Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bob Bakes A Big Burger

Bob cooked another one of his world-record-sized hamburgers today, this time at the order of a Japanese film crew doing a documentary on Pattaya. The film crew asked nicely not to put their stars faces on the internet, so I haven't, but apparently they are famous in Japan. Being famous in Japan is like being a good-looking armadillo: Nobody except the armidillos are aware of it. But, if you do know any Japanese people famous for wearing a dish towel as a bandanna, please let me know in comments.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

President Bush Will Cut Spending

Bush said he would cut or eliminate 151 "wasteful or bloated" government programs in his budget for 2009 -- cuts he said would total $18 billion of a budget that amounted to $3 trillion in 2008.
Hmm...

$3 trillion is the same as $3,000 billion. $18 billion of $3,000 billion is a 0.6% cut. Or, approximately the amount of money required to cover the cost of operating the war in Iraq for 2 weeks.

Now, I'm no fan of "wasteful or bloated" government operations, but when I think of "wasteful or bloated", my mind tends to wander towards the things the government does that cost $1 billion per day... not $1 billion per year.

Remember this, if you are an American: You currently owe $30,000 to the federal government in taxes above and beyond what you are paying already. You can either pay for it by paying higher taxes or by reducing government services by an equivalent amount. No: There is not a third choice.

World's Best Maid For Hire

I'll be leaving Thailand soon, and it is time to help Maid Go find a new home to clean.

As you know, Maid Go has been working for me for 2½ years... an eternity for domestic help in Thailand. Quite simply, she is as reliable and dedicated a maid as you can ever hope to find. In addition, she has her own motorbike, and is more than happy to drive all over Pattaya for you running chores, doing the shopping, and paying bills. She even is really good at reminding you in advance when things need to be done. She knows how to cook a few really good pasta dishes, and lots of different Thai dishes. She learns new receipes that you might like pretty easily.

Go is startingly neat. She will take great care of your wardrobe, keep the entire house inside and out very clean. She will weed the garden, clean the gutters, and do heavy work as well.

Finally, did I mention that she is a masseuse? Trained at Wat Po, the world capital of Thai massage. That's really handy to have around after a stressful day, believe me.

So, if you are interested in hiring Maid Go, either as a live-in, 24-hour domestic assistant, or a once-or-twice-weekly cleaner-upper, let me know in the comments section. Trust me here if you're not a big reader of this blog: If I didn't think Maid Go wasn't the best maid you will ever find, I wouldn't be writing all of this.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Daily Report: Back To Cambodia

Epril and I did a visa run today: an old-fashioned, out-to-Cambodia visa run. It's the first visa run like that for me in eight months actually.

I couldn't get in touch with my old visa run company, and instead went to Key Visa Run, and they hooked me up with a tour group that does visa runs, called "Good Tour Pattaya."

I can't say it was much fun.

First off, this particular visa run company picks up people all over Pattaya, instead of having all of the visa runners meet at one place. We were picked up at 6:10 a.m. in front of Key Visa on Soi LK Metro, and then we drove around Pattaya for almost an hour picking up more people.

The secret to a good visa run is getting to the border early, before the crowds arrive. NB: The crowds are the people who use Good Tour Pattaya, who delivered van after van after van of visa runners. Instead of a brisk 30 minutes at the border as with earlier visa runs, we were 2 hours. Thus, our total visa run time was extended by an hour at the beginning running around Pattaya, and 90 minutes at the border. Instead of returning back to Pattaya at 1:30 in the aftenoon, it was 4:00.

Also, this visa run company — presumably all visa run companies — now have a bit of a scam going on. Welllll... it's not a scam per se. I have to be careful about that. Let me explain:

Thai border officials can refuse a visa to a person arriving at the border if that person cannot produce a ticket (or other evidence) that shows that he or she will be leaving Thailand within the time period of the visa they are requesting (e.g. 30 days). This is the law... and I believe it always has been; it has just never been enforced.

What I believe the visa companies have done is gone to the border agents and said, "Look: You enforce this law, demand to see an onward ticket, and we'll sell bus tickets (which will never be used) out of Thailand to the people doing the visa runs. You get some money, we get some money. Deal?"

