Saturday, April 30, 2011

Holy Mackerel, Watch This Lady Get Discounts

I was channel surfing, and came across this lady whose whole life revolves around collecting coupons... you know: 50 cents off here, buy-one-get-one-free there.

At first, I just thought she was crazy, stopping by her neighbors and local businesses and taking their old circulars and newspaper inserts.

But wait until she gets to the grocery store and see what happens: Your jaw will drop.

Yeah: You're the one paying $230 for $230 worth of groceries, while she buys the same stuff and gets change from a $10 bill. Who's crazy now?

Here is an article on how it is done.

Sexy Car For Sale

Bertone, the funky Italian car designer behind lots of famous sports car marques, is having an auction of some of their one-off, one-of-a-kind, 1970s concept cars. This 1970 Lancia Stratos HF Zero is going to fetch somewhere around $2 million.

What a fantastic (but utterly impractical) vehicle.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Perfect Cosmopolitan

It's funny how memory works, where some big details slide into the abyss while small details stick so well.

New York City, Summer 1997. I was at a dinner party at this incredibly wealthy fellow's townhouse in (of all places) Spanish Harlem... all the way at the end of East 118th Street. I was invited as a friend of a friend at the party: I don't even remember the friend, the friend's friend, or the host. (The friend was this Swedish girl who lived in my building; her friend (the friend of a friend) lived in an apartment down the street from the wealthy guy / host. I remember that part.)

After dinner, the entire party went down to this bar in the Village... West of 7th Avenue and North of Christopher Street — one of those places you normally don't get into without wearing $600 shoes — that was supposed to have the World's Best Cosmopolitans.

Well, they were. That's pretty much all I remember about that night.

I sat up tonight trying to get the right combination of ingredients to recreate that Cosmopolitan they served and on the 5th try, finally got it right. Here is a reasonable reproduction of the World's Best Cosmopolitan:

8 parts Citron vodka
4 parts triple sec
1 part Rose's lime juice
8 parts cranberry juice

Add cracked ice (the most important part) and shake. Pour in a cocktail glass. No garnish.

(I measure in "parts". A part can be whatever you want it to be... it's a relative system of measuring: twice as much Citron as triple sec; a quarter as much lime juice as triple sec; same amount of vodka as cranberry.)

The cracked ice is the important part because the broken ice should chip off and add just a bit of frozen water to the mixture and perhaps some small bits of ice in the final product.

There you have it. Or, you can go buy a plane ticket to New York, some Berlutis, and spend $12 a glass at this bar I visited, assuming you can find it and assuming it is still there after 14 years in the fickle Village. Your choice.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Daily Report: Bad Numbers

The Bubba Gump Project has been going through a reconfiguration. The initial setup didn't yield the expected results and we had to reset the project and start from scratch. It wasn't entirely unexpected.

I set up an account on Xoom — as reader Kathy had recommended — to send money to Epril in The Philippines. It worked just as expected: Create an account, say where you want to send money, who you want to send money to, how much you want to send, enter your bank account information, and for a charge of $6 you can send up to $3,000 within minutes. (Epril picked up her money at a local bank just steps from her house.)

My Best Buy Card online payment was rejected today. "Insufficient funds." Obviously a mistake. I went back and checked the bank account number (copied off a bank statement) and the routing number that I used to set up the online account. Everything was fine. I called customer service to find out what went wrong.

Eventually it was determined that I had accidentally used the account number for an expired line of credit that was attached to my Chase Manhattan account instead of the account number itself. Putting in the correct account number solved everything.

Unfortunately, when I sent money to Epril last night, I used the same incorrect account number. Second unfortunately, Epril still picked up her money: Xoom authorized payment without checking whether the account I entered actually had any money in it. (You think that would be something they would check on.) I had to call my bank and Xoom and explain to both what happened.

I got my new Microsoft Wireless keyboard. I'd like to thank Mambo Electronics for being so overly reasonable, immediately understanding, and taking the extra step to ensure that I was a satisfied customer.

I went to the pool today and had a soak in the hot tub and did some laps in the pool. Now that everyone has gone back north, there were only 6 of us at the pool. Uncle Bob came over for cocktails as per usual. I made some Hamburger Helper, but instead of hamburger, I chopped up some pork. After work, I worked on making Cosmopolitans, and watched the movie "2012" on Netflix.

Yet another standard Florida day flying solo. 150 days to go.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Things That Make You Go Hmmm

Story Reported:
A Thai tour guide surrendered himself to the police confessing that he had shot dead one Japanese tourist and wounded another, after a heated argument during the trekking in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand.

On 26th April, 2011 the tour guide, Apichart Inphisak, 41, turned himself in to the police and admitted to the crime that he had committed earlier at 10 a.m. Mr. Inphisak guided two Japanese tourists, Hiromichi Nagano, 59 and Takushi Condo, 43, to Chiang Rai mountainous area, visiting the Lisu people, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group.

