Friday, June 30, 2006

Blended. Mixed.

After taking Go and Pui (and Pot) out to dinner, it was back to the house where I put on Jil's Blender Magic Show.

First, we started off with Cosmopolitans... light and fruity, with a helluva kick.

Then, for fun, I did a trash can mix-um-up, with purt-near 1 shot of everything in the bar, mixed in with half a pint of chocolate ice cream. That got things a-rockin'.

Then we moved to the (excuse me as I break into computer-speak) "killer app" of lemonade and Ouzo, blended with crushed ice. (Only use this drink on your biggest enemies and closest friends.)

Finally, as a warm-down, I moved to frozen Amaretto sours: Enough to finish the job, but in an oh-so-gentle fashion.

By this time, Maid Go was singing my praises in an off-key screech, while Pui was doing a lopsided Lopburi traditional dance to accompany it.

Yet another night of being exactly where I want to be.

I wrecked Maid Go... She was put into bed by Pui, saying, "Tell Jil I'm so happy! Tell Jil he's too kind! Tell Jil... uhhh... uhhh... I need a bucket."


It was Maid Go's birthday today, and I took her, Pui, and Pot out for Thai bar-be-que down on Soi OBL to celebrate. I got some photos, but my old Win98 computer and Motorola Razr are no longer on speaking terms, it seems. So that's it for the pictures until further notice.

Just one more reason (along with a complete inability to play CIV 4) to upgrade.

I swear, there was a time when I was a technological wünderkind, and everything I had was fresh and smart. In fact, it was back in oh... 1998 or so, which is the last time I bought anything computerific.

Hey... at least I found a way to get rid of my Zip drive.

The Most Expensive Beer

Someone at the bar last night told me about Sam Adams making a $100-a-bottle beer, to which I thought he must be joking (or was repeating someone else's joke), but it is quite true.

Granted, it isn't a carbonated beverage, and seems to be better classified as a malt liquor. threw around words like "brandy" and "bourbon" and "burn", which are words one does not normally associate with a tall cool 'un.

It sounds interesting though. I wouldn't drop $100 on a bottle, but hopefully another brewer will be coming out with something similar sometime soon that is more reasonably priced.

If you want a less pricier (but still amazing) beer experience, I recommend Westvleteren Trappist Ale (either the 8 or the stronger 12, though I prefer the 8) at about $8 to $10 a bottle in America. Granted, it is still expensive, but once you taste it, you'll understand.

Take Care in Internet Cafés

Meister from Lost In Pattaya Blog tells of all the wonderful bits of information he finds sitting around on internet café computers buy lunkheads who forget to log out / clean up after themselves.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


My college major was Hotel & Restaurant Management, which meant that I took a fair number of cooking classes. However, as my real pipedream Quixotic quest was to open a night club (and H&RM was the only major that seemed remotely connected to such a scheme), I really didn't pay much attention or apply much retention to what I was taught regarding food.

When my last maid, Toom, left in October, she took with her a passable knowledge of Western cuisine, leaving me alone for a short time with my bachelor approach to cooking. (Open refrigerator. Take out various bits and pieces. Heat it all in a skillet. Add spaghetti sauce. Eat.)

When Toom was replaced by Go, it wasn't much of an improvement. Go is from the deep dark recesses of Northeastern Thailand, where food consists of immensely bitter alien vegetables mixed with a sauce that smells variously of dirty shoes, vomit, or poo.

Thus, I have had to turn to the internet to search for menu items that I could attempt to cook, with Maid Go assisting, watching, and learning. Recently we have added spaghetti carbonara, penne à la vodka, and egg drop soup to the list of dishes for which I can shout a request down to the kitchen. Now we are attempting to figure out how to properly season and cook fish.

NO! Don't tell us. We are having fun figuring it out on our own.

Unwelcome Guest

Hospitality is, of course, an Asian/Thai tradition. The old "mi casa es tu casa" mentality pervades all aspects of Thai culture. "Make yourself at home" is, literally, the rule here, and that is exactly what guests do.

Thus, when Pui's friends show up, and wind up eating more of my food than I would like, or lounging around on my couch in front of my television later than I would like, or playing music louder than I would like, I take it all in stride. It's only a one-night-a-month kind of thing, and they do go away eventually.

Except for Mohn.

Mohn comes and stays for days and weeks. She stays here and looks for work, and ultimately gets an offer from some distant place like Hua Hin or Bangkok or even Singapore or Hong Kong. Then she leaves, goes to wherever it is she found a job, finds out that the job sucks, and within a few weeks is back on my couch, in front of my TV, with a mouthful of my food.

I suppose that wouldn't be a terribly bad thing if she was eye candy, but instead she is an annoying older woman with a piercing shrill voice who gets drunk and tries to molest me. What's worse, is that she preys on Pui for money, which Pui invariably gives her. Last time, I found out that Pui pawned her mobile phone to give Mohn money, which of course I had to pay for. Pui simply doesn't have the will power to say no to anyone.

The last time Mohn left, I told Pui under no circumstances was Mohn to come back into my house.

Mohn came back, Pui let her right in. "Only for one night," Pui promised. I relented. I reminded Pui the next day to tell Mohn to leave. On the eve of that second night (that would be last night), Mohn was still here. I told Pui then that Mohn would be leaving the next day (that would be today).

This morning, I called Pui into my office and told her again that Mohn was to be gone before we went out for dinner tonight. Pui got a look in her face like "Oh... I was hoping you had forgotten about that."

Pui really has no ability to be impolite, or bear bad news. (It took me weeks of urging and badgering Pui to convince her to shake me awake in the morning because she didn't like "upsetting me.") So, this time for good measure, instead of just telling Pui to tell Mohn to leave, I added "Phom mai yak pen mai suphap." ("I don't want to be impolite.") She got the message: If she didn't get rid of Mohn, I would, and I wouldn't be as convivial about it as Pui would.

