Sunday, May 30, 2010

Daily Report: Sunday Beach Day

Today, Epril, Susan, Ednel, and I were joined by a very happy Tyson at Liang Beach just to the north of Jasaan. We spent a lovely afternoon there playing in the water.

Tyson is really learning to love the water. He swims out, gets a leaf floating on the water, brings it back to shore and kills it, and then goes out for another. Unfortunately I think he drank too much salt water which gave him diarrhea.

Roger Bleecker from Seattle was also there at the beach with his wife Arlene. He's a nice guy and I enjoyed chatting with him for a while. He told me that some of the beach glass that he was picking up (shards of glass bottles that have been buffeted by sand and become opaque) can be worth lots and lots of money... hundreds of dollars for particularly special colors. That's quite a surprise: My mother's parents used to live by the Long Island Sound, and on their beach the sea glass was almost as common as the shells themselves. We used to toss the sea glass away in favor of shiny shells when we were kids.

Anyway, it was a spectacular day and everything was vibrant. The water was very clear.

Ednel, Susan, and Rent-A-Baby sent text messages.
Tyson ate and ate and ate, and still wanted more.

And Epril just sat around thinking 'bout stuff.

At the end of the afternoon, I was all worn out. I went home and watched a bit of television and had some dinner (leftover chicken soup that I had made yesterday), and then went up to bed and read my book, "London" by Edward Rutherfurd, until I went to sleep.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Good Idea For Jungle Citizens: An Ice Fan

I realized last week that almost half the money we spend on electricity here in the jungle goes to pay for the air conditioner, of which we run only one unit, and only at night in our bedroom.

Now here's a right spiffy idea that you can buy here in The Philippines: A fan that blows air over ice. (Steve is going to be buying one and I'll let you know how it works.)

My personal thought: Ice in The Philippines is sold in long tube-like plastic bags... about 3 inches in diameter, and 16 inches long. Save yourself the 40 dollars for the specialized unit, and just fashion a way to hang a couple of those baggies in front of your regular room fan.

I did the math, and for a 75-watt fan, at 15 pisos per kilowatt hour, plus a cost of 2 pisos per tube of ice, for 8 hours per day, you are looking at about 400 pisos for a month's operation... versus about 2700 pisos for the same amount of air conditioning.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Iron Baby

Tyson chewed Epril's sneaker and so she needs cheering up. Therefore, I'm putting up this video to make her feel better.

Daily Report: Little Girl's Birthday

Today, Steve Wallis stopped by my house to let me know that he was back in Jasaan finally after over 5 months at sea. It was his little daughter's 2nd birthday today, and he invited Epril and I out to the new Arje Pool Resort to join in the fun.

Birthday girl Maley takes cuteness to a whole new level.

I don't really care for the new place very much. They made a poor design decision by putting the drains for the pool on the other side of the walkway that goes through the area, so the water from the pool runs across it and it is always very wet. Then all the water from that gets tracked up onto the very smooth cement of the bungalows making their surface very slippery.

Most importantly, however, is the fact that there is no jungle anywhere near the place. When I go to a pool resort, I like to be surrounded by the greenery of nature. It's just me... but Arje Resort is more like my old cavernous high school swimming pool.

Anyway, all the local Jasaan expatriates were there: Steve, me, Ron, Dave, and Venrey from Jamaica.

We ate Steve's chile-con-carne, drank pepsi and beer, swam a bit, and had a great time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Daily Report: Nope, I Got Nothing

It's been a boring 2 days here in Jungleland. I haven't watched anything interesting on television. I didn't even leave the house today to walk Tyson. Beat that? On Monday, I didn't even make it down to the first floor of the house!

And yes, work still sucks.

My back molar is starting to hurt again. I'm the biggest pussy on the planet when it comes to dentists. (I swear I'm immune to novocaine: I feel everything, at least in my brain where it matters most.) Well, as per usual, I'll take ibuprofen when it gets too annoying (about 30 minutes per day) and wait for it to remit for another 2 or 3 years.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I Think I Figured It Out

I itch a lot... pretty much anywhere and everywhere on my body. It's usually nothing, but sometimes it gets totally crazy. Especially late in the day.

