Saturday, December 30, 2006

UFO's and the First Hydrogen Bomb

An interesting piece of conversation I had with a guy on the plane from Cebu to Clark. He told me:

"My Dad was in the Air Force. He was a test pilot. He flew the plane that dropped the first Hydrogen Bomb. We were having dinner one day, and he said the day he dropped the Hydrogen bomb, the UFO's were thick as flies. He never said anything about it again."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

You Know You're Filipino When...

My wife has her own e-mail account. When she checks her e-mail, most of it is forwards from her friends in The Philippines. She gets very few personal e-mails. If she does, they mostly begin "Kumusta ka na?", or the Visayan equivalent of it. She's gotten all sorts of cute pictures of kittens and puppies, prayers to forward to ten people within an hour of getting this message and you will have good luck, strange lists, etc. She swears that she's seen the following before, in a forward.

As a matter of fact, I think I was the one who sent it!

Anyway, if no one has forwarded this to you yet, here is what it is really like to be a Filipino:


You Know You're Filipino When...

Your middle name is your mother's maiden name.
Your parents call each other "Mommy" and "Daddy."
You have uncles and aunts named "Boy," "Girlie," or "Baby."
You have relatives whose nicknames consist of repeated syllables like "Jun-Jun," "Ling-Ling," and "Mon-Mon."
You call the parents of your friends and your own parents' friends "Tito" and "Tita."
You have four or five names.
You greet your elders by touching their hands to your forehead.
You always kiss your relatives on the cheek whenever you enter or leave the room.
You follow your parents' house rules even if you are over 18.
You live with your parents until and at times even after you're married.
You decorate your dining room wall with a picture of the "Last Supper."
You keep your furniture wrapped in plastic or covered with blankets.
You have a Sto. Nino shrine in your living room.
You have a piano that no one plays.
You keep a tabo in your bathroom.
You use Vicks Vapor rub as an insect repellant.
You eat with your hands.
You eat more than three times a day.
You think a meal is not a meal without rice.
You think sandwiches are snacks, not meals.
Your dining table has a merry-go-round (lazy Susan) in the middle.
You bring baon to work everyday.
Your pantry is never without Spam, Vienna sausage, corned beef, and sardines.
You love to eat daing or tuyo.
You prop up one knee while eating.
You eat your meal with patis, toyo, suka, banana catsup, or bagoong.
Your tablecloths are stained with toyo circles.
You love sticky desserts and salty snacks.
You eat fried Spam and hot dogs with rice.
You eat mangoes with rice--with great GUSTO!
You love "dirty" ice cream.
You love to eat, yet often manage to stay slim.
You put hot dogs in your spaghetti.
Everything you eat is sauted in garlic, onion, and tomatoes.
You order a "soft drink" instead of soda.
You hang a rosary on your car's rear view mirror.
You get together with family at a cemetery on All Saint's Day to eat, drink, and tell stories by your loved ones' graves.
You play cards or mahjong and drink beer at funeral wakes.
You think Christmas season begins in October and ends in January.
Your second piece of luggage is a balikbayan box.
You've mastered the art of packing a suitcase to double capacity.
You collect items from airlines, hotels, and restaurants as "souvenirs."
You feel obligated to give pasalubong to all your friends and relatives each time you return from a trip.
You use paper foot outlines when buying shoes for friends and relatives.
You're a fashion victim.
You can convey 30 messages with your facial expression.
You hold your palms together in front of you and say "excuse, excuse" when you pass in between people or in front of the TV.
You ask for the bill at a restaurant by making a rectangle in the air.
You cover your mouth when you laugh.
You respond to a "Hoy!" or a "Pssst!" in a crowd.
You'll answer "Malapit lang!"--no matter the distance--when asked how far away a place is located.
Goldilocks is more than a fairy tale character to you.
You refer to power interruptions as "brownouts."
You love to use the following acronyms: CR for comfort room, DI for dance instructor, DOM for dirty old man, TNT for tago nang tago, KJ for kill joy, KSP for kulang sa pansin, OA for over-acting, TL for true love, BF for boyfriend and GF for girlfriend.
You say "rubber shoes" instead of sneakers, "ball pen" instead of pen, "stockings" instead of pantyhose, "pampers" instead of diapers, "ref" or "prijider" instead of refrigerator, "Colgate" instead of toothpaste, "canteen" instead of cafeteria, and "open" or "close" instead of turn on or turn off (as in the lights).
You use an umbrella for shade on hot summer days.
You like everything imported or "state-side."
You love ballroom dancing, bowling, pusoy, mah jong, billiards, and karaoke.
You have a relative who is a nurse.
When you're in a restaurant, you wipe your plate and utensils before using them.
You can squeeze 15 passengers into your five seater car without a second thought.
You wave a pom-pom on a stick around the food to keep the flies away.
You always ring a doorbell twice, assuming that the first ring was not heard.
You let the phone ring twice before answering, lest you appear overly eager.
Your other piece of luggage is a balikbayan box.
You use a rock to scrub yourself in the bath or shower.
You're proud to be Filipino - and you pass these jokes on to all your Filipino friends!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

When Was Jesus Really Born?