So now, as far as I know, Mohn will be leaving today. Maid Go tells me that Pui has already told Mohn, and as soon as Mohn finishes some laundry, she will be on her way to Bangkok.

We'll see.

Well, Pui may find it difficult to give Mohn bad news, but she knows far better than to ignore me when I tell her to do something. Mohn was off to the bus station, right on schedule.

And yes... I'm 100% positive that Pui will give Mohn some money for the bus.

Regarding That NY Times Article...

(1) If I were editor of the New York Times, I probably (barely likely) would have published it. But that's just me. I can easily see why people think they shouldn't have published: It's a nonpublic, ongoing and — most importantly — legitimate and legal counterrorism program.

That having been said...

(2) The information that the article talked about, the information that the White House is so upset was released to the public, was actually released to the public on several occasions prior by congress and even the White House... just not in the New York Times.

(3) If the White House doesn't like the press reporting on stuff that is leaked to them, blame the people who are doing the leaking, not the people who are doing the reporting. The press is like a giant microphone: You know damn well that anything you whisper into the ear of a reporter is supposed to come out in big bold black shouted headlines.

(4) Is anybody on this planet (including terrorists) silly enough not to figure out on their own what the New York Times reported: That the US government is monitoring financial transactions worldwide for suspicious activity? Was it really secret, sensitive information that has tipped off terrorists to change the way they do business? It may have nothing to do with the decision of whether publishing this information was right or wrong, but... c'mon.

(5) If this really was such a big national security breach, and not just political posturing, why don't we hear the same calls of treason and arrest against the (conservative) Wall Street Journal, who also reported the same information on the same day? Instead of just saying it about the (liberal) New York Times?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Quite Funny

Apparently watching Brokeback Mountain made a lot of people gay.

Remember Google Trends? It allows you find out how often a particular term has been searched for on Google.

Now, look at this picture: The blue line is people searching for the keyword "Brokeback Mountain". The red line... that's people searching for the keyword "gay sex". Notice anything about that red line? Notice anything peculiar that happens to that red line shortly after that vertical line which marks the nationwide release of "Brokeback Mountain"?

Whew! Good thing I haven't seen that movie yet. God knows what I'd be doing on the internet instead of typing in my blog.

Weird Kid

Pot's teeth have been hurting. We finally figured out why:

Pot will take a bite of rice, but will only swallow about 90% of it. The rest goes into storage on the sides of his mouth like a chipmunk. He'll walk away from the table, with a chaw of rice in his mouth tucked up, back and away... for later enjoyment, as far as we can guess.

What does starch become when exposed to saliva for 30 seconds (or 30 minutes)? Sugar.

So now, we have started checking Pot's mouth to make sure he isn't running away from the table with his own version of a doggie bag.

Brazil V. Ghana

I finally got to watch a Brazil game last night, since all of their previous games started at 2:00 a.m. (probably in deference to the Brazilian fans not wanting to have to watch the game during their breakfast time, which is fair).

Brazil won 3-0, but Ghana was the better team. If it wasn't for the fact that Ghana couldn't fire a decent shot on goal, they would have had at LEAST 3 goals.

Instead, shot after shot from Ghana went flying 3 meters above, left, or right of the goal. But — seriously — Ghana didn't seem to have the slightest problem getting the ball into firing position.

Oh... and the Ghanian keeper made 3 or 4 really beautiful saves, including 2 one-on-one breakaways.

Well, I still have Brazil pegged to win... but Germany is on my list too.

Summer Trips

So I've really piled on the vacation time over the last few days, adding trips to Isaan (to make the hackneyed mistake of visiting Pui's family in their natural habitat), as well as a Chiang Mai plus Chiang Rai weekend, and a repeat Vientienne (this time including kayaking in Vang Vieng) trip with Rick.

I'm hoping to get down to Singapore sometime this fall as well, though that will be hopefully for getting a resident visa put in my passport. (Which will save me the montly jaunts to Cambodia.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

I ♥ YouTube

Watch this, and if it isn't the funniest thing you have seen in a while, I'll e-mail you a $20 bill.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cheap Fun

I thought I would take Pot and Pui for a ride on an elephant today, so we drove down to the end of Soi OBL and out to the Pattaya Elephant Village. I figured a trek for the three of us on an elephant would be perhaps 1,000 baht.

Wrong: They wanted 2,500 for 2 adults and a child. That's over $70.

In America, there is a slight chance you could convince me that $70 is worth it for the family riding on an elephant... but here in Thailand, where elephants are about as common as horses are in America, there is no way I'm paying that kind of money.

So then it was off to the airport where I figured Pot (who whoops and hollars in delight every time he sees even the most distant aircraft up in the sky) would like a ride in a plane. The cost of that was a much more reasonable 2,000 baht for 30 minutes. (Considering the cost of gas and everything, that's fair, I think.)

Pot got his first close up look at a plane, and decided right away that there was absolutely no way he was going up inside one of those things. (Obviously we'll have to get him comfortable with a big ol' Thai airways flight before we try a little Piper Cub.)

So finally, it was back home where we put Pot in his little foam-rubber turtle shell, took him down to the pool, and he floated around gleefully for an entire 90 minutes. Cost: Not a damn thing.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Good Point

There was a very well-thought-out letter to the editor about Pattaya's tourist business in the Pattaya Mail this week. (Temporary direct link is here because Pattaya Mail sucks with their archiving addresses.)

Here is the point: If you trade in one $100 a day Farang tourist for ten $10 a day Chinese tourists, you are going to bankrupt the city. The ten Chinese tourists will require 10 times as much water and electricity, take up 10 times as much space on the roads, and create 10 times as much trash and polution, but won't increase revenue (and tax income) at all.

Even worse, with the $100 farang tourist, about $80 of his money goes to small business owners, or individual Thai people. With the ten $10 Chinese tourists, about $100 of their money goes to large hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions, and none of it to small business owners or individual Thai people.

