Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gay Marriage Ban Going Down In California

There is one simple truth about gay marriage: When subjected to the time-tested maieutics of rational thought among educated and unemotional people, the premise of marriage equality for gay people is always undeniable. It is only under the rubric of ignorance, tradition, demagougery, religion, and rudimentary distaste that the arguments against gay marriage can gain traction.

To wit: Votes for gay marriage always lose. Court cases for gay marriage always win.

Read this recent wrapup of the court challenge to the recent passing of a constitutional ban on gay marriage in California. Even though it is written by a gay-marriage supporter, it's roseate summary is so overwhelming that even the most ardent supporters of a gay marriage ban would have to admit that their position was not well-represented in court.
What stands out the most after having seen all the witnesses on both sides is how overwhelmingly one-sided the evidence in this case turned out to be. The plaintiffs, represented by some of the most skilled attorneys in the country, laid out a well-crafted, meticulous case, backed by the testimony of half a dozen of the most respected historians, psychologists, economists, and political scientists who study marriage, sexual orientation, and child development. Using the Prop 8 proponents' own outrageous and inflammatory words, ads, and emails, the plaintiffs powerfully demonstrated that Prop 8 was a direct product of hostility, fear-mongering, and demonization of lesbians and gay men. And through the deeply moving testimony of the plaintiffs and other members of our community, they proved beyond question that denying same-sex couples the right to marry causes great harm to LGBT people and their children.

Stacked up against this mountain of facts, scholarship, and science, the Prop 8 proponents - though represented by fine attorneys - were not able to come forward with a case of their own. Before trial, they dropped nearly every witness they had planned to present and relied entirely on two poorly qualified, ill-prepared expert witnesses, neither of whom was able to establish that banning same-sex couples from getting married has any rational or legitimate purpose relating to procreation, child rearing, tradition, or any of the other justifications that have been offered in the past in support of anti-gay discrimination. In fact, nearly all of the defendants' experts agreed with the plaintiffs that marriage equality would benefit same-sex couples and their families in many real, tangible ways.
Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

Politifact Does The Work So You Don't Have To

The Pulitzer-Prize winning is simply the easiest, quickest, and best place to go to find out whether the claims that American politicians are making are true, accurate, and honest.

The results on Barack Obama's State of the Union Address are up a mere 3 hours after the teleprompter stopped scrolling at the Capitol Building tonight:
  • "We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families."
    TRUE (link)
    The key word is "working".

  • "Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections."
    BARELY TRUE (link)
    Why Alito shook his head.

  • "At the beginning of the last decade ... America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade."
    MOSTLY TRUE (link)
    Obama (mostly) nails it on the numbers.

  • "We've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs."
    FALSE (link)
    We found at least four.

  • The "pay-as-you-go law ... was a big reason why we had record surpluses in the 1990s."
    HALF-TRUE (link)
    An economic boom and defense cuts were bigger reasons.

  • "Because of the steps we took, there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed."
    HALF-TRUE (link)
    It's a projection, and rosier than most.

  • "For the first time in history, my administration posts our White House visitors online."
    MOSTLY TRUE (link)
    Obama's transparency boast requires explanation.

  • On a government spending freeze.
    FULL FLOP (link)
    Obama didn't like a freeze in '08.

Of course, you need to click on the links and go read the reasoning to get a more nuanced rationale behind each verdict.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Daily Report: Looking For Fun and Feeling Groovy

Work is going so much better here in the new year. I get paid by the "line". When I first moved to Thailand 8 years ago, I averaged about 1,200 lines per day. By the time I left Thailand 3 years ago, I was averaging about 1,600 lines per day. For most of 2009, I was averaging about 800 lines per day. Last week, for the first time in maybe as much as a year, I averaged over 1,000 lines per day again... and that has been consistent for almost a month now.

I've got a bit of a cold going on. Lots of sneezing and runny nose and coughing, although I don't feel sick. Maybe it's just allergies? I don't know. I have very little curiosity about the nature of such things.

I had a nice walk with Tyson this afternoon around the park. All the kids were there at the playground, having been waylaid by the lure of the swings and slides on their way home from school.

I think if I had to pick one single thing I like most... would miss most about Asia, as compared to America, it is the liveliness. Outside of big cities and places of retail, the sight of human life incarnate in America is limited to home and office... and perhaps the brief glimpse of others in cars in between. Take the small town I grew up in for instance. It is perfectly unsurprising that at the height of the day, you could walk right across town — from the railroad tracks on the East side to McDonalds on the West side — and never encounter another person walking, or even outside. And you almost certainly wouldn't say hello even if you did.