So, when Epril and I got to the border, with no proof to show that we would be leaving Thailand in the next 30 days, we were forced (and I will emphasize legally forced) to buy two 200-baht bus tickets in order to get our 30-day visas.

Now, I will say that it could be the other way around, and the border agents said that they were going to start enforcing the "ticket" law, and told the visa companies to start selling the tickets. Like I said, I use the word "scam" only in the sense that it is an unexpected expense that Epril and I were only told about once we arrived at the border at which point it was too late to do anything about it. Any person who shows up at the border with proper onward ticketing does not have to purchase the 200-baht bus ticket.

All in all though, it is just one more sour visa run experience here in Thailand that I'm really happy to be escaping from. Remember kids: Right now, you can stay in The Philippines for up to 16 months on a single tourist visa, renewing every 2 months for 3,000 pesos in most major cities in The Philippines at the Department of Immigration, including where I'll be living in Cagayan De Oro.

Somebody asked me why I'm moving to The Philippines, and I realized that I really had not explained why. Well, I'll get around to all the reasons at some point, but visa runs and their ever-increasing difficulty here in Thailand is definitely one of the top three reasons.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Top 100 Stand-Up Comedians Of All Time

Via Crooks and Liars. My favorite comes in at #41: The inimitable Eddie Izzard:

Here are the Crooks and Liars Top Ten Stand Up Commedians from their top-100 list, with links to other videos:
1. Lenny Bruce
2. Richard Pryor
3. Woody Allen
4. Mort Sahl
5. Buddy Hackett
6. George Carlin
7. Eddie Murphy
8. Richard Lewis
9. Robin Williams
10. Rodney Dangerfield

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Quotacious

"Let me get this straight: Obama wins Iowa. In a desperate move — unprecedented for an ex-President in American politics — Bill Clinton decides to impede Obama's momentum by inserting himself into the campaign. He attacks Obama on an almost daily basis, sometimes falsely. He makes a spectacle of himself. And then he blames the press for not covering the substance of the campaign?"

Joe Klein.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thanks George

I hear that George Bush is sending out orders to have the IRS mail me a check for $600 next year as a kind of "sorry the economy is screwed up" gift.

Well, for me, that $600 is just going to wind up in my bank account and get spent along with the rest of my cash... barely even noticed.

For the rest of you Americans though, I'm sure that $600 will come in very handy in getting your $250,000 house out of foreclosure.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pattaya Now Has Taxis

I saw these two taxis today on Beach Road. If you'll notice they say "Pattaya Taxi" on the windsheilds. They seem to be standard meter taxis which Pattaya has never had before. The Thai urge to scam tourists seems to be alive and well, however: I talked to one of the drivers, and he quoted me 200 baht to go to Jomtien. No mention of using the meter. I imagine a similar distance in Bangkok in a proper metered taxi would be about half that. Looks to be strictly transportation for tourists who don't know any better.

Aikido Lessons In Pattaya

Epril and I are taking a series of Aikido martial arts classes with our friend Geordan Reynolds at the martial arts center in Mike Shopping Mall, 4th floor. For those of you who don't know, Aikido is the martial art that focuses primarily on using an attacker's energy against him or her, while minimizing your own effort and minimizing injury to all parties involved. It is a particularly good martial art for the old, the small, and the weak, because strength is not a requirement.

Geordan loves to teach, and anybody who is interested in taking classes (very reasonably priced) can e-mail Geordan at edu.specialists@gmail.com.

My Simple View Of Things

At this point, it is down to three choices: We can elect a guy who is going to keep on doing pretty much the same stuff that George Bush has done, we can re-elect Bill Clinton, or we can vote for Obama.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Wanna Know

OK... head over to the comments section: It's groupthink time.

If there is a world wide recession/depression, what do you think will happen to the value of the US Dollar, especially vis-a-vis the Thai Baht?

My personal opinion is that the bigger, better-known currencies, linked to bigger, more-influential economies will fare better in a worldwide economic slowdown. Smaller currencies (like the Baht), linked to smaller economies will simply have to hang on and pray.

