Friday, November 30, 2007

Daily Report: Champagne and Margaritas

Woke up at the usual time, did my usual blogging, and had my usual morning of work. (Work this past pay period has been less than stellar as compared to where I was last month... but still about 33% better than where I was 4 or 5 months ago.)

Epril and I had some spaghetti for lunch.

I got some more work done in the afternoon.

We went out to Stan's house at 6:00, and then off to the Nordic Garden Restaurant for dinner with Jeff and Lee, Geoff and Honey Mae, and Stan. I had originally thought that we would be joined by Jay and Precil (but they cancelled), and Mike and Riza (but Mike was too busy with work), and Franky (who just never got back to me), but instead it was just the 7 of us.

After dinner, Epril and I went to Bob's BBQ for drinks, but Bob was next door in Champagne AGoGo, which I had never been to, so we joined him there. The girls were okay, the drinks were cheap, and every Wednesday and Friday, the place gives away free pizza from Slices Pizzeria down the lane a bit. The music was great: Actually, it seems like every establishment in Pattaya has gone to an All-Rock-And-Oldies format. Gee: I really miss that Thai techno dance music they used to play.

After a beer at Champagne, it was back to Bob's for the world's best strawberry margaritas and jalapeño poppers. Bob got himself an IPhone, which I had never seen before. Goddamn astounding piece of technology, isn't it? Don't know how much they cost in America, but here in Thailand they are selling for over $750.

After that, it was back home to bed at 11:00.

Just A Little Harmless Trivia For You

About one person per day (300 per year) in America dies from being hit by a taser, primarily police tasers. (Source)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Daily Report: Napped

Up early, read the news, had my coffee, blogged for a couple of hours, and then got to work. For lunch, it was out to Fuji. Then I came home and read the final takes on the Republican debate on CNN. (Seems that right wingers are mad because a bunch of the questioners (upon digging up info on them) were Democrats... as if that somehow made their questions unfair.) Then I took a 90-minute nap before getting back to work.

In the evening, we watched Law & Order. It looks like Mythbusters is going into repeats now, which sucks because there is nothing else I want to watch at that time... and it is an hour before "24" comes on. That's it... an otherwise boring day.

Why Thailand Will Never Be A World Power

I send Maid Go all the time to Fuji restaurant to pick up lunch for me. However, Maid Go can barely read Thai (let alone English), and if I ever want something new off the menu, I have to explain to her what the picture looks like on the menu. (It's either that or try myself to remember something like "gyoza maki yamazuka california roll" or some other Japanese tongue twister... and then write it down for Maid Go and hope that between herself and the waitress she talks to, they can figure out what menu item I am actually referring to.)

So I'm at Fuji today having lunch with Epril, and I get the smart idea to pull out my camera and take photographs of the pictures on the menu of the food which I like to eat so that I can show the photos to Maid Go when I want a particular item. Maid Go may not read too well... but she remembers photos and images and pictures with ease.

The manager of Fuji quickly comes over and insists that I stop photographing the items in the menu. I try to explain what I am doing, but he just frowns and says, "cannot." So I ask him if he has a take-home menu. He says no. Then I ask him if I can take photographs of the food that I order (which looks exactly like the photos in the menu) when they are brought to the table, to which he says "yes, of course."

That's the manager... the smartest guy in the place.

Imagine how much of a defecit of critical thinking you have to have to make a decision like that; what a complete lack of imagination and intuitive ability you have to have in order to come to a conclusion that photographing the photo of food is somehow bad, but photographing the real food is not a problem.

And, as anybody who lives here in Thailand knows: The entire country is filled with people who think the exact same way as this this guy: By rote. Somebody senior to the manager in the restaurant at some point told him that no customer shall photograph the menu. That senior person never told the manager that a customer could not photograph the food though. That's all the manager knows... and that is all he feels he needs to know. No inquistiveness, no ability to make snap decisions, no thought process that allows for independent thought or the ability to make conclusions that conflict with what he has been told.

That is how children are taught in Thai schools. It is like they know that 7 plus 5 is 12 because they have been taught that answer; but if you ask them what 7 plus 6 is — unless they have been taught the answer — they wouldn't know.

And that is how Thai restaurant managers are taught as well.