Takushi was constantly complaining and cursing especially about the tour while travelling in the green Suzuki jeep, Mr. Inshisak said. Even when they were trekking in the woods, the complaining continued, he added. When Mr. Inshisak could not tolerate the criticism any longer, he started his verbal retaliation which subsequently instigated an intense argument between the guide and tourists.
Other information neglected to be reported:
A Japanese alleged yakuza gangster was shot dead in northern Thailand by a local tourist guide in suspicious circumstances, Thai police said Wednesday.
They had guns on them and $10,000 in cash. This Takushi guy is also meant to be the leader of the third largest 'gang' in Japan according to the article.
So a prominent Japanese gangster goes into the jungle of the Golden Triangle world capital of illegal drug trafficking with a big pile of cash and a gun. And he's only there to visit the Lisu? A Thai tour guide is taking tourists into the jungle while carrying a gun, and pops his 2 paying customers because they are loudmouths?


My guess: Drug-shopping Japanese gangsters get popped by Burmese drug dealers. Thai guy takes the fall for incentives/threats yet to be discovered.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Daily Report: Where The Wild Things Are

I stopped by Chase Manhattan bank this morning. Epril's ATM card is expiring in The Philippines and I wanted to see if there were alternatives to an ATM withdrawal to get my wife the cash she needs.

There weren't. Well, obviously there were, but I didn't like any of them. International money transfers to Epril's bank account would cost $45 each (quite a bit more than I pay in ATM fees every 2 weeks). Western Union would be even more, especially for the $1000-plus transfers. PayPal would be free, but it would take at least a week to get the money from my bank account to my PayPal account then to Epril's PayPal account, then to Epril's bank account: Not good for emergencies. In the end, what we'll do is have Epril change her bank to Citibank, which has a branch in Cagayan De Oro. Then, I should be able to go to Citibank here in Florida and deposit money in her account there. That should be the fastest method.

I was looking at rental properties in the area the other day. The most expensive place on the list caught my eye: $5,000 per month, fully furnished. But what a deal if you could afford it: A massive lakefront mansion. Since it was only a couple of miles away from my bank, I drove over to take a look at it.

It's only (comparatively) moderately impressive from the front, but look at it from the air. It sits on 5 acres of lakeside land. You can also check out a slide show of the house here to see the interior. I know... just a dream. But when I was living in Thailand, I was paying 70,000 baht per month for my house there... and this house rents for only a little over twice that... and is 4 times the size, 10 times prettier and fancier, and 20 times the amount of land. Anybody on the West Coast of Florida want to share rent costs?

I saw this fellow walking across the street today. He was about the size of a watermelon... or a rugby ball. Apparently these guys are endangered. Since you don't want to see one get squished on a highway, I pulled over, helped the fellow get to the other side of the road, and then snapped his photo for my scrapbook.

After the bank, I did a bit of shopping. I bought a desk lamp and a miniature 4-inch fan for my office. (Now I don't need to turn on the air conditioning as often.) I also finally had to go to the grocery store and buy stuff, even though my fridge is not yet empty: I ran out of coffee, without which I cannot survive.

When I got back to the house, I left the car port door open as I carried in the bags, and a cardinal flew in behind me and went straight through to the veranda, where he got trapped by the screen.

Fortunately Cousin Paul stopped by at that moment to invite me over to dinner, and he got a towel and trapped the scared bird and set it free.

I had a great day of work today and tonight.

Back in The Philippines, Epril was out today with her father and Susan (recently returned from Holland). Then she was back at the house watching movies with her friends. I'm happy with her new living arrangements: Now that she is out of Jasaan, things have quieted down considerably, and she has a nice circle of friends who always keep her company.

Daily Report: Easter Sunday

It was off to my cousin Jonathan's house up in Sarasota today. He's got a nice place just a block back from the inland waterway.

Here's my cousin Jonathan cooking steaks on the grill.

In addition to Jonathan's family (his wife Nicole, and his 3 children), his father-in-law Clarky was there, as well as his sister-in-law and her daughter, and his father, my uncle, Bob, and his brothers, my other cousins (in this photo from left to right, oldest to youngest, Bobby and Paul... and Jonathan).

A great day, great steaks, and some really great brownies for dessert.

Went home, did some work, and then watched the premiere of Season 6 of Doctor Who.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

To Thais: I Recommend Avoiding Google Translate

My friend Franky wrote, in Thai script on Facebook, something about having fun.

Wanting to post a response in Thai script so I'd appear ever-so-clever, I went to Google Translate and typed in "More girls, more beer, more life" (an axiom of Pattaya Beach), and got "สาวเพิ่มเติมชีวิตเบียร์มากขึ้น" as a result and posted my response to Franky.

Unfortunately, when I put "สาวเพิ่มเติมชีวิตเบียร์มากขึ้น" back into Google Translate for the Thai to English translation, the result was "More beer, more young lives."

Either M.A.D.D. has hijacked Google's system, or their Translate engine needs a bit more work.

Daily Report: Other Than That

I mostly just cleaned today. I watered the flowers. (Just like I promised Mom and Paul, they're quickly dying under my brown-thumbed ministrations.)

I made an appetizer today as part of my attempt to empty out the fridge. Here we have miniature crackers, cheddar, and onion dip made with cream cheese, mayonnaise, and onion soup. Bachelorific culinary score of 6, but minus 2 points for using a recipe on the soup package. Uncle Bob and Paul, when they came for cocktails, did not seem to mind though.

