Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Nasty Surprise

This is the kind of stuff I don't want to be reading first thing in the morning:

Americans Living Abroad Get a Nasty Tax Surprise

In an effort to raise revenues, tax writers in Congress added a last-minute provision that retroactively increased taxes for Americans living abroad.

All I could think of was the sight of me writing a check to the IRS for a huge amount of money. (You ever get that feeling of your stomach dropping into your buttocks upon reading something particularly and personally horrifying?)

Fortunately after reading the whole article, it actually is the opposite: The $80,000 tax exclusion has been raised to $82,400. Even if there are increased taxes, it will only be on my income over $80,000. Additionally, I'm not claiming any tax deductions based strictly on living outside the country, which is where most of the increases are to be found.

All OK. Deep breath. Relax.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How? Why?

I've never been a soldier. I can't imagine for a minute what a soldier's mindset must be like (1) when everything is generally okay, and (2) when everything is totally fucked up and your world is an inferno of violence and noise and emotion.

Apparently arrogance is a part of a soldier's mindset. I suppose it has to be. The arrogance probably started off as "confidence", but after that soldier's confidence is proven right again and again, arrogance has to come peeking through sooner or later.

But rage: That's the real kicker. When a soldier's confidence is literally shot to hell, rage must get together with arrogance and cause soldiers to go crazy and do things like this. That's my only guess. What other mindset is available for consideration that would allow a soldier to bring a rifle to bear point blank on a little girl, squeeze the trigger, and send her off to oblivion? I mean, that's inhuman.

Like I said, I have never been so pumped up with a combination of training, testosterone, temper, and torment, so I have no idea what a man is capable of given the right circumstances.

But still... there is rage-filled murder, and then there is staring an innocent child in the eye and taking her life. Whatever emotional filter was clouding that soldier's eye at that moment, he had to have seen the little girl he killed. What he felt after such a heinous act, I myself do not care to ponder.

...And Property Values Soared

Thailand doesn't have very many cases of "NIMBY" (Not In My Back Yard), because this is what happens to people who complain.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Sunday

Pui, Pot and I, as well as Rick, Da, Sara, Paa, and Justin went to Pattaya Park today. It was really a great time, although I threw out my neck on the water slide.

(photo snatched from Pattayapark.com)

I took Pot on the kiddie slide, and the thing is so not-steep (and no slidey-mat is provided) that with my big ol' fatness, and Pot sitting on my stomach, I was 10 feet out of the gate before I realized that I wasn't sliding anywhere. Thus, I had to do the row-row-row your ass motion all the way down the slide, and in the process messed up my neck.

It wasn't too bad though, and I managed to enjoy the rest of the day just fine.

I did want to take Pot up to the top of the tower, but they wanted 350 baht per person. I assume (hope) this included a meal at the restaurant. However, since neither Pui nor I were hunry, we took a pass.

Instead we put Pot on the spinning swing thing for a ride, which he loved.

After that, it was back home before going out for the evening. Pui and I met Rick, Da, Oo, and Justin at TQ2 and had a great time. We also headed over to Angelwitch to watch some of the shows, which the girls really enjoyed. (So hint for you: If you are on a date with a Thai girl, Angelwitch is a good choice to hang out at.)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Birthday

Friday night was Rick's birthday party, so we went down to (what used to be) Margaritavilla and had a spaghetti dinner and cake.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thai Boxing

I've always assumed that the Thai boxing that you see on Walking Street has a bit of fakery to it. I've believed this because I couldn't imagine getting into the ring each night... or 2 or 3 times a night... and getting the shit smacked out of you.

However, I adjusted that attitude after tonight. I only have one unanswered question:

If you're a strong young Thai boxer, just how much damage can you do if you hit someone as hard as you can upside the head with one of those big junior-league poofy gloves? Because that is what I saw, and it was a hell of a shot. I'm assuming not too much damage. I'm still assuming that the TKO the one guy scored wasn't quite as legitimate as it appeared, but they do whomp on each other as hard as they can with their bumper gloves.

(Oh... in case anybody thinks that this means that you stand a fair chance with stepping into the ring with these guys, get real. These guys have a success ratio of about 1 broken rib per kick... they just don't do it to their sparring partners.)

