Sunday, September 30, 2007

Philippines Trip Report: Day 3, Lechon Baboy

We overslept a little bit on Sunday morning. I had wanted to wake up at 9:00 so that we could get an early start on the day we were going to spend at Epril's house. Instead, we woke up at about 10:30. We quickly checked out of our hillside bungalow, and were soon on the road out along the coast driving about 35 minutes northeast from the city of Cagayan de Oro, to Epril's little village of Jassan.

Jassan ("hassa-an") is actually a small town, with a proper city square (with touches of Spanish influence evident in the civic architecture) and a market, and I would guess a population of about 2,000 people. Epril's village could almost be defined as a "suburb" of Jassan. Jassan sits on the coast between two rivers, with little fishing villages to the north and south, across the rivers. Epril lives to the south of town. The houses are about 50% cement and 50% wooden/bamboo. Most of the cement houses don't have the finishing touches that their Thai counterparts usually do (a coat of cement and paint on the outside, porches, proper slate roofs, et. cetera), but the wooden houses are much more impressive and overall the village seems better-tended than what you would find in Thailand. Epril lives back from the main highway about half a mile, and the little lane that she lives on is filled with the homes of her relatives.

Our first plan of the day was a trip to the beach. We piled about 12 people into the van (built for 8) and headed further north out of town. (On the way, Epril and older sister Susan pointed out several American-owned, beachfront vacation homes. It seems that expatriates dot the landscape even this far out into the country.)

We got to the beach we wanted to go to, but it really wasn't a beach. Instead, it was a restaurant which had constructed large cement "tide pools" out in the water at the foot of a steep rocky slope. Unfortunately, the waves and tide were such that the ocean was rolling in right over the outer cement jetty, flowing over the tide pool with incredible force, and crashing with a big kaboom against the inner wall where we were standing. Anybody swimming in there would be killed in short order. (I looked down at little 7-year-old Dimple standing next to me, and she had this look on her face like, "Boy, I can't wait to go swimming!")

Anyway, that wasn't going to happen, and we piled back into the van and headed back south down the coast.


One of the "pool resorts" in Epril's
village. This one also has a nice
little hotel on the grounds, where I
stayed on Sunday night.
There is a unique entertainment concept in the Philippines, which I'll call a "pool resort." I've only seen 4 examples, and they all were based on the same thing, although I am sure there are other variations: They go out into the jungle and find a nice little valley with a river in it. Over this river, they build a whole series of very attractive pools out of cement and incorporating the native rock into the design as well. The pools are large enough to hold hundreds of people, and have slides and diving boards, steps and fountains. Around the pool, they build restaurants, salas and grass huts and benches and shady places to sit. They play some music, and turn it into a little party area. It is really quite a lovely place to spend a day... especially with a family with lots of kids. Within 3 miles of Epril's village, I saw 4 such places.

Anyway, we left the beach and went to one of these pool resorts, and had a nice afternoon swimming and eating and chatting. I had been teaching Epril little bits of Thai during our time together so far, and little Dimple has been listening in. I taught Epril that you say hello in Thai by saying "sawatdee khap", and later I heard Dimple running around to all her little friends saying "sawa teacup!!!"

In the afternoon, the driver of the van, and Epril's father (who is a friend of the driver) went out and brought a whole roasted pig — which I had reserved the day previous — called "lechon baboy" in Tagalog. It was almost 100 pounds, and cost 3,300 pesos (2,500 baht, $75). Then, we held Epril's going-away party.

At first, it was just family and myself. Epril and I sat in the front room and ate our food, while the rest of the family gathered around the big pig and ate. Then (they must have been lined up for blocks outside), every relative and friend of Epril's came filing in for their share of pork. I didn't think it was possible, but every bit of that pig was eaten.

In addition, I had brought 50 chocolate bars with me from Thailand, and those were given to the kids for desert.

After dinner, all the men gathered outside on the front porch of Epril's house to drink beer, and they invited me to join them. I sat down, and they poured me a glass of beer... but it only was about one-quarter of the way full. So, I obligingly knocked back the little bit that they gave me, and set my glass back down on the table for some more. All the men looked at me like I was crazy. I realized that Filipino men portion out and consume beer the same way that we foreigners portion out and consume whiskey.

There was one young guy named Miguel who apparently was assigned to be the bartender and he wouldn't be drinking. He looked at all the older men for help. (Apparently it is his job to make sure that nobody gets too drunk... and someone like me pounding beer like it was whiskey was confusing.) The other men seemed to make little motions that he shouldn't pour me another beer yet... but 5 minutes later, I was duly handed another one-quarter glass of beer.

I tried to drink it more slowly this time around... but seriously, when you are drinking beer by the shot, slowly is a relative term. In 30 seconds, I set my glass back down on the table.

Anyway, this went on for about 30 minutes or so, with the men becoming more and more concerned that I was going to get rip-roaring drunk on them. Epril finally came out with ice cream for me, at which point the men decided that was a great excuse for me to go back inside and get me away from the beer. That was okay by me since drinking beer "filipino style" was more frustration than it was worth.

At about 10:00 or so, I rode in the van with Epril, Epril's father, Dimple, and baby Doreen about halfway out to the main road where there was yet another pool resort, but this one had some hotel rooms. Epril, Dimple and I went for a late night swim, and then I was left alone so that Epril could have one final night sleeping next to her family before we left the next day.

For me, I stopped by the bar and brought 2 bottles of San Miguel beer and took them back to my room... and I drank them at exactly the right speed.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Philippines Trip Report: Day 2, Mountain View

Epril and I woke up in the Presidential Suite of the Pryce Hotel in Cagayan De Oro at about 9:30 in the morning. We got dressed and made our way down to the main restaurant and fortunately found it still open and serving breakfast. We ate from the not-so-good breakfast buffet, and drank all-too-average coffee, and not-real orange juice.

The Pryce Hotel overall is simply a perfect example of "great idea, poor execution", with decor that hasn't been upgraded since the place was opened. The building and the site itself are really quite nice, but the decor (aside from the lounge area, which still has some style) is tasteless, and the fixtures in the Presidential Suite were tired and in need of repair or refurbishment. For the price: 6,000 baht per night for the best room in Cagayan De Oro... it was worth it, but just barely, and won't be for much longer if the Pryce Hotel continues to go without so much as a new coat of paint.

At noontime, the van picked us up and drove us up to the Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village, where I had reserved one of their hill-side bungalows. The drive up the mountain past all the little villages convinced me even more that The Philippines looks just like Thailand. The little roadside villages filled with bamboo huts with thatched roofs are exactly the same... as are the people in appearance. The only difference is that all of the signs out in front of the little roadside stalls or elsewhere are in English, not Thai script.

The Gardens of Malasag is simply a lovely place. Our bungalow was 1,500 pesos (about 1,150 baht, $35) per night, and was perched amidst jungle gardens on a steep mountainside, looking out over the entire valley to Macajalar Bay. After getting settled into our room, we walked up to the hill-top restaurant and had some Filipino food. Then we walked through the expansive tropical gardens and jungle along well-kept paths, past traditional mountain-tribe huts showing off various crafts. (Certain days, there are local artisans plying their trade here, but not today.) There was a little zoo with local creatures to view, including a spectacular aviary with one of the Philippine eagles there... a huge bird. There was also a swimming pool, which we didn't go in.

We walked back to the restaurant, and had ice cream, and used some nearby binoculars to enjoy the view. Then, some local tribe folks came in their traditional garb, and did an ancient ritualistic dance for us on the street outside the restaurant, mimicking birds, which was a lot of fun to watch. (Oh, how I wanted my camera then.)

After that, Epril and I went back to our room and got dressed for a night on the town. After sunset, the van drove us into down to a restaurant recommended to me by Mike, who showed us around yesterday, called "Town". It was an absolutely lovely restaurant that would give the nicer restaurants in Pattaya some stiff competition. The food was excellent, and the prices were a third of what you would pay in Pattaya. The total meal (2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 1 dessert, and a pitcher of piña coladas) plus a generous tip came to 1,500 pesos (1,150 baht, $35).