About 99% of Pattaya's residents rely on the farangs for their their livelihood, while a tiny group of millionaires are the only people who benefit from the Chinese tourists. (And we know how good millionaires are about paying their fair share of upkeep and taxes in Thailand.)

Eventually, Pattaya is going to become bogged down in hundreds of thousands of worthless tourists who contribute absolutely nothing to the local economy, but suck all of its resources dry. The city will collapse under the weight of thousands of tour busses filled with people who literally don't plan on spending a single baht in Pattaya.

Well, I could sit here and try to think of an alternative, but it's hardly worth it. Greedy Thai people make all the decisions in this town, and they are willing to throw the entire city of Pattaya under the wheels in order to line their pockets before the whole place turns into Atlantic City.

Miami Terrorist Cell

Hmm... reading this article, it seems that the Miami terrorist cell wasn't so much a terrorist cell as a bunch of religious wackos who studied martial arts, behaved oddly, and were all secretive.

Apparently one of their number got in touch with a government agent to buy "boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, and vehicles"so that they could Waco-ize all proper-like.

Perhaps the group did have plans to blow up the Sears Tower... but they didn't even have a single fire cracker amongst themselves to do so.

Ah well. Let's hope that's the worst lunatics America has to worry about for a while.

Food For Thought

Completely different reality.

A friend of mine once said that we needed to find common ground with Muslims. Puhleeze. I'll start with an easier assignment, such as finding common ground with the local holocaust denier.

Figured I'd throw this in to head off any "love thy neighbor" comments: My opinion of wacko Muslims is exactly the same as my opinion of wacko Christians. The two principal differences are that (1) in America, wacko Christians represent only about 15% to 20% of all Christians and in the Arab world, wacko Muslims are represented by the blue bar above; and (2) wacko Christians spend their time hating gay people, abortions, and Harry Potter, while wacko Muslims spend their time cheering on suicide bombers. Other than that, really... they are the same people to me.

Friday, June 23, 2006

This Sucks

Baht per dollar exchange rate:
When I first came to Thailand and I went to the ATM, I could take out $1,000 and get 42,000 baht. Now, I only get 37,000 baht per $1,000. In other words, I'm losing 5,000 baht/$1,000 (or approximately $125) because of the crappy exchange rate.

Well At Least There Is That

DSL is down again. However, dial-up is now allowing my VPN to connect, so at least I can work. Sigh.

I Really Want To Know

One of the major subjects on the blogs these days is Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democrat from Connecticut. While he is registered as a Democrat, he — as often as not — casts his vote against the Democratic line.

Now, every elected official should feel free to vote their conscience even if it means going against what your party believes, but that brings me to this question:

What is a Democrat and what is a Republican?

I'm not talking about the "issues", but credentials. If you were elected as a Democrat, do you have any responsibilities to the Democratic party? Does the Democratic party have any responsibilities to their elected members? What happens when a member of the Democratic party becomes a "Democrat in Name Only"? Is being Democrat just a name?

So that brings me to the big question:

Why can't the Democratic party say, "Listen, Mr. Senator: We're the Democratic party, and we know a Democrat when we see one, and we are sad to say, you are not a Democrat. We've all taken a vote, and we would kindly ask you to stop calling yourself a Democrat because... well... it's just not true."

Why can't they say that? Why can't the Democrats kick Senator Lieberman out of their party? I mean, it's pissy and spiteful, but isn't it allowed? Doesn't the Democratic party have any control over what it's members are allowed to believe, if the Democratic party is, in truth, primarily constructed of beliefs?

If anybody has an answer or even an opinion, put it in the comments section, as I'm genuinely interested in finding an answer to this.

Well, I guess that is what primaries are for, eh?

They Don't Seem Worried

The one thing I cannot figure out in Thailand is, with all of the crime, especially with all of the gunmen who walk into a 7-11 and hold the place up and walk away with 1,200 baht and a stack of phone cards, is why I never hear about gold stores being robbed.

There are thousands of stores, in which hundreds of kilograms of exact-same-as-cash 24-carat gold are sitting just a few feet away from the sidewalk... hundreds of thousands of dollars just out of reach. It's literally the same as a store with a display case behind the counter showing stacks and stacks of $100 bills.

There must be one hell of a security system or something for such a place not to get robbed quite a bit... although I've never seen it. (Gun behind the counter perhaps?) Thailand has enough people like the couple of guys here in Pattaya who put a bullet into an old Englishman who failed to hand over his mobile phone, that it would seem somebody like those guys wouldn't hesitate to shoot their way into and out of a store with a fortune in gold inside.

The Most Polite City On Earth

It's New York, actually.

Really, that's not surprising if you've been there in the past 10 or 20 years. Perhaps New Yorkers were rude before or something, or just appeared to be impolite in comparison to their even-more-polite counterparts from the sticks, or just were given the "rude" label by television or Hollywood, but they aren't rude now.

The ultimate test of politeness is found by walking up to a complete stranger on the street, and asking for information, directions, or assistance. I think that New Yorkers take pride in knowing about their city (landmark locations, subway lines, major buildings) and enjoy a chance to show that knowledge to other people, such as tourists, much more than residents from other cities like to do. I would imagine that has increased quite a bit since 9-11 as well.

Additionally, New York city has a sense of comradeship or membership amongst residents... some kind of "we're all in this together so lets try to have a little harmony" mentality. It's not "friendly" per se, but it is... well... polite. New Yorkers keep the television down because the distance from your neighbor is measured in inches, instead of yards. New Yorkers make room for each other in crowded store aisles, and make sure to offer a loud clear apology should even the slightest pedistrian collision take place. New Yorkers don't squabble over stupid stuff, and when they do, they tend to keep it in perspective and keep it civil, because... well... people do get killed in New York when other people lose perspective.

Finally, the test itself was rigged in New York's favor. It consisted of a three "politeness tests" performed throughout the city multiple times: (1) Seeing how often people said "thank you" after you make a purchase in their store; (2) seeing how many people held the door for you when you walked into a building; and, (3) dropping papers and seeing how often people would stop to help you.