Everywhere I have been in Asia, human contact... constant, interactive, friendly human contact (even to the point of utter annoyance, when it gets de trop) is the norm. I've found that this contact is easily the most enjoyable part of living here, especially here in Jasaan where it is just oozing from the very pores of the village. Smiles and friendly faces wherever I look, a visual field always filled with life, with people, with liveliness. Aside from the love I have for my wife and family, it's one of the biggest sources of happiness in my life.

More M.J. Dancing From The Cebu Inmates

Michael Jackson's choreographer came to the Philippines to work with the famous "dancing inmates" of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Snail Fiddling Is Not An Occupation I'd Be Proud Of

The most amusing thing on the internet today comes from a wife in England who has a husband who (consistently, persistently) says the most amusing things in his sleep. She has created a blog with daily postings of the previous night's mutterings...

Jan 19 2010
My badger's gonna unleash hell on your ass. Badgertastic!"

"No, not the cats. Don't trust them. Their eyes. Their eyes. They know too much."

"Just look at yourself. Yeah, now look at me. You don't stand a chance. It must suck to be you, I'm sure."

Jan 17 2010
"Cake. Mmmmm. I want one more piece. Just One. More. Fucking. Piece."

"Look at me. Yes, you heard me, look at me. Don't stop."

"I want to be a cowboy. I don't want to be a panda. Pandas are boring, stupid and boring. Bad panda!"

"Jump. You can jump with goats. Boy does he jump high. They jump really high."

Jan 15 2010
"Can you hold... can you hold my starfish? It doesn't like it when I'm getting excited. Oh look, it likes you! Its legs are all cree-py cree-py."

"Hey, don't... don't say anything. Why don't you put it in an email, then I can ignore it at my pleasure."

"I feel all rolley polley rolley polley. rolley pony PONY.... Splat!"

Jan 12 2010
"I'm baking pillows. Burn them slowly, keeps them fluffy! Mmmmmm, pillows."

"Potato bags. I can't find my potato bags. I need them! [desperately] Who's got my potato bags? Oh, fuck it! I'll have to use something else."

"Dogs' scrotums. They stretch."

"Pork chops are most satisfying. Mmmmmmm. Dangle them from the ceiling."

Jan 11 2010
"Your mum's at the door again. Bury me. Bury me deep."

"Yeah, keep looking. It doesn't get any better than this."

"Shhhhhhhhh. shhhhhhhhh. I'm telling you: your voice, my ears. A bad combination."

"You're pretty. pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty.... [long pause] Now fuck off and be pretty somewhere else. I'm bored."

[hand tangled in my hair, massaging my scalp] "I'm stuck. I'm stuck. Your pubes! You got to shave."

"Butter... nut... squash. I like those words."

Daily Report: Sun Of A Beach

Today being Sunday, it was off to the beach with Epril, Epril's friends, and Tyson. (Epril has a bit of difficulty pronouncing the long "ee" in beach, and hence the name of this post, and a bit of a running joke throughout the afternoon.)

So we hung out and drank beer all afternoon. The beach is a nice little place... a cove next to a big stone cliff, carved by the ocean. It's not very good for swimming though... very rocky. But it is a nice place just to sit and relax.

Tyson had a good time too. Once the place emptied out later in the afternoon, I let him off his leash and he ran around. He's good about not being a pest. This was his first time at the ocean, and he definitely does not like waves.

Anyway, after the beach, it was back home where I watched some more Star Trek. Amazingly, there were 2 episodes in a row which I had not seen before. I didn't realize that there were any episodes I had not seen... but this is the first time I have ever sat down and watched the entire series seriatim... other than daily broadcasts back in my college days, when I might have missed a night here or there.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Daily Report: Cold Cooled, Plans Planned

A car just drove by playing "Skid Row - 18 and Life" on the stereo. I strongly suspect that the average (non-English speaking / rudimentary-English speaking) Filipino knows more about "my" music than the average teenage American.

The rain is back again; the blue skies were just a tease. Epril made the pithy observation that the rainy season in The Philippines occurs in months that have "ber". Welcome to Janberary, I suppose... I suspect Feberary won't be much better.

In an earlier post, I had commented upon the theory that a panoply of squashed brethren might cause the local ant population to stop their march to my keyboard. I was wrong on 2 fronts: One, the ants were not deterred, although I did gain some petty amusement at watching them go from one mangled dot to the next, having what appeared to be a one-sided conversation ("Are you alright dude?") before getting squashed under my finger. Second, and more importantly, the source of my myrmicine victims was from within the keyboard itself, not without: The ants were only coming out of the keyboard before meeting their digital demise. I've got a qwerty ant farm.

Right... I agree: Life is a bit slow here at the moment. Moving on.

