Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hi all,

I have started a new blog where I will make posts as long as I am in the Philippines. You can find it at www.clintbwrites.blogspot.com Appropriately, it is titled Dispatches From Paradise

Friday, March 14, 2008

Don’t Ask What The Meat Is

I’ve been in the Philippines for a bit over a month, now. Life was getting a bit tedious in California, and it was time and past time for a change in my life.

The title of this blog suggests I am on the West Coast of the USA. Now I’m on the West Coast, but it is the island of Negros which is one of the Visayan Islands.

I’ve been out looking at rental property. I happened across a stunning three bedroom, 2 bath beauty on the second floor, which is desirable as the sea breeze obviates the use of A/C, or aircon in the local slang. A spacious, beautiful place inside a gated compound inside a gated community away from the noise, the dopers, and the hookers one encounters in the neighborhood of meaner accommodations.

The original asking price was P20,000 per month, but when the old woman who owns the property found out the lady I was with was Filipina, rather than Chinese, the price came down to 18K. For those of you headed for the currency converter, I’ll make it easy; at P40 to the dollar, that comes to $500 and $450 respectively. Still a bit much, but that place would go for ten times that in San Jose and the tenant would consider him/herself lucky, indeed.

The place I’m currently in is very spacious, but is on a noisy road in a bad neighborhood. My lady friend is a police officer assigned to the jail at Province headquarters of the Philippine National Police. A number of the scumbags hanging out around my place are former tenants at her facility and she feels a tad uncomfortable when she visits. Reason enough to pack my goodies and get on down the road.

I had one huge case of jet lag for the first few days I was here. After that passed, I moved a little closer to the action in Cebu. I tried one of the local restaurants and ordered what looked like a plate of shredded hamburger meat cooked with herbs and spices in a good looking sauce with an egg on top. Sizzling Sisig it is called. Sure enough the meal looked like the picture, with the steel platter it was on still cooking the egg. Everything is eaten with rice here. (Pilipino eateries don’t serve bread.) The meat was a bit chewy, but tasty, and I just had to ask what it was. I’m glad I asked after I finished. Turned out the entrée was pig’s brains.

One of the delightful things about the place is it’s abundance of fresh produce and fish. There’s an open air market about a half a klick from my apartment. One day Sweet Thing and I went shopping. Mangoes, papaya, melon, bananas, cantaloupe, jack fruit and the like are ready to eat with a washing and carving. It took a couple of days for my digestive track to adjust, but I am happy to report I’m a regular fella again.

The open air restaurant portion of the market enjoys a good reputation among Filipinos. I decided to try it. A very old, snaggle toothed woman asked me what I wanted. There was no menu, so I told her I wanted to eat. She asked me if I liked shrimp. Naturally I nodded enthusiastically. She led me next door where I picked out 10 medium sized fresh prawns and paid the fishmonger P75 for the bunch. The old lady whipped up an oil and peanut sauce that was to die for, cooking the shrimp in it. The cost for her cookery was another P50 and yet another P30 went for a bottle of ice tea to wash it down. P155 is a few cents under 4 bucks. Tell me where you can get that within walking distance of your place.

It is hot a muggy here except when the wind blows or it rains, which it does a lot of the time near the coast. I can see blue water from the window of my place, so sleeping without a mosquito net has yet to pose a problem. I probably should get to the doc and get some malaria immunization and will do that soon.

On another tack, the transportation system here has to be seen to be believed. A little background: At the end of WWII, US forces went home for the most part leaving scads of equipment behind. The jeep became the Philippine mode of urban transit. The little trucks were lengthened with a long bed added. A top was installed along with benches down both sides of the bed. The Jeepney was born. Jeep being the vehicle and a jitney was it’s use. Over the 60 odd years, few of the original vehicles reside this side of a junk yard, but other trucks have been adapted for the purpose. There are hordes of them storming around the streets of every good size town and city.

There are two other Filipino adapted to use vehicles. One is a motorcycle with a side car. I was one of five passengers in one. The seating was a bit cozy as I am 6’/190#. Not that I minded. My date that night was a strikingly beautiful 18 year old pop singer. The other vehicle is a bicycle with a side car. I’ve seen both vehicles used for passenger and light freight service.

The most popular vehicle here is a really cute little COE pick-up manufactured by Suzuki, those wonderful folks who brought us the Geo. I’ve seen the beds in all sorts of configurations.

I’ve run into quite a few middle aged and older expats from the world over. The consensus is that this is paradise. More about their reasons in a later installment.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Change of Times a Change of Idiom

I just learned that getting more "head" no longer means an improvement in the frequency of carnal oral pleasure, but rather the follicle challenge is now serious.

With that thought in mind, I may now announce that I'm getting more head than ever before.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Grisoft publishes an excellent anti-virus which it allows home users to download gratis.

For years I struggled with the frustration of the time consuming intrusiveness of both McAfee and Norton anti-virus programs. Both of which check everything including files and apps being loaded from the hard drive; files and apps that were vetted before they were written to the hard drive. Talk about redundancy! And in the immortal words of Eric Flint, "Took their own sweet time about it, too, let me tell you."

I was a wee bit reluctant when my Byte-head friend OWW suggested AVG as a more than adequate replacement. This computer has a good bit of unfinished creative work as well as a lot of one-off stuff on it. But I did give it a try and am I glad I did. It does give more than adequate protection and is a small fraction of the intrusiveness of the wares offered by the two Silicon Valley entries into the data security arena.

I’ve used AVG for over 5 years now, and today is the first time I’ve had a problem with it.