Well, (1) is a ubiquitous tradition in America, not moreso than other European countries, but... well... let's just say that it is surprising not to hear it in New York.

I don't know why, but (2) was almost tailor-made for New York. It is almost unthinkable to let go of a door handle and let the door swing shut on another person who is walking up to that door in New York. It just isn't done... ever. True for other cities or not, it is particularly true for New York.

I guess (3) is another one for New York, because it's always windy in New York City, and dropped papers are never more than a few steps away from the nasty gutter, or moving traffic. Everybody has been in that situation, chasing a paper down the street, and I guess everybody is just inclined to help anybody who is having that problem.

So anyway, New York wins. Politeness is indeed a New York City tradition.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

WMD's Found In Iraq!

Err... old, rusty, buried, spoiled, leaky, forgotten, discarded shells from 20 years ago that even the White House acknowledges aren't worth mentioning... FOUND IN IRAQ!!!

See: "Grasping at Straws", idiom — This metaphoric expression alludes to a drowning person trying to save himself by grabbing at flimsy reeds.

I Want

For Christmas this year, I'm going to buy myself a large-screen HDTV and a Playstation 3, which will play the new Blu-Ray discs. Joy. I've been waiting for 4 years.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Cheesiest

When I was a teenager, I seriously contemplated turning in my mother for child abuse due to the multiple dinnertime servings of Kraft Macoroni & Cheese that I was forced to endure.

Now, 20-plus years later, as an overpriced exotic import item, Kraft EasyMac is the ultimate comfort food. (Ahh... take a bite, and remember how it was either this or a bite of boiled green beans. Heaven on earth, indeed.)

Who knew childhood trauma could translate into noodilistic bacchanalia?

(Can I get an Amen, Nancy?)


It's weird for me right now in Pattaya. Everyone is either out of the country (Owen, Ray), or swamped with work (Mike, Rick, Bob), or just off doing their own thing (Stan, Tony). It's gotten very quiet around here lately. Tuesdays and Thursdays and Sundays go by and I have no urge to run down to TQ2 to meet up with everybody, because everybody won't be there.

Hope it picks up soon. This is a little boring.

Well, on the flip side, I'm getting butt-loads of work done. I finally got sick and tired of working 2 or 3 hours a day and just getting by, and have gone manic and am now putting in 9 or 10 hours of work per day. (Well, Pot's Regents School bill is going to be a bunch, so that is motivating me too.)

But, for 5 days now, I've gotten out of bed, sat down at the computer, ate lunch, sat at the computer, walked in the park, sat at the computer, had a beer, went to sleep. Like I said: It's a little boring.

Wow. Just: Wow.

Via Andy:
I trusted this president after 9/11. How can anyone trust him if Ron Suskind's account is true? From Bart Gellman's review today:
One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind's gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war's major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here.

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be.

CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.
And so the president lied to the people of this country, and then tortured a mentally ill man for information he didn't have; and covered his tracks. Money quote:
"I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?"

Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They trapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep.

Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety - against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."
This shallow, monstrous, weak, and petty man is still the president. God help us.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Flag Burning Amendment

Yes, this is back in the news again. It looks like it could finally pass.

I don't care either way really: If it doesn't pass, then a specific, pithy, exercise in first amendment rights will win through. If it does pass, a specific, harmless but inflammatory act which had only occurred 45 times in 200 years (before Texas passed a law against flag burning in 1989, prompting lots of people to break the law), will be extra-super frowned upon, instead of just generally frowned upon, like it is now.

Of course, if they are going to ban flag burning because of the effect it has on people who see it, and the symbolic meanness it represents, then when is the U.S. Government going to pass a "Bible-burning Amendment"? Oh. Oops. Nevermind.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Monday Vinnie Blogging

"Nice T-shirt. I'm still going to Rutgers."

Write a Check, Receive a Check

It's been a roller coaster ride with my taxes this week. First, New York State demanded $800 from my 2001 tax return. Fortunately Mom was there to catch that impending mess on the short-hop.

I could have argued and won my case if I hadn't been 12,000 miles away... except that during 2001, I free-lanced and temp'ed my way through about 20 different Manhattan agencies, and... well, I would happily pay $800 to avoid having to scrape together 20 W2 forms from 5 years ago... especially from half a world away.

Also, this week finally divulged the Secret of Missing State Tax Return... filed waaay back in January. No word until about it until this week: My accountant forgot to sign the form. Once again, Mom handled things and got that ball back in play.

Word to the wise: You can't have a care-free life in Pattaya without Mom covering your ass back on the homefront. Well, okay... those of us who are all grown up and responsible might be able to do it without our mothers. But, if we were all grown up and responsible, we probably wouldn't be in Pattaya, now would we?

Thanks Mom.

Why Is Thailand So Poor?

Thailand has a very large portion of its population that lives on less than $300 a month. In a country with a fair amount of industry, a comparatively good educational system, exceptionally good internet and media infiltration, and no real shortage of upwardly-mobile job opportunities, why does Thailand remain so poor?

The answer is simple: Lower class Thai people are too busy supporting their parents, and thus short-changing their children when it comes to life's opportunities. Instead of spending money on placing a child in a private school, or paying fees to send the child to an after-school educational forum, or saving for a college education, Thailand's poorest people are sending their money home to keep their parents comfortable. The children of Thailand's poorest people are dropping out of the educational stream, and winding up in the working world as early as they can so that they can start helping out the family. That's the way it has always been in Thailand.

Once a Thai parent/child somehow manages to break this cycle, and the child gets a proper "full" education, and finds his or her way to and through college, things become easier. Each proceeding generation gets a better chance at helping their own children, creating a snowballing collection of opportunities.

