Wednesday, December 26, 2007


met the folks who make the wikipedia. An eclectic assortment of eccentrics to say the least. Most of 'em were cool kids, but there were a few who I am glad exist primarily in wikipedia form. One of the things I love most 'bout the wikipedia (and libraries and parks and other public places)is that everyone is welcome and no one, no matter how dirty/weird/scary, has any more right to be there than anyone else. I find non-discrimination against the unorthodox to range from pleasantly refreshing to hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed being peers with them wiki folks.

Not the highest girl to guy ratio and I wouldn't like our odds in a gang fight, but some interesting opinions were shared and a few took the opportunity to vent long pent-up frustrations with what they assumed to be sympathetic ears. It was an enlightening evening and I am very glad I attended. Met a bunch of editors and administrators and someone from the Wikimedia Board of Trustees. That's right, within weeks of joining up with the wikipedia I was having drinks with one of the 7 board members.

Learned lots of insider information, heard rumors and gossip (wiki folks love wiki gossip), got some questions answered, and felt an overall sence of warmness and pride at being a member of such an unintentionally exclusive society.

Monday, November 26, 2007


now I don't like excuses, but I did go from working 12 to 52 hours a week and was out of town both of these last weekends for Thanksgivings in Michigan. Let's chalk November and December up to transition months. I know that's kinda lame, but it's still a whole lot better than what you're not doing.

I was starting to get into a groove with the Spanish building stubs . With the English ones I had to start from scratch, but with the Spanish I could mooch off of the other wikis. My info was still coming from legit sources, but sometimes I could get pictures from the other language pages. I say sometimes, 'cause not all the wikis are fully integrated. If you post something on the German one for example, it is only accessible to people from inside the de.wikipedia. In order to make things universally available, they must be posted in the wiki commons. I wasn't quite sure how the wiki commons works, and figured I'd wait until I did some more of the much needed gruntwork in the Spanish section, but then the English guys upped the stakes.

My whole wikipedia foray is a comically ridiculous undertaking, but inspiring in its scope of ambition. Figured I was charting new territory and anticipated blazing trails wherever I reckoned they should go. Obviously no one had standardized stuff, and after filling in the blanks that was gonna be my thing. I was gonna initiate a tsunami of organization that would sweep through the languages of the Americas (minus French due to irrelevance) leaving only a homogenized presentation of information in its wake. Then some English guys started a skyscraper team that has the potential to compete with my megalomaniac fantasy. I don't have enough street cred to join 'em, and their existence jeopardizes the implementation of my master plan.

It prolly won't matter, and if I own the Spanish and Portuguese I can still defeat them in a versus for the Simple English. This competition was nonetheless unsettling, and combined with my wiki time being culled resulted in an unproductive end to November.

I'll try to regroup and formulate a more aggressive gameplan in light of these recent developments. Depending on what's on there at the moment, Puerto Rico in its entirety might get wikicommoned. I don't fancy myself much of a photographer, but perhaps being the source of google image search results is my destiny. I know this November entry is kinda hurtin, but January's might be phenomenal. I may, in true wikipedia fashion, get sidetracked by so many other interesting things that the original objective lies buried beneath a train of thought wreck.

Friday, October 26, 2007


So it begins.

I love the wikipedia in every non-sexual meaning of the verb. I own more reference books in more languages and they compose a higher percentage of my total material possessions than anyone ever. You don’t even want to know about me and my 2001 Almanac. Or the 2003 one. Prolly wouldn’t even believe me if I did tell you. And once you realized that I wasn’t exaggerating you wouldn’t be incorrect to have me hauled off in a straight jacket.

Whatever, I’m sure you got some quirks too.

One of my favorite things ‘bout wikipedia is that you can read the article in other languages. Listening to multiple opinions is always a good idea, especially when the validity of the information you are receiving is completely unknown. Usually English is the best/longest/most thorough of the user generated things, but sometimes you get an all-star who wrote a thesis in another language. The wikipedia can also be used as a translation tool. Just type in whatever you want in English and then look on the left side where they have the page in other languages. This is how I stumbled across simple English.¹

Simple English is English written on a Forrest Forrest Gump level. They break it down as: “Articles in the Simple English Wikipedia use fewer words and easier grammar than the original English Wikipedia. The Simple English Wikipedia is also for people with different needs, such as students, children, adults with learning difficulties and people who are trying to learn English. Other people use the Simple English Wikipedia because its simple language helps them to understand unfamiliar topics or complex ideas.”

Awesome. I support the cause. Got me plenty of experience ‘splaining stuff to kids and folks with limited English abilities too. I am very qualified to be a contributor to the Simple English. Their lack of articles and dearth of weirdoes provides plenty of room for me to conquer. Mwah ha ha ha. I had always figured my initial foray into the wikipedia was going to be translating Spanish articles into ‘Merican. I was also gonna learn Portuguese by translating it into English. A pretty ambitious language acquisition technique to be sure, but one based on practical implementation with immediate gratification. And I would be contributing to the dissemination of wisdom that has been for too long sequestered into isolated ghettos of mutually unintelligible vernaculars. ‘Cept I am way to lazy to get into that habit. Was ‘possed to have been studying Portuguese for the past several months now, but aside from an occasional visit to globoesporte that hasn’t happened. If I wind up going to Brasil in December I may regret my summertime sloth, but at the moment I lack the motivation of necessity.

Simple English provided the impetus for me to register with the wikipedia and dip my proverbial toes into the waters of the World Wide Web upon which I had been so adeptly surfing. Made a correction and then clicked on a tutorial editing page and clicked ‘til I emerged in the metapedia. Metapedia is hardcore. It’s where the dudes who write the propaedia hang out. If you don’t what the propaedia is, you’ve prolly never awoken from an alcohol induced state of unconsciousness and found yourself to be in the midst of cross-referencing sources across centuries. Metapedia is hardcore. I was elected ambassador from the Simple English realm, but quickly realized I need to first become at least a medium sized fish before properly repping my relatively miniscule pond.

Figured I’d pay my dues on the biggest baddest one and then translate ‘cross the ‘Mericas to build up all kinds of cred. If I got English, Spanish, and Portuguese on my resume, my gravitas in the Simple should be unquestioned. A few snags were encountered on account of what I humbly assume to be my unprecedented badassness, but this issue was quickly resolved. Like I said, earning my keep through bootstrap pullage. The glamour lies in the willingness to perform thankless perfunctory tasks. Starting out by writing articles that were red linked. Of the top 200, 27 were red linked when I embarked upon my cleanup. Created an ideal stub template and have been filling in the gaps. Not editing other people’s sorry-ass stubs yet, that will be cleanup 2.0. First I’ll de-red link the lists in Spanish and Portuguese. Not sure if I’ll do the Simple ones then or hold off until cleanup 2.0 sweeps away the filth of Augean stables. I’m talking conquest. Perhaps I’ll ease into it, just kinda depends.

As updating the pretentious yuppie blogspot has long been a bane, might as well up the stakes and turn this into my wikipedia memoir. ‘Least ‘til my wikipedia entry becomes the ultimate masturbatory retinue.

¹ While I was discovering the most macho twin names ever: Zakil and Zakar. Call ‘em the Zozo boys. You can’t get any more testosterone-laden than that. And just wait ‘til you find out what those words mean.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

“I invited you here to tell you that you are a big jerk and I hate you. You are a bad man and everyone should hate you and not listen to what you have to say.”
“There are no homosexuals in Iran”

And thus began the week of ridiculousness. Once a year the United Nations stops being a worthless bunch of bureaucrats in a crumbling building and becomes a circus. I love the circus. Hugo Chavez tells jokes and gets applause like Michael Moore at Cannes. For some reason Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is very important and Fox news guys want to lynch him. What great fun!!!