Then, we took a walk through the night-market area of Cagayan de Oro, called the "Divisoria" area. It was quite a large place, about 3 blocks long, with 2 streets on either size of a central park, and packed with people and live music and other entertainment playing on stages in the central plaza area.

Then, we went to a nightclub called Pulse, which (as would be expected) was about one-twentieth the size of any of the large night clubs in Pattaya. However, there was an excellent live band there... one of the Filipino bands that has not yet made it to Thailand apparently. (All house bands in the tourist areas of Thailand are Filipino, in case you didn't know.) Entry cost 100 pesos, and that included your first drink. Mixed drinks after that cost 65 pesos (50 baht, $1.50).

From there, it was back to the hillside bungalow. Along the way, I bought some beer and pistachios, and Epril and I sat out on the balcony listening to the sounds of the jungle, and watching the lights in the valley below, drinking beer and eating pistachios... finishing yet another perfect day in The Philippines.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Philippines Trip Report: Day 1, City View

I landed in Manila at 5:30 a.m., and made it quickly through customs, and retrieved my bag. (I check all my bags, and don't use carry-on luggage anymore... just my plane ticket used as a marker in my book.)

I couldn't pass through Manila... especially with a 5-hour layover... without seeing an old friend of the family, Nathan. He was an exchange student who lived in my home in New York back in 1986. He is, of course, 20 years older now, married with 2 kids, and owns a textile business and some restaurants in Manila. He picked me up at the airport and took me out to a lovely breakfast at the Sofitel Plaza Hotel on Manila Bay. We sat around for 3 hours and chatted, catching up on the last 20 years.

After that, it was off to the domestic airport (which is completely disconnected from the international airport in Manila) to catch my next flight. I flew on Cebu Pacific, which is the new standard bearer for ultra-cheap, ultra-bad airlines. (8,000 baht round trip to Manila, and 3,000 baht round trip to the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro.) Aside from feeling like I was on the airborne version of one of those rickety buses you see in travel documentaries about India, the trip went fine, and I arrived in Cagayan de Oro.

When I was in Bangkok, although I can't say why, I noticed this one fellow at the airport check-in. I saw him again waiting at the gate for the flight to Manila. Then, more strangely, I saw him at the domestic airport in Manila. Then, I saw him getting on my flight to Cagayan de Oro. Upon arrival at "CdO", while waiting to collect our bags, I introduced myself. In the most amazing of coincidences, it turns out that the fellow is an expatriate named Geoff from Pattaya who, like me, had met a lady on the internet, had flown down to meet her, and was, like me, flying back to Thailand with her on Monday's flight. Recognizing fate, we agreed that we and our newfound Filipina companions would be friends. (Unfortunately, Geoff would be staying in a city called Ozamis City, and not in CdO, so we wouldn't be hanging out together while in The Philippines.)

I met Epril (and her sisters, elder Susan and younger Ednil) at the airport. From all the time on the webcam, chatting, and talking, Epril was exactly as I expected... thus disproving the theory that you can't really know a person without meeting them in person.

We took a van to The Pryce Plaza hotel, where I had rented out the Presidential Suite. At only 2½ times the price of a standard room, and wanting the day to be memorable for both Epril and me, I figured it was worth the extra money. The Pryce Plaza sits on a tall hill overlooking the city, and the Presidential Suite has a monstrous hemi-circular floor-to-ceiling glass wall in the living room affording a spectacular view.

A fellow named Mike, whom I had met on the internet via his blog, and operates an internet-based business out of CdO, met us at the hotel, and took Epril and I on a tour of the city. (We left sisters Susan and Ednil at the suite with instructions to call Room Service.) CdO is a nice enough city, and compares favorably to your standard Thai provincial capital, but the traffic snarls are ridiculous. (The reason is that there are simply no traffic control devices... stop signs, traffic lights, road lines, anything.)

So after an hour of showing us around town, Mike dropped us back off at the hotel. It was really a nice thing for him to take an hour out of his day to show the new guy (and girl) around... I'll take this opportunity to thank him one more time.

After getting back to the hotel, the three sisters and I got back into the van and drove an hour up the coast to Epril's village of Jassan (pronounced "hassa-ahn"). It actually took us about 35 minutes to get out of CdO, and 25 minutes to drive the final 12 miles to Jassan.

In Jassan, I met Epril's parents, saw their neat little house (all carved wood and bamboo... small but darling), met the rest of Epril's family (mom, dad, 5 daughters, 1 dark-skinned granddaughter who was the result of a failed relationship between eldest daughter Susan and an African man). Epril's mom is exactly what you would expect of a Filipina matron: Short styled hair, big smile, rounded out a bit from age, with a pleasant grasp of the English language. Epril's father is exactly what you would expect of a Filipino fisherman: A serious man, built like a fireplug, with thick wavy hair over a round, flat, sun-bronzed face that is deeply chiseled with lines that gives him a permanent scowl, so that you pay close attention to the man to figure out how he is actually feeling.

Susan is the eldest at 26, and she works as a maid in CdO. Epril is 20. Next in line is Ednil, who just turned 16, and is still in school; a pretty girl who outdoes Epril in the thick-hair category. Next is Inday, at 12, but well-grown and filled out for her age, another pretty girl. Finally, there is little Dimple at 7. With her absent front teeth and chubby little cheeks, she is the definition of cute. At the bottom of the list is little granddaughter/niece Doreen, almost 3 years old, with dark brown skin, a shock of long, kinky black hair on her head, bright little eyes, and a perpetual smile, she became my little lapdog for the entire visit.

Everybody in the family speaks English quite well, as does pretty much everybody in the village, which I soon discovered as I was walked around the village to say hello to all of Epril's family... which essentially was the entire village. Epril and I did this while being followed by an entourage of about 15 little girls (aged from about 5 to 10) who would stand outside the various houses Epril and I visited and crowd at the windows and front door, and stare doe-eyed at me while I chatted with some relative of Epril's and bounced an infant baby on my knee. (I could see behind their eyes that they were vowing to get on the internet and find their own white man as soon as they were old enough.)

After 2 hours, Epril and I (and Susan) climbed back into the van and rode back to CdO. We dropped Susan off to catch a jeepney back to her aunt's house across town where she stays during the week while doing her maid's job. Epril and I went to one of the grand shopping malls of CdO, Limkatkai Mall. It was huge. I bought Epril a nice dress to wear to dinner. We also stopped by the Sony store to see about fixing my camera, but there was really nothing they could do in an hour, or even a few days.

We took the van back to the hotel, getting there just after 9:00. We wanted to use the pool, but they had closed it 5 minutes before. So then, Epril and I got all dressed up and went to the lounge where we listened to some live music, and had a few drinks. (Well... I had a few drinks. Epril had 2 sips of a margarita I ordered for her, and — although she loved it — was "so drunk" after just 2 sips... her first alcohol ever.) At just after 10:00, we moved over to the hotel's grand dining room, only to find that it had just closed 5 minutes earlier.

Well, that was probably just as well: We went back to the Presidential Suite, I ordered steaks from room service, and a waiter came and lit some candles, and served us a fairly good dinner in our room. Epril and I sat on our perch over the city lights and clinked our wine glasses together (Epril took just a sip) and toasted the future.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thursday Babe Blogging: Online Project Edition

Yes indeed, ladies and gentlemen, today we have the unveiling of the "online project" which I have been mentioning for the last 3 or 4 weeks on this blog. The online project is also this week's Babe of the Week: Epril from the Philippines.
I met Epril online last month, and we have been chatting and video conferencing and telephoning each other every day since. I, like hundreds of my fellow Pattaya expats, have decided to go find a Filipina. I'm flying over to Manila tonight, then going down to the southern city of Cagayan de Oro for a fun-filled weekend with my new-found companion, and — assuming everything is as good in person as it is online — we will be coming back to Pattaya together on Monday.

So, allow me to explain my decision to choose a girl from The Philippines:

First and foremost, it is about communication. I have learned more about Epril in the month we have known each other than I ever learned about Pui in the 18 months we were together. I have chatted with Epril's entire family, who all speak English... whereas I could barely communicate with Pui's family. Epril understands me, understands the details of our relationship, and generally knows what to expect... as do I.