However, for each Thai child who manages to escape the culturally-enforced vicious circle of "poverty via parents", there are ten children who are going to drop out of school and go to work in the fields (or on Walking Street) as soon as they possibly can so that they can start "pulling their weight around the house", and the opportunities to escape poverty for that person are lost.

Japanese society is not far removed from Thai society. Eighty years ago, Japan had much the same parent-oriented work ethic. However, World War 2 managed to break that cycle and created the now-famous Japanese child-centered work ethic.

Thailand is certainly better off than it was 80 years ago as well, but not nearly so much as Japan, obviously. However, things may improve if only Thai people can be taught to encourage their children to stay in school, and they stop placing their parents' well-being above their children's future. It's a nice, caring sentiment to make sacrifices for one's parents, but it is keeping Thailand from being the economic superpower it could be.

Republican Win-Win

So here's the gist: California is considering scrapping the "electoral college" process (the process where the winner of a popular vote inside of California receives all of California's electoral votes), and instead are planning on giving all their electoral votes to the Presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide.

Now, why is this a problem for Democrats?

Simple: California will almost never vote for a Republican Presidential candidate when that person is in a close race with the Democratic candidate. To put it simply, California leans quite a bit Democratic. Therefore, in a close race, California will always swing for the Democratic Presidential candidate. (Note: I said a CLOSE race... i.e. a race in which this new election rule might actually have an effect on the election.)

If the Democratic candidate wins a nationwide popular vote, then nothing is gained and nothing is lost with California's change in the electoral vote system: That candidate will get all of California's votes, just like before.

However, in a close election, if the Republican wins the popular vote nationwide, California still will likely swing for the Democratic candidate, but California would give their electoral college votes to the Republican candidate instead.

You see, when the lead in the polls between Presidential candidates is less then, oh..., 10% or so (which is the only time when California's new rule would actually make a difference), the likelihood that California will vote Democratic is currently exceptionally high. Therefore, the only candidate that could theoretically lose California by losing the popular vote is...

The Democratic candidate.

Get it?

(Now, if all 50 states were to join California, of course, that would be great. No problem. I'd be a huge supporter of this idea.)

This opinion piece makes a broader point about the Constitutional problems behind this new electoral rule. I like their opinion better than my own.

Oh That's Rich

Steven Spielberg earned $1 million a day last year. I wonder if he could spare a minute of his time? That's $700, every minute of every day for the entire year. (By the way... that doesn't even come close to Bill Gates at his peak, who was earning so much money that if he saw a $100 bill on the sidewalk, it wasn't worth the second it would take to stop and pick it up.)

Park Revisited

It is half a kilometer around the park. Here is Pui doing some weight lifting. The photo above shows the traditional Thai house wherein stays a music teacher who gives lessons on the Thai xylophone. I've never seen him/her, but I hear him/her bonk-bonking away at the instrument every time I walk by.

Pattaya Police Make a Boo-Boo?

A few weeks ago, the son of a police colonel walked into a bar, fired a bunch of shots from a registered handgun (a very rare thing) into the air, and then got into a black new Mercedes Benz (another rare thing) and drove away. He was caught sometime later, and released on bail.

A few days ago, a person whom police refuse to name walked into a bar, killed two men with a registered handgun (a very rare thing), and then got into a black new Mercedes Benz (another rare thing) and drove away.


Saturday Night At The Hopf

Mike, Riza, Pui, and myself met up with Rick and Da at the Hopf Brewery on Walking Street at 11:00 on Saturday night. Why? Because it is only on Saturdays when one of the owners, Enzo, gets up on stage to sing: Yes, Pattaya's only Italian tenor cum human beat box. He really is exceptional, and the place just goes wild when he sings.

The Hopf Brewery still has great beer, but their pizza is the original Italian flatbred with no sauce version. (I'm told that this is "Neopolitan" style, if that matters.)

Well regardless, you don't go to the Hopf Brew House for the true Italian pizza... but the true Italian tenor. Order a half-liter of their home-brewed wheat beer and at 11:00, enjoy the show.

Tony's Walking Street Scam

Just one more reason not to go into Tony's on walking street: Heinekens are 60 baht for Thai people and 150 baht for Farang.

Well, that, and the annoying pushy staff.

Well, that, and the crappy music they play.

Well, that, and the swarthy, "French" clientele.

Perhaps Tony's Gym is okay, but his night club is a rip-off.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Three-Year-Old has NewsHour Birthday Party

(Hat tip to AmericaBlog for bringing this to my attention.)
(WCCO) When a young St. Paul boy got to pick the theme for his third birthday party, he didn't pick Nemo or the Wiggles or Dora the Explorer. He didn't even pick his favorite sports team.

Henry Schally picked "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer".

His mother, Jennifer Schally, designed party hats complete with pictures of the PBS news program's regular contributors. "I think most kids get their favorite show for their birthday party theme," Jennifer Schally said.

Henry's father, Troy Schally, explained he and his wife have watched the show during dinner since their son was an infant. He believes the show's distinctive theme caught his son's attention.

AmericaBlog is right though: Read the article, but watch the accompanying video. The kid not only loves the NewsHour, but actually learns from it... being able to name everyone from the President, Vice President, Secretaries of Defense and State, through to the Supreme Court Justices.

Pot has some big shoes to fill.

I've Added a Friend's List

...because I've decided that being a selfish prick with no links to other plebian bloggers like myself is impolite. So, now drop a comment, and I'll swap links with you, tit for tat.

Yes... it took almost a year, but Franky is nothing, if not persistent.

Explained it Perfectly

Thank you Michael Kinsley:
The CIA is in the forefront of efforts to make sure that democracy, individual rights and stuff like that don't get in the way of our crusade for the spread of democracy, individual rights and stuff like that.

Read the whole thing. It's all good.


A 1971 Hemi Cuda is worth $2 million today, compared with $50,000 just 6 years ago, in this CNN article about skyrocketing muscle car prices. Hey dad: I wonder how much your Hemi GTX would be worth today?

