Friday, March 30, 2007

My Photos

If you can't tell by now, I like taking photos. I carry our digital camera with me everywhere. I take my cue from my great grandfather, who started out as a crewman on a German submarine in World War One, and ended up as a master chef on luxury liners. Wherever he went, his camera was close by. He got great shots of the submarine rescuing crewman from a fishing boat they accidentally rammed, and what the sub looked like afterwards, the sinking of the Graf Spee, and shots from his travels all over the world. I hope to leave a similar record for others.

I have photos on two different websites. The photos on our Webshots site are of Trien and me, and my travels around the world.

The photos on are of life here in Taiping, and the local area.

I keep adding photos all the time, mostly to the site, because hopefully they won't delete my account like webshots once did, because I didn't sign up for a paid account when they changed their service in 2000. Plus, Zooomr has given me almost unlimited space for putting one of the pictures they host on my Blog. Not a bad deal, and hopefully they will grow and prosper!

Kristopher Tate, the guy behind Zooomr, is only 18. He's got some radical ideas on what the site will be about. From the article previously linked:

One of the key features will be the ability for users to monetise their photos as stock photography.

"We feel our users are creating some great photos and not just for sake of consuming this media but also showing what is going on all round the world.

Upload photos

"We want to allow our users to make money and revenue off their work and only share 10% of the sales ourselves."

Tate and Hawk believe the stock photography business is a $2bn (£1.01bn) market. They also see it as a way for Zooomr to break even; the site does not charge users to upload photos and there are no limits on how many pictures can be hosted.

You have to pull for the little guy.

Viva La Zooomr!

Sunset Over the Lake Gardens

I really like this picture I took the other day walking home from school. It's the sunset over the Taiping Lake Gardens, located right across the street from our new apartment. Click on the picture to get an enlarged view.

My Student's Rugby Haka Youtube Video

This is a video I made of two of the students at my school, SERATAS (Sekolah Menengah Sains Raja Tun Azlan Shah), in Taiping Perak, Malaysia. I am the Project English Teacher there. They are members of the debate team, who were bored and didn't have anything else to do. So they decided to do their version of the New Zealand rugby team Haka. I guess they are practicing it so that they can do it before the debate, and scare the hell out of the other teams, or make them helpless with laughter!

I told them I would put them on Youtube, but I don't think they believed me. They will crack up when they see this!!!

The next video I made by accident. These are some of my form 2 students. They were in class waiting for the parent-teacher meeting to end, and are dressed in the batik uniform shirts they have to wear when they leave the school. You can see the school name in the design of the shirt. When the meeting is over, their parents will meet with the teacher in charge of the class, pick up their test scores, and then the students will go home for the weekend. Our school is a boarding school, and the students, except for emergencies or special occasions, only get to go home once every couple of months or so. So these guys are excited to be going home, and anxious for the meeting to end.

In the clip, they see me and come out of class to have their picture taken. I forgot I had the camera on movie mode instead of picture mode, and took a couple of seconds of video instead. There's not much there, I know, but since they always watch Youtube, I figured I would put it on there, and see if they find it.

This is how the picture came out:

The kid on the left of the front row, I can't remember his name, is a real wiseass with a smart mouth. I've had to throw him out of class a couple times and make him stand outside against the wall. Meor, the chubby kid in the middle of the front row who looks so serious, is actually one of the jolliest and most easy going kids around. He always has a smile on his face, except for this picture. The one on the right of the front row, well, seems to be in a permanent narcoleptic state. According to the kids, he even falls asleep at the mosque during prayer time.

The kid on the back row left, is a quiet, easygoing joker. The other two next to him, they are too quiet. It's hard to get them to say two words in English total between the two of them.

So yeah, these are my students, some of the top students in Malaysia. They are under a really rigid schedule that leaves them no free time, and lots of pressure to perform well by their families. That's why I'm not a real hardass in class, unless I have to be. I never give them homework, because they already have more than they can handle from their regular teachers. They already have it tough enough, without me making it worse.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Monkeys on Motorbikes

A couple of pictures of the local long tailed macaques on motorbikes I took during my walk home from school. Don't mess with another monkey when they are about to get a handout!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another from Wellington Grey

This one is cute, and all too true. It's kind of how I feel about my wife. No matter what, I'll always love her.

What Would George W Bush Do? (WWGWBD?)

It's been a while since my last anti_Bush post. So here goes, courtesy of

Our New Apartment

Trien and I have just moved into our new apartment here inTaiping, located right across from the Lake Gardens. You walk out of the building, and in less than 100 meters you are there. I can walk to my job, and be there in fifteen minutes. Plus it is very close to town. We don't need a car to get around.

Our Apartment is on the back corner of the complex away from the road, so it is quiet. It is also nice and cool, being on the third floor to catch the breeze, and with windows on three sides. Plus there are three balconies for us to relax on. It is very large. Almost everything we have fits in the master bedroom.

(This is the view from our back balcony)

The first day we were there, Trien called me up at work. She never does that unless it is really important.

She said, "Hi honey, are you busy?"
"No baby, I'm not."
"Honey, I just took a walk around the Lake Gardens, and now I am eating roti canai with Jesse and Mei Ling at the hawker stalls. Later on I will walk to the store and pick up a few things."

Being a Filipina, she is not going to come out and say directly what she thinks. You have to read between the lines. It's not hard to see that what she really said was:
"Wowee! This is a really great place. I love it here honey!"

(This is our apartment complex, as taken from the Lake Gardens.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My Wife's Name

My wife and I were at a conference in Langkawi, paid for by the Ministry of Education, of course. Actually, I was attending the conference, while my wife was enjoying the amenities. Being pregnant has it's privileges. The room was nice, the food was good, but she was really disappointed that he hotel didn't have a swimming pool. For some reason, since she's been pregnant, she wants to go swimming all the time.

