Thursday, March 06, 2008

Moving On

I'm in The Philippines now and getting settled in. Check out my new blog at Stop by and see the further adventures of Jil Wrinkle!

Saturday, March 01, 2008


"According to the Washington Post, Barack Obama and actress Scarlett Johansson are email buddies. Apparently they email each other back and forth. So, you've got a 23-year-old gorgeous, blonde actress emailing a married presidential candidate. Well, what could go wrong there? Not to be outdone today, John McCain admitted he had been exchanging flirty emails with Angela Lansbury."

Jay Leno

Friday, February 29, 2008

A Safe Alternative Energy Source?

A 100-meter tall wind turbine meets a 100-kph breeze.

No. She. Can't.

Somebody with a few more minutes to spare than I do does the math: At this point, it is statistically impossible for Hillary to win the Democratic nomination for President. Assuming an even split of superdelegates with Obama, Hillary must win 65% of Ohio and 65% of Texas, AND get all of the delegates from Florida and Michigan who were disqualified by the DNC to be counted as well in order to come close enough to Obama to make Pennsylvania meaningful.

Good job America. I think you're going to nominate and elect the right guy for these times and circumstances.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A New Record At Bob's

Bob's BBQ has a standing offer for anyone interested, called The Wagon Wheel Challenge. If you can eat one of Bob's Wagon Wheel Burgers (about 3 pounds total weight, price range 400 to 500 baht depending on toppings) including the french fries in under 45 minutes, Bob will put your name on the Wagon Wheel Hall of fame (a plaque on the wall of his restaurant), put your picture on his website, and knock half the price off your burger.

I had never seen anybody successfully complete one of these monstrous 8-inch burgers in under 45 minutes, though I have witnessed several attempts. However, today, this fellow in the photo came in and took the challenge. (To give you an idea of this man's size, Bob is about 5-foot-10.) This guy ate a 3-pound hamburger (with bacon and cheese) — and a big serving of french fries — in 9½ minutes! That's the equivalent of eating a McDonald's quarter pounder every 45 seconds... not including the time spent on eating the french fries.

Anyway, this record may not be broken for a while, but you are still free to stop by and take the Wagon Wheel Challenge whenever you want.

A Video From The Philippines

I forgot how much I enjoyed the music when I was living in Brazil. It's too bad that the English-speaking world is so hesitant to listen to music in other languages, because there is so much good stuff out there to listen to (especially nowadays). Fortunately, some bands (CSS from Brazil springs immediately to mind) are putting out their music in English and enjoying a lot of success because of it.

I listened to a fair amount of the music in Thailand, and found only a few songs that made it halfway to good... so going overseas for your music doesn't always pay dividends. However, the Philippines has a real treasure trove of good music to listen to, and I'm really looking forward to getting to know more of it when I move there.

Anyway, check out this video by Rivermaya, called "214". It's one of the better songs I've heard in a while (even if it is a bit dated)... and yes, it's in English.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm Not Recommending TQ2 Anymore

OK. Let me explain this. There are two owners of the bar called TQ2 here in Pattaya: One is Mem, who is the widow of my old friend Steve. She "inherited" the controlling half of the bar when Steve died a year ago. The other owner is Alf, who bought half of the bar from Steve on what was unfortunately more or less a handshake and Steve's word.

The only thing that kept Alf's share of the bar and profits where it belonged (with Alf) was the bar manager, Russ.

Russ is a gogo bar guru. He managed to turn TQ2 into a fairly profitable enterprise in a very short period of time, and made sure that Alf got his money and Mem got her money. Mem didn't have to do anything: All she had to do was show up and pick up her share of the profits.

Instead, what Mem did — the day after Alf went on vacation to Australia — was to fire Russ.

Based on the number of times that Mem tried to walk out Alf's share of the profits, and the number of times the Russ managed to stop her (along with the number of times she actually succeeded), it is pretty safe to assume that the only reason Mem fired Russ is because she wants to steal Alf's money and Alf's share of the bar.

I know Alf is a regular reader of this blog, and if he wants to comment and shed a different light on the situation than I just did, I'll be more than happy to add his thoughts and edit what I've written here. But for now, knowing what I know, I have to take a stand and warn you about what kind of person you are supporting when you patronize TQ2 from this point forward.

All in all, it's a very sad thing. I know Steve is turning in his grave.

Alf in the comments section says: "TQ2 has been going now for 17 years. It's had it's ups and downs, but it's still there. That's why I love it so much. I'll be back in TQ2 in early April and hope to see you there. Those of you who I don't know come over and say hi and it'll be my pleasure to buy you a drink."