Friday, June 16, 2006


If you're a congressman and the only thing you've ever done in Congress is to co-sponsor a bill supporting the 10 commandments, and you get into an interview with Steven Colbert...

At least make sure you can name all 10 commandments. Sheesh.

Terrorist Amnesty

Iraq is apparently going to free people from its prisons who have fought against American soldiers. Republicans say okay, Democrats are quite angry.

I guess I'm with the Republicans on this one. America declared war on Iraq. The terrorists were/are Iraq's de facto army. Just as there are a lot of German World War II veterans who killed Americans who didn't serve jail time, I guess that Iraq's "soldiers" can have some kind of amnesty.

Still though, it doesn't send a very good message does it? Americans aren't really at "war" (as traditionally defined) right now. (Perhaps "Mission Accomplished" was when it ended?) I guess, as per usual, I'm half-and-half on this one.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

People Magazine Names Hottest Bachelors

Once again, I'm not on the list. I gave serious consideration to setting myself on fire this year to see if that would help my hotness.

p.s. I never have watched a single episode of American Idol, so I have no idea who this guy Taylor Hicks is but seriously... 29 years old with gray hair? He looks like Jay Leno's kid brother or something. That guy Owen Wilson is on the list too. Isn't he the guy with a nose shaped like a cheese doodle?

No... I'm not jealous.

Pui's Birthday

Today was Pui's sixth or seventh 19th birthday party, which was held at TQ2 tonight. All of our friends managed to show up. It had crossed my mind to do a "dozen-people-out-to-dinner" thing for Pui, but being a Thursday night, I quickly realized that our dozen-or-so friends would all be out to dinner at TQ2 for Bob's all-you-can-eat buffet. Therefore I just held the party where everyone was planning to be at anyway. (It's really the only way you can get everybody to show up for anything in Pattaya: Find out where everyone is going to be at a given time, and then tell them that is where they should be at that given time. Works like a charm.)

In the parking lot outside Marine Disco, Pui ran into an old friend of hers from Petchabun. Her boyfriend was an old fellow from Oklahoma whom I know: A guy named Dan Prather, maker of some fine custom pool cues. (I wish my skill at pool were only half as great as my love of pool cues.) We invited them along with us to Pui's birthday party. The more the merrier, as always.

Rick, Da and Justin were at the party, and Justin wound up being a judge in another one of Bob's wet T-shirt contests. As per usual, breast size had very little to do with the outcome, as all 6 contestants' 12 breasts added together wouldn't add up to 1 single D-cup breast. Oh well, you work with what God gave you, and who Steve hired. Justin wasn't complaining though.

Pui actually was fighting a bad sore throat all day, so I pulled out my old bag of tricks: I gave Pui cure after cure (salt water gargle, chicken soup, vitamin C, Tylenol, throat spray, repeat, repeat, repeat) until she got fed up with my ministrations and declared herself healed (even though she wasn't) just so I would leave her alone. Works like a charm.

On the way home from TQ2 I stopped at the crepe stall next to the entrance of Marine Hotel for a banana chocolate crepe. After a dinner of chili dogs and ribs, it was the perfect finish... diet notwithstanding.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Park Visit

Pui and Maid Go have been going to The Queen's Park at the end of Soi Osama Bin Laden to jog every day, and have invited me along every time they go. Today I decided to accept their invitation.

Thai parks are really nice little places, with very labor-intensive gardens, hedges, flowers, and other bits of nature to enjoy. It's really a shame that there are not more of them in Thailand... but a park for the public's sake is really pointless in the Thai mind, and Thailand has only so many members of the royal family for parkland dedication purposes. Therefore there are only so many parks.

This particular park is very exercise-oriented, with a jogging track running around and through the gardens with 12 "exercise stops" along the way, and in the middle of the park there is a playground, large fountain, and an antique Thai house in which you can take music lessons.

Anyway, no need to discuss how out of shape I am. However, I'm hoping to get things turned around, and this park seems as pleasant a place as any to start.

Pattaya On CNN

For all the usual reasons.
Thai police are searching for a gunman who shot and killed two football fans at a beach resort after complaining they were cheering too loudly during a broadcast of Italy's World Cup opener against Ghana, officials said Wednesday.
I'll bet that the tourist industry is just loving this last paragraph though:
Pattaya, about 110 kilometers (70 miles) southeast of Bangkok, is known for its beaches, its thriving sex industry and high crime rate. (emphasis mine)
(Thank you CNN!)

Further reading, here, a Pattaya news source, doesn't mention the "cheering" aspect, but does give more in-depth coverage. The shooting was on the south-central part of Third Road... an area of town that most farangs stay away from after midnight.

(Truth of the matter is, for each hour after midnight that you are out in Pattaya, your chances of being the victim of a crime (or accident) increase by about 100%. By 4:00 in the morning, you are basically a walking crime statistic waiting to happen.)

Now that I think about it, the Italy game started at 1:15 a.m. The first goal was scored by Italy at approximately 2:00 a.m. According to the Pattaya News, the police were called to the bar at 6:00 a.m. Four hours later. Hmm... I smell bullshit.

Oh well. Two guys dead in Pattaya. No bullshit about that. Maybe getting Pattaya on the map as the murder capitol of Thailand will get the government to do something about it.

True DSL Update

There are 2 phone companies in Thailand: TOT and TT&T. If you want DSL, you have 3 choices: DSL from TOT, DSL from TT&T, or DSL from a third party who basically rents the DSL connection from TOT or TT&T, depending on which phone service is in your house.

Changing phone companies from/to TOT to/from TT&T is not an easy thing. It's a several month process. Therefore, if you have TOT (like I do), you are kind of stuck with it. (Same for TT&T.)

When True DSL kept blaming TOT for my internet problems, they weren't kidding. When TOT DSL goes down, so do all of the True DSL customers who have TOT phone lines. I could try every single DSL provider in Thailand, but as long as I have a TOT phone line, if TOT goes down, my DSL goes down with it. Therefore, I may as well stick with True Internet Chonburi.