Anyway, one of my colleagues asked me what my wife's name is. She said that no one can remember it because it is an unusual name. She said that they wait for me to say her name so they can remember what it is, but I call her "my wife" when I am not with her, and "baby" when I am with her. So no one can remember what her name is.

That made me worried. I was worried that by calling her "my wife" all the time, that I might be unintentionally insulting her or objectifying her. So I asked her about it.

"It's Ok, honey. When I am with other people, I always call you 'my husband'. I very rarely ever call you John."

"Then it's Ok if I call you my wife? It's not insulting to you?"

"No, not in anyway. That's what Filipinos do. You are just following our custom. We never refer to our husbands or wives by their names. When we talk about them, we usually refer to them as 'my husband', or 'my wife', and not by their real names"

"What about 'Inday'? Would it be proper for me to call you 'Inday'?"
(note: it is pronounced IN-dye)

"No, that is is an affection name that family members use to call a sister or a daughter. It is a sweet name that just family members use. A husband wouldn't call his wife Inday. You would call a woman you don't know that to be polite, but shorten it to Day. Like when we are at a restaurant, when you want the woman's attention, you say Day."

"What would a Filipino husband call his wife, then?"

"Ummmm- it depends. He might call her Mommy, and she call him Daddy. Or some name he made up for her."

"So what can I call you? You have so many different names, I don't know what to call you. Every person calls you something different. That's why I call you my wife all the time, or baby- I'm not sure what to call you."

"You can call me whatever you want."

Then she kissed my cheek and held my hand.

My wife's official name is Trien. ( pronounced TRY-en). That's the name the Philippine government considers her "real" name. It's not what her parents named her.

They named her Irien, which was their alternate spelling for Irene. What happened was whoever filled out her birth certificate at the hospital used an old fashioned manual typewriter, and wasn't too careful about how they typed out the form. The "I" didn't come all the way up, so the bottom bar got cut off, making it look like a 'T". Her parents obviously never bothered to check the birth certificate to see if the name was right. If they had, and went to city hall within two weeks, they could have gotten it corrected.

So to members of her extended family (meaning 95% of Buaya, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu) she is Irien.

When her mother went to register her for school, the officials looked at the birth certificate, and pointed out it didn't say Irien at all. Accordingly, they couldn't register her under that name, but what seemed to be typed on her birth certificate, Trien.

Here she was five years old, and all of a sudden she has a new "official" name. Her father and mother didn't even know how to pronounce her "official" name. It was her kindergarten teacher who came up with the pronunciation.

Her parents consulted a lawyer about changing her name to what they intended. They couldn't afford the fees involved, so Trien remained her name.

Like all Filipinos, my wife has several nicknames. Depending on who is talking to her, she is Trien, Irien, Inday, Yen, Yen-Yen, Tri, Baby, Day, and God knows what else. That's why I don't know what to call her- I am confused.

When we went to the Philippine embassy to register our marriage, I said that because we were married, we could change the name to Irien on her passport with no problem. Her reply?

"Leave it. All my school and work records, and official documents all say Trien. It would be too much work to make them all read the same."

So now she carries my family name, and her "official" given name.

Doing the Fetal Macarena

Trien is now about halfway through the pregnancy- 18 weeks since conception. We went to the Ob/Gyn last night for a much anticipated checkup.

This was the first time she had gotten really moody and ugly with me ever since I've known her. Yeah, there's been some minor moodiness during our time together, but that's to be expected, after all. Especially during those times of the month. Last night, though, was pretty bad. As soon as we left the house, she wouldn't walk with me, talk to me, and had a mean boo-boo face the whole time. It seemed as if I had done or said something particularly vicious to her. I tried to see what was wrong, but her only reaction was to say "Don't talk to me right now." That really irked me, and made me angry, but I took it for what it was- her hormones running wild. Her attitude remained ugly even while we were in the waiting room at the doctors office. OK, so instead of sitting next to her, I sat in the seats at the other side of the room. Even then, she kept her head turned away from me. Once we were in the doctors office, and talking to Dr. Jeya, Trien's mood did lighten up, and she did start to treat me somewhat like a normal person again.

After the interview, she had the ultrasound. We were hoping that we would be able to find out if we are having a boy or a girl. Dr. Jeya tried her best to determine the sex of the baby, but the baby was moving so much that it was impossible to see what the baby is. It looked like our baby was doing the fetal macarena- hands behind the head, hands by the waist, hands in front of the face, and kicking all the time. The baby was in almost constant motion. Trien swears that at one point, the baby made a waving motion, as if saying hello.

All that dancing, and Doctor Jeya doing her best to see the sex of the baby, meant that we got a prety thorough scan. The head is no longer the biggest part of the body, and it is no longer resting against the chest. The hands look huge compared to the arms. The body is lengthening, as are the legs. Boy, were those tiny little legs kicking like crazy!

We also got to see all the bones, tiny little white lines in the scan forming the framework of the body. Everything is looking good. For just a second, we got a profile of the baby, who seems to have my nose, as Trien wants. I love Trien's cute little Filipino nose, but she thinks I have the perfect nose.

Doctor Jeya's conclusion? "Everything is perfect. Enjoy your pregnancy."


Afterwards, we walked to The Store, and she was a lot more civil to me, but still not back to normal. We went to the hawker stalls next to The Store, and picked up some popiah and chicken soup for dinner.

I asked her what was wrong when we got back, because her mood seemed close to normal again.

Her reply?

"I was busy getting ready. You said, 'Lets go, Baby', to me."

"Yeah, but I only said it once, and I said it over two hours ago!"

"Yeah, but you said it to me."