And from this little lesson what can we conclude? That Thailand is a country filled to the brim with people who can only learn if given permission, and can only provide those answers which they are already provided. It's intellectually stagnant at all but the highest levels, and shows no signs of changing.

Pattaya News Roundup

Our first story today is that of a drug dealer who was shot dead. Seems the police knew the guy well as he had been arrested for drug dealing on multiple occasions. Hmm. I thought getting arrested for drug dealing put you in jail for a long time. Perhaps the police let him out of jail in hopes that something like this would happen?

Pickpockets are operating on baht buses in Pattaya, in case you didn't know. This particular gang of pickpockets is apparently well-known to police as they have been arrested on numerous occasions before. (See above drug dealer, if that sounds familiar.) You'd think the police would be embarrassed about admitting things like that.

A Welsh fellow removed one Thai motorcycle driver from the gene pool after the motorcycle driver zipped right out into traffic without so much as a glance one way or the other. The accident happened on Tepprasit Road, which I must admit is one of the most dangerous places to drive in Pattaya due to high speed and heavy traffic.

A Russian tried to use fake American dollars to buy stuff in Royal Garden Plaza. Why he thought using dollars wouldn't arouse suspicion is beyond my understanding. As per usual, the "I didn't know they were fake when they were given to me" excuse was pulled out. Has anybody caught with counterfeit notes ever not used that excuse?

Thursday Babe Blogging

This week's JIP Babe is Bua Chompoo, which means "pink lotus" in Thai. That is as pretty a smile as you can hope to see.

Amazing Video: Base Jumping Glide Suit

I haven't seen something this exciting and compelling in a long time: Jumping off a mountain, and gliding through the air like a flying squirrel with the help of a webbed skydiving suit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Daily Report: Sluggish

I was up early and had a great morning of work. For lunch, it was out to Dao Cafe with Epril. Then, we came home and both fell sound asleep.

I woke up at about 5:00, and only got a little bit more work done... so the entire afternoon was pretty much a write-off.

In the evening, Epril and I ate leftover pizza from lunch, and watched "Young Guns" on video. (Epril hasn't seen many movies, so my DVD collection is all new to her, which gives me a reason to watch them all over again.)

In bed at a not-too-unreasonable 10:00.

Double Pricing On Walking Street

Sometimes white skin is the cheapest.

First off, it has to be said that this information does not come from one of Pattaya's newspapers or other news sources, and instead comes from anonymous writing on an "anyone-can-post" web board. Therefore, the accuracy of what is said about the specific bar cannot be verified. However, I happen to know of several other bars where such policies, or similar policies, are in place, so I will pass this along...
It seems that Peppermint have started charging a 200 Baht entry fee to Asian customers.

Their door staff are now equipped with several signs.

First there is a sign saying 'Full' used to turn away South Asians and Arabs (A common Pattaya policy, said to be based upon safety for the girls and the higher risk of misogynist attitudes from men from those parts).

There is now also a sign indicating a 200 Baht entrance fee. This sign is used for Asian customers or perhaps it is targeted at Japanese visitors.

Farangs are waved in without let or hindrance.
Yup... absolutely true. If you are an Indian or Middle Eastern, there are very few Walking Street bars you will be allowed to walk into. I've heard that it is the propensity to get into fights when drunk, while the quote above seems to think it is for the girls' benefit. Either way, it's not really all that fair, and I don't think they should do it.

Charging Asian tourists 200 baht to get into the gogo bars is a bit funny... although also not really all that fair. The vast majority of Asian tourists in Pattaya spend virtually no money outside of the cost of their trip, and anything that sucks a few extra baht out of their pockets seems justified, if the method is morally questionable (i.e. pricing based on skin color).

If it really is because groups of Asians come in to the bar, take up a bunch of seats, nurse one bottle of water for 40 minutes or an hour, and don't buy one lady drink or otherwise benefit the bar financially, then it's unfair but logical. (Try charging 190 baht for the first drink, and 10 baht for the second drink, and 100 baht per drink after, if you want... or something like that. I don't know.)

If the bar is charging 200 baht per Asian because the bar simply thinks that they have more money (like the Thai people do to us white folks at tourist attractions), then it's just economic racism, and really should stop.

Dao Cafe Restaurant and GoGo Review

Paradise In The Suburbs.