Meanwhile, real developing stories include monks in Myanmar and Kosovo independence. My money says no to both. If the junta starts slaughtering people, no one would care. Kofi Anan and George Bush and Tony Blair all called Darfur the “G” word, but George Clooney is the only one who still remembers. Myanmar’s increased fuel prices pale in comparison to everything in Zimbabwe, but that is drawing less media attention than OJ Simpson. Kosovo could cause all kinds of problems for nations not interested in having an oppressed minority gain sovereignty. Russia, Turkey, Iran, and little guys like Macedonia and Cyprus can easily recruit a few more against US-Euro backed Kosovo and make it in everyone’s best interest that nothing happens. So much for democracy and freedom and all that.

The circus is what we all want to see though. The UN is pretty much useless when it comes to actually doing anything, but when they open the floor up to the empty rhetoric of charismatic leaders aflush with petrodollars it is the Greatest Show on Earth.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Superconducting Super Collider

what an awesome name. Super is used twice in the span of three words. Not since the Mario Bros. Mario Mario and Luigi Mario has there been so much repetition. Particle accelerators are pretty cool. I don't really know what they do, something 'bout Steven Hawking and his GUT, but they sure have cool names like Bevatron and Tevatron and Superconducting Super Collider. The Superconducting Super Collider was gonna be the superest of 'em all, but it cost too much and got shut down. Not quite as embarrassing as the Ryungyon hotel, but check out this quote "Abandoning the SSC at this point would signal that the United States is compromising its position of leadership in basic science." Awesome, now we know precisely the moment when we lost to Singapore.
I say we build more really expensive physics stuff. Space exploration and tourism is cool and I'm all for that, but we should also build enormous circles where we mash stuff together and make black holes. Tell me you don't want your tax dollars going to build this:

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Loves All My Chil'ins

I ain't never cheated on nobody or had no affairs 'cause those are breaches of commitment resulting in severe deductions of karma points. Things was getting kinda serious between us, but we had agreed that it would remain a very open relationship. Sometimes jealousy demands exclusivity, but in our case that was not going to be an issue. A gentlemen never tells, so I'll leave the undisclosed complexities up to your imagination.

Basically, I'm too much man. Gotta lotta love to give and being in my prime have an obligation to bring that pleasure to as many unsatisfied individuals as possible. Had known this for a while, but was procrastinating 'cause I knew how much work it'd be. Sowing the oats is the easy part. Then you gotta water 'em, make sure they get enough sunlight, and protect them from harmful weeds and insects to ensure they grow up healthy and strong. While a lesser man might just plant his seed and leave, the righteous stays for the reaping.

Now don't you think for one moment that my dedication to husbandry in any way inhibits my hunting skills. I don't go after the weak gazelles either, vulnerability has never been attractive to me. I only feast upon the most succulent of prey, and have devoured a diverse assortment of meats.

I'm also an amazing gardener. I've got the stamina required to dig deep into that fertile soil. Deeper than most, I'll be sure to extract all the nutrients. Now I don't have all the fancy tools and admittedly my techniques are simple, but they are time-tested and always get the job done. Well, not always, but that happens to everybody.

I ain't the settling down type. Least not yet. Maybe some day I'll be sitting on a rocking chair on the front porch, but not today. The world is my oyster, and be it an aphrodisiac or not, I'ma go forth and multiply. Y'all might attempt to justify your own pathetic existences by hating on me, and if that's what you need to get through your day so be it. Say what you will about deadbeat dads, but my offspring love me more than yours do you. I might not always be there, but I still provide for 'em. Just 'cause you come home every night doesn't mean you are enriching their lives. A mere fraction of my brilliance is worth more than the perpetual tediousness of your presence. I can swoop in, turn on the charm and give 'em a fond childhood memory they will forever cherish. You keep grinding that axe though, really admirable that.

So there you are It ain't much, but you've always known you weren't my favorite. I'll continue drop by at least once at month and rock your world, but the myspace she gives better lovin'

Monday, June 18, 2007

10 Years On

Fate, mysterious temptress that she is, scheduled my 10 year high school reunion for the week after my homecoming party. While the homecoming concluded the most recent chapter in my Book of Life (Chapter 7: South East Asia), the reunion serves as a synopsis of the previous ten years and is an opportune moment to reflect on the work in progress. It’s been an intriguing mix of comedy, adventure, romance, and tragedy. We’ve seen the character of the protagonist develop, relationships grow more complex, and the importance of events come into focus. What will transpire in the pages to come? Which preciously introduced characters will become significant and who else will we meet? Will the plot continue in the same direction or is a major turning point in the story fast approaching? Will the novel grow redundant or is it just starting to get good? It’s been an interesting read thus far, full of twists and unexpected storylines; I’m looking forward to reading on . . .

I am infinitely wiser and more experienced than I was 10 years ago. I have loved and lost and learned to love again. I have discovered more about myself, the world around me, and my place in it. I have been tried and tested, have made and learned from my mistakes, and have come to understand and appreciate so much of the advice offered me.

Despite all this, recurring doubts flash across my mind.

Am I satisfied with my life? Have I achieved what I had hoped to upon graduation? Would my former self be proud of what he has become? Would the idealistic teenage me be impressed or would the jaded teenage me be ashamed? Do I even care? Do I value the opinion of this pimply faced teenager, or are his expectations merely the daydreams of a naïve child? Priorities change, so much of what was important to me then seems so frivolous now, and so much of what I then took for granted I wish I had appreciated more.

How do I remember this first decade since leaving the proverbial nest? What have I achieved? What do I regret? And how will I look back on this period when the time comes for the next reunion? Do I even think about the 25th reunion? Who will I be in 2022 at age 43? How important is it to me that I meet the approval of this elder me? What do I hope to accomplish for him in the next 15 years? How will he judge my choices? Do I care? Am I living for the me of tomorrow or the me of today? Or to rekindle the aspirations of the youthful me of 1997? Or to make proud the me that will attend the 50th reunion in 2047?

To which self am I faithful? Are these the glory days I will fondly recall or the wasted years I will bitterly regret? Am I progressing? Am I stagnant? Have I gotten off track? Am I going in circles? Am I going backwards? Where am I going? Is that where I want to be, where I wanted to be, or where I will want to be? Why am I going there? Whose desires am I fulfilling? Whose desires should I be fulfilling?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wendell, Quello, and Bob

I’ve been bombarded with an overwhelming number of requests from loyal readers urging me to use my criminology background to uncover the true story behind the Cinnamon Toast Crunch spokesmen mystery. For the truly ignorant, there is a breakfast cereal called Cinnamon Toast Crunch. From 1984 until 1992 it was made by three chefs who would bake a loaf of bread, cut it into slices, apply a cinnamon-sugar spread to the slices, and then toast the breads in a magical oven. This is how they made Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Then, suddenly, there was only one chef. Wendell was always the dominant one, the Diana Ross to Quello and Bob’s Supremes, but no explanation was ever offered as to why the trio was disbanded. Almost immediately rumors of foul play were insinuated. Some suspected a jealous Wendell of taking out his partners; others thought executives at General Mills were responsible and forced Wendell to continue making television appearances against his will.