Is it me, or was she over-reacting just a bit?

Well, only five more months to go!

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Taiping Zoo

The school where I teach, SERATAS (Sekolah Menengah Sains Raja Tun Azlan Shah), is right across from the Taiping Zoo. There's a nice post about the zoo in the coffee.break blog. I don't think I could do a better job than this. It would sure take me a lot more time than I have right now to try to equal it!

Filipinos as Freegans

I told my wife last night about the Freegan lifestyle. She was not impressed. Her response?

"If that's what being a Freegan is all about, then Filipinos have been Freegans for years. We just call it being poor. My family has been following the Freegan lifestyle ever since I can remember. Not because we want to, but because we have no other choice."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Freegans and Dumpster Diving for a Free Meal in New York

An interesting article on one of my favorite websites, It's about the author going dumpster diving for food in NYC. It's not just for the homeless anymore. It's also for people who call themselves "Freegans". So what does being a Freegan Mean?

Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.

Freeganism is a total boycott of an economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical considerations and where massively complex systems of productions ensure that all the products we buy will have detrimental impacts most of which we may never even consider. Thus, instead of avoiding the purchase of products from one bad company only to support another, we avoid buying anything to the greatest degree we are able.

The Author tries just one part of freeganism- dumpster diving. It's something I have done before, but never for food. It's cool. Dumpster diving is like going on a treasure hunt. I used to go behind some of the big office buildings in New York, and see what they had thrown out. One night, near the federal buildings, there was a whole dumpster of used computers, software, and computer parts. WOOO HOOO! I called my buddy Peter, and we scavenged everything useful we could. There were enough parts to make about eight useful computers.

Then there was my friend Crazy Louie, the tree-fingered Guatemalan. You could call him a Freegan, I guess. He practically made a career out of dumpster diving. His apartment was almost completely furnished with stuff other people were throwing out. Every time I was there, he had another discovery to show me. It it was good stuff, too, not junk! Even the clothes he and his family wore were salvaged from somewhere.

One time I was working with Crazy Louie. We had been renovating some apartments in the South Bronx, near our neighborhood. We were driving past a vacant lot, when all of a sudden, he stomps on the brakes, squeals the tires, and starts backing up.

"What the-? What are you doing?", I say.
"Did you see that?", he says.
"See what? I don't see anything?"
"There's three quarter inch plywood sitting in that lot. Help me get it into the station wagon."

Sure enough, there were four or five sheets of three quarter inch plywood in good condition laying hidden in the weeds of that lot. How he ever saw them, I don't know. Hopefully, we didn't take some homeless guy's mansion material.

Freegans also forage- Which I've done for wild plants and mushrooms, and enjoy immensely.

If I wasn't already married and expecting a child, I probably give serious thought to living a Freegan lifestyle. I agree with it from a moral and philosophical point of view, but would have to do more research to get the total picture on what it is all about.

I guess I could probably live a modified version of the lifestyle. That is, if my wife would let me!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Conversation at the Grownup Table, as Imagined at the Kids’ Table

I saw this on the web, and thought it was too funny to keep to myself:

MOM: Pass the wine, please. I want to become crazy.


GRANDMOTHER: Did you see the politics? It made me angry.

DAD: Me, too. When it was over, I had sex.

UNCLE: I’m having sex right now.

DAD: We all are.

MOM: Let’s talk about which kid I like the best.

DAD: (laughing) You know, but you won’t tell.

MOM: If they ask me again, I might tell.

FRIEND FROM WORK: Hey, guess what! My voice is pretty loud!

DAD: (laughing) There are actual monsters in the world, but when my kids ask I pretend like there aren’t.

MOM: I’m angry! I’m angry all of a sudden!

DAD: I’m angry, too! We’re angry at each other!

MOM: Now everything is fine.

DAD: We just saw the PG-13 movie. It was so good.

MOM: There was a big sex.

FRIEND FROM WORK: I am the loudest! I am the loudest!

(Everybody laughs.)

MOM: I had a lot of wine, and now I’m crazy!

GRANDFATHER: Hey, do you guys know what God looks like?

ALL: Yes.

GRANDFATHER: Don’t tell the kids.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Two Words You Must Know in Malaysia

A word to the wise. If you are coming to Malaysia, don't forget this phrase- Tanpa Gula. That means, "no sugar". It's a must when ordering drinks here. They put waaay too much sugar in everything. It's the reason there is so much type 2 diabetes here. Things are just way too sweet!

Case in point- one time I ordered a lemon ice tea at some hawker stalls, and forgot to say, "Tanpa Gula". What I ended up with was tea flavored sugar water. There was so much sugar, that I could barely taste the tea. When I let the tea set for a couple of minutes, there was about an inch of sugar sitting in the bottom of the glass.

They even put sugar in things that don't need it. I saw a honey and lime concoction in The Store, (Yes, that is the name of a chain of stores here.) I figured I would get some, because it helps my stomach when it gets gassy or upset. When I looked at the list of ingredients, what was the first ingredient listed? SUGAR!!! Now why the hell do you have to put sugar in a honey drink? Isn't it sweet enough already? Needless to say, I passed on that one.

So unless you want to give yourself a serious case of diabetes, don't forget to say "Tanpa gula".

My Wife's Big Boobies

(OK, this is not a picture of my wife's boobies. It's a picture of a 16 week old fetus. This is how old our unborn child is right now. So what were you expecting?)

Well, we've made it through the first trimester, and now we are into the fourth month of our pregnancy. I say our, because it's not just Trien who is pregnant. To be honest, it is like I am too.