My tax return is on the way. I'm using it this year to open up a pizza restaurant in the larger town of Tagoloan, about halfway between Jasaan and Cagayan De Oro. Instead of a pizza hut, it will be a proper sit-down restaurant in a proper cement building. We'll also try to expand the menu a bit... although it's all very inchoate at the moment, so no details. I do know that I'm going to offer cable TV though: An experiment to see if a glowing boob tube will be enough to increase traffic of not only nonpaying gawkers, but also actual paying customers. The goal is to create a "hot spot" first, and a restaurant second... oh: Wireless internet. Good idea, Jil.

The highlight of my week is yet to come: Warren is coming back from Australia and is bringing dill pickles. (Mike Bird will be back after February first with even more dill pickles.) It's my standing order, and always will win you my perdurable gratitude: Dill pickles. Further, a bottle of Drambuie will earn you the body parts of select family members. Actually, that's another thing I want to try: Making some dill pickles... as soon as I figure out how to get fresh dill weed into the country. Perhaps as seeds?

Oh: A tortilla press too. I asked Bird to find one in the States while he is there. Tacos are next on the list.

Anyway, the Star Trek marathon continues unhindered. I'm about 60 episodes into the 178 of The Next Generation. After that will come Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Months and months and months. (And yes: It is a crutch to help me deal with the loss of my PlayStation 3.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Perfect Letter

Andrew Sullivan posted this letter from one of his readers that exactly describes my thoughts about where Republican Americans want to take the country, where that will actually lead the country, and what it means.

The difference between "liberal" and "conservative" is the difference between "accelerator" and "brakes". Unfortunately, right now, Republican Americans ("teabaggers") are all about "coast" when it comes to fixing the systemic Government problems, and "chuck the driver out the door!" when it comes to domestic and international political machinations: There's nothing conservative about them... they aren't about "brakes" at all.

... and we're at the top of a really big fucking hill.

Anyway, read this e-mail (which I'm posting in its entirety; thanks Andrew), which exactly exposits my feelings on where America is right now:
My teabagger parents are gloating today about the Brown victory. To them, this whole politics game is like football: they simply cheer for the red team to beat the blue team. Period. They don’t know or care how Brown or any of their other preferred candidates are going to solve the real crises my generation will face.

And for all their slogans and smugness and phony outrage, the teabaggers are on the wrong side of the future in every way I can imagine: Entitlements will have to be cut. The eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security will be raised, benefits will be means-tested, and Medicare will eventually be rationed. Everyone in my generation knows this. We accept it. But we want those programs to stick around in at least a minimal, bare-bones form. The teabaggers just mindlessly shout “Don’t cut my Medicare!” But they don’t mind bankrupting it for my generation.

Taxes will be raised. This is a fact. But teabaggers keep demanding tax cuts, insisting that cuts increase revenues, a claim that can’t even be called discredited because it was never credible in the first place. Policy-smart conservatives know it’s hooey, but teabaggers love it because it’s a convenient, feel-good talking point, truth be damned.

The rest of our lives will be filled with economic stagnation and profound personal insecurity.

The health care system as we know it will fall apart, spiraling costs will destroy growth, and the government will be forced to take an ever-bigger role in health care, sooner or later. What it means to be middle-class will be drastically different in fifty years, maybe even twenty. The disruptions of globalization will require government to alleviate the economic risk on individuals through programs like expanded unemployment benefits, targeted job training (and re-training), and education reforms. Teabaggers’ answer? Scream “Socialism!” and argue for ending all regulations and social welfare programs.

The theme of the future will be the need to accomplish more with fewer government resources. This will require a generation of leaders committed to the old-fashioned conservative notion of good government. For teabaggers, though, it’s an article of faith that there is no such thing as good government, so they don’t care what kind of hacks they put in office.

American empire will have to be rolled back. We can’t afford it. The defense budget must be cut. But teabaggers just want more and more war, imperial occupations that never end, in every corner of the globe. You have to wonder if war simply makes them feel good. Climate change and peak oil are facts. They will alter our lives in ways that seem like science fiction to us now. But teabaggers grasp at any flimsy excuse they can find not to face these facts, from “Al Gore is a hypocrite!” to “Drill, baby, drill!” to “The emails prove it’s all a hoax!”

The ridiculous, exhausting culture war has to end. My generation is sick of re-fighting Vietnam and Selma and Stonewall. We don’t want to be defined by whether we eat arugula or wear Carhartt. But the teabaggers need the culture war to continue forever because it ratifies their prejudices. It justifies their hate. It prevents the change they fear.

Now who is better prepared to start solving these problems now, a pragmatist like Obama or the teabaggers? Who is the real small-C conservative? If teabaggers continue to stand in the way—or God forbid, if they take power—how much longer will it take for leaders to emerge who are willing to do the hard work? I asked my father what his solution would be. “Blow up the whole government,” he said. “I’m not responsible for your security.”