My Prediction

John McCain will win the Republican nomination. He'll either beat Hillary Clinton in the election, or he'll lose to Barack Obama.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Daily Report: Blue Monday

Sorry about the light blogging here at J.I.P. lately. I've been enjoying a bit of time away from the responsibility of putting up posts every day. I haven't been doing anything particularly noteworthy lately... although I did go out to TQ2 with Epril on Sunday night and saw all my friends.

Anyway, I'm still here, the weather is gorgeous, and Thailand is as interesting as ever. Wish you were here.

Interesting Article

From The Independent in England:
On average, about 50 civilian UK nationals are murdered around the world each year (excluding terrorist attacks). This means that almost 10 per cent of all murders of Britons abroad are committed in Thailand – a chilling figure, given that Thailand comprises only 0.6 per cent of all foreign travel from UK shores.

...

The number of deaths of British nationals' in Pattaya is hard to ascertain – though some sources claim that it is up to four every week, neither the FCO nor the Thai authorities have any data they are prepared to release. However, what can be speculated with some confidence is that of the 226 average annual deaths of British citizens in Thailand recorded by the FCO, a large percentage are in Pattaya.

...

"The trouble with [giving advice about the murder rate]... is that it would effectively highlight the number of murders over the past year or more here, which in the current circumstances could have a disproportionate impact on Thailand's reputation and legitimate commercial interests."

Friday, January 18, 2008

It Beats Graduate School

I was reading this article on the American military's struggle to retain its officers, and the opportunities it has created for those officers who remain. The line that struck me was, "If you breathe, you make lieutenant colonel these days." The other thing that struck me was that military officers are being heavily recruited for middle-management positions by private firms... salaries starting around $70,000 per year.

If I was college bound, or was advising a college-bound kid, I would advise going into ROTC right now. The military officer corps is wide open for promotion, and the private sector economy is heading for the skids. Assuming that the next White House administration is going to scale back operations in Iraq and Afghanistan quite a bit, and deployments are going to become "safer" in the future (which I think will happen), a career as a military officer will mean at least shelter from a sluggish or depressed economy as well as a ticket to a lucrative middle-management job in 5 years' time... or a 25-year career that puts you up in the O-6 (colonel) or O-7 (general) range, retirement before the age of 50, and a pension that would give you an incredibly nice 30-plus years of senior living... or a combination of the two.

(Hey: I'm 38 years old. If I had become an officer after college, I would be major now, 4 years away from a 20-year retirement paying me $3,000 per month for as long as I live.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Daily Report: Housing Settled, Blog Not

I've been over-sleeping a bit lately. I think the reason is that the sun is rising much later now than it did in the summer time (as it tends to do). I wait until the sun is up — at about 7:00 — before contemplating wakefulness.

I've been in touch with my next landlord in Cagayan in the Philippines, and he has a photo of my new front yard (which I forgot to snap while there during Christmas). So I present to you the view from my next house.As soon as the tax refund arrives, I'll be making the move to The Philippines.

I haven't figured out whether I'll rename the blog or not, or keep it as a Pattaya blog, and then start a second Cagayan Blog, or change this blog to a Cagayan blog.

Right now, the plan is to just keep posting about Pattaya news as it happens, post about my life in Cagayan, and add Cagayan news as well. I'm thinking about having one of my friends come on as a blogger as well to do some occasional writing about his life in Pattaya to keep a local perspective.

Anyway, give me some feedback if you have any other ideas or input for what I should do with the blog when I move to The Philippines in a month or two.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Daily Report: Moving Along

I'm relaxing a little bit from blogging this past weekend: After all, hobbies are enjoyable because you can put them down and walk away from them from time to time.

Work is fair. I was out with Stan today for lunch at Dao CafĂ©. I finally got a virus off of Epril's computer, which she downloaded through Yahoo Messenger. The weather has been spectacular here in Pattaya... as it manages to be for about 2 weeks per year: Cool (85°) and sunny at the same time.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Quotacious

"Bill Clinton has never been a classy person. But I think his conduct over the last couple of weeks is tacky even for him. Think about it for a minute. Here is a former president going out on the campaign trail in the early primaries and trashing one of his own party's greatest new talents. Can you recall any other president doing such a thing in an election campaign? The abuse he has heaped on Obama both tarnishes his former office and cheapens his role as an elder statesman in the Democratic party."