I am not talking about the physical part. She has all the hard work there. That is definitely one experience I don't want to share. Although in a way it does affect me physically, too, because if she's not feeling well, then I have to take care of her. I can be there for her, do things for her, and try my best to make her comfortable, but I don't want to feel physically the things she is going through. Unless it would be feeling for just a moment what it's like to have a little life moving around inside of you. Other than that, experiencing things empathetically and emotionally is enough for me, thank you.

No, I am pregnant in other ways. I am basically a slave to her cravings and desires. Trien, being the sweet woman that she is, tries to control herself even though I tell her not to. Whatever she wants, whatever she needs, I'll get it for her. Within reason of course. When she started calling out for this arcane Filipino pork dish at 2:30 in the morning on a weekday, there was nothing I could do. You're not going to find pork in a mostly muslim country at that time of night.

We are going through physical changes. Her belly is getting big. This worries her. My belly seemed like it wanted to keep up with hers, until I learned to control myself, and not eat whenever she did. Now my pants fit me better. Meanwhile, she can no longer fit into her pants, and her regular blouses are riding up higher and higher. Now she has to wear mommy pants and dresses, and her longer blouses.

This irks her a little bit. She doesn't want to look like a mommy, and wear mommy clothes. So while we were in KL, I took her to a nice maternity shop in Sungei Wang. They have some pretty and stylish maternity clothes there. I want her to feel good about herself, so I told her to buy whatever she wanted- within reason, of course. Not that she is a spendthrift or anything. Growing up poor in the Philippines, so poor that sometimes you have to go hungry will cure you of that. At least it has cured her.

She had a good time and got some really nice things for a good price. Such a good time, that she said she wouldn't mind getting pregnant again if she could get some nice clothes like these!

That made me feel good. The next day she enjoyed walking around in her new mommy clothes, showing off her baby bump. To me she was one stylish looking sexy mommy!

It's not just her tummy that is getting big. Her boobies are getting bigger than her tummy. Before, she had nice sensibly proportioned A-cup boobies. In four months of pregnancy they have grown into pornstar like C-cups, and keep getting bigger, and bigger. I figure that at this rate, by the time the baby is born, we will be buying her F-cup sized bras. Not that I am complaining- at least we know the baby will be well fed.

She was worried about breastfeeding at first, because she had inverted nipples. Well, being pregnant has changed all that. Not only are her boobies getting bigger, but her nipples and aureoles too. They seem to be keeping pace with everything else.

Plus, now there is a dark line from her navel on down.

No wonder she is worried about what her body will look like when she delivers!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fun Things You Can Generate

This is a really cool Blog I found while looking for fun things to add to my 2K class Blog. It's got links to all sorts of screwy generators. You know the kind- "The Lord of the Rings Name Generator", "The Comic Strip Generator", etc.

The difference is that this site has listings of every type of generator you may want to use, and many you wouldn't. Listed on this site are generators such as:

"The Chuck Norris Random Fact Generator"
Which gave me this:

"Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried. "

"The Alien Limerick Generator"
Which gave me this:

Your Alien Limerick

Ekmiz teltsu dan porgunsun
Nota enta tz mer ekwun
Nikbul garawo
Toibur deikilbo
Konop ratz kond txar tra satun

There are also many other wierd ones for you to try, like:
"The Sheep Poetry Generator"

"The White Lesbian Name Generator"

"The Virtual Vomit Generator"

and many others.

So check it out, and have a laugh or two!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Video of UFO Seen Over Kuala Lumpur

I found this video while surfing the Internet. It supposedly shows a UFO hovering over KL. I don't know if it's real or not, and quite frankly, I don't care. I just thought it was something interesting to look at. If anyone can translate what they are saying in the video, please do. I'd like to know if they are saying things like, "Do you think that these idiots will really believe this?", "Ohmigod, we're about to be abducted and anal probed!", or, "Gee, I really think we partied way too hard last night!"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Difference Between the American Embassy and the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur

Well, we have been in KL for the last couple of days, taking care of business. On Tuesday morning we didn't get any sleep after our five hour delayed bus trip. The strange thing about it, is that there was no report about it in the paper. I mean, the North-South Highway is the major highway in Malaysia, and something closes it down for five hours and there is no report? It must mean that something too embarrassing to report happened. Like if it was an accident, it involved some negligence on someones part. Then someone high up is going to look bad. Or possibly it wasn't an accident at all- maybe it was closed because they were moving in the construction equipment to do some work. I couldn't tell from the bus- the bus driver had the air-conditioning on so high that the windows were completely fogged up.

Anyway, after leaving the Internet cafe across from the Puduraya Bus Station, I got some money, and then we went off to KL Sentral, so that I could leave our bag there. They won't let a bag in the American embassy, and they won't let you leave it at the guardhouse either. Americans are so paranoid!

What a difference between the American embassy and the Philippine embassy. The American embassy looks like an armed fortress. The walls around the embassy must be close to thirty feet tall, and thick. The guardhouse where you check in looks like a stylized painted WWII German pillbox. It's easy to imagine armed storm troopers pouring out of it with their Mauser's blazing. There is a police box outside the embassy, and guards around the entrance. When you get to the guardhouse, you have to hand in your cellphone, and turn it off before you give it to the guard. Then you wait until whoever is in the guardhouse being searched is let out. When you get in the guardhouse, you are locked in there until they decide you are no threat. You give them all your metal, they x-ray it, then you go through the metal detector. (I forgot to take off my crucifix, and wedding ring when I went through the detector. They didn't set off any alarms. If they did, I'd probably be writing this Blog from Gitmo).

After that, you walk through a long open courtyard to the embassy. That's so they can watch you pull out the weapons of mass destruction you have hidden up your ass on the close circuit TV.