Tom The Legend

In TQ2, there is a "TQ2 Legends" board upon which are 5 records and the names of the people that hold them.
  • There is the "horn pulls" record, for the person who has pulled the big Mack Truck horn to buy 10 shooters the most times.
  • There is the "blasts" record, for the person who has pushed the dynamite plunger and bought all the girls on the stage a drink the most times.
  • There is the "gong" record, for the person who banged the gong and bought the staff a drink the most times.
  • There is the "bell ringer" record, for the person who rang the bell the most number of times and bought everyone in the bar a drink.
  • Then finally, there is the "grand slam" record, for the person who did all 4 of the above the most times in 1 night.
Some guy named Tom came in to TQ2 last Saturday night and proceeded to break every single record: He pulled the horn 30 times, blasted 30 times, gonged 30 times, rang the bell 30 times, and, obviously, made 30 grand slams. He also bought somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 lady drinks.

When all was said and done, Tom had rung up a $5,500 bar bill... which could possibly be a record for all of Pattaya as well. I'm just totally annoyed that I wasn't there to see it, and enjoy it. That would have been 30 shooters and 30 drinks I would have gotten to enjoy.

I would say, "Oh well... there's always next time," but let's be serious.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

If You Can't Beat 'Em

Pui was quite upset the two times (so far) I have blown up and whupped Pot. However, she has quickly come to recognize the benefit of the "wait 'till your father gets home" ploy, and has been using it frequently on Pot. Now Pui has arrived at the actual desire to hand over the disciplinary duties to me when she reaches her wit's end. In other words, now Pui has arrived at "beat his ass Jil!!!"

It's the ultimate parenting skill isn't it? Applying corporal punishment without being angry. Hell: It's easy to whup a child when he's gone and really pissed you off. Just remember that he's a child. That's nothing. But to just whup a child without being angry first? I don't think I can do that. I don't want to go around smacking him when I am pissed off. Now I'm supposed to do it all cold and calculatin' style?

Even worse, I can't effectively explain to Pot why he's getting smacked, and therefore all I am going to be is a loaded weapon that Pui can discharge whenever she thinks Pot needs it. That's really not my bag.

Still though, Pot is a kid who can get way out of line (like any child), and he definitely responds to it when I unload on him. I just know what it's like to be in Pot's shoes in those instances, and... well... damn. It was something that I told myself I wouldn't have in my arsenal as a grownup.

Well, I'll figure something out.

Google Truths

It's called "Google Trends", and what it is to the unitiated is a highly amusing and interesting tool that...
...analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you enter relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. We then show you a graph with the results -- our search-volume graph.
... by country.

In other words, you can find out what country has the highest percentage of users looking for terms like "Da Vinci Code", or "Farang" or any other word you can think of.

The most interesting findings, according to this article:
While Google emphasizes that its efforts to protect individuals' privacy, the new site does nothing to protect the collective privacy of nations, if such a thing exists - the right of the British to conceal that they look up "handcuffs" most often, or the right of China's leaders to hide that Mandarin ranks second only to English as the language used to look up "democracy," or the right of other officials to hide that Arabic-speaking users rarely look up "democracy."
The most interesting tidbit that Andrew Sullivan came across is that Pakistanis, Egyptians, Iranians, and other Muslims are the most likely persons on the planet to be googling for the word "sex". (One of the most likely persons to be googling for "gay sex" on the planet would be from Saudi Arabia... where gay sex is punishable by death.)

Heh. This makes two google posts in a week. I'm such a big ol' sloppy Google kiss-ass.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Double Standards

Republican Senator John McCain goes to The New School and delivers a commencement speech that is pro-war, and gets booed by the graduates. Conservatives call this evidence of the hate-filled left because of the graduates' brash impoliteness to a war hero.

Democrat Representative Lacy Clay goes to The University of Missouri and delivers a commencement speech that is anti-war, and gets booed by the graduates. Conservatives call this evidence of the hate-filled left because of Lacy Clay's brash impoliteness in making all the graduates angry.

Glen Greenwald:
So, to re-cap the rules: (1) When a pro-war politician gives a pro-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle and boo him, that shows how Deranged the Angry Left is -- because they heckled a pro-war speech. (2) When an anti-war politician gives an anti-war speech as part of a graduation ceremony, and students in the audience heckle, walk out and even riot, that also shows how Angry the Left is -- because they "provoked a near riot" by pro-war students.