It's a question I have always wondered about. When exactly was Jesus born?

I knew it couldn't be in late December, as it would be too cold for shepherds to be out in the fields at night.

When I got older, I found out that December 25th was chosen by the early church as the time of Jesus' birth, so that the biggest Christian festival of the year would replace the major pagan festival of Saturnalia.

So I decided to do a little research, and see what I could find on the subject, and share it here with others seeking the truth.
At this site there is a rather scholarly article, with good citations from the Bible, Jewish traditons, and astronomy, claiming that Jesus was born in September , 5 BC, during the feast of Tabernacles.

Using Vedic Astrology, which possibly the Wisemen (or Magi) used, this article goes into great detail to "prove" a date of September 10, 3 BC.

This Author states that Jesus was born on September 11 3 BC, which if true, would be one of the great ironies of history.

Here's another article which uses the Bible as a reference, and says Jesus was born September 29th 5 BC.

This article by astronomer Colin Humphries, focuses on the Star of Bethlehem, and uses astronomy and astrology to that Jesus was born sometime between March 9 - May 4, 5 BC.

Astronomer Michael Molnar, from Rutgers, Says that Jesus was born April 17, 6 BC.

This article also focuses on the Star of Bethlehem, and doesn't give an exact date, but gives a complete study of what year Jesus could have been born, using biblical and astronomical references.

This site doesn't have a date, but talks about astronomical occurances, and does have a cool video showing a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Picses.

So the conclusion is - nobody knows for sure. It's not necessary to know when Jesus was born, just to believe.

A Real Christmas Greeting

Ok, everyone else is doing it, so I will too. Only I am going to do it the right way, and not get all sappy, sugary, and falsely sentimental. Nope, not me. Let's boil it down to the real essence, and skip all the other stuff.

Happy Birthday Jesus!
Thanks for everything.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Collaborative Story Writing - Chain Story

I am never at a loss for ideas for short stories. For me, all I have to do is physically start writing, and the stories just come out. It is just like turning on a water tap. The only thing is, once I get started, I can't stop. Even worse, once I start editing and rewriting, I can't stop. Meanwhile, there are new stories coming in before I've had a chance to even look over the ones I've just written. I don't know how many stories and books I have sitting in my notebooks. My problem is that my notebooks and discs are with all my other stuff in my Mom's garage in New Jersey. Otherwise, I would publish them here.

I did send off two of my stories to magazines. I got the "Writer's Digest Short Story Market Guide", and sent them off to the best magazines listed. I figured you start at the top, then work your way down, and find your level.

Nothing got accepted, but if there is such a thing as good rejections, that's what I got. Things like handwritten notes from the editor, saying that what I wrote wasn't right for them now, but please keep submitting. Or we like what you wrote, but would like to see other samples of your work. Or we think you have talent, keep writing. I guess you could call them encouraging rejections.

Well, due to certain things, some beyond my control (such as a total idiot stealing the election), and other personal things which I may write about later, I wasn't able to follow up and keep submitting. Dissapointed with the political situation in the USA, and with my romantic life and job prospects, I left the USA in 2002, to try to see if life would be better for me elsewhere in the world. (Sure enough, it has been. I now have a wonderful loving wife, and a job that I love).

Sometimes the ideas just come to me, and I start writing them. I start making connections that other people don't think about. Anything can set me off, such as finding out that the first Superman comic was first published in 1934. Clark Kent was probably about 22 then, and fresh out of college. Thatmeans Superman is 94. He's getting old.

So what would the world be like if Superman suddenly started going senile?

I actually wrote that one. I liked it too. Hopefully one day I can call my Mom up, and convince her to wade through all my stuff, and send me my writings. Actually, from what she's told me, there is less and less of my stuff in her garage all the time. Since she figures I'll never be coming back to the USA, (and rightly so), she has either thrown out or given away some of my stuff. How much, I'm not sure. Knowing my Mom, it's probably stuff that I would never part with, but that she can see no use for.

Since I can't get to my original stories how about helping me write some new ones? How about a collaborative writing project at John's Universe? We can try something I do in my ESL (English as a Second Language) classes- a "chain story".

I will write the first sentence or two of the story, then someone else can write the next sentence or paragraph, someone else the next, etc, until we have a complete story. Once it is complete, then I will publish it complete as a new entry. If you want, I will give you credit as an author, so your friends and family can see how talented you are.

In class, this is always a fun thing to do. Most of the time when my students do this, the stories end up original, unusual, and hilarious, or at least with a shocking twist. When the exercise is complete, they usually spend the rest of the period reading over each others stories, and laughing.

As I am new to this blogging thing, the only way I know how to do it is to start the story as a comment to this posting. Then anyone who wants to add something, can do so by adding a comment below it, and then someone else can add something to what that person has written, and so on. (Please- let's keep it fairly clean. I don't want hardcore porn. Anything like that will be edited out).

