Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Daily Report: Political Dancing

Nothing much was going on today... other than rain. Epril was in CDO again with her father, getting his new watch resized and dropping off the PlayStation 3 with somebody who hopefully can repair the Yellow Light of Death.

Oh: Chicken Tonight for lunch equals happy tummy.

I downloaded a copy of Google SketchUp, a free CAD software that is amazingly simple to use. I loaded it, worked through a couple of in-software tutorials, and in 15 minutes was having fun. (I would say that compares rather favorably with the AutoCAD of 10 or 15 years ago, in which the equivalent of a college degree of study was needed to use the software.)

Anyway, I spent the evening entertaining myself by recreating in the software a replica of Palazzo Te in Northern Italy, a fantastic example of Medieval Roman Renaissance Architecture. It will be called Palazzo J when it is finished, naturally.

Meanwhile, the rest of the family went to a political rally down in Kimaya. Kid Sister Ednel and her dance troupe was the opening act for her cousin's campaign rally. As I stated before, I'm staying away from politics here — showing open support for any candidate — because, (a) as a foreigner, any show of support would be more remarkable and memorable than that of an average Filipino, (b) my support might not be welcome by a candidate and his supporters, and most certainly would not be appreciated by the opposition and his supporters, (c) I really have no idea who the best candidate is anyway, and (d) I certainly don't want my support for the "wrong" candidate to come back to bite me when I have business or social dealings with the "right" candidate in the future.

Or, laconically: Not my business.

Rain, Rain, Go That Way

We're getting a nice soaking rain here in Jasaan right now. Right fluid, wrong place: Mother Nature needs to blow these rain clouds about 50 or 60 miles south and southwest, to the reservoir areas that feed the hydroelectric plants. Four inches of rainfall might translate into 16 inches of additional water in the reservoirs... but only if the rain falls there instead of here.

Well, maybe those places are getting it too.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Update On That Shooting From Last Week

There are apparently 2 sets of criminal charges floating around the internet regarding Mike Turner.

One is mentioned in the newspapers, which is the weapons charges that the police were looking into. Those are actually related to another person named Mike Turner from Florida, who has been sitting in jail since 2003 until 2016. How that malicious and easily-verifiable stupidity made it into the newspapers is beyond me. That's the kind of shit that winds up costing people (the dissolute dicks who pass it along, the feckless and callow twits who put it in newspapers, and the hapless victims about whom it is written) their reputations. I think Mike and his attorney should demand a correction and apology on that count.

Another charge floating around is from 18 years ago, relating to cocaine posession, resisting arrest, and driving without a license, which is almost certainly the Mike Turner we know and love. Regardless, to me that sounds more like a night of intense partying that didn't end well, rather than any heavy-duty criminal activity.

Heh. I had a couple of nights back in my 20's that ended with flashing lights and the crackle of a walkie-talkie... Some of the most amusing and memorable nights in my life, in fact. (Ah... Montreal, 1993... what a weekend. It started in a girlie bar with Tom Cruise, and ended with a cell mate named Rocco. It was all equally entertaining.)

Hmm. Now that I think about it, having little things like that in one's past is a sign of character... like scars, or a tattoo that says "I Love Yolanda" yet you can't remember who she is. They are the signs of having experienced the full panoply of life's vicissitudes in all their awful and awesome glory. The fact is, the best of times always live on in our memories... but it's the shitty times that are most likely to leave a mark.

Daily Report: Thai Me Up

I had a good but short day of work today, calling it quits in the early afternoon.

After that, I took Tyson for a walk. Then Epril and I went in to CDO to meet Warren and play some pool and go out to dinner. (Jen was out of town, so it was just the three of us.)

First, we went to Limketkai and bought my father-in-law a new watch for his birthday at the silver shop.

After that, we went with Warren to what seems to be the only pool hall (with air conditioning) left in all of CDO called Jim Jam. It's actually a fantastic little place with only 2 tables on the second floor... but it is exceptionally comfortable, quiet, and the pool tables are only marginally crappy. (But I'm finicky about that in ways that other people probably are not.)

After that, it was off to dinner at the new Thai restaurant in town called Thai Me Up. I had some tom yung kung soup which was passable if a bit varied from the original, and some flat noodles with chicken which was about 90% correct as compared to what you find with the street vendors in Thailand. (And the price was not bad either: $4 for the soup and $2.50 for the noodles.) Warren had a green curry, which was very good, and only $2.50. Epril had a pork yellow curry which was also very tasty, if only generally similar in taste to the dishes that they serve in Thailand, and also $2.50. We also had spring rolls and some deep fried squid.

From there, we went back to Warren's house where he gave me two jars of "Chicken Tonight" which he brought back from Australia. Oh, I love that stuff. Then, he loaned me his motorcycle with which to drive home... which was nice, saving us the time in the jeepney, or the taxi fare.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dumb Boys Here?

I was just at Dimple's end-of-the-school-year award ceremony. Dimple got a "top 10" award for her class, and took fouth place in poetry.