I put a lot of effort into learning the Thai language, and I speak it better than 99% of the expatriates in Thailand. It still wasn't enough in the end. A lack of understanding and a lack of communication with Thai girls (when I strive for perfect understanding and great communication) are the first reason I have chosen a Filipina.

Second, it is about culture and attitude. I had no problem with the Thai mindset in general, but with Pui, the devil was in the details: The lack of real interest in putting together a coherent plan for her future, my future, Pot's future; the lack of caring about things that are not of Thailand; and the impression I got that no matter how long we stayed together, I would still be "farang", and still be simply "he who gives me money."

Epril, on the other hand, has the opposite values: She can tell you exactly what she wants out of life, out of our relationship; she has a keen interest in cultures other than the one she was raised in, and can toss out a "Simpsons" quip, or the lyrics from Beach Boys songs; and she figures the money she makes from working will be more than enough to keep her family back home happy.

Yes, of course, I'm sure that I could have found a Thai version of Epril, and I'm sure that girls like Pui live in The Philippines, but as any person who is knowledgeable of both countries will tell you: Somebody like Epril is the exception, not the rule, in Thailand, and somebody like Pui is the exception, not the rule, in The Philippines. Quite simply, I am facing a 10-to-1 Pui-to-Epril ratio in Thailand (and that would actually be a 100-to-1 Pui-to-Epril ratio in Pattaya), and I've decided to better my odds.

Which leads me to my final, albeit least-important reason I'm choosing a girl from The Philippines: To merely hunt in a different direction. I've had four relationships here in Thailand: From a perky, witty college student with a blossoming modeling career to a plain-faced, simple rice farmer... They all seemed to represent different variations on a recurring theme of frustration. If I am to encounter problems or difficulties in my upcoming relationship, I only hope they are of a different sort.

Anyway, I leave tonight from Bangkok, and should be back at my desk on Tuesday morning, Pattaya time (Monday night, America). Pictures and stories of my (and Epril's) adventure will be forthcoming.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Pattaya is going to play host Sunday night to an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the world's largest explosion firework. Yes: One rocket, one kaboom, one for the record books.

I'll be in The Philippines on Sunday... which should be a safe viewing distance.

Crackdown



I was watching BBC News' live coverage yesterday of the Army's brutal suppression of the pro-Democracy protestors in Myanmar. I saw a group of monks walking with clubs of wood raised overhead, with a look of fury and violence on their faces that suggested that the protests weren't as peaceful as we were led to believe. (Although perhaps the monks armed themselves after the army crackdown began? Don't really know.) Anyway, armed retaliation against the monks and their fellow protestors began yesterday afternoon.

I wish the protesters success and peace, and that the military crackdown on the monks backfires, and that the military government of Myanmar is not long for this world.

Full coverage here. Hat tip to Andy for the photo and link.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Daily Report: Preparations

I finally woke up at a slightly better time today. I have always asked Maid Go to get me out of bed in the morning, but she simply doesn't like to be the source of unpleasantness no matter how necessary. She finally discovered a way to wake me up: She comes in to my room in the morning and — after doing all the sweeping and mopping up — starts massaging my feet. (I always sleep with my feet sticking out from under the blankets... don't know why.) Anyway, I love a foot massage, and Maid Go is also a liscensed masseuse and does it expertly. With Go's strong fingers digging into my ankles... well... staying asleep is pretty damn difficult.

I worked all day, then did the online project (i.e. chatted with Epril... see above) for an hour-and-a-half in the afternoon.

After that, it was over to Stan's house to get a copy of his credit card. You see, I am flying to The Philippines tomorrow using Cebu Pacific airlines, which has very inexpensive flights (8,000 baht round trip to Manila) that can only be purchased online at their website. Unfortunately, Cebu Pacific's website doesn't accept Visa cards issued in the U.S. (as is mine), so Stan was nice enough to let me use his Barclays card to by my and Epril's tickets over the internet. Then, Cebu Pacific — seeing 4 sets of airline tickets purchased with a credit card beloing to a person whose name does not appear on any of the tickets — asked me to bring a photocopy of Stan's credit card with me to the airport.

After Stan's house, it was off to Friendship supermarket, where I bought 1,000 baht worth of chocolate bars to take with me to The Philippines. I promised Epril — and I am guessing, by association, her family and all the neighborhood kids — to bring chocolate with me when I come. So they now have 50 Snickers bars to look forward to.

From there, it was off to reserve a taxi for tomorrow night's ride to the airport. (J.J. Transport, located at a booth in front of the Family Mart located at the corner of Soi Diana and Soi LK Metro... or call 084-759-7858. I've used them 4 times now, and they are very reliable.)

Then, it was back home for the evening. I read my book, and then went to bed.

Pick Up A Political Booby Trap And Give It A Hug

It goes without saying that it is almost impossible for the average person to grasp all the ramifications that go into making a political decision, no matter how cut-and-dry it may seem.

But as a politician, how on earth could you set yourself up in a position to have to explain this:
The House voted Tuesday to expand health insurance for children, but the Democratic-led victory may prove short-lived because the margin was too small to override President Bush's promised veto.

Bush says he will veto the bill due to its cost, its reliance on a tobacco tax increase and its potential for replacing private insurance with government grants.
That's right kids: President Bush (and the Republicans in Congress) voted against expanding health insurance for children because it would raise taxes on cigarettes.

Like I said: I'm sure there is more to that decision than the neat little sound bite above (although for the life of me, I couldn't imagine what)... but in a political world that exists solely on just such sound bites, why would you get caught within a country mile of "no health insurance for children, because we don't want higher taxes for Phillip Morris"?

And President Bush — who has veteod fewer bills than any other American president in history — decides to jump in and veto this one? Good God, man, what are you thinking? It's like the Republican party has some collective suicidal ideation and are casting about left and right to find the most lethal political shotgun to aim at their heads.
UPDATE:

Oh yeah... Just to give my liberal tendencies some much-needed airing out (I do have a few, ya know): The cost of the Iraq war is coming up on $500 billion dollars, and Republicans can afford it just fine... But when it comes to providing health insurance for children at $7 billion per year, Republicans draw the line.

Burma Versus Myanmar

With Myanmar a topic of discussion in the news because of the recent protests there, a lot of people are having the debate about whether to call the country "Burma" or "Myanmar".

"Burma" is the name chosen by the British to call this place back when it was a colony of theirs. It came from a colloquial name for the country; in other words, an informal nickname. (It's kind of like saying the official name for Australia is "Down Under".)

"Myanmar" is a close approximation in Western script to what the country is officially called, and has been called continuously for 1,000 years by the Burmese (actually... "the Myanma"... though I'm not that much of a stickler) and by all the other people in Asia. The name of the country has never changed inside Burma, or for that matter in many other countries... the name has changed only in Western script.

So anyway, for the time being, some people can use Burma (although they use that name mostly as a thumb in the eye to the invalid military government who changed it, than for any linguistic reason), I go with Myanmar.

Now you know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Sculpture Added To Dolphin Roundabout

A driver for one of Thailand's major newspapers got drunk and put his truck in the Dolphin Roundabout. Nothing spoils a high-speed run down Pattaya Second Road better than a 50-foot-wide, 30-foot-tall fountain in the middle of the road, eh?

Bare Trees In Jomtien

Some foreign retiree in Jomtien complained to Pattaya City News that the city had come through and chopped all the branches off the trees on Jomtien beach.

This foreign retiree apparently has not been living here in Pattaya for too long a time: The city denudes all of those beach trees about once every 2 to 3 years.

Tell the disgruntled resident to come back in 5 or 6 months: Those trees give weeds a run for their money.

Somebody's Face Is Red

So imagine you're a farang sitting there at home watching Pattaya City News and (hey!) there's my Thai wife and (hey!) there she is sitting in my wrecked car and (hey... wait a minute...) that's her Thai boyfriend sitting next to her? (I thought that was her brother. Jeez.)

On a serious note though, the unfaithful bitch got drunk, caused an accident, and then drove off. While trying to get away from the first accident, she caused another accident and killed somebody. Well, one farang in Pattaya is less a car and a wife... but that's probably just as well.