Andrew Sullivan.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Daily Report: Close to Perfect on the Recipe

Up early, but laid around in the sunshine which streams directly onto my bed every morning, nice long shower, blogged, and enjoyed my coffee until mid-morning. Then I got to work. Go and Epril went to Fuji and brought home dumplings and makizushi for lunch.

In the afternoon, Epril and I listened to music. I'm always surprised about which music Epril is familiar with, and which she has never heard before. For example, today I found out that she knows all of Toto's music by heart, but had never heard anything by Supertramp.

In the evening, I had leftovers from our Fuji lunch. I also worked on matching Bob's strawberry margarita recipe. He gave me the basic instructions, and I worked on simplifying the formula, and have finally gotten my own version: One large shot glass of lime juice, one large shot glass of sugar, 8 strawberries, 2 large shot glasses of tequila, 2 large shot glasses of triple sec, and a double handful of ice, all in a blender. It isn't quite as good as Bob's, but it's about 90%.

On television, Epril and I watched a billiard trick shot competition, "The Amazing Race, Asia", and "24", and then we went to bed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Daily Report: Dancing Not Boxing

I lazed around in bed this morning, enjoying lying in the sunshine coming through the window. After that I watched the results of the New Hampshire primary on the internet. (I have no idea why I grew this intense interest in politics 10 or 15 years ago... I used to be all about Star Trek.)

I got a fair morning of work done. Then took a break for lunch (just some steamed peas), and got a little more work done in the afternoon.

At 3:30, I was out with Franky and his friend Amber to a late lunch at Jerry's poolside restaurant. Then it was back home for some blogging. Franky and Amber came back over to watch "Contender, Asia" (which is for muay thai boxing). Unfortunately, I was mistaken about the date (but not the day): It premiers next Wednesday.

Instead, we watched the movie "Happy Feet", which we all enjoyed thoroughly.

Peace Or War Coin Toss

I'm kind of torn here: I don't want America getting into another idiotic war, especially with a country as pointless and worthless and powerless as Iran. But then, the other half of me really really wants to see some beligerent pissants in blue speed boats get blown straight to kingdom come, damn the consequences.

I try hard to be consistent on this blog. Oh well. I'd rather be honest.

I know: Blow them to kingdom come, and then apologize, and pay a couple million bucks to Iran. Repeat as often as necessary... or as long as it is entertaining. Besides: What's Iran going to do that it isn't doing already? (What harm could it do to America's reputation that hasn't been done already?)

OK. Time to put war-monger Jil back in the closet.
Update:

It looks like Glenn Greenwald agrees with JD from the comments section, and believes some of the video and story is fabricated. Point taken. However, Glenn and I also agree that Iranian speed boats harassing American Navy war vessels (which they did to at least some degree) is a stupid idea... just ask the passengers of the Iranian airliner shot down by the USS Vincennes back in 1988 about that.

Harris Black Tries To Be Liked

Pattaya's most famous sociopath and convicted rapist, and JIP Wannabe, Harris Black, is back on the internet again, trying to get people to like him the only way he can anymore: As an anonymous poster named "Piker" over at Thaivisa.com, trying to create a "Daily Report" type post on the Pattaya Forum called "What I Saw In Pattaya Today."

He's got the same pointless observations about his day as I do in my daily reports, he has photos of the dishes he eats, reports on local tourist destinations, and even panaromic views from his natty studio apartment. What's funny though is he adds photos of the smiling faces of Thai salesgirls he bumps into as if to say, "See, not everyone gives me a sneering look of contempt when they look at me."

Well, after a bit more nosing around, it looks like Pattaya may be losing Harris soon, as he is apartment hunting in Hua Hin, where probably fewer people recognize him, and fewer bar girls want to kill him. (Hint on the recognizing thing Harris: Name change, beard, do-rag, and sunglasses. Don't knock it till you've tried it.) Although how he can survive on 30,000 baht per month is beyond me... that's less than I get by on per week. Well, I suppose when you have no friends and no social life, it's possible.