All I can say Alf, is if you can manage to keep your share of the bar to which you have almost no claim, receive your fair share of the profits which you're never allowed to see, and keep TQ2 from being driven into the ground when you have no managerial control, by a woman who is bound and determined to rob you blind, over whom you have no authority, I'll be the one to buy you a drink, with all apologies for having doubted you... and I'll buy that drink in TQ2 when I next come back to Thailand if it is still open.

Sorry Alf, but I can't stand Mem... nobody who knew Steve can. We all despise her. Any bad thing you can think about a Thai woman — you know as well as I do — you can think it about Mem. I refuse to let that woman live the good life on my dollar, because she doesn't deserve it: She stole it from you, my good friend.

By the way everyone: The word from my friend Ray is that he knows where Russ (and his son Lance) will be managing next, and he'll be announcing it on the Pattaya Secrets board before the end of the weekend.

I'm just going to add as one more thought that I had: Alf is going to get TQ2 back eventually. Mem is going to run the place into the ground in no time, she'll default on the rent within a few months, and Alf and friends will be there to snatch TQ2 right out of that woman's greedy and incompetent little hands, and she'll wind up with nothing. When that happens, all party roads will once again lead to TQ2.

See you there. See you then.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Update On The Move

Well, things are slowly getting smoothed out here for the upcoming move. Epril and I will be leaving Pattaya, Thailand on March 1st, moving to Cagayn De Oro in The Philippines. We've got the house (see below), and the view (see below). The cable is connected, the phone is working, and my landlord has just finished giving the inside of house some TLC, and everything is sparkling and ready for our arrival.

As for the blog, this one isn't going to be updated that much anymore. However, it will be here for posterity for all eternity as far as I know. I've got a new blog set up, "Jungle Jil" (name chosen by Epril, actually) which is currently sitting empty, waiting for the first entries. Once I get moved and settled in, I'll start posting again.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Video Response To C&L Late Night Music

Crooks & Liars put the Cocteau Twins on their Late Night Music Club tonight, which immediately made me think of another lesser-known but equally interesting band from 4AD Records during the 1980s: Dead Can Dance (introduced to me, if I remember correctly, by a certain J.I.P. reader and very old friend of mine).

Anyway, if mystic/gothic is a flavor that interests you, check out "Rakim" below.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Compare That To Twenty Years Ago

About twenty years ago this month, I was standing on the hangar deck of the USS Nimitz about 8:00 in the morning. At sunrise, we had passed between the north and south islands of Japan. I was standing there watching the islands slip away behind us in hangar bay 3. The rearmost aircraft elevator was down at hangar level... which gave the hangar deck a little bit more daylight than usual.

Then, there was a loud buzzing of propellers, and about 150 feet away from the side of the ship, and about 300 feet up, passed a Russian Bear going from fore to aft. It was banked a fair amount, probably so that the air crew could get a good look at us. They were so low, they probably were looking eye to eye with the folks in the bridge 15 decks above where I was standing.

So, it is with a small amount of mirth that I read CNN's breathless account of a Russian bomber "buzzing" the Nimitz at an altitude of 2,000 feet, with another bomber coming "within 50 miles" of my old ship. Puh-leeze. For those of us that served in the Navy before the cold war ended, that's child's play.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Avoid Traveling To Or Through Dubai At All Costs

I'm not joking.
A father-of-three who was found with a microscopic speck of cannabis stuck to the bottom of one of his shoes has been sentenced to four years in a Dubai prison.

Keith Brown, a council youth development officer, was travelling through the United Arab Emirates on his way back to England when he was stopped as he walked through Dubai's main airport.

A search by customs officials uncovered a speck of cannabis weighing just 0.003g - so small it would be invisible to the naked eye and weighing less than a grain of sugar - on the tread of one of his shoes. ...

A 25-year-old Briton who was found with a similar speck in one pocket as he arrived on holiday has been awaiting sentence since November.

Meanwhile a Big Brother TV executive has so far been held without charge for five days after being arrested for possessing the health supplement melatonin. ...

One man has even been jailed for possession of three poppy seeds left over from a bread roll he ate at Heathrow Airport. Painkiller codeine is also banned. ...

Last night campaign group Fair Trials International advised visitors to Dubai and Abu Dhabi to "take extreme caution".

Chief Executive Catherine Wolthuizen said: "We have seen a steep increase in such cases over the last 18 months.

"Customs authorities are using highly sensitive new equipment to conduct extremely thorough searches on travellers and if they find any amount — no matter how minute — it will be enough to attract a mandatory four-year prison sentence."
I don't care how straight-laced and upstanding you are. Based on this article, if you go to Dubai — or through Dubai, as many people traveling between Europe and Thailand do — by dint of just by stepping foot in that country, you are risking your freedom.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Daily Report: I'm Going To Miss This

I was up nice and early today. Maid Go has been working days at her new employer's house, and evenings here (I don't have that much to do) and had already left by the time I made it downstairs at 7:30.