Daily Report: Guests

The snooze button kept me in bed until 9:00 this morning. After that I worked for a little while.

I had Franky over for lunch today. Go made curry chicken, and Franky and I sat around and talked about life in Thailand.

In the afternoon, I put in a good amount of work. Then I spent a little while on the online project, and then went back to work until 8:00.

I did Thai BBQ tonight. Maid Go sat out front with her son and daughter-in-law, and Riza and cooked and ate food, while Mike and I sat inside eating BBQ chicken and watching TV.

Monday, September 24, 2007

My Most Favorite Music Video Ever

The perfect video for me and the rest of the misfits...

Like the little girl, where did I end up after years of wandering and trying to fit in? In a place where dancing, frolicking, acting childish, and having fun is the only way to be. All those dreary places and drab people scratching their heads are left far behind.



All that I can say is that my life is pretty plain.
You don't like my point of view? You think that I'm insane?

Monday Vinnie Blogging

Vinnie is back after a brief hiatus. Hopefully his mother will supply me with more photos soon.

Here we have Vinnie at one of his favorite passtimes: Going down to the pool, taking off his shirt, flexing his muscules, and making all the babes swoon, and all the dudes jealous.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Daily Report: Lazy Sunday

Had more fun banging on the snooze button today. When I finally did get up at 7:30, I went straight to work. Every second Sunday morning here in Thailand represents the last day of the pay period back at my company in America (Saturday night), and the pay is as good as you can get with all the bonuses plus overtime. So I worked from 8:00 to noontime.

Then I had spaghetti for lunch (Yes... I know... the diet starts tomorrow) and took a nap.

I got a little more work done in the afternoon before switching over to the online project for a couple of hours. Then it was downstairs to watch some TV and drink some beer (Yes... I know... the diet starts tomorrow) with Mike, who came over to visit.

I gave half a thought to going out partying tonight, but decided to save my time, money and energy for more industrious pursuits.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Myanmar Monks Protesting Military Government

Good news. Monks in Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma) are rising in protest against the military government, and even went so far as to stop by where Suu Kyi is under house arrest and give her blessings. Protests by monks are apparently happening all over the country.

(For those of you who don't know, Aung San Suu Kyi is the woman who in 1990 won an election in a landslide to become Myanmar's Prime Minister, replacing the military-run government, but the military ignored the election results and Suu Kyi has been under house arrest more or less ever since.)

Anyway, as in all Buddhist countries, where the monasteries lead, the people (and usually the government) follow. Freedom may not be far away for the Burmese people and their elected leader, Suu Kyi.

Robert Jordan, Rest In Peace

About 7 or 8 months ago, I started reading "The Wheel of Time" fantasy series by Robert Jordan: an immense series that consists of over 3.5 million words, probably one of the grandest and greatest sci-fi/fantasy series ever written. Unfortunately, of those 3.5 million words, the last 500,000 went to the grave with their author, Robert Jordan, on September 16, 2007. Robert Jordan died of primary amyloidosis and cardiomyopathy.

Fortunately, Mr. Jordan knew of his impending passing, and got as much of the details of the final epic confrontation between good and evil jotted down to pass on to another author to finish his work. I think it impossible to leave one of the greatest stories ever told unfinished, so I think that Book 12 (and maybe Book 13, depending on the length of what is left to be written) will be completed.

Anyway, my condolences to Mr. Jordan's family and his other readers out there.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Quotacious

"I heard somebody say, 'Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas."

President Bush










UPDATE:

Alf in the comments section points out that this quote is part of a larger quote concering the issue of why somebody like Nelson Mandela has not shown up in Iraq. I'm quite surprised that CBS news would be so deliberately misleading in using a quote... it is basically malacious.

Walking Street Wire Woes

In my opinion, one of the biggest eyesores in Thailand is utility wires. No matter where you look, the air above the streets of Pattaya are simply filled with them... hundreds of them.

I believe that primary culprit is phone wires... and probably a lack of knowledge (or caring) on the part of the utility companies (phone, electric, cable together) to even be able to guess which wires go where or belong to whom.

Anyway, aside from the visual clutter these wires make, they are also dangerous and probably explain about 90% of my internet outages and power outages.

Walking Street business owners and Pattaya City News are teaming up to make City Hall aware of this problem (as if they could have missed it previously) in hopes of making Pattaya — or at least Walking Street — a better-looking city.

Friday Cat Blogging

Poopy Cat, right before shouting "Banzai!!!" in a crashing attempt at nabbing Chuck, the Parakeet.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Daily Report: Educational TV

I didn't sleep too well last night. With the cool months arriving here in Thailand, I'm trying to wean myself off of air conditioning, and going with just a fan. Sometimes I wean, other nights I don't.

So although the alarm went off at 7:00, I snooze-buttoned my way through to 9:30. (Oh... don't be too shocked. My record is 5 hours of getting out of bed every 10 minutes to hit the snooze button before going back to sleep.)

Work was OK. I stuck to it from 10:30 until 4:00, before switching over to the online project for a little while, and eating dinner (courtesy of Stan). At 5:30, I got back to work and typed until 8:30. So all in all that was a pretty full day of work.

Tonight, I watched Mythbusters ("If a bunch of birds sitting inside of a truck all take flight at once, does the truck get lighter?" The answer is no: The weight of the birds is only replaced by the downward force of air from their flapping wings.) and Mean Machines: Translantic Challenge, where in head-to-head testing, a top-of-the-line Corvette beat a middle-of-the-road Ferrari. In braking and cornering, the Ferrari won (but not by much), but in acceleration and on the road coarses (where acceleration came in more handy than cornering), the Corvette won by wide margins.

Still though, I think it is pretty cool that a $75,000 American assembly-line Corvette can beat a $250,000 Italian hand-crafted Ferrari at anything.

Thursday Babe Blogging

Today, we have Jen. Don't know much more about her than what I can see in this picture... but isn't that enough?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Daily Report: Good For Work, Bad For Diet

Up a little late. I've taking to banging on the snooze button again... have to stop that. Started work at 9:00 and went straight through to 4:00 in the afternoon, which was awesome. I then did 2 hours of the online project.

I wrecked the diet today... second day in a row actually... with leftover Indian food that Stan emtionally blackmailed me into taking. (You see, if somebody holds up a little puppy and says, "I'm going to throw this puppy in the garbage if you don't take it home with you," well... you would take that puppy home right? I'm the same way with food.) So, for a second day in a row, I gorged myself on Indian food and beer. In fact, just to put a big greasy exclamation point on it, at 9:00, I curled up in bed with my book and the last of the deep fried onion bhaji.

Oh well. The diet starts tomorrow. Er... no... actually... wait, there is still more leftovers from Stan's. Damn you Stan.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Daily Report: Lunch Date

I was up at my regular 8:00, but didn't get started at work until 10:00. Then, at 1:30, it was over to Stan's house for a 2:00 lunch. Unfortunately, the Indian food Stan ordered didn't arrive until 4:30 so there was really nothing else to do but sit around and drink all afternoon. (Hey... it wasn't my fault.)

Anyway, going around the picture below from bottom left clockwise is Alf (TQ2 owner), Wood and Russ (TQ2 managers), new friend Jeff, Lance (Russ' son), Geordon (Martial arts champion), and Stan (Model railroader, extraordinaire).


Stan's model railroad in its infancy.
Anyway, after lunch it was home at 6:00 to work on the online project for a little bit. Having filled myself with beer (and about 5 pounds of Indian food... when it finally arrived) at Stan's house, I really was too tired to get back to work, and climbed into bed at around 8:00 to read my book.

Sorry about the light posting so far this week. It really has simply been one distraction after another with me.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Crazy Creationists On The Warpath Again

The ongoing fight against intelligence now takes us to India, where religious wackos are angry that scientists would dare question that the God Rama, and his army of monkeys built the famous "Rama's Bridge", a thin, 30-mile-long limestone shoal that connects India to Sri Lanka.

Religious officials in the state of Kansas Tamil Nadu are up in arms that scientists would blaspheme Rama (and his monkeys). Protests in several states have taken place, and the India's Culture Minister is offering to quit over the entire thing.

