Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging

I figured I'd ebarrass the kids by putting up some baby photos this week.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

My High Seas Adventure

So Wednesday was fishing-trip-and-deserted-island day with Steve from TQ2.

Steve also is an owner Mermaids Dive Center, one of Pattaya's larger dive centers. They have 3 boats, and today Steve was taking his friends out on the middle-sized one. That means it had a place to set up a grill, and it had a commode, but unlike his larger one with the ballroom and casino, this one only had a single covered deck, and a pilot house with a roof above that you could climb up on for relaxing in the sun.

But, our ship was definitely sturdy and seaworthy. As Steve informed me, "Hey, this ship has been on the bottom three different times... and she's still with us." (At least he waited to tell me that as we were pulling back into port at the end of the day.)

It was a moderately cloudy and windy day, and we noticed that all the local fishing trawlers were gathered in what I shall call "storm formation"... grouped together on the leeward side of the islands. There was a storm coming, but we weren't going anyplace where we couldn't zip home (or swim home) to port in a jiffy.

First stop was basically the middle of nowhere... but apparently some 20 meters below us was a coral reef with lots of fish. Poles were broken out, squid bait was put on hooks, and lines were dropped. The only person who had any luck fishing was Steve, who was fishing Thai style: No pole... just a fishing line with several baited hooks and a sinker.

p.s. Thai lesson for the day: "Falling fish" is how you say "fishing" in Thai. "Falling fishing pole" however... that's a raunchy sex act.

Bob was along with his chef and cooked up hamburgers and ribs on the grill which was great, since the only other alternative was the squid bait, and the little 6-inch orange fishies that Steve was reeling in one every 2 minutes. (Well, one fellow did catch a puffer fish, but since those are poisonous...) So, in between bouts of sea sickness Bob (and his ill chef as well) managed to throw together some great burgers.
From there, it was off to the island. The island apparently is a place where the Thai Navy drops of recruits (of the special ops variety, I am assuming) to play Survivor for 6 weeks. In order to go ashore, we had Steve 2 (not Steve 1 of TQ2) swim ashore with beer and cigarettes as an offering to the natives. They didn't have grass skirts and spears, but they were certainly impressed at the white man's peace offerings. Passage ashore was granted. (If you look real close at the picture above, you can see a little dot on the beach wearing blue jockey shorts and a snorkel carrying a plastic shopping bag. That would be Steve 2.)

Actually, we kind of wasted our beer since only 4 out of the 12 of us went ashore. It was about a 100-yard swim to the beach, and once you got there, you realized that all of the ribs and burgers and beer were back on the boat. Still though, I went ashore since it seemed like a waste to come all this way to an island and not mess around on the beach some.

(This was when I realized I was glad — after the fact — that Steve didn't tell me until after we were back in port about his triple-sunk-but-not-for-long boat story. Before having tried swimming for the beach, back in the boat, I was thinking, "Well, we're only a half mile from shore. I could swim that no problem." After the 100 yards to shore, I nearly had an aneurysm... and that was wearing fins on my feet. Jeez I'm out of shape.)

Anyway, I skipped rocks, enjoyed inspecting the massive amounts of coral on the beach, and looked at all the sea urchins (don't step on 'em!) in the water. Then it was back to the boat (more slowly, pacing myself, easy on the heart) for ribs, and more beer.

I had invited Monday to come along, but she couldn't get off of work, so I went alone. This was probably just as well because Thai ladies just... well... as best as I can figure it is this: If it involves (a) sun, (b) saltwater, (c) walking, (d) eating non-Thai food, (e) any more than 20 minutes away from their friends, family, television, or bed... it's best just to leave the Thai ladies at home.

There were 3 Thai ladies dragged along on this adventure: All of them were hot, seasick, and miserable. That's OK though: They suffered in silence while the rest of us joked, fished, ate, and made merry on the high seas, bouncing and bobbing about without a care in the world in our thrice resurrected pleasure cruiser.

We made it back to port after our 3 hour tour. The weather didn't get rough. The tiny ship was not tossed. The courage of our fearless crew wasn't needed. The minnows we managed to catch weren't lost ... and Ginger, Maryann, and Mrs. Howell climbed back onto the dock, gave one last retch, each punched their boyfriends square in the gut, and that pretty much was the end of the adventure.

Apartment Battle

As mentioned earlier, the house I am moving to next door has, behind the garage, a small apartment. It consists of one bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and 2 storage spaces. It was my intention to move Mr. Green as my gardner in there. The main house has staff quarters as well, where Toom would be staying.

The first round of the apartment battle was Tui claiming: No... Mr. Green could not stay in the apartment because Tui himself was going to be moving in there... apparently with Rangsima's permission. Well, I put an end to that with one phone call to Rangsima.

Tonight, I found out that Rangsima now intended to put the security guard in the apartment. No problem, I figured, since he and Mr. Green could just room together. That was until I found out that the security guard wouldn't be guarding my house. He would be guarding the other houses.

This is what Rangsima thinks, obviously: I'm renting the house, but the apartment out front is hers, and she can put whomever she wants into it. This is notwithstanding the fact that Ralph (bsf) has his staff staying in it currently. I agreed to move into the house assuming that I would have the apartment in front as well. Rangsima has not told me differently, but has tried twice now to put people into it without telling me. She knows damn well what I would say if she did tell me.

So, I pulled a diplomatic trick on her. I called her up:

"Rangsima, will the house I'm moving into next door have a security guard?"

"No."

"Okay... that's no problem. I'm going to hire one, and have him live with my gardner in the front apartment."

"Oh..." Big pause. "You want a security guard?"

"Of course. I love having a security guard. Don't worry about it though. I'll pay for him. He'll be staying in the apartment out front with my garnder."

"Oh..." Second big pause. "OK."

Rangsima is stuck, and she knows it. She can insist that her security guard stay in the apartment in front, and if she does, I'll insist on staying in the house I'm in now until my lease expires on January 1st, leaving the nice fellow who plans on moving into this house I'm in currently high and dry. Then, on January 1st, I'll move out, and instead of both of her houses full, Rangsima will have both her houses empty.

Rangsima is smart enough to know that that could happen if she wants to make an issue out of demanding I provide a place for a security guard to sleep.

Doofus Delay

Tom DeLay was indicted today. No suprise there: The Republicans saw it coming as far back as a year ago when they tried to change their own ethics rules so that DeLay would not have to step down once he was indicted. Public opinion made them reverse themselves.

Tom DeLay was admonished by the Congressional Ethics Committee three times last year.

The conservative press may be right: There isn't really an airtight case against DeLay, but as one of the top politicians in the country, you are a doofus if you get involved in anything where, after the fact, people are able to say, "Well he didn't really break the law... as far as I can tell."

I'm a pragmatist: You've reached the top, Tom. You've got the juice. You're the boss. Think about yourself! Don't do stupid (possibly/probably illegal) stuff that is going to endanger that. Geez. First Frist and Rove, and now DeLay.

Death Porn

American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been sending in photos of war to a gross picture website to get free memberships to their pornography library.

The photos they are sending in are the definition of sickening, gruesome in true abbatoir fashion. I looked at them.

It's against the Geneva Conventions to disrepect a body. The law is slightly more specific than that, but that's the general gist of it.

What the soldiers are doing, as far as I can tell, is not illegal according to the military code of justice. The soldiers have cameras. This is what they see. They hold the cameras up to their eyes and this is what their cameras see. If they are allowed to take photos while on duty, then they should be allowed to show those photos or do with those photos whatever they choose, as far as I know... unless these are official military photographers using military photographic equipment - then the photos would be the property of the US government.

The act of taking the photos, in my opinion, is not against the Geneva Conventions because nothing has been done to the bodies. These are basically photos from immediately after the dust settles. The bodies have not been moved, tampered with, or abused (after the fact) and are not being disrespected as far as I can tell. (There are actually several photos (out of hundreds) with soldiers standing over otherwise undisturbed dead bodies and smiling and giving the thumbs up, and those particular examples are exceptionally borderline, but otherwise...)

The question I have to ask myself is are these photos porn? In the same fashion that a photo of a nude body can be art in one pose, and be nothing but an attempt to arouse lustful feelings from a "different angle", a dead body can be the same. A blood soaked corpse can be a vivid reminder of the horrors of war... but... well... sigh... when I find myself at a loss for words to describe a particular photo of death that won't turn the stomach... I'm afraid that is porn. (Which does bring the question: If the photos are porn, are the bodies they show then being disrepected? Hmmm.)

I really would love it if we, as Americans, far from harm's way, far from the realities of war, were exposed more often to the fact that a roadside bomb leaves more than the rubble and burnt-out vehicles that we see on the news. Our sanitized lives (aside from Hollywood fakery) are violence free, blood free, and therefore moral-crisis free.

If we knew what American soldiers were looking at every day; if we knew what Iraqi children were seeing; if we knew what "A roadside bomb killed 2 in Karbala today" really, viscerally meant when those words come out of the mouths of our local anchormen...

However, no: We don't need to see these particular photos. We don't need nightmares. I am glad that they exist though... although I cannot say why specifically since I would just as soon have nobody see them. I can't explain that.

I do however think that Americans need to see more reality though. The reality I would have us see may not be as prurient as these specific images, but I do think that we need more reminders of what words like "war", "death", and "destruction" actually mean.