After I realized that I always itch more if I go swimming in salt water and don't rinse off immediately after, I figured it out:

I'm mildly allergic to sweat... or, more specifically, the salt in sweat. Towards the end of a day of normal perspiration, it can get really bad. I've had it for most of my life: When I was in the Navy and working in 100º rooms, soaked to the skin, was when it first started.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Daily Report: Jungle Swimming

A pretty standard jungle Sunday: Gathered up a feast, and went up to Faustina pool resort and spent the day in the sun having a blast. A big bunch of Epril's friends joined us, as well as younger sister Ednel and older sister Susan.

In the evening, Attorney Carreon and his posse of drinking buddies showed up, and we cranked up some tunes and worked our way through a case of beer. In between bottles, we floated in the cool spring water under the moonlight.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Daily Report: Another Wedding

I didn't do a whole lot today except work. Epril and older sister Susan got up at 4:30 this morning to go to a wedding in Bukidnon... which is about 2 hours away from here, almost directly south. It was the wedding of a friend's sister.

For lunch, Ednel made hot and sour soup, almost a perfect copy of what you can get at your average Chinese restaurant in America. For dinner, Ednel cooked French toast for me. (Just as long as you have syrup in the house... French toast is always only a few minutes away.)

I watched a couple of interesting programs on television. One about manned space flight was particularly interesting: The basic upshot of the program was that currently, the technology does not exist to support man for extended periods of time in space... especially the amount of time required to travel between solar systems.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Daily Report: Wedding

Today was a beautiful day. I was up early to get some work done. Then at 10:00 it was off to city hall to watch Pat O'Brien marry his fianceé, Ivy.

Funny story: Ivy and Pat met when Pat was out for a walk in the hills around Jasaan, and stopped to help Ivy's family dig a ditch they were working on. Most guys would settle for a glass of iced tea... Pat got Ivy! A pretty good deal if you ask me. Ivy is a very nice girl, and (as with everybody in Jasaan) her family is friends with my wife's family.

The reception was a small affair held at the Garden Café in downtown Jasaan. After that, we all went up to Kahologan Pool Resort and drank until late in the evening. Pat and I had a great time talking about politics and Ireland.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Brief Summary of the Crisis in Thailand

I figure that most people aren't really familiar with the background of what is happening in Thailand right now, so here is what it is about:

Thailand used to have a Prime Minister named Thaksin Shinawatra. He was a very rich businessman whose family owned a large portion of Thailand's mobile phone service. He became Prime Minister by engaging in a lot of populist governance: He made sure that the poor people (essentially anybody who didn't live in Bangkok) were always happy... and admittedly, they were. Thaksin was popular.

Thaksin was also corrupt. His government engaged in an extrajudicial war on drugs, and stifled dissent in both government and the media. He also abused his position as Prime Minister to engage in nepotism and enrich his business holdings.

It was in early 2006 when the Shinawatra family attempted to sell the entirety of their family business to a Singapore corporation... tax free. The richer but influential urban minority (The Yellow Shirts: these are primarily educated political activists from the Bangkok area; they wear yellow shirts because that is the king's color, and it is presumed that Thaksin and people who vote for him aren't big fans of the king... not really true in the strictest sense) of Thailand revolted and this forced an election against Thaksin and his majority. Due to the "snap" election in which campaigning and political maneuvering was severely limited, most minority politicians boycotted. (Thaksin's party actually had to pay — illegally — other minor political parties to put forward candidates in order to get enough candidates to make the election legitimate.)

Thaksin and his political party won the election easily.

The election results were tossed out by the Supreme Court. They instituted a "caretaker" government (led by Thaksin's party) until "proper" elections could be held later in the year.