Man Mangles Mosque To Muzzle Muezzin

A German fellow got drunk and decided — upon hearing the Muslim azaan, the 5-times-daily call to prayer — to go over to the mosque and go on a rampage. (Apparently his car bomb was in the shop.)

The Muslims, obviously upset that anyone would become violent over their 5:00 a.m. 200-decibel rendition of Allah's Anthem, called the police to arrest the man, and he was duly charged with section 305.7 of the Thai penal code: "Stupidity for renting or buying a home within 2 miles of a mosque."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Daily Report: EBW (Everything But Work)

I woke up at 7:30, and spent some time blogging.

There is one hard-and-fast rule with me and sleep: I need a lot of it... 8 hours if I'm lucky, 9 hours more normally, and 10-plus hours occasionally. The rule is that for every hour under 8 hours of sleep that I don't get, I'm going to wind up sleeping for 2 hours at some point in the future to get caught up.

So, after 2 days in a row of sleeping 6½ or 7 hours — and only 6 hours last night — at midmorning today after finishing some blogging, I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer, and climbed back into bed until 1:00 in the afternoon.


Bob's new location (with the red,
white and blue awning) on Soi LK
Metro. Bob's BBQ will be open on
October 1st, Bob ensures me.
After waking up, instead of getting to work, it was out to do some chores. I stopped by and visited with Bob at his new location on Soi LK Metro. For those of you who have been to Bob's BBQ before, it is essentially the exact same size as his restaurant before, except that the wall in the back separating the dining room from the kitchen is 4 meters closer to the front of the restaurant than before... now in front of the stairs. The new location is much better though: As you walk down Soi LK Metro from Soi Diana, it is about halfway down on the left, two doors before Lolitas.

After visiting with Bob, I was a bad boy: I went to Slices for a calzone. I can actually feel my butt growing in response to my indiscretion. Oh well... the diet starts tomorrow.

I went and had a quick walk through the Major Shopping Center, newly opened across the street from Soi Post Office on Second Road. It is really quite a nice place and looks to have a lot of fancy shopping based on the smattering of stores that have already moved in. Shenanigans has moved from its old location in front of the Marriott to the second floor in front. Pattaya's largest cineplex is located all along the top 3 floors at the rear of the massive place.

After that, it was off to Big C Shopping Center in North Pattaya to get a haircut. Then, it was back home where I lazed about for a while before finally getting to work at 6:00 in the evening and... to my credit... I worked straight through until 11:30. Then, I had a beer and read by book.

A Case of "You All Look Alike To Me" Syndrome

A drunk Russian fellow had his necklace snatched on Beach Road, and did what any stupid, drunk, pissed-off person would do: In his search for the thief, he went and found the first short, skinny, black-haired guy in a T-shirt and jeans (of which there are oh-so-few in Thailand) and beat him senseless.

The thing I can't figure out is that the one time when a farang actually deserved to have the standard "pummeled bloody by 8 nearby Thai men" scenario played out on his dumb ass... this one managed to avoid it. Damn.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Daily Report: Cocktails And Dinner With Friends

I was up early again today... 6:00 a.m., and similar to yesterday, I didn't finish messing around with the blog until 9:30.

I had a good morning of work — really good in fact. Then I broke for lunch (vegetable lo mein), taking 2 hours off to read my book. My afternoon of work was only fair, and I came in a little short of my goal. Not awful however. After that was an hour spent working on the online project, and listening to music: Paul Simon — Rhythm Of The Saints.

At 6:00, it was out to Stan's house for cocktails. His model railroad is coming along slowly but steadily. Oh... sadly (though that is a word quite distant from the one Stan would choose), Stan and Mem have parted ways after 5 years together. The only real major change I found is that Stan now serves the cocktails himself instead of Mem... which means that instead of getting a vodka tonic I now get tonic-flavored vodka.

At 7:30, Stan and I went over to our new friend Jeff's apartment. Jeff is a fellow whom I met at Shooters one night about a month ago. His eyes lit up when I introduced myself, and he told me he reads my blog every day.


The view from Jeff's apartment out
over Pattaya Bay is stunning.
Jeff is a lucky guy... one of those fellows I consider to be in the upper echelon of expatriate folks: The foreign corporate executive living an all-expenses-paid life here. (Jeff will chime in modestly at this point, "Actually, I'm just middle management.") Well, hell yes, I'm jealous.

Jeff graduated from the General Motors Institute of Management, and works for a French industrial company here on the East Coast of Thailand. He has a clothing company of his own, enjoys talking about World War 2 aircraft, and (like Stan and myself) has never met a bit of knowledge or trivia that he didn't like. So, anyway, expect to see him mentioned on the blog a lot more, now that he is a friend.

At about 8:30, it was out with Stan, Jeff, and a lady friend of Jeff's to Symphony Brasserie on Second Road for dinner. We were there enjoying ourselves until midnight, before we paid our bill.

Friday Cat Blogging

The neighbors have gotten some new cats. Poopy Cat and Pridi Kitty are used to being around strange cats, but this little new kitty walked right into our house. Poopy Cat — who is as friendly with other cats as I've ever seen — was completely baffled about having a guest in the house, and merely tried to politely menace and curiously stalk as the new kitty wandered around and had a looksee.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Daily Report: Valuable

There is one thing I pride myself on: My skill at my job, and my value to my company. Out of the 3,000 or 4,000 transcriptionists that my company employs, I could very easily be THE fastest, and THE most productive of all of them. (When I bitch about having done a bad day of work, the amount of work that I actually did do is usually enough to put me in the top 25% of all people signed on for that day on my team... and I usually work 6½ or 7 days a week, not just 5.)

A few days ago, here, I mentioned that I had lost my "STAT monitor" position to the branch of my company in India. That turns out not to have been the case... probably because I couldn't be replaced.

You see, about half of the "STAT work" usually comes in all at once: As doctors sign out from their workday at midnight... or 4:00 a.m... they sit down and dictate. During the rest of the night, there is also a steady flow of STAT work needing immediate attention. The only reason that one person (that person being me) can stay ahead of that onslaught of work is because that one person is twice as fast as an average transcriptionist... and probably about 4 times as fast as an Indian, who doesn't speak English as a first language.

So, (I'm guessing that) instead of needing one or two people in India to swoop in to pick up where I left off... India suddenly realized that they needed a whole lot more people, which they didn't have. I assume that the folks in India wrote back to the boss of the STAT accounts who originally had decided I wasn't "necessary" and said that they couldn't handle the extra workload my "departure" had created. So, it is defined as "for now" that I am a STAT monitor again, with the 20% bonus that that entails.

Anyway, it was a good day of work... but not spectacular. I was up early, but had fun blogging again, instead of working.

I had diced chicken and spaghetti sauce on French bread slices for lunch today... and sushi (heavy on the rice) for dinner. A little too much starch in my diet today, that's for sure. Somebody asked, so: The scale said 230 pounds (104 kg) when I declared "enough is enough" (in about the middle of July after my trip to America) and I quickly dropped down to 220 pounds (100 kg) in about 3 weeks, with a weighing-in of 218 pounds once. Since then... since about the middle of August... I've been hovering at 219–220 pounds, which is where I was when this blog started 2 years ago, but up 40 pounds from 5 years ago. I haven't been too strict with my diet lately, and more strictness and some exercise is definitely going to be required to get me down an additional 60 pounds... or even an additional 6 pounds for that matter.

I spent an hour on the online project this evening, and then had Mike over and we watched Mythbusters together. They covered hypnotism and myths associated with it.

Thursday Babe Blogging

Today's Babe is Jenny. She's not a movie star or TV star or anything... but she was a Maxim covergirl... which is kind of the Thai version of being on the cover of Vogue.

Update On German Murder

There is an update now on the German fellow who was murdered in Pattaya the other day. With all of the suspects that the police had to look into, it was hardly surpising that they found one who was more suspectable than the rest: That would be the guy driving around in the victim's car with the blood-spattered shirt and meat cleaver. It seems calling in Adrian Monk wasn't necessary after all.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Daily Report: Early Bird, No Worm

I was up really early today: 5:15 a.m. That's such a great feeling to get out of bed nice and early, and realize that — if you wanted — you could get to work and finish your whole day before noontime... and relax by the pool all afternoon... and go out drinking and dining in the evening...