If that’s not nihilism, what is?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Best Redneck Song Ever

Okay... Time to pick the best redneck song ever. Criteria: (a) The song has to be good (classic, well-known, popular). (b) The song has to be topical. (c) The song can't be by Lynyrd Skynrd. Put your YouTube link in the comment section, and I'll add the video to this post as time goes on. (Country, classic rock, whatever... as long as it brings to mind visions of pickup trucks, cheap beer, manual labor, and rural living.)

Here is my entry:

Entry #2:

Entry #3:

Entry #4:

Entry #5:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Daily Report: Microparade

I haven't made it into town yet to buy a new keyboard; I'm still using the one I borrowed from Mike Bird. Somebody must have spilled something that ants like on this keyboard at one time because now there is a small-but-steady progression of ants coming from outside to visit the keyboard.

I figure that ants must leave some kind of trail (scent, I assume) for their comrades to follow. So therefore, I wipe the trail clean with windex... but the ants keep finding their way back.

So, to amuse myself, I'm engaging in an experiment: I'm squishing the ants with my finger and then leaving their dead little carcasses on the trail across my desk that the live ants are taking. There are a 100 flattened and immobile little specks there already. I'm curious as to whether an ant has enough sense of danger and self-preservation that an entire vista filled with his dead friends is sufficient to turn him around. Since I assume that the number of ants is limitless, and the number of ants making it towards my keyboard is dwindling, it might actually be working.

Anyway, the rain has finally ended, and there is a nice blue sky with puffy clouds again.

I've been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 2 (recently purchased from my friend, Dave). I don't think you can call any television program "the best ever", but Star Trek TNG ranks up there in the top 10 in my opinion, and is my personal favorite. (That reminds me, I need to order MASH from Dave as well... another favorite.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Daily Report: Great Chats

It was another crappy, drizzly, cold day today in The Jungle. I'm not sure how or why, but even though Mindanao is about 1,000 miles farther South than my old home of Pattaya, the temperature here is always cool(er), which — despite the rain — is very nice. Also, the number of days with blue skies here in Mindanao is ten times what it is in Pattaya (which averaged about 20 cloudless skies per year). Mindanao has the tropical weather that people from New York dream about (both good and bad)... not the oppressive heat and matte white skies of Pattaya.

Enough about the weather.

It was out to Spooks tonight. Epril hung out with all of her friends. Jenelyn Meredith and her younger sister, Bing, were there. (We invited them along, figuring that they'd want some time out of the house while Warren is in Australia.) Genelyn was also there... Happy birthday to her.

I wound up first chatting with Ted Trenholme. He and the Stirms had a bit of a falling out over the sale of Randy Stirm's old boat and truck and the possession of some golf clubs.

Basically, in deal #1, Ted loaned the Stirms 130,000 pisos, getting a lien against their boat. Then the Stirms put the boat up for sale for price X. When Ted offered to buy the boat, the Stirms told him the price was X + 70,000. Then Cherry Stirm told Ted that they were going to sell the boat to somebody in Cebu and not pay back Ted the money they owed him if he didn't buy the boat at that price. Since Ted did actually want the boat and was going to lose either some or all of the money that he loaned the Stirms regardless, he went ahead and paid.

In deal #2, Ted agreed to sell Randy's multicab for him. He gave Randy 60,000 pisos, and agreed to give Randy any extra money that he made off the sale. At roughly the same time Ted was getting ready to pick up the boat he had bought, Cherry Stirm accused Ted of having sold the multicab already, and tried to have Ted's boat held until that money was given to them. Ted had to race down and save his boat from being taken away by Cherry's friends.

Eventually, Ted did sell the multicab for a profit, but was pissed off enough at everything he had been through that he decided to keep the 30,000 pisos he had made.

Regarding the golf clubs that Randy gave to Ted to hold on to... well, as they say in Thailand: Som Nom Na.) What I did find much more interesting was that Ted hired the captain of Randy's boat when he bought it, and that captain claimed that the entire famous boat incident up in Gingoog started when the Navy boarded the Stirm's ship, inspected it and found some safety infringements, asked for a 500 piso tip to forgo any further official action, and Cherry Stirm, Randy's wife, told the Navy she wasn't going to pay. The rest, as they say, is History.

Next, I chatted with Danny Lawson, who took over Tony's partnership in Kingston Lodge, a local hotel near Xavier Estates that caters largely to foreigners. What a jovial and interesting guy he is! He also runs a catering business in Afghanistan, feeding the civilian contractors there. There was also a pleasant British fellow named Chris, who reminds me a bit of my best friend Stan. He claimed I was the first American he had met that he could get along with. (He's so nice though, that I suspect he says that to every American he meets.)