(Thanks to Glen Greenwald for doing all the footwork on this post... I merely copied all his links and parroted his sentiment.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday Vinnie Blogging

I like this photo... Vinnie doesn't look at all like baby Jil in this one.

p.s. I really don't dictate the content of this blog... the content of my life does. What I see and what I experience and what I think is what gets reflected here. Therefore, I promise you, my dear readers, that I shall spend as little time seeing and experiencing and thinking about babies and toddlers as possible, and try to spend as much time as possible in bars with girls in their underwear. But, until I am there, you'll have to cope.

... Albeit A Self Loathing One


I am:
59%
Republican.
"Congratulations, you're a swing voter. When they say 'Nascar Dad', they mean you. Every Republican ad on the TV set was made just for your viewing pleasure. Don't you feel special?"
Are You A Republican?

The reason it shows Republican at all is because I answered that "A Women's Place Is: (f) Towering over me, with her spike heels digging cruelly into my bleeding back." (Republicans dig that kind of thing too, apparently. Who knew?)

Actually, anybody who reads my blog knows I'm a big ol' marshmallowy Libertarian at heart.

Rainy Days

Parkas: One size does not fit all.

Movie Review

I went to see The DaVinci Code on Saturday night with Rick. (We had dinner at Fatties on Second Road beforehand. Not bad at all.)

I'm a pushover for movies, so I liked it just fine. (Besides, tickets for movies in Thailand are only $2.50, and a large popcorn and soda are $1.00. Can't complain that it wasn't worth it.)

The one complaint I have is the same complaint I have with every single movie that was once a book: They left stuff out. They left out all of the in-depth discussions about Fibronaci, that natural number thingy, all the extra gospels, the Madonna on the Rocks analysis, palimpsests, the history of Opus Dei, Les Dossier Secrets, the rose line, and on and on and on.

I'm sure some... or lots... of people would have found that stuff boring, but I wouldn't have. They should have an uncut version for the DVD.

Annual Mess

One of the oddest things I see in Thailand happened last night: The annual termite swarm.

On one night per year around this time, immediately following a heavy rain storm, the air will suddenly be filled with large flying ants, looking like half-sized dragon flies. Filled, I say... as in run, take cover.

Then, almost as quickly, the termites lose their wings and crawl away, leaving a huge wet scattering of discarded insect wings covering the ground.

And that is the last you see of them until next year.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Day At The Beach

An old friend, Erin, was in town for the last time before heading back to America, and so a group of us decided to head down to Bang Saray for a day at the beach with her.

Now this is my idea of the perfect beach: Palm trees right to the water's edge. Thank god the Thai people haven't cut these down yet and replaced them with umbrellas. Forget Ko Larn... this is the place to spend a day at the beach.
From left to right, Rick, Erin, Pui, Cheryl, and Mick. Riza and Mike are down with Pot playing in the water (which my crappy camera phone washed out... but is the white glare on the left).

The World's Largest Hotel

I didn't realize this... and didn't even believe it when I was told... but the world's largest hotel is The Ambassador in Pattaya/Jomtien with 5,100 rooms (although their website says they only have 4,200).

I figured it would have been a hotel in Las Vegas, and I was close, as 17 of the top 20 largest hotels in the world are in Las Vegas.

My favorite dark-horse entry would be the never-completed Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea, coming in at 1100 feet, 105 stories tall... but is forever to be unoccupied because of bankruptcy and poor construction materials, will eventually crash to the ground.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Illegal Immigration ≠ Terrorism

Yes, yes... I know America needs to wage holy jihad against all of the lettuce pickers and lawn mowers and brush cutters in the country before we are all singing "Amanece, lo veis?" ("Oh say, can you see?") while swinging our Dos Equis to and fro at the local cantina... but to say we are fighting the war on terrorism by sending America's national guard to kick up dust along the Rio Grande is totally disingenuous. News Flash: The terrorists are coming from Canada. Not one terrorist suspect has ever come from Mexico. Send some of the National Guard to the Canadian border, and then I'll believe the government when they say that this program is helping the war on terrorism.

Now, part two: Mexicans have been crossing our border for time immemorial. Mexicans have been working illegally in our country ever since the government decided that "legal" and "illegal" workers existed. So why the War on Wetbacks this week? Simple: President Bush suggested a "congratulations-you-didn't-get-caught-breaking-the-law" amnesty program for illegal immigrants which pissed off The Minutemen (i.e. his base), and he needed to do a quick red meat toss in order to calm down the shoot-on-sight types in his party. (Well, that and the "let's kick Teh Gay" stuff isn't getting quite the mileage it used to.) (Well, that and the White House figured a nice diversion/vacation from the war in Iraq would be helpful.) Therefore, America has been introduced to yet another Two Minutes of Hate opportunity to keep Conservatives happy and the rest of us fretting about how dangerous brown people are.

