Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Out For The Evening

Tuesdays I try to make it to TQ2 to hang out with the guys and mack on Bob's free food. (I would mention the free door prizes, but The Almighty has declared that I shall never win a door prize in this lifetime, so I'll skip that part. Besides, who wants to win a bunch of drinks and an hour in "The VIP Room" with 4 girls in their underwear? Apparently not me... otherwise I probably would have won by now.)

I was going to go home at around 8:30 or so, but instead I stopped by Margaritavilla for a little while and chatted with Rick. Then Steve, Riza, Richard, his wife and son, and sister in law, Nancy, stopped by. It was Riza's almost-birthday today (she's a leap-year baby) and they were doing a little celebrating, and I was invited along.

Therefore, we went off to Valencia, a restaurant on Tepprasit road which I had never heard of, but had some of the best Spanish food I had ever eaten. Lessee... we had calamari, shrimp and clams in this wonderful butter cream sauce, sauteed bell peppers (kept me up all night too, dammit), and a Spanish rice and chicken dish that I can't remember the name of.... peyote or something like that.

I love it when a night starts off with the plan to just have a quick drink and a bite at the local watering hole, and turns into a grand night on the town.

Another One Dying

Pui is off for four days to visit her father in the hospital in Phitsanulok. He's apparently had some kind of thoracic surgery and is now in the ICU. Over the last two weeks, my maid Go made two daytrips down to Rayong to visit her friend who is deathly ill in the hospital.

It's a total toss-up as to whether Thai people spend a good portion of their lives nearly dying of some grave illness (and another even greater portion visiting relatives undergoing same), or whether I'm just being jerked around. I think it's the former because all of the times when a Thai person tells me, "I have to go visit X in the hospital," there has never been an instance where they couldn't just as easily have said, "Uh, yes, I'm just going to go piss off for a couple of days upcountry," and I wouldn't have said, "Great! Have fun." Also, and more telling, there hasn't been any, "Can I have some money to pay for X's surgery / hospital / doctor / medicine / crashed motorcycle repairs?"

So anyway, if I were to make a guess, I would say that on average, 3 times a year, a Thai person has to rush home to visit a dead or dying relative. This reminds me to thank my family for not being dead or dying nearly so often, as I would have a long way to rush, were that the case.


My tax refund finally arrived in my bank today (Monday in America) after not getting direct-deposited like expected, but instead mailed to my mother's address in New York, and then forwarded to her house in Florida, and then mailed by my mother back to my Chase Manhattan account... about 17 days round trip.

So I woke up this morning, checked the account on the internet, and there it was. I immediately drove to the ATM to start my spending spree, but the ATM wouldn't let me at the money: The check hasn't cleared yet.

The banking system is mocking me.

Too Much Reality TV

Here in Thailand, at my house, I get both UBC cable and Sophorn cable. (The German guy who lived here before me wanted Sophorn because it had German channels, but kept the UBC.) Therefore I have about 150 channels to choose from.

A lot of the primetime shows that are on in Asia are from America, but are not even remotely popular there. The one I watch is "The 4400" (apparently only on the USA Network in America).

The most popular shows in Asia seem to be the reality programs... especially the ones where people get damaged. At the top of the heap (or bottom of the barrel, as it were) is "Maximum Exposure." You remember all those "World's Wildest _____ Videos" (car chases, explosions, animal attacks, pastrami overdoses) where in one hour you'd be subjected to 10 or 15 videos of things gone horribly wrong, and then at the end, the announcer would say, "miraculously, Jimmy only escaped with minor cuts and a sprained ankle."

Well, now you have "Maximum Exposure" and its ilk. These were all the videos that the other tamer shows' producers watched, cringed (perhaps retched), and then shelved as too hideous for sensible viewers. I got as far as the guy diving off the roof into pool and only hitting the water after hitting the concrete deck. (Although I did accidentally catch a rollerblader falling about 10 feet and landing on his head... which brings up another pet peeve about the channels showing these programs, which is that their previews don't censor themselves, and the bug-munching-pus-squirting scene from "Fear Factor" is played 3 times an hour, every hour.)

My father has sent me a couple of videos via e-mail which contain "Maximum Exposure-esque" material. So apparently there is a desire to see this stuff in America as well. (And I don't claim to be uninterested: I used to visit The Gore Gallery about once a year to see gruesome pictures of mangled corpses in car wrecks or suicide shotgun blasts. But for some reason, for me, the moving images of actual injury happening is much more disturbing than the clinical still shots made by a crime scene investigator after the fact.