After Spooks, Epril and I joined Danny and his wife Daisy, Jenelyn and Bing, and Jneth, and we all went out to Star/Zax for dancing.

Finally, at about 11:00, our new driver, Chris, drove us back to Jasaan. (He's a taxi driver who will always charge us 500 pisos to go from Cagayan de Oro to Jasaan. We call him and he'll come and wait for us outside until we're ready to go.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Condign Thought For Today's America

As you watch Sarah Palin sit down at her new Fox assignment, and listen to her all-too-eager claque of news anchors unquestioningly echo and broadcast every assertion, every jeremiad, and every pithy half-truth designed to ratchet up the heat on this country's simmering animus... as you watch, remember this:
It is only sensible to be concerned about — yes, even to fear — what may come of the alliance between this shrewd, driven, narcissistic woman and the massive propaganda apparatus that has embraced her. We have an obligation to remember what can happen when charismatic leaders seize the imaginations of frightened people and feed them a steady diet of rage and self-pity, embellished by creepy visions of the divine and of national destiny.
(From a commenter on Andrew Sullivan's blog.)

Daily Report: Births and Deaths

It was a rainy, cold, gray day today in The Jungle... kind of like your average gray New York summer day, where you stare for hours out your window at the swing set you wish you could be on, or the sandbox you could be playing in... except that here, the kids don't hesitate to run out in the cold rain and cavort to their hearts' content.

A death in the family: The first and only keyboard I've ever owned (purchased in 1997 with my Gateway 667 mHz computer) has finally died. Considering I type for a living, it was quite an exemplary stint of service. I calculated that the old boy tolerated over 350 million keystrokes before finally suffering a key stroke. (Ohh... that was just so dumb it came all the way around to clever, eh? Or vice versa.) Anyway, Mike Bird has graciously loaned me his keyboard until I can get into CDO myself to purchase a new one. (I want to go in and make sure I get a worthy replacement... do test typing and stuff.)

Epril spent the night in CDO at her best friend Genelyn's birthday party tonight. They were out clubbing until 2 a.m. (Genelyn won 8,000 pisos... about $175... in a sexy dance contest at the disco.) Roman was the lone Kano of the birthday group... I hope to see him (and everybody else) this Friday at Spooks.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Reid's "No Negro Dialect"

I pondered on 2 or 3 occasions writing a post that basically said, "It's what we all think: 'Talking black' isn't the best speech pattern to employ if you want to get by in mainstream society. Harry Reid just shouldn't have said it out loud." (Or something to that general effect.) But, I couldn't come across with a jazzy enough way to put it.

Fortunately, someone else did it for me.
Second, yes there is a such thing as Black English. Sometimes one hears a claim that Black English is the same as white Southern English. We must always beware of stereotyping and be open to the counterintuitive, but here is an instance where we can trust our senses: there is a "black sound." It's not just youth slang: it's sentence patterns – Why you ain't call me? (not a white Southernism, notice) – and a "sound," such that you'd know Morgan Freeman was black even if he were reading the phone book. The combination is what we all feel – with uncanny accuracy even without seeing faces, as linguists have found – as "sounding black." Of course not all blacks speak Black English or have The Sound, and those that do (which is most) do to varying extents. But they do. That's what Reid meant, we all know it, and it's okay to know it.

It's a love/hate relationship we have with black speech. On the one hand we associate it with emotional honesty, vernacular warmth, and sex – Marvin Gaye would not have had a hit with "Why Don't We Venture to Consummate Our Relationship?" or even "Let's Have Sex" instead of "Let's Get It On." Yet it's not a dialect – a sound – that we associate with explaining Greek verbs or cosines or engaging in complex reasoning. Black English sounds cool, and even hot, and maybe "sharp" – but note that sharp is what you call someone who you wouldn't necessarily expect to be smart ... and who you don't actually think is all that smart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

W.H. Has New Way To Count Imaginary Numbers

It was kind of a no-win situation from the beginning: Calculate how many jobs the government stimulus package actually saved and/or created. It's impossible because it is trying to calculate one reality against another; it's trying to calculate one effect among many effects all mixed together. Nobody can know for sure what jobs were created (or saved) by the stimulus, and what jobs would have been created (or not lost) regardless.

It's like calculating how many accidents were prevented by putting up a stop sign at an intersection, or how many extra years you lived because you stopped smoking.

When the White House made specific numerical claims about how many jobs were created (no matter how accurate they tried to get it), the administration was just opening itself up to free shots from the opposition: You know damn well that it was a simple matter of going out and finding one or two jobs that the White House had counted as having been created by stimulus spending that were actually created regardless of stimulus spending, and the opposition would be able to dismiss the entire count as ridiculously inaccurate and untrustworthy. Of course, the opposition went out and found thousands of examples of innaccuracy, just to drive the point home.