Unbeknownst to many, the glamorous life of cereal mascots is one fraught with danger. Perhaps not for the superstars, but for every Tony the Tiger and Cap’n Crunch, there are dozens of Boo Berries and Crunchosaurus Rexes. Even longtime cereal stalwarts Snap, Crackle, and Pop were unable to save their brother Pow. The turnover at brands like Cookie Crisp, Coco Krispies, Smacks, and Apple Jacks is truly heartbreaking. While a lesser tier of Buzz the Honey Nut Cheerios bee, Toucan Sam, the Trix Rabbit, and Lucky do fairly well for themselves, the introduction of a new product or changes in consumer preferences could at any moment render them the next King Vitamin. Veterans like Sonny the Coco Puffs bird and Sugar Bear the Super Sugar/Golden Crisps mascot have been fortunate, but have been living on the edge extinction for years.

Cereal politics are ugly, rivalries intense, and billions of dollars are at stake. This part of a balanced breakfast is not for the meek of heart. I’ll spare you all the sordid details of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch affair, but let’s just say it wasn’t the most amicable of splits. Cereal mascots, like the models with whom they consort, ingest almost nothing but cocaine and booze. It is a thrill ride that far too often ends in tragedy. Wendell was actually the heaviest drug user of the three, but after he became a Jehovah’s Witness in 1991 a deep rift developed between the chefs. As their friendship deteriorated, so did their cereal’s market share. With General Mills’ corporate espionage sources discovering rival Post’s plans to introduce Waffle Crisp by the mid-nineties, an important decision regarding the direction of Cinnamon Toast Crunch needed to be made. In one of the most controversial and underhanded moves in industry history, a series of 4 commercials were recorded without Quello and Bob’s knowledge. These Wendell solo spots ran the entire length of the high cereal summer season, after which Quello and Bob were released from their contracts.

Mascots from across the breakfast spectrum went on strike as a display of solidarity to the two slighted chefs. Everyone from Aunt Jemima to Mrs Butterworth to Rastus the Cream of Wheat Guy came out in support of the bakers. Grocers across the country were unable to restock their shelves with breakfast foods, which led to increased sales at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. It took years for morning home dining to recover, and its popularity has yet to return to pre-1992 levels. The fallout from the incident haunts the industry to this day.

As for Quello and Bob, the transition from celebrity to civilian was understandably difficult. Fortunately Quello has conquered his demons and, after a few relapses, has been clean for years now. He and his wife Monica run a spa in Indiana ( and are expecting their first child. Bob wasn’t so lucky. His body was found in a Motel 6 outside of Reno days before his 32nd birthday. Autopsy results showed 43 toxic substances in his blood.


Monday, May 28, 2007

So Skinny!!!!!!!!!!

I weighed myself in Thailand and I clocked in at 75kg (165 lb). I usually go for 'round 84 (185) and stopped going to the gym when I hit 90 (198), feeling undeserving of so easily almost attaining long aspired for dream weight of 200 pounds. This 165 was after a few days of binge eating in Yangon and Bangkok too. I BULKED UP to 165. That's crazy. I can feel every bone in my body save my femurs and them 3 little ones in the ears. Got a crucial 6 pack and well defined shoulders, tris, lats and all that even though I can prolly only curl 12 pounds and bench 60. Body fat is so much more important than muscle though, look at Brad Pitt in Troy and Fight Club. 35 pounds makes a big difference in both of us.

If there's ever a place to gain weight it's Hawaii. See if after a week there I can't stop buttoning my pants through a belt loop. Bring on the plate lunches!!! Macaroni salad 'til my clothes fit me again!!!!!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Relaxing Lawn of Rakhine Gone

People in Myanmar are undoubtedly the friendliest in the world. Good thing too, imagine if you had a nation of unemployed loiterers who weren't friendly. That would suck. Fortunately that ain't the case, and multiple times a day one is forced to marvel at how good-natured and kind everyone is. I figure once you're welcomed into someone's home people everywhere tend to be warm and open, they just don't seem to distinguish between the hospitality you extend to a guest versus that to a random person in the street here. Still though, it's always nice to hang out with/be adopted by a family for a few days.

On the bus met an older Burmese couple who live in Australia and were visiting family here. They invited me to join them on their homecoming and I was happy to tag along. Hopped in a taxi (of the pickup truck sort. Suppose they got cars with the word TAXI written on a rooftop sign too, but far more prevalent are motorcycles, bicycles, and pickup trucks. You'd be surprised at how many dozen people you can cram into the back of a little Japanese pickup. Those were buses and not taxis though) and headed off to wherever it was they were taking me. There is always that brief moment of "wait a minute, am I going to die?" whenever you find yourself following people you just met into unknown places. Especially in strange countries where you don't speak the language. There tend to be more serial killers on television that in reality though, and the fact that I don't live in a cheesy horror movie also decreases the likelihood of anything bad occurring. I'll post pictures (I've got bazillions) when I get back to 'Merica, meanwhile here are some insights into what happens when a giant white guy drops into a Burmese family's village compound:

As a preposterously tall foreigner, inquiries regarding my height are fairly common. I answered, one thing led to another and two guys started arguing about which one of them was taller. They stood up, faced each other, and everyone starting shouting their opinion. The whole thing was pretty ridiculous so I intervened and lined them up back to back. All the commotion ceased as it was evident to everyone that the taxi driver was a few millimeters taller than the fat guy. This debate being abruptly settled, a conversation praising the genius of the back to back method of height comparison ensued. Apparently in Myanmar judging who is taller has always been a difficult task because when face to face the disputing parties disqualify each other on grounds of chest swelling, raised eyebrows, improper neck angles, hairstyles, and other such height falsifying factors. Shoulder to shoulder yields many of the same disputes and is more a source of controversy than an arbitrator. Not so with this novel back to back approach. A mutual third party must officially declare the winner, but so foolproof this solution that any observer would arrive at the same conclusion. My failure to take credit for inventing this revolutionary technique was taken as proof of my modesty and further endeared everyone to me.

. . .

This 4 year old girl really liked me and we had a lot of fun goofing around. One day she had a new toy. Now before you judge, please remember that these are country folks living in what is far from a wealthy nation. The only other toys I saw were a little car and two rubber bands. From what I could infer these she shared with her 7 year old brother. Her new toy was a beetle. You could watch it curl up, set it on a chair, flick it across the floor, all sorts of fun games. I pretended to eat it, but she didn't believe me for a second. I showed her how to do it and we had a good time pretending to eat it and then cough it up, pull a beetle out of your nose, out of the other guy's ear, hours of fun. Later that afternoon the whole family was sitting around when she pranced in showing off her new toy. No one was much impressed and paid her little attention. So she ate the beetle. "SHE ATE THE BEETLE!!!" "No, she ate it?" "Yes, she ate it!!" "That beetle she was playing with?" "Ate it?" "She'll be sick" "She'll be fine" "Ate it?" "Popped it in her mouth and swallowed it." She was quite happy to be the center of attention and to have gotten everyone with her prank. I had never before seen let alone imagined a more successful performance in all my years of pretending to eat stuff.

. . .