For dinner, I made spaghetti with sauce made from tomato paste, large chunks of bacon, minced jalapeño peppers, big onion slices, garlic, and spices. It took about 10 minutes to prepare (not including waiting for water to boil), but only tasted fair. I'll give it a 7 on the originality of ingredients, 6 on the preparation time, and 5 on the taste... so 6 overall.

This evening I made a brandy daisy, a cocktail from the 1870s. In essence, it is a "brandy sour" with a splash of dark rum and orange curacao. Quite a nice cocktail for sipping, if you lean more towards the cognac end of the preference spectrum. (There is also a recipe that uses chartreuse, but that stuff costs $60 a bottle, so I'm sticking with the curacao instead).

After that, I tried a recipe that I found on my local liquor store's (ABC Fine Wine And Spirits) website, called "Reggae". I adjusted the recipe slightly: 1 part vodka, 1 part banana liqueur, 1 part orange juice, 1 part pineapple juice, 1 part grapefruit juice, and a splash of grenadine. Worked out well.

I watched "District 9" on Netflix tonight. Second time I had seen it, and an awesome movie. It actually fills the same cinematic niche that Robocop filled when it first came out. It's fantastic the way it switches from "documentary" to "local television coverage" to "security camera" to "god's eye view" so seamlessly. The location of Johannesburg for the movie is simply perfect, keeping things familiar and alien at the same time. The lead character of Wikus was perfectly cast and written. All in all (the cursing and blood and guts aside) one of the top 10 Sci-Fi movies of the last 10 years.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Daily Report: Thank You Mr. Postman

All of my stuff from decided to arrive on the same day, today.

First arrival was my new 1 gigabyte video card. I had purchased it so that I could play Civilization V over 2 monitors, which the 512 megabyte version did not have the power to handle. Unfortunately, once I got the new video card installed, I found that it configured two monitors differently than the old video card, and would not allow Civ V to play on 2 monitors. Sigh. Well, I now have enough video power to do my rendering without it dragging my computer to a crawl.

Next to arrive was my Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse matched set. I had purchased these items used for $30 from a company in Illinois. Unfortunately, when the keyboard and mouse arrived, they did not work. I spent an hour trying everything: Downloads, updates, reconfiguring... none of it got them to work.

I sent an e-mail via to the seller letting them know that I would be returning their products.

(Now, for any Filipinos and Thai people reading, pay close attention because this is why it seems like Kanos/Farangs are always bitching about "customer service" in your countries: What happened next for me is really what generally happens in our countries when products, companies, and things go wrong.)

Thirty minutes after sending the e-mail, I got a phone call from the owner of the company who sent me the second-hand keyboard. He was very apologetic, and he first took 5 minutes to ask me all the proper questions to make sure I had not missed anything during installation. (He seemed to know this product rather well.) Then, after concluding that neither of us could figure out why the product (used, but determined to be functional when it left his company) was no longer working, the owner of the company told me to put the used keyboard back in the mail (he would pay any costs associated with the return shipping costs), and he would go out and buy a NEW version of the same keyboard today (cost: $60, compared to the $30 I paid) and send that to me instead at no additional cost.

Once I receive the new keyboard, obviously I will be writing a glowing review of that fellow's company both here and on (And, no: I never mentioned to him that I write online or anything. To him, I was just a guy who had purchased a single item from his company that did not work... that's all. His only concern was that he never have a single dissatisfied customer.)

Next to arrive after that was my 5.1 surround sound speaker set for my computer (Logitech, $60). That set up nicely and without any problem... except that I cannot figure out how to get the center speaker to work. (It's a software problem, I'm sure.) The system sounds fantastic though regardless. The subwoofer is great for the size of the room.

Finally, my pipette arrived for mixology. Now I can make a Long Island iced tea in a cordial glass if I want, and it will taste just like a grown-up version.

Uncle Bob came over for cocktails as per usual, and Cousin Paul invited me over for a roast chicken dinner. (It's hard to clean out the refrigerator if I'm always eating out.)

Work was great. Recently, I've sat down and transcribed and everything seems effortless. Some days it really sucks, where the same amount of effort yields a fraction of the result, but I haven't had any of those days in over a week.

I signed up for Netflix, which allows me to watch high-definition movies over the internet. As a bonus, the BluRay player in the living room has internet access to Netflix, so I can queue up my movie selections on the laptop, and then play them on the living room TV. Anyway, I sat in bed and watched Toy Story 3 on my computer. (Good movie.) Netflix is a good deal if you haven't gotten it yet: $8 a month for unlimited movies streamed over the internet (first month free too). You can also pay an additional $4 per month if you want to have them mail you the BluRay discs or DVD's (free of charge mailing and sending back)... though I doubt they'll mail to Asia. Hey: $8 per month was what I used to spend on the $1 pirated DVD's in Asia, with their handi-cam pictures, muffled soundtrack, and Russian subtitles. (Netflix requires about a 500 Kbps internet speed to function at its best, though it will work on less, if you are interested. Surprisingly, you can share your username and password with as many people and computers as you want — Netflix said so right in their FAQ.)