Here was the thing I noticed though: There were quite literally as many awards given out as there were students in each grade. However, if it weren't for awards for playing basketball, or participating in Boy Scouts, barely any male received an award.

Out of several hundred scholastic awards given out, less than 10 went to boys. Only two boys were in the top 10 academically in any of the 5 grades... 48 girls, 2 boys.

What the hell is going on? Is this typical for the entire country? How terribly skewed do gender roles have to be such that, in essence, almost every female in a school outperforms almost every male? Is the message that boys are receiving so massively different than that of girls that the educational difference can grow to be so great? Are they doing it to themselves or are their parents assisting in cultivating this gender-specific academic failure?

And, most importantly: Don't the teachers give a shit? Are they even trying to reach the boys and pull them out of this anomie?

Something needs to be done.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Daily Report: Get Gas Here

Yet another slow day of work. Today, I was again distracted with the chicken farm: Reading about pest control methods, and ways to bulk up and enrich chicken feed.

In the evening, the power was out again. We sent Tatay to buy gasoline for the generator. He came back with a full gas can and all the money we had sent him with: Epril's cousin, Jun Gontiñas, was giving away free gas to everybody at his gas station. He's running for city council and I guess this is part of his plan for getting votes.

For me, it was a mushroom and bacon pizza for dinner (I've cut down to one pizza every 2 days) and beer. I'm putting a little weight back on I think... although I haven't weighed myself in over 2 years. I held steady at about 220 pounds in Thailand, but if I were to guess, I think I'm right around 200 pounds now. (I'll bet when the chicken farm gets started, my weight is going to drop like a rock... just you watch.)

For TV tonight I watched first an episode on The History Channel about The Battle of Kadesh between Rameses of Egypt and Muwatalli of the Hittites (as discussed/narrated by various professors of military strategy — a fascinating field of science, and much more complicated than you could ever imagine). Then an episode on National Geographic about the wildlife of the Pyrenees Mountains, with local efforts to preserve the salamanders, bears, and vultures living there. Then, at 9:00, on HBO, I watched the movie "Hancock", which was a bit below average.

And The Campaign Starts

It is election time now. The signs are up and the campaign staffers are everywhere in their matching shirts. It seems that the candidates all have theme songs —reworded versions of current pop music — sung in Visayan and blared at high levels over mobile stereos on the back of placard vans, so I can't understand what is being said, but it just seems to be mostly candidate names.

I went walking through town yesterday and realized that the shirt that Epril had bought me with a map of The Philippines on it that I was wearing was the shirt of one of the Presidential candidates. I walked past a group of people canvassing for another one of the Presidential candidates and I definitely drew some stares.

I think I better hide that shirt until after the election is over. I'm most certainly not going to get involved in Pinoy politics... even if it is a nice shirt.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Healthcare Bill And The Purchase Requirement

I had originally tossed about in my mind the concept that, as part of the newly-passed healthcare bill, the requirement that (almost) all Americans must purchase health insurance or have to pay a penalty seemed unconstitutional... a concept that seems to be championed by a dozen or so State Attorneys General.

But, then I gave some thought to the matter. I thought: What else does the government require us to buy? Well, we certainly can't chose to not have Medicare taken out of our paychecks. That's health insurance that we are required to buy. We can't opt out of paying unemployment insurance either. That's also insurance we are required to buy. Of course, one could say that the government is forcing us to buy commercial — instead of government — health insurance with this new healthcare bill, which is completely different. That's a fair enough assessment, until you think about your automobile insurance. That's yet a third type of insurance the government requires you to buy.

So: Is the government requirement that you buy health insurance or pay a fine unconstitutional? Very doubtful. Not when all of those other examples can be shown.

By the way, I did get an interesting thought exercise via an e-mail from my friend Mike. He posited that, since the cost of the fine for not having health insurance is less than the cost of insurance, PLUS you can't now be turned down for pre-existing conditions, what's to stop me (or you) from just paying the fine and paying the fine until the big accident or emergency or dire diagnosis, and then signing up for the insurance the same day? I doubt the hospital would argue, since they want to get paid... and the insurance companies apparently can't turn you down anymore. And "preexisting" certainly could mean "existing as of 5 minutes ago."

Well, I'm guessing that is a question that has already been answered somewhere. I'll have to find it out.

About That Shooting The Other Night

I've had everybody ask me about this, and I noticed that a lot of people were visiting my blog today probably hoping I would mention it. I'm figuring that since the news stories are exceptionally different than what I had heard from the people (allegedly) involved, I'd put their version of the story up here.

This is what I was told:

On Tuesday night, Mike Turner went to drop off a camera with some guy he knows (in general... not close friends). Later that evening... about 2 or 3 hours after Mike dropped off the camera and went home, the guy whom Mike saw got into a gunfight at a bar and 3 people died.

Several people who know the shooter said that they saw Mike talking to the guy earlier in the evening. Police questioned Mike about this, and that was the end of it.