... anyway, that isn't what happened. Instead, I didn't start my (paying) work until late morning. Instead, I sat around blogging. Blogging can be really time consuming sometimes. I may wind up coming off as clever on my blog... though that is debateable... but it always takes me a while to think of something clever to say. (You meet me in person, you know this to be true.) Then there is just finding stuff: That Red Dwarf theme song took me 20 minutes to find and include in yesterday's post. (Did any of you click on it? Didn't think so.) Of course, my 1-month goodbye anniversary was no simple thrown-together piece either. That took time.

So it was not until 10:00 a.m. that I finally settled into work. And then, of course, my DSL internet promptly went down... and stayed down for the rest of the day. It always waits until I start work to do that. Once I switched to dial-up internet, that started disconnecting every 10 minutes. My work computer is so slow (old computer plus upgraded operating system) that whenever I connect to the internet, connect to my company's Cisco network, or do any other memory-intensive operation... the whole computer pauses and sputters in overload. Jeez... I need new gear.

In the end, after 6 hours of straight typing, I made it pretty close to my goal of 2,000 lines of transcribing. Not a great day overall... but acceptable. No hairshirt pajamas for me tonight.

After work, I spent an hour doing my online project. Then it was out to the motorcycle shop to get the oil changed on my bike. I went to the Turkish restaurant and bought cabbage rolls for dinner, and to the bookstore to pick up book #8 in The Wheel Of Time series by Robert Jordan. (The plastic wrapper that all books in Thailand are sold in on this particular book had split down the seam, exposing the book to the (gasp!) air, and therefore the book was considered to be ruined, and was sold to me for only 100 baht... instead of 450 baht.)

I went home, ate my cabbage rolls, watched a Discovery Channel program about the war in Afghanistan, and then sat in bed and read my new book, and had a beer, before going to sleep.

On A Personal Note

Back on August 11th, Pui left. Today marks a complete month she has been gone. I won't get into the details, but we had an argument, and she decided that that argument was enough to end our 18-month relationship.

That was her choice... but also implicit in that choice was the choice to take her 5-year-old son, Pot, away from the only home he had known for 18 months, the only family he had known for 18 months, and the only emotional security he had known in his entire life. In her leaving, Pui chose to ignore Pot's education, his future, his well-being, and his happiness. She chose to move into a run-down, filthy, closet of an apartment with Pot, and her younger brother, and she chose to go work in a bar at night while her brother works at night as a security guard, leaving Pot in the hands of God-knows-who... watched after, I'm sure, but without his mother, father (me), grandmother (Maid Go) or anybody else caring for him and loving him. Pui chose to ignore Pot's security and upbringing. That is the entirety of what Pui chose.

I want to have children. I expected to have them with Pui. While there might have been room for reconciliation after our fight — even with her having moved out — her consideration of Pot in all this was awful. Her values and decisions and discretion showed me that she is simply a bad mother. If this had happened after we had children together, then that could have been MY child being taken out of my house to spend his nights without his family, having his future destroyed so that Pui wouldn't have to defend herself in the arguments she caused. Given the possibility of losing my own child in such a way, it is just as well that she is gone, and just as well that she stays gone.

Yes, of course, I had a role in this as well. There are two sides in any argument. I made mistakes too; but my mistakes did not include a dismissal of our relationship over some heated words. For both Pui's and Pot's sake... for all of my caring for both of them... I was not going to let a moment's anger destroy 18 months of a generally wonderful life together — unlike Pui. Despite my problems and frustration with some things Pui did during our time together (and the arguments those things caused) ending our relationship never crossed my mind.

I cared for Pot like my own son, and I still regret his mother's decision, but what I have learned about Pui — and what that means for Pot — is beyond my control. I wish I could help Pot, and get him out of the awful life his mother has chosen for him; but that would mean taking Pui back and that would mean risking my unborn children at some point in the future to that same life which Pot faces now. I have to let Pot go for the sake of the family I want to have someday.

I'm not depressed, enraged, or emotionally injured. That is simply not me. For about 3 hours after Pui left, I was kind of numb... but Maid Go was there to lift my spirits, Mike and Riza were there to point out the positives, Willie was there to confirm that my thinking was right, and Bob was around that very night to take me out on the town to dandle a few pretties on my knee in a light-hearted attempt to help me forget. Like I said: My only regret was losing Pot, and there is nothing to be done there. For Pui, I have only sad and regretful contempt.

I'm turning off comments for this post, because I don't want condolences or pick-me-ups; I don't want people taking this opportunity to bad-mouth Thai women in general, or Pui in particular; I don't want comments mocking me or my choice of who I had hoped to share my life with; I don't want relationship advice or been-there-done-that anecdotes; I don't want to answer questions or provide any more details. Suffice it to say that we all make mistakes: I was just fortunate that my mistake came to light when it did.

Quotacious

"[The other day, President Bush] was in Australia, and listen to this. A TV comedian dressed himself up over there as Osama Bin Laden and got within feet of Bush's hotel. They got him, and the Bush spokesman said it was obviously not the real Bin Laden because they caught him."

Bill Maher

German Murdered In Soi Kaotalo

A German retiree has been murdered in Pattaya, and as yet there is no clearcut suspect. However, there seem to be plenty of possibilities: He was in the process of divorcing his Thai wife; the house was in his wife's name; he was running a gambling operation; a mysterious girl showed up on the day of the murder; his car was coincidentally sold to his best friend the day before he died.

It sounds like the makings for a great episode of Matlock. Good luck to the police in solving this crime.

Pattaya News Roundup

A drunken Korean tourist grabbed the titties of one of the star singers at Star Dice Disco in Naklua. Seems to have worked out well for him though: He got to hang out with the girl later on at the police station. (Lemons to lemonade, people.) No news on whether or not the guy got the girl's phone number in the end.

As per usual, another farang goes out at night, leaving vast quantities of cash in his safe at home. Does he get robbed? Oh... you know how this song goes by now: If one Thai person knows how much cash you have lying around, every Thai person knows how much cash you have lying around.

Just how brazen are criminals in Pattaya getting these days? Just ask the guy who robbed copper wire from the police barracks. As power was cut throughout the building, the several-dozen resident police officers assumed something was wrong, but... boy... where they surprised.

Pornography Busts In Pattaya


Remember boys and girls, if you want to enjoy the services of a prostitute here in Pattaya, you have 20,000 girls in over 1,500 locations to choose from... but should you desire to take a picture, make a video, or even yell "action!" within earshot of a police officer while doing the nasty, you could find yourself in trouble with the law.

After all, Pattaya has a bad reputation... but as long as that reputation doesn't come out on DVD, everything is alright.

Anway, some Japanese folks learned this lesson the hard way... as did a Thai video vendor.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Daily Report: Simply Done

I was up early, but had trouble with work: It seemed that every time I tried to download a dictation, my transcription software (the old version... thankfully not the godawful new version yet) told me that the voice file was corrupted.

Since voice files are corrupted about once every 200 times or so... and not 4 times in a row, I knew something was amiss. After about 2 hours of puzzling... and trying to get through to the help desk (but all circuits were busy), I vaguely remembered something similar to this odd problem before. I switched from DSL internet over to dial-up, and presto! The jobs downloaded without a problem. Weird. (Later in the afternoon, the problem seemed to have resolved as mysteriously as it had appeared.)

Anyway, as per usual (these days), I had Maid Go make some lo mein for lunch. I had a fairly good day of work (although it will need to be about 10% better now than previously... see yesterday's entry, The Squeaky Wheel).

In the evening, I spent a couple of hours on my new online project (results to be announced here on September 27th... stay tuned). Then, I went downstairs and watched TV... Red Dwarf on BBC... so smeggin' cool .