So is anyone up for it? Check the comments:

Thursday, December 21, 2006

For My Wife, on Our Anniversary

1 Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

This is for you, my sweet wife, on our first anniversary.
Thank you for loving me, for giving me something that I never thought I would ever have in my life.
You have brought to life feelings and emotions in me that lay dormant for so long.
Thank you for showing me your love, not by words, but by your smile, and by what you do.
Thank you for being open and giving and generous with your love, even when I don't feel so loving myself.
Thank you for being there with a smile, or a hug, or a kind word, when I needed it.
Thank you for this first year of our life.
I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with you.

With all my Heart,

Racing Around the World

Heaven and Hell

I also found this alternate version:

Heaven is a place where:
The lovers are Italian
The cooks are French
The mechanics are German
The police are English
The government is run by the Swiss

Hell is a place where:
The lovers are Swiss
The cooks are English
The mechanics are French
The police are German
The government is run by the Italians

There is also a version for Americans and Brits in Asia:

Heaven is:
An American salary
A Chinese cook
An English house
And a Japanese wife.

Hell is:
Having a Chinese salary
An English cook
A Japanese house
And an American wife.

Another view

And now for something slightly different:

Personally, I think if there is music in hell, it's got to be bagpipes.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

You May be Married to a Filipina If:

I Love my wife. She has been one of the best things to ever happen to me.
Tomorrow, December 21, is our one year wedding anniversary. In honor of that fact, and because I have a strange sense of humor, I am dedicating this posting to her.

(No, Baby, I didn't write this. I found it on the Internet.)


You may be married to a Filipina If...
(written by an American guy who loves his Filipina wife in spite of the numerous irregularities):

* Your refrigerator is always full but you cannot find any food that you recognize
* Instead of a dowry, you got the whole bill for the wedding and honeymoon
* Most of the decorations in your house are made of wicker
* You are expected to be able to read her mind just by watching her eyebrows move up and down and by the way her lips are pointed
* All her relatives think your name is "Joe"
* The instant you are married you have 3,000 new close relatives that you can't tell apart
* Your house isn't really on fire, you've just got a very charred fish on top of the stove burner
* All the desserts are sticky and all the snacks are salty
* She eats her fruit with giant salt crystals and her fried chicken with ketchup
* Even the ketchup tastes weird...very weird
* You throw a party and everyone is fighting to chop the leathery skin off a dead pig
* All your kids have 4-5 middle names
* Your in-laws take 10 years to acknowledge your existence and to call you by something other than "that white guy"
* You try to call her up on the phone and someone tells you "for a while" and you want to know "for a while, what??"
* You are trying to go to sleep and she keeps asking for the comFORT'r, and you ain't got a clue what she's talking about
* Your first Christmas present is some funny looking, baggy, see-thru shirt made out of leftover lace doilies
* Your phone bills are composed mostly of international and calls that average 3 hours each
* She sweeps with something that witches usually fly around on
* Her idea of classy, expensive champagne is Asti Spumante
* The rice cooker is on 24 hours a day and uses up 50% of your electricity and food budget
* On your first trip to the Philippines, you have 18 giant boxes that weigh 1000 pounds each and your "carry on" luggage requires a small forklift truck
* The same luggage is over filled with things that cost an average of 15 cents each like old magazines and M&Ms -- the worst part is when you get off the plane, the same stuff you've been hauling around half way around the world is available in every store in the airport for half the price!
* All her pajamas look like they were worn by the Dalai Lama until they got too faded and he discarded them
* The first time she's pregnant you have to go out at 4:00 in the morning looking for some weird type of greasy sausages, green mangoes and bagoong
* You buy a new $500 freezer so she can store 200 pounds of SPAM and CORNED BEEF that was on sale
* Everything in your house was bought on sale, even if you don't need it ... that it was a "bargain" is all that matters
* She gets really excited by sucking the fat out of pig knees
* Your daughter gets her ears pierced when she's 2 minutes old but your sons are not circumcised until they turn 21
* All your postage bills instantly double
* You hire a Ya-Ya because your wife cleans mirrors with soap and a sponge and the Ya-Ya seems cheaper than a divorce
* The only "white meat" she likes is YOU. And that's if you're lucky...
* Her favorite sauce is called "patis." Americans call it turpentine
* She actually thinks that bowling and golf and billiards are real sports and are more important than baseball and football
* You were married 5 years before she explained to you that "ARAY!" doesn't mean "ooh, baby!"
* She prefers bistek to beef steak
* Her idea of new upholstery is rinsing the bagoong stains out of the slip covers
* She can eat and talk at the same time; in fact that's her specialty!
* Her favorite meal is leftovers, her favorite fancy dessert is Jell-O mold and for something REALLY romantic, she'll offer you a halo-halo with 2 straws
* You still don't know the difference between manong and manok
* She and the kids are always saying "Daddy made utot" and you still don't know what it means, but they think it's pretty funny
* Other than eyebrow raising and lip puckering, her next most expressive form of communication is grunts and pssst's
* She goes to the movies just for the AC
* Her homeland has more Megamalls than islands
* Before every holiday and visit, her sisters fax you a 10 page "bilins" list which says "suggestion only"
* Your kitchen table has a merry-go-round in the middle
* All the vegetables she buys at the Filipino store look like they were grown at Chernobyl
* Her friends are named Chinky, Girlie, Boy and Bimbo and NO, you are not allowed to smirk
* Her home economics course only taught shopping, eating and siesta; cooking, cleaning and sewing were not electives
* Her idea of edifying reading is gossip magazines
* All your place settings have the silverware backwards and there are no knives
* She washes her hair with a bucket and her car with a broom
* Her favorite book (she has 3 copies) is "1001 New Recipes for Pig Parts You Were Gonna Throw Out"
* You are the only family in a 200 mile radius with 2 Betamaxes, 3 televisions
* She's done her best job planning a surprise party for you if she manages not to tell you about it until a week or two before
* She "cleans" her closet by throwing all the crap into your closet