Here’s what happened: I hit the off switch – which normally causes an orderly shutdown – right when AVG was in the midst of an update. Once I hit the switch I couldn’t take it back. The feeling was somewhat akin to the to the one that comes after a tot's voice issues a big "Oh-oh" right after the toilet flushes. The next time I attempted a startup, Windows Explorer hung up some where in never-never land requiring a power strip cycle to begin a restart sequence.

I did an F8 restart with networking to see if completing the download of the update would cure my problem. Didn’t happen. The error message directed a reload of the entire AVG app. Fortunately I have a copy of the compressed version in a file for just such emergencies as this.

Upon removing the damaged version and installing the a fresh copy, my antique P4 groaned back into life.

Please don’t think I’m bad mouthing Grisoft or its marvelous product, I’m not. What I am saying is that it is not totally klutz proof as I proved this morning. I am pleased as punch with it and have installed it on every machine in my little home network as well as the PCs at both my brothers homes.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wolf Time

I’ve been a bit under the weather lately and have voluntarily shut myself in. For the most part, I have surfed the net and read the last unread books from the library. (1945 fails to make the grade as alternate history and fares even worse as a war novel.) Casting about for some new intellectual stimuli, I recalled Baen’s Free Library.

Wolf Time is a journey in fantasy. Norski history, Viking Cosmology, and Christian ethos is skillfully melded together into the conflict leading to Ragnörok. What is truly fascinating about the book is the literary vehicle used for background; America’s tolerance for permissiveness codified by the courts is extrapolated to absolutely ridiculous and entertaining lengths.

If you have a bit of spare time, I highly recommend it.

Monday, December 31, 2007

The Loss Of A Leader

The aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is about as messy as one would expect from a Muslim state. Her party is blaming Musharraf for her death while the government is busy blaming Al Qaeda.

Accounts of her death varied. First she was shot and then the shooter blew himself up. The next story to surface was she was killed by shrapnel from the bomb. The next variation was she died as a result of blunt trauma brought on by hammering her head into the sun roof latch from the force of the blast. All of these accounts and more have made the rounds.

The first complaint from the Bhutto camp accused the government of not providing sufficient security while she campaigned. That may or may not have been the case, but the government’s answer that no one else in her bullet and bomb proof car was injured by the blast; only her when she presented the assassin a target by rising through the sun roof to wave to supporters. I think that one goes to the government.

Video showing a man firing a pistol at her has surfaced. I find it immediately suspect. In this day of hi-tech cinematography, the video was obviously available immediately after the assault. Why has it taken this long to surface? Not only are videos immediately available, they can also be altered significantly. A modern computer, an off-the-shelf software package, and a little time (say 5 days or so) is all it takes.

Lastly we come to the post-mortem, or lack thereof. The released medical report noted an “open head injury with depressed skull fracture, leading to cardiopulmonary arrest.

There has been no autopsy and the reasons are murky. The doctors say the police prohibited the examination. Not so say the cops, they would not prevent a post, but it was up to the family to order one. The widower having accused the government of complicity in his wife’s death, said he wouldn’t trust a government autopsy, hence he didn’t insist on one.

So far the established facts are these:

Benazir Bhutto is dead at the hands of a person or persons yet to be identified. Whether by bullet wound or blunt trauma caused by her head slamming into the sun roof latch is, in my mind, immaterial. I will reconsider my opinion if a bullet is recovered from the corpse and matched to a weapon.

She died as a direct result of exposing herself to a throng of people lining the roadway being traveled by her motorcade. No amount of security forces can protect an assassination target if the target does not look after her own well being.

The electorate of the Middle-East prefer bullets and bombs over ballots. The world is poorer by one beautiful, very talented woman.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You The Second All-DOD Outdoor Invitational Circle Jerk

It is time for the citizenry to get seriously involved in the military promotion system. The Southwest Asia fiasco and its attendant waste can be laid largely at the feet of general officers who become politician’s lap dogs rather than tell them what they want is truly beyond doing.

I’ve ranted about our shortcomings in that theater for a few years now. Nothing new there. What I’m carping about today is the current combat aircraft procurement program.

The venerable F-15 doesn’t have the life expectancy touted by the military back when. The whole fleet of the –A -B -C –D are grounded for structural problems. In days gone by another bird in the same type could be pressed into service. No more. The F16s are deployed for the most part and the F-22 is just coming off the assembly line.

Forces assigned to pad alert here at home are stretched to the limit. The California ANG is covering the whole West Coast. Isn’t that just peachy? In the event of an aerial terrorist attack the defense of 48 million people will be in the hands of men are not exactly front line quality. Makes me feel all warm and toasty inside, it does.

I pointed this problem out back when the Navy, at long last, retired the F-14. The new bird of choice and the only one fit for carrier operations is the new F/A-18 Super Hornet. A single problem causing the grounding of the model reduces the USN to being just one more frigate navy. Those kajillion dollar carriers will be about as useful as a side saddle on a pig.

I know it is expensive to maintain each aircraft model, and the logistics of deploying multiple aircraft boggle the mind. I know whereof I speak, as I took a ride to the Western Pacific back in the day. The Ticonderoga CVA14 hauled 2 models of fighters, 2 models of conventional attack aircraft, and one of heavy (read nuclear armed) attack, a number of different variants of the venerable AD, some modified Anti-submarine aircraft, and rescue helicopters. The ship's storage compartments were jammed deck to overhead with goodies to keep all that equipment serviceable.

Putting all the eggs in one basket has been an unsound practice since long before the advent of aircraft, maybe even fire arms. Someone came to their senses a few years ago when it was proposed that all B2 bombers be assigned to a single base. That didn’t happen and the US still has the heavy bomber fleet widely dispersed. Too bad that thinking wasn’t at hand when the F-20 proposal was shot down.

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