Once in the front door of the embassy, you have to go through the same metal scanning routine again. This time, though, you have a tall regal looking Indian Malaysian asking you to empty your pockets, etc. He looks straight out of central casting, and is friendly enough. Then you look over his shoulder and notice a dour looking Marine sergeant sitting in a blast proof booth watching everything on his monitor. He looks like he is permanently having a bad day. Maybe he is pissed off about missing all the fun his buddies are having in Iraq. Or maybe his computer locked up in the middle of playing Grand Theft Auto.

After going through all that, you finally get to walk into the reception area and take a number.

When you get there, you notice that all the workers are behind the same type of blast proof enclosure that the Marine security guard is, except it encloses the whole office. They are also behind bulletproof glass a couple inches thick. Anything you have to give them goes in a little metal slot under the window. It's as if they are hermetically sealed in there. They communicate with you through a microphone. You get the feeling that they half expect you to tear off your clothes to reveal that you are wired up with TNT.

After all that, you can't wait to get out of that bastion of paranoia and back into the real world.

It's ironic that when we walked in the entrance of the embassy, that I turned to Trien and said, "Well, you are officially in the USA now". Yup, if we ever go there, you can expect much of the same thing. Especially being a minority.

The Philippine embassy, on the other hand, is probably the worlds most casual and relaxed embassy. It is a security experts nightmare. The attitude is "Hey, we're Filipinos, who would want to hurt us?" The embassy sits in a depression at the bottom of a hill. The road looks down into the embassy. It is boxed in by high rise apartment buildings, one of which is more than twenty stories high. In American thinking, that gives a sniper a free field of fire covering every bit of the embassy.

The wall around the embassy is about five feet high, and with no razor ribbon on top, or sharp objects sticking out of it. There is a guardhouse, with a single guard there. When we first went there, the guard was a guy about 70 years old whose main duty seemed to be keeping the cats off the sign in book. Now it is a slightly built guy about 25 or so, who looks like he couldn't stop anyone under 80 from forcing their way in. You sign the book, hand him something which passes for an ID, and that is it. You are free to come and go and walk all over the grounds and go anywhere you wish.

When you go inside to the offices, there are no guards, and no bullet proof and blast proof enclosures. The downstairs office is an open office, with a bunch of casually arranged desks, with normal people behind them. The upstairs office is very small, with seating for five people. It has a counter with a normal sized glass barrier, with circles cut out of the glass so you can talk normally, instead of shouting through the glass like in the American embassy. There is a big space between the glass and the ceiling, so that if you felt like it, you could easily climb over it.

The first time we went there, the embassy was closed, but the old guard let us in anyway. He told us to walk in to the chancery, to see if anyone was there. Yes, someone was there. It looked like the ambassadors wife, dressed for a fancy dress ball. She was really sweet and casual about us walking in, and asked us to come back the next day. She wasn't angry or anything. That would never happen in the American embassy. We'd be dead before we even made it to the front steps.

And my wife wonders why I like living outside of the USA? Just compare the two embassies, and you'll see why.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Malaysian Drivers

Ok, I am tired. I am sitting in an Internet Cafe across from the Puduraya Bus Station at 5:45 am. That is not the place I wanted or expected to be at this time in the morning. I expected to be laying in a nice comfortable bed in a cheap hotel in Bukit Bintang. After that, Trien and I were planning to go to the US Embassy to check what information we need in order to register our marriage before the baby is born. Then after that, possibly heading to the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Putrajaya, and getting our papers certified. It looks like we can do all the running around, but not until after getting some sleep. An not today. Why? Because of the idiots who drive here in Malaysia.

Malaysians are not the worst drivers in the world. In my experience, that award goes to the drivers in Mainland China. Just riding in a car there is like being trapped in some sort of insane video game that you are unable to control. You see things happen that make you think that you've been transported to some sort of bizarre Dadaist alternative reality. Things like an old man in a fully laden donkey cart traveling the wrong way in the fast lane of the superhighway in Beijing. It's just total anarchy on the roads.

A friend of ours was in both China, and Turkey. She said the Turks drive worse than the Chinese, which I find hard to believe. Others swear that India is worse than China. In any case, I am definitely not going to do a comparative study on the subject.

Malaysians may not be the worst drivers in the world, but are definitely the most selfish. They act as if they are the only car on the road, or at least the only car that matters. Screw anyone else - they can do whatever they want, because they are the only ones that count. That also means that they are among the tops in being the rudest drivers in the world. And unintentionally, the most dangerous.

Case in point:

Two guys have what is later reported to be a minor accident on the North - South Highway, coming out of the tunnel heading toward Kuala Kangsar. It's raining hard. No big deal right? So instead of pulling off to the side of the road and exchanging information or waiting for the cops, what do they do? They sit there, right in the middle lane. The express bus heading from Ipoh to Taiping comes out of the tunnel, tries to avoid hitting the two selfish cretins, and plunges down a ravine, turning over several times. The result? Seven people dead, all because these two morons think they are too good to show people any courtesy. One of the dead lived right in my neighborhood. If this was the USA, these guys would be in jail right now, facing seven counts of homicide. Here? Just another everyday occurrence, no big deal.