There are a few instances in life where the guys in the suburbs of Pattaya have it better than those fellows who choose to spend their time solely between Sukhumvit and Beach Road. The Dao Cafe is one of those instances.

For those of you in the know, the Dao Cafe is the suburban French version of Pattaya's German-flavored Jade House in Jomtien Nivate... and quite a bit nicer. For those of you not in the know, Dao Cafe is...
(1) a restaurant
(2) a bar
(3) a pool
(4) a guest house / hotel
(5) a massage and spa facility
(6) a short-time gogo bar

To sum it all up, (1) the pizza at this place is among the best served in Pattaya... and about 100 baht less per pie than it's nearest competitor, (2) the bar serves beers for 50-60 baht and mixed drinks for 65-80 baht, (3) the pool is free to use if you are a customer and is one of the nicest pools you could hope to find in such a small space, (4) the guest house rooms are very very nice, (5) the spa offers a full range of services, and (6) the short-time gogo bar is filled with pretty girls who have a short-time bar fine price that is comparible to or less than Soi 6 prices.

Before you ask: I didn't make it to the GoGo bar... I just stuck my head in, looked around, and then came back home to read the review other people had posted. (Here is a restaurant review somebody else wrote. Here is another.)

First off, you have to find the place. You can either go up Soi Khao Noi (if you don't know where that is, give up now) until you get to Chatkaew Village, and turn left, and then drive up the hill until you see the place on your left, or you can drive up Soi Nerm Pleubwan, and just before you get to the gas station on your right, you drive down the soi there, back through the empty plaza, out the far side, and you see the place on your right. If you want better, you'll have to call the place (038-427-041) for directions.

The place is set up beautifully. The cafe and the gogo bar are together, but discretely separate: You have to walk back through an almost-hidden passageway to reach the bar; conversely you can walk around the outside of the restaurant, around the block to the dead-end street, and go in through the bar's own entrance.

As for the food, the pizza is fantastic... really fantastic. I had the Hawaiian pizza for 160 baht and it was piled high with toppings, and was perfect. (Pizzas range in price from 140 to 180 baht, and are about 16-18 inches in size.) Epril had a steak and fries for 200 baht which was unfortunately not very good... stick to the pizza. Sodas were 40 baht each.

Really though, the Dao bar is the perfect thing for the Pattaya suburbanite: A nice relaxing atmosphere sitting next to... or in... a wonderful pool, sipping drinks at half the price of the bars in the city, having a fantastic lunch, and then at one's leisure, moseying around the back to join the girls in the GoGo bar for some fun. What more do you need?

Pattaya News Roundup

It's the Tesco Lotus protest again. When confronted by a City Hall survey that showed only 16% of people asked didn't want the Tesco Lotus convenience store to open, the protesters insisted that City Hall re-do the survey, this time asking only people who lived in the Nerm Pleubwan neighborhood between the ages of 50 and 70. City Hall agreed. Um... Wha??? Between 50 and 70?

Now a nice story. Little 11-year-old Deckjing is a hard-working and dedicated student who, unbeknown to her teachers, was living with her impoverished father in a ramshackle tin hut, often going hungry. Upon discovering Deckjing's and her father's predicament, private charitable donations came flowing in. Deckjing will be fine now, but if you still want to help, click on the link.

Every Loy Krathong is followed by "the day after Loy Krathong". That is the day when, regardless of whether or not they are biodegradable, all of the krathongs sent out to sea wash up on the beach, making a fantastic mess. By the way, I didn't know this, but when the police banned fireworks from Loy Krathong celebrations this year, they banned the fire balloons as well. Sucks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Daily Report: Meeting New And Old Friends

I was up nice and early this morning, all set to get some work done... only to discover that my ADSL router that connects all of my computers to the internet had given up the ghost. However, it was all a bit confusing: Each of my 3 computers (regardless of which of the router's 4 jacks they were plugged into) stopped communicating with the router at different times. I woke up, and Epril's computer was down. Shortly after, my work computer went. An hour later, my old WIN98 computer went down.