Not quite sure how the family hierarchy worked, but there was most certainly a ranking. The Australian couple were at the top, and as their prize souvenir I was too. We sat on chairs instead of the floor, we got fanned by pretty girls, we got to eat first, all sorts of perks. I thought dude was kind of a jerk about it, but maybe that's how alpha males in Myanmar are supposed to behave. Getting to eat first was cool though. I got to have all the local delicacies and more fresh fruit than you can imagine. Lemme tell you, people who live in fruit orchards have lots and lots and lots and lots of fresh fruit. It got got to be a bit much though, as the women folk whose duties consisted of cooking and serving food took tremendous pleasure in watching me eat. I generally have a healthy appetite, and when my taking seconds makes people happy I will do my best to oblige them. The first few days were alright, but when my gorging failed to keep pace with their expectations I would be encouraged to "sa, sa" (eat, eat) and when compliance was unsatisfactory was commanded quite aggressively to "Sa!! Sa!! Sa!!" certain items. I tried to vary my consumption so as not to favor any particular chef and would end every feeding pleading to be allowed to move on to the multiple course fruit eating session that served as an interlude before dessert. Never before had I so wanted to correct the imbalance of disparity, but as Myanmar is wont to imprison those seeking to alter the status quo, thought it best to continue suffering in overindulged silence.

All in all it was a great week. If any of you are heading out to Myanmar (yeah, right) I'd be happy to recommend a host family 11 hours south of Yangon 'bout 30 minutes east of Mawlamyang

Monday, May 7, 2007

Myanmar Wins

Found a picturesque lake with a little wooden village. Wandered through a vegetable market. Strolled down a dirt road and came across an enormous temple with thousands of people worshiping. Some teenage laborers directed me to some pagoda and the people there saw I was thirsty and gave me water. Met a gang of children, took dozens of pictures, and was the honored guest of their impoverished shantytown. Stopped to rest at another lazy lake with electricityless wooden shacks. And that was just the first 3 hours of my 13km stroll from the airport to downtown.

Street stalls sell various pig gut delicacies. Saw a film at an old school one screen movie house where the rich people sit in the balcony and the poor folks sit below. There are monks everywhere: every kid has a shaved head and there are lots of teenage Natalie Portman bald girls too. Our bus broke down and while we waited for them to repair it, some guys invited me to share their whiskey. Lemme tell you, whiskey inspired broken down bus friends harassing the pretty girl selling grapes is priceless.

Made friends with a crazy monk and hung out with him all day. He invited me to stay in his monastery, but as I had already paid for a hotel that night we agreed to meet up the next day. I was late though, and he prolly thought I blew him off. Spent a few hours looking for him, but I guess it wasn't meant to be.

After politely declining to see his paintings and traditional handicrafts dude checked over his shoulder, slid up beside me and whispered "I elso have de rhoobie." What do I look like, a jewel smuggler? What am I going to do with a ruby? Still though, it was quite flattering. I've had shady guys offer to get me women and drugs, but I feed honored to have moved up to gemstones. Thanks Myanmar, bonus points for classing me up a notch on the contraband goods hierarchy.

The friendliest people, the best looking women, the most cultural stuff, and more weird/gross food than you can imagine. Myanmar (not Burma) ranks #2 right behind the El Dorado of Paraguay

Monday, April 23, 2007

Perhatian Island

I didn't come to South East Asia to hang out with Euro backpacker kids, but turns out that what tropical island paradises are full of. I was hoping for topless island girls or large breasted mermaids, but it was just lots of Jack Johnson and overpriced booze. Not really my scene, but I ain't a hater. Spent several days and waaaaaay too many ringgits lazing on the beach, playing volleyball, burying each other in the sand, snorkeling, drinking buckets with straws, and doing all the status quo stuff expected of 20 somethings on white sand beaches.

Good times and glad I did it, but a far cry from the 38 hour bus rides and explosive diarrhea that are the hallmarks of an Ian vacation. I'ma skip the full moon parties, magic mushroom milkshakes, and spring break hedonism of Southern Thailand and head straight to Burma. Military juntas, imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winners, closed boarders, restricted provinces, Myanmar sounds like my kinda place. I'll be posting from Bangkok while I sort out visa stuff, but prepare for another long blog hiatus. Even if they do have the internet and even if this site is not one deemed inappropriate for the masses and blocked, I'd be scared to write anything less than completely flattering about the government and the fine job they are doing in Myanmar. As great as a story as it would make, I'ma do my best to stay out of Burmese prisons.

Crazy Giant Animals

Now I'm a city kid and don't get that much exposure to flora. Pigeons, rats, cockroaches, and people's pets are pretty much the only animals I encounter on a regular basis. Still though, I like the zoo and know lots of stuff 'bout lots of critters. I didn't know anything about Malaysian jungle science fiction enormous mutant animals though. Inch long ants. Yes, one inch. An Ant. Insane. Super gianourmous spiders too. Stuff that is supposed to be big and is isn't really all that crazy. Orangutans and Komodo Dragons in Sumatra were was big as I knew they'd be. Kangaroos are too big, but everything else in that petting zoo place in Australia was just what I expected. Saw a huge centipede, but I'd seen them before in the Smithsonian's Insect Zoo. I was pretty obsessed with the inch ants, but not so much so as to be inspired to write and entire blog.

I don't like scary movies 'cause I start thinking and worrying about monsters and stuff. For a few days I won't sleep well and don't like being in unlit, uncrowded places that are conducive to being gotten by monsters. Monsters ain't real though, and I know my fears are irrational and unjustified. Being scared of something real is different.

Was strolling around the hillside ocean view chalets (a chalet is a fancy word for a hut on stilts) where I was staying admiring the gorgeousness. A lady came on her porch saw me and we shared our awe for the spectacularity of where we where, then she asked me if I'd seen the lizards. I replied that I hadn't and she told me that they were huge: 2-3 meters. I smiled and nodded as she was older and clearly crazy and/or really stupid. There is no such thing as a 3 meter lizard. That's ridiculous. Maybe she meant to say 2-3 feet. She prolly got startled by one and overexaggerated its size. That's fine, but a 9 foot lizard is just preposterous. Later while eating breakfast on my porch I saw a lizard. It was good sized, head and body as big as a cat. With the tail it was prolly 2-2 ½ feet. Maybe 3. Certainly not 9. Silly lady.

A few minutes later I heard something off to the side of the porch. I looked over and DEAR LORD!!! It was surreal. Humongous on a scale that doesn't even make sense. Like Giantworld on Super Mario 3. Tried to get a picture, but the thing heard me and got the bejeezus scared out of it. Too big to be agile and quick like the lizards that crawl on walls and ceilings, dude stumbled, slipped and fell in a ravine, and ran under a neighboring chalet. Didn't measure, but if I had to guestimate I'd say 6 feet. Maybe 5'3" or maybe 6'8" I dunno. Wasn't the length so much as the girth though. I'm a 34 inch waist and it wasn't no smaller than me.

Found out later it was a monitor lizard. The internet doesn't have anything impressive to say about Varanus salvator, but whatever. I got photographic evidence of the other ones

Malaysia wins the award for world's most ridiculously oversized animals. And I didn't even make it out to Borneo, that's prolly where King Kong and Mothra and them come from

Develop: under-, -ing, and -ed

I experienced Malaysia as the the model of progress and as backwards little brother. Went from being impressed with its cleanliness and sense of security to noticing its litter problems and fearing pickpockets. All in a matter of two weeks. Crazy how quickly you adapt from one reality to another. Got me thinking about what is taken for granted at various stages of development:


Underdeveloped countries - One of the most interesting things you'll experience. Lots of lots of stories for the folks back

Developing countries - Kind of a crapshoot. Sometimes you have to pay a few coins. Sometimes you have to pay for toilet paper. Sometimes you can sneak past without paying. Just kinda depends.

Developed countries - Bathrooms are just bathrooms, what are you talking about?