Now: If there is more to the story, I haven't heard it. That's Mike's version of events... and that's all I can attest to.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Daily Report: No I Can't

I went into CDO today dressed better than usual, with trousers and even socks! Attorney Joe and I went to visit two bank managers he knows to see if he could help me drum up an extra 6 million pisos financing for the chicken farm I'm going to be building soon.

I think I experienced one of the major weaknesses of The Philippines as a country and an economic entity today, and this is it: There is essentially no credit rating in this country. If you want a 6 million piso loan, you need to have 6 million pisos worth of land as collateral. If you have that, instant loan approval. If not... nothing.

If you have a perfect credit history from America... but own no land? Nope. Nothing.

If you have a successful business and employ 100 people, have lucrative contracts with major businesses, and have a proven track record of success (like Mike Turner)... but own no land? Nope. Nothing.

If you have a 6 million piso diamond... but own no land? Nope. Nothing.

And now we all know why rich Filipinos have vast quantities of land that they never use. Lesson learned.

I took my friend, Nelson Roberts, a retired chicken farmer from Arkansas, out to dinner at Sentro tonight. (The restaurant has a collection of microbrew beers from America that they have imported. A very nice addition to a meal, and a nice addition to the drinking possibilities of Cagayan De Oro.) I pumped Nelson for all the information I could about chicken farming during the hour over dinner. I certainly came away more confident than ever about my business plan.

So, on the business front today: A step back, but at least some tidbits of good news to offset things a bit.

After that, it was a jeepney back home. I'm starting to mind riding in a jeepney less and less. In fact, I am almost to the point where I would prefer it over a motorcycle... if there were just jeepneys running after 9:30 at night, and taxis didn't spend all of their time stuck in traffic in downtown CDO.

Oh... one more thing: Epril and I ran into Tom Fagan at Sentro tonight. We hadn't seen or heard from Tom in almost 18 months. Due to his health concerns (his incredibly long-running diagnosis of ALS) we had assumed the worst, but amazingly he still looks as healthy as ever. Yay Tom! Good to see you again!

How Beautiful Is My Wife?

Which of these Filipina ladies isn't Miss Universe 1999? Well, if you can't figure it out, I sure ain't telling.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some Analogies Are Too Easy To Ridicule

Michael Steele: The nominal head of the Republican Party, and it's official punching bag... and deservedly so. The man has had his foot in his mouth so many times, his shoes have bad breath. Or something like that... I don't know; zingers aren't my forté.

Anyway, say what you want about the healthcare reform act passing... this video is fantastically and comically appropriate.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Origin Of The Word Boogie

Was taking a wander through The Straight Dope and came across the origin of the word boogie (in its terpsichorean meaning).

Working backward, boogie comes from the shortening of "boogie woogie". Boogie woogie was coined as music made by black people ("bogeys"). Bogey was a name given to black people because they were equated with bogeys — in the "bogeyman" sense of the word. Before a "bogey" had a more supernatural connotation, it was "bugger" — in the sodomy sense. Before bugger was used to define sexual deviance, it was used to define spiritual deviance, in the French "bougre", a 14th century word for heretic: at the time there was a heretical cult called The Boulgres. The Boulgres were from a place that the Romans called Bulgarus... Bulgaria.

Daily Report: Rain

We had our first day with the flyers posted at Twin Hearts advertising our pizza, and we sold about 12 when all was said and done; but it was a bad day for pool resorts — cloudy, cold, and rainy. Now that we have proof of theory, we are going to replace all the black-and-white photocopied flyers with full color versions. Also, we have spoken to nearby Kahologan Pool Resort and they are willing to host our pizza signs as well. After that, we'll add Crystal Pool, and the new place next door to that... don't know the name. Also, Green Beach and the other beach clubs nearby. They should be a nice source of business.

Today was indeed a rather unpleasant day weather-wise, but was exceptionally pleasant otherwise. First, I went with Epril and Tyson to the barber. I saw Drew from Connecticut while there. He is on his way back to The States tonight after almost 2 months here, leaving his new wife, Jackie, behind. I can't imagine how much that must suck... the guys who do that must really be lonely after a while.

After that was messing around in the park with Tyson. Then a quiet afternoon with my book, and a bit of video gaming.

Tyson and I having a swim.
Epril and I joined up with some of her friends down on the river to the North of Jasaan late this afternoon. I brought Tyson along and taught him to swim. (Well, inasmuch as one teaches a dog to swim... pull on his leash until he gets dragged in over his head and starts swimming.) Actually, it was a perfect place to do so: In most places, the river is only deep enough so that Tyson can't touch bottom on all fours, but can easily stand up and take a break on his two hind legs. It's actually a lovely place for a swim, all in all.

After swimming, we sat around and had some beers, and had a nice dusk. After that, it was a dinner of liempo and rice, and a bit of television.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Daily Report: Chance Encounters

Grandma Nesing, her husband and
her best friend.
Today, I went to Grandma Nesing's birthday party at Faustina Pool Resort, which is also where I had my 40th birthday party. Nesing is the grandmother of Epril's best friend, Fatima. She's a lovely lady, very friendly, and was keen on inviting me to her party.

