Monday, June 27, 2011

Daily Report: The Diligent Flaneur

Epril's visa application got lost being sent from the USCIS in California to the National Visa Center in New Hampshire. I had to wait 3 weeks before I could officially file a request for somebody to look into what happened. As best I can figure, Epril's via application was just sitting around in California on somebody's desk, forgotten. Tack on another month I'm apart from my wife because some stupid fucker couldn't figure out how to drop something in the mail properly.

I went and saw "Super 8" yesterday, which should have had the subtitle "No More Mr. Nice ET". I think that action movies are starting to be written by computers now: they are so formulaic. Super 8 was simply a mashup of every government-alien-conspiracy / group-of-kids-adventuring summer blockbuster since Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and The Goonies. (But yes, it was a fine movie, all things considered... just not clever; movies need not be clever to be good.)

I was going to see Cars 2 until I saw that the summary/average of reviews on was even worse than the recent Pirates Of The Caribbean, which was so bad that after watching I almost stopped to bitch at the theater employees on my way out the door about it... something I had never been inclined to do before.

I've recorded about 200 of my favorite songs from Grooveshark, and now have them on my Walkman for... well, walks. However, it has been raining every day lately and I have used that as an excuse to sit at home and record more music instead of actually walking. Yes, okay... I'll go today as soon as the rain stops.

New direction in life: I'm going to start studying to be a court reporter! I found this article ("Surprising Six-Figure Jobs") and court reporter was listed. Considering I type well above 100 words per minute, used to play classical piano, and have learned several foreign languages, I figure (hope!) that I will be a natural at court reporting. Nice thing is that since the medical transcription job has me working evenings, I'll be able to do both jobs for as long as I can handle it.

The medical transcription has surprisingly picked back up for me as well. I'm not sure what has changed... probably just me. I went from struggling to do 1,000 lines in a day up to 1,500 without a problem. My daily production has not been this high in years. Of course, with all the expenses associated with getting Epril here, a vacation to New York coming up this summer, the thousands needed for Court Reporter training, and saving up to move into an apartment when Epril gets here, I need to have that extra output.

I've been out to shoot pool a couple of times lately. My game is slowly returning. It's now at about 33% of what it was at my peak. (When I break and run out in 8-ball 50% of the time, then I'll consider my game fully recovered.) Oh, another expense: I left my pool cues in The Philippines. I need to get those shipped back. They are actually the most valuable things I currently own... quite pricey when I bought them 12 years ago, and only appreciated in price since then. Yeah, I'm thinking it too: Thousands of dollars entrusted to the mail service that has served me so poorly of late. Good idea.

I'm about halfway through the fourth book of the "Tale Of Fire And Ice" series (also known as "Game of Thrones series"). What a let-down this book is. In the third book, the author killed off half of the 20 principal protagonists at the end. Now in the fourth book, he has simply stopped writing about half of the remaining protagonists and those protagonists that are being written about are either (literally) stuck somewhere when it is obvious they need to be someplace else to move the story forward, or they are wandering around aimlessly, not sure where to go.

Well the fifth book of the series is going to be hitting the shelves at about the time I finish the fourth book, so we will see whether or not the author has any idea how to kick this tale back into gear.

Just finished my walk after the rain finished. I won't do that again — at least here in Florida. After rain time comes gnat time, and apparently my bald white head is the handsomest thing your average gnat has ever seen. I must have killed 1000 of them during my 20-minute walk.

Another Beautiful Piece Of Music

I've been listening to and recording music like crazy for the last few days. I stumbled upon this gorgeous piece that I heard in (of all places) an episode of Battlestar Galactica.

Now, the question is what is the time signature for this music? I'm pretty sure it is a 3/4, but maybe a 6/4 or 12/4. I've ruled out 6/8 because that is "one-and-a, two-and-a, three-and-a, four-and-a". This is "one-and, two-and, three-and, four-and, five-and, six-and".

There is a second version of the song below that is in that more traditional 6/8 double waltz time I mentioned, and it's actually neat to hear the difference.

Of course, if you want to get really stumped, here is yet a third piece from the same composer that has the first half of each phrase in 6/8 time, and then shifts to 3/4 for the second half:

(If you are having trouble getting all the Grooveshark widgets to load in this blog post, hit the F5 key to refresh the page. That usually works.)