Crossing the Street

Underdeveloped countries - What an adventure!! For some reason traffic lights aren't too popular. Just kinda pick and time and go. In addition to the cars, trucks, and buses that you're used to; there are horses, dogs, bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, and all sortsa stuff zooming around. Best to do like a little kid and hold somebody's hand. Or walk next to an old lady, she's been doing this for years.

Developing countries - Jaywalk everywhere except crowded intersections where you use the crosswalk like everybody else

Developed countries - Drivers are busy talking on cell phones, fooling with their CD/DVD players, putting on makeup, eating, drinking, and other such non-driving activities. Everyone drives really fast, keeps 2-5 car lengths away from everything, and slams on their brakes and honks if anything other than a red light distracts them from their non-driving activity (there's a squirrel, some guy looks like he might be thinking about jaywalking, the car 60 feet in front of them started to merge into their lane without signaling for 45 seconds beforehand). There are accidents all the time, but nobody cares because they all have insurance.

Communication Barrier

Underdeveloped countries - Unless you're some place where you're paying in dollars, nobody speaks your language. You speak theirs. Sometimes because you are a dumb foreigner they SPEAK LOUDLY. IN SHORT SENTENCES. SO YOU UNDERSTAND. But you don't. This can either be very frustrating or very funny. I recommend going with option B. Smiling and nodding, pointing and grunting, facial and hand gestures, that's all you really need. If you have pictures of your family that's always a big hit. A map of their country is nice for you to show where you've been and where you're going.

There's a fairly high likelihood that someone will want to play the do you know game. It goes something like this:
"Sah Co-na-li"
"Yes, Sean Connery"
"Da Bi-ools"
"Yes, the Beatles"
"Mi-aw Jo-an"
"Mi-aw Jo-an. Ba-set"
"Ah yes, Michael Jordan"
It's pretty annoying, but remember that your are making their day and doing your part to make the world a better place through cross-cultural exchanges.

Once in a while you'll get someone who speaks English and they will talk your ear off. Be prepared to offer your opinions on international politics, explain everything about your country they don't understand, and listen to their theories on everything. You'll learn a lot, and can be certain that every word you said will be repeated for friends and family for years to come.

Developing countries - Learn the basics: hello, thank you, how to order food, and numbers so you know how much stuff costs. If you ever find yourself in a situation where this is insufficient, try to smile and nod it off, and if that doesn't work just run away. Otherwise you cause drama. They are self conscious about their lack of language ability and so are you. At best this means awkwardness and mutual embarrassment. At worst it means a random person will be enlisted to translate and a large crowd will gather. The onlookers won't offer to help, nor will they joke around and lighten the mood as that is something only ignorant people who like in shanty towns do. Developing country folks just stand there transfixed, suddenly made very much aware of their worthlessness. Too economically advanced to heckle and enjoy the humor inherent in the situation yet too curious to ignore it and walk away. The whole exchange makes everyone present very insecure and for those being observed the experience can be a scarring one.

Developed countries - Everyone speaks English. If they don't, try the next person. Don't bother flipping through your pocket dictionary and mispronouncing things. Stick with hello, thank you, food, and numbers. Old people and folks who don't get out much might think your attempts to speak their language are cute, but they're not. Take that gumption and earnestness to a less developed country, they love foreigners being interested in their culture. Just speak English here. Not slang or idioms, but clearly pronounced standard English.

Buying Stuff

Underdeveloped countries - "Hello my friend!" "Okay, yes?" people will appear from everywhere. Lots of confusion that some attempt to remedy with helpful arm grabbing. Everything is offered and everything promised, a crowd of loiterers lingering about takes notice, the entire universe is focused on you and your infinite amounts of rich country money. "Okay, yes?" "My friend, my friend" Don't ever show up at the bus station unsure of the name of that city and consult your map/guidebook. Always know exactly what you want and how much it costs. Then go fight everyone who disagrees with you. If they can rip you off it means their kids won't go be bed malnourished that night, so be ready for battle. Hesitation is the weakness they pry upon, stick to the game plan and do not be deterred. Always remember that they are professionals, this is their job and despite what they tell you they won't sell anything for a price that doesn't yield a profit.

Developing countries - At first glance the myriad of touts aggressively vying for your attention may seem similar to the shopping experience in poorer nations, but then you realize they are all peddling the same thing at the same price. Occasionally someone will take advantage of your ignorance and scam you, but for the most part you pay the same as everyone else. Market forces have set the price and there are currently twice as many vendors as necessary. Attrition is inevitable, and you as the consumer decide who stays employed. Whichever $2 dinner special you choose will be equally delicious, they only difference is which food stall owner's kids will get to go to college.

Developed countries - All major credit cards are accepted

Saturday, April 7, 2007


I had kinda of a vague idea of the route I’d take this trip. Figured Hawaii to Sydney to Bali across Java up Sumatra to Singapore and through Malaysia and Thailand to Bangkok. Nothing concrete, no dates and no tickets. If I like a place I can stay for a while and if I meet someone cool I can tag along with them. Just going with the flow and seeing what happens, that’s how I like to travel. Some folks plan everything out, reservations and to do lists and schedules to keep. Striving to meet self-imposed deadlines seems like a stressful way to spend a vacation to me though.

All I knew about Sumatra was volcanoes and orangutans. I wanted to see Krakatau and ride on a bus for a long time. And see an orangutan. Those were my only requirements. Krakatau costs a lot though. About half a week’s budget just for the admission fee. And its far from stuff. I’d take 2-3 days. And I only had a little over a week left on my non-extendable visa. So Krakatau’s out. Figured I’d spend a few extra rupiahs and fly from Jakarta to Padang to maximize my remaining few days in Indonesia. ‘Cept that didn’t work out. So I got my first long ride on a bus.

Must’ve slept through the Padang stop, but I got off at the next town. After 38 hours on a bus, I wanted to stretch my legs a little so I did some sightseeing. The one cool thing was closed ‘cause of damage from the earthquake the week before, so I went to the old fort/zoo. I like zoos and met some kids there. Only one spoke English, but no lingua franca was necessary to appreciate pythons eating birds. After the zoo we all went to eat some Padang food. Pading food means put a whole bunch of bowls full of stuff on your table and you grab what you want and shovel it and some rice into your mouth. With your hand. Your right hand though, ‘cause you wipe your butt with your left. Eating Padang food is fun. Not as much fun as pythons eating birds, but still. Had figured I’d spend the night in town and head to volcanic crater lake the next day, but the guy who spoke English was going to visit his parents and my volcanic crater lake was on his bus route. So I hopped on his minibus and a few hours later checked into a lakeside bungalow. One of the most beautiful sunsets I’d ever seen.

The next morning after strolling through rice paddies and electricityless huts in the jungle, I was stopped by a guy teaching an English class by the lake. He was an outdoors type who taught the kids the English names for all the local plants and animals. Sometimes he would take his class on hikes and clean up the trash people left behind. I was a most welcome guest speaker, and the kids had a blast asking me questions. That afternoon I met up with the teacher, and to show his appreciation for helping him out, he took me up to a waterfall in the jungle. Then we hung out at his parents’ elctricityless hut, drank some tea, and ate the nastiest bananas I’d ever had. They weren’t sweet at all, tasted more like potato or yucca or something. The next day I headed out to the other famous crater lake.