While at the party, I also met a very interesting fellow, Father Rode ("roadie"), a priest whose family owns the nearby Twin Hearts pool resort. He is on sabbatical from The Vatican, and has a doctorate in Theology, plus degrees from local Xavier and New York University.

He was very excited about the fact that I sell pizzas, and is going to get Twin Hearts to heavily promote my restaurant. He is putting signs up in all 40 cottages at Twin Hearts advertising our pizzas.

I had been reading last night about The Reformation, so it was pure luck that I still had fresh in my memory of an obscure kernel of doctorate-level theological knowledge that I was able to use to crack up Father Rode (and impress him immensely): When replying to his stated assertion that we must have been fated to meet, I stated, "Wow, a Catholic priest who sides with Calvin on predestination. I guess after a stint at NYU, even Zwingli's thoughts on transubstantiation might seem reasonable to you."

Yes, I know: Lead balloon for the rest of you. Trust me, if you're a Catholic priest who studied theology at NYU... hearing that from some random schmoe in the middle of the jungle... it's piss-your-pants funny.


When I take Tyson for a walk, everywhere I go, people shout, "Tyson!" I was beginning to suspect that the people had actually mistakenly started to believe that MY name is Tyson. I told Epril my thoughts, and she said, "No, they are just nervous to say hello to you, so they say hello to Tyson instead." Well, I had my doubts regardless.

Today, Epril and I were walking back from the internet café, where we had been printing out the signs to give to Twin Hearts when some guy walked by in the other direction and shouted, "Tyson!" And no, Tyson was not with us.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Daily Report: The Craziest Week

This was not what I would call a good week. Although I finished up pretty much where I started, or even a little bit ahead, the journey was not worth it.

The first bit of bad news was for the family: On Tuesday, older sister Susan traveled to Cebu to pick up her tourist visa to The Netherlands so that she could spend a few months with her boyfriend, who is the cousin of my friend here in Jasaan, Ron Schreuder, only to find out that it was denied. Man, those Dutch just don't know anything about or care one bit about love, do they? Susan obviously was heartbroken.

On Wednesday, I got an e-mail from my boss saying that if I didn't move back to America, I would be out of a job. My boss wanted to schedule a conference call to decide what to do with me. Lovely. (I put in for 5 days of vacation at my job at this point, figuring that I better not lose my job while I have a week's worth of paid vacation saved up.)

On Thursday, my best friend had a huge problem in his life, and I had to go help him work things out, before he just gave up entirely on things and moved forever back to Kanoland.

Fortunately... amazingly, on Friday everything resolved: I convinced my friend to work on his problems and get professional help. That evening, on the conference call with work, my boss and I resolved our differences... or actually, my boss just told me "sorry about all the worry, everything is fine", set the "overseas issue" aside indefinitely/forever, and I was even returned to work on the account that I had been (wrongly, as I stated here last week) removed from. I have to say that this is the single largest unexpected surprise (excuse the tautology) I have had in a long time.

So for a while there everything looked pretty messed up, and I thought that the various frayed ends of my life were really beginning to unravel. Not so.

Unfortunately, Susan still sits forlornly here at home with a plane ticket to fly her on to the rest of her life that she cannot use, with nothing but a webcam to connect her to her distant love.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Daily Report: An Outlet For My Powers

Work was modestly better today... up from deplorable to merely deficient.

My landlord's brother-in-law came by today and tore down the ramshackle garage structure in the yard next to our house. Now we are left with a big ugly dirt/gravel spot in the middle of the yard. The pizza restaurant is kind of doing a sore-thumb thing now, where before it kind of fit in with the ramshackleyness of the whole vista.

Mamma cooked a nice lunch of afritada for me today, which was much appreciated. Epril spent the day with her expatriate ladies group feeding hungry kids on the far side of Cagayan De Oro.

The power went out today at 1:00, and I was ready to try out my new generator scheme: Plug the generator directly into a wall outlet and power the entire house. Step one: After the power goes off, switch off the main switch on the fuse box to disconnect the house from the electric supply from outside. Step two: Unplug the refrigerator. Step three: Start the generator. Step four: Plug one end of the double-ended male electric cord into the generator, and another one into the socket in the wall. The entire house is powered again.

(Now I can take down all of those silly cords running all over the house.)

In the evening, I played some Playstation 2, had a pizza, and then went to bed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Daily Report: Thank Golf Its Friday

Another bad day of work. Our landlord Maggie came over today, and we sat up on the rooftop chatting. The house uses this plastic 300-liter water supply up on the third floor roof that the sun can shine through. What do you get when you have standing water, sunshine, and a bit of bacteria? Yup. That needs to be replaced.