By the way: is just a great place to find every obscure piece of music (as illustrated in this blog post). So far, the only song that I haven't been able to find is the 12" version of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes"... and that's pretty rare. Combine that with, which plays "more of the same" based on your musical preferences, and you have everything you could ever want for listening to music on the internet.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

In New York State Gay Marriage Now Legal

Congratulations to all a major portion of my old friends in New York.

Real gay marriage, passed into law by a Republican congress in one of the nation's largest states: that's the writing on the wall for the anti-gay brigade that even they can't fail to misinterpret.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quelle Surprise: No Illegal Immigrants = No Harvest

Georgia passed a "no-illegal-immigrants-in-our-state" law right before harvest. Illegal farm workers got the hint and took off. Now farmers are royally screwed as crops are not getting harvested.
Georgia, which passed an Arizona-style immigration bill in April that is due to take effect next month, has seen thousands of undocumented immigrants flee the state. A state survey released last week found 11,080 vacant positions on state farms that needed to be filled to avoid losing crops.
The solution? Not working out so well either:
For more than a week, the state’s probation officers have encouraged their unemployed offenders to consider taking field jobs. ... On the first two days, all the probationers quit by mid-afternoon, said Mendez, one of two crew leaders at Minor’s farm. Mendez put the probationers to the test last Wednesday, assigning them to fill one truck and a Latino crew to a second truck. The Latinos picked six truckloads of cucumbers compared to one truckload and four bins for the probationers. "It's not going to work," Mendez said. "No way. If I'm going to depend on the probation people, I'm never going to get the crops up."
Gee... Remember when people warned against deporting all the illegal immigrants because they do the jobs that Americans won't do? Who could have guessed that they would be right?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Walk By The Beach

I went with Cousin Paul for a walk down by the beach today. Not as eventful as a walk around Jasaan, but we did see a family of manatees in the canal: I wanted to swim out and give one of them a hug, but Paul talked me out of it. We also saw a turtle's house: Paul did try talking me into reaching in and grabbing the turtle, but I took a pass. After that we had a nice lunch at The Frosted Mug.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daily Report: Pool

I'm going to start practicing billiards again. I used to be an excellent player, probably a high B ranking. I was in the bar league in New York City and took 2nd place in the individuals 8-ball championship in 1999. I reached a point where pool had become such a big part of my life that I was putting in 20 or 30 hours a week. I decided that I either needed to dial it back, or quit my day job and go professional... which would have been a mistake.

Then I moved to Thailand and just stopped playing, and my entire game went to pot. About 3 years later, I tried entering a 9-ball tournament in Pattaya and embarrassed myself by getting stomped 9-1 in the first round (by a guy I would have beaten at my peak). I essentially lost interest in the game at that point and have played perhaps only a dozen times in the 5 or 6 years since then. So, maybe I'll start putting in a couple of hours of practice a couple of times per week... get my game back a little bit.

I was talking with Bob of Bob's BBQ in Pattaya the other night. Actually, Bob has sold the restaurant and moved back to America with the wife and kids. That's sort of sad, although it does mean that the World's Best Ribs are no longer half a world away from me should I choose to hunt them down.

I was also chatting with my friend Mike (still in Pattaya) who turned me on to SoundTap Streaming Audio Recorder, which lets you record whatever sounds your computer is making (e.g. whatever music your computer is playing) and turn it into an MP3 file. That's great, and I've already gotten back my favorite 50 songs from my lost music collection. The only problem is that you have to sit and play each song all the way through like in the old days with a tape recorder. I'm not even sure that qualifies as piracy since I'm not distributing what I record... more like a Tivo or VCR. If it is, at least it's not "out in the open" piracy, like downloading 4 or 5 thousand songs via LimeWire... the kind of stuff that gets the copyright police knocking on your door.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


All I could imagine was Paul opening up the trunk of the car with Mom and Gracie in it.

Well, it is 3 a.m. and I've had a couple of drinks, so I'm allowed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Daily Report: DaysRunTogether

I'm waiting for Epril's approved I-130 form to get entered into the system so that we can continue the process of getting her visa. Next comes a form where Epril tells the visa people that I'll be handling her application process from this point forward. Then comes the actual visa application itself, as well as my affidavit of support.