Ahh... The politics of pandering at its finest. To bad it isn't working.

p.s. (I figured I'd toss this in here before I get comments...) Note that this post has absolutely zero opinion about illegal immigration or immigration reform, and is entirely about political opportunism, election-year legerdemain, and social welfare scapegoating. If you want my opinions on immigration, click here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Fox News

As a rule, I generally don't rant/laugh about things like this on this blog, but I was watching Fox News and this one struck me as terribly funny. I don't have an exact quote... I'm just sitting down and typing it as I remember it. It was a guy talking about how the inmates at Guantanamo are a bunch of ingrates because they are rioting or something.

One commentator said, "They're just trying to get attention. Heck... One guy has tried to commit suicide 22 times so far. I don't know what they think they are going to prove."

Superbowl Commercials

The last time I watched a Superbowl in order to see a football game was back in the early 1990s when my Buffalo Bills choked and died 4 years in a row. Ever since then, I tuned in pretty much to see the commercials... and drink beer if I was with friends.

Unfortunately, when I moved to Thailand, I discovered that the Superbowl broadcast here does not include the American commercials. Therefore the Superbowl in Thailand (broadcast early Monday morning, local time, as we are 12 hours ahead), is a complete waste. (And who drinks beer at 6:00 on a Monday morning, even with friends?)

But fortunately, I have discovered that Google Video now has all of the Superbowl commercials online. I'm sitting down to watch them right now.

Thank you Google. You haven't made Superbowl Monday any better, but at least now I can see what I missed.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The New Hood

... Because Mom wanted to see a picture. It kind of goes on like this for a few miles. I'm the last house on the left.

Angelina Spam

Angelina Jolie must have put out some nude pictures or something, because I have gotten exactly 22 spam messages in the last 8 hours proclaiming that such pictures are just one mouse click away.

Personally, Ms. Jolie doesn't do it for me. Those "I'm having an allergic reaction to the Lo Mein" lips are not my style.

p.s. Make that 23.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Crime

I'm really thinking about moving out of Pattaya because of the crime. Every time I look at the news, it seems to be getting worse. In the last month alone, there have been 6 murders (including 2 farangs), 6 attempted murders/shootings (including 2 farangs), and 4 farang suicides.

That doesn't even begin to cover the hundreds of muggings, break-ins, rapes, and drug-related violence that occur in Pattaya each month.

That also doesn't even begin to cover thousands of incidents of rowdy behavior and fights, traffic accidents, and petty crime.

I'm not sure I'll leave because all of my friends are here, but if I do leave, it will be because of the crime.

Sleeping Dogs

You don't get a lot of bullshit background stories from people in Pattaya. Or, more accurately, you don't hear people tell you things about their lives that cause you to instantly think, "that's bullshit." When you do hear bullshit, you just nod your head, and go along with the joke... mostly out of politeness. (Besides, here in Pattaya, you never know when somebody might actually be telling the truth, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.)

Therefore, when this young guy came into TQ2 last night and started telling everyone he was a Special Forces instructor working on fighting terrorism with the Thai government, everyone just kind of listened, nodded their heads, and went along with it.

However, the Russian hooker in the $8 cocktail dress who was so juiced up on yaa-baa pills that she was having borderline maniacal spasms, who came in with this guy and was playing along with her date's "let's-make-shit-up" game, was even more over the top. "Oh, I'm working with Russian intelligence doing drug enforcement here in Thailand."

Now, as a rule, illegal-alien doped-up Russian hookers are not the kind of people you want to antagonize in Pattaya, because they might go running to their illegal-alien doped-up Russian mobster boyfriends. Therefore, when one of my friends told the girl, as she and her date were leaving, "I'm going to have you checked out to see if your story is for real." I nearly fell out of my chair. The bleach-blonde yaa-baa addict nearly blew a vein out of her forehead she was so angry. Fortunately, Mr. Special Forces Bullshit Artist didn't hear what my friend said, or lord knows what might have happened.