Within 16 hours (a blink of an eye in Sumatran bus time) I was checking into my Batak cottage. This lake was huge. Huge. So big it has an island in it. An island the size of Singapore. A country sized island inside a lake in a volcanic crater. Sumatra is awesome. Hung out there for a few days until the urge to spend another dozen hours on buses careening over potholed mountain roads became too much to bare. Orangutans at the orangutan rehabilitation center, and then on to the big city where I was supposed to catch a boat for Malaysia. Turns out all the cool stuff in Sumatra is way way way north of where you’d catch a boat to Singapore.

Arrived in town and started to shop for a hotel. I never paid more than $3.50 a night, but these places were asking 5 bucks. The audacity! I was hot and had been riding buses all day so I headed to an air conditioned shopping mall to cool off. Met some college kids who wanted to practice their English. Last time that happened, I had a pair of Beijing tour guides for a week. This time I scored free room and board for 3 days. The last night was the 30th anniversary of my host parents. We all sat on the floor and ate with our hands. After dinner we had a Cosby family moment with their 2 daughters and 4 sons each giving a little speech about how much they loved their parents and how appreciative they were to be a part of the family. Least that’s what I thought they were saying. That was the gist of my speech and it was well received.

Wound up overstaying my visa a little and even using my best tricks was unable to convince the immigration guys that it really was only 30 days. I had few of ‘em going for a while, but eventually they got out a calendar and counted the days. Had to pay a healthy fee, but no regrets. ‘Cept maybe for losing 430 pictures. That kinda sucked. Oh well, y’all don’t get any accompanying photographs until Malaysia is all.

Friday, March 30, 2007

more airport drama

I promised on the myspace that there would be more airports, but domestic Indonesian flights are pretty cool, They are set up like bus terminals (in capitalist counties that have more than just Greyhound that is) with each of the airlines having a counter where you can buy tickets minutes before the plane leaves. In lieu of security, they make everyone pay a departure fee and everything is very efficient and stress free. Plus there is the sexy dying factor. Planes crash in Indo all the time, I heard 75 in the last 5 years. It’s only about one a month, but news from one crash carries on for a few weeks and by then a new one has happened so there are always grieving widows and officials promising to investigate this tragic instance. I’m hereby declaring Indonesia the country with the best news. ‘Merica, Brasil, and Colombia all have plenty of folks killing each other and kids accidentally getting shot, but here there are always earthquakes, volcanoes, planes crashing, boats sinking, floods, and that mysterious underground mud that is eating entire cities. The weather here is awesomely destructive, and poor building standards combined with lack of oversight contribute to the devastation.

Sumatra is a big, big place and with only a few days left on my non-extendable tourist visa, I had to hurry. Tried to get some corruption in my passport, but dude at immigration was furious I had an airtight visa he couldn’t fix with a bribe. Coulda gotten a doctor’s not saying I was unfit to travel (that’s what former South American dictators do when they want to avoid extradition), but that seemed like too much effort. A plane ride would hurt the budget a bit, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I had an idea what I wanted to pay and an agency in town offered me the price for one of the shadier airlines. Wasn’t sure I’d make it to the airport in time for the departure though, so I passed. Got to the airport at 12:45 and started shopping. One of the first places had a 3:45 flight for a little more than I wanted to pay. If I have to haggle with people and navigate a new city in a language I don’t understand I prefer it not to be dark outside. As this plane wouldn’t arrive in time for me to see, I asked a few other places. Some were already sold out, some were too expensive, and some had too high of a death rate. Having satisfied my bargain hunting instincts, I went back ready to drop several days food and lodging expenses on a plane ticket.

“Padang, Pool”
No, no, no, no, how can it be full? I was in here only 15-20 minutes ago. This sucks. I did another lap, but there was nothing that afternoon or the next day for less than a ridiculous amount of money. Oh well, suppose a 38 hour bus/ferry/bus ride will be more interesting anyways.

Being Famous

Now I’ll admit that I’ve been a jerk a few times and mistook an innocent “Hello Mister” from someone desiring a reciprocal “Hello” and a smile for the attention getting “Hello Mister” from a taut who wants my money. Make eye contact with one of these dudes and they might follow you for half a block. The worst when the scent of blood is in the air and a whole gang of the vultures descend. Tremendous split second judgment is needed to differentiate between the “excuse me” of a high school kid whose buddies nominated him to be the one to ask if I’ll take a picture with them and the “excuse me” from someone attempting to strike up a conversation in broken English in hopes that I will then be more likely to purchase some of their overpriced tourist crap.

Occasionally I ignore and once in a while the “I know you ain’t thinking ‘bout robbing me” instinct kicks in and I aggressively eye somebody, but usually I’m pretty good at taking the imitative and providing a smile and a head nod of acknowledgement to whoever is staring at me. People have every right to ogle exotic things that insert themselves into their dialy lives. I blogged more extensively about this on the myspace a few weeks ago, but basically if a midget, a naked lady, or an elephant is walking down your street it is human nature to gawk at this curiosity. I am such a curiosity to many in Indonesia, and am appropriately scrutinized. By breaking the fourth wall and interacting, the starer’s role changes from that of observer to participant. Eyes widen and stoic faces erupt into smiles as a breakthrough cross cultural connection is made. Score one for team globalization. Getting pretty good with working class folk, loiters, and the elderly, but my bread and butter demographics remain children and adolescent girls. I am not yet the 21st century’s Fred Rogers, but I’m good with kids and have broadened the horizons of many as iconic individuals did for me when I was a wee lad. Being a teen icon is my forte though. A skill honed over many hours working in a Korean middle school, I have made young women’s hearts skip beats on several continents. For some reason, it is even more of an ego trip making chicks in headscarves swoon. It’s like I’m some kinda extra level of forbidden and the repression makes having a crush on unattainable dream man all the more intense.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Balinese Culture

Being the cultural guy that I am, I attended "The Best of Classical Dance of Bali." There were guys playing xylophone-types things and then a dancer came out. She did lots of stop and jerk movements, especially with her head and fingers. She would also do this crazy owl thing with her eyes. That was my favorite part. Then two of her friends came out. One of them was pretty cute, but they were wearing lots of clothes. In Sydney there was this Indian restaurant that would show Bollywood music videos. Now them's my kinda dancing Hindu women. Maybe if these Bali dancing chicks accumulate enough karma points they can get reincarnated as one of them. The girls left, and next this dragon came out. He danced around for a while, but not like Chinese New Year's Dragons. He was more of the move-your-head-up-and-down school of dragon dancing. Then this Planet of the Apes guy came out. He would taught the dragon and get him all riled up. I wanted the dragon to eat him, but Dr Zeaus was too elusive. After the dragon left these 4 kings came out. They danced around for awhile and then some super king maharajah guy came out. He wasn't as cool or as well dressed as the kings, but they all heeded his authority. Then the super king maharajah guy's wife came out. She started doing this sexy dance and – wait. Is that a dude? BOOOOO!!!!!! I hate transvestites, even if they are a part of The Great Mahabharata Epic. The transvestite finally left, and fortunately a whole bunch of dancing girls came out. They weren't scantily clad, but at least they were women and not mustachioed men in a dress. The girls danced for a while and then the transvestite cam back out. BOOOOOO!!!!!! BOOOOOOOO!!!!! He danced and the girls all watched respectfully.