I've heard it said that a visit to the local slaughterhouse will cure many people of the desire to eat meat.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Crazy Prices

Last night, I paid 120 baht to fill up my scooter with gasoline. Just a year ago, it was only 80 baht. That's a 50% increase... up $1 in just a year. That's the equivalent of 2 beers per month that I don't get to enjoy.

Ridiculous.

I called it. Right on the Money.

Just as I feared, the minor resurfacing of my pool has turned into a major event. Forseen in general, but unforseen specifically was the fact that refilling the pool would bring to light all kinds of problems with the house's water supply.

Specifically, the house's main water line leads directly from the town water supply to the house's water pump, bypassing the monstrous cistern built under the front patio. This isn't a problem when you're taking a shower for 10 minutes, or running the washing machine... or even doing both at the same time.

However, turn on a hose at full blast for 24 hours a day, and pretty soon the little pump (or the entire system) simply goes dry. I'm not sure why, but the pump just "de-primes" itself, and all the water pours out of the system.

Anyway, it was Tui, a while back, who apparently bypassed the cistern for reasons only known to him, and now that needs to be fixed. (Otherwise, my house runs out of water about 4-5 hours after the pump is primed. (Although if I don't want to fill my pool, this probably wouldn't be a problem.)

I did suggest, since the pool and the cistern are right next to each other, that we just run a second pump from the cistern to the pool, and fill it up that way. Apparently that suggestion is under consideration. However, the original problem still remains, so now I have 4 men digging up my flower bed trying to figure out where the pipe from the cistern goes to now (instead of going to the pump).

Anyway, as I type this, I see that that one guy is pulling out a 3-inch wide drill bit, and is making for the brick wall next to the flowerbed.

Sigh.

Thought For The Day

"I'd rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are; because a could-be is a maybe who is reaching for a star. I'd rather be a has-been than a might-have-been, by far; for a might have-been has never been, but a has was once an are." — Milton Berle

All I could think was: Try translating that one into Thai. Hmmm...

Yahk pen "kohn dai" tah hahk wah mai dai "kohn pen"; po-wah "kohn dai" pen kohn
bahn tee" thee yeun dow. Yahk pen "kohn pen mar" mahk gwah "kohn pen dai mar", ching ching; po-wah "kohn pen dai mar" pen mar mai kuh-ee, po-wah "kuhn pen mar" pen mar meua korn "kohn pen".

Oh... that's just one step above jibberish. Let's translate it back:

I want to be "a can person" in the event that I cannot be "an am person"; because "a can person" is "a maybe person" who reaches for a star. I want to be "a was person" more than "a was not able person", truly; because "a was not able person" was never, but "a was person" was before "an am person."

Oh... You may be inclined to walk into your local Thai restaurant and pull out that quote. Don't bother. (A) The western/Latin letters/words are only approximations for the Thai pronounciation; (B) my choice of words is colloquial, so basically it is a direct translation, meaning it's an English sentence... just written in Thai words, so it makes no sense; (C) the sentence was bascially a word-play in English, before translation, which makes it even more impossible to decipher in Thai.

Monday, September 26, 2005

What's Wrong With This Picture?


Highways out of Houston became parking lots as
people attempted to flee before Hurricane Rita hit.



Pop quiz: How many vehicles in this picture get more than 20 miles per gallon?



Pattaya Article in Time Magazine

Time magazine has a huge article about Pattaya up online. It's not very flattering, but it is spot on. Well... other than the trash on the beach and the dirtiness of the water. That's part embellishment and part history. Also the article gives a good history of Pattaya, and I learned quite a few things.

But, the final paragraph does sum it up pretty well:
In Alex Garland's iconic novel The Beach, some intrepid backpackers discover a Thai island untouched by mass tourism and establish a utopian community, which later collapses amid jealousy, greed and violence. The moral of the story is not that paradise doesn't exist. No, the moral is: paradise does exist, we just don't deserve to live there. Until we do, there will always be Pattaya.

The Final Score

So here we have it: The final score.

Antiwar Protestors: 100,000
Prowar Protestors: "couple hundred"

Actually, it's kind of obvious that is how it would work out. The prowar protestors are trying the same old rubric that they used against the Vietnam antiwar protestors: That being anti-war means being anti-freedom, not supporting the soldiers, and helping the enemy. Hell: They were even carrying around signs saying "Arrest the traitors."

That doesn't work anymore... if it ever did.

Nobody today anywhere thinks badly of our soldiers... just the people that sent them to Iraq.

Nobody today thinks freedom isn't the highest priority... just that wading through chaos and carnage, explosions and terror for a doubtful outcome isn't a good thing. More importantly, freedom was not the reason we were given for sending our troops to Iraq in the first place. Weapons of mass destruction is why we are in Iraq right now... remember?

Nobody today supports our enemies. Liberals may be more willing to try and figure out what motivates the terrorists, and look for ways to eliminate those motivations. Conservatives primarily want to guard against, fight head on, and make difficult the operations of, the terrorists. However, neither side wants more bombings, more war, more bloodshed, or more terrorist successes in any form.

But... if you want to know the real reason that nobody supports the prowar movement, it is because of a dirty trick played by the antiwar side: Cindy Sheehan. They put an angry mother who lost her son in Iraq out there in front, and dared anybody to come forward and say bad things about her... to castigate a mother whose own flesh and blood was a casualty in this war. The prowar movement took the bait, hook, line and sinker. Now what do you have? People all over this country watching a couple hundred hysterics who hold signs proclaiming the necessity of war, hold signs saying a large majority of Americans should be thrown in jail for their desires for peace (starting off with one of the mothers who lost her son to war), and hold signs basically showing scads of what has come to be the new no-I'm-not / yes-you-are bugaboo for the American right: Blind, unthinking support for any and all conservative causes.

The fact is quite simply, America is having its second Vietnam. We were driven there on the back of a big burly white elephant brought to stampede by four hijacked planes and four fireballs. It took four years for many of us to open our eyes (and some still haven't), but the truth of our folly is there to be seen, playing out daily in the news.

What did we accomplish in Iraq? We replaced the stability of a murderous, brutal dictator with chaos, uncertainty, civil war, and Islamic extremism. That's it. That's all we are likely to get for the foresseable future: Not stability, not peace, not democracy. It's up to you to decide whether what has come is better than what went before... for the Iraqi people, for the Arab world, but most importantly, for America.

Elf

Ebert was right: A Saturday Night Live comedian starring in a movie about a grown man who is one of Santa's elves going on a big adventure in New York City to find his father and spread Christmas cheer is a recipe for disaster... and Ebert was right: It's a damn good Christmas movie.

No: I don't know why they run Christmas movies in September on HBO in Asia... but they do.

Weekend Update

Jeep went back to Bangkok today... back to school. Things aren't really working out between us, and I'm going to see some other people... starting with Jeep's cousin actually. Jeep's cousin works in Bangkok selling mobile phones, is quite pretty, and is named Wanjan, or "Monday", which is how I shall refer to her.

Sunday night is traditionally TQ2 night at the Wrinkle Household, Thailand Branch. I usually only go for an hour or so. I always wind up leaving feeling really guilty, because I buy one draft beer (Steve has these water-filled plastic beer mugs that he keeps in the freezer for extra-frosted beer mug fun). By the time I'm two thirds of the way through my first beer, Steve buys me a free beer, and Bob (from Bob's BBQ) brings out a pile of free food (his restaurant has a kitchen at TQ2 as well). By the time I'm halfway through my second beer, it's time for me to go home. I wind up spending only about $2 for the entire evening.

I need to remember to buy a round for everybody right off the bat... before Steve gets around to it. Otherwise, I'm going to get a reputation as a mooch or something.

The new tiles in the pool are finally dry, and it's now time to fill up the big hole. Unfortunately, in Thailand, the fire department won't come and fill your pool with their high-pressure 5-inch fire hoses. Nope. We do it the old fashioned way here: Garden hose. Fortunately, my house has 4 hoses and 4 nozzles, so it should only take about 30 hours... at least if the water doesn't run dry, like it has as of 8:00 Monday morning.

Wednesday, I'm going on a cruise with Steve and his friends out to the islands for a party. I've invited Monday along. Should be fun.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Happy Happy Happy

My 2 favorite characters of all time are back: Wallace and Gromit. They now have their own feature length movie.... oh joy!

They are chasing rabbits in "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit". They operate a rodent control company called "Anti-Pesto". Need I say more?

Oh, I can't wait!

Pisses Me Off

It's not that the Palestinians have terrorists. That's hardly unique. It's that the Palestinian terrorists are geniuses at playing the monkey wrench whenever things start to go Palestine's way.

Isreal finally withdraws from the Gaza Strip. What do they get for their efforts? The Gaza Strip Hamas terrorists launch rocket attacks on Isreal. (In response to an explosion at a rally in the Gaza Strip... caused by exposives being paraded around at the rally by Hamas.)

That'll show Isreal what they get for making concessions. Really encouraging.

I've asked this question before and I'll ask it again now: How can you have a peaceful nation when even a tiny fraction of your population wants — and wages — war?

It's moments like these when I have no hope whatsoever that the Arab world will ever become more than just a cancer on this planet.

... and I'll say it again: The invention of a non-petroleum-powered engine will be the death knell of the Arab world, and we can take that entire region, build a really tall wall around it, and let everyone inside rot. We should have taken that $400 billion we spent trying to "help out" those ungrateful Iraqis, and put it into studying and developing solar and nuclear power, hydroelectric and hydrogen powerplants, better battery design, and even fusion.