So what is the White House going to do now? Just count every job that is directly suppoted by stimulus money. Good idea in a way: It takes away the single argument the opposition was using: "No it didn't" regarding whether or not the stimulus money helped in particular instances.

But, of course, going from the imaginary number of "jobs created" to the real number of "jobs supported" is just sophistry... or a really big straw man, depending on your point of view. You can't say it is "moving the goal posts" though, unless you are implying that the goal posts are now on a completely different playing field.

Anyway, the White House backed themselves into this political zugzwang by trying to promise God-like insight into "what might have been" from their bean counters. They should just admit, "the stimulus helped because A, B, and C are better... and X, Y, and Z, which might have happened actually did not... and that's all we are sure of."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Daily Report: Speed Up Time and Speedy Returns

I got ripped off with my electric timer. I know exactly what happened because I took the time to research buying a timer when I originally had a tough time finding one here in The Philippines, and pondered in several online forums the possibility of ordering from Australia: Won't work because Australia electricity runs on a different number of cycles per second than Filipino electricity. Electric timers count cycles in order to tell time. Too many or too few cycles per day and your timer won't count out 24 hours properly.

So, when I came down from my office this afternoon and found that my air conditioner was on, and my timer was reading "21:00" at 16:00, I knew immediately what was wrong.

(The timer is still partly good because it will turn off the aircon after 6 hours or so, thus cutting my electric bill substantially; it is just that I have to reset the timer every single day to the correct time... which is just inconvenient.)

Everybody is leaving The Philippines now that the holidays are over, leaving me here alone. Steve left yesterday. Jans left New Year's Day. Don left last week. Warren is leaving tomorrow. Bird leaves this coming Friday. Well... actually it's a blessing that I don't have to join the post-holiday exodus back to work: I'm the lucky one who gets to just keep on plodding up to his jungle perch every day. I'm sure as hell not arguing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Save Tibo

As many of you may know, one of my Kuya from Cagayan De Oro chapter of The Philippine Eagles is a long-running and highly-favored contestsant on Pinoy Big Brother. Next Saturday, Tibo will be facing a vote along with several other show contestants. The person with the fewest votes will be sent off the show.

So if you would be so kind, send a vote for Tibo by text, by keying in "BBS TIBO" to your phone, and then sending it to the number 2331 for people using Globe, TM and SUN mobile carriers, and to the number 231 for people using Smart and Talk N Text. (Each vote costs 2.5 pisos so get your parents' permission before voting.)

Good luck Tibo!

How To Make Humba, A Filipino Dish

Start off with a pound of pork. Traditionally, pork with a fair bit of fat and skin is used, but a leaner cut is fine. Cut into bite-sized chunks. Put in a pot.

Add in some black beans... a handful or so. These are more for decoration than anything else, I'm informed. I'm going to try substituting some small onions or even apple slices sometime.

Sprinkle the black beans into the pot.

Add soy sauce. Mamma isn't one for measuring... she just poured what was left in this bag. However, I would say it was about a cup. I don't think that the type of soy sauce matters much.

Next is a can of pineapple juice. I'll bet some pineapple chunks would go well in this dish also. You can substitute Sprite for the pineapple juice.

Six bay leaves.

This is Magic Sarap... a chicken base. I would imagine a reasonable substitute would be bullion. Momma put in about twice what you see in her hand right here.

Put the pot on high heat, cover, and let boil for about 30 minutes. Then, remove the cover to let the sauce reduce a bit for another 10 minutes or so. It should then be finished.

What you wind up with is pork chunks in a very tangy sauce that goes well in the traditional "spoonful of rice plus a bit of meat and sauce makes a mouthful" style of eating popular here in The Philippines. When you calculate in the fat and the sodium, this is one of the more sinful dishes you can make for yourself... but it is also one of my favorites.

I'll try to put up some other recipes sometime soon.

Daily Report: Powerless

I was up today at 6 a.m. (and quite proud of myself based on this fact). I was up in my office at 6:30 with every intention of getting to work and closing out my work week with a stellar day.

At 6:40 a.m. the electricity went out. The entire village was to be without power for the entire day while work on the system was undertaken.

Of course, somehow some people were aware of this... like folks at city hall. But, for the rest of us, this was just an unpleasant surprise. That is really something that the municipality needs to work on.

Anyway, I spent a good portion of the day walking Tyson and playing with Tyson. I took him to the big parade ground and let him run around. There, he did the most amusing thing: He found this piece of coconut bark on the ground, picked it up and was running around with it in his mouth. Then, he flipped the piece of wood up in the air, leaped, and caught it... and then did it again. He was playing catch with himself. Unfortunately, I didn't have my video camera out, and he didn't do it again.