It's Easter in The Philippines. Epril did her annual Sore Feet For Jesus walk up a 2000-foot mountain at 4 a.m. She was quite happy.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Daily Report: Florida Days

Nothing much has happened over the last 2 days. On Wednesday, I wasn't feeling all that great and barely got out of the house... just to Uncle Bob's next door where I had dinner (some really good steak). Today was 88° and sunny with a mild breeze... fantastic day, really. I cleaned, did laundry, did some work, went to the pool, sat in the sun, and had a soak. (A lot of the families are down from the north for the holiday weekend, so there were kids at the pool today.) After getting back from the pool, I had cocktails with Uncle Bob. Other than that, not much news.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An Old Hit Relived, Revived, and Re-appreciated

I was sitting in my college radio station in 1993 sifting through these "sample CD's" that music companies sent us. They would slap on all sorts of music to see if anything would catch the deejay's ear, and possibly birth a hit.

On one of those CD's was a song from The Bulgarian Women's Choir, which absolutely fascinated me. I recorded a copy of the song and kept it as part of my "favorite mix" for years. The only problem was this: The "sample" that the music company sent of The Bulgarian Women's Choir was a single... a one off song... in essence, a rarity. It does not appear on any of the "official" albums this choral group ever recorded. I lost the tape God knows when, but the name stuck with me, and every couple of years since then, I would try to find that old lost song.

Finally, somebody put it on YouTube.

This is simply the best singing the Bulgarian Women's Choir has ever done. Everything that makes them special all in one song: The closed throat singing, the clapping and shouting, the haunting chords, and the happiness and joy is all there.

Why this song never was a headlining piece for the Bulgarian Women's Choir (instead of a B-side single) is beyond me. It really is as perfect a piece... as representative a piece as they have ever recorded.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daily Report: Scoring Points That Only I Understand

Started off the day by throwing open the large wall of sliding glass doors and letting in the warm breeze coming off the Gulf of Mexico. (It's over there somewhere.) After that, a bit of house cleaning, then sitting down for a bit of editing work.

Lunch time! More leftover chicken, mushroom soup for gravy, Stove Top stuffing, leftover corn. (Okay... all the food is leftovers; that that for granted from this point forward.) Preparation time 10 minutes. Bachelorific culinary score**: 6 out of 10.

Next, watered the plants once the sun was past it's blazing zenith. That bush is still smelling good Mom, though I've forgotten the name. After that was phone call with business partner about Bubba Gump Project. Still there man!

Dinner: Hotdogs smothered in sauteed onion, mushroom, and green pepper, microwaved to melt shredded chedder cheese. Preparation time 20 minutes. Bachelorific culinary score** of 4, but I give myself an extra point for serving on the cutting board to avoid dirtying dishes: total 5.

After night job, made an "Old Fashioned". Jungle Jil Official Recipe: 2 ounces Jack Daniels, 0.5 ounces simple syrup (sugar water), 3 shakes of the bitters bottle, squeeze in one quarter wedge of orange juice and zest of one strip of lemon peel. Dash of soda. Garnish with cherry, orange, and lemon peel.

Next, made a Tom Collins. Jungle Jil official recipe: 1.5 ounces gin, 0.5 ounces lemon juice, 0.5 ounces simple syrup (or 1 tablespoon of sugar mixed into 2 tablespoons of water), topped up with soda and garnished with a maraschino cherry.

** Bachelorific Culinary Score: My own scale that I just created, scored from a low of 1 to a high of 10. Positive factors include original and unexpected use of ingredients, simplicity, and an ethereal quality of how close the dish prepared comes to what could best be termed "comfort food". Negative factors include preparation time, being unoriginal or common, and being too outré with ingredient selection.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Daily Report: Experimentation

Maid Debbie was here today to clean the house. I thought she was coming on Tuesday. It was embarrassing enough that I left the kitchen a mess for Debbie to clean up, but I also went to sleep last night with my bedroom door open. I'll leave it at that.

Mom and Paul left Puppy Gracie's Flat Rat toy behind. I took that to the post office and mailed it up to New York. Cost more than the toy to send it, but I know that Gracie will appreciate the effort: She loves that silly lump of cloth.

I sat down to my first day doing my virtual assistant work. Nothing too exciting or difficult, and overall an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

I made a steak sandwich from the first of the leftovers for lunch. One food item down, close to 100 to go.

In the evening, Uncle Bob came over for cocktails.

For dinner, I got rid of some of Paul's wraps that he uses for sandwiches, some mozzarella cheese, part of a roasted chicken, and — as promised — spaghetti sauce. I think, for my first time out, I scored about a 9½ out of 10 on the Bachelorific culinary scale. Tasted great, took about 3 minutes to make (including the photo op and microwave time), and it left a nice red stain on my T-shirt. You can't ask for more from Bachelor food.