Late afternoon, and it was in to CDO with Epril to see Warren and Jen. From there, the four of us went out to the driving range to hit golf balls. I haven't golfed in 5 years, and probably an average of once every 5 years before that for the last 20 years since graduating from high school. I used to be a fair golfer — under a 10 handicap — when I was a teenager, but those days are long gone. However, I think I do still have my range of motion, and I can still hit the ball a little ways.The driving ranges in the Philippines are a bit fun: You have automatic ball dispensers (as you can see in the photo above), and the armored and shielded guys shagging balls (see inset) are enjoyable targets. Warren hit the guy in the ankle when he shanked a 5-wood along the ground at blazing speed.

(Epril and Jen... BFF!)
After golf, it was over to the pool tables where Warren and I shot pool. I brought my own pool cues in tonight... my prized possessions. I also used to be a good pool player... at least better than I was a golfer. But Warren can shoot pool as well, which is nice. Now I have somebody to play pool with.

After pool, it was off to Sentro restaurant where we saw Bennie and Jane Honeycutt (just back from Thailand) having dinner. Then we sat down and had a nice meal as well. Since I hadn't eaten during the day at all yet, and Friday is always my devil-may-care eat-all-you-can day, I had 2 appetizers (crab wasabi salad and grilled calamari... which I actually shared with everybody), a Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich, and an order of fish and chips... and a little bit of Epril's bar-be-que ribs... and custard for desert. Now that Town Restaurant is gone, Sentro is my favoritest restaurant in CDO.... 1500 pisos ($32) including tip for dinner for 4 (including my immense dinner and deserts all around) plus bottomless drinks for everybody.

From there, the four of us went over to the center of town in CDO, called The Divisoria, which (as it is every Friday night) was closed off to vehicular traffic, and a night market is set up. We sat down at an open air beer tent and were joined by May Ann and her boyfriend from France. Then, pretty much every Kano in Cagayan De Oro seemed to walk by and stop to have a beer with us.

After that, it was back to Jasaan with driver Chris at about 11:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Daily Report: A Turnaround May Be Brewing

I overslept a bit today: bad sleep last night. I don't know why, but I just kept waking up over and over again.

Dave from Kimaya stopped by for coffee this morning, and we had a chat, which was nice. We talked about plans and he has some good ideas. We also watched a parade go by: It's apparently Womens Month here in Jasaan... awareness of domestic violence, equal rights, education, health, et cetera.

Work was another flop today. I spent most of my time sending text messages back and forth with Warren and various people we want to do business with. We've got a final price on the generators we want to import, but now have to figure out whether the market can handle a shipment or not. We certainly don't want to import 200 generators and then have them wind up sitting in a warehouse. I'm sending my right-hand-man Kerko into CDO tomorrow to assess the "generator market" and see what he discovers.

In the evening, I just messed around on the laptop, playing "Sid Meiers Civ IV". It's just a relaxing game for me... a true time waster. Just wander around and explore, build some farms and roads, maybe get into a war... and then three or four hours are gone.

The pizza restaurant sold back at its' previous level tonight... almost 20 pizzas, which is a surprise. Perhaps the flyers are doing their job? Maybe it was a fluke. We'll see.

Epril went out to a vigil tonight. In the Philippines, when somebody dies, the deceased is usually brought back to the family house for 2 or 3 days, and then a tent is set up for a vigil. People stop by and (from what I've seen) pay their respects, or (from what Epril described) have a good time. So the grandmother of a schoolmate of Epril's passed away, and Epril and all her friends have been gathering at the friend's house for the past 2 nights. She has been getting home a little after midnight.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Don't Want To Know Any More

My former Congressman Eric Massa went on Glen Beck's show today and made an ass out of himself, promoting a woe-is-me tale of political pressure, "bribes", and fabulist nude shower chest poking by "son of demon spawn" Rahm Emmanuel. Oh holy shit.

I guess when you've fucked up your life past a certain point, you might as well go all Tawana Brawley, and go on the television show of the white Al Sharpton and start flinging poo. (I guess I should at least give Beck credit for apologizing for wasting an hour of America's time at the end of the interview.)

One person commented here that there would be more to this story. I knew for sure there would be some gay Mark-Foley-style bullshit coming up. Hardly a surprise, really: Massa's "gay behavior" has been floating around the internet for a while, starting with Rochester radio talk show host Bob Lonsberry, who claims he knew for years. However, I doubt anybody could see coming this madcap cockamamie political shooting spree that even got crazy Glen Beck pushing his chair back from the table to take a deep breath... that's a humdinger of a fucked up exit, man.

And what's the point? Distraction? Misdirection? Pity? "I've got cancer, Washington sucks, Rahm Emmanuel is a dick... oh, and I apologize for being a queer tickle fiend." That's your tack, Congressman?

If I didn't have my pride and appreciation focused on Massa at the very point when he was groping and tickling a staffer "until he couldn't breathe"... if I wasn't admiring his political fortitude at the very same time he was acting shocked-shocked-I-tell-you at the fundamental Washington way of doing business... if I wasn't acknolwedging the boldness of his liberal politics while holding a conservative district while he went on national television to blast the entire Democratic establishment on his way out the door like some shirty 12-year-old... I might be able to see the humor in all of this.