Somebody told Epril that if I had hired a lawyer, all of this would have gone a lot faster. That's so wrong: As long as no mistakes are made in the forms and attachments (and the mail service works as expected), nothing a lawyer could do would make the cogs and gears of government spin faster. Applying for Epril's visa was not that complicated, and the website has been a very valuable resource.

I was out with my uncle and cousins to a bar the other night... first time out to a bar in over 6 months. They had 50-cent pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon. That's 15 baht or 20 piso drafts for all you people over where everything is "cheap". Venice Sports Bar and Billiards also had free pool on their 6 tables, free karaoke (sung by some rather talented people), lots of high-def televisions tuned into the various sports channels, and a surprisingly good ratio of guys to girls, and young and middle-aged folks.

Unfortunately in Florida, places that allow smoking cannot serve food, and vice versa. So you can't get any bar food with your 50-cent drafts. That sucks a bit... but you can always have a pizza delivered, I suppose.

I bought an 8 GB Sony Walkman with an FM tuner to take for walks. Epril lost my old MP3 collection recently though and now I have to figure out how to get my favorite 800 songs onto this Walkman without shelling out 800 x $0.99 in the process. No, I'd rather not "pirate" them all again. I should just ask people to e-mail me my favorites. Heheh.

The dishwasher is messed up; I have to call a repair man. I bought another beef roast to cook, and this one did not come out as well. It had a large fibrous tendon layer running through the middle of it, which really made it impossible to chew. I finished the third book of Game of Thrones — George R.R. Martin sure doesn't hesitate to kill off the heroes in his books. Budweiser is now making a wheat beer, which is not too bad. The new Doctor Who season just finished: Awesome ending! I need to google how one can wash pillows. (Update: Dry cleaning.) I wish I could record Epril on her webcam singing love songs to me via Skype.

Well, still: nothing exciting is happening. I make it over to the pool every other day for a soak and a swim. I make it out to the store every other day for a bit of groceries. Uncle Bob stops by every evening for cocktails. Then I sit down to work for the evening. Epril is still on my webcam... only on my webcam. (It's been 7 months, 8 days, and 6-some hours since that was not the case... and hopefully only 3 months and 12 days more until it is no longer the case.)

Friday, June 10, 2011


If I were born a dog, this is what I would look like.

I have to admit, it's quite an improvement.

Yes, go to Doggelganger and upload a picture of yourself to see your canine countenance.

Actually, it's just a bit of fun to get you to consider going down to the pound and adopting a dog.

Unfortunately, I can't get a dog until Epril and I get our own place because my mother said it is bad enough with me pooping on the carpet all the time, another dog in the house would be too much.

Oh... just an afterthought:

Hmm... Epril is better of staying human, I think.

World's Most Popular Video Game Comes Alive

Angry Birds Ao Vivo:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Another Cooking Show To Enjoy

We've finally arrived at the point where one can say with full certainty, "If you can imagine it* you can find it on YouTube."

* Porn still not included.

For Mom

By the way, this is what I was talking about regarding the dishwasher leaving spots. Before I put the Jet Dry in, this pan came out nice and clean. After I put the Jet Dry in, this pan looks like this every time now.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cool New Battery Refuels Or Recharges

MIT University is reporting a real breakthrough in battery technology.

The idea is that the energy, instead of being stored and discharging in the same place, is stored in a liquid form like oil. Then, the movement of the liquid through a membrane creates a flow of electricity: fully charged liquid goes in one side, depleted liquid comes out the other side. (This type of battery design concept has been around for a while, but the MIT team advanced the efficiency of the technology by an order of magnitude.) So, when your electric car runs low on charge, you simply pull into a "gas station", have the old battery fluid pumped out and new battery fluid pumped in. (Like rechargeable batteries, this fluid can be recharged; it is not thrown away. You could drive home with a half-full battery and recharge the fluid yourself as well.)

I've been saying for years that the future of "green technology" relies almost entirely on battery technology: The ability to carry large amounts of stored energy around with us. It is breakthroughs like this that are moving us ever closer to saying goodbye to using oil as an energy source.