For dinner, I took some chopped grilled chicken and put it on slices of french bread, with a dollop of spaghetti sauce on top. Maid Go gets such a kick out of what I would call "bachelor food": Complete meals that take 5 minutes to prepare with only 2 or 3 ingredients. She is used to Thai food, which is a little more in-depth in preparation.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Daily Report: The Squeaky Wheel

Bad day of work today... but as always on Mondays. Nothing new there. At least I limited myself to a plate of asparagus for lunch. I ate chips and salsa for dinner... not quite as good or healthy.

I made a mistake today: My job is to work the overnight shift in America (daytime here in Thailand) transcribing medical reports that have to be returned to the hospitals they are sent from very quickly... otherwise known as "STAT work". (You know... they say it on hospital TV programs all the time: "Get me 2 units of A positive blood, STAT!!!")

Every Sunday-overnight-to-Monday, the number of jobs that I get from my regular hospitals runs really low, and I wind up in these really annoying accounts from two university hospitals in Texas. Jobs are sent to me on a priority that is established by my boss. It is basically just a "hierarchy of hospitals", with one hospital's work being more important than another's. When work runs out in one, I start getting work from the next hospital down the list.

My mistake was to write to my boss and say that the Texas hospitals' work was not really STAT work, and that further down in this hierarchy past Texas were other jobs waiting for me to transcribe that were much more important. (And, yes, I'll admit: The jobs further down were not much more important... just less annoying than the Texas work.)

My boss e-mailed the person in charge of the Texas accounts, who is also in charge of all of the STAT accounts that I work on that are further UP the hierarchy and further DOWN the hierarchy from the Texas hospitals, to ask if removing the Texas jobs from my list of accounts was alright.

The person in charge of those accounts said (in essence), "Well, actually, the jobs that Jil wants to do below the Texas jobs aren't really STAT jobs, and... now that I think about it, most of the jobs that Jil does above the Texas jobs aren't really STAT jobs either... and now that I think about it, most of the jobs that Jil does which are STAT jobs can actually be handled by our office in India. We probably don't really need Jil doing STAT work anymore."

Oops.

And that is how you lose your 20% pay bonus for doing STAT work.

(Well, it isn't the end of the world: The 20% STAT bonus is on my base pay only, to which is also added a high-production bonus, a weekend bonus, and an overtime bonus... so in the end it works out to about a 10% reduction in take-home pay... or about 16,000 baht per month.)

Hot Stone Grill Restaurant Review

It's a good idea really: If you have a successful restaurant that is oftentimes full, go one block over and open another restaurant, add a clever twist to the menu, and a little different decor — but otherwise keep the two places completely alike — and watch the people come.

That is what the owners of L'Olivier did in Jomtien: They had a winning combination of nice French cuisine served at a reasonable price (with an optional all-you-can-eat appetizer and soup buffet plus dessert for an additional 100 baht or so) and quickly became one of the more popular restaurants in Pattaya.

Thus, from the L'Olivier location in Jomtien Complex, the owners chose an equal-sized storefront one street over (right next door to Flamboyant, another excellent restaurant), put together some nice warm hearth-colored decor, set up the same appetizer and soup buffet, and turned it into a steak place. The new fad that they are following is the "Hot Stone" serving method, which is similar to a sizzling fajita plate in Mexican restaurants... only, instead of an iron skillet, a flat volcanic stone is heated to a high temperature, and the meat you order is brought out, sizzling on the hot stone. I've seen it a couple of times in other restaurants around Pattaya, most notably in Le Saigon, the lovely restaurant that sits 25 stories up on top of Pattaya Hill Resort on Pratumnak Hill, close to The Royal Cliff Resort.

We started off with a pureéd vegetable soup, a trademark of the two restaurants, which was simply excellent. This evening, it was a carrot and cauliflower soup. The buffet is the exact same selection as is found in Hot Stone Grill's sister restaurant one street over: Salads, paté, cured cold cuts, and vegetables. As with L'Olivier, I really am not too crazy over the buffet selections... but since it's just appetizer food, I'll let it slide.

The entries are served exactly as I said, on a stone slab, sizzling in their own juices, with gravy offered on the side. You are given a dish with potato and vegetables already on it, so that you can move your meat from the stone to a cutting surface. I had the duck with orange sauce (about 450 baht with the buffet), Stan and Jeff both had the ribeye steak (about 420 baht with the buffet), and Steve had the prawns (can't remember how much). We all enjoyed our meal just fine. (Those prices are estimates... I didn't keep notes this night.)

After that was dessert. I had tiramisu, which cost a few additional baht onto the prix fixe menu cost. The tiramisu was acceptable, but not excellent. Stan had flan, and Steve had chocolate cake.

The entire meal wound up costing us 600 baht ($18) per person, which is very reasonable.

Pattaya is really starting to get filled with to the brim with restuarants that offer great food at very reasonable prices. As for Hot Stone Grill, this is assuredly one of them... but not really the best. If you go out regularly to restaurants, and have tired of all your regular haunts, The Hot Stone Grill is a fine place to go. However, when competing against the likes of Flamboyant, Cherry Restaurant, White Knight, and even... yes... L'Olivier, it falls just a little short of the top tier.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Daily Report: Happy Heart Sore Ears

Another good day. Had a good morning of work, and a fair afternoon of work. Spent a couple of hours on the online project in the evening. Maid Go had gone to Bangkok with her son all day today to visit a sick relative, so since there was nobody home to cook for me, Mike and Riza invited me over next door to have bar-be-que with them.

After that, it was out to TQ2 to hang out with Stan, Jeff, Jew and Lance (who is manager Russ's son... nice guy once he gets to know you). Alf and friends have finally gotten the "where-everybody-knows-your-name" vibe back in TQ2, which is awesome. Unfortunately, now they are drowning that vibe out with modern thrash metal music. The Lynyrd Skynyrd and Aerosmith and Led Zepplin still show up occasionally, but sometimes the DJ goes on a tear of Slip Knot, Limp Bizkit, and Rammstein.

It's great music, which I enjoy personally, but it's dark, angry, gloomy music that makes you want to sit at home and shadow box... not go out and drink and laugh with your friends. I suppose if the bar were filled with agnst-ridden emos looking to show off their latest cuttings, it would be one thing, but I looked around the bar, and — aside from Lance — I was the youngest guy in the bar at 38 years old.

Well, anyway, after that, Stan, Jeff, and I headed over to Champion to drink with Jew. Had a good time knocking them back there as well. From there, it was home... with a diet-breaking stop at McDonalds. Oh well... the diet starts tomorrow.

Sorry

Sorry about the non-existent postings over the last 3 or 4 days. This has been a hectic week for me: With the training that I had to go through taking up Tuesday and Wednesday, I fell way behind on work, which I've been working on making up all Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

In between times, I've had another sort of on-line project that I've been working on, the nature of which will be revealed here on J.I.P. at the end of the month. You will be surprised, I'm sure.

I've got several daily reports, a restaurant review, and lots of Pattaya News to get caught up on as well, and hopefully those will get posted sooner or later. Keep checking back... I'm going to get them up eventually.

Shit... I just realized I even missed my Thursday Babe Blogging from last week. That hurts.

Anyway, apologies again. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled blogging in the next 24–36 hours.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Daily Report: Catching Up

Thursday, September 6:

Crappy day. I got very little work done... perhaps 2 hours. I wound up spending a fair amount of time on my new online project too. Watched TV in the evening.

Friday, September 7:

Better day. The online project is going quite well. I worked on that for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. In between was a fair day of work.

At 6:00, it was over to Stan's house where I met up with Stan and Steve, and then it was out to "Hot Stone Grill" in Jomtien for dinner, were we all met up with Jeff.

After dinner, Stan, Steve, Jeff, and I went out to Champion AGoGo to meet up with Owner Jew, and hung out until I went home at about 11:00.

Saturday, September 8:

Great day. Online project morning and once in the evening. I put in a full day-and-a-half of work in the course of a single day.

Bob's BBQ has closed in all 3 locations, but should be reopening sometime soon on Soi LK Metro, a much better location than the Pattaya South Road location of before. I'll let you know when he reopens.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Best Olbermann Commentary Ever

There is nobody who better verbalizes the country's anger, disillusionment, and discontentment with the war than Keith Olbermann. There is nobody who better explains the perfidy, deceptiveness, and politics that have gone into this war's management than Keith Olbermann.