Instead, all I can think: What a petty, shallow, and weak-spirited douchebag. Your 15 minutes are up.

But Don't Expect Filipinos To Believe A Word Of It

I found this list of 27 years of US/Canada dog attacks by breed online. I'm consolidating and trimming it here (removing rare breeds, combining cross-breeds and sub-breeds) for your consideration:

Cocker Spaniel1
English Sheep Dog1
German Shepherd127
Golden Retriever10
Great Dane28
Pit Bull1,539

Of course, all the evidence and data in the world isn't going to stop Filipinos from screaming and running away from this:

But, perhaps you will believe me when I say in all honesty: Dobermans make the most excellent family dogs.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Daily Report: Mondaneday

Back to work.

Nietsche said humor is just schadenfreude with a clear conscience. Watching my old account spin further and further out of control after having been removed from it for no good reason is thus the most humorous thing I've enjoyed in a while. I put in about 4½ hours of work today on my new account (barely an improvement from the old one, but far fewer stupid rules to trip you up or waste your time) before calling it a day.

The power went out at precisely 6:00 today. As usual, the generator was ready. I watched that Percy Jackson movie on DVD, which was pretty enjoyable and clever overall.

The pizza restaurant really isn't pulling in the people out of the dark like I thought it would. It's definitely a function of location and marketing. We need to hand out more flyers and get more people aware of the fact that we are here and open. Even though we are only 75 meters from the center square, I don't think that we are nearly as well-known as we could be. Well, I always knew that I would be the restaurant's single best customer, which was kind of the point of opening it, but still selling some more pizzas to people who don't work in or own the restaurant would be a marked improvement.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Daily Report: Sunnyday

Today (Sunday) we had a get-together with friends at Twin Hearts Pool Resort here in Jasaan. Mike Farrell was there with his kids, Drew and Jackie were there and brought some delicious food along. I also met Luiz from Spain, who is planning on moving out to Jasaan soon. (He bought some land down on the highway, north of town.) He's a fantastically nice and interesting fellow to know... who sounds just like Antonio Banderas when he speaks (a comparison I merely trust he will appreciate).

Epril and Rent-A-Baby have some
fun in the pool.
Fritzy (Mike's wife) was there with her daughter, and Charity (Simon's wife) was there with baby Nathan (a.k.a. Rent-A-Baby, because every time Nathan shows up, Epril steals him... we should probably start paying rent). Dave from Jasaan also showed up to round out the crowd.

Mike Farrell shares a
joke with Drew from
As usual, we had a fantastic day sitting around and chatting and swimming and eating. The water there is so cool... coming straight out of the local aquifer where it probably has not seen sunlight for thousands of years.

There were lots of interesting duscussions. Luiz and I talked about language and history, while Drew, Dave, and Mike talked about visas.

The power actually didn't go out at all today. I guess that on Sunday, the industrial electrical consumption was so low that the electrical system could handle the domestic demand all day long without interruption. My generator has been doing a very good job and, much to my delight, it has not used nearly as much gasoline as was first expected... less than half, if I were to guess.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Eric Massa: Idiot

Why is it that people in positions of power can't remain professional? Why do official, work-time discussions with these people have to devolve into sexual innuendo, vulgarities, and insults? Why isn't the achievement of the height of sociopolitical status enough of a sobering and humbling experience to remove rudeness and poor manners, instead of inducing them?

Eric Massa, my member of Congress, whom I greatly admired for his politics, is not going to seek reelection because apparently he said enough stupid stuff to a staffer to warrant a sexual harassment investigation.

The stupid fucker let me down.

Daily Report: Saturounday

I didn't do much today. Surprisingly, I wasn't hung over from the night prior. Usually, mixing drinks is what it takes to get me into a crapulent state. Last night was strictly beer.

Still though, I sat around for most of the day not accomplishing anything. Work this past week has been truly terrible: I'm almost on vacation really. I put in an hour a day here, two hours there... then I just convince myself that I'd rather be out walking Tyson, watching TV, or hammering rusty nails through my kneecaps, and quit for the day.

I've already convinced myself that next pay period (which starts this coming Monday) will be a turnaround... and I'm sure it will be. After all, I can't afford (even in The Philippines) to live on $150 per week.

Drew and Jackie stopped by the Pizza Shack tonight and I hung out and chatted for a couple of hours. Drew is actually quite a munificent fellow, constantly donating to the needy here in The Philippines, setting up surgeries for kids that need it, paying tuition for those who cannot afford, stocking the sari-sari store of a family in need, and on and on and on.

Come One Come All

Just to drum up a bit of interest: There will be a huge, monstrous, incredibly fun and incredibly important gathering of expatriates tomorrow (Sunday, March 7) at Twin Hearts pool resort in Jasaan. (Find any Jeepney going East out of CDO and ask them if they are going as far as Twin Hearts pool resort... hop on for 25 pisos.)