To confuse matters even more, the dial-up modem on my work computer said it couldn't find a dial tone... and unplugging the modem and plugging in a phone confirmed this. That meant no internet and no work at all. Eventually (after 3 hours) I discovered that the phone line leading from the ADSL splitter to the modem had somehow stopped working over the past week or so as well... swapping out the wire gave my modem a dial tone. So my morning work started 3 hours late... but at least it started.

Enough of the technobabble.

For lunch, Epril and I went out and bought a new router (2,600 baht... $75) and then joined Stan for lunch at Valentino's. There, he introduced us to Jay from England, and his newly-arrived girlfriend from The Philippines, Precil. It's like being welcomed into the "new parent's social circle" at the local park when you show up with your infant in a stroller: It's a requirement that you have to become friends with other people who are in the same new family situation you are in. Any fellow with a Filipina girlfriend automatically becomes one of my friends, and Epril automatically becomes friends with the fellow's girlfriend. Making new friends has never been easier, it seems.

In the afternoon, I miraculously managed to get the new router configured with only one phone call to TOT, who provide my internet. Then it was back to work, and I managed to finish out the day at 2,000 lines. I need to pick that up a bit.

Epril sandwiched between Fred and
Owen. Yeah... Sorry about that
one Sunshine.

The new girls at TQ2 are a little fuller
than average... just the way I like them,
but it is giving anti-fat Stan fits. If
the girls aren't skinny as a rail with
no boobs, he considers them obese.
In the evening, Epril and I went to TQ2 for owner Alf's welcome-back party. Stan, Jeff, Fred, Owen, Geordan, and Champion's owner Mr. Jew were all there. Everybody bought me drinks... I bought everyone drinks.

I remember about a year ago, I said to somebody, "Boy, I love ACDC. If there was a bar that played nothing but ACDC music, that would be so cool." I don't know if I had anything to do with it, but on Saturday night at Champion, the DJ played 6 ACDC songs in a row, and then tonight at TQ2, every other song was an ACDC song. Well, I'm sure that Bon Scott is looking down from heaven, smiling with the knowledge that his music has become the official soundtrack to Naked Girls Dancing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Daily Report: Money In The Wind

I was up early, with Epril's help. (It's so nice to have found a morning person.) Then, I spent 4 hours sorting and editing and uploading photos, and writing about Loy Krathong and looking up all the details of, and writing about, the Chinese temples and museum, and then laying out the blog posts. It's so much fun to do... but time consuming.

I finally got to work at about 11:00, and worked for 2 hours before breaking for lunch. I took Epril to Jerry's restaurant next to the pool again. She had the same chicken mushroom stew (which wasn't as good this time), while I had meatballs in tomato sauce for 120 baht, which was very tasty.

In the afternoon, work was absolutely awful. It was simply that all of the foreign language doctors whom I type for all decided to be really tired, eat lunch, and dictate 20-minute-long hematology chromosome analyses at the same time. It was pure hell, and after another 2 hours, I had only done 400 lines (as compared to 900 or more). So work today was a complete failure, more or less.

I bought Epril and my plane tickets for our Philippines Christmas vacation today. It's a stark example of how much the dollar has depreciated against the rest of the world, the price of my tickets: Four years ago, when the baht was 42 to the dollar, my tickets would have cost $875. Now, those same tickets, all other things being equal, cost me $1,125... or in other words, I lost $250 into thin air because of the exchange rate. (We won't even get into the effect that oil prices are having on the cost of plane tickets.)

Monday nights of course are for Doctor Who... two episodes in a row, starting at 8:00 on BBC. The funniest line I've heard in a while: After chasing off some child-brained zombies looking for their mommies by shouting at them "Go to your room!! I'm very angry with you!!" Doctor Who said, "I'm so glad that worked. Those would have been terrible last words."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Daily Report: Temples, Museum, and Mountain

Today it was off to Wat Yansangwararam, Pattaya's most important temple complex, and the only temple in the area under royal patronage. The temple is dedicated to one of Thailand's former top monks, Somdej Phra Yansangworn, and commemorates King Naresuan the Great (17th century), and King Taksin (18th century), both of whom liberated Thailand from Burmese control.

The temple complex is quite nice and well-kept, and consists of over two dozen temples from tiny little structures to the massive and towering main temple itself. There are lots of different architectural styles from around the Buddhist world: Khmer, Burmese, Lao, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and of course, traditional Thai and modern Thai. There is also a temple up on top of a very tall hill for those of you looking to get a workout while you worship.