I was starting to not like the show when out came the comic relief. These guys were hilarious, especially their leader. They were like pirates or monkeys or something. They were goofing around and having fun until these two demon guys came out. They subjected the pirate monkeys and were really mean. My buddies revolted and plotted numerous coup attempts, but the demons foiled all their wily schemes. Eventually the demons started to pray and fell into a deep trance. That's when the dancing girls came back out. The three pirate monkeys left with the 6 yellow girls (YEAH!!!!!) while the pink girl stayed behind. She woke up the demons, who weren't at all upset to see their pirate monkeys gone. They were much more interested in the pink girl. Unfortunately, neither was willing to share and a huge fight broke out. During the melee, the pink girl slipped out, again confirming Russel Crowe's theory from the Beautiful Mind movie that if you go for a backup dancer everyone goes home happy whereas if multiple people try for the Alpha female no one gets her. Worked for the pirate monkeys. Kevin Federline was a backup dancer and look at him. Some backup dancer was married to Jennifer Lopez too.

Anyway, one demon kills the other and then this ghost comes out. I woulda put money on the demon, but I guess the ghost had special powers. He killed the demon and then the dragon came back out. The ghost tried to fight him, but was no match. The dragon was whopping up on the ghost then suddenly they stopped fighting and stood next to each other. Then the dancing girls and the pirate monkeys and the kings and everybody came out and took a bow.

Even though it would mean nearly doubling my daily expenditures, I might shell out the $5.50 and see another show tomorrow. This time I'ma ask for one with no transvestites

. . .

the next day it was monsooning and the jungle hut where I was staying was too far without a boat. The day after I went and saw a fire dance one. No music, just a bunch of guys chanting. I loved it when they would start the kecak. Especially the fat guy. He would jiggle everywhere. I couldn't get enough of him. Just so no one accuses me of being culturally insensitive, check out their overview and tell me if it is any less rambling or more sensical than my description of the other performance.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Aussie Fauna

Australians aren't too good with words. For some inexplicable reason they call raisins "saltanas" have words like "arvo" and "mozzie" and a neighborhood called Woolloomooloo. That is just ridiculous. Silly Aussies. Whoever made up the animal names is a hero though. I hope they are one of the mysterious not famous guys on the money.

not quite as bad as pandas and manatees, but right up there. How good of an idea would it be for a person to eat exclusively cannabis leaves? I guess you'd always be high, but the lack of nutrients is not at all healthy. If you get some fruits, vegetables, and protein along with the marijuana then you have a drug problem/addiction. If all you eat are cannabis leaves, you are an idiot. You can't just eat cannabis all day long. Nor can you be on a strict diet of coca leaves, tobacco leaves, or eucalyptus leaves.

see wallabies below

these are the good kangaroos. Small enough to be cute and active enough to be interesting. Big Kangaroos are like other big herbivore without natural predators. Moose, buffalo, and yaks are dumb and boring too. Kangaroos are best in cartoon form; real ones are only good at being roadkill. Taste good though. 33 grams of protein to every 1 of fat. Wallabies should be in zoos and kangaroos should be livestock.

No animal is closer affiliated with a verb and object than dingo, eat, and baby. Just not exotic enough to live up to my expectations. Maybe if they were blue or had horns or something, but as dogs with large perky ears they are a real letdown. Easily the most disappointing animal in Australia. Hyenas are the wild dog thing that are most conducive to devouring human infants and deserve the reputation given to dingos. The word "dingo" implies a whimsical creature that elicits laughter. These guys fail to live up to the hype. It's like someone named He-Man Thor Terminator who is a meek and timid little man. Big thumbs down on the dingos

Tasmanian Devils
slightly more ferocious than a chihuahua. So much anger and frustration in these little guys. You just wanna tickle their bellies and baby talk them "who's a wittle devil? who's the wittle devil? Yes it's you. Yes it is. You're the wittle devil. Yes you are. Ah yes you are"

they seem pretty cool. The two I saw were just sleeping, but they are really big and look like pretty chill animals. I'm willing to vouch for 'em

sooooo overrated. Being a large flightless bird is cool, but only if you are the largest and flightlessest bird around. Ostriches win because they don't have any competition. Emus are kinda like JV ostriches, which is fine. On the seal with a kangaroo, that's cool. Australian and iconic. Until you realize that THERE ARE BETTER BIRDS IN AUSTRALIA!!!! Emus are kinda big and sorta brown. Little tiny heads with a pea brain and no personality. Pretty much the most generic bird around. Size is the only thing they got going for 'em. 'Cept there are bigger birds in Australia. Emus have a fantastic PR department. Whoever has been doing their marketing is a genius, but the gig is up. Emus aren't that cool and I'm telling the world. Here are Australia's true all star birds:

awesome. Big and ugly and colorful. Everything that a zoo bird should be. We saw 'em being fed and the lady threw a mouse that the jabiru caught in its mouth. Let's see an emu do that.

Southern Cassowary
YES!!! The biggest, ugliest, and most bizarre bird they got. A dinosaur mohawk bone thing and a gross turkey neck. These birds are in motorcycle gangs and have tattoos. So hardcore. Eagles and hawks can be majestic all they like; a Southern Cassowary would destroy them. Ostriches outweigh Southern Cassowary and are a lot more famous, but they wouldn't mess with these guys either. Gotta love penguins, peacocks, and hummingbirds, but Southern Cassowary are the best at being big and scary. They are the bird you would least like to run into in a dark alley.

winner!!!! Pictures don't do 'em justice, but these little guys are hilarious. Pygmy hippos are still number one, but if I ever become an eccentric billionaire I'm for sure having echidnas in with the prairie dogs.

Best story goes to the platypus. The aborigines never hunted them because of this legend:

The animals were gearing up to have a big versus. The birds went to persuade platypus to join their team. “C’mon, you got a beak and you lay eggs, you’re one of us,” they argues. “Uh, lemme think about it” was platypus’s reply. A few days later the mammals approached platypus. “Fur and mammary glands make you one of us,” they said. “Uh, I need a few days to think it over” platypus responded. Not long after, the fish came to call. “hey, you swim real nice and do all kinds of stuff underwater, hunting playing, and what not. We’d be honored if you joined our side.” “uh, yeah maybe. I’ll get back to you on that.” Platypus consulted with fellow monotreme echidna as to what side should be joined. Echidna advised platypus to call together representatives from the three warring factions and announce the decision before the assembled species. Platypus put out word that a decision had been reached, and asked that a ceasefire be declared so everyone could be present for the announcement.

The press conference was well attended, with each party confident platypus had chosen to join their team. “Brothers and sisters,” platypus began “the birds with whom I share egg laying and beak having, the mammals who share my fur and milk producing capabilities, and the fish who share my love for the water, you are all my brothers and sisters. As such, I cannot choose amongst you, for we are all children of the great gods.” No doubt aboriginal diplomats loved telling this tale whenever their Capulets and Montagues began fussing and fueding.

Now I don’t know what happened with the animal war or why so much effort was put into platypus recruitment, but points for whoever made up that story.

Monday, February 19, 2007

good on ya, mate

I reckon travel agents are 'bout as useful as dog psychologists. Perhaps back before Al Gore invented the Information Superhighway they were like milkmen or the guy who delivered coal to your house. Granted I'm smarter than the average bear, but still. I flew DC to Honolulu, Honolulu to Sydney, Sydney to Melbourne, and Melbourne to Bali all for $600. Someone should put me in charge of something.

Australia is so American they have an Outback Steakhouse in Sydney. That doesn't even make any sense. Other than driving on the wrong side and having stupid accents, Australia is the least foreign of any foreign country (Canadia doesn't count). They do need to change the flag and the money though, why would you have someone else's monarch on your currency? Commonwealth, schmommonwealth.