In the afternoon, I watched mamma do some cooking (see post above), took a nap, and did a bit of electrical work (set up the electrical timer I bought with its standard plug to work with the funky abnormal air conditioner electrical plug).

The electricity was supposed to come back on at 6 p.m. but it didn't come back on until 7 p.m. Fortunately, we bought a bag of 100 tea candles (300 pisos at Makro) and scattered those around for light.

After the power came back on, we watched an episode of Dr. Who, had some humba, and then went to bed.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Walk With Tyson

I go for a walk around the block with Tyson and record it on video. Sort of lame, but still gives you an idea of what life in The Jungle is like.

Oh... and the part where Tyson jumps up on my friend with the little dog is a rare thing: It was a bit of a tease for Tyson to have his little nemesis way up there where he couldn't get to him, so that is why he did it. Normally, he would have gotten a smack for jumping up like that... but then normally, it would never have happened. Besides, I imagine it would have been a bit ghetto videotaping myself smacking my dog around.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Daily Report: The Innocent

Not a particularly good day of work today; although compared to last year — before my recent redivivus of work-related zeal — it was an average day. (It feels good to be able to honestly say that, in the new scope of things, I underperformed. It's a sign of new-found confidence.)

As a New Year's resolution, Epril and I are keeping pad and pen with us wherever we go, and whatever we spend we make note, down to the last centavo. At first I feared Epril would find the undertaking a bit tedious, but she seems to be really enjoying it. I used to do that when I was living in Manhattan... along with a list of what I ate. It's not a bad practice to engage in, especially when you are spending $500 per week and barely anything you buy costs more than a dollar... like we have here.

I took Tyson out for a walk today earlier than usual, as Epril and I had plans in the evening. The town's children were all getting out of school at the same time, and all ran screaming from Tyson as we walked down the street.

Now really. Look at this dog. This is the same doofy look he has when he walks down the street (when his nose isn't buried in some redolent roadside refuse). Who in their right mind would be scared of this face? Well: Filipinos. I give up.

In the evening, it was off to Michael and Marissa Turner's house to celebrate their son' Horace's second birthday party. We rode in a jeepney to Cagayan De Oro. From the highway, we rode back through the Turner's subdivision to their house on a traysikad... the 3-wheeled bicycle taxis. I've never ridden in one before. If you ever want to feel fat and lazy, no matter your size or condition, listen to some poor filipino guy wheezing while pedaling your ass up a hill to your friend's house. But, it was only when some folks walking along the side of the road pushed us along to get us the last 50 yards, that I swore never to plant my butt in another traysikad again.

Anyway, we had a nice visit with the Turners. I also met an interesting American fellow named Woody, who is in the business of mining and exporting minerals from The Philippines to China. Young guy too... set up the entire business himself, and is making a pretty penny. One of those fantastic jobs where you spend 2 hours per day on the phone setting up shipments, 30 minutes at the bank transferring funds, make $1,000, and then spend the rest of the day enjoying paradise. Jea-hell-ous.

After the party, it was a taxi to Megarama, and then a jeepney back to Jasaan... 30 kilometers for $1 for two people. So a bit cramped, but cheap. And, it is right to our door too. We can take a taxi if we want, for $12, but it really isn't much faster and I've been in Asia long enough to not even notice the daily discomforts of something like uncomfortable bench seats anymore.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Father Of The Year

Both this father and his son are awe-inspiring. While the article focuses more on the accomplishments of the son, it is the self-sacrifice of the father that really is what this article is all about if you ask me.

Happy 100th Birthday To My Grandmother

Happy Birthday Gram.

p.s. I think about the ages and eras that this lady has lived through, and how much the world... and life... has changed in her eyes. While I'm sure that the future holds many interesting things, I can't say that I would hesitate if somebody offered me the opportunity to re-root the span of my life... and the memories that would offer... across the same span as my grandmother's. To start off living at the end of the Industrial Age — a time and life not far removed from that of the civil war — and to finish it off in the modern Information Age.

What a lucky person she is.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Blog Tweet

Call that shit that Filipinos put on burgers "mayonnaise-flavored kool aid" not "kool-aid-flavored mayonnaise." It is more accurate that way.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Are Filipinos Not As Churchgoing As Americans?

I was just sitting here thinking: Jasaan is a town with a population that is somewhere above 30,000 people. In this town, there is only one church about the size of the average American church. In addition, there are 4 or 5 very small churches (less than 30 people), and 10 or 15 tiny chapels that don't hold services.

Now, Filipinos are religious... don't get me wrong: There is lots of faith here. But, when it comes to going to church, there are only enough pews in Jasaan to hold perhaps 1,000 people. The town where I grew up had 6,000 people in it, and probably enough pew space for 2,000 people. I would guess that 1,000 people in my home town went to church every Sunday. Attendance here in Jasaan is barely higher... but they have 5 times as many people living here.