I saw what remains of the bus, as I was in Kuala Kangsar during the weekend for the National English Camp for the SBP schools at Malay College. I am surprised anyone survived. You can see what is left of the bus in he picture above.
Getting back to our story:
Our bus ride from Taiping to KL was delayed for about five hours because of an accident. The whole southbound portion of the North-South Highway was at a complete standstill. This is not unusual in any way. One of Malaysian's main hobbies seem to be killing themselves, friends, family, or just complete strangers in gory car crashes that cause all sorts of delays. So instead of getting into KL at a somewhat reasonable hour, and being able to get some sleep, we end up pulling in at about 0430. As we plan to start our running around about 0700, getting a hotel room for a couple hours then leaving doesn't make any sense.
I didn't know what else to do, so we got some breakfast, then went to the internet cafe to check on what time our embassies open, wha requirements they need, etc. That's why I am here now writing this.
Types of Malaysian Drivers

I found this post on the Urban Reality Blog. I have changed it slightly:

1. One hand on wheel, one hand on horn: IPOH driver.

2. One hand on wheel, one hand out the window with cigarette:KEPONG driver.

3. One hand on wheel, one finger out window, cutting across all lanes of traffic: DOWNTOWN KUALA LUMPUR driver.

4. One hand on wheel, one hand on parang, foot solidly on accelerator: JOHOR driver.

5. One hand on wheel, one hand on non-fat double decaf cappuccino, cradling cell phone, brick on accelerator, hands-free on the lap: BANGSAR driver.

6. One hand on 12 oz. Double shot latte, one knee on wheel,talking on cell phone, foot on brake, mind on radio game, banging head on steering wheel while stuck in traffic: SUBANG JAYA DRIVER…..on the Federal Highway!!!

7. One hand on wheel, one hand on passengers head rest,alternating between both feet being on the accelerator and both feet on brake, throwing rambutans or durian shells out the window: KARAK HIGHWAY KUANTAN driver.

8. Four-wheel drive pick-up truck, READY-TO-KILL attitude, rear window stickers read “Make my day”, beer cans on floor, wedding ribbon still attached to antenna: CONSTRUCTION SITE….PUCHONG driver!

9. One hand on the handphone, another hand picking nose, One leg on the dash board, another leg crossed on the seat with a beer can in the middle ~ turning anywhere he likes, parking anywhere he likes, in fact, driving anywhere he likes. aaahhh….. this is a heaven for drivers ……welcome to PENANG!

10. Two hands gripping tightly to the wheel, eyes glued on the windscreen, alternately stepping on the accelerator and brakes every 5 seconds. WOMAN DRIVER!

11. Both hands on the wheel, one eye shut, feet on both the gas and the brake, cursing with creative abandon: FOREIGNER, driving in MALAYSIA.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Homeless Camera Adventure

Give a homeless person a camera to record their life, and what do you come up with? You can see the result at The Homeless Camera Adventure. There are five contributors there, all from either the Rogue Valley or Medford, in Oregon. The pictures are stark renderings of their photographers loneliness and alienation, but they are not without their beauty. This site is worth checking out. It will be interesting to see what future photographers will add.

Another Word About

My 2K Class
This album is powered by BubbleShare - Add to my blog

This is something I should have put in the last post about my blogging project with my 2k class, for any teachers thinking about a similar project. Another plus about the site is that it has its own user group at Yahoo! There you can ask any questions you need to ask, and get all the tech support you need, either from the David Warlick, who is the sitemaster, or the other teachers using the site. It's a good place to get ideas for what you can do with your class Blog. So even though is fairly basic, you have a big community of users available as a resource for support and ideas.

What I figure is that it's best to start off simple anyway. Then if some students really get into it, and want to do something more complicated, I can help them set up their own blogs, or maybe move the one they already have. The site I would probably use then is, which uses Wordpress and has all the buttons and whistles you want, but doesn't allow you to keep control over the student accounts. In that case, I would be more of an advisor than a teacher. That would be the result I would like to come up with, because it would mean that the students were enjoying their Blogs, and really applying what they learn.

Well, we shall see what happens!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Guys on American Idol

Trien's two favorite shows, the ones she can't ever miss are America's Next Top Model, and American Idol. She likes ANTM because she thinks Tyra Banks is crazy in a fun sort of way. Also, she can see that the so called "beautiful women" aren't so beautiful after all. They are just as bitchty and petty and vain as anyone else in the world, and without special make-up and lighting, they don't look any better than any other women, and some look a good sight worse.

Being a Filipina, of course she loves music. It seems that every Filipino is born with a deep love of music. The Philippines is probably the most musical country on earth. Almost every house, no matter how poor, will have a karaoke machine. If not, then you can probably count on there being a guitar or other musical instrument handy somewhere. Whever you go in the Philippines, there is usually music or singing coming from somewhere. But alas, Trien is not blessed with a beautiful singing voice, or outstanding musical talent. But that doesn't stop her from appreciating musical ability in others.

We both agree that there is a woeful lack of musical talent among the male contestants in this years American Idol. Lets face it, these guys are painful to watch, and even more painful to listen to. If I had my way, I would boot them all off the show. None of them deserve to win, or have the talent to do it. Lets face it, the worst of the women contestants are light years ahead of the best of the male contestants, both in terms of talent, technique, and stage presence.

It has to be the most mediocre assembly of male singers ever assembled on TV in one show. Even worse than on Malaysia's "Akademi Fantasia", if you can believe that. On that show, the men win not because they can sing, but because they are men, they are ethnic Malays, they are poor, and they come from the Kampung.

So Trien and I will be watching American Idol every week, but I think I will find something else to do when it's the guys turn. I know Trien will be watching because she is way more optimistic than I am, and hopes that one day one of them may actually turn in a decent performance. For me, it's as much a lost cause as trying to get George W. Bush to become a decent president. It ain't gonna happen.

My Student Blogging Project

I really enjoy Blogging. So why haven't I posted anything for the past week? Well, I've been busy doing work on a project I am developing for my students.

The project is about writing Blogs and using the Internet to help my form 2 students learn English. The site I am using for the students Blogs, Classblogmeister, is a pretty simple, basic site. Not everything is laid out for you, so knowing how to do some simple HTML coding helps to get the best out of the site.

The great advantage of the site is that the teacher, in this case me, can have complete control over everything published. You can have as little or as much control over things as you want, or your administration requires. In my case, they want me to have complete control over everything that gets posted to the site. Fair enough.