In September of 2006, before new elections could be held (which Thaksin would probably have won) The Yellow Shirts and military performed a coup d'etat while Thaksin was out of the country. The military installed a temporary government... primarily Thaksin's opponents. Additionally, Thaksin's political party was dissolved, and many of the top members were banned for 5 years from politics because of their illegal payment to minor political parties to stand in the 2006 elections. The remainder of Thaksin's political compatriots joined another minor political party.

The remnants of Thaksin's political coalition won the next election scheduled by the military-backed government at the end of 2007, essentially "overturning" the coup d'etat. Quite immediately, The Yellow Shirts claimed, essentially, that any party made up primarily of Thaksin's old political party was in essence the same as the previously-banned political party. In addition, charges were made of further election irregularities on the part of Thaksin's political coalition. However, Prime Minister Samak — hand picked by Thaksin, who was directing Thai politics from exile outside of Thailand — took office. Thaksin returned to Thailand briefly, was charged with corruption, and then promptly fled the country again to be tried and convicted in absentia.

The Yellow Shirts forced a vote of no confidence against PM Samak. It didn't work.

The Yellow Shirts protested. The Supreme Court declared that the charges originally placed against Thaksin's Party... and PM Samak... were justified, and removed Samak from the office of Prime Minister.

The Thai government, with a pro-Thaksin majority, immediately voted PM Samak back into office. However, Samak abandoned his post. Therefore, the pro-Thaksin majority put Thaksin's brother-in-law, Somchai, in the Prime Minister's office. The Yellow Shirts obviously had a fit. They shut down Bangkok's international airport for 10 days. The Supreme Court ruled that Somchai and Thaksin's old political partners — regardless of what party they were in — were essentially still members of Thaksin's political party. The party leaders were banned from politics for 5 years. Thaksin's opponents took over the reins of government... finally.

At this point the Red Shirts... the poor rural majority supporters of Thaksin... showed up. (They wear Red Shirts primarily to differentiate themselves from The Yellow Shirts.) Obviously they were angry because three different governments that they supported had been thrown out by the military, the courts, and The Yellow Shirts' actions.

So here we are today: The Red Shirts know that if they can force an election, the majority that they represent will likely win and the government that they elect will be friendly to ex-PM Thaksin and his political ideology. If The Red Shirts get their way, The Yellow Shirts will then take their place in the streets. It will all start again: The poor of Thailand will decide who will govern from this point forward if allowed a free vote, and they will (for now) always elect politicians whom the wealthy, educated, and military of Thailand don't want ruling.

Most importantly, this has become a poor-versus-rich (Red versus Yellow / North versus Bangkok) confrontation — with political parties and governments as pawns and proxy — which is what makes this very important: This is a discussion that Thailand has never had before... and it could become very ugly. This is only the beginning.

Daily Report: Anhedonia

I think the one thing I dislike most about myself is my complacency. A few days ago, all I could think of was getting back to work. Today, I sat back down to work and within minutes I was tired of it again. What is that? It's not laziness, I don't think. I want to do stuff... just not this. I appreciate my job, but really just don't want to do it... until I can't do it.

Does your wife make shell art
pledging her love to you when
she goes to the beach? No?
I'm just lucky then.
Epril and the family spent the day at the beach while I stayed home and worked.

I finally have a photo of all 6 of the Gontiñas girls together. We have, clockwise from the upper left, Crystal (Inday), Epril, Susan, Jennifer (Dimple), Doreen, and Ednel.

I told Epril at the beginning of this year that we aren't going to use credit any more to pay for things. All of her friends who sell dresses and jewelry and makeup and purses would just have to wait until Epril had the actual money to pay for something before selling it to her.

So now, Epril has everything on layaway. I don't know if that is an improvement since the obligation to make the purchase exists before the money is there. Well, as I was joking with Epril: No matter what, she is going to find a way to get new dresses and makeup... and as her dresses are always inexpensive, I just let it go.