I ordered a pipette from for drink measurements. I've been looking up new drinks on the internet to make, but my booze rule is only 4.5 ounces (3 shots) of mixology fun per evening (cordials and liquers count as half)... then a beer before bed. (That's still more than any doctor would recommend, but...) So, if I want to enjoy more than 1 or 2 drink experiments per evening, I need to go halvesies (or more) on my measurements. Ever tried pouring teaspoons? Yeah... tedious. But that's what I did tonight anyway, and will continue to do until my 25 mL pipette arrives.

Tonight, I tried brandy drinks: Brandy Alexander, a nice winter drink; a brandy daisy, a recipe from the 1870's, which was quite complex and sippable; then a second brandy daisy, using a modern recipe, which was awful; a French connection, an IBA official cocktail, which was nice but too strong; and a Golden Cadillac, which was really good. I truly enjoy discovering those old cocktails... tasting drinks that people were sipping at bars 50 or 100 years ago. I don't mess around with the new drinks that much... at least not now. (And yes, I go out and get ALL the proper ingredients. No subbing allowed. I even got my Mai Tai's orgeat syrup shipped all the way from the original Trader Vic's in California, and I'm using the oldest Singapore Sling recipe I can find, with real Heering Cherry liquer.)

Anyway, 3:00 a.m. Time for bed.

A Thing I Can't Embed But You Still Should Hear

I was in the car today listening to Public Radio and the two most fantastic songs in a row came on the radio. The first was a trio of Norwegian ladies singing a traditional song called "Till Till Tove". Then came an absolutely amazing piece: A mouth harp duet. The sonic subtleties were absolutely jaw dropping.

Now, fortunately has archives of their shows, but they only have them in hour-long blocks... and you cannot embed them on your own website. (Well, you could if you wanted to go through the rigamarole of rewriting the Javascript links for their media player... but NPR might not appreciate that.)

Anyway, click here (opens in new tab). Then fast-forward to the 6:30 point to hear the Norwegian trio called Trio Medieval sing "Till Till Tove." And immediately after they finish, at the 11:30 mark, Birger Mistereggen and Torunn Ostrem Ossum perform the mouth harp duet "Sordolen", which is just the coolest thing I've heard since Fratres by Arvo Pärt.

A Thing I Can Embed That You Should Hear

A bunch of bands were asked to write a piece in the style of Kitaro (a Japanese new age musician), and this is what the band Peas came up with. I love the way they play with the beat break to create a secondary rhythm with negative sound.

If you want to know what kind of music I still groove to no matter how old I get, this is it: Trip Hop and everything that flows from it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Daily Report: Oh Solo Me-O

Mom and Paul and Gracie left for New York today, leaving me alone here until next September or October. (I'll be flying up to New York for a week during the summer, and when Epril gets here, I want to drive north with her to see the fall foliage.)

The first thing I did after Mom and Paul left was to turn off that infernal air conditioning and throw open all the windows and sliding glass doors, and get back to the proper Jungle conditions to which I am accustomed.

I have a unique challenge in the coming weeks: Mom and Paul have left me a house full of food, especially in the freezer and refrigerator. My challenge is to not go grocery shopping until all the food I have now is gone (or spoiled, though I hope to avoid that). I'm sure towards the end, I'll be eating some weird combinations of disparate food items mixed in spaghetti sauce and served on crackers in order to achieve my goal.

The refurbished computer that I bought for $400 stopped working. That computer guy I found really kind of sucks: first my uncle was unhappy with the service (I referred him there because his laptop had a virus), and now I as well. One of the memory sticks was bad, so I took it out and now the computer is working again, but with only 1 gigabyte of memory. (I ordered 4 gigabytes of memory from for $80, and that should be here next week.)

Surprisingly (and not the computer guy's fault) my game, Civilization V, absolutely murders the 512 megabyte video card that the computer has. The video card was barely keeping up with one monitor running at 1024 x 768; when I tried to run the 2 monitors together at 3860 x 1080, the game wouldn't even show up on screen; at the lowest dual-monitor resolution setting I could find, Civilization V ran for about 30 minutes and then went graphically kerplooey. So I ordered an $80, 1 gigabyte video card from while I was at it. I hope that works.

On, I ordered a used wireless Microsoft keyboard and wireless mouse combination. (I'm attempting to do away with as many wires as I can on my desk.) That was a good deal at $25, compared to $50 new.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Suncoast BBQ Bash In Venice, Florida

I went to the Suncoast BBQ Bash at the Venice Airport Festival Grounds today. (Mom and Paul stayed home, as they were busy packing; it was just me and all the BBQ and chili I could eat.)

Entry was free. Then you went and traded in your dollars for "BBQ Bucks", which the exhibitors and competitors used as currency. Also you could buy a chili ticket that gave you 8 cups of chili for $5. (All proceeds went to the Suncoast Foundation, which helps handicapped children.) So I arrived, got 20 BBQ Bucks, and one Chili ticket, and started my way round the place.

My first stop was the chili competitors, of which there were about a dozen. They were off in one corner of the grounds.

To be honest, I didn't find any of the selections incredibly good. A couple were surprisingly quite bad. I was most surprised that one of the chilis tasted exactly like the chili that I cook, and I throw that stuff together in 20 minutes with Hunt's BBQ sauce, tomato paste, and cayenne.