Most likely the hooker was more frightened of having to explain to her pimp that she got herself (and him) in deep shit because she was shooting her mouth off in a bar, more than she was interested in doing anything to my friend, but there is such a thing as bad luck, and god knows you can find it in Pattaya.

People come to Pattaya from all over the planet for all kinds of reasons. If you don't think you are hearing the real reason from a person, the second to last thing you should do is tell them that you don't believe they are telling the truth. The absolutely last thing you should do is tell them that you intend to find out what the truth is.

Heh.

There is a laugh factor with crazy old Muslims that you just can't quite get with crazy old Christians... although you probably see this 10 times as often in a Bible thumping club.


I like the belief that we are witnessing this mullah discover the joys of taking Ecstasy.

(p.s. What is up with all of this Eastern European bubblegum techno I'm hearing these days?)

Monday, May 15, 2006

New Elections

New elections in Thailand are scheduled to occur sometime in late September or October. (On October 22, according to the BBC.)

The date being so distant means that not only will the opposition parties have enough time to mount a proper campaign, but elected officials in the ruling Thai Rak Thai party will be able to switch to a different party should they choose to.

No word from ex-Prime Minister Thaksin as of yet.

Regarding Those Wire Taps

"If you're looking for a needle, making the haystack bigger is counterintuitive. It just doesn't make sense."


The NSA (one of America's spy agencies) recently acquired a database of "all the phone calls made in the United States" in order to search for terrorist activity. The political left (the people who favor big government) are up in arms about it, while the political right (the people who favor limited government) are shrugging their shoulders and saying, "What's the big deal?"

I know what the NSA is doing: They are playing the world's largest ever game of 6-Degrees of Separation with supercomputers. They have taken 10 billion phone calls and are just messing around with the numbers until their 800-processor, football-field-sized supercomputer spits interesting things out.

Do I care? No, even though I am "on the left".

Should I care? Yes.

Granted, I am here in Thailand and not a single one of my calls is in the posession of the NSA... but even if it were, I wouldn't care. If they want to hear me bug Mike about going to TQ2, or hear me order a Whopper from Burger King, what's it to me? I'm the person who posts on the internet about shouting at Pot, details of my health or my sleeping habits, or even dreams that make me cry.

Now we talk about the principle: Is it a good thing that the government now has the ability to just demand things that used to require a court order? (Remember in the news you would hear the reporter say, "Investigators are currently awaiting a court order to obtain the phone records of the killer.") Should we really mentally differentiate or ameliorate the severity of this because the information the NSA has is "anonymous"? (Do you think it will remain anonymous if the NSA takes an interest in a particular phone call?)

Americans have gotten this new attitude over the past 50 years or so: "I wasn't doing anything wrong, so feel free to look around all you want." (Note my opinion above.) That obviously goes against Americans' original creed, which was "I wasn't doing anything wrong, so f**k off."

Times change, but freedoms do not change... just how much we value them and fight to uphold them.



UPDATE:

According to one "inside source", ABC News is saying that the whole undertaking is an attempt to find out who reporters' "confidential sources" are. (Hat tip Think Progress.)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

No More Cats

I read on a cat care website somewhere that cats and children are an awful combination and should be avoided at all costs. Based on the fact that as a child I drove the family cat insane, I knew this to be true. Therefore, when Pot moved in, I wasn't at all upset when the cats started leaving one by one.

Two cats did stick around though: Mother Pridi and one of her kittens. Pot loved the cats... especially the kitten. Unfortunately, he had no idea how to be gentle and no matter how much I told him to chill out with the rough play, he wasn't easing up. It really hurt my heart to see the kitten so scared.

I know the sign of a cat that is going crazy from experience. The kitten was definitely living in a paranoid, frightening world populated by constant torment from all angles. Last night, I decided that for the cat's sake I would put it out in a field and let it go fend for itself. Pui talked me out of it, promising me that she would talk to Pot, and that things would get better.

Tonight, while making a sandwich, I saw Pot do something to the kitten that was triple as bad as anything I had seen to date. I exploded. In a voice louder than I knew I had, I berated Pot, standing over him where he was crouching next to the kitchen table, abusing the cat. I yelled in Thai, I yelled in English. I yelled. To finish it all off, I gave him a smack on the head.

Pot didn't cry. He didn't even move. He was petrified with terror.

I gave it about 2 minutes' thought, and put the kitten in the travel basket, drove it out to a field and deposited it.