There are also shrines to King Rama VII and his wife, a wax museum of 20 of Thailand's most important monks, a reproduction of Buddha's footprint, some lovely gardens, playground, lakes, and some wildlife.

When you visit the temples, make sure you dress properly. That means primarily no bare shoulders (tank tops) and no legs bare knees (too-short shorts or skirts). Epril had to borrow a shirt (on offer at the entrance to each temple in exchange for a small donation) for each temple we went into. Be aware that photos are not allowed inside of most temples either.

The temple area was very nice to visit, but unfortunately the only English you will see are those signs telling you to stay off the grass, or not to take photos. All of the information regarding the temples, their contents, or their stories, is written in Thai... which I personally think is done on purpose: This place really isn't a tourist attraction, and is a place of worship built for and by Thai people. Visitors coming to gawk and giggle are tolerated, but not much more. Admission is free.

After Wat Yansangwararam, we went around the large nearby lake to Anek Kusala Sala, also known as Viharnra Sien, which is a large museum built by Thailand's Chinese community. It houses all manner of Chinese artifacts, religious icons, and ojects d'art from the modern to the ancient. I am happy to say that for the first time, I attended a tourist attraction in the vicinity of Pattaya that charges the same price for brown skinned people and white skinned people: 50 baht per head.

There is a vast collection of bronze statuary contained on the three floors of the massive structure, a fine collection of Han dynasty sculptures, and some rather nice replicas of the famous terra cotta warrior statues as found in the tomb of Emperor Chin. Also, there is a white jade carving of Guan Im which is roughly the same size as the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.

On the second floor is an open-air promenade with a collection of statues of Shaolin monks in various martial arts poses, two buildings holding a collection of Thai craftsmanship, including some really gorgeous wood carvings and antique puppets. The third floor houses a Buddhist shrine, and gives a very nice view out over the surrounding fields, back to the temples across the lake, and over to nearby Buddha mountain.
After finishing with the museum (my only complaint being that you have to go through the place barefoot, which is slightly uncomfortable on the arches), we had a bite to eat at a streetside food vendor, and then drove another 3 miles or so down the road to Buddha Mountain (also known as Khao Chee Chan)... the largest image of Buddha on earth. It is 130 meters tall and 70 meters wide, and has been inlaid with $5 million in gold. It was constructed to celebrate the King of Thailand's 50th anniversary on the throne.

After the walk through the museum, everyone in the car was really a bit too tired to get out and walk, but having visited before, I can say that the grounds at the foot of the mountain are quite pleasant, with a large system of waterfalls and fountains with pleasant gardens and topiaries. Admission to the grounds is free, and is a nice enough addition to a visit to the temples and museum, but not enough of an attraction to warrant it's own separate trip.

This set of three sites really comprises one of Pattaya's nicest tourist attractions... second only to Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens a few miles further down Sukhimvit Road. To find Wat Yansangwararam, Anek Kusala Sala, and Khao Chee Chan, you drive south from Pattaya on Sukhumvit Road, past the Ambassador Hotel. After another one or two traffic lights, start keeping an eye out for signs on the left side of the road, and make a left turn when you see the sign that reads "Wat Yansangwararam" and drive back from the highway about 3 or 4 miles to arrive at the temple complex.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Daily Report: Loy Krathong Celebrations

Epril and I in our traditional
Thai outfits during Loy Krathong.
Today was Loy Krathong, my favorite holiday in Thailand. The day is one part Valentines day (you go down to the water's edge with your lover and launch a little floating gimcrack of flowers, candles, and incense coupled with prayers and hopes for good fortune over the next year, and riddance of the bad fortune from the past), Halloween (you get dressed up in traditional Thai costumes, with girls wearing spangled dresses and exotic bouffants adorned with flowers and crowns), and the Fourth of July (as down at the beach, the yobs are loaded down with Mekhong rum and rockets, while those more grounded in the tradition step onto the sand in order to launch flying votive candle-powered hot-air balloons into the night sky).