The Australian national dish right now is kebabs, but I'm working on it. I'm up to Vegemite marinated Kangaroo on the barbie. I'll keep everyone posted on further developments. Speaking of Vegemite, how 'bout this Vegemite lore? In the early days, the Aussie upstart was competing against Marmite from England. Marmite was king of nasty tasting yeast spreads, but the Southern Hemisphere geniuses named their product Parmite in one of the greatest marketing campaigns ever. Ever. their slogan:

"Marmite, but Parwill"

get it?!?!?! get it?!?!?!? Ma might, but Pa will. That won Australia their first Nobel Prize in Literature.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

notes from the Aloha State

I love restaurants with dingy bathrooms and black & white autographed celebrity photos on the walls. Carnegie Deli in New York, Gino's in Philly, and Ono Hawaiian Foods in Oahu. Mostly beauty pageant winners and football players (Hawaii is a great place for football players to come from), but A-listers included: Sulu from Star Trek, that dude who throws his hat from the James Bond movie, and Chuck Norris. I don't know if Chuck Norris is really Hawaiian, but still. Any restaurant Chuck Norris approves of is alright in my book.

. . .

over my Loco Moco plate lunch at L&L ( ) I continued to research my Hawaiian Livability Project. Apartments are comparable to DC ($800-$1400 for studios/one bedrooms) and group/roommate things are cheaper ($400-$800 per month). Food and rent are covered. And these statistics are based upon national chain grocery stores and newspaper classifieds, if local ethnic markets and craigslist type things are consulted no doubt cost would decrease even further. There are an infinite number of lazy $8-14 an hour jobs and plenty of decent paying ones in bars/restaurants/hotels/tourism. Basically, if you are anything less than completely satisfied with your current lifestyle, sell your car, quit your job, and buy a one way ticket to Honolulu. I'm serious. If you're a US citizen and you've got 2 grand (which you should after selling your car/getting back your security deposit) that'll cover the plane ticket and start up costs. Somebody should give me a reality show called "Give Me A Better Life: Hawaii" where I take 24 year old Dairy Queen employees from South Dakota and within 6 months have them wooing well-heeled Japanese tourists in Waikiki.

. . .

It had been onshore for the past several days, but rumor had it that today should be better. Even if it's not in the morning, by afternoon it should glass over around 4. This was coming from a dude from the Big Island who had been at North Shore for three months now, so all the Aussie surfers listened astutely. Surfers are good at imparting wisdom upon one another and in just one night I learned of the difference in clothing necessary between surfing in 11 v. 10 degree water (this is in Cromwell mind you) and the wave conditions in the desert north of Perth. Being that the surf had been atypically less than stellar since any of the guys in my cabin had arrived, plans were made to be up at 6am and therefore very little drugs or alcohol were consumed.

I could care less about the surfing though, 'cause I was going to watch my first Super Bowl since Korea 5 years ago. Woke up at 4am to watch pregame stuff, had a class from 7-8:30 where I taught about alcohol purchases, the drop in the crime rate, and the cultural impact of Super Bowl advertisements campaigns. Made it back to my apartment for the end of the game. AFKN doesn't show commercials though, so instead of the Budweiser frogs I got the Green Berets song and ROK commander advising against drinking and driving. The lack of US military presence in South America caused me to miss XXXVII (Brazil), XXXVIII (Peru or Bolivia) and XXXIX (Brazil again). Last year attended a Super Bowl party in Virginia, but my patriotic consumption of booze resulted in me passing out by game time. This year I assembled a selection of the weirdest food Hawaii had to offer: Marlin Jerky, Li Hing Watermelon, Li Hing Ginger, Udong with Steamed Fishcakes, and Poi. Stayed conscious for Prince, but 1.5 liters of vodka precluded me from witnessing Kevin Federline.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ye'ah Ha'wa'i'i'i'i!!!!!!

"Our estimated flight time is just a shade over 5 hours and it looks like it'll be a smooth one. You folks picked a great destination. In Denver it is currently 19 degrees, Chicago is 21, Minneapolis is 11 and even Miami is a chilly 65 degrees. The current temperature in Honolulu is 75 degrees."

They even had a contest where you win a grand prize of a Mauna Loa gift set. Invented words with lots of vowels!!! Yeah!!! only a quarter of the seats on the flight were taken so everybody got an entire row. The flight attendants were all middle aged men who really enjoy being flight attendants. If you flirt with them they give you free drinks.

In the Honolulu airport the men's room icon is wearing a Hawaiian shirt and their "Pardon the Construction" sign was a guy wearing a hardhat, a lei, a tool belt and flip flops. Promise I'll take pictures when I fly out next week.

People always talk about how expensive Hawaii is, but I largely attribute that to them being idiots. Granted, some things are outrageously priced: milk was on sale for $4 a gallon (usually it's $6.80), eggs were $3 a dozen, and a loaf of generic Safeway brand white bread was $3.50. Yet flour is as cheap as it is on the mainland. As are pastas, canned and bottled products, meats, dried beans, and most other things. Ramen noodles are 37 cents (6 for a dollar on sale) and never bought milk or eggs (or produce) at the grocery store in DC. I went to the Korean owned Latino market a few blocks over because everything fresh was half to a quarter of the price. I"ll do some more research and keep everyone posted of developments because I know you are all enthralled with the prospect of dramatically reducing the minimum necessary budget allocation percentage of food purchases in Oahu.

Chose to walk rather than take the bus on day one, but rest assured that a comprehensive report on the state of public transportation on Hawaii's most populous island will be forthcoming.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A New Chapter

Or perhaps merely a segue from the previous to the next. No plans yet, just waiting for opportunity to come a knockin’ or for inspiration to strike.

Been in the US for almost 2 years now, living and working in DC for a non-profit exactly like I wanted. Did all the young American things I had to do: happy hours, craigslist, Jumbo Slice; and took advantage of taxpayer funded stuff to do in the nation’s capital: international film festivals, Smithsonian programs, embassy events. This country is pretty alright, and DC is a nice city full of ambitious do-gooder Lisa Simpson types. ‘Cept for that whole “winter” thing, I really like it here. I’ll definitely be back.

Time to gain a little more perspective though. Once you know all the regulars on the covers of supermarket tabloids and find yourself having strong opinions on matters that are so specific as to be untranslatable, its time to broaden the horizons. When CNN starts sounding like respectable reporting and not jingoistic propaganda, you know you’ve lost your edge. ‘Bout time Stella got her groove back.

Got a buddy in Sydney so I’m gonna start there (after a brief sojourn in Hawaii). Not sure what happens after that. Perhaps a quick SE Asia jaunt. Maybe I’ll be enticed to set up camp for a while somewhere. Might discover a hitherto unknown passion or skill. Figure I’ll wander around ‘til something feels right

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hate is an ugly thing, so here I am.

Just as riding the subway with office drones during rush hour instead of taking the bus with paint bespeckled dudes before dawn hurts my soul, so too does joining the ranks of the pretentious yuppies on the

Dunkin Donuts over Starbucks, Wal-Mart over Whole Foods, and over You can keep your Jeffersonian universal education preceding universal suffrage, 'cause Internet 2.0 is all about Jacksonian democracy, baby. Youtube and idiots like me writing the wikipedia (don’t worry, I haven’t started yet).

I’ll try to wipe my feet and abide by the high standards you classy folks have here at the blogspot, but I feel like Turbo and Ozone at Kelly’s parents’ house. I belong with Kevin Federline and the Monster Trucks over on the myspace

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be”. Yeah, well we don’t have slaves no more either TJ.