Heheh... OK, that's enough enjoyment for now making fun and hurting the feelings of a dispicable little man's sad attempt at trying to be like me.
UPDATE:

Heh. That was short-lived. "Piker" has been banned from Thaivisa.com. Oh well.
UPDATE 2:

Checkidout: Harris likes to tease me about my weight, but it turns out he is almost as fat as I am.

(Okay, okay... I'm really am done teasing him now. Back to posts with a point.)

Read about Harris' newest scam here.

Pattaya News Roundup

Hey everyone: There's a water shortage in Pattaya. Well, as I mentioned, the water has been out at my house for the better part of a week. Of course, it won't be until the rainy season before this problem goes away... sometime in March or April is about average. Then Songkran comes and everybody throws water in the streets.

It's sad that it takes an old lady tourist sitting on a hospital gurney after having fallen down a hole in the construction area on Thappraya Road that has lain dormant for a year to get any action from Pattaya City Hall on fixing Pattaya's biggest construction mess. Well, here's hoping that her injury wasn't in vain.

I'm not surprised that this kind of thing is against the law, but I had never heard anybody being arrested for taking coral before. However, it should go without saying: Don't take stuff from the ocean around Pattaya. In fact, just to be safe, it is probably best just to leave the floating plastic bags and other garbage where you find it too.

This is just what Pattaya needs actually: More naked ladies running around in the street. Seriously: If you want to increase tourism, have more naked ladies running around... even if they are crazy. I'd sit at a roadside bar all night just to watch crazy naked ladies run by every few minutes. (Well, they did get rid of the elephants that used to stop by the bars.)

My Lame Attempt At Liveblogging

9:00 p.m. McCain already won, which makes Romney winning the nomination much less likely.

9:01 p.m. Hillary is in the lead now, which is hardly what the polls predicted.

9:09 p.m. Ron Paul may actually beat Rudy Giuliani tonight. Oh how I hope. In other Ron Paul news, apparently "Ron Paul Newsletters" from 20 years ago were bile-filled racist screeds. Too bad the guy might be a bigoted jerk. Can you love the message and hate the messenger? I think I'll stop mentioning "Ron Paul" the man, and from now on just say "Ron Paul's ideas may actually beat Rudy Giuliani tonight. Oh how I hope." Can I do that?

9:16 p.m. Another thing to notice tonight is that once again, Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents outnumber Republicans at the voting booths by almost 2-to-1. If Democrats can expect 60% of voters to lean liberal this upcoming election — especially in a state where only 26% of people are registered Democrats, like New Hampshire — Republicans could be in the worst trouble they have ever seen in their 150-year history.

9:19 p.m. Voter turnout looks to be huge at greater than 50%. That's amazing for a primary.

9:34 p.m. Jeez. How am I supposed to get any work done when I'm hitting the refresh button every few minutes? Guess I better try.

10:14 p.m. Well, the only thing that I can think will bring about an Obama win at this late stage tonight is if the results from Grafton County (where Dartmouth — and 5,000 college students who tend to vote overwhelmingly for Obama — is located) swings heavily toward Obama.

10:57 p.m. Results are called for Hillary by CNN, 39% to Barrack's 36%.

10:58 p.m. The weird thing is that the vote numbers which I mentioned at 9:16 have shifted quite a bit: It is now 200K voting Democrat compared to 165K Republican... which is hardly as grand as the 2-to-1 ratio it was before. Don't know why it shifted: Democrats still outnumbered Republicans by quite a bit, especially considering the "normal" political makeup of New Hampshire, but not by the great numbers originally suspected.

1:25 a.m. A new term (for me; originated in 1982) is being thrown around tonight to explain the descrepancy in polls and actual voting numbers on the Democrat side: "The Bradley Effect", which is used to describe a situation where white people say they will vote for a black candidate (or say they are "undecided") so as not to appear racist in a poll, but then vote for the white candidate instead.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Daily Report: The New Store

I made several phone calls to TOT today to try to get my internet switched back on, which finally happened at about 6:00 tonight. Typical customer service in Thailand: I have three "backup" TOT numbers to call for when I have problems with my internet when the main line is jammed. Two of those numbers, the people just hung up on me when I told them I was having problems with my DSL... told them in Thai, no less.