Keith Olbermann is currently the best anti-war voice that the left has, and he may very well be the best liberal orator of the past 40 years... or if not, at least the best known.

Anyway, I highly recommend watching this video. You may go away upset, but you'll still thank me for having posted it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Daily Report: Training Day #2

I was up at noontime. That was because I was in online training until 4:00 a.m. the night before. I decided to order Fuji sushi for lunch, and had Maid Go make some more of that delicious lo-mein for dinner.

I woke up also to find that my DSL was down, and I had to switch to dial-up for the rest of the day. Surprisingly that wasn't too much of a problem when the second day of online training started at 8:00 p.m. I could still hear the instructor, and could still see the sample desktop image.

Finally, the training finished at about midnight. Glad to have that finished with.

That Was Weird

I called Stan today to see if he was back from his vacation in The Philippines. He answered his phone, while sitting on a bar stool in Angeles City. Somehow, I dialed his number in Thailand and reached him in The Philippines. I wonder how that happened?
UPDATE:

Once again, one of my readers fails to conceive of the possibility that I might actually be as smart as he is: Of course it's roaming. Jeez. So allow me to explain my confusion: Two miles into Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia and you can't reach the Thai cellular system, and none of those countries offers roaming to any Thai phone that I've ever seen. However, with the same phone that won't work a mile into Vientienne or Poipet, you can fly 5 hours to a completely different country, and get roaming service on an international line. It's like flying from Los Angeles to Panama, and having your phone ring there, but not being able to get a call in Tijuana.

More important question: I wonder who picks up the cost of the international call?

Senator Craig Not Gay, Maybe Not Resigning

The ultra-conservative, not-gay-but-likes-cock Senator from Idaho, Larry Craig, had originally decided to resign his Senate seat after the entire United States rose up in outrage after his toe-tapping-for-cock arrest in Minneapolis.

Much to the Gentleman from Idaho's surprise though, he discovered that there was an additional United States out there that he hadn't been aware of: One that had people called liberals in it. And he was very surprised to discover that while liberals despised him and the anti-gay politics he practiced... especially while seeking out hypocritical anonymous gay sex in public restrooms... they also defended him in a way, by saying, "What's so illegal about tapping your foot to let other guys know you want cock?"

And so therefore, the anti-gay, mens-room-sex-loving Senator from Idaho (who is not gay) is reconsidering his resignation and his guilty plea in Minneapolis, most likely after reading all of the liberals who came out in defense... not of public restroom sex... but of speculative toe-tapping.

By the way, Andrew Sullivan linked to a great Onion article from a couple of years back that describes Senator Craig's dilemma perfectly: Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?

Crackdown Against Fun Continues In Pattaya


The police are continuing their efforts to make sure that all of the whore houses in Pattaya are as family-friendly as possible. They have recently closed one of the bars on Soi Pattayaland 2 (it doesn't say which bar, but there are only about 2 female gogo bars left there anyway) for putting on sexy shows.

Next on the agenda for the police is to put a limit on the girls who stand outside of the gogo bars on Walking Streets in their schoolgirl uniforms with drink special placards. The police say that they are much too forward, and are a bit of a nuisance. (I could do with hearing a little less, "Hello sexy man!" shouted in Pattaya (especially to unsexy men like myself)... although hearing it every 20 seconds is kind of part and parcel to a visit to Pattaya.)

Also, some Walking Street business owners are complaining that too many people are standing around on Walking Street in front of their businesses watching magicians and other entertainers. This is apparently a bad thing, because it means lots of people standing in front of their business, which as any business owner will tell you, means less business. Obviously moving all of the magicians and other entertainers off Walking Street so that tourists won't have as many things to stop and enjoy is the logical solution.

Kuwaiti Man Accosted On Bike, Hit With Brick

With tourism levels in Pattaya the lowest it has ever been in a while, and businesses shutting their doors left and right, thousands upon thousands of Pattaya's manual laborers and day laborers and for-hire workers are also feeling the pinch... and many may — instead of heading back home to the rice fields — may be turning to crime.

I'm afraid that this type of violent, terrible crime really cannot be avoided: A foreigner being jumped off his motorcycle and robbed by 2 thugs. (Hitting him in the head with a brick is particularly vicious and alarming... suggesting a very high measure of desperation.) The only thing that can be recommended is to use a heightened level of common sense, avoiding even modestly dark or dangerous places, keeping your houses and apartments extra secure, and watching your back extra carefully.

By the way, if anybody knows where Soi Dong Yai Lao is... where this crime took place... please put it in the comment section.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Daily Report: A Long Day With Bad Software

I was up at 7:00, and work was just not too much fun. For starters, it's kind of like Monday (although it's Tuesday), because Monday was a holiday in America, so this week's Tuesday is a Monday.

Maid Go and I cooked stir fried lo-mein for lunch today. Absolutely delicious. It had a little bit of spaghetti and chicken thrown in, which goes against my diet... but I'm not complaining.

I worked slowly and sporadically throughout the afternoon, not really accomplishing much. For dinner, I just had a bowl of sunflower seeds.

At 8:00 tonight, I started my online training with my company for the new transcription software they are using via an internet classroom. Very cool experience: The teacher spoke and we 10 students listened, and through the classroom software, the teacher could show us what she was doing on her computer desktop, or she could show any of our desktops. We could speak into our microphones and talk and ask questions as well.

Unfortunately, what we were being trained for was not a cool experience: I have never seen software as bad as this new transcription software my company is using. I won't bother getting into the details, but I do have to say that somebody high up at my company must have received a pretty large bribe to decide to use this product. Not only are none of the features of it better than the software it was meant to replace, but in fact every single feature of it is actually worse than the old software. And, the software runs in "thin client" mode, meaning that the software isn't actually located on your computer... but is fed to you over the internet, and therefore it's very slow, even for people back in America (as I was able to see via the classroom connection). I will admit that the software is very easy to use... but when all of the features, options, and abilities that you needed to learn in order to operate the previous software have been removed, that isn't saying much.

Anyway, training finally ended at 4:00 a.m. Pattaya time... and I finally got to climb into bed.

Quotacious

"Sen. Larry Craig said today yes he is gay, but he never inhaled."

"See, I don't think his family was surprised by these revelations. In fact, today his wife said she first became suspicious because every time he had to use the bathroom, he would fly to Minneapolis."

Jay Leno

Three Hmong-Americans Missing In Laos

40 years ago, the Hmong people of Laos worked alongside the CIA by fighting a guerrilla war against the communists, and helping American POWs and downed pilots in Northern Viet Nam and Laos. Unfortunately, in Laos, the communists eventually won, and a Hmong fellow named General Vang Pao led thousands of refugees to the United States, most of them eventually settling in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Other Hmong remained in Laos, but took to the hills, and kept up their struggle against the communist Lao government. While there is very little of "the struggle" going on in Laos anymore, it is rumored that these Hmong once received financial support from their friends in America... and probably still do receive it, based on General Vang Pao's recent arrest in America for plotting attacks in Laos.

Anyway, ever since the Viet Nam war ended, the Hmong people who remained in Laos have had a pretty rough time of things: Whether an individual Hmong person was actually fighting against the communist government or not, all Hmong were viewed as armed insurgents by the government. Massacres of entire villages and "disappearances" were all too common 20 years ago, and still happen occasionally.

Into this situation last week walked 3 Hmong men from St. Paul... American citizens. What was known is that they were going to go visit family. (Visiting Hmong family in Laos invariably means going out to the mountains.) The next thing that was known was that they were arrested, and then they disappeared. Definitely a bad sign. It would seem that Lao authorities aren't too impressed by Hmong men with American passports. This could really mean bad news for Lao-U.S. diplomatic ties.

Last Update On Russion Tourist Murders

The Thai court yesterday here in Pattaya sentenced to death the man who killed two Russian girls on Jomtien Beach, which will be Thailand's first execution since 2003. Lethal injection... not slicing off little pieces one at a time until agony alone causes death. Oh well.