Instead, we obligate ourselves to spend a trillion dollars in an idiotic attempt to create a democracy in a society that realizes that democracy is the most fragile form of government... and treats it with contempt because of that. We waste our time trying to be nice and help these people when what we should really be doing is trying to figure out how to delete every reason we have for even acknowledging these people exist. Why do they exist for us? Because they have oil and terrorists. That's it.

Sorry for the hate-filled rant. Heat of the moment stuff.

Mr. Green

I've hired Mr. Green, a close friend of Toom's, to be my new groundskeeper. (He's the wet fellow on the left in the last picture of Jeep's birthday party post below.) He's apparently looking for an escape from his current girlfriend ("she talks too much") and what with the free apartment, free food, and a reason not to be anyplace close to his sign-making store, up to his elbows in the good green earth (which apparently appeals to him) is all the reason he needs to take the job.

I'm fantastically lucky if he sticks around. Along with Toom, my staff both speak excellent english, have good educations, common sense, and are able to understand that in the Wrinkle Residence, Thailand Branch, things are done the farang way... and they know what that is.

Anyway, Mr. Green is in his 40's, tall and thin with a ponytail, a monstrous smile that shows acres of big white teeth and pink gums, and a big baritone voice to go with it. He'll be starting October 9th when I move to the new house.

You Didn't Forget Did You?

Today is the one-month anniversary of this blog. That means if you are reading this and you haven't sent me a gift certificate to Ponderosa, you're on my shit list.

Out Again

I was supposed to be up early this morning to get in as much work as I could before the pay period ended. Instead, I wound up staying out late at the Hopf Brewery with the Reeza's Mike and the Swedish Gang. Hopf brewery is an upscale pizza/beer joint on Beach Road, where one goes to see and be seen... in the tabloid gossip pages sense of the word.

One of the owners is an Italian fellow who is a true Italian tenor, and on the weekends, he gets up and performs... Queen, Ray Charles, a few Thai songs, and yes... some Italian golden oldies as well. Though seriously: The highlight is the him singing in Thai.

He is quite a draw... as is the home brewed wheat and lager beers, and the oven-fired pizza. However, take a pass on the mussel appetizer... blech. Still though: It's probably the only restaurant in Pattaya to have the automatic-sensor urinals and sinks. Now that's classy!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Saturday Photo Spread

Although I would have been just as happy to provide you with 1,000 words. Really.

Saturday: All is quiet at the Wrinkle Residence, Thailand Branch.
The newly grouted tiles are drying. (The roof of the house I will be moving to next month is in the background.)
The sun is shining through the windows.
Jeep is studying her accounting. (Shhh... she's crabby today.)
The fish are enjoying the sunshine (and the food I bribed them with to come to the surface).
But outside my front gate, construction is going on up and down the road.
... and inside, my office is waiting for me to get back to work.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging

You can tell Pridi from Phibun because Phibun has a little kink in his tail out towards the tip. Pramoj refused to smile for the camera.

Without Blogs You Would Never Get To Laugh At...

...things like this.

You see, no newspaper reporter — or anybody with a real job — would have the time to dig stuff like this up. However, bloggers? Different breed entirely.

The Republicans, in response to skyrocketing government spending and emergency expenses and resultant budget deficits, are coming up with a cost-cutting plan (called Operation Offset) that will reduce the budget by a gazillion some-odd dollars.

So, bloggers... or at least one blogger... sat down and read the entire 35,000 page plan and came to this otherwise unremarkable and entirely forgettable page:


"Eliminate Funding for Penile Implants Under Medicare."

Are You Angry Yet? Part 8

Everybody's thought after Hurricane Katrina: Where are all the buses... ya know... to get those people out of there?

Well, it just so happens, the American Bus Association (Greyhound, Coach USA, et. al.) called up to offer every bus they had (thatsa lotta buses, natch) to FEMA.
"We never talked directly to FEMA or got a call back from them," Pantuso said.

Well, it just so happens, the United Motorcoach Association called up to offer every bus they had to FEMA.
Parra said FEMA responded the next day, referring him to an agency Web page labeled "Doing Business with FEMA" but containing no information on the hurricane relief effort.

But the best part is this: FEMA actually has a company that they are supposed to call up in case they need, ya know, buses and stuff: A company called Landstar Express America. What did Landstar do?
[They didn't] order buses until the early hours of Aug. 30, roughly 18 hours after the storm hit, according to Sally Snead, a Carey senior vice president who headed the bus roundup. [Jil says: Carey Limousine is the company Landstar called looking for, ya know, buses and stuff.]

Now, I will admit... the site of hundreds of flooded school buses in New Orleans was a rather potent reminder that there were lots of things that could have been done at the local level... but FEMA... Oh, fema, fema, fema, what were you thinking? It was as if every time there was one of those "should I choose brilliance or should I choose idiocy" moments... well, ya know.

Please, please: Somebody e-mail me with one example of things that didn't go wrong with this agency... (might I add) the agency that is designed to respond to a terrorist attack.

Tui is Gone

Rangsima fired Tui today.

It started when I went next door to talk to Ralph (but spelled funny) about the DSL, and Tui was there. I was talking to Ralph (bsf) about how my maid wanted to live in the front apartment. (The front apartment is a small little place next to the garage with its own private entrance. You could entirely miss it if you didn't know it was there.) Tui chimed in, "Oh she can't stay there. I'm moving back in there when Ralph leaves." (Or something to that effect.) I basically told Tui there was no way he was going to live in that apartment. Tui immediately got Rangsima on the phone thinking that she could tell me about how Tui was going to be living in my front yard.

I politely listened to everything Rangsima had to say... but she didn't mention Tui staying there... just about how she used parts of the apartment for storage, and the security guard needed a place to stay, et cetera. (My guess is Rangsima realized — based on the fact that Tui was calling her up and telling her that I had a problem with him staying in the apartment, and then handing the phone to me — that her explaining to me over the phone that Tui was going to come live on my property was an exceptionally bad idea.) Regardless what she thought, I'm pretty sure that when I gave the phone back to Tui, Rangsima had no doubts about my feelings regarding the prospect of Tui on my property... and I had barely said a word other than "uh-huh".

Just to make sure, 10 minutes later, back home away from everybody, I called Rangsima back and told her that Tui was not going to be moving into my new house's apartment... as politely as I could. (I told her I needed the apartment for my staff... the people who would be cleaning the pool and taking care of the gardens.) She assured me Tui wouldn't be moving in. (And seriously: Why the hell should I provide an apartment to somebody who doesn't even do a goddamn thing except drink all day?)

Well, obviously that little exchange — along with the offhanded comment I made 4 or 5 days earlier about how it had been 4 or 5 days since my pool had been cleaned — got Rangsima curious, and she started to put 2 and 2 together.

Ralph (bsf) told Rangsima he was moving out because the house was too expensive... what with paying for a gardner and pool cleaner and all. The two 90-year-old geezers in front of me apparently mentioned something about their pool not being cleaned at some point in time.

Then came the straw that broke the camel's back: The day that prospective renters came to look at my house (the day after Tui's wife and kid cleaned the entire yard), Tui was running around making sure everything looked good, and he noticed that the bathroom in my bedroom was dirty. He cleaned it himself. Then, he mentioned how dirty it was to my maid Toom, and how annoyed he was that he had to clean it.

Then, he made the fatal mistake: He told Rangsima what he said to Toom.

In other words, Tui the lowly houseboy, told Rangsima about how he told one of her tenants that they were slobs.

The only thing I can think of is he must have been really drunk to say something that stupid. I mean (1) this is Thailand where criticisms are never made; (2) if criticisms are made, they are made by somebody higher up on the totem pole, as opposed to somebody like Tui, at the bottom. These are probably the 2 most major cardinal sins in the Thai rule book of social faux pas. Rangsima was furious.

How furious? When she came today to tell me that Tui was gone-so-gone, and she mentioned what Tui had told her, a frown crossed her face. That's opposed to the 100% all-the-time pleasant smile she usually wears. Her voice even caught a major jagged edge when she said, "Even I am not allowed to tell you that your bathroom needs cleaning."

Oh... you can bet slugs would have tasted better than those words as far as Rangsima was concerned. That was called the Thai version of swallowing one's pride and taking responsibility for somebody elses' actions. It isn't handed out lightly or easily, and it usually costs the subordinate who created the problem very dearly... especially when the person apologizing is a high-society Thai lady, and the person who caused her to do the apologizing is an uneducated, drunk, dirt-poor Burmese peasant.

Tui is probably floating face-down in a Bangkok khlorng by now.

SOI = Signs of Intelligence

Well, at least we know the kids in Maine will know what a condom is... and what it is for.
AUGUSTA — Maine has stopped accepting federal funds for an abstinence-based sex-education program, in part because federal guidelines do not allow any of the money to be used to teach so-called "safe sex" practices.

Heheh. Score one for the anti-15th-century brigade.

The downside of this is that health teachers in the 47 states that do accept federal funding will only be allowed to teach how to have a healthy sex life within marriage, and teach students only to practice abstinence until then. That's it. They will be allowed to describe all of the STDs that people can acquire from having sex, but will teach that the only way to avoid those diseases is abstinence (or marriage). That's it. They will be allowed to talk about uteri, ovaries, trimesters, conception, vas deferens, but won't mention a single way to prevent all of these different parts from getting together to form a baby... except abstinence. That's it.

"Now go out into the world boys and girls, and stare at each other longingly for the next 4 years."