I Miss My Wife

Just A Thought On That Weiner Guy

The CNN headline read, in part, that Representative Weiner was "sending lewd photos to women online."

Not really accurate: At this point in time, it would be more accurate to say he was "exchanging some sexy photos with his friends online." That's it.

I don't care how somebody gets their (legal) kicks in their spare time. It's not my business... even if it is my own Congressman. The only people who should have an opinion about a person's (legal) sexual behavior are the people directly involved in that person's (legal) sexual behavior. I only consider it my business when a public official offers, either directly or indirectly, an opinion or regulation or condemnation regarding other people's behavior, and then ignores those opinions or regulations or condemnations in his or her own personal life: Hypocrisy.


Andrew Sullivan makes a good point: Sending pictures isn't the problem; lying about it after getting caught is. I'll agree with that.


In the speed-of-light news cycles these stories tend to have, I will correct myself: (1) The pictures might not have been "sexy"; although unconfirmed, they might have been lewd indeed as Salon says Brietbart has a photo of a disembodied cock that may or may not belong to the Congressman; (2) the photos may not have been "exchanged... with his friends" as one person has stepped forward to say the pictures were unsolicited and unexpected.

I call it as I see it: The disembodied cock photo doesn't sway me much, as it could belong to anybody, but one of the people that Congressman Weiner sent the photo to stepping forward and stating that the "bulge photo", appearing in the middle of a political discussion she was having with the man, "It didn’t make any sense... I figured it must have been a fake." Well that's just a bit slimy.

Like I said: Get your (legal) kicks where you will. But when you randomly interject sexual (or, possibly pornographic) images into somebody's political conversation with you as an elected official, that's sexual harassment... entry level sexual harassment, but still sexual harassment coming from a U.S. Congressman.

My support for the guy is fading fast.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Daily Report: Detail Doldrums

This is as boring as it gets.

The new dishwasher didn't have any of that Jet Dry stuff in it, so I filled up the little container on the inside of the door. The next load of dishes came out covered in white spots and nasty powder crap... and every load after that. Unfortunately, putting the Jet Dry into the dishwasher is easy. Getting it out of the dishwasher when you don't want it there is altogether more difficult.

I took the weekend off from watering stuff. There was a big rainstorm on Friday, so I figured no watering for Saturday and Sunday. When I went out to water the flowers on Monday, they were all wilted and almost dead.

I gave myself a haircut... or, more accurately, shaved my head. Heheh: It's funny that back a few years ago, cool-but-balding people like Andre Agassi and Bruce Willis (following Michael Jordan's lead) shaved their heads and managed to sucker a large portion of the male population who wasn't going bald into believing that shaved heads were "stylish" and now bald guys like me fit right in without looking like Neo Nazis.

I bought a 3-pound slab of beef and made roast beef for the first time. I never trusted myself or my equipment enough to take a big expensive piece of meat and throw it in an oven and hope for the best. But it came out fine... about 10% too far past perfectly done, but unmistakably roast beef.

I spent the day lining up some of Epril's paperwork for her visa. The Bubba-Gump project made $4 today... split amongst 4 people. I accidentally deleted the video codecs for my computer and had to reinstall them. Oh: I finally put gas in the car, almost 2 months after Mom and Paul left me with a full tank.

Yup, life is boring. But then it's supposed to be: Epril isn't here, and I have no inclination to go walk on a sunny beach without her, go out to a nice restaurant without her, explore Sarasota's nightlife without her, or meet people and make friends without her. I'm just taking a year off from all that to wait for Epril to arrive. In the meantime I'll watch the grass grow and insist it's fun.

1984 Is Palin's Favorite Book

The other day, Palin gave a mangled and confabulated version of Paul Revere's ride, claiming that the purpose of the ride was some sort of symbolic gesture to demonstrate to the British soldiers that American's wouldn't let them take their weapons, and to warn Americans to hide their weapons so that the British wouldn't confiscate them.

Or something like that — when you're making it up out of whole cloth, the stuff doesn't tend to be massively coherent.

So is that the end of it? Of course not: Palin supporters are now going through various websites like Wikipedia and trying to edit history to fit Palin's version.