It was originally my frame of mind to save the kitten from abuse, but driving back from the field, I realized that I did it for my sake as well: I don't want to be angry like that again. More accurately, I don't want my anger to get outside of me like that again. Not having to see the kitten be abused by Pot anymore is getting rid of at least one reason that I (and Pot) will have to go through an episode like that again.

Here's hoping.

Now That We Have Pictures

Actually, my DSL isn't fixed so that I can now upload photos... I just switched my graphics workstation over to dialup for a little while to get the photos put up. (Not that I didn't think of it before... just was too busy.)

So I'll get in my wayback machine and pretend it is two Fridays ago, May 5th, and I just got back from...

Stan invited Pui and I, Mike and Reeza out to dinner at Preecha Seafood Restaurant (along with about a dozen of his other friends). Mark was there with his girlfriend. Big Tony was there by himself as his wife was in Phuket on business. Alf from TQ2 was there, and Mad Mick was in attendance with his wife. Mem was actually there for a little while, but got called up to Isaan on an emergency regarding some land she owns.

<-- Mike and Stan.

We had boatloads of seafood, dish after dish being served, including big platters of lobster, crab, steamed clams, peel-and-eat prawn, and on and on and on. There were lots of things left over as well for the girls to bag up and take home to spice up and eat the next day.

Stan with his Mai Tai -->

From there, we all drove up the beach a little way to Jomtien to another restaurant and had tables set up right on the beach... almost right in the surf. We then had dessert of bananas flambeƩ along with all kinds of fruity drinks. We hung out there for a couple of hours until the tide came in and it was time to call it a night.

I Want One

A Mercedes Benz pickup truck...

... I even like the color.

Crappy Beach Party

It was actually amazingly good luck that everybody cancelled going to the beach today, because I would have had a whole bunch of people really annoyed at my "brilliant idea" once they arrived and the beach looked like this: Fortunately, Stan and I decided to go to Bang Saray (south of Jomtien) instead, and therefore our encountering of the lowest tide the Eastern seaboard has ever seen didn't cost the price of renting a boat.

Oh... and from Bang Saray, we had a perfect view of Ko Larn (the island where we had originally intended to go) being engulfed by fierce black clouds of biblical proportions.

So we went to the Bang Saray Beach Club and hung out there by the side of the pool and restaurant. It was the best we could do with such a shitty day.

After that, it was a quick trip out to Buddha Mountain, and then over to (what I call) "temple central", where there are about 30 or 40 really pretty temples all grouped together around this lake.

Lonely Beach Party

I came up with the brilliant idea to go out to Ko Larn this weekend. I say it is brilliant because everybody I talked to told me it was brilliant: At one point it looked like we would be chartering 2 extra-large speedboats to ferry some 40-odd persons across to the island.

However, as Saturday came around and I started making confirmation phone calls, I came upon a 100% "thanks, but sorry" rate. Every single person who was so excited on Wednesday and Thursday was either no longer excited, or predisposed... except for Rick and his wife, Stan and his wife, and Pui and I... all toting children.

So Saturday morning comes around, and Da (Rick's wife) backs out, leaving just Stan and I, Pui and Mem, and children. (By the way, Mem leaving the house, let alone going to the beach, is an astounding thing.)

So typical for trying to make plans in Pattaya.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Out To Dinner

Mike and Riza invited Pui and me out to dinner tonight at Reua Mai (the restaurant out over the fish pond), and Rick and Da joined us along with Riza's friend Cheryl.

Pui got all dolled up so I snapped her picture before leaving the house.

Dinner was great as always. On the way back home, we found this nice pub on Soi OBL called the Happy Time Pub or something like that. Very upscale and only about half a mile from my house.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

DSL Heaven

After 2 weeks in the new house, I finally got DSL up and running. Now my work, my Daily Show clips, and my porn is downloading in the blink of an eye.

Unfortunately, aside from my super-secret double-secure VPN connection to work, I cannot send items from my computers... therefore no personal e-mail is going out (though it is coming in), and — most importantly — no photos are able to be uploaded to blogger. (Therefore the photo of me winning Pattaya's Sexiest Tush contest is going to have to wait.)

Getting the DSL up and running was Pui's job, and what a job it was. She made trip after trip to the internet offices, and was a real trooper in dealing with Thai-style customer service bureaucracy. Unfortunately, if you want to see photos on this blog, she is going to have a couple more bits to take care of.