Well, hopefully today's kids have enough common sense to know what a condom is and how to use it. They certainly won't be learning about it in school.

p.s. I looked through the sites that mention "Does abstinence education work?", and aside from sites like heritage.org, one of the chief proponents of abstinence education, most middle-of-the-road sites seem lukewarm to the idea, like this place. This site claims a "government report" from 2002 says that abstinence education has not been proven to have any effect. (Although I do agree... it is hard to figure out how well it is working after such a short period of time. Now, in 2005 would be a good time for a middle-term study, and probably in 2008... after a full 6 to 8 years of the program... then would be a good time to make a full claim on abstinence-only education's effect.) However, "not been proven to have any effect" is probably not the best news one would want to hear if one believes that abstinence-only education really, really works.

Well... I do have one piece of data that we can go on: What state has the lowest incidence of teen pregnancy in the country? Maine.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ya Think Martha Would Have Taught Him

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, sold all his stock in his family's hospital corporation about two weeks before it issued a disappointing earnings report and the price fell nearly 15 percent.

Jail? Meet Senator Frist. Senator Frist? Meet jail.



UPDATE

This gets more and more blatant as the day wears on. In newsspeak, this story has legs.

On June 13, Frist asked his trustees to sell his HCA holdings, as well as those of his wife and children. Letters from his trustees on July 1 and July 8 confirmed the sales, said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call.

The value of his stock at the time of the sale was not disclosed. Earlier this year, he reported holding blind trusts valued at $7 million to $35 million.

Frist, R-Tenn., widely considered a potential presidential candidate in 2008, ordered the stock sold to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Call said. The senator declined to comment Thursday.

His office has consistently deflected criticism by noting that his assets were in a blind trust and not under his active control.

Note that: Blind trust. Not under his active control. Why? Because as a U.S. Senator, it is beneficial to avoid the appearance of favoring/disfavoring companies. Therefore, most politicians move their portfolio to "blind", and leave its management to their investment analysts.

For a Senator to step in, order the sale of stock of his family's corporation from within the confines of a blind trust... just before an extra-poor earnings report comes out...

Well, this beats Martha Stewart's boo-boo by an order of magnitude.

I've never understood why so many people make this mistake. It's so easy to grasp: If you receive information about a company that is not available to the general investing public, and you act on that information via stocks or other investments, you are breaking the law. Period. The SEC (Securities and Exchance Commission) doesn't even have to prove intent... just the likelihood of causality. Dr. Sen. Frist's example, I am afraid to say, is about as good an example of insider trading as you will ever see. If Martha Stewart couldn't avoid jail with three people acting as buffers between her and the sale of her stock, Dr. Frist (with only one person — his portfolio manager — apparently) is headed up the river for sure.




SUPER DOUBLE EXTRA I-TOLD-YOU-SO UPDATE

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- HCA Inc. (HCA) said Friday it has received a Subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. The Nashville, Tenn., hospital operator said the subpoena calls for the production of documents, and HCA believes it relates to the sale of HCA stock by Sen. William H. Frist. It plans to cooperate fully with the subpoena. The stock closed Thursday at $45.90, down 3.2%.

See What We're Up Against?

The far-right-wing (which now basically is anybody who still approves of the job that George Bush is doing... about 38% of the American population) tried to blame Katrina on gay people by saying that it was God's anger at the gay Southern Decadance party due to be held in New Orleans that he sent hurricane Katrina.

So of course, that leads one to wonder what Galveston and Houston did wrong? Rita sure looks like round 2 to me.

Hey... if you are wont to read God's work into every disaster, you wouldn't get any argument from me if you were to say that perhaps God is angry at the entire United States. Perhaps God doesn't like war? I mean, if you were God, would you destroy the entire gulf coast — twice — because 125,000 gay people were dancing, or because 125,000 soldiers were marching?

Just asking.

(p.s. Sorry to sound like Joan Baez.)


A Gallup poll published on Monday found 66 percent of respondents favored the immediate withdrawal of some or all of the U.S. troops in Iraq, a 10 percentage point jump in two weeks.

OK: So make it 34 percent.




UPDATE:

Oh... I figured it out. USA pummels oil-rich Iraq in 2 wars. God pummels US oil industry with 2 hurricanes. Then, you see scenes like this all over America.

God is vengeful. God drives a Prius with a peace sign on the bumper.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Standard Night Out

I went out last night to TQ2 to make cosmos for Steve. I was going to go on Monday night, but before going out, I tried to perfect my recipe... drinking all my mistakes. I wound up slack-jawed in front of the TV instead.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to TQ2, Steve had already gone home, and it was just Bob from Bob's BBQ and me holding down the fort. So, I taught the bartender how to make cosmos, and he served Bob and I his sample batch. Perfect. We each had two more. (I had 3 before coming... just to make extra doubly sure that I know how to make them just right.)

At about 9:30 or so, Bob said he wanted to "spread his wings tonight." (That means going out instead of going straight home to the girlfriend.) So, we decided to hit the bars in the Soi Diamond section of Walking Street.

We started off at Lucky Star A GoGo. There were several pretty girls there, with much nohm and hoy on display. Bob and I each had a vodka tonic, and then moved on. From there, it was upstairs to the Shark Bar, where several girls from Planet Rock (where Bob used to be the manager) had moved, including the ladyboy mamasan. They were having a buy-1-get-1-free deal going on, so Bob and I put away 2 more vodka tonics, and enjoyed the nohm and the hoy... and some old familiar faces as well.

After that, it was back downstairs to Undersea A GoGo. More nohm. More hoy. More vodka. More tonic. From there, it was off to Happy A GoGo where Bob and I managed to drink one more vodka tonic each. Our heads were nearly on the table, but not because we were so drunk... but because the tabletop was a mirror, and the girl dancing on it was not wearing any knickers underneath her skirt. Ahoy. Home by 11:30.

Well, that's a standard boring night out in Pattaya... covering about 50 feet of the mile-long Walking Street. Amazing that some people scrimp and save all year just so that they can travel halfway around the world to do for 14 days in a row what Bob and I did last night. Once a month is good enough for me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Big Hole. I Mean My Mouth.

Rangsima called me last night, and said basically the one thing that was more important to her than anything else in the world was draining my pool as soon as possible, tearing tiles out, replacing them, shellacking the whole thing, and putting it back together.

Well... she basically was telling me what she thought I wanted to hear.

You see, last time I saw Rangsima, I told her that I wanted the pool cleaned as it hadn't been cleaned in 4 days. I was bitching about Tui. Tui told Rangsima that the reason that the pool wasn't clean is that the water keeps draining out and the water coming in from the city is milky white, which is why my water is so discolored. I was referring to the big pile of dead leaves on the bottom.

Anyway, Rangsima figured I was bitching about the cloudy water, which — she is right — really can't be fixed until the pool itself is fixed. So, if I wanted a clean (read: clear) pool, the fixin' would have to be done.

So, bright and early at 6:00 this morning, two industrial-strength straws were put in my pool, and by 9:00 my pool was a hole, and by 10:00 there were little workers with little jackhammers working at hammering the jack out of my pool... hole.

What's funny is that it was precisely this situation I was trying to avoid by agreeing to move to the bigger house next door in the first place. If I hadn't bitched about the pool in the first place...

Ah well.

Intelligent Design

I've never quite grasped the big to-do about intelligent design... the resistance to it by the so-called mainstream scientists. I mean, I think it is perfectly reasonable to teach in a high school science classroom that the process of evolution worked far too well to be random, and that aliens most likely played some role in the current biological state of this planet.

I mean really: If you stop and think about it, aliens are the only logical way to explain the abundance and variety of life on this planet, operating in such a perfect balance. The foundation of life on this planet was brought here in spaceships and planted and nurtured here, and as time went on, when evolution needed a "kick in the pants", the aliens came down and destroyed all the dinosaurs by dropping a meteor on them (and then finishing them off with their laser beams), and later on, took away the neanderthals for... uh... fatal anal probes, if you get my drift.

So anyway, I strongly believe that there was indeed intelligence involved in the design of our ecobiologic system, and that intelligence was wrapped up in green skin and silver, skin-hugging tinfoil-like unitard space suits. I encourage you, high school biology professors, to teach this to your students, so that they may go out into the world and appreciate nature's diversity in creation... with a little help from our stellar brethren.

And may those heathen scientists who would deny the presence and beneficience of our alien progenitors be smitten by a red-hot death ray!

What? Oh... you mean it wasn't aliens? You think it was some other power from the sky controlling the fate and future of life on this planet? But... but it came from the sky? But not aliens? No green skin? So what color skin does this power... you don't know? Well what about the anal pro... none at all??? No laser beams? Oh I suppose it was just hocus pocus wiggle-your-nose then, right? ... are... are you serious or stoned? You want me to believe that over aliens? Why should I beli...? Oh! You've got a book! Oh... well that explains it then... NOT. I've got books too... You've only got that one book, and I have hundreds of books, as well as dozens of movies and documentaries on our alien benefactors... so there. No... I'm not going to give up on this you blasphemer. How dare you question the obvious logic of intelligent design? When the aliens come to take us away to The Better Place, you are SO in trouble.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ready to be Unleashed on Pattaya

I had one of those, "Hmm... I wonder..." moments. I get those a lot... where sit there and say, "I haven't seen that yet in Thailand... Hmm... I wonder..."

So I went out looking, and yes... you can buy cranberry juice in Thailand. You can't buy Rose's Lime Juice in Thailand, but there is a passable local version.