Engrish Humor

If you are an expat, or have traveled overseas, you will appreciate the unintentional humor in this sign from Viet Nam. From one of my favorite websites

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Punk Pastor Jay Bakker

This is a great interview, from a highly unlikely source- Mother Jones Magazine. Jay Bakker, Jim and Tammy Faye's son, tells it like it is. Christianity is all about acceptance, forgiveness, and not judging people, but loving them. That's just what Jesus did. And it's what we should do.
As Jesus says in Matthew 7, verses 1-5:

1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person's eye.

A couple of excerpts: Can you talk more about the founding principle of your church, the idea of grace, and what that means?

JB: I always thought I had to earn God’s love and approval; I always thought I had to please God. I kept trying, but it never seemed like I could do it, and I thought, “Man, what’s wrong with me?” A friend of mine was like, “Man, you’re full of it. You’re trying to do what Christ has already done: You’re trying to earn your salvation and you can’t—it’s a free gift.” It sounded too good to be true. He said, “You need to start reading the Bible for yourself and stop taking everyone else’s word for it.” When I really started to do this, I realized God loved me no matter what. His love for me wasn’t going to change no matter how good I was or how bad I was. There was something very liberating about that. It actually changed my heart and made me want to follow God more. I got into a 12-step program and have been sober for about 10 and a half years now. So even though there’s this come-as-you-are philosophy, you’re trying to become a better person, just not in the way mainstream churches advocate.

JB: It’s like not having expectations on other peoples lives. It’s like trusting God in other people’s lives, which I think is a very scary thing for people. When it’s grace, it’s all about God. When it’s legalism or man’s religion, it’s more about what we can do to please God or what we can do to perform. It seems to be more about control, because just trusting God is a little bit harder. I try to love my neighbor as myself but I’m not trying to be a people pleaser. Sometimes that’s hard, because my human nature is to want people to be happy with me. But sometimes I feel my convictions are so great that it would be compromising the truth if I didn’t do that. So sometimes it’s a struggle to say, “This is what I think; this is what I believe, and if you don’t agree with me, oh well.” The hardest thing for people to accept is the gay-affirming issue. It’s hard for people to agree to disagree on that one.

(My comment- You love the sinner, but hate the sin.)
Click the link above to read the rest of the interview.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Scared of Santa Website

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these pictures say everything about what Christmas was like all during my childhood. It wasn't exactly the happiest of times. More often than not, it was the worst time of the year. Even now, I still tend to get depressed during the Christmas season.

It's nice to know that I am not alone in my childhood Christmastime trauma. You can see more pictures like these if you click the link above for the "Scared of Santa" website.

Lazlo the Nazi vs Frosty the Snowman

So it's the Christmas season. In Malaysia, with the majority of the people being Muslim, there is not a big emphasis on Christmas. Here in the Philippines, Where my wife and I are on vacation, the Christmas Celebration starts sometime around the end of September, or the beginning of October. That mean plenty of awful and sappy versions of Christmas songs. There is one Christmas song that sometimes makes me laugh when I hear it- "Frosty the Snowman". Especially when it's a really corny, sappy version sung by kids. It's not that I have anything against good old Frosty- quite the contrary. As a kid I used to watch his Christmas special, and cry. (Ok, so maybe I do hold a bit of a grudge against him because of that.)

Nope, it's because of the words of the song.

Let me explain.

One of my college roommates my Junior Year, (the year I dropped out), was Lucas. Lucas was a strange guy- which was ok, since I can hardly claim to be normal myself. Lucas' father was an alcoholic Ecuadorean Indian, and his mother was some sort of eastern european immigrant. He never would tell us what country she was from. My suspicion was that she was from Poland, and he wouldn't tell us that to save himself from hearing all those awful Polish jokes for the billionth time. (Hopefully one day someone will make up a bunch of awful jokes about people who tell ethnic jokes).

Anyway, Lucas wore his hair in a sort of pompadour, which he called a "quiff", and wore makeup, which was pretty shocking for the time, and some strange clothes. His passion was "New Wave" music, (this was the early eighties, after all), "New Romantic" bands like Spandau Ballet, musicians like Gary Numan, and whatever else came from the UK at the time. He worshipped them as if they were Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven.

Believe it or not, Lucas, the New Wave Ecuadorean Indian eastern european makeup wearing New Wave freak- Well, his best friend was:
"Lazlo the Nazi".