Epril and I spent the morning in front of the computers, and then at lunchtime, Epril went over to her friend Beth's house for a pinoy picnic with Riza and Honey Mae. I stayed home.

This evening, it was over to Stan's house for our usual cocktails and watching Weakest Link. Then at 7:00 we met up with Jeff, Mark, and Eric at Flamboyant (Pattaya's best restaurant) for dinner. I had the sole while Epril had a steak. Stan and Eric shared the chateaubriand which I sampled, and it was outstanding. We had 3 bottles of a nice cabernet to wash it all down.

After that, Epril and I stopped by to visit with Ray, Sam, and Manfred — as well as Alf, who was visiting from TQ2 — at Shooters. After a couple of rounds there, it was off home to bed.

Phonebook Friction

Something you didn't know you wanted to know: If you interlace the pages of two phonebooks they are impossible to pull apart.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Daily Report: Light Blogging Apologies

Sorry about having been so light on the blogging lately. I just been focusing my attention elsewhere for the past few weeks. Got a lot to think about... The move mostly: What to do with my stuff I'll be leaving behind, the finances associated with moving, and the cats. (Anybody know a veterinarian in Pattaya who can fill out a National Health Affadavit? Anybody know how to fix the registration of a motorcycle that has been registered as the wrong color?)

Epril and I are having fun at Geordan's aikido classes twice a week, and lunch once a week with Stan. We're still doing our Friday night dinners out with the gang... but the thought of spending a few hours putting together a restaurant review these days is too daunting.

Anyway, that's it for now. Check back later for more updates... I'll keep writing.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Superbowl Ads Are Up

The one thing that sucks about the watching Superbowl in Thailand is that you don't get to see the ads. Fortunately, Time magazine has them all up on the internet (with grades... and I think they were much too generous, as these ads mostly suck). Well, gotta keep the link around for posterity.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Yes We Can

Will.I.Am of The Black Eyed Peas has written a pro-Obama song and made a heck of a video to go with it.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom: Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballots; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land:

Yes we can to justice and equality.
Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.
Yes we can heal this nation.
Yes we can repair this world.
Yes we can.

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics; they will only grow louder and more dissonant. We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

Now the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea:

Yes. We. Can.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Got My Taxes Done, Thank You Turbotax

I had started off my tax preparations this year by going to H&R Block and having a tax preparer assigned to me. I've always had somebody else prepare my taxes because I've always been convinced that the vagaries and mysteries of living overseas and claiming the Overseas Tax Credit are best left to a professional.

However, after my H&R Block highly-qualified and official Assigned Tax Preparer proceeded to blow me off for an entire week while I sent e-mails asking "Did you get this?" "Can you do that?" "Do you need this?" "Did I mention I'm in a hurry?" I decided to go look at Turbotax online.

Man, I feel dumb: Doing my taxes by myself was easy. Turbotax asks, and you answer. The site has been programmed for every contingency, and together, Turbotax and I skipped blihely through the Overseas Tax Credit, the Physical Presence Test, and the accompanying forms. Forms? Actually, I didn't see any forms at all... just little boxes to type in and buttons to make selections.

So anyway, after completing my forms (to see if I could), I went ahead and fired H&R Block and sent my taxes via Turbotax. (Total cost, $65 for state and federal taxes.)

My tax forms were instantly rejected by the IRS and New York State: In order to "e-file" your taxes, you have to have an "e-signature", which is simply typing in the amount of money you made in 2006, after deductions... called the "Adjusted Gross Income". Since I didn't make more than $82,500 in 2006 (the value of the Overseas Tax Credit), my Adjusted Gross Income was zero. The IRS and New York State tax computers can't have you submitting an e-signature of "0" apparently.

Anyway, Turbotax notified me by e-mail, I went to the site, the Turbotax computer explained the problem, automatically adjusted my tax papers, filled out an extra little form for me to sign and drop in the mail, and then filed my taxes again.

Sorry. I'm sure that most of you reading have been doing this for 4 or 5 years now. You'll have to excuse my wide-eyed enthusiasm... I'm new here.

Well, in the past 3 years when other people have filed my taxes for me, something has always gone wrong and my tax refund has always been waylaid in one form or another by one party or another. If anything goes wrong this year... and it probably will... at least (or unfortunately) it will be my fault.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bob Bakes A Big Burger

Bob cooked another one of his world-record-sized hamburgers today, this time at the order of a Japanese film crew doing a documentary on Pattaya. The film crew asked nicely not to put their stars faces on the internet, so I haven't, but apparently they are famous in Japan. Being famous in Japan is like being a good-looking armadillo: Nobody except the armidillos are aware of it. But, if you do know any Japanese people famous for wearing a dish towel as a bandanna, please let me know in comments.