That means: Cosmopolitans!

Yes... the fruity drink made famous by the snooty gay lounges of New York City is now going to be released upon an unsuspecting public in Pattaya.

In case you don't know, a Cosmopolitan is 1 part vodka, ½ part triple sec, 1 part cranberry, ½ Rose's, shaken in ice and served straight up in a martini glass. Two secrets though: One is to make sure some of the ice is crushed to add just the right amount of freezing cold water, and the second is to put about 10% less vodka than the recipe calls for. Then, you hit on a liquid that tastes like cranberry lemonade flavored water.

I mixed it up in front of Toom, and when she saw what a large portion was alcohol, she cringed. Then when she tasted it, she started laughing... knowing she would be in big trouble in short order if I kept serving these up.

Anyway, I'll meet up with Steve from TQ2 who, even though he is from Brooklyn, hasn't heard of Cosmos, and I'm going to get him in on the game. Soon, Pattaya will be awash in glowing, light pink watery drinks... and all bald-headed football hooligans on Walking Street would just die if they knew that their new favorite pissed-out-of-ones-mind drink was invented and perfected by swish Greenwich Village bartenders.

Are You Angry Yet? Part 7

This is outrageous. Not unexpected, but outrageous.

What happens when you give a barely-existent government carte blanche to buy weapons for a barely-existent army? As-yet-unknown people (Iraqis, presumably) in charge of equipping the Iraqi army lost, literally, $1 billion worth of money, and spent the rest of their budget on shit equipment: Helicpoters ready for the scrap heap, broken down armored cars, counterfeit machineguns (at genuine prices), bullets at 4 times retail.
Of a military procurement budget of $1.3bn, some $200m may have been spent on usable equipment, though this is a charitable view, say officials.
According to Iraq's finance minister, Ali Allawi,
"...about $1bn compared with the budget of the ministry of defence, it is nearly 100 per cent of the ministry's [procurement] budget that has gone AWOL."
Apparently an additional $500 million is missing from nondefense spending accounts, bringing the total of missing money to $1.8 billion. [Jil says: I get $1.5 billion, but whatever.]

Just so you know, if $1.8 billion was lost in the last 8 months, that is equal to the $1.8 billion that Saddam Hussein managed to pilfer from the Oil-For-Food program over a period of 6 years.

(Grandpa Jil Voice)
Ahh... that's alright kids! I'm sure that your ol' Uncle Sam has an extra coupla billion here in his pocket. Run along now, and try to spend it more carefully next time!

Heheh... lil' whippersnappers.

To paraquote King Edward Longshanks, "The problem with Iraq is, it's filled with Iraqis!" Well, it's a good thing we Americans are willing to stay there and help those poor people out for the next 35 years, right team?! Woo!

The Wingnuts Have A Point

The Right Wing is always complaining about the "liberal media", which of course is BS: There is no "liberal" media... in the sense that there is no "Democratic media" or, more accurately, "anti-Republican media". What we have is a sensationalist media, which presents news in a way that brings in viewers, and makes money. Unfortunately for the wingnuts, that means dead bodies and crying mothers in Iraq, dead bodies and crying mothers in New Orleans... dead bodies and crying mothers everywhere. Even Republican-leaning Fox news is in on the act, with The Missing White Girl Show playing 6 to 8 hours a day. How important is a teenager that goes missing in Aruba in the scope of all national news? Pretty low if you look at it in a balanced way... but if you are a sensationalist media, it ranks well above Republican plans to fix Social Security, or the United Nations anniversary party in New York, et cetera, et cetera.

To better educate you on my point, sensationalist media finds the Monica Lewinsky story more interesting than the Valerie Plame story; liberal media would have their interests the other way around. A balanced media would find both... oh... about equal in gravity. As it is, most average Americans are still saying, "Valerie who?"

However, the Wingnuts do have a point: The mainstream media (the MSM in blogspeak) are not independent. This editorial which is summarized and dissected very well by this Daily Kos post, shows all too well that news organizations are corporations which get purchased by other corporations, who then get all tangled up in the politics of business and politics itself, and eventually news is no longer dictated by what sells so much as what benefits (and does not hurt) Viacom, Disney, Time Warner, and GE.

When critical news coverage by CBS could lead to Viacom losing a billion-dollar tax break, do you think that Viacom allows CBS free reign to say whatever they want in their newscasts? When half of Iraq's new electrical grid is built from GE product, no wonder MSNBC, their subsidiary, were huge supporters in the runup to the war.

It's not just the MSM kissing Republican hieney either:

And lest anyone think there’s no connection between Murdoch’s business and editorial, several news organizations have noticed a d├ętente between the New York Post and Senator Hillary Clinton because Rupert needs congressional Democrats on News Corp.’s side to oppose a change in the Nielsen ratings that could harm its TV stations.

So, as you can see, MSM is directed and controlled by large corporations who are making sure that the news content never harms their corporate interests. Yet one more reason to turn to blogs for your news instead of TV. Yes... it actually requires you to use your brain and ability to reason (because you will have to read 1 or 2 liberal and 1 or 2 conservative blogs each day) to figure out the big picture and reason your way through the retoric and see both sides of the story, but at least, for the first time in history, you have that opportunity... instead of being fed corporate-approved, sanitized, toned-down news that doesn't take any risks, offer any criticisms, or bother to often even confirm what they've been told. Now, you have to go out and "figure out the news", and draw your own conclusions.

Welcome to the age of thinking for yourself. Nitwits not welcome.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Thai Solutions vs Western Solutions

I finally have found my perfect example of how stupid we are as Americans to think that our way of doing things... simple no-brainer things that everybody does... should apply to every society on earth.

The intersection of Second Road and Pattaya South Road has always been a major traffic hassle, with cars backed up for hundreds of yards in each direction.

Well, the city of Pattaya finally found a solution to this problem, and now traffic is flowing freely, everybody is happy, and the effect on traffic for miles in every direction is immediately apparent to anyone who knew what it was like beforehand.

What brilliant bit of urban street planning fixed all this?

They turned off the traffic lights. No stop signs, no traffic lights. Everybody just slows down, and politely (because there is no such thing as an impolite Thai) works their way through the intersection when there is room for them to do so.

See? Turn off the traffic lights in an American city, and chaos reigns, and people die. In Thailand, it allows Thai people to act as a community of people-at-an-intersection, and through centuries of community thought, can keep traffic flowing all on their own, and in fact much better than some mechanical system of colored lights.

So, the next time somebody tries to tell you how much better off people in country X would be if they would learn to accept "western-style" Y, tell them about South and Second Road.

No Longer Might... Definitely Moving

Rangsima wants my pool fixed. She sent over an engineer from the pool company with Tui yesterday to figure out if my suggestion to drain the pool and paint the inside of it with sealer would hold water. (P.Int.)

More or less, was his conslusion. Let's get to work, was his recommendation.

Rangsima called me and said, "We'd like to drain the pool tomorrow and start replacing some tiles and blah and blad and blah and 3,000 baht worth of water."

My reply: "Well, I've decided to take the house next door. Why don't you wait until I move there?" (I didn't want to be in the middle of a Thai-managed repair/construction zone.)

I do often make major decisions like that. I can't make up my mind to repaint the bedroom until I've squashed a fly on the wall. Then everything seems so simple.

So anyway, I need to talk to Ralph, the German currently next door (although he spells it funny, like Reulph, or something). (A) I want to make sure he's not leaving because a big falling block of ceiling concrete barely missed his head while he was sleeping, or he discovered a body in the gardens or a ghost in the pantry. (B) I want him to make sure that he leaves the DSL internet connected for me, and see if we can put it in my name (and get the password and username).

I guess I'll be moving sometime close to or shortly after October 11th... at which time my phone number will be unchanged, my e-mail address will be unchanged, and my address will change by 2 or 3 digits - but not sure specifically how.

The move, as always, will be easy: Toom will bring over the same guys that she always brings over when something needs to be moved. My only job will be to unplug my computers, and carry them next door... because there aren't enough bullets in the world to give me satisfaction on the person who drops one of my darlings... assuming that person isn't me... and then I'll just laugh and think how stupid I was not to trust another person... well, you get the picture.

The cats? I'll just toss them over the wall. Hell: That's an idea. Get 5 or 6 guys in a line, one guy sitting on top of the wall, and just hump all my belongings straight on over.

My Darling Noodle

I'm on the as-close-to-zero-carb-as-I-can-get diet. Toom has been working in the kitchen trying to come up with dishes for me to eat. (In a country where food is defined as "a mixture of heavily-spiced vegetables in a broth, served with rice", she's doing admirably.)
  • Fried ham cubes, egg, swiss cheese, onions and garlic salt.
  • Steak strips sauteed with onion, garlic, and mushroom, clouded over with black pepper.
  • Chicken breast brushed with peanut sauce.
This diet makes me realize how much carbohydrate has made me its bitch: All that great food at my beck and call, and what I want more than anything is a single, beautiful, tender, steaming hot, pearly white rigatoni noodle... covered with a sweat tomato sauce.

And a tall glass of orange juice... oh mother of mercy.

How Messed Up Is That?

I overslept something awful today. I beat on my snooze button for 4 goddamn hours. Jeez what a loser.

Well... actually... I'll try to see the bright side of it: How optimistic does one have to be that even after 3 hours and 50 minutes of fighting off the sleep monster, I still had hopes of winning?

Jeez... I'm so cool.