My day started off with a bit of work, and then it was out with Epril to stop at the costume store to pick up Epril's dress and jewelry for the evening, then a quick stop for lunch, and then back home for a holiday afternoon with no work. At 3:30, I sent Epril with Maid Go out to the stylist for Epril's 4:00 makeup and hair appointment. Unfortunately, the stylist was severely backed up, and Epril didn't return back home until 6:00... 30 minutes late for cocktails at Chris's house with Geoff and his crowd.

A little kid's costume contest out
at Mabprachan lake was adorable to
Fortunately, there was still time to join everyone at Mabprachan lake at sunset to float our Kratong (and our wishes... and a shiny 5-baht coin as an offering) out onto the water. Epril and I bought a large boat-shaped Krathong covered with pretty flowers, which we sailed from a dock. Honey Mae and Miss Lucky joined us, and also floated their Krathongs.

Epril enjoying the show at the
Marriott's Loy Krathong party.
Then, Epril and I rode (slowly, so as not to ruin Epril's hair) on my motorcycle back 10 miles to Pattaya, to attend our 8:00 reservation at the Marriott's Loy Krathong celebration. The event was held out in the sculpted gardens under the light of giant gas-powered torch towers and beautiful statuary, and more tropical foliage than you could appreciate in a lifetime, surrounding a central grand pool beautifully lit with a giant Krathong floating in the middle.

Traditional dancing during the
Loy Krathong celebration.
The entertainment was spectacular, with traditional Thai dancing from a troupe that was easily the best I had ever seen. They performed four different dances, representing the south, central, north, and east of Thailand. (I think the girls are either double-jointed or mutilated at an early age in order for the fingers on their hands to quite literally bend backwards at the joints in a most fascinating/grotesque fashion.)

The food for the evening was buffet style, and you walked through the gardens to discover the various food pavilions, each serving Thai food from a different region of the country... South, Central, North, or East. The food was spectacular, and I spent most of my time at the Southern stand, loading up on lobster.

The Marriott puts on this same show every year, and it really is lovely. However, with a food bill of 3,900 baht, and a drink bill of 700 baht for 4 drinks — a total of 4,600 baht ($140) for 2 people — I really can't recommend it.After dinner, it was out to Jeff's apartment at the Royal Cliff condos overlooking Pattaya Bay, where we sat and had drinks, and watched the fireworks exploding up and down Pattaya Bay, from the Dusit Resort in the north, to Bali Hai pier in the south. It was patently obvious from not only the complete lack of traffic I experienced driving from the Marriott to Jeff's, but also a sky generally empty of fireworks and flying krathongs that this year's Loy Krathong was generally not well-attended by the Thai folks... who are the source of most of the Loy Krathong paraphernalia in the sky.

The band at Zab is awesome, and play
mostly oldies, with Elvis making a
cameo appearance.
From there, it was off to a Walking Street jam-packed with tourists, where Epril and I stopped by Champion for a drink with Stan and Jew, and then rejoined Jeff and his lady friend Lee for a stroll down Walking Street to the old mainstay of the promenade, Zab, where we watched the same Elvis impersonator as we saw at the Boat House lead one of Pattaya's best live bands, including 2 of the cutest and most talented Thai girls you are going to come across in Pattaya.

It was 1:30 when we finally decided to call it a night, and just as well: In Pattaya, far too many people become far too stupid after midnight for the average person like myself to tolerate. So, by 2:00, Epril and I were home, Epril washed off the thick layers of makeup, while I sussed out how to undo the feat of engineering that was keeping Epril's hair in place. We then climbed into bed, quite happy and exhausted from a wonderful day.

Gas Prices From Around The World

Interesting stuff.

United Kingdom$2.00$7.50
Poland $1.70$6.37
Czech Republic$1.57$5.89
Japan $1.27$4.76
United States$0.75$2.81
Saudi Arabia$0.12$0.45
Venezuela $0.03$0.11

* NOTE: US Gallons. Prices as of October 2007.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Daily Report: Standard Friday

Epril and I slept in until 7:30. Then I had a bad day of work: Got to work at 11:00, then quit for lunch at 1:00, then got back to work at 4:00, and quit for the day at 5:00. Yup: Three hours of work total today. Oh well.

Caddyshack: Standard English fare.

Roast Beef Platter, 185 baht. Delicious.