Today was really the first day since December 20th that I put in a really full day of work in my full-speed accounts. With this past paycheck consisting of primarily vacation pay, this upcoming paycheck having last week's miserable production included in it, and the paycheck after that being used to pay for plane tickets to Laos, and the bank balance almost running on vapors while waiting for the big tax refund in a couple of months, fun money is going to be at a premium for a while. Oh well... At least I'm not going to be pulling out the credit cards this year: They expired last July and I didn't renew them.

I went to the new Tesco Lotus Express store tonight. You know: The one about which all those people have been protesting. Idiots: Since these people were thinking that this store would put them out of business, I was under the impression that this store was nothing more than a slightly oversized 7-11... something that would threaten a typical little suburban Thai "mom and pop store". That's completely wrong. This is a down-sized Tesco Lotus, with almost everything that Tesco Lotus in town has. The people who are losing business because of this Tesco Lotus Express store is the Tesco Lotus Superstore Carrefour on Pattaya Central Road. If I need beer, chips, milk, phone card, or some microwaved instant noodles, I'm not going to drive 2 miles to the new T.L.E. past 7 or 8 "mom and pop" stores selling the same thing. However, when I need spaghetti sauce, coffee, apples, and razor blades, I'm not going to drive 3 miles through Sukhumvit Road traffic past a place that is selling those either.

Anyway, the new T.L.E. store is off of Sukhumvit Road behind that electronic store between Soi Siam Country Club and Soi Nerm Pleubwan, or off of that little road that runs between Soi Siam Country Club and Soi Nerm Pleubwan between Sukhumvit and the railroad tracks. If you live on the East side of Sukhumvit Road, I really recommend stopping by to see if this is a place where you might want to do your grocery shopping. I'll be shopping there for simple items, but for the more uncommon stuff (parmesan cheese springs immediately to mind), I'll still be heading to the larger stores in town.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Daily Report: Yeah... The Water Too

Standard morning wake-up routine: Epril wakes up with the alarm, and then climbs on top of me and pokes my nose and nuzzles me and flicks my eyelids. Then, I tickle her until she squeals and giggles. Then we go back to sleep for 20 minutes. Repeat three or four times.

I got the phone turned back on my my house, but the DSL isn't back up yet. I had a moderately poor day of work (as Mondays usually are).


So tell me about your Monday.
(source)
In the afternoon, the water ran out. After a week with failing electricity, telephone, and internet, it only makes sense for the water to follow suit. We had the water truck stop by at dinnertime to fill our reserve tank up: 150 baht for 3 cubic meters of cloudy pond water. Sounds like a pretty good racket to me.

In the evening, Geoff and Honey Mae came over. Epril didn't tell them in advance that Monday night is Doctor Who night at the Jil Residence. Perhaps Epril mistakenly thought that I could have a conversation with Geoff and watch Doctor Who at the same time or something. Fortunately, Geoff (who had not seen an episode of Doctor Who in several decades) was immediately enthralled by the new Doctor Who, and the two of us (eventually joined by the two ladies) had 90 minutes of Sci-Fi heaven. (I still miss Christopher Eccleston, who some Sci-Fi guru (can't find the article... dammit Yahoo) agreed with me was the best Doctor Who ever, although this article says that David Tennant, who replaced Christopher, was polled as the favorite Doctor Who) After that, I watched "House".

At least the cable hasn't gone out yet.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Daily Report: Down But Next Door

I got home on Friday night from dinner out to find that my phone line (and internet) was out. Unlike the electricity, I'm pretty sure I paid last month's phone bill... but you never know.

Since the phone company doesn't open until Monday morning, I (with Mike's gracious acquiescience) moved my entire office to Mike's living room to use his dial-up phone line for the remainder of the weekend, where I've been plugging away at work ever since.