On the Conservative version of Wikipedia, Conservapedia, Paul Revere's ride now has this tidbit added to it:
Part of the purpose of Revere's ride was to warn the British that colonists would exercise their natural right to bear arms.
We've always been at war with Eastasia.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Trekkies Now Making Star Trek Themselves

This is brilliant stuff. Everybody who has been a true fan of Star Trek has dreamed of (or even attempted, usually poorly) writing and filming their own Star Trek episodes.

But now, a group of Trekkies in the village of Ticonderoga, New York, has (with a reasonable budget, quite professional production, and modern special effects) started to create the never-filmed 4th and 5th seasons of the original ("Captain Kirk") Star Trek.

They're doing it as an act of love for Star Trek, and they've got the support of Trekkies (and lots of actual Star Trek people as well) worldwide.

I've downloaded the first 6 episodes. I think that the acting is a little poor, but the episodes are well-written (and many are actually episodes written for the original cast but never filmed), and the "look" of the show (sets and special effects) is actually better than the original.

Anyway, click through to the Star Trek Phase 2 website. All of the episodes are available for free.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Daily Report: Approval-ish

I got news on Epril's visa application today: It went all backwards... in a good way.

I had been following's instructions for obtaining a K-3 Spouse Visa and everything had gone as expected: First I submitted the I-130 visa application. Next I submitted the I-129F visa application. According to historical time data, the I-129F visa application was supposed to be approved sometime in mid-July and things would proceed from there.

Instead, now at the beginning of June, I received a letter stating that the I-130 visa application was approved.

According to the advice contributors on forum at, the approval of the I-130 application precludes any further action on the I-129F application: The I-129F application is the "express" visa application... sort of an "I-130 Lite" that would require Epril to make a quick upgrade in her status upon arrival to America to become a full-fledged "Permanent Resident", while the I-130 has the "Permanent Resident" status already included.

But the way I'm looking at it, the I-129F visa application is still sitting there, awaiting action. As far as I am concerned, even though the full I-130 visa application is approved, I'll need assurance that the I-129F application has been taken out of the system, and that a contradictory visa approval will not be catching up with the I-130 at some point in the future... or if it does, it won't confuse things.

It figures that this kind of stuff arrives on a Friday afternoon, and I don't check the mail until 8 p.m., leaving me an entire weekend before I can call the Immigration Service to ask them what to do, if anything.

But, the upshot still is this: Epril's visa application has been approved more than a month earlier than expected.

Actually I see here that the average days between the point we are at now ("NOA-2") and the interview worldwide is 160 days. Sigh: November 11th. Well, we will do our best. I looked at the data and it seems that when you take not the mean but the median number of days, it is closer to 100 days... September 12th. Here's hoping.

Friday, June 3, 2011

She Really Knows Nothing

Sarah Palin tries to explain why Paul Revere made his midnight ride.

You can hear it in her voice, about halfway through, where she realizes that it was a dreadful mistake to confabulate details of Paul Revere's ride, and everything she is saying is going to be used as an example of her stunning general-knowledge ignorance.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Daily Report: Into The Void

It's starting to get cloudier here in Florida; the rainy season is coming. Today I went out to the shopping mall and had a wander. I haven't been in an American mall in a very long time, and it was a bit funny to be walking through a mall that was almost entirely empty of people. Malls in Asia are always filled to the brim with people, even weekday mornings. I stopped by Yoder's Marketplace and had a slice of the peanut butter pie that had been mentioned on Man Vs. Food the other night. It was fair. I'll have to try some of the other ones to see if I like them better. (Yoder's had great coffee though.)

Cousin Paul dropped off a plate of spaghetti tonight for dinner. Yes, okay Paul: You're my favorite cousin... I'll admit that just as long as it gets me a regular helping of your cooking.

I discovered that Netflix has a great selection of documentaries and educational programming on their direct-stream selection. That's good: I was actually thinking of cancelling Netflix because their online selection of movies is so shitty, and I'm not interested in getting the DVD's through the mail. I've been watching an excellent series on the British Monarchy (viewing suggestion). There was also a fantastic 2-hour PBS documentary on the life of Martin Luther (another viewing suggestion).