Well, I checked the listings for New York City, and yes... you too can be subjected to Maximum Exposure. Saturdays at 4:00 a.m. on CBS.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Out For Lunch

Sunday afternoon means out for lunch and then a drive in the country.

I was going to take Pui out for Thai bar-be-que but apparently Thai bar-be-que places are an evening-only kind of thing.

Therefore it was off to one of Pattaya's best Thai restaurants, called Reua Mai ("wooden boat") on Sukhumvit Road. It's built over and around a really pretty fish pond.

It's not an easy thing to eat Thai food and spend an exhorbitant amount of money. Even the most ridiculously expensive Thai food isn't half as much as you would spend in a fancy European restaurant in Thailand (which are themselves not ridiculously expensive either).

I think the main problem is that Thai food really don't seem to have a "high end" and a "low end". It's really kind of hard to justify to a Thai person that a pork dish that costs $1 at one restaurant should cost $8 at another restaurant without any difference in quality of ingredients or preparation method. You can't really explain "atmosphere" to Thai people either. The only atmosphere Thai people care about is that they are surrounded by friends and having a good time when they are eating.

So, lessee... we had shrimp and cashews in sweet and sour sauce, squid and pineapple in orange sauce, pork and glass noodles in a tamarind broth, spicy crab legs, papaya salad of course, and the ubiquitous fried chicken. That with 4 bottles of coke, and several plates of rice, we spent about $11.

After that, Pui and I drove up to where my friend Alan is building his mansion at the top of a hill overlooking Jomtien, but the security guard wouldn't let us into the development. It must have been my shifty eyes, hooked nose, and pointy teeth.

Well, temperatures are climbing here in Thailand, and the sun is starting to really blaze. Therefore the rest of Sunday is going to be spent in the shade next to the pool listening to by Brazilian music collection, and drinking Bacardi Breezers.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

BMOC On The Car Lot

Al Bundy from Married With Children was the high school football hero who wound up with the hottest girl, married her, and ended up becoming a shoe salesman. Were life so fair that all the popular guys in school wound up in such a miserable existence, the world would be a utopian paradise.

I lived down the street from the local Big Man On Campus. Handsome guy. Had a dirtbike when he was a kid, then graduated to a pristine gold Pontiac Firebird when he was 16. Had great keggers, hung out with other popular kids doing all the popular stuff. Bagged the best-looking girls of course. Great personality in general, though he had that typical, "Hi, I'm popular, nice to meet you" attitude.

So what does the most popular kid in my school wind up as? Used car salesman. Granted, he actually owns the lot, so that kind of makes him an executive used car salesman, but as far as I'm concerned, it's one microstep above muffler repair shop owner, or bait-and-tackle-shack-on-the-interstate proprietor. The culinary arts bottoms out with burger flippers, and retail bottoms out with used car salesmen.

"'Ay Mikey, ain't we moved that '82 Camino yet? Well'n roll back the odometer a lil', that'll catch a nibble or two. I need that $650 sale to make alimony this month."

It's Simple Really

When Toyota comes to America and builds a car factory, they do not also bring with them 10,000 Japanese citizens to work in the factory and build the cars: They hire 10,000 Americans to do the work.

It's the same with the port operations company: Americans will be managing our ports. Just their paycheck will be signed in Dubai. In fact, since this is just a takeover of the original company, the same (American) people that were managing our ports before under the British company will be managing them after the takeover by the Dubai company. Why would the 10,000 Americans in charge of operating our ports suddenly be a threat to national security just because the address of their HQ is now in the UAE? Are they going to turn a blind eye to suspicious activity just because their stock options are in riyals (or whatever)?

Now, the major salient point: Bush is screwed. Why? Well, that above point about how it is Americans that are operating our ports was an exceptionally easy point to make, but not one member of George Bush's party is standing up and making it (although Joe Lieberman seems to have figured it out, natch). Instead, Republicans are using this situation to dump on the president in order to score political points at home.

Let me say it again: President Bush is being hung out to dry by Republicans in Congress on the issue of domestic security from terrorism.

See ya.
Oh and p.s. All George Bush has to do to win this argument is to make one of those feel-good America-rocks speeches with about 300 American employees of this now-Dubai port operations company on bleachers standing behind him, soldier-style, and say, "Look, if this deal doesn't go through, these people, plus 10,000 other Americans like them, will be looking for a job. Do you want that?"