In that way, The Philippines is a lot like Thailand: Lots of personal worship and faith and belief permeating daily life, but people don't get involved in the organized schedule and function of religion nearly as much.

But, if you were to ask me which population has more faith and religion: Philippines (or Thailand) versus America, I wouldn't hesitate to pick the Asian country.

I Told You That Is The Way It Should Be Done

Democrats are excluding Republicans from all further negotiations on Healthcare. As I noted in August, they threatened to do it then, and looks like they are going to do it now.

I think, politically, it is for the best: The Republicans weren't helping craft an actual healthcare bill; they were just trying to tear as much out of it as they could before the Democrats finally passed it.

I also think it is better for the healthcare bill as well, since I have stated before that it was Republican tinkering that made the healthcare bill a waste of time. Perhaps without the tinkering, the Democrats can work out a proper, safe bill.

Finally, I think it is good for the Republicans. I hate to concern troll, but perhaps being ignored and left out of the political process entirely for a couple of innings is exactly what they need in order to come to grips with the fact that being The Party Of No will lead to this type of thing more and more.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Daily Report: Epril Goes Hiking And Visits Jesus

Epril hiked up a mountain today with her old high school classmates to see the Guadalupe Shrine in Tablon, and then over to see the Statue of Divine Mercy in El Salvador, part of Cagayan De Oro.

Epril says she had to cross 9 rivers to get to Guadalupe.

Epril hiked for 6 hours up the mountain and across 9 rivers, and took almost 100 pictures... but this is the only photo she got of the Guadalupe Shrine... so it will have to do. (All the rest of the photos were of her friends.)

After coming back down off the mountain, the group went to the statue of Divine Mercy... a large statue just to the East of Cagayan De Oro, with a lovely view of the ocean.

(If you wear shorts there, you will be provided a skirt to wear.)

In case you are wondering why I didn't go along, primarily the reason was that we were out at Zax last night until 1 a.m., and Epril was picked up by her friends at 4 a.m. for the 6-hour hike up the mountain. Even after a full night's rest, I wouldn't want to hike 6 hours up a mountain... but on 3 hours of sleep? No way.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Daily Report: Saturday Night Out

I had a good day of work today.

In the evening, it was over to Warren and Jen's house for Mexican food. Here is Warren, Me, Boiar, Thomas, and Ivan getting ready to tuck in to a table full of taco fixings.

After that, we all went off to Zax (or Star... or whatever it's called now... I call it Zax) for the evening.

Daily Report: Miscellaneous Thoughts, Rainbow

I don't dream about my wife... the love of my life... very much. I figured out it is because my mind can't reproduce her accent, and thus doesn't try and insert her into my dreams.

Of course, that bothered me. It's hard to say Epril is the "woman of my dreams" when she isn't. So, now my mind has started putting Epril into my dreams... but she doesn't talk. Heheh.

Tyson is right at the age where he is almost fully grown on the outside, but he is still a puppy on the inside. He is 40 kilos of constant excitement. I'm sure that everybody has stories about what their dog is like when he or she gets excited about going for a walk; see if mine compares: First, Tyson starts to squeal and then he opens and shuts his mouth with huge force, which sounds like somebody with mittens clapping their hands. Then, he runs around and crashes into things... really smacks his head. Then he jumps for joy... and with Tyson, that means getting a good 3 feet in the air. Of course, once he is on his leash and outside, he is all business with sniffing.

Work is going well lately. If it wasn't for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day last week, I would have had the best week in over a year. (In fact, even with 2 bad days notwithstanding, it still was almost the best week in over a year.)

I've got to get my taxes done now so that I can get my return. Not nearly as big as last year because I didn't make as much in 2009 as 2008. But, it will still be a welcome arrival.

A rainstorm at sunset created the perfect rainbow tonight.

Funniest Political Quote of 2009

(#13) "That's why people need to continue to go to the town halls, continue to melt the phone lines of their liberal members of Congress, and let them know, under no certain circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions."

Representative Michelle Bachmann,
Congresswoman from Minnesota

The perennially dumbest member of Congress has a great entry this year, mixing lies, hypocrisy, and irony all in one sentence. Ms. Bachmann, of course, is one of the most ardent pro-life and anti-abortion people in government... but accidentally realizes that the exact wording and reasoning of the pro-choice, pro-abortion people whom she fights so vehemently is actually quite appropriate all of a sudden.

You might enjoy the entire list of 2009's dumbest political quotes. It's no surprise to tell you that Glenn Beck features prominently, with 4 out of the 25 stupidest things said in 2009 attributed to him and his show. (Obama gets twice mentioned, with his "Special Olympics" quote and his "police acted stupidly" quote.)