Ron Schrueder's mother, Titia, and her friend Adi are visiting from The Netherlands and stopped by to visit with Susan. (I'm not entirely sure of the spelling of those names... Ron is a reader and hopefully will correct me if I'm wrong.) As Titia might at some point soon be Susan's Aunt-In-Law, it obviously was a good idea to stop by to get to know Susan. The three of them had a nice afternoon chatting.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Daily Report: Denoument For De New Computer

I spent the morning blogging and doing internet-related stuff. Epril and the family went swimming.

In the early afternoon, my new computer arrived from work. Ten days, and I'm thrilled (just like I said I would be). Of course, all my files are gone. Fortunately I made regular backups. But my internet browser favorites list is gone, my notes and my logs are going to have to be snatched off the old computer somehow.

Most annoying is the disappearance of the old "text expander" software that I used to use, and its replacement by a new brand. That's an important bit of my work and is going to take a bit of practice to get used to. I didn't do any work today: Instead, I spent about 20 minutes getting my computer set up the way I like it, and then working on importing my old text expander file (all 12,500 entries) into the new software.

But the best part, by a long shot, is the fact that the computer is NEW. The speed improvement, no matter what I am doing, is always and immediately noticeable. In the weeks before the last computer died, I would estimate that at least 25% of my day (no joke) was spent waiting for my computer to finish "computing". Sometimes it was as long as 2 or 3 minutes waiting for one job to send and the next one to open, other times — most other times — it was the pausing for 5 to 10 seconds once per minute while the computer caught up. And, of course, there was the twice-per-day reboot that took 20 minutes.

Anyway, I spent the evening bored because there was nothing on television. I forced myself to watch the movie "Speed Racer" which was stupid and enjoyable at the same time. Ednel and I made spaghetti carbonara for dinner tonight. Damn, but heavy cream is expensive... almost $6 per liter. Is that the Philippines, or is it that the going rate these days?

Daily Report: Feeding Hungry Kids

Getting the food set up.

Group photo. That's Henrik from
Belgium. He works with a foundation
that is helping to fight asthma in
The Philippines.

Every kid gets a big pile of food...

... and juice.

Many of the kids' families are so
poor that they can't afford pants.
Today I joined Epril and the rest of the members of the Expats Ladies Charity (and a couple of Expats Ladies' husbands) and went to Barangay Tubajon in the town of Laguindingan, which is located about 30 kilometers west-northwest of the city of Cagayan De Oro. We went there to feed the children of indigent families who were displaced by the construction of the nearby Laguindingan Airport.

The Barangay of Tubajon is a nice little place on the coast, but sheltered from direct access to the ocean by some impressive mangrove forests. There is a little sandy-bottom waterway that runs the length of the barangay between the shore and the mangroves which is a lovely swimming spot and so tranquil. It was along this canal that the ladies set up a nice little feast for the local kids.

The ladies had bunches and bunches of spaghetti, lots of rice, and broiled chicken breast to serve. I tried pouting and whining, but none of the ladies would give me any of the food: For the kids only!

I was told that the crowd of kids eating today was a bit smaller than in previous weeks, although nobody could say why exactly. But, all in all 20 or 25 kids went home with a very full belly.

After that, we drove further up the coast (and out into the wilderness). We stopped at a promontory and had a nice lunch... the leftovers that the kids didn't eat (plus some bread and cola). Sometimes the ladies go swimming here as well, but it wasn't a particularly pleasant day.

Nearby to this promontory is the ruins of a guard house built by the Japanese during World War 2 to watch the shipping lanes.

The area around here is very windswept and dry, and the shelf-like promontory is the antediluvian remains of a coral reef. Jim Cunningham remarked that the place seemed very much like the bushland of Africa.

When we finished our lunch, we then drove out to look at the new airport. It is very nice, and looks to be finished soon. It is a bit unfortunate that it is father away from Cagayan de Oro than the current airport, but the location is designed to serve not just Cagayan but also Illigan as well, which is another 40 kilometers to the west-northwest.