The Perfect Paragraph

Occasionally, there comes the perfect paragraph, where somebody manages to say in a couple dozen perfectly chosen words what you would ramble over several pages and still not explain as well. (Rarely, you may write a perfect paragraph of your own, and what a wonderful feeling that is.)

I give you Frank Rich, of the New York Times.
The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action.
(No link provided because the NYT is weird about archiving.)
Anyway, it is paragraphs like this that will find their way into 8th grade history books in the distant future, when Hurricane Katrina seems a much smaller event in the grand scheme of things, like the explosion of the USS Maine for us today, or Mrs. O'Leary's cow. It will explain for posterity what we recognized at this moment to our future generations.

What we learned... well, we will have to wait for the next perfect paragraph for that.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sour Kraut

Toom went out today and got her hair done, and is now out by the pool having a boozer with her friends. Typical reactions for a Thai woman.

She found out her German ex-boyfriend married her sister.

Oh, you just know that had to sting.

Dude, That's Major Harshness

Once again... I'm not going to get on the President's back about it like some other people, but:

For that speech he gave in New Orleans? Apparently the folks involved in the cleanup effort turned on the electricity for huge parts of New Orleans for the occasion. People who had been living in darkness for 2 weeks, not knowing the reasons for the light, but getting what they had been dreaming of for 2 weeks, were all happyhappyhappy...

Then George left, and as soon as his motorcade dissappeared over the horizon... c l i c k.

Oh, you just know that had to sting.

I Hope They're Joking

For the sake of my grandchildren... I hope that this isn't nearly as certain as they claim it to be.
A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

Doh.

Seriously: Have you ever heard scientists come out and say, "It's too late to fix it," and "There's nothing we can do," when referring to the environment? It would be nice if the article could find some other scientists to say, "Oh, no worries! Their study is all bunkum!"

I did a study in college for a public speaking course (of all things) about what the earth would look like if all the polar ice caps melted. Apparently ocean levels would rise about 30 feet.

That's a whole bunch of Florida.
That's about 50% of the island of Manhattan.
A good part of: Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC on the East Coast. New Orleans, Houston on the Gulf Coast, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Oakland on the West Coast.

Well cheer up! We have until 2070... although the scientists do say that is just a taaaad bit optimistic.
Current computer models suggest that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free during summer by the year 2070 but some scientists now believe that even this dire prediction may be over-optimistic, said Professor Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice specialist at Cambridge University.

Personally, tacking on 30 feet of water to the oceans and flooding the earth is only moderately scary. What I'm wondering is if without all that ice to keep us cool, will the earth overheat, and turn into a fiery cinder in a few centuries?

Bah... I'm sure we'll be fine 200 years from now... or at least I know I will be.

Word of Advice

One thing I learned from Donald Trump: Never be humble when talking about your work. Never sell yourself short. If someone gives you the opportunity to toot your own horn, don't miss it. Greatness sells. Success sells. Confidence sells.

But: Most importantly... "Casual and relaxed" sells.

Who gets the job?
"Can you climb Mount Everest?"
"Sure! Without a doubt! Nobody climbs Mount Everest better than me! I'm your man!"
Or:
"Can you climb Mount Everest?"
"Only if it hasn't gotten taller since last time I climbed it."

Wherzda Photo?

You may have noticed that my nose photo on the right isn't working.

That is because I figured out that people may look at the photo and realize that I am actually D.B. Cooper.

(Hopefully the problem will correct itself soon.)


UPDATE

Well, the nose has found it's way back to my page...

But you'll never find the money.

Might be Moving

The house next door to me is opening up on the ninth of next month. I'm thinking about moving. It is basically the same as this house, but with a larger office, and more grounds and gardens. (Room for volleyball!) There is also a larger maid's quarters for Toom, and in front, attached to the garage, is an apartment for a gardner.

The only thing it doesn't have is the grand spiral staircase and monster balcony that this house has. I'll miss those.

Well... I haven't made up my mind yet.

Update on that Petrojob

Before I started this blog, I had mentioned in an e-mail (that most of you didn't receive) that a friend of mine, Mike, was going to start working with a company to design mercury filters for the oil industry, and that he would need a technical writer, and would want me to do that.

Well, two weeks ago, I met up with Mike and some of his business buddies at the Hopf Brewery on Beach Road, and we all had a good time. Last Sunday, Mike brought over one of Asia's top petrochemical engineers to my house, and we all had a good time. (I gambled right... filled my refrigerator with Foster's... and made an Australian friend.)

According to Mike, I am now officially considered "fun" by all of his business associates, and am on a 1-person list of potential technical writers for their company.

In other words, I've got the job... it just remains to be seen whether or not they will need me. I'm pretty sure they will though.

Oh... p.s. Just so you know, I won't be quitting my bread-and-butter job of transcribing. However, if (as I discussed in the original e-mail), after writing all of the technical manuals for the maintenance of these new-fangled mercury filters, I am officially qualified to go into the field with Mike and his company and give courses as an industry consultant on these mercury filters (for about $5,000 a day), I might move on. Until then, I'm staying put.

Well Yes, But...

Hugo Chavez told the United Nations (and Ted Koppel) that the United States has a plan to invade Venezuela, called Project Balboa. He has apparently discovered this plan and its details.

Well... yes, but truth be told Hugo, the United States has a plan to invade every country on earth. It keeps these plans around in case some incredible, as-yet-unimaginable reason comes up that we ever would have to attack... say... Iceland or Australia: We know in advance where the best place to land or troops is, where the military bases are, where the command structure is, et cetera.

Truth be told, if you think about it as if you were somebody other than an American, it's kind of morbid (and uncool) that America has an invasion plan for your country. It's kind of like finding out that the police have a complete and customized plan put together for bursting into the Wrinkle residence, including floor plans, where I keep the knives, what locks I have on my bedroom door... not that they can imagine any need for doing such a thing at this point in time. I mean, how comfortable would America be if they discovered that China had a complete plan put together for invading Alaska?

Well... as usual, I can see both sides of the argument here.

Thai Man No Good

Along with "hello sexy man" and "where you come from", the one bit of English that every Thai bargirl seems to know is "Thai man no good."

And it is true... at least in rural Thailand

First and foremost, rural Thai men are drunks... rampant drunks. Thais consume 13.6 liters of alcohol per person per year (as of 2000)... one of the heaviest drinking countries on earth. (Only Moldova and Portugal drink more.) However, take this into account: Very few Thai women drink at all... so Thai men consume, oh, 25 liters of alcohol per person per year. Take this into account: Most wealthier and educated Thais follow Buddhist teachings and drink little or no alcohol. (I'll guess and say it is 10% of the population, so) that means that the rural Thai men consume about 27.5 liters of alcohol per year, on average, per person. That's 80 ounces (shots) per month... or, just under 3 drinks per day. And that's the average... as in half of all men in rural Thailand drink more than that. A substantial portion drink considerably more than that.

(p.s. I'm assuming that the 13.6 liters of alcohol means "whiskey", and not actual alcohol. If it means alcohol... and if we consider whiskey to be 50% alcohol, that means that the numbers above are only half of what they should be: That the average Thai man drinks a 6-pack a day.)

(Oh... also remember that Thais are little itty bitty people... so that alcohol works especially well.)

Tui, my groundskeeper, is a drunk. I chose to ignore it in general. However, yesterday I drew the line.

Rangsima, my landlord, is coming today to pick up the rent. I looked outside, and there was Tui's wife trimming the bushes, and Tui's 8-year-old son was helping her out. They were cleaning the grounds before Rangsima came to see that Tui hadn't been doing a damn thing for the entire month. The pool water is green... hadn't been cleaned in 3 days. The security lights had burnt out 2 days ago. The garage floor is muddy. The patio needs sweeping. The lawn needs cutting. There are weeds in the flower beds.

I got on my scooter to drive to the ATM to withdraw my rent money and drove by the little sala outside the convenience store up the road. There was Tui with 4 or 5 other Thai men, drinking whisky... at 2:00 in the afternoon. The motherfucker even had the audacity to wave to me as I went by.

Everybody thinks they know why prostitution is rampant in Thailand. I'll give my reason: Thai men... with sexual values assisting.

About 95% of prostitutes in Pattaya come from rural Northeastern (Isaan) Thailand, which represents about half of Thailand's population. Thai men up there can't hold down jobs. When they do work, they earn $5 a day. What money they do earn goes to whiskey... although I forgot to mention gambling... don't get me started. They get the Thai girls pregnant, and then dissappear, leaving the Thai girls to figure out what to do.

Well, due to the fact that Isaan Thais think that (rationalize that) intercourse is about the same as a deep, passionate kiss...

... due to the fact that a Thai girl can earns $40 to $50 for the equivalent of a deep, passionate kiss (as well as $300 a month just for shuffling around on a stage in a bikini)...

... due to the fact that while she is earning this money, she might just meet a nice, sober, hard-working farang who can pay the bills and afford school uniforms for her kids (as well as help out mom and dad back home)...

What Thai girl wouldn't take off for Pattaya? Hell: The top-shelf bar girls earn over $2500 a month. That's more than people with MBAs make in Thailand. Not bad for a girl with a sixth-grade eductation, whose only other work alternative is standing in mud up to her knees in a rice paddy for 10 hours a day. The worst that bargirls can do... the ugly, overweight, 40-something girls with crooked teeth... the worst that they can do is to sit at an empty beer bar for 8 hours a day watching TV for $100 a month salary.