In the end, after 8 bowls of chili, I gave my fully-punched ticket (the way that you vote for your preferred competitor) to the representative from The British Open Pub on Route 41. He had cooked a chili using all imported ingredients, and its base was bacon soaked in maple syrup. It wasn't a fantastic chili, but it was quite intriguing.

In addition, only one or two of the chilis was spicy in any way (which I prefer), only one or two of the chilis had beans (which I prefer). Heheh: I would even consider entering my own chili in the competition next year, but as you can see by the photos, unless you don't come with an entire stand, and a truckload of themed tchotchkes, you wouldn't fit in.

Lots of local businesses also had displays up. Apparently (and here is where I could get into the competition if I wanted) they pitch their business, plus enter their own BBQ and chili. I think the folks with the boats though: They just showed up and parked their stuff for people to look at.

After the chili, I stopped by the soda place. I saw the girl in front of me ordering and getting a 16-ounce soda for $2. I figured I could take two of those large sodas. I asked for two large Sprites. The lady comes back with two 32-ounce sodas and says, "That'll be eight BBQ Bucks." Doh. I didn't have the heart to tell her I'd made a mistake, so almost half my BBQ bucks were gone in an instant.

That was almost okay though: I finished half of the first soda and threw the rest of it away so I would have a free hand. The other soda kept me hydrated and the rest went home with me. Then it was on to the main concourse where the BBQ competitors were. I'm a rib man myself so I stuck strictly with ribs and skipped the chicken and pulled pork. (You can only eat so much, you know.)

All of the competitors here were really serious about their BBQ, with their pavilions and trophies and motor homes and giant smokers. You could buy a single rib for 2 BBQ bucks, and each rib was pretty meaty. After 4 ribs, I really was full.

You know what? I am genuinely surprised to say this after having been to this place with all of the ribs (and several others before): Bob's BBQ in Pattaya Beach, Thailand still has the best ribs I have eaten. The size of Bob's ribs and amount of meat per rib may not be as good as these ribs today, but that's a matter of supply that Bob can't control. (But, in fairness, Bob was a champion on the Texas BBQ circuit — the world capital of BBQ — while the people at this competition were all mostly local Florida folks.)

Two of the rib samples I tried were tough and rubbery. One of the ribs I tried was greasy and gooey. The fourth that I sampled was the best, but was still not as tender and fall-of-the-bone simple to eat as Bob's. I was really surprised. The best ribs I have had since coming back to America are at Ivy's Steak House in Venice, but they were $18 per half rack, and essentially matched Bob's ribs in texture and taste. Rib City in Venice was second best... and better than Ivy's when you factor in the price of $9 for a half rack.

But it was still enjoyable to walk around the grounds and see all the people and smell the smells, listen to the live band, and look at all the equipment. (Check out the photo to the left: A crazy BBQ kitchen on a trailer.) I'll go back again next year, but I'll skip the chili, go straight for the ribs, and obviously only buy one soda at a time.

Oh: I still had 4 BBQ bucks when I left. They can't be traded back, so I gave them to the security people and parking guides working in the hot Florida afternoon sun. Good job to them and all the other people at the Suncoast Foundation who put on a very nicely organized and laid out event.

A Bit Of Parliamentary Funny In Congress

Okay, get this, because it is funny:

Yesterday in the House of Representatives, the Republicans passed that budget written by Paul Ryan. However, there was a second, alternative Republican budget, called the "RSC Budget" that also required a vote. This budget was apparently much harsher, nastier to poor people, nice old ladies, and innocent kittens, and just a little too damaging to the Republican image.

Thankfully, Republicans had the Paul Ryan budget, and it was already passed. All they had to do was take a minute to vote on this second "RSC" budget, make sure it failed (because if it passed, it would supersede the Paul Ryan budget), everything would be fine, and they could go home.

Unfortunately (a) most Republicans didn't want to get caught voting "no" for an even more austere budget on this symbolic vote; they wanted to be true to their image of cutting the budget anywhere, anyplace, anytime — but they had enough Republicans willing to vote "no" with the Democrats to make sure this second budget did not pass — and (b) they didn't count on the Democrats messing around with them.

The Republicans all voted "yes" to pass the second fuzzy-bunny-murdering budget, except for the few enough Republicans who voted "no" to ensure its failure.

Then, all the Democrats started their little prank: They started voting "present" — neither "yes" nor "no". There were suddenly way to many "yes" votes and not enough "no" votes. The wrong budget was going to pass, and Paul Ryan's much friendlier budget was going to go out the window.

Well, the Republicans realized they had been pranked and did exactly what the Democrats expected them to do: They held the vote open for a couple of extra hours, twisted the arms of several dozen of their various Congressmen and convinced them to take a little lump on their reputation of "saying yes to any budget cut, no matter what" and got them to vote "no" on their own second budget so that it would fail and save the first "Paul Ryan" budget.

Just a little bit of congressional and political horse play... well done.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Epril's Trip To Bohol

Epril just finished a 3-day trip to Bohol with her friends that I bought for her as a present for being so patient while waiting for her visa to America to be finished. Here are the photos.