Sausage and Onions, 160 baht. Perfect.
After work, I sat around with Epril, and we went through my 1980's music collection. It's fun, because there are so many great songs that Epril hasn't heard before, but (unlike Thai girls), she can understand and appreciate them, and enjoys them a lot. She seemed to know all of the early-80's soft rock (Toto, Asia, and Air Supply — of course), but the pop music of the mid-to-late 80's was really hit-and-miss: She hadn't heard anything from George Michael's, "Faith", or Prince's, "Purple Rain", but knew JJ Fad's "Supersonic" through and through.

In the evening, it was out to dinner with Stan. Geoff was stuck at work, and Jeff was up in Chiang Mai for the Thanksgiving Holiday. We went to "Caddyshack" on Soi 17, across from the Eden Bar (formerly The Harley Bar). It was a nice enough British place, with the same standard fare that you find at the other two dozen British pub-style eateries in Pattaya. Worth a visit if you're nearby... but not worth a complete review here.

After that, it was back home for a nightcap of Drambuie, a quick glance around the internet, and then off to bed.

Understanding Red State America

H.L. Mencken, back in 1928, described the mindest of the denizens of rural, conservative America. Unfortunately for America, things haven't really changed that much since Mencken wrote the words below 80 years ago, which is why to this day Red State America has such a tough time grasping why government spying and government monitoring and government control and government oversight (e.g. The Patriot Act) are bad things.
The yokel has scarcely any privacy at all. His neighbors know everything that is to be known about him, including what he eats and what he feeds his quadruped colleagues. His religious ideas are matters of public discussion; if he is recusant the village pastor prays for him by name. When his wife begins the biological process of giving him an heir, the news flies around. If he inherits $200 from an uncle in Idaho, everyone knows it instantly. If he skins his shin, or buys a new plow, or sees a ghost, or takes a bath it is a public event. Thus living like a goldfish in a glass globe, he acquires a large tolerance of snoutery, for if he resisted it his neighbors would set him down as an enemy of their happiness, and probably burn his barn. It seems natural and inevitable to him that everyone outside his house should be interested in what goes on inside, and that this interest should be accompanied by definite notions as to what is nice and what is not nice, supported by pressure. So he submits to government tyranny as he submits to the village inquisition, and when he hears that city men resist, it only confirms his general feeling that they are scoundrels. They are scoundrels because they have a better time than he has — the sempiternal human reason.
Now, if you happen to be a conservative-minded person living in a conservative area of the country yet think that the government generally shouldn't be taking an interest in what goes on in your law-abiding household, then you are not a Republican... or at least you haven't been for the better part of a decade. You are a libertarian (small L) now... like me. Vote for somebody like Ron Paul in the primaries, or vote for a third-party candidate, or vote Democrat until the Republicans figure out what the problem is, but whatever you do, stop voting like a yokel.

Hat tip.

Drunk Farang Swimming In Sukhumvit Ditch

Oh ewwww.

A drunk foreigner from places unknown, for reasons unknown, decided to take a swim in the filthy drainage gully in the median of Sukhumvit Road. The guy was obviously trying to trade in his hangover for a case of dysentery.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Daily Report: Happy Thanksgiving

Up at 6:30, got to work at 9:30, worked until 1:30, took a 2-hour break, then worked from 3:30 until 5:30.

The American holiday of Thanksgiving in Thailand is just an ordinary day, but most American expatriates here have an interest in doing something for the holiday. For me, I like to gather up a couple of friends and take them to Bob's BBQ, where he puts on a highly delicious (if Texan... different than a Northeastern) Thanksgiving dinner.

So, at 7:00, Epril and I sat down with Geoff and Honey Mae for turkey with all the trimmings: There was cornbread stuffing, cranberry jelly, a green bean casserole, broccoli rice casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, home-baked dinner rolls, apple pie and pumpkin pie.

Geoff, being British, found several of the dishes new, while Epril and Honey Mae had never even had turkey before. Much to my surprise, everybody present loved every single dish. Epril was crazy about turkey with cranberry dressing, and had 2 slices of pumpkin pie. Honey Mae ate a huge pile of sweet potatoes. Geoff enjoyed everything that he could get his hands on.

All in all, Bob served about 50 or 60 people their Thanksgiving dinner, and if you are in town next year, it is 500 baht per person for an all-you-can-eat buffet.