Every morning, over the last 2 days, I have woken up to find my internet down, thanks to TOT. I have missed out on half a day's work 2 days in a row because of this. Last night (this morning in America), to add to my problems, a construction crew in Virginia severed the main internet line to my company, and work was cut off for an additional 4 hours.

The worst problem is that when my DSL goes down, even though I can switch over to dial-up internet, I cannot work: You see, working with medical records requires something that is called a "Virtual Private Network" (VPN). This is nicknamed a "tunnel" because it basically creates a private internet connection between me and my company over the public internet lines. For reasons nobody can explain, two weeks ago, the VPN would no longer connect using a dial-up connection... ANY dial-up connection, of which I have tried 3 different dial-up providers. This is the real problem, and nobody knows how to fix it. My DSL going down used to mean that I just had to work on the slower dial-up. Now it means that I cannot work at all.

Cooking Lessons

Pui has been wandering over to Mike's and Riza's house for occasional cooking lessons from Riza.

Yesterday's effort was custard. Pui's attempt was oh-so-sadly mistaken. How it arrived at a grayish-purple color, I will never know. However, the color was in keeping with the taste: If grayish-purple has a definitive taste, it is to be found in Pui's custard.

But it warms my heart to see her making the attempt, and although I laughed and gagged at her latest assignment, I also gave her my deepest gratitude for the sentiment that went into its preparation. (And Maid Go had no problem digging right into the greyish-purple flan and ate the whole miscreation with a big smile on her face.)

Final Diamond Anniversary Wrapup

So last night was the final night of festivities for the king's 60th anniversary of his coronary coronation (too much medical transcribing, that). I was quite wrapped up in the whole thing... moreso than the average person, I would expect. But I found it all so fascinating.

Last night, I watched the English broadcast of the proceedings, and therefore learned all the countries in attendance. I didn't realize before, but only "royals" were invited... no politicians. About half of the countries sent crown princes or princesses, and the other half had their monarch attending. The emporor and empress of Japan were probably the most notable. The Sultan of Brunei was the most senior royal attending (after Thailand, of course) and was therefore the "head guest" at all of the functions.

I guess that royals just interest me. It's the ultimate club, isn't it? Membership cannot be purchased or (in modern times) stolen, usurped, conned (or even offered, really). Watching the attendants and servants genuflect and prostrate, kneel and cater was just cool. Imagine living in that atmosphere every day! Chauffered and pampered and revered and regaled... all without responsibility to do or provide anything in return. Ahh. Ah well.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

World Cup

I stayed up late and am watching the American team suck eggs in the World Cup. These guys are supposed to be the "best American team ever"? Sheah right.

(Well, being in Germany, they are probably uptight and scared of reprisals because of the American atrocities at Malmedy, right Mr. O'Reilly?)

Japan, my sentimental favorite, lost to Australia earlier tonight. Brazil, where I lived and learned my love of futbol, plays tomorrow. They should be forced to play with just 6 players to make it fair... only 3 if they're against England. Heheh.

Three-zip to the Czech Republic. That's embarassing. So glad I'm from Canada.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Big Procession

Being an American, it's a completely normal thing to see heads of state processing through White House galleries to a meeting with the President... or standing side by side with our leader in some ceremonial exercise of diplomacy and statesmanship. It's so common, in fact, that 75% of such events never make it to the nightly news, and 100% of them never make it to a live broadcast on primetime television.

However, here in Thailand, of course such things are much more unusual. When dozens upon dozens of foreign dignataries come to pay respect to the king on his 60th anniversary, such things are of great import, and although the pomp and fanfare may be no greater than that which America displays to it's state guests, it just seems so much better when it is done in Thailand.

Why? Because they broadcast it. I can watch. Live. Without interruption. Right now there is a grand hallway lined by saluting military officers all in white, with a red carpet upon which walk the guests in their cultural finery. Arabs and Africans, Asians and Europeans. Thai generals are escorting them into the reception. In the backgound, a Thai lady speaks in a hushed golf-gallery voice about who is who, and the sounds of a party can be heard in the background, with murmuring voices, clinking glasses. There is no video presentation, no talking heads, no scrolling text, nothing but a camera following the royal event, slowly unfolding.

In America, people could care less about something like this. Even if they did care, they would become bored within minutes of nonstop "footage". Here in Thailand though, even I, the American, appreciate the special moment and the fact that it is unfolding here on my television makes it even more special.

...come to think of it: When was the last time 15 or 20 heads of state came to America for anything other than a United Nations function? Reagan's funeral perhaps?

Slides Revisited

Last time I went to Pattaya Park, I took Pot on the little kiddie slide upon which my fat, friction-filled form would barely move.

This time, upon return, I decided to go up to the top slides (with their hump in the middle) and try one of those, hoping to go a little faster.

I did go faster. In fact, much faster. In fact, I broke Newton's law by going faster than all the little Thai people who were going down the slide. I literally launched into the air on the hump and landed 15 or 20 feet further down the slide. I hit the water at the bottom at a blistering pace... with my legs tragically splayed about 18 inches apart. Oompfh. That one trip was my last for the day. Fast or slow, I always manage to break something, it seems.

There were Thai guys going down the big slides standing... surfing, with their hands guiding them on the top edges of the half tubes. They weren't going slow either. If I was 17 years old again, oh hell yes.

(image snatched from

Monday Vinnie Blogging

"I've finally figured out that you're not leaving, are you?"

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Restaurant Review

Stan and Mem invited Pui and I out to dinner at L'Olivier in Jomtien Complex last night. They have menu items to which you can add soup, an all-you-can-eat appetizer buffet, and dessert for an additional 100 baht or so.

Didn't care for the buffet food very much: I bit into a deviled egg only to get a mouthful of tuna; I bit into a giant shallot only to get a mouthful of tasteless mush; and I tried 5 different varieties of paté all of which barely had any taste to them. (I think the paté is homemade, so they get kudos for the attempt.)