(And all these Christian groups think that they can come to Pattaya with a "We'll teach you how to weave baskets, speak english, and praise Jesus and all will be well" attitude. The Thai girls go there for the free english classes so that they can chat up the men better. If the Christians want to fix the problem, know what they can do? (1) Keep the girls upcountry in school past sixth grade. (2) Make the girls somehow able to afford college. (3) End the racism that says Isaan people can't get high-paying jobs. (4) Make those high paying jobs pay more than prostitution. (5) Make those high paying jobs more fun than spending the night dancing with friends, or being wined and dined by foreigners in restaurants where the cost of a meal is what a girl makes in a month in those high paying jobs. (6) Oh... Most importantly, stop Thai men from drinking, being unemployed, knocking girls up, and then leaving. Trust me... once a girl gets to Pattaya, it's a little too late for basket weaving lessons folks.)

My maid Toom wants nothing more than for her daughter Jeep to never date a Thai man... only Farangs. All over Thailand, mothers are telling their daughters the same thing:

Thai man no good.

Friday, September 16, 2005

One of You Thought I Was Joking

... when I said that Republicans were in big trouble in 2006.

Well here is the proof: Before any campaigning starts. Before the challenger even states that he stands for anything. Before they even really know who the challenger is:

Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who is the third-most-powerful member of the Republican party is trailing the challenger, Democrat Bob Casey, by an astounding 14 points, 38% to 52%.

... and that's a GOP poll.

I don't care how you spin it. Having only 4 out of 10 people say that they are going to vote for an incumbent, top-shelf, exceptionally-well-known and powerful senator... that's Tip O'Neill territory ladies and gentlemen. Having 5 out of 10 people say they are going to vote for the challenger without knowing the first thing about him... well that's even worse news.

Can you imagine what the not-Santorum Republican Senators... who aren't chairmen of committees, who aren't holding the purse strings to billions of dollars, who don't have the ears of the country's most powerful people listening to what they say, who aren't delivering back to their constituents nearly as well as Senator Santorum is... Can you imagine what they are facing?

Friday Cat Blogging


Two brothers napping.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Contradicting Yourself

The Catholic church is going to rule that homosexuals cannot enter seminary... even if they have never had gay sex. That's a very important point to notice... "never had gay sex." Why? Because it clearly states the Catholic church's position on "what gay is", and it is not what it should be if you are not a fan of gay people and gay marriage.

You see, the real question is: Is "gay" something you do, or something you are? Most Christian denominations say emphatically that it is something you do... something you are not born with... something learned, desired, and then acted upon. The Catholic Church seems to be saying that being gay is what you are... acting upon it notwithstanding... going directly against most mainline conservative protestant denominations. According to the Catholic Church, there is no such thing as "becoming ex-gay", or "stopping onself from being gay" or "recovering from gayness." Either you are or you aren't... for life.

My my my. That's not too good. Why? It can lose the war... the big pink winner-gets-to-pick-the-window-dressing war.

You see, if gay is what you are instead of what you do, then it stops being a "lifestyle" and starts becoming "genetic". If it becomes "genetic", then the ability to single out gay people for discrimination (in housing, in work, in marriage) becomes oh-so-much-harder... because, well, gay people can't help it, can they? Why should they be stopped from doing what is natural to them... of course, that is if it is "genetic" and not a "lifestyle"... like the Pope says.

As always with the anti-gay crowd: One step forward, two steps back.

Now per usual, I turn to Andrew Sullivan, from several various posts, for the best quotes:

Strangely, this policy not only demeans gay and lesbian persons, it also diminishes God. This new policy suggests that the efficacy of Jesus' death and resurrection, sufficient to cover all sins and to regenerate the most reprobate of souls, simply cannot reach gay and lesbian persons.

As a barely literate Irish-Catholic immigrant in Britain in the 1930s, my grandmother knew what prejudice was. And she knew her faith opposed it. Today, the hierarchy that represents that faith is actually practising it - proudly and in daylight.

A man who commits an act of cold blooded murder can repent, do penance, be forgiven for his sins, and then become a priest. A gay man who has remained celibate all his life cannot.

Notice that in 1986, the Church officially rebutted the idea that gay men, let alone gay priests, cannot be expected to be celibate, let alone molest children. The notion that all gay men are sexually compulsive was, in the words of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, an "unfounded and demeaning assumption."


Well, with gay rights, it's always two steps forward, one step back. (Massachusetts upheld gay marriage yesterday, and the House of Representatives passed a bill that creates federal hate crime laws for gays and lesbians.)

p.s. Just for the record... I don't believe in or support hate crime laws.

A Major Breakthrough

I decided to try the Hennessy. Put it in a snifter. I also poured a bit of Toom's Som Saeng ($2.68 per liter Thai whiskey) to see if I could tell the difference.

It took a couple of sips, but ya know what? There is a little bit of a difference!

Hey don't laugh: I failed a side-by-side which-is-the-red-wine and which-is-the-white-wine taste test. Well, okay... the fact that one glass was cold helped me... but if it wasn't for that...

However, I can instantly tell the difference between a German wheat beer and a Belgian wheat beer, and will recognize which is the true Trappist ale out of a choice of 6 or 7 similar-but-not-quite choices.

Other More Important Things

Having recently become an ex-smoker, I hesitate to post this, as I don't want to be accused as being one of those anti-smoking-fanatical-ex-smokers... because I'm not... at least not at the moment... but this caught my eye: I was typing this report about a lady who came into the emergency room with back pain so bad she couldn't even walk.

She was supposed to follow up with a neurosurgeon on September 6, 2005, but she lost her medical assistance on September 1, 2005, so she was not able to keep the appointment. The patient previously had been going to XXX Clinic, but they will not take her any more because she has no more insurance. She tried to go to YYY [charity] Clinic, and apparently she said that they told her that she has too many medical problems for them to take care of her.

At this point in time, she says that she is supposed to get her insurance reinstated January 1, 2006, but as it is not even October yet, she is still looking at 3 months of trying to deal with this. She seems to be shut out of everywhere else. It looks like the prognosis would be every 48 to 72 hours she would be back in the emergency department for more pain medications.


Now... why do I find this annoying? Under "Social History" is says, "She is a smoker."

Cigarettes cost about $6 per pack in the U.S. That's $180 per month. That would certainly go a long way (about halfway for an individual, to the best of my memory) to paying for that insurance that she seems to so desperately need.

Well... ya know... I'm just sayin'.

I Heart Google

Every day, Google is getting cooler and cooler. Have you ever tried just typing a question into Google? Oftentimes, it will answer you. Ask "How many liters in a gallon?" It tells you. Ask "What is the capital of Thailand?" It tells you. Ask "Who is Tom Hanks?" It tells you. Ask "What is a banjo?" It tells you.

"Who wrote Moby Dick?"
"What is the atomic weight of selenium?"
"Who won the 1995 World Series?"
"Who won the Oscar for best picture in 2001?

Know that you saw a cool story on CNN.com about Harry Potter? Type in "Harry Potter site:cnn.com" Only pages in cnn.com will be displayed.

I know what it's going to end up as: Like the computer on Star Trek. "Computer: Can you detect any mathematical similarities between the Mozart's "Eine kleine nachtmusik" and the atomic structure of riboflavin?"

Anyway, here is a full list of everything that Google has to offer.

Are You Angry Yet? Part 6

We all know that the Democrat governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, had a heck of a time getting through to President Bush (several attempts over a half-dozen hours, I've read in a couple of sources) to ask him for help. We all thought that was just the President being busy... or generally unaware.
She says that two days after Katrina, desperate for help, she couldn't get through to Bush and didn't get a callback; hours later, she tried again, and they talked.

However, we now learn about how much trouble Republican governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, had getting through to President Bush.
Barbour hasn't had to wait hours to talk to Bush. In fact, Barbour said in an interview with USA TODAY, the president called him three to four times in the wake of Katrina. "I never called him. He always called me," he said.

Tell me... does it sound at all like the President may have been more interested in helping out Republican Mississippi than Democratic New Orleans?

More importantly, in a time of national emergency, should there even be the slightest hint that the President of the United States is thinking Democrat/Republican instead of victim/nonvictim, or needs help / doesn't need help?

What would you call it if you found that evidence? Deliberate negligance or outright malice?

I wasn't entirely sure before Katrina, but I am beginning to believe that George W. Bush will go down in history as America's Worst President. What bugs me most is that 50.8% of Americans felt they needed 4 more years of this guy before they could be entirely certain.

The Upside...

The upside to President Bush winning a second term was that Republicans can't blame all that is going on in the world right now on John Kerry... which you know damn well they would have done.
  1. Everything that is going wrong in Iraq right now? Kerry's weak stance on the war is to blame, eroding support for the troops, and encouraging the terrorists... with some help from 8 years of Bill Clinton, of course.
  2. High oil prices? Kerry's fault. George Bush knew how to handle big oil, and would have had us drilling in Alaska and negotiating like crazy, and solved that problem in an instant.
  3. The economy? That's big business' distrust of Democratic administrations meddling in their affairs. Should have voted for Bush!
  4. The budget deficit? Well... that's what happens with a low-tax, big-government Democrat in the White House. (Plus 8 years of Clinton economic policies that set up all the problems to begin with.)
  5. Hurricane Katrina? Obviously Kerry has no idea how to prepare the country for a disaster or terrorist attack, which was what Republicans have been telling you all along.
Well now, as things stand, there is nobody to blame but Republicans, and boy is there going to be hell to pay in the 2006 elections... probably enough to flip the congress to the Democrats... and I would almost guarantee that in 2008, Democrats (or demoncrats, as the right-wingers like to call them) will be in charge of both houses of congress plus the White House.