Shh though: Don't tell George.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

No tacky collection of blog cat photographs would be complete without a "cat and mouse" photo. However, staging the event... human assistance in getting cat and mouse together... does not count. It has to be the cat's idea. By the way, Pramoj here has apparently (possibly) gone on permanent vacation about 4 days ago. I think that the birth of the mutant West Virginia babies (born of brother and sister Pridi and Phibun) bothered Pramoj and he hit the road. Either that, or he is currently being digested by a snake. Well, consider this photo his parting gift to world of cheesy cat lover pron.

Chrome Pole Report

Thursdays are now wet T-shirt contest night at TQ2. Bob (of Bob's Bar-be-que) has taken over management responsibilities and started this contest.

(Not that I would condone judging women solely on their breasts... my father taught me better than that: Women consist of nice round bottoms as well.)

Anyway, if you like seeing Thai girls get icewater poured on their jumblies, you can't do better than TQ2 on Thursdays 'round about 7:00 p.m. Lots of free food and prizes as well as wet girls to hug.

Aqua Critters

My friend Stan's wife had a birthday party that I was invited to. That was nice, but the point of this post is Stan's fish. Stan is the most world famous ichthyologist I've ever met. That means he likes his fish sans batter and lemon wedges.

Stan will get together with his friends and trek across India for 3 months, discover an as-yet-unnamed guppy in a pond in the outback of Uttar Pradesh, pop open champagne, and call the trip a smashing success.

Obviously Stan has fish tanks in his house. Whether you are into fishthyology or not, you cannot help but appreciate Stan's tanks. It's like going to the aquarium... but better.

No treasure chest, no plastic plants, nothing artificial. All fresh-water fish and plants perfectly healthy, beautifully illuminated, in a thriving, aquatic environment.




Have you ever done these puzzles? They are a logic/number game apparently from Japan. You have to get the numbers 1 through 9 in each of nine rows across, each of nine columns down, and each of nine 3-by-3 grids. The puzzle provides you with certain numbers to begin with, and then you have to figure out the rest. Quite a good way to warm up your brain in the morning over coffee.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dangerous Concoction

... and yes, this is confirmed by actually tasting it:

For those of us for whom the only point of drinking is to get drunk, or if you are the type who wants to render a lady unconscious and are out of ketamine, there is only one way to go:

Ouzo and lemonade.

You mix 1 shot of 100-proof licorice whiskey and 3 shots of lemonade and somehow end up with 4 shots of lemonade.

And Now Pui

Took had to go. She was actually great to hang around with... smart, driven, energetic, funny. Unfortunately, we just weren't clicking emotionally and we both knew it. I sent her on her way with enough thanks-but-sorry money to do pretty much whatever she wanted to do. Unfortunately, I hear she went straight to Walking Street. That's really sad, considering.

Anyway, this is Pui, Took's replacement. I'm optimistic as always.


I won't bother with trying to get a photo of all 3 of them together. They all look like this one.

It's 297 Degrees Kelvin

With the sun moving up in latitude in the northern hemisphere, more sunlight is hitting my pool every day. It has gone from frigid to cold to now what optimists would call "invigorating". I'll get in when it gets to "refreshing", and on to "relaxing" and "soothing".

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Port Security

I answered a poll the other day on CNN: "Do you think a company from an Arab country should be in charge of operations in American ports?"

My answer was, "Well, I really don't think that any foreign company should be in charge of American ports."

I always call the Bush administration on their bullshit when I see it, but I'm also always willing to stand up and defend them when they get the short end of the stick.

Fact of the matter is, currently there is a British company operating all of the ports in question. They are the fourth largest port operations company in the world. They are merging with another port operations company from the United Arab Emirates. That's pretty much all there is to it. They were nice enough to ask the Bush administration if there was any problem with this merger, and the Bush administration said no.

Everything else is political.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Down In The Dumps... Otherwise Okay.

Depression isn't an emotion... it's a state of being. Depression should actually be called "deflation" so as to avoid confusion.

For five months now, I've ended every optimistic thought I've had with "when I get my tax return." (Working overseas, the first $80,000 you earn is tax-free, and represents about 2 months' salary mailed back to me by the IRS.)

My taxes got filed. The IRS acknowledged receipt. On the IRS website, I could count down the days before the money showed up in my bank account. I was giddy with anticipation.

February 10th came and went. No money. Since then, I've been checking my bank account online every so often, hoping beyond hope that the money will be there. No money. The IRS website says it's been sent. No money.