Geeked Out

I've rebuilt a smaller, humbler version of Control Center 107 (the name for my old wall of technology back in New York City). Smoke was coming off my Best Buy Credit Card today... and got some good deals in the process.

From left to right:
New Plantronics noise-cancelling earphones, $40
Matching 23" AOC monitors, $170 each
Wireless Mouse, $20
(Down below) A 2 terrabyte external hard drive from WD elements, $100.

The monitor in the center and the netbook I already had. The monitor over on the right isn't actually connected to anything... I just stuck it on there, but might use it for my old beater computer if I get a new one to replace it in the next year or so.

The Most Enjoyable Thing I've Ever Written

You know Harris, in all seriousness, I knew you weren't a smart guy, but I never guessed how much of an idiot you really were until just now when I got an e-mail from one of the physicians whose name appears on your website.

You actually CONTACTED the hundreds of people you smeared on your website and tried to extort money from them? Over international borders??? You really are a genuine retard. Yours went from a petty, passive fishing scam, waiting for gullible people to patronize your "business"... to attempted (or actual... if anybody actually paid you) international racketeering and extortion in one dopey step with those faxes and e-mails.

And then... THEN!!! You left the contact e-mails of every single one of the people you tried to blackmail right there on your website so that I could contact them. Oh lord, you are so busted.

I just got done filling out my own report to the FBI's IC3 division. Of course, I sent an e-mail message to... oh... about 300 people with whom I happen to have your URL in common and suggested they do the same. I've saved copies of your websites on my computer for the investigation of course.

You do realize this actually could mean THE REST OF YOUR LIFE IN PRISON, right? 300-or-so counts of international wire fraud? Ho. Lee. Shit.

Oh, please-please-please make sure you blame only me for what happens to you. I don't want anybody else to get the credit for this.

CLICK HERE to read the original post on this subject.

If you were listed on Harris Black's "" website, and then subsequently were contacted by somebody claiming to represent either "" or "", I highly recommend you contact the FBI at and submit a complaint. It's quick and easy. If you are in Canada, you can also contact the FBI, or you can contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's fraud department at

Additionally, if you would like to contact the Thai authorities, click (link opens in new window) to go to the Thai police's cyber crime report page. Once you get to this page, select the fourth menu item on the left (3 below the "tan" top selection). Once you click on that, the form will appear. For the pulldown menu in the first box, select the first option. In the second box, type "". In the third box type your complaint. (You might also want to mention that Harris Black lives in the condo called "View Talay 6" between Soi 9 and Soi 10, between Second and Beach Roads in Central Pattaya, and you might also want to mention that in addition to the crimes he is committing online, he has an outstanding arrest warrant in Canada for a rape there, and he has also been in Thailand since August of 2007 without renewing his visa.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Daily Report: Call It What You Want

I've got another new internet project going on, and this time I've got a partner. He has his own name for the project, but I'm calling it The Bubba Gump Project, after the scene in the movie Forrest Gump where Forrest and Lieutenant Dan get caught out at sea in a hurricane and thus miraculously miss the destruction of the entire Gulf Coast shrimping industry back on shore, which leaves them alone to catch all the shrimp and reap untold riches. No, of course you don't understand the relevance: That's the point. Other than my name for it and the fact that I'm doing it with a partner that's all I can tell you; the rest is a secret. I put in a few hours on it yesterday as we get it up and rolling. Within a month, we'll know if we've struck gold, tin, or "out".

Also, I'm getting set up with my first Virtual Assistant client. We'll be starting work together next Monday: 10 hours a week doing proofing and editing of copy written by Filipino writers. It's a bit funny: I haven't advertised the Jilw.US site anywhere, but somebody has been going around putting up links to the site which actually wound up giving it a page ranking.

Thanks. Unfortunately those links don't help my business much: I have a second Virtual Assistant site using my real name (the name that I don't go splashing around on the internet for obvious reasons; the one on my passport, et cetera) that I won't link to on this blog. That is the website that I'm advertising, linking to on the Virtual Assistant forums and other places where V.A's advertise, putting on my business card, et cetera: those Jilw.US links are only linking to the site targeted solely at my blog readers. No offense, but I need to keep some of you people separate from my "official life"... my "professional life"; something I've been doing ever since I first logged on the internet.

Yes, dear readers: "Jil Wrinkle" is merely a nom de plume. (Epril is really Epril, but the "Wrinkle" part doesn't show up on paper anywhere.) I was born with the last name Wrinkle, but legally changed that name 14 years ago to the family name my grandfather (father's father) was born with. Hence the initials: J.I.L., which was also my internet moniker for years — going back even before the official name change — all the way to the old university computer bulletin boards in 1992. I stuck the "Wrinkle" back on when "J.I.L." (the initials) turned into "Jil" (the name) while I was in Thailand and I needed a last name. (I spent a lot of time on the various Pattaya community websites as J.I.L. before moving there, chatting with residents and gathering information. When I arrived in Pattaya — the first time my "real life" and "cyber life" had ever intersected — everybody I had met online just kept calling me "Jil" and the name stuck.)