The Pledge

...was ruled unconstitutional again today. The Supreme Court already ruled on this one, but not really: They ducked the actual question at hand by ruling that the claimant didn't have a right to sue. Therefore, the claimant resubmitted his suit, properly this time, and got the same result from the same federal court who ruled the pledge unconstitutional the last time. No surprises.

I was really on the fence about this, feeling that "One nation, under God" was really far to generic and nonspecific to be seen as a government sponsored endorsement of any religion, but then I read this paragraph, and realized that I had kind of missed the point:
"Imagine every morning if the teachers had the children stand up, place their hands over their hearts, and say, 'We are one nation that denies God exists.'"

OK. I get it now. I'm still not 100% against the "One nation, under God" line, but I certainly can see why it is a problem (constitutionally) and should be removed.

Yes, This is a Real Photo

Snapped by a Reuter's photographer over the shoulder of the President at a UN meeting yesterday:

No... I'm not going to get on his back about this one like some other people have. I just think it's funny that the leader of the free world got caught asking for permission to go to the potty.

Drifting

There is a (fairly) new motorsport out from Japan called drifting, which I think is the most interesting and novel form of racing to come along in a long time, if ever.

Consider it auto ice skating.

(The reason I bring this up is because I watched the Dukes of Hazzard movie on my visa run yesterday, and they did a fair ammount of drifting style driving.)

You've actually seen drifting before... on dirt tracks, with those funny winged cars that slide sideways around the entire length of the turn. Well, imagine doing that on a small circuit course (often set up in a parking lot), with as much of the entire length of a lap done with the back wheels slipping and sliding around.

People win races by doing the most outrageous skidding around the length of the track, keeping their front bumper inches from the inner wall, keeping the back tires as far out of line with the front tires as possible.

It's skill, it's artistic, it's racing. It's quite simply the highest demonstration of driving skill that doesn't involve going over 100 mph.

In a word, it's eff'in brilliant. If you ever get a chance to see this stuff, especially if you are a car or driving fan, and you haven't seen it before, tune in to watch. You'll be impressed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Another Day In The Van

Visa run today. That means 3½ hours in a van to a border crossing with Cambodia in the middle of nowhere; 30 minutes getting stamped out of Thailand, into Cambodia, out of Cambodia, and back into Thailand; and then 3½ hours back to Pattaya.

The nice thing is the duty free shopping while in Cambodia. I used to shop for cigarettes - Marlboros at $5 per carton, the more fancy Davidoff cigarettes from France were $10.

Now it is whiskey. Today I bought some Hennessy VSOP for $25, and Johnnie Walker blended malt (green label) for $25. I don't plan on drinking much of either... but it's nice to be able to say, after a nice dinner for 8, and forks have been laid across empty desert plates, "Would you care for some Cognac? It's VSOP, you know."

And that's exactly what I will be doing as soon as I know 8 people.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Party

So Jeep's party was tonight. Toom was basically responsible for putting it together... although I paid for all the food and drink, of which Toom (with Jeep assisting) made plenty, as you can see here.

Really, we were expecting about 12 to 15 people, but there was a horrific rain storm for the entire day, and people stared calling in their cancellations left and right. (They were coming from Bangkok and Aranya Prathet, over 2 hours away, so they did have reason.) However, when the confirmed guest list dropped down to 4 or 5 people, Toom had a fit, and called everyone back and... well, I don't know what she said, but people started uncancelling their cancellations and the party ultimately was well-attended.

Jeep wore the dress that I bought her. The old fellow you see in this photo is a friend of Toom's from France... a retired judge, and possibly the world's oldest backpacker. His name is Charlie. Toom said he was very wealthy, with houses all over the world, but Charlie seemed to laugh that off, but did admit a few hours later that the view of the pyramids from his apartment in Cairo is quite nice. That's Toom in the back on the right, her sister on the left, nieces as well.

Reeza's Mike brought one of his friends, Allen, over, and we hung out and chatted. It was actually later in the evening, when I was just about ready to turn in when Mr. Green and his brother turned up, soaked from riding their motorcycle to the party in the storm. They were the last two to arrive, but at least everybody made it.

Getting Back to That Construction Thing

I'm going to take a minute to illustrate my point from yesterday just how much building is going on in Pattaya by picking a random street in Pattaya... oh... say... My own street.

My street is about two-thirds of a kilometer long. When I moved in here in January... almost 10 months ago, it was a quiet neighborhood of houses and 2 boutique hotels... and not much else.

Now, at the corner of the main road and the beginning of my road, there is a 20-story condominium almost all the way built. 50 meters down the road, a row of 6 townhouses are being built. Another 10 meters, a large house is being refurbished into a hotel. Another 10 meters, another row of townhouses is going up. 40 meters beyond that, there is a small mansion being built.

50 meters beyond that, you come to a cross roads. To the left far corner, one of the boutique hotels is building a dozen little bungalows. To the right, 20 meters down the crossroad is a housing development of 30 houses going up. (This was actually already started when I moved in 9 months ago, so it really doesn't count... but there is still construction there.)

My house is about 20 meters past the crossroads. Next to my house is a field/lot. They are building what looks like an access road to the field/lot beyond it, and are probably going to be building another housing development back there. That just started this past week.

After the field next to my house is another group of bungalows going up, along with a big house in the center. Past that, my landlord, Rangsima is building 2 mirror-image mansions that are going to be put on the market for $350,000 each. Then you come to a T in the road. Across from the T, slightly to the right, there is another development with houses going in. Across from the T, slightly to the left, someone is building 3 more mansions... each about twice the size of Rangsima's places.

Again, I mention: Except as stated otherwise, all of these projects began in just the last nine months, and represent about 50% of the undeveloped land on my street. This is just one street. All over Pattaya it is the same: About 50% of all undeveloped land within, oh, 3 miles of the city center is currently being developed.

Funny part: When you get to the T at the end of my road, turn left, and go down the road about 300 meters, you will come to a 12-story big L-shaped apartment building with probably 150 apartments, brand new, all fitted out... and completely empty. Gates locked, parking lot deserted.

Oh... across the street from that empty building, there is a very large development of about 75 houses going up.

Well... I think I've made my point.

The Right to Privacy

Do you believe in the right to privacy? The right to privacy (a) made contraception legal, which (b) made abortion legal, and (c) made gay sex legal. So, if you are against any one of these being legal, you are probably against the right to privacy in some form or another.

So what exactly is the right to privacy? Well, the best way to explain it is to give examples of when you should be able to expect privacy. Let's say that having sex doggie style is illegal. Would it be okay, in an attempt to enforce the law, for police to look under the curtains in your bedroom window to see if you are breaking the law? We certainly would think that is illegal.

Would it be okay, in an attempt to enforce the law, for police to look under the curtains in your bedroom window to see if you are printing counterfeit money? Same window, but how much sympathy do we have now for what the husband and wife are doing and how they are caught doing it?

Is it reasonable to expect your doctor to keep your patient record private? Should it be against the law for someone's doctor to release his HIV status to the local newspaper without his permission? You have an unquestioned right to expect your medical information be kept private. But why? What right do you have to demand that right, if the government insists that you give up all of your medical information? There is no right to the privacy of personal information in the constitution... whether we are talking about medical records or not.

What about your bank account information? You certainly don't have a right to keep that information private. Why? Why don't you have a right to keep your financial situation private, but a right to keep your medical situation private?

The constitution makes no mention of any right to privacy... but it doesn't annotate the right to free thought or a right to oxygen or comfort either... or, most notably, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Why? Because like the right to privacy, these rights are all self-evident. As in, we don't need a constitution to define what life, simply and only, is about.

So, the question is really not a matter of privacy... but what is private?

Purple underwear.

Why do I have a right to wear purple underwear (assuming I'm not in boot camp, that is)? Because you don't know I'm wearing purple underwear, that's why; and my choice of underwear will never affect you (assuming I'm not in a lockeroom, that is).

I have an indisputable right to privacy concerning my underwear choices... as long as I keep my pants on.

So that means I define private as any action that cannot reasonably be casually seen by others, and cannot demonstrably affect others positively or negatively. Therefore, I believe that you have a right to do anything you like that (a) nobody can see you doing unless they go out of their way to see it, and (b) can not possibly affect other people directly or indirectly (NB: assuming they never see it) and their life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, comfort, peace of mind, or general ability to live their lives.

Now, I'm sure you could come up with all kinds of evil examples of "things you can do in your bedroom" where my rule would apply, such as shooting up heroin, commiting suicide, or skinning cats.

Ahh... but I could come back and say that your cancer diagnosis directly affects your employer. If you are a senior executive of a company and only have 6 months to live, that certainly is something that affects your company's life. It most certainly affects your family's ability to pursue happiness, comfort, et cetera. Abortion obviously affects a future somebody, which is a more ephemeral but certainly not unreasonable point.

That exactly is the problem with the right to privacy: It gives you a right to do things that every person should have a right to do... but then some. More problematic is that certain private situations may or may not be private, depending on the situation.

Anyway, I threw this post up as a tutorial to you, and as a self-debate for me. I do that a lot, and take pride in it: When I started writing this post, I was 100% supportive of the right to privacy. Now, I'm not so sure... mabye 95%.