So, sorry about the light blogging in the meantime. I'm taking up somebody else's private space in order to get work done, not entertain the masses. However, Maid Go is going to go down to the TOT offices today with this month's phone bill to pay that and let them know that my phone is out. Hopefully things will be back to normal Monday or Tuesday.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Good Websites For The Moment

Iowa caucuses, up-to-the-second, constantly-refreshed results.
Democrats
Republicans
UPDATE:

Obama wins, which is cool. Huckabee wins, which is cool (for Democrats).

The most notable news this evening is that almost all the independents (one-third of Iowans) showed up at the Democrat's caucus: The number of people voting on the "D" side of the aisle almost doubled from turnout 4 years ago, while the number of Republicans turning out was only marginally improved since their last get-together. Twice as many people in Iowa voted for third-place Democrat finisher Hillary than voted for first place Republican winner Huckabee. More people cast votes for a generally unknown Democrat, Governor Bill Richardson, than for Rudy Giuliani.

It was obvious that the Republicans lost the independents back in the 2006 elections, and now it is obvious that they still haven't gotten them back... and apparently they plan on exacerbating the situation by putting up a highly-conservative, religious-right, Baptist preacher as their candidate for President.

So that's an exceptionally important thing to remember from tonight, if this trend holds true (and the reason Iowa is so important, is because that is usually the case): The one-third of America who call themselves independents are going to be leaning way over to the Democratic side this coming election. Republicans have done nothing so far to win them back.

I would guess that it is highly likely that the Democrats will win the White House, but the real question is how many more seats will Republicans lose in Congress this year? According to Cook Political Report, there are currently 22 Republican seats that Democrats could steal in the House of Representatives, and zero Democrat seats that the Republicans can conceivably win. In the Senate, up to 6 more Republican seats might fall to the Democrats this election. All the Republicans can do is keep losses to a minimum... and nominating the Reverend Huckabee for President is not a good start.

Friday Cat Blogging

Poopy Cat relaxes with Epril in the morning sun.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Daily Report: Jil In The Dark

I was up at a pretty early hour for my first day back to work. Back in America, this morning represented the evening of January 2nd... the end of the first day where there would be patients visiting doctors offices since breaking for the holidays a week-and-a-half ago, or at least for before New Year's last Friday.

Unfortunately, just as I was logging on, the last of the work was being finished off by my coworkers in America at 6:00 p.m. No work left over for the night shift.

Well, there was a scattering of emergency room work trickling in, and I started work on that, just happy to finally have something to do.

Then the electricity went out... and stayed out.

I'm pretty sure that the reason God invented women was to help guys like me remember when things like the electric bill are due.

Go came to me about 2 weeks ago with the bill and told me it needed to be paid, and I told her I would take care of it after I got back from vacation, and that was the last she mentioned it to me. Good execution, but poor follow-through.

Now when I was living in the mansion up on Pratumnak Hill, I also had forgotten to pay the electric bill a few times, and when the moment came for the electric company to turn off the juice, they sent a friendly fellow with a clipboard around to the house to let me know he was turning off the electricity if I didn't pay. I paid the guy the money I owed, and that was the end of it. Now, it seems the electric company just has a button with my name on it that they push somewhere. Zoop... out goes the lights. No friendly guy with a clipboard.

Fortunately, in the afternoon, after a long nap, I finally figured out that it was only my house without electricity, and I sent Maid Go down to pay the bill and get the power turned back on. My neighbors let me run an extension cord over to their house, and I had electricity to do work for the afternoon. The power company turned the house back on right around 6:00.

In the evening, it was over to visit Geoff and Honey Mae for drinks (and egg sandwiches). We sat around chatting until 10:00, until it was time to come home and watch "24".

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Daily Report #1797

There was still no work to do this morning, and instead I spent the time wandering around the internet... and didn't find too much of interest. (Or at least if I did, I can't remember it now.)

I had a late-morning nap, and had Indian food for late lunch.