Whenever a student writes something and wants to publish it, it gets sent to my e-mail account for review first. Once I read it, I can either publish it, or send it back to the student with an explanation and/or asking that corrections be made. Even comments can be moderated, so that they don't write nasty things about each other on their Blogs, which I know is just what they would do.

I have been experimenting with our class Blog. Right now the site is a mess, I know. I have been putting all sorts of things there, because I am experimenting and trying to see how things work. Not everything that is up there now will stay there. Some things are there because I needed to try out certain sites, to see how they worked, and whether they would work with the classblogmeister site. For example, my first attempt at podcasting.

I made my first attempt at podcasting with my boss, Mr. Wong Teck Ee. He's got a great name for someone interested in the latest technology. He's also a great guy. We spent a couple hours on Friday, playing around with the Audacity software, and recording a test podcast. The Audacity recording software is pretty simple to use, but you can also spend hours playing around with all the gadgets and extras if you want. It's a great piece of software to use if you want to do podcasting, or do some recordings for your classes.

As for where I am storing my podcasts, I am using Gcast. It is a really simple way to upload a podcast and put it on your Blog. With my form 2 students, the simpler, the better.

I also posted a video of our sports day, on Vimeo. It is also a pretty simple way to upload video and put it on the class blog. It is simple and fairly painless to use.

There also a couple of slide showsI made on Bubbleshare, a spelling bee game for the kids to play, and a link to a YouTube video that we might be using later on.

I also posted the first assignment for the kids to do, which is to look over what I think is one of the best examples of a class Blog I have seen. After they do that and get some ideas, I want them to write some ideas about what they want to do with our class Blog. I won't be too concerned with their grammar in the beginning. The idea is just to get them to start writing, and enjoy what they are doing. Later on I will be more strict on things like spelling, grammar, and organization.

So that's what I was up to. Now it is semester break, and Trien and I are going to be running off to KL to our respective embassies. We have some business there that we have to take care of before the baby is born. If we don't there's going to be a mess of trouble later. Since she is in her second trimester, and feeling pretty good, we have to take care of it now. She might be unable to go with me later.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Save Darfur

I think Blogs are best when people are pissed off about something.

One of the blogs I like to read is StupidMalaysia. He's pissed off about things here in Malaysia, just like I am pissed off about things in the USA. It's an ironic situation- I left the USA because I was tired of all the crap going on in my country. He left Malaysia and went to the USA because he was tired of all the crap that was happening in his country!

It's nice to know that there are some people who actually give damn about what is happening in the world, and are willing to do something about it. Stupidmalaysia is definitely someone who cares. Writing about the injustices of this world, as he does about Malaysia, is a good start to making people aware, and getting things changed.

Recently, he put a little posting in his Blog about the situation in Darfur. It wasn't a big post, just a picture and a link, and a couple sentences asking his readers to do something about what is happening there.

If you want to know what is happening in Darfur, Then you can learn more here. If you are too lazy to do that, then here is a Powerpoint presentation I downloaded from the site you can watch.

Hosted by eSnips

So if you want to do something, instead of just being another do nothing apathetic workaday drone, then go to the "Save Darfur" website.

There, you can send e-mail to George Bush, the Secretary General of the UN, and learn how to lobby members of Congress. You can find all sorts of different ways you can be someone, and make a stink about it!

I did my small part. It only took a couple minutes. Now why don't you be a nice, caring human being, and do the same thing?

So stop sitting there, and do it already! Add your voice, and make a difference!

Friday, March 2, 2007

The War on Terror Is the Leading Cause of Terrorism

An interesting article on AlterNet. Studies prove that Bush's so called "War on Terror", is actually galvanizing resistance in the muslim world, and causing more terrorist attacks. An excerpt from the article:

Yet the report points out that the US administration's own National Intelligence Estimate on "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" -- partially declassified last October -- stated that " the Iraq war has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists ... and is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives."

The new study, by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, argues that, on the contrary, "the Iraq conflict has greatly increased the spread of al-Qa'ida ideological virus, as shown by a rising number of terrorist attacks in the past three years from London to Kabul, and from Madrid to the Red Sea.

"Our study shows that the Iraq war has generated a stunning increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and civilian lives lost. Even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one third."

Here's the study that Mother Jones Magazine Commissioned. Not only has the "War on Terror" increased terrorism, it has also lost us support from the more moderate muslims. Mother Jones reports:

One measure of the impact of the Iraq War is the precipitous drop in public support for the United States in Muslim countries. Jordan, a key U.S. ally, saw popular approval for the United States drop from 25 percent in 2002 to 1 percent in 2003. In Lebanon during the same period, favorable views of the United States dropped from 30 percent to 15 percent, and in the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia, favorable views plummeted from 61 percent to 15 percent. Disliking the United States does not make you a terrorist, but clearly the pool of Muslims who dislike the United States has grown by hundreds of millions since the Iraq War began. The United States’ plummeting popularity does not suggest active popular support for jihadist terrorists but it does imply some sympathy with their anti-American posture, which means a significant swath of the Muslim population cannot be relied on as an effective party in counter-terrorism/insurgency measures. And so, popular contempt for U.S. policy has become a force multiplier for Islamist militants.

It's not enough for George W. Bush to just screw things up in America. He has expanded his vision, and now he is screwing things up for us in the rest of the world. He has to be the worst president ever. His motto should be, to paraphrase Caesar:

"I came, I saw, I f***ed it all up."

Isn't great to have one of the greatest idiots in history as president?