So in truth I guess I should say "Jil" started off as just a nom de plume: But now everybody calls me by that name, even my family, and that's how I introduce myself at parties. But for employment and taxes, official documents, bank accounts, the people I work with (or might work with), I use the legal, "secret" J.I.L. name.

(... and now you know the rest of the story.)

Mom has continued buying stuff for Epril and my new apartment. Yesterday she even showed up with a medicine cabinet: Aspirin and other pain relievers, allergy medicine, antacids, lotions, et cetera. Mom says her mother did this for her when she married my father and they got their first place, buying all of the hundred little things that a home needs. She has rented one of those storage rooms in which to keep all these things, and it is really filling up with pots and pans, plates and bowls, forks and knives, glasses and mugs, spatulas and ladles, oven mitts and dish towels, and many other things.

I've sent Epril off on a vacation to Bohol with her friends as a present since I got my tax return. She is going to visit the Chocolate Hills, and she said something about going to see Tyson on the island, but I think I misheard. She and her two friends (the Demon Girls) are trying to hunt down the fourth member of their Demon Girl circle of friends from high school whom they haven't heard from since, who moved to Bohol shortly after graduation.

The Cul-de-sac I live on is almost empty now: the Florida high season is finished. Soon it will be just me and Jim across the street, while the other 6 houses sit empty until next fall. Uncle Bob will still be just across the back yard though, and Aunt Alice up the road about half a mile.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Daily Report: Tampa PhilFest 2011

Today, I went with Mom and Paul (and puppy Gracie) to the annual Philippine Cultural Foundation PhilFest celebration of Pinoy culture.

The welcome committee with infor-
mation and various brochures.

There was a constant stream of dance
groups performing the traditional
dances of The Philippines on the
main stage.
The pavillion is fairly large, with a central plaza and stage reminiscent of a barangay hall. The ladies doing the greeting at the front gate were very friendly, although I did have to laugh when, upon mentioning I was from CDO, asked me if I knew the former ambassador to the United States who lived there, her cousin. I had to explain that I circulated in slightly humbler circles.

Mom, Paul, and I stopped first and ordered some pork adobo, then sat down at a table and chatted with some of the people we met. Puppy Gracie was a big hit with her inherent cuteness. Mom and Paul enjoyed the adobo. I enjoyed the chats.

After that, we did some more wandering, at some ube ice cream, and had some lumpia.

There were lots of people wearing
wonderful outfits of the various
parts of The Philippines.
People were very friendly. Every 3 or 4 minutes, I fell into another conversation with somebody who was more than willing to talk at length about the local Filipino community, life in America, and any other subject I asked about.

The Pinoy community in Tampa is exceedingly large. Everything a Filipino expatriate could want can be found here. There are of course, the community groups and events, but also a Filipino grocery, several Filipino restaurants, and even a Filipino catering service and shipping company.

This pretty traditional house had
been built on the grounds.
We wandered around to all the various booths. There were many social groups (especially regional groups, like people from Bikol, people from Bohol, people from Cebu) there who had also food stands set up serving several local dishes that I had not heard of.

There also were several vendors of goods that people from The Philippines would find useful. The Dish Network was there to let everybody know that they carried more Pinoy television than any other American television system. There were also several church groups.

There were purveyors of barongs, crafts, jewelry, Filipino movies and music and magazines, and even a nice collection of fresh vegetables more commonly found in a market in Jasaan than the local Publix.

There were also loads of T-shirts (although finding a T-shirt without Manny Pacquiao on it was slightly more difficult) and baseball caps and bandanas.

Mom and Paul sat down for a while while I wandered a bit more around the place. I chatted with the folks from Bohol. I stopped and had some shaved ice with fruit punch. I chatted with some of the pinoy-kano couples I met as well.

It was a pretty hot day though, and the sun was beating down. After having worked our way through the pavilion, mom, Paul, Gracie and I wandered over to the Bayanihan Arts and Events Center, a beautiful building with a large auditorium just south of the main compound.

Getting into the air conditioning and sitting down for a break was a welcome respite.

Many things to see inside.
Inside the Bayanihan Arts and Events Center, the Filipino consulate had set up shop and was providing consular services to the local expatriate community, including passport renewal, dual citizenship services, and various other citizen assistance.

A fellow named Jason Lee from Illinois had set up a display of his 5 years as a missionary in The Philippines. It was a very nice setup that he had, and he had been invited all the way down to Tampa to give a "Kano's View" of what living in The Philippines is like.

He had spent a lot of his time in Bukidnon, and his wife, Joy, was a member of the Bukidnon hill tribe. I also met a nice girl from Cagayan De Oro, who now lives in Illinois.

On the other side of the conference hall, somebody had set up a beautiful collection of traditional dresses as well as a rather comprehensive history of The Philippines. Costumes of several of the smaller populations of the Philippines — the various hill tribes — were on display as well.

Overall, it was a great day. It was fantastic to get to know the Filipino community, and find out how broad and deep the Philippines runs in the Tampa Bay area.

The festival runs every year, as well as other Filipino community events at Easter, Christmas. There are no shortage of things to do as an expatriate Filipino in Western Florida. I'm really looking forward to Epril arriving and us living here as part of the greater community.