I've been told that any expatriate who doesn't show up will have his visa revoked and his birthday cancelled.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Daily Report: Fun Guys

This evening, Epril and I rode into town (with J'Neth and Genelyn, who had come out to visit) for a night on the town. First stop was Warren and Jen's house, where we had some snacks, the girls played with the kids while Warren and I looked at price lists for barn construction materials.

After that, it was off to Spooks where Elmer The Mammasan, was having her birthday party in the upstairs section. It was mostly a family affair, with lots of kids and grandparents and stuff. Warren and I mostly hung out on the pool table. There were only 3 or 4 other expatriates there.

Below, Epril with birthday girl Elmer.

After that, Warren and I, Jen and Epril, went over to first Lexi's Bar and then Star Entertainment to party with 4 or 5 new guys in town from Australia. They are the kind of guys for whom partying is a sport; the kind of guys with whom, if you weren't in a bar getting drunk with them, you'd think how crazy fun it would be to go to a bar and get drunk with them. I laughed and grinned for so long that my face started to hurt. There were 12 guys and our respective girlfriends, and we cut quite a large swath through CDO's entertainment district.


Back in Jasaan, the power was out again tonight. The pizza restaurant hasn't exactly become the focal point in the darkness... yet. We passed out some flyers the other day, and probably word will spread. We did have one bonus though: Drew from Connecticut came to the restaurant tonight, and he is another fun guy. Although Epril and I weren't there, he spent the evening drinking, eating, dancing (by himself or with the kids) and drawing a bit of a crowd and creating a fun spot. I owe him a pizza for that.

Anyway, it was a ride back to Jasaan with Driver Chris at almost 1 a.m. tonight. We stopped at McDonalds and (as I usually do after 15 or 16 beers) completed the utter toxification of my mind and body with a couple of Big Macs.

Epril had a good night... and was happy. (Well, okay... just an excuse to put up a pretty photo of my beautiful wife. Hope you don't mind.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Daily Report: Bad Idea Them, Good Idea Us


I got an e-mail from my boss at work the other day: "I'm taking you off of the ________ Hospital account. I get more complaints about your work than any other transcriptionist."

This particular account has 16 transcriptionists working on it. I do about 20% of the work for that account while the other 15 transcriptionists do the remaining 80%. My manager apparently was too dumb to look this information up.

Now, of course, this account has gone kerplooey, 50% of the work is returned late, my manager is pleading for everyone (except me, naturally) to work overtime to help this account, and I'm laughing.

The thing is that this hospital is the centerpiece of a much larger medical center spanning 4 or 5 hospitals and various dozens of clinics, and it is a very finicky customer upon which it takes a very long time to bring new transcriptionists up to speed. I have a feeling that now they'll be gone soon, and probably take a huge chunk of my already-bankrupt company's revenue with them. I like to think that it will mostly be my retarded manager's fault. I've really never worked for a blatantly stupid person until this particular manager (this is the third or fourth such display of intellectual dysfunction on her part) and I'm finding it a unique mix of frustration and personal satisfaction.


Warren had the idea to import a shipping container full of generators from China and sell them to hardware stores here in Cagayan De Oro. I set up a meeting today with a friend of mine (through The Eagles Club) who works in Customs, and Warren and I met with him for an hour to discuss what was involved.

Essentially, we need an agent to get things through customs; we can't do it ourselves. However, we are still waiting on the actual tariff rate: My friend (although high up in Customs) doesn't handle tariffs, only inspections. He needs to get in touch with the assessor to get a quote, which we are waiting on. But, even if the tariffs are as high as 50%, it should represent a 100% return on investment for what should amount to 20 hours work in total.

And Chetumaire: We looked into importing solar panels, but unfortunately solar kits are too expensive. The time-to-break-even point, where people would not have to pay more for solar than their current electric bill is in the range of 10 years. In other words, if we wanted to sell solar panels to people, we would have to do it on a 10-year payment schedule in order to make it a "better" deal than electricity.

After the meeting with the Customs official, it was back to Warren's house for the evening, where we went over construction plans for the chicken barns. (Warren works in construction, and had some fantastic ideas for barns which had never been considered before, which will reduce construction costs and make barn expansion and cleaning much easier.

Oh... then we had "Chicken Tonight" over rice. Warren had bought some of the "instant dinner sauce" from Australia on his last trip. I know it sounds rather "macaroni-and-cheesish" and plebian, but oh it was a beautiful change from the norm.

I bought a bottle of sake rice wine at the store as well, since Warren had never tried that before. He didn't care much for it.

Then he gave me Vegemite, which I had never tried before, to get even.