Monday, May 08, 2006

New Elections

OK. For those of you who don't understand/follow the political problems going on in Thailand let me lay it out for you:

  1. First, Prime Minister Thaksin made some shady business deals which made people angry, and they protested.
  2. Thaksin said, "Oh yeah? Well most people still like me. I'll prove it. Let's have a vote."
  3. Thaksin also added, "If I don't get X% of the vote, I'll quit."
  4. The opposition parties said the vote was going to be held so soon in the future that they couldn't adequately prepare for it. Therefore, they said that they would boycott the elections.
  5. The vote was held. Without any opposition parties, Thaksin's party (called "Thai Rak Thai") won "all" the votes.
  6. "All" is in quotes above because a substantially large number of people voted for the "no vote" option (the same as voting "present"), while an even larger number of people didn't show up to vote at all.
  7. (Of note, if a candidate wins an election, but only X% of eligible voters cast a vote for a candidate (as in not a "no vote"), that candidate has not won: Another election for that seat has to be held. That happened in a lot of places, including here in Pattaya.)
  8. Thaksin did not win the X% of the vote he said he would, and therefore he resigned.
  9. The second vote for all of the candidates from #7 above was held... but the election was held on the last day of Songkran (the biggest holiday day of the year), and nobody showed up to vote, meaning that many parliament seats now didn't have representatives at all... and there is some constitutional rule about parliament not having enough people within enough days after an election or something that basically causes the whole government to collapse.)
  10. After the election, parliament was pretty much a 1-party government since the opposition had no candidates running in the election. However, there weren't enough elected people to convene parliament, and the whole system was getting ready to collapse.
  11. The opposition won and lost: No more Thaksin, but they don't have any elected officials in government. (However, since the government looked like it was going to go poof anyway....)
  12. The king stepped forward and said, "OK. This is all a mess. A government with only one party is not a democracy." He instructed the courts that it was their job to fix it. (He hinted that ruling for a new set of elections would probably be the best way to go.)
  13. The courts voted 9-5 to hold new elections... with all political parties participating, presumably. (I wonder who the 5 judges were who voted against the king?)
  14. Now the problem is that ex-Prime-Minister Thaksin may decide that since the whole election is going to be a do-over, he can take back his pledge to resign, which means that the whole process may begin again. (Hopefully with all the parties participating this time though.)

There you have it. #11 happened about a week ago, #12 happened today, and #13 is what everybody is trying to figure out at the moment.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Passage To Bangkok

I never realized this was a song about doobage until I sat down and read the lyrics.
Our first stop is in Bogota
To check Colombian fields
The natives smile and pass along
A sample of their yield
Sweet Jamaican pipe dreams
Golden Acapulco nights
Then Morocco, and the East,
Fly by morning light

We're on the train to Bangkok
Aboard the Thailand Express
We'll hit the stops along the way
We only stop for the best

Wreathed in smoke in Lebanon
We burn the midnight oil
The fragrance of Afghanistan
Rewards a long day's toil
Pulling into Katmandu
Smoke rings fill the air
Perfumed by a Nepal night
The Express gets you there

I've forgotton that Thailand used to be a place spoken of with awe and reverence by stoners back when I was a kid. I've been here in the world capitol of weed for years now surrounded by the stuff and haven't tried it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

One Month On

I did a visa run today, which means that it has been one month since my trip to Laos ended.

It's funny where my memories take me when I think about my trip. My favorite place, Luang Prabhang, is a place I rarely think about. I mostly think about Vientienne and somewhat about Ponsavan. Those are the places I seem to be "missing."

Weird.

But, it is true: One month down the road, the place I would most like to be is back in Vientienne, enjoying dinner at La Terasse, and riding with Rick, Da, and Toom on motorcycles around the tree-lined streets, sitting in bars sipping fruity cocktails, and wandering around crowded markets looking at trinkets.

And yes: Even dusty backwater Ponsavan strums the heartstrings louder than Luang Prabhang. Awful food, generally boring tourist attractions, no entertainment... but this sugar-coated memory of "the real Laos" creeps in and makes me long to ride around in the countryside in a van just looking at things again.

(It's strange though, because I know that if anybody asks, Luang Prabhang will still be the first thing I recommend seeing in Laos.)