However, the onion soup before, and steak with Roquefort cheese sauce afterwards was somewhat above average. The waiters (being in Jomtien Complex, Pattaya's gay downtown) were all swishy gay Thai guys who have their own entertainment value (and were quite capable staff as well as speaking excellent english), and the restaurant is done up nicely. The custard creme for dessert was also above average... but none of the food especially so.

Pui had Thai food, I also had a beer. Total cost of 650 baht for the two of us.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Million Year Stone Park

I figured it would be fun to take Pot to the Million Year Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile Farm today. I took along Pui and Go as well... but the visit was mostly for Pot's sake. It's more fun as an adult to go to things like this with a kid than with other adults.

The park is a combination (small) gardens and (small) zoo... with a big pile of crocodiles to boot. (If you have been to Sri Racha Tiger Zoo, it is pretty much the same selection, but only 5 km away from Pattaya instead of 30.

They usually charge more for farangs than for Thai people, but I had Pui buy the tickets while Pot and I were off looking at pictures, and therefore I didn't have to pay farang price.

So after a quick walk through the gardens, we found ourself on a walkway over thousands of crocodiles. I played on throwing Pot to the crocodiles, but he was already pretty uptight about the creatures, and didn't need any additional playing around to add to that. We bought some chicken parts and threw them to the crocodiles, who happily snapped and leapt and slithered as the meat fell around them.

After that, we went to a crocodile show where two guys basically teased sleeping/torporific crocodiles for 20 minutes or so. Of course, the grand finale was one of the guys sticking his head in the crocodile's mouth. Pot was moderately impressed, but was inpatient to see the monkeys.

Unfortunately, and much to my surprise (and much unlike Sri Racha Tiger Zoo), this place had no monkeys at all. (In a country where monkeys are as prolific as squirrels, that's strange.) Pot wasn't too happy, but he was appeased by feeding the elephants bananas.

Pot was kind of odd though: I asked him if he wanted to sit on the baby elephant, and he just said no. Not a scared "no"... just not interested. I asked him if he wanted to pet the tiger. "No thanks." He just didn't find such a thing worthwhile. (It was probably just as well that he didn't want to pet the tiger, because if a tiger is anything like a cat, that tiger was giving Pot the eye like he was looking mighty tasty.)

Pot found it all perfectly interesting, and watched the animals like he really was enjoying himself, but when offered to get up close and personal with stuff, he just politely took a pass.

We had lunch at the restaurant, which actually services a fair quantity of crocodile dishes. After the fact, I realized that it probably would have been worth the $13 to have the crocodile steak, just to try it out... but the initial gut reaction was "$13? Nah." Where else on earth are you going to find crocodile steak for that price?

Finally, we went and saw the giant catfish. I had reminded myself earlier to stick my hand into the photos to give a perspective so that you could see the size of these things, but I forgot. So I put in this circle in the photo around one of the smaller nearby fish... about 8 inches long or so. The catfish are 220 pounds (100 kg), 6½ feet long (2 meters), and 20 years old (I don't know what that is in metric years).

Anyway, they also had some camels, miniature ponies, a large collection of tropical birds, lots and lots more crocodiles, deer, .... oh... and a surprisingly large collection of Asian bears as well.

... but no monkeys.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Coronation Day

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the coronation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great. Everybody is wearing yellow in his honor.

Fun With Words

1. "Boondocks" comes from the Tagalog word "bundok", meaning mountain. Cool.

2. Apparently I'm the only person on the internet who knows that the etymology for "neck of the woods" is from the Mohawk word "nyack" (as in the town of Nyack, New York), meaning an outcropping of forest. (Lots of sites seem to know that "neck" means an outcropping of forest, but I couldn't find a single site that mentions the native American source of the word.)

3. Oh... and the color orange is named after the fruit, and not the other way around.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Prick. Bastard. Idiot.

Nobody can read this and still say that the President puts the safety of the troops ahead of everything else.
WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- When the Senate took $1.9 billion out of the war supplemental to fund border security last month, $1.6 billion came out of funds to replace equipment destroyed or worn out from four years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The money was diverted at the behest of the White House in a last-minute bid to address growing political unrest about illegal immigration. The Office of Management and Budget championed the change without input from the Army or the Marine Corps whose budgets were sliced, a Pentagon budget official told United Press International last week.

'It was done in a 24-hour period, and presented as a fait accompli,' the official said.

The Senate accepted the offer 'without recognizing they were shorting the very people fighting the war,' the official said.

I cannot fathom how President Bush can have anything other than a 0% approval rating when we read about these kind of things.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Egg Drop Soup

One thing that Pattaya doesn't have is a Chinese (American-style) restaurant, and one thing that they don't have, even if they existed, is egg drop soup.

So today, since I haven't had any in over 3 years, I made my first attempt at cooking egg drop soup, and it came out fine.

It really is the easiest thing in the world to make: Bring chicken broth to a boil, then turn off the heat and slowly stir in some eggs. Add salt. Done.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Don't Use True DSL

I'm sorry. I've given True DSL every chance to do things right. In fact, I've given them 2 chances to fix the same mistake, and they have been absolutely awful in the whole gamut of customer service and technical expertise.

Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

(Now... since I'm back on dialup, anybody have any DSL recommentations?)

After crashing on Thursday afternoon and staying crashed with no help from tech support, I woke up this (Saturday) morning to find my DSL back up and running. So, for the time being, I'll play the dumb abused wife and run back to the arms of True DSL and hope with all hope that they don't let me down again.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thursday Party

It was out for Bob's BBQ all-you-can-eat free buffet at TQ2. Rick and Justin came along as well.

I snapped this rarest of photos: A Thursday night at 8:00 p.m., and Walking Street is deserted. Granted, the photo is in the middle of a downpour, but that's about the only thing that would ever get the world's most party-hearty street to empty out in Prime Time.