"Running on Empty" in the East Peoria Holiday Inn

A couple years after my encounter with Bob Seger, we were again traveling back to Colorado. After a day of traveling down a long, lonesome highway, way east of Omaha, we stopped for the night at the Holiday Inn in East Peoria, Illinois. My Dad checked us in, we got our bags, and headed to our room for the night. As we walked down the hall, we heard someone playing music really loudly. So we went back to the front desk to tell the receptionist, a sweet and pretty girl with short brown hair. She looked a bit distressed. There was a band staying there, she said. They are recording something. Please be patient, they should be finished soon.

So we went to our room. In a few minutes, the music stopped, and it was peaceful the rest of the night.

A few years later, when I was in college, I was browsing through the albums in the local record store in downtown New Brunswick, NJ. I picked up a copy of Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty."

The liner notes on the album said that the title song was recorded " ... in the Holiday Inn in East Peoria, Illinois, on ..." such and such a date, which was the time we were headed west to Colorado.

Put two and two together, and what have you got? Yup, that Jackson Browne and company were recording the song in their room while we were making our way to our lodgings for the night.

I've always wanted to see if there was a way to enhance the ambient sounds in the recording. That way I could see if the microphones had picked up my dad, sister, brother, and me in the background walking down the hallway, and saying, "What's going on? Who's that playing their music so loud?"

Famous People I Have Pissed Off or Insulted- Part 2- Bob Seger

"Turn the Page"

On a long and lonesome highway east of Omaha
You can listen to the engine moanin' out his one note song
You can think about the woman
Or the girl you knew the night before
But your thoughts will soon be wandering
The way they always do
When you're ridin' sixteen hours
And there's nothin' much to do
And you don't feel much like ridin',
You just wish the trip was through

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin' the star again
There I go
Turn the page

Well you walk into a restaurant,
Strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you
As you're shakin' off the cold
You pretend it doesn't bother you
But you just want to explode
Most times you can't hear 'em talk,
Other times you can
All the same old cliches,
"Is that a woman or a man?"
And you always seem outnumbered,
You don't dare make a stand

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin' the star again
There I go
Turn the page

Out there in the spotlight
You’re a million miles away
Every ounce of energy
You try to give away
As the sweat pours out your body
Like the music that you play
Later in the evening
As you lie awake in bed
With the echoes from the amplifiers
Ringin' in your head
You smoke the day's last cigarette,
Rememberin' what she said

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin' the star again
There I go
Turn the page

Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin' the star again
There I go
There I go

It's a great song by Bob Seger, and one of my favorites. And why not? I think I inspired part of it. How did I do that? By pissing off Bob Seger, of course.

Let me explain. After my mother divorced my father, my Dad would take us on vacation during the summer. It would take us 3 1/2 days to drive across country from New Jersey to Colorado. There were two routes to get there: the northern route, which was by I-80 through Iowa and Nebraska, and the southern route, by I-70 through Missouri and Kansas. It was a lot of driving, but my Dad loved to get on the road and drive.

After we made it to Colorado Springs, we would spend a couple weeks with Aunt Barbara, Uncle Jim, Cousin Rob, and our grandmother. Aunt Barbara and Uncle Jim's place was our base of operations, and we would take side trips to different places, like the Grand Canyon, the Black Hills of South Dakota, or other places of interest. Then we would do the whole trip in reverse, back to New Jersey. We would eat at various places along the highway, and stay at various motels.

On a long and lonesome highway East of Omaha

On one of our trips, when I was about eleven, we were taking the northern route. We stopped to eat at a roadside diner somewhere east of Omaha.

Well you walk into a restaurant,
Strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you
As you're shakin' off the cold
You pretend it doesn't bother you
But you just want to explode

These guys walked in. Or they might have been guys. They had really long hair, down past the middle of their backs. They sat down to eat at the booth next to us.

Most times you can't hear 'em talk,
Other times you can
All the same old cliches,
"Is that a woman or a man?"
And you always seem outnumbered,
You don't dare make a stand

The one with the longest hair was clean shaven. I didn’t know if it was an ugly looking girl or a guy, so I said:
"Is that a woman or a man?"

The person heard me. It was a guy. You could tell as soon as he opened his mouth, because he had a gravelly voice. He was pissed off, and said something, to his friends. One of the guys with him, said, “Let it go, Bob. It’s not worth it. There’s too many of them here”

Bob started talking about how he was tired of the same old cliches, and the same things happening over and over. He was pissed off, but didn’t get loud or obnoxious about it, and didn’t cause a scene. To his credit, he stayed pretty calm and controlled.

We ate our lunch, and they ate theirs. From their conversation I could tell that they were on tour around the Midwest. Bob talked about the different clubs they could play on the road, the advantages of each, and how much each place paid. The money sounded good, but the life of a musician sounded tough. It wasn’t a glamorous life, chasing fame and fortune like that. Not from the way that Bob talked.

Bob, of course, was Bob Seger.

A few years later, he hit it big with his album, “Night Moves”. I bought “Night Moves”, played the album over and over, and became a fan. Bob Seger was no one hit wonder. He had paid his dues on the road, and continued to produce hits. His song “Old Time Rock and Roll,” was featured in the movie, “Risky Business”. There were more hits and great songs after that. Today, Bob Seger is still going strong at age 60. He is back on the road, and is getting good reviews.

Of all the great songs Bob Seger has written, it is “Turn the Page” that affects me the most. I can identify with the feelings of loneliness and isolation he sings about. The first time I heard the song on the radio, I immediately remembered that day in the diner east of Omaha. That memory gives the song even more resonance for me.

Over the years, “Turn the Page” It has become a classic. It has been covered by Metallica, and other bands. Some consider it the best song about a rock n’ rollers life on the road that has ever been written.

All because I opened my mouth and pissed off Bob Seger.

If anyone else would like some inspiration, I would be glad to oblige!

Next in the series: Edward Norton