A heavy blanket has slowly fallen on me as each day goes by. I'll lie in bed and stare blankly at the window and think happy thoughts... and be happy. Then I'll fall asleep... and have happy dreams. Then I'll wake up and think about how my money (all the relief it would bring, all the problems it would solve) is still missing. Then I'll sit in front of my computer, and type, and type, and type. (At least I work from home, so there is no real physical effort involved with working, and no people to interact with. At least I have a maid to send out to do all the chores.) Then I eat lunch. Then I lie and stare at the window with the happy thoughts. Then the happy dreams again. Then type and type and type. Then an hour of TV. Then I play with the cats. Then it's back to bed... 12, 14 hours a day in bed: Where (the only-in-my-dreams) happiness is.

There is no sadness. No tears. Nothing of the sort really. I had Mike and Riza over yesterday for drinks and had a great time. Heck... the more people I have around, the better off I am. It's when I'm alone by myself staring at the window when the heavy blanket falls, and things get bad... happy: The dreaming.

And that's what depression is... for me at least. It's when sleeping is more fun than being awake, when the memory of happy dreams stay with you to buoy you when you are awake, and when everything you do when you are awake reminds you of how much you would rather be happily asleep.

(You know, just to reassure you, I'm the last person on earth who would ever ponder suicide, but I'll bet this is why people do it: They think that death is the ultimate, eternal, happy sleep.)

I'm quite sure this is "depression lite" that I am experiencing: A mild case of deflation. I imagine that given the right circumstances, what I am experiencing could double, triple, square itself. That would really be a blast, I'm sure.

Well, I'm not worried yet. Since I know exactly what caused my depression, I assume to know exactly what will lift my depression. I will only start to worry when I log into my bank account, see that my tax refund has finally arrived, and then promptly turn off the computer monitor and climb back into bed.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Think About It

Just remember... this is supposed to be one of the smart people:
"President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale."
—Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The Pelotão Effect

When I was an exchange student in Brazil, I lived in a town called Franca in which also lived a old crazy man. His name was known by no one that I knew, but he was nicknamed by all the local children as "pelotão" or "big pellet"... which were the size of the rocks he threw as he ran and cursed after any kid daring to call him "pelotão" (which, coincidentally was pretty much every kid in Franca).

The question is, why did the kids call this man "pelotão" when they knew that it meant having a 70-year-old coot chasing after them chucking pebbles? Because it was cruel? No: Because it was entertaining. Pelotão was never mistreated... never abused... just had that one word shouted at him across the Plaza Centrale. He sat in a bar surrounded by other men in town who brought him drinks, consoled him about the mean children, and who all waited patiently for school to get out so that they could laugh at the gangly limbs and shock of gray hair go bolting down the street while they held his beer for him.

Pelotão was fun. He just didn't know it. He was a puppet with a "key word" that the kids played with and the adults enjoyed.

Occasionally a kid would get knocked loopy by a pelotão pellet, and then everyone would say "Well, that's what you get." The kid would go home half crying, half laughing. Pelotão would go back to his bar stool with a grim satisfaction, and the local guys would supply another Cerveca Chopp, and the whole process would begin again.

And that is my take on the whole "Danish Cartoon" brouhaha: Secretly, we all love to see muslims go batshit about some stupid little insult, burning flags and embassies, and turning countries upside down because of something that we perceive as peurile and petty. Secretly, we love the fact that the muslim world is so unsteady that a simple cartoon (!)... 10 minutes of work and 10 milliliters of paint... could upend and enrage a billion people for months on end.

Besides... after we are done laughing at the muslims, we'll be sure to buy them a beer.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I Didn't Think Of That

Andrew Sullivan responds (via posting a reader e-mail) to me — albeit not directly — about my desire to stop using the Middle East as our oil supply:

To put it simply, it's all about Economics 101:

If we start weaning ourselves off oil, the first oil that we'll stop using is the oil that is the most expensive to get out of the ground... which would be offshore and Canada. The cheapest oil is from... you guessed it... the Middle East.

And another point of which I was already aware: We don't get that much of our oil from the Middle East (see this PDF for the exact numbers)... 11.2% to be exact, with OPEC worldwide supplying 26.8%.

So, overall, if we were to use less oil, the overall effect is we would actually INCREASE the percentage of our oil that we import from the Middle East.

Oh well. I don't suppose we could get principles to override economic logic, could we?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Add Caption To This Photo

I've never made fun of people on this blog just for the hell of it: They need to be idiots first. They need to think / do / believe things that make my culo pucker before I lay into them... and even then, I don't stoop to personal affrontery — my parents taught me better.