By the way, I had one of my two recurring dreams again tonight. The first one I have is the running-through-the-airport dream, trying (and always failing) to get to Brazil (of all places... although I have been there twice), a dream which I have about once a week. The other one, which I had tonight, and have about half as often as the Brazil/airport dream, is being forced to re-join the Navy, being stuck back on my old aircraft carrier with no uniform, no job, no friends, and no clue where to go, and just wandering around the mazy corridors trying to figure out to where I'm supposed to report, and hoping that I don't get yelled at for being out of uniform.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mindanao Electric Supply Problems Only Beginning

According to Gold Star Daily Newspaper today, the current 6-shift, 5-hour-every-other-day blackouts that are currently working their way through Mindanao are only the beginning step in what could wind up being a very dark and dismal time for electrical service on the island.

Due to reservoir water levels feeding the hydroelectric plants being so low, two generating plants are already at only 15% of possible electricity (150 out of 982 potential megawatts) generated. However, the time is not far away (81 days from now, May 22) when the water flow at these two plants will simply no longer able to spin the generators at all, taking them completely off line.

Currently, Mindanao is able to consistently generate 600 MW out of its normal 1300 MW. Local industry and commercial ventures are already at their lowest power consumption levels they can manage and still maintain operations.

Apparently, however, there are two backup diesel generators on the island that could be used that would almost completely offset the wattage shortfall, but currently the government is not releasing the funds with which to fuel and start them.

I'm not going to be so pessimistic as to believe that it will ever reach the point where we would be going for days at a time without power, but much more substantial outages than we are currently experiencing are almost certain, and I imagine could possibly rise to the level of 8 or 10 hours per day, every day, until the reservoir levels are once again replenished.

Daily Report: On The Farm, News Of Other Ideas

Today was a great day for new business ventures.

First off, Warren came over and we went up to tour farm land where we will be building a chicken farm this coming May. It's a beautiful coconut-tree-lined hectare of land overlooking a river valley on one side and adjoining the back road out of Jasaan on the other. It's actually a bit of a crime to build some nasty old barns on such a nice piece of land... but there you are. The two of us also had a visit to the neighboring chicken farmer's set up and asked him about 100 questions, and got 100 helpful bits of information. After that, it was back to the house where Warren and I discussed what we had learned, and fine-tuned the decision making process.

Also, Warren is going to toss me a bone in the make-work-now department, as he needs a bunch of data entry work done for his job in Australia. He'll be paying me a ridiculously generous amount to do it as well... but it won't be too many hours of work per week to start. Even so, my current-soon-to-be-former job is paying so poorly lately that 10 hours of Warren's data entry work will be equal to a full week of erstwhile efforts.

Finally, as noted earlier, with my shiny new generator, I've got the only lighted restaurant in town during these upcoming four months of scheduled rotating blackouts, and the first after-dark blackout was tonight. Everything went well... although since we weren't advertising a "blackout special" or anything, there weren't any big crowds showing up. But, as I have a monopoly on light, I'm expecting good things to happen there... especially this coming Friday and Sunday. I'm going to try to put together some flyers tomorrow.

Finally, I'm still pondering the idea of opening up a medical transcription school. I've got another friend who has offered to invest a million in that. The unfortunate thing is that right now I don't have the time to do it... but if I did, my school would be the only medical transcription school in The Philippines owned and operated by a former American medical transcriptionist, and that will be a hell of a marketing point.

What I would actually hope to do is hire other expatriates in the area who could use a bit of spare cash to teach the various courses. I also figure that the school would be a great centerpiece for Mayor Jarula's initiative that he announced at last summer's International Night to engage and use more expatriate talent and professional experience in both business efforts and vocational training. But: Like I said, I've got the chicken farm to focus on first.

Exciting times.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bunning, America's Newest Biggest Douchebag

I have to say, I thought it would be hard to supersede Richard Shelby's (R-AL) assholery which I highlighted last month, as he put a hold on the confirmation of all President Obama's presidential judicial and political nominations... and would keep them there until he got the pork projects he wanted included in a defense spending bill.

However, Jim Bunning (R-KY) is literally cancelling the supplemental federal unemployment benefits that 400,000 Americans (including a friend of mine) are currently relying on, and many many more could be relying on in the immediate future (including myself).

Oh... and in addition, now HE has put holds on all of President Obama's presidential judicial and political nominations.

(Bunning is claiming he is victimizing almost half a million Americans because he feels that America should be "paying as it goes"... even with respect to things such as emergency aid measures such as this. Funny thing is this is the same guy who voted for some of the biggest deficit-busting legislation in American history just a couple dozen months ago.)

One cool thing about this blockage of unemployment benefits though is that it may actually result in an honest-to-God filibuster taking place in the Senate, which should be interesting. It would certainly be the first evidence of Democratic spine that has been seen in Washington in at least a year.

Business Win

They say that the 3 most important things for success in business are: Location, location, and location.

I think I know something more beneficial: Being the only business within a 20-mile radius with the lights on, with the music playing, with the pizza cooking, with the beer flowing... everyone else will be dark, quiet, and probably closed.

I'm predicting a crowd of several hundred on these upcoming nights with no electricity, with my generator pumping out the juice. I'm predicting pizza sales might be pretty good for the next 4 months. I'm predicting that my location... under the only lights in Jasaan... will be pretty damn successful.