Now the other roommates and I thought he was kidding when he said this. There was no way in our minds that the two opposites could reconcile into friendship. I figured that Lazlo was probably some sort of skinhead wannabe, or a "New Wave" guy that was into more hardcore kind of stuff, like the Sex Pistols or The Clash. Lucas swore that Lazlo really was a Nazi.

One day, Lazlo paid us a visit. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately as the case may be, no one was home at the time. I had one of those memo boards with an eraseable marker attached to it pasted to our door. Lazlo tore it off, and wrote on our door in big letters with indelible magic marker:

"F*** You Lucas"

followed by the biggest swastika he could draw, and some enlightening message, like "Kill all the Jews". A lot of the guys in our section of the dorm were Jewish. Lazlo's little "Hello" served to further endear us to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, who already treated us like we had a fatal infectious disease.
Not long afterwards, I and the other roomates got to meet Lazlo.

He was tall, with wide shoulders, and aryan looking in a dark sort of way. There was a scary sort of leer in the way that he looked at you, like he was sizing you up for what sort of lampshade you would make. The impression I got was of constrained rage, but rage with an evil sort of humor attached to it. Lazlo was trying out for the football team, not as a linebacker or a fullback, but as a kicker. I would have thought that he would be really into the more violent aspects of the game, as he had the size, but apparently not.

Joining Lucas and Lazlo was a friend, P. who was a divinity student. Acording to Lucas, he was also a Nazi, albeit a somewhat spiritual one. P. must have thought that his calling was to lead a race war for Jesus, or make sure fellow Nazis died in a state of grace.

Okay, don't worry, I'm about to get to my point.

Lazlo blessed us with his presence a few times, and Lucas told me that for some reason, he thought I was Ok. Which scaredme. I wondered long and hard about what was wrong with me.(Ok, please- don't send me any lists).
Anyway, when nobody was around, Lazlo let everyone know he was pissed about it by expressing his opinions in his normal manner. Which meant afterwards I had to borrow a can of paint from maintenance, and paint over his latest adornment of our door, not once, but two or three times.

My roomates and I liked to drink, and when we drank, we liked to sing. Usually, it was obscene versions of "If You're Happy and You Know It", with the ways you could show your delight getting more and more graphic the drunker we got. Or it was Rolling Stone sing alongs, with me doing my imitation of Mick Jagger as an amputee. (Always a great hit at parties. You got to choose how many and which limbs I lost.)

It was during one of our drinking parties, after we had met Lazlo, that I made a discovery- the words "Lazlo the Nazi" scan perfectly into the song "Frosty the Snowman". Try it for yourself if you don't believe me. Of course, we made up all sorts of verses about Lazlo's adventures. The "Lazlo the Nazi Song" became a favorite, but never quite replaced "If You're Happy and You Know It".

So that is why when I hear "Frosty the Snowman", especially a sappy, corny kiddie version, I sometimes have an evil smirk on my face!

A Good line for Karaoke Singers

I can't take credit for this line. That goes to a friend of Dr. Tony, who was a co-worker at one of my numerous various jobs before I became a teacher. This line is a good one for someone who likes to sing, but who others don't like to listen to. Like 95% of the Karaoke singers here in Asia.

After Dr. Tony told it to me, I waited impatiently for the right time to use it.

That came one day at "The Girls House". It is a house for women in need, run by my Church in the Bronx, Joy Fellowship. I was invited to join them for dinner one Sunday after church.

We had a nice time of fellowship. Afterwards, the dishes were being washed, chores and devotions were being done, and I was letting my food digest. Andrea P. , who was in charge of the house, put some nice uptempo gospel music on the stereo. Unfortunately, she decided to sing along, with a sort of spirit-filled bellow.

This was what I had been waiting for.

Even though I already knew the answer, I innocently asked, "Andrea, who sings this song?"

"Helen Baylor. Do you like it?"

"Yeah, it's a nice song. Do you know why Helen Baylor sings this song?"

Her response was instantaneous.



She looked at me wide eyed, like she'd been shot.

"HUH? NO?!"

I nodded my head.

Then she said confidently, "Well then- she sings it to Worship Jesus!"


"Of course she does! . . . You don't think she sings this song to praise God or worship Jesus?"


"Oh wait, let me see- Oh, ok, it's probably something cynical- is it for money?"


She started getting more and more indignant, with every answer that I replied in the negative to.

"Oh, it's got to be some sort of man thing. Some sort of male chauvanist pig thing. Is it because she's a woman?"


"Is it because she doesn't know any better?"


This went on a few more times, until finally, she'd had enough. With fire practically flying from her eyes, and her teeth bared, she looked as if she was going to strangle me if I said "Nope" one more time.

"Ok Smarty, tell me- why does Helen Baylor sing this song?"

"So you don't have to!!!"

I ran out of the house as fast as I could, and with good reason.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Most Unusual ESL Help Wanted Ad I have Ever Seen

I like to browse through the English teaching job listings on the internet, just to see what is around.
This is definitely one of the most unusual job listings I have ever seen. Too bad I have another year on my contract, otherwise I might be running off to Peru to be an assistant bottle washer!