Finally, it was over to John and Melogy Burn's house for drinks. I sat around with John and Jim Cunningham on the front porch, and we tried to set the record for the most subjects talked about in a single conversation.

From there, Epril and I did a bit of grocery shopping, had some dinner at McDonald's, and then caught a jeepney back to Jasaan. I'm so tired!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Daily Report: Beach Bum

Attorney Carreon.

Mr. Tino and Uncle Bobby.

Epril and I spent a good part of the day at the beach today hanging out with friends. I took Tyson along as well and he had fun splashing in the ocean. I went home in the late afternoon, but Epril stayed with the rest of the group and partied all evening.

Other than that, not too much going on. Just a quiet Sunday at home. I played some video games, read a bit, watched TV.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Daily Report: Erroneous Antonomasia

Not too much went on today. A friend of Epril's from here in Jasaan visited with her fianceé Patrick O'Brien from Ireland (yes, really). Actually, he is an advisor to the transportation union in London. So we spent much of the afternoon chatting about the attempted privatization of London's rail system. He's also very knowledgeable on Africa, so we talked about that as well.

In the evening, it was off to get drunk in Kimaya with Uncle Bobby, Attorney Carreon, and a fellow who was introduced to me as a judge. I called him "Your Honor" all evening until somebody pulled me aside and told me that "Judge" was just his nickname.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Daily Report: Beach, Bistro, and Beer

More photos and videos, less prose today. (Accidental assonance apologies.)

Today was Warren Merideth's son's 4th birthday party. His name is Maxey. We all went to Roan Beach Resort.

Family was there, as well as a clown/magician.

After that, we all went down to the surf and enjoyed an afternoon swim (and photo op).

Then, it was back to Warren's house to get changed, and then we went out to dinner at the new Thai restaurant in town, called Siam (located where Town Restaurant used to be, at Limketkai). The food was very good, and cheap too.

(As Stan would say: "Hi from all of us!")

Finally, it was off to an Eagles meeting. Epril and I arrived late... after all the reading of treasurers' reports and passing of motions and speaking of long speeches had finished, and the beer was being served and everybody was having a good time singing karaoke. Oh oopsies. How did that happen?

Then it was home with Driver Chris at about midnight.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Daily Report: Universary

I tried to be a little more productive today, but didn't succeed particularly well. Two episodes of "The Tudors" were showing on HBO HD, and that caught my attention since Stan wrote how much he had enjoyed watching it. He was right: Good show, and I'll need to go find the series on DVD.

Nathan on the left, hanging out
at his first birthday party.
After that, it was out to Rent-A-Baby Nathan's first birthday party. Oh, lots to eat.

In the evening, it was back home and Ednel and I tried to make tapioca pudding. It wasn't particularly good. The recipe needs some tweaking.

Tonight, I watched the movie "Duplicity", which was good.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Daily Report: Epanorthosis

I let myself down today.

I stayed in bed until 3:00 this afternoon surfing the internet, playing the Civilization IV video game, and that's about it.

In the late afternoon I finally got up and walked Tyson. Then it was out to the market: I wanted to by the fixins to make some tapioca pudding with Ednel, but there was no vanilla extract to be found in town so it will have to wait. Instead, we made some chicken soup.

I sat around and watched The History Channel all evening. The bulb on my big-screen TV is dying. (My television is smart enough to know this, and puts up warnings every time I turn it on.) The Sony store told me it would cost 14,000 pisos to replace: about $320. Gah. That'll have to wait.

My computer will... should... be here on the 19th. I hope I hope I hope.

Tomorrow I'll try to be more active.

Oh...and bonus video for The Mottern Family... Tyson's biggest fans.

Daily Report: Concession

I didn't do much in the morning, except blogged and read a bit. I do enjoy blogging: It's part diary, part thought exercise, part travelogue, part soapbox. I remember when I first started blogging 6 years ago... I was so surprised to find out that people (other than my mother) were reading what I was writing. I really do this only for myself and my own entertainment. (And posterity: I wonder how long these words will remain engraved on the underbelly of the internet? Possibly forever?)