Prescription Drugs

I started taking Pulmicort for my "WTC cough", and it seems to be working moderately okay so far. My mother however seemed to think I was committing a mortal sin for "self medicating" with a "prescription medication" and is currently praying for my soul.

I've never understood why certain drugs are "prescription drugs" while others are "over the counter." You can overdose on aspirin, but not on Zyrtec. Which one do you need a prescription for? Why does one need a prescription for Pulmicort? Can't overdose on it. No interactions. Lower incidence of allergic reactions than aspirin. Pregnant ladies can take it. Fine for use on infants. Why should something so innocent require a doctor's permission to take?

Actually, I'm even more pessimistic: Why should you need a prescription for Lipitor? If you have high cholesterol, your doctor will tell you, and then you go buy Lipitor. If you don't have high cholesterol, why would you buy Lipitor? I suppose that there are people out there would would take the drug as prophylaxis against high cholesterol, and they would be stupid, but you can't overdose on it. You can't hurt yourself with it (that I could find on the internet)... although I'm sure if you try, anything is possible. So why require a prescription?

Yes... there are thousands of drugs which should have prescriptions: Addictive, dangerous, and damaging drugs. But think about this: Who is going to go out and spend $1,200 on a month's supply of thalidomide (currently used in chemotherapy) just for the hell of it, if it were being sold over the counter? (Just a thought, that.)

Now this is not a post that says, "Always skip the doctor! Always self medicate!" There are 30 or 40 cholesterol-lowering medications out there, and it is possible (in fact it is likely) that several of them would be a better choice than Lipitor, and a doctor is the only person who can tell you which drug is best, and also (although you could do it yourself) a doctor is the only one who can monitor your cholesterol and make sure that it is under control.

But my point remains: A doctor's recommendation, in my book — for low end drugs — is pretty much the same as a doctor's permission... prescription. It's not a matter of worrying about the childish mindset of "why shouldn't I take this if I don't need a prescription?" but respecting the more adult mindset of "why would I take this if I don't have a recommendation?"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Don't Know Why I Didn't Think Of It Sooner

The cough that I have is way too bad to blame on cigarettes... especially when I'm down to less than a pack a week. I've had the cough basically ever since I arrived in Thailand...

Basically ever since I stopped working next door to Ground Zero.

Oh... and the ass glue didn't do a damn bit of good.
Dr. Prezant’s patients nicknamed the most prevalent effect on firefighters and paramedics the “WTC cough”: “It’s a persistent cough, … a sore throat, and interestingly enough, … an accompanying GI irritation,” he said. The reflux-like symptoms, which may worsen cough, might have been triggered by swallowed particulates, Dr. Prezant speculated. Roughly two thirds of the group with cough had a dry cough and some degree of GI irritation.

I don't have the sore throat, but other than that, yup.

I didn't work inside Ground Zero, but from the first day when they let business back down to Lower Manhattan, I was down there, and I was taking cigarette breaks all the time, standing out on the sidewalk smelling Ground Zero for two years from that point forward.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Country Of Retards

Are Americans really this dumb?

After more than three years of combat and nearly 2,400 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map, a study released Tuesday showed.

The study found that less than six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, 33 percent could not point out Louisiana on a U.S. map.


On second thought, don't answer that.

I was surprised that one of my Thai girlfriends couldn't find Thailand on a map of the world. I guess that I shouldn't be surprised that Americans are just as ignorant, if not moreso.

Just tell me again how America got to be the most powerful nation on the planet and yet have so many shockingly stupid people. I certainly can't figure it out.

I read another study somewhere that today's Baccalaureate holder has the same amount of "general knowledge" as a high school graduate from 50 years ago.

Here is my bet: Pretty soon, America is going to be a country where the typical educated person can do something technical like map out a microprocessor down to the last nanometer, but can't look at a map of the world and find Australia. The quest for specialized knowledge will completely replace the need for general knowledge about the world. America will be a country of focus-oriented "parts", ignorant of everything except the one area where they are needed/used.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Monday Vinnie Blogging

Why we have the internet: To more easily pass around baby photos!

Actually, my birthday photo looks eerily similar to this one. It is quite obvious that Vinnie and I are related. This, of course, spoils it for Dan and Nancy... knowing that their baby is going to turn out even remotely similar to me. Well, it wasn't some evil plan on my part... trust me. (Oh... he has red hair from his father. That's definitely cool.)