(I edited out all the contact information. If you want to apply, and teach south of the remittance line, just click the link above to go to the original post).

Your Stomach has thinking cells; so follow your gut to Peru!

Posted By:

Perhaps life north of the remittance line fuels you with purpose. Perhaps everyday you see the effect that you have on the people around you. Perhaps you live a life that touches reality in such a way that you feel yourself to be truly alive, instead of going through the motions of a lifestyle. Perhaps the thought of working on the front line of customer relations and making that long back-biting crawl up to middle management fulfills that ravenous longing your soul.

The rebellion is on-going. Twist that evil spell back on them and give it a new spin. (You know the one that I am talking about…the one that they put on you when you were wee…Eeaybeeseedee-eaeffgee-achaijaykay-elemenohpea-kiuarress-tiiyouvii-dabelyouexx-whyanzee)
You’re not going to take this lying down, are you? They killed the lord of the land of the dead…Donne and battered, they spun him off into discordian space…It’s just another reduction. Don’t let them lower your denominator too.
Join up. Take a stand. We’re looking for a few good primates…with notes of passage from higher educational gods and monsters…with burning desire in the cockles to spread the word…with some time to kill below the remittance line.
Become the last (and first) line in the ever shifting sands of the real, and you will be truly blessed.
• Blessed with roof
• Blessed with green pieces of paper
• Blessed with eternal adulation (and in some cases a small shrine of rough unhewn stones)

Step into the New Year proudly, and join the bottle washer’s campaign.

Respond cordially if you would (or aggressively if you must) to

(I took out the contacts name)
Chief Bottle Washer
----- Language School
------, Peru



Pink Baby Elephant

No, you aren't seeing things.

It's just something interesting from the MotherJones Blog- an in-utero picture of an elephant fetus.

According to the Blog, to get the image:

Ultrasonographers donned shoulder-length gloves and gave the pregnant mother an enema before inserting an ultrasound probe up the length of her rectum.

It takes a much better person than me to get up to their shoulders in a pregnant elephants' anus to give it an enema, and then inserting an anal probe. All for the progress of Science!

Click the link above to read the entry and see the full sized detailed picture.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Food of Malaysia

One thing I like about living in Malaysia is the food. Basically, you are living in a food lovers paradise, with all the different kinds of cooking: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Nyonya (Straits Chinese- Chinese immigrants who intermarried with the Malays and have their own unique culture and style of cooking), Thai, Western, and all the various different styles of each kind. This Blog gives you insight into the style of coooking they have in Penang, which is about an hour away from us in Taiping.

Stupid Malaysia

This guy really has an ax to grind. He is a non-bumiputra, (meaning not an ethnic Malay), who writes about the trouble he has because of this. It's worth a look to see one persons alternative look at Malaysian society.

Monday, December 11, 2006

ASEAN Update

Well, because of the latest typhoon, the ASEAN Summit has been moved to January 11-14, near the time of Sinulog, the biggest celebration of the year. Things are crazy enough during Sinulog. Add in the ASEAN Summit, and it should be nothing less than total chaos! Thank God we will be back in Malaysia and far far away from what promises to be a total nightmare for everyone.

I'm sure the delegates to the summit, and the security forces assigned to protect them, are really, really, going to LOVE seeing parades of people dressed like this, marching around downtown Cebu City, looking like an incipient peasant revolt:

Okay, everyone! on the count of three, draw your weapons and rush the bank!

If a similar situation were to happen in the good old paranoid USA, there would be more SWAT team members then there would be paraders. More than likely, result would be something that would make the Tienamen Square massacre look like a night in Disneyland.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Driving in the Philippines

(My American drivers license has expired. Since my wife is a citizen here, I am trying to get a Philippine drivers license. I came across this on the web. This is really how they drive here. The scary thing is, they are probably the best drivers in Asia):

The Filipino Driver Survival Guide

When greeting a Filipino driver, slowly lower your window and be prepared to greet the driver with: "Tang namo, bobo". However, if you have been already addressed by a fellow driver, reply with a joyful "Tang namo rin, gago".

On Turn signals
If a driver in another lane turns on the turn signal, do not let him go into your lane. In fact, press the accelerator and start driving right next to him/her. The fellow driver will probably greet you and you already know what to do.

On Traffic Lights
These amusing artifacts hang from intersections for no apparent reason. Sometimes you will see drivers stop to see the colors change on these lights (a fascinating experience). Government officials (specifically police) believe that each color stands for an instruction for drivers to follow.
From pure observation I have determined the following instructions for each color:
Yellow light: accelerate your car as much as possible.
Red light: this light gives permission to the next five to six cars to go through.
Green: reduce speed and wait for the five to six cars passing through their respective red lights.

Little-known-fact: Time to start honking your horn, as soon as the light turns green: 1.5 seconds.

On Changing Lanes
Changing lanes has been elevated to an art form in the Philippines.
First of all, no matter what you do, never turn on your turn signal or otherwise you'll stimulate the reaction described above.
Second, swerve your car uncontrollably to the lane you want to change, preferably if you end up within inches of a car in that lane. At this point a greeting from the other driver may be in order. To perfect your change of lanes, reduce the speed of your car dramatically in a matter of seconds and you will see an action packed reaction from the car behind you.