In the evening, I watched a fascinating documentary movie on The Discovery Channel called "Grizzly Man", about Timothy Treadwell, a slightly loopy and definitely hippy guy who decided to go to Alaska to become a self-taught bear expert. He spent 13 seasons with the grizzlies, was a bee in the park rangers' bonnets, chased away tourists, and was overall questionable in his methods, motivations, and the results he achieved... but at the same time he did become a master at interacting with grizzly bears in the wild, and educated lots of people and raised awareness. He and his girlfriend were killed and eaten by the bears they loved in 2003, and the 2-hour documentary film made about him is one of the most interesting things I've watched on television in ages. I highly recommend renting the movie or watching it if you haven't yet.

Pattaya Numbers Up, But Not As Much As Hoped

After a dismal 2006 tourist season, the number of tourist arrivals appears to be up in 2007 by about 10% over the previous year, but that falls below the Tourism Authority of Thailand's expectations.

I would suspect that most of the year-to-year improvement comes from an increase in Asian tourists in Pattaya. Unfortunately, these are package tourists who never frequent attractions or venues or local businesses which are not part of their rigidly-orchestrated travel schedule. These type of tourists spend very little money outside of the initial cost of their travel package, and provide very little benefit to the small businesses which represent, I would guess, about three-quarters of Pattaya's economic activity.

It's simple really: For most people in Pattaya, one 40,000-baht-per-week Caucasian sex tourist is better than forty 1,000-baht-per-week Asian package tourists.

Princess Galyani Has Died

The king's eldest sister died at 3:00 a.m. on January 2nd. Thailand government agencies will be in official mourning for 15 days, and you can expect local Thai citizens to be practicing some form of grieving as well, although what effect that might have on day-to-day life here in Pattaya I cannot say.

My condolences to His Majesty and the Royal Family.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Daily Report: Friends In Distress

I didn't bother doing any work today, primarily because there was none to do. Instead, I'm putting in for some more vacation time over these few days to cover the lack of work. I spent most of the day blogging instead, and got the rest of the photos from my trip put up.

Riza's grandmother in The Philippines died today, and Mike and she went to the airport to see if they could get her on a flight to Manila. (Being New Year's Day, all the travel agents were closed.) They finally succeeded in finding a flight at 1:00 a.m. This was Riza's first grandparent to pass, and she was a wreck. She should be back here in Thailand in a week or so. She of course gets my condolences.

I also went with Epril to visit Willie at his house today. He is laid up in bed for the next few weeks while he recovers from being in a motorcycle accident. He has a good-sized cut across his nose and eyebrow, quite a bad cut around his outer three toes on his foot, and the worst injury is an extremely deep lengthwise gouging slice into his arm.

Willie was coming home from a bar, but wasn't drunk. He was pulling out into traffic on Second Road when he got T-boned by a guy driving on his motorcycle way too fast. (I kind of wish Willie was really drunk and caused the accident himself: I hate being reminded that you can be doing everything right while out on the road, and still have calamity find you.) Anyway, Willie is pretty pained, and Epril and I will be stopping by to see him as often as we can.

Epril and I spent the evening watching Law & Order, and then a documentary on Francis Scott Powers, and his U2 shoot-down.

Filed Under "WTF?"



Thugs in Pattaya are really getting flagrant — and police are really getting impotent — if this scene captured by Pattaya City News is any indication: A gang of guys were beating the crap out of two other guys on Third Road. One police officer showed up and tried to intervene, and even discharged his firearm into the air an attempt to stop the fight. When the assailants were finished, they walked away from the police officer to a waiting car (first photo, here on the right), got in and drove away while a second mounted motorcycle officer watched them drive away, while his gun was pointed at them (second photo). "No further police action was taken" according to Pattaya City News.

Either Pattaya City News videotaped two guys being beaten with police permission, or the two guys did something so bad to merit a beating that, after the fact, the cops decided they deserved it. Hell: The license plate on the car is clearly visible on the link above; it's not like the police can't find these guys if they wanted to.

Perhaps the guys who were beaten told the officers to forget about it, but that is really beside the point: These cops were totally blown off while trying to stop a crime.

If I were one of the police officers who was videotaped in such an embarassing situation — no matter the circumstances — I'd take a really personal interest in hunting these guys down in this particular instance.