But I couldn't pass up a photo as bad/good as this.
I will say however that, as compared to a podunk little blog like this, the Associated Press distributing it far and wide to millions of readers is kind of cruel. (Hey guys: Remember when you used to shitcan the awful pictures?) Oh well. Who am I to criticize?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Gangsta Paradise

From the Bangkok Post (no link because the Bangkok Post website sucks donkey):

..But the real problem is that for every undesirable alien who gets stopped, a great many more slip through in the guise of tourists and businessmen. That is why the Russian mafia is so well represented here, the terrorists who planned both World Trade Center bombings chose to do more than just visit the country, tattooed German gangsters strut the streets of beach resorts and an American who murdered his wife in Atlanta hid out here, along with assorted paedophiles of all nationalities. It is also why Thai police receive so many requests to help track down foreign fugitives. Just this month, the FBI asked police to hunt down a racketeer on their list of the 10 most wanted fugitives because the trail led here and a German and a Swede were arrested in Prachuap Khiri Khan province and Pattaya, and are being held for extradition to face major crime charges in their home countries.
—hat tip to Baron Bonk

Pattaya is a major destination for major (and minor) criminals. Of that, there is no doubt. However, having something to fear from these people is not reasonable: They are hiding out. They are on the lam. They are being careful. They don't want to do anything to attract attention to themselves. They are the least likely farangs to commit crime against other farangs (pedophiles notwithstanding) in Thailand. The criminal element in Pattaya is active in the steroid trade, investment fraud, forgery and counterfeits, and other scams, but very rarely will they venture out into broad daylight to commit any crime that I have heard of... once a year maybe.

It's the idiots who should have been criminals (and in jail) back in their home countries, but barely managed to stay on the correct side of the law (and prison walls) who come here because everyone in their home country couldn't stand them... the ones with the violent streaks. They are the ones who you need to watch out for.

Still though, most farang residents have read (or perhaps seen first hand) what the inside of a Thai jail looks like, and know better (at least when they are sober) than to put themselves in a situation that could get them stuffed into a hot, tiny, inside-of-a-wet-sneaker cell with 100 drunk and belligerent Thai men. (Although a person's assholery level, if sufficient, can override the stay-out-of-jail instinct.)

When it comes to the people to stay away from, tourists are the genuine problem in Pattaya. These are the idiots who think that (a) being a temporary presence here makes one more difficult for the police to track down (it's the opposite really), or (b) that they are somehow immune from the police because their tourist Euros "keep the town alive" (true only if you are a bus and you are filled with Chinese people), or (c) that because they are rich Europeans they expect that the Thai police will somehow kowtow to them and their cultural superiority. (The police will kowtow to a nice fine being paid back at the station house, but not after they have made sure that your fun night out on the town has completely gone to shit.)

Tourists are the ones who get in fights with Thai people, walk out without paying the bill, insult vendors, try to grope girls who are not meant to be groped, crash their rented motorcycles, buy loose joints on Beach Road, or try to start a riot when Arsenal loses.

Still, I guess that after all of that, the truest statement I can make about crime in Pattaya is that any farang here can be a criminal... but just as long as you don't give them reasons to act like a criminal, you really shouldn't have to worry. If you ever do find yourself on the receiving end of another farang's criminal behavior, you can be quite comfortable in the knowledge that, if nothing else, the police are very keen to help you, and are very keen to take the bad guy away in handcuffs.

Comparing Pounds to Pennies

The one thing you have to be careful of when you listen to political speeches is to not allow yourself to be bowled over with the "big number effect". When a politician talks about how wonderful X-massive-number-of-dollars is, remember to think about other numbers that the same politician would not want his wonderful X number put next to:

To paraphrase George Bush in the SOTU tonight: "We cut $40 billion in spending out of the budget. Isn't that awesome?"

Fine: That means you've got about 7 months of the war in Iraq paid for. You now have enough to cover half the bill for the Katrina disaster. You're 10% of the way to balancing the budget. You've made up about 5% of the annual revenue lost from your tax cuts.

President Bush: No Centaurs Please

Apparently science poses great threats to America, according to Presdient Bush in his State of the Union address: We must protect against "creating human-animal hybrids". Dear God (or any available God-Fearing Republican) Protect Us!!!! Kill It!!! Hit it with a brick!!!

And please keep all those conservative, red-neck, white-trash hillbillies away from the sheep!