After dinner, we all went back to my place for drinks, then Epril and I watched Mythbusters (rodeo myths) and "24", before going to bed.

Oh: I'd like to apologize to Pattaya Daily News if anybody from there is reading this. Their website has the most detailed coverage of all of the happenings in Pattaya, but for some reason, nobody... or at least nobody who is a native English speaker... proofs and spellchecks the stories that they put up on the internet. I've been leaving an occasional comment on their site about the inaccuracy of their translations and sloppiness of their spelling. They do fix the spelling errors, but I hope I'm not hurting anybody's feelings and apologize if I have. Pattaya Daily News really is the best internet source for local news which is updated every day, and it is really irksome to see such great information riddled with spelling errors and grammatical/translation faux pas. Hopefully I won't need to stop by and point those things out to them again.

Thursday Babe Blogging

This week's JIP Babe is Jenny... Just the thing to start your holiday season.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Daily Report: Cool Trivia TV

Up at 6:30, but got to work at 10:00: Blogging can be too much of an attraction sometimes. I worked until 3:00 though, so got in my 5-hour morning shift.

Epril and I went to Bob's for lunch... salad and jalapeño poppers. Then back home for a 2-hour afternoon shift. (That needs to be longer.)

In the evening, I watched some interesting TV. First there was a documentary on the history of Chinese food. (Thousands of years ago, Chinese liked to boil everything, and nothing gets bits and pieces out of boiling water better than chopsticks. In Chinese, chopsticks are called "quick sticks". The "quick" word was replaced by European sailors with the word "fast"... which is "chop". (You have probably heard the saying, "C'mon, let's go! Chop-chop!")

After that was a documentary on the future of the automobile. Apparently auto manufacturer Opel made a race car with a diesel engine that ran for 24 hours at an average speed of 140 miles per hour with an agerage fuel efficiency of 113 miles per gallon. That's astounding.


Hat tip. Source.

Another Story of Soldiers Getting Screwed

It's one of the great neo-McCarthyite accusations of our age: "You don't support the troops." Of course, it goes without saying that everybody in America supports the troops. It's the U.S. military which our soldiers work for that some of us have problems with.
The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Talking On Phone While Driving To Become Illegal

In 90 days, talking on your phone while driving in Thailand will get you a stiff fine. I think that's a good idea since one out of every 10 deaths in Thailand is traumatic (i.e. from being in an accident) and has the shortest lifespan of any of the major Asian countries (source). Thailand really needs to find ways to keep more people alive, since the population is currently shrinking.

An Old Friend's Car

An old friend of mine from Chicago about 8 years ago bought a beat up Ferrari 250 GTO kit car based on a 1977 Datsun 280Z on EBay for about $10,000. Now, 2500 hours and thousands of dollars later, the car is a V12 480 HP perfectly proportioned knockoff that even on close inspection would fool all except the most knowledgeable experts.

Somebody wrote a great article about the car here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Daily Report: Tears For Home

Lunch at Valentino is great. The
outdoor seating is pleasant, and
the food is perfect.
Up at 6:30, started work at 9:00. Went to lunch with Stan at Valentino at 1:00. I had the ravioli, which was amazing.

After lunch, I took Epril to Carrefour where I bought her some makeup. Makeup isn't expensive if (a) you don't buy everything at once, and (b) you buy cheap stuff that doesn't go on well, stay on well, wash off well, or treat your skin well. We went with Revlon. Actually, the price wasn't all that bad: Only about 1,500 baht ($45) or so.

I was back to work at 3:00, but at 5:30, Epril came into my room crying, which bought my work to a halt obviously. Her father had been in a motorcycle accident on Sunday, and it was only today (Tuesday) that her mother sent a message to Epril to tell her about it. Her father was fine... and Epril was more or less aware of that. She was primarily in tears because she was away from home and not with her family during a crisis (which I'm sure is upsetting the first time you experience it). Anyway, I bought 600 baht worth of phone cards and let Epril chat with her family for as long as she wanted... which was all that she needed in order to weather this particular crisis.

In the evening, Epril and I watched Lord of The Rings, Return of the King on DVD. She hadn't seen the Lord of The Rings yet, so we watched part 1 on Saturday, part 2 on Sunday, and part 3 tonight. Epril loved it.