seat by chasing out the undesirable candidate (but leading in all polls), former Florida Governor Crist, and replace him with, again, a "proper conservative" candidate.) They are going to do this with the genuine-and-deeply-felt mantra of "it's better to lose with a candidate who reflects our values than to win with one who does not."
That's exactly what is going to happen.
I've long said that the Republican party is driving towards a cliff, and somebody needs to grab the steering wheel. Well: Somebody just slammed their foot down on the gas pedal instead.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
But Halloween obviously offers opportunities for cuteness, and thus we have a special commerative edition of Monday Vinnie Blogging for you today.
I'm not really sure what Vincent's costume is though. "Muppet Trapper and Furrier" is the best I could come up with. My sister should have given Vincent a bloody steel trap with a mangled Grover caught in it to illustrate the costume a little better.
In the evening, we went to the the local bar, "Glitz", owned by Ron Schreuder. He had hired a band to play this evening, so we went. The band was average, but it was a late evening for us, and we only stayed for a few drinks before going home.