On Traffic Jams
Traffic Jams are teeming with fun filled activities such as:
Honking your horn rhythmically.
Put on make-up (usually female drivers only)
Nose-pickers sightseeing. (not to be confused with people who scratch their brains through their nose)
Reduce speed to watch whatever is causing the traffic jam. Add excitement by trying to see if you know the parties involved. (note: every Filipino driver is obliged to do this)
Lose weight by sweating like a pig as a result of a lack of air conditioning.
Greeting other drivers.
Practice lane changing.
Play the game: Let's see how close I can get to you before rear-ending you.

On Pedestrians
These individuals are an annoyance to the Filipino driver. If you see pedestrians on your way, accelerate your car to let them know who's the boss. If you are at an intersection, let the pedestrians know you want to proceed by accelerating your car and honking at the last possible moment.

On Social Situations
Bumping into a friend while driving (not to be taken literally) is a joyful occasion. Drivers should reduce speed and stop their cars in the middle of the street and chit chat. What about other drivers? Well, they can wait.

On Highway Driving
Bottleneck Formation:
To accomplish this type of driving, cars must block all lanes by driving at the same speed and side by side (to avoid other cars to pass). It is important to drive at a speed at least 20 mph below the speed limit.

The Three-Lane-Change : This movement requires a lot of precision and creativity. It should be done around the highest number of cars possible and in a matter of seconds to create what others may refer to as widespread panic.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Typhoon Seniang

Ok, we have another typhoon which is heading our way, just in time to ruin everything for the ASEAN Summit.

(Ok, let's see if you can get my pithy visual joke)

Right now it is supposedly hitting Leyte and Samar. Up in the "north" of Cebu, (meaning the narrow end at the northeast), it is supposedly a signal 3. Signal 4 is the lowest, and Signal 1 is the highest. Here on Mactan Island, it's probably a signal zero. It is more like a rainy day back in New Jersey. The rains are much more fierce in Taiping during the afternoons.

Here's the site if you want to keep up to date with what is happening with the typhoons in the Philippines:

Typhoon Durian

All is well here. Typhoon Durian passed up north of us, and hit Luzon. All the damage was done up there. Here in Cebu, the only effect it had on us was that it was overcast for a couple of days. We didn't even get any rain, at least none that I am aware of. Typhoons aren't anything new around here- the Philippines is in the "Typhoon Belt". About 20 of them hit a year, global warming or no global warming.

Most of them aren't too bad- or at least the ones I've been through here. They were basically like tropical storms- lots of rain, some winds, but ok. One typhoon that went through when my wife Trien was a girl ripped off the tin roof of their house, and destroyed the family photographs. There are no pictures of her as a young girl, or of her mother and father as young parents.

Right now we are staying with her family, in their house. Before, it was sort of a thatched hut. Now, it is basically a concrete shack. There is no running in the house, or toilet. There is a concrete outhouse outside, right next to the well.There is no longer a hole in the back wall of the outhouse, and they did put tile on the floor, part way up the walls, and on the steps leading to it. For some reason, though, it is cemented the long way slightly in to the wall, so that you have to spread your legs really wide when you squat over it. Being that it is cemented into the wall, you can't sit on it, not that there is a seat on it anyway. As for where the sewage goes, well I was afraid to ask. I did ask, and it goes into a septic tank next to the well!

The water from when you take a "shower" (which is basically drawing 2 buckets of water from the well, and pouring it over yourself with a cut-off bleach bottle), goes through a hole in the side of the wall and out into the open "sewer". Where it is drunk by the ducks and chickens and turkeys.

That's right- her family has a trio of turkeys that they raise for food. The Philippines is probably the only country in the world where at night you will see a turkey roosting in a banana tree. They are all over the country- not just here in Cebu. My guess is that they were probably brought over for American servicemen to have Thanksgiving dinners during the American occupation of the Philippines from 1898-1941. (I guess the Japanese occupation was too short for them to instill in the natives a love of sushi.)

They also have some chickens, and some ducks, also for food. I guess you can call them free range, but as most of the day they run around eating garbage or table scraps, I don't think you can call them "organic". The ducks are really delicious, and they are a change from their normal diet of rice and fish, and nothing else, for every meal. (I'm surprised that they don't have some sort of rice and fish for desert).

I just realized that there is no animal cuter than a baby duck.
They have 13 of them running around, and they are so cute and funny, well, it makes me want to barf! I want to get some when we get back home to Malaysia. (Which I've come to think of home, after being there for two years.) I know we can't, because where would we put the things?

Friday, December 8, 2006

ASEAN Summit

Here in Cebu, they are getting ready to host the ASEAN summit on December 13. That means that the government is making all sorts of improvements to the infrastructure, to try and get the place cleaned up in time for the summit. You know, things that should have been done and would have been done twenty years ago, if the money weren't going into someones pocket. There is new pavement on the roads, fancy new street lights, and a new convention center being built. Who knows if it all will get finished or not? The odds are great that everything won't, that work will still be going on after the summit is finished, if for no other reason than to make a good impression in the eyes of the delegates and other countries.