I got an e-mail from one of my blog readers calling me a coward for not publishing his comments. Actually, the reason that your comments aren't being published is because you were a dickhead a while back and I got tired of reading your stupidity, and put a filter on my e-mail so that all your comments go straight to the trash bin and I never even know they are there.

I finished watching the 4 seasons of the television program, "Star Trek, Enterprise", the last Star Trek television series. It was okay. I had never watched any of the Enterprise episodes before; but as a Trekkie, I felt I probably should. My opinion: I think that the producers' and writers' were too restricted by the series premise of being a prequel to all other Star Trek series/storylines, and they weren't "daring" enough. Also, they spent too much time on various storylines (which worked so well in Deep Space 9) that the series got bogged down. Enterprise did have one clever bit though, where they tied in Khan and the Eugenics Wars with the fact that Klingons in the original series looked vastly different than Worf-era Klingons, and explained it all in a clever manner.

Now that I've finished Enterprise, I'm watching something that only true Trekkies ever take the time to watch: "Star Trek, The Animated Series", which aired for 2 seasons in 1973 and 1974. The episodes are actually quite good, if you don't look at them. I mean: They are written quite well with the original series writers writing and the original series actors speaking; in addition, the use of animation allowed a greater range of sci-fi environments and visual effects (especially in 1973) than live action ever did. But the animation itself was not well done. But, as I said: the episodes are all real Star Trek episodes — just trimmed to 30 minutes.

Work is still going well. I think that my new account (on the old software) will be switching over to the new software soon. That means it will be going over to speech recognition as well, which is every transcriptionist's bane. For me, in the old software, I type at a minimum of 300 lines per hour... closer to 350. With the speech recognition, I do 300 to 350 lines per hour. In other words, I can type dictation perfectly at least as fast as I can listen to the dictation and edit what the speech recognition software hears. Unfortunately, the S.R. work only pays 60% what the regular transcription work pays... so going to speech recognition represents a pay cut of one-third.

Well, there's always the Bubba Gump project, which should be moving out of beta testing tomorrow. Unfortunately, it will be months before we start seeing concrete results on that... before we know whether or not we've wasted weeks of work all for nothing.

Woman Charged With Illegal Abortion In Idaho

My opinion about abortion has always been the same: Abortion should always be an option, and it should always be the last and worst option.

Why? Because there is always a last and worst option for a woman wanting desperately to end a pregnancy, and without the option for an abortion that woman will quickly discover that there are many options equally effective but far more awful than going to a doctor to end a pregnancy... and she will choose one.
An eastern Idaho woman faces a felony after she told authorities she took pills to terminate her pregnancy on Christmas Eve and kept the fetus in a box on her back porch for several days, according to a police report that was unsealed Tuesday.

Jennie L. McCormack, a 32-year-old Pocatello woman and mother of three, will be arraigned next Friday in Idaho's 6th District Court. She is accused of having an unlawful abortion on Christmas Eve last year after police say they found the fetus at her home on Jan. 9.

Uniquely American

This fellow, Rob Bliss, had an idea to do a lip synching video in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after the city was listed as #10 on a list of America's dying cities. 5,000 people showed up to do the video him, and he closed off pretty much all of downtown Grand Rapids for the project.

On this Planet, America seems to be world capital of brilliant, fun, crazy, apolitical ideas that thousands of people can support and participate in for no other reason than because it is enjoyable. No pay, no credit, no obligations, no responsibility; at most, a sense of group pride — be it civic, social, religious, patriotic, or institutional — and the sense of satisfaction that Americans get from simply participating.

America: The world capital of participation.

p.s. Note the Filipino guy in the video halfway through?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Microwave Liquid Explosion

I had this happen to me this evening while heating some soup in the microwave: It started to sizzle after about 45 seconds, so I stopped the microwave, opened the door, stuck in a spoon to stir it, and WHOOSH! Ultra hot soup splashed out of the dish. Fortunately, it wasn't very much soup, and not too much hit my hand, but the experience did leave a couple of red spots on my skin.

But yes, lesson learned: With liquids in a microwave, don't ever go sticking a spoon or anything into the liquid, because it can suddenly explode.

(I had heard of this before, but it obviously was not in my mind when I thought to stir my soup!)