In the early afternoon, Epril and I went to Attorney Carreon's house for a post-election let-down party. Attorney was an also-ran independent candidate for Vice-Mayor of Jasaan, who placed a respectable third with about a quarter of the vote. While there, I talked with various other local grandees about my business plans, and they agreed to see what introductions could be made on my behalf.

From Attorney's house, Epril and I rode a Jeepney to Cagayan De Oro. First was lunch at McDonald's — their $1 Value Meals are great for those of an impecunious nature. (I had two.)

After that, it was off to the ATM where, lo and behold, the computer systems were down between The Philippines and Chase Manhattan... I promptly withdrew $1,000. Yes: I'm overdrawn as can be. But, really it's a bit of an emergency with my work (and income) being suspended; my money problems are for the time being assuaged... or delayed, depending on how you look at it. I doubt Chase Manhattan will look kindly on my underhanded sublation of cash and will retaliate as expected, but maybe if they are readers here, they'll at least take such action perfunctorily. (Of course... I know it will just be some computer program assigning blame and amercing my guilt; nobody within the marble halls of my large bank even took notice.)

From the ATM, Epril and I went to various motorcycle stores to find a replacement for the foot peg gear change lever of the gentleman's motorcycle I damaged 2 days ago. I found a replacement part — but not stock — for $1.75. No stock parts were available, but the Honda dealer said that one could be had for $5.50 in 3 weeks. I'll offer the substitute part to the fellow and additionally offer to order the genuine article as well, should he desire it.

Next, Epril and I wandered around Limketkai sampling a couple of the food stalls. (All kinds of meals/snacks there in the 25-to-50-cent range.) Then, we went and watched Iron Man 2 at the theater. The Limketkai movie theaters are simply bad (I'll have to remember): The projector bulb was too dim; the sound was muffled; the theater seats were rickety; the snack counter selection was nothing; the decor was shabby. And the bathrooms: just imagine the dirtiest public restroom you've personally ever experienced — this was just as bad. On the up side, the movie was $2 per ticket... albeit the cost at every theater in the country.

The movie was okay though... if blunted by the movie-going experience.

After that, at about 9 p.m., it was a jeepney back to Jasaan.

(Because my mother wondered: I didn't overdraw my bank account by $1,000. I had my most recent paycheck deposited last Friday, plus my account has a bit of overdraw to rely on. I probably overdrew by a few hundred dollars, and that will be filled back in partly by the small paycheck I have coming in another 9 days. After I get back to work, I'll get my accounts back in shape.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Daily Report: Rainy Election Day

Ednel, Epril, and Susan ready to vote.

Tyson wants to go too.

Lots of people at the school.

Everybody got purple fingers.

Afterwards, I saw the world's largest
There was a steady rain falling today in Jasaan. Great: We needed the rain; Mindanao's hydroelectric system needed the rain.

It was also election day here. I tagged along to watch the process. We went to the nearby elementary school and Epril and her sisters got a number... like the deli. There was a 2-hour wait, so we went off to have some lunch.

After coming back, the voting took place in a classroom. First, the voting list had the voter's photo and a copy of their thumb print and signature with the registrar. The voter then signed again and put their thumb print with the balloter. Then they sat at desks and filled out the kite-sized ballot, and when finished fed it into the finicky-but-functioning optical scanner.

I stood at the open window to the classroom and asked the balloter if I could take pictures of my wife receiving her ballot and voting. "Sure! I'll give you a big smile!" So I started snapping away. Then a poll monitor came over and said, "I'm sorry sir. Photos are not allowed." So, I deleted all the photos I had taken of the polling room.

After that, it was over to Mamma's house for a while, and then back home for a night in front of the TV. Then, upstairs where I finally finished the book, "Sarum".