What does this mean for us in Buaya? Well for the most part it seems to mean power outages for hours at a time, almost every day. Sometimes it happens a couple times a day. That is something that better not happen during the Summit, as the Shangri-La Hotel :

where it is taking place is only a couple miles down the road. But who knows- maybe the New Peoples Army or Abu Sayyaf or the MILF will attack the power plant during the conference, so that the delegates will have to sit in the dark and not be able to watch cable tv.

It also means that they are putting up these bamboo thingies, two bamboo poles with two bamboo crosspieces, to hide the ugliness of the squatter areas. There are a whole bunch of them in front of Buaya, as it is not the prettiest place on the way to the Shangri-La resort. Closer to Lapu-Lapu City, I saw that they had a couple of pointsettia plants in each one, to brighten things up and get the delegates in the Christmas mood.
(No matter that most of them won't even be Christian. Here in the Philippines they start celebrating Christmas in late September. No kidding! I mean I love Jesus, I love God, I try to read my Bible every day and be a good Christian, but I hate the Christmas season and commercial mess it has morphed in to. So I'm not exactly doing handsprings when they start playing sappy Christmas music continually, putting up decorations, and having Christmas sales three or four months before the end of the year).

It also means that twenty or thirty times a day you have police convoys zipping up and down the road, practicing their escort duties. Mostly what they do is make the drivers on the road pissed off, because they have to slow down and pull over while the higher ups in the police force, and probably their mistresses and/or kids get to ride in the fancy new cars and play VIP. The kids here are happy, because they get three days off from school. Maybe so they don't get run down by the speeding convoys. Or maybe so they do. It would make quite a story on CNN.

As for me and my wife, we will probably head over to Moalboal,

to hang out on the beach and do some snorkeling. Why not? It is supposed to be one of the best places in the world for snorkeling and scuba diving. I was told all you have to do is put on your snorkel mask and put your face in the water, and all the beautiful tropical fish are everywhere.

I might even take a scuba refresher course. One of my wifes friends owns a resort in Moalboal, where we can hang around the beach for cheap. Her cousin owns a multicab, and can pick us up from the bus stop and take us to our lodgings.

It is probably best for us to be in Moalboal during the summit,

otherwise my wife would probably have to stop me from standing on the side of the road shaking my fist at the delegates, and yelling nasty things at them. (Especially the Indonesians. I have half a mind to make up a sign and protest their burning of the jungle in Sumatra, and causing all that haze we get in Malaysia. But my wife would probably have her male relatives lock me in the concrete outhouse and stand guard with bolo knives, until I promised to be good).

Thursday, December 7, 2006

I Got A Blog!!!

Okay- First off let me tell you who I am.
I am an itinerant ESL teacher, who is currently teaching at a government residential school in Taiping, Malaysia.

Let me tell you where in the world I am.

Right now I am in the Philippines:

In the Province of Cebu, on Mactan Island, in Lapu-Lapu City, in Bario Buaya.

(Ignore the bright pink arrow, as it points to a resort which is much too fancy for us to afford. We are located where the red line with the black circle is, a much lower rent district.)

Because it is vacation time. I am married to a Filipina I met while I was teaching here.

(This is my favorite picture of my wife, Trien, on the beach in Phuket, Thailand during a vacation).

Her family lives in Buaya, and she hasn't seen them for almost two years. Filipinos families are very close, unlike American families. It's not easy for her to be separated from her family and friends, especially since she had lived in the same house for almost her whole life. So we are spending our six week vacation here.

Why am I writing this Blog?

Because today, Pearl Harbor Day, my wife and I went walking along the "beach", which is actually a mangrove swamp that has been cleared near the Cebu International Airport. Buaya basically sits just right of the end of the runway. So while the planes were taking off, we went looking for "shells", meaning shellfish to eat. She knew what to look for, and where to look for it. You are supposed to look for two holes close together, then reach into the mud and pull out a tiny clam. Everytime I tried to get a clam, I came up with a handful of muck, and either something singularly unappetizing or really scary looking. Meanwhile, my wife was having a good time, reliving her childhood. There was no way she was going to leave there without a bag full of tiny clams for supper. It was obvious I wasn't going to be much help, so there was nothing else for me to do but relax, slog through the mud, and think deep thoughts. That's what I did- walked along through the muck, trying to avoid getting sucked under, and thought deep thoughts. I thought many deep thoughts. I wished there was a taperecorder inside my brain so I could record all my deep thoughts.

The one deep thought I could still remember afterwards was- why don't I write a Blog? Then I can share all my deep thoughts.

Even better- I won't ever have to e-mail anybody again. My friends and family can just drop by, and see what I am up to. Or more than likely not drop by, then e-mail me asking if everything is Ok, and ask me what I have been up to.

So it was off to the internet cafe by multicab:

before I forgot that deep thought.

So here I am, making my first try at Blogging, and sharing all my rants, interests, deep thoughts, etc. with all of you, the unknown internet proletariat.

I just hope I won't be the only one reading my Blog. So tell your friends, tell the neighbors-

"John's got a Blog!!!"