The House of Random Crap
A clearinghouse for my crazed, deviant, trivial, irreverant & occasionally reflective thoughts.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004  

Time has a way of slipping by, doesn't it?

It felt like just the other day that I was blogging about whiney Yanks, and now almost 2 weeks have gone by! So what's happened in that time? Well, my brother Pete told me that he and his wife Jane are expecting their 2nd child! They are expecting in November, just in time for my niece Jessie to hit her Terrible Twos. The best part is that now they will have to accelerate their vacation schedule. They'll be coming out to Bangkok in early May, to coincide with a few holidays here. I'll be taking a few days off on top of that, and will have a full week to spend with them. Fun!

Pattaya was a lot more fun than I thought it would be, especially given that I spend much of it doing some analysis in preparation for a debt restructuring proposal. Several of Nicha's colloeagues from different office around the world attended, which resulted in a dinner table group that included not only Thais, but also an American (me), 2 Dutch and 1 Englishman from London, an Australian from Singapore, plus 1 German client. It was a sociable, lively group. Much beer and wine was consumed that weekend. The Hard Rock Hotel was actually pretty good too. The rooms are a bit on the small side, but I like the funky design, and by the end of the weekend, it definitely grew on me. The buffets were good enough to satisfy my simnple tastes (ate a lot of potato wedges smothered in baked beans, yum!). The pool, however, was terrific. Nice layout, and the poolside lounging areas were among some of the best I've seen. I actually like the Hard Rock's pool better than the one at Vegas' Mandalay Bay.

The past week has been fairly brutal. I'm working with a client who is looking at acquisition targets in both Malaysia and Indonesia, and our deal team is pursuing a parallel process, trying to hold discussions with both targets simultaneously. The Indonesian target is moving quickly, and I've spent the past week trying to coordinate among 15 people in 5 countries to kick off the due diligence (deal analysis and investigation) process. It all started to come together yesterday, and I will be heading out to Jakarta tonight, where I'll be until early Sunday morning. Now that the event planning stuff is out of the way, I'll be spending the next few days in a data room, poring over financial statements and contracts, and building a financial valuation model. Ironically, for my first visit to Indonesia, it is very much like my first visits to Malaysia, Korea, and Laos: a lot of time shuttling back & forth among the hotel and office building. I have managed however to get in touch with one of my former Salomon Smith Barney analysts and two of my business school classmates who live in Indonesia, so I'm hoping to get a brief respite with friends while I'm down there.

Anyways, I'll be offline for most of this week, so no blogs from me soon, even if I wanted to. Cheers!

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 10:41 AM |


Friday, March 12, 2004  

Americans are a bunch of whiney bitches.

Before I go any further, let me qualify my statements by saying that I'm proud to be an American, and I consider myself an American first, and a Thai second. That said: we Americans are a bunch of mewling, crying, whining babies.

The first thing I see when I open up to the international section of my morning paper is that Congress is looking to pass the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act (also known as the "Cheeseburger Bill"), which prohibits lawsuits against restaurants for consumers' poor health related to food consumption. That our country reached a point that we had to pass such a law is utterly ridiculous. What the fuck ever happened to personal accountability? Yes, an increasing number of Americans (myself included) are overweight or obese. So instead of eating better and exercising more, we sue the businesses that sell us the crap we are clamoring and begging to ingest. Hey, lardass! Did Krispy Kreme use Jedi Mind Tricks to get you to buy 3 boxes of glazed donuts? Did the high school girls working behind the counter hold you down and stuff donuts down your mouth while you sat in your La-Z-Boy and watched mindless reality programming? It's tragicomic that McDonalds has to remove its Super-Sized meals because the average American doesn't have the common sense to moderate his/her own behavior, that we rely on the faceless corporation to be our mother because we are undisciplined, gluttonous pigs.

Flip to the next page of the paper, and what do I read? John Kerry jumping on the bandwagon of Asian bashing. And what are Americans bitching and moaning about this time? That companies are outsourcing their jobs to evil Asians who not only work cheaper, but do a better job than Americans. We scream about lower trade barriers and dismantling protectionist policies, except when American jobs are at stake. Do we plow more money into education and training? Do we encourage labor mobility? Do we take any of the intiatives that most developing countries take to enhance the productivity of its labor force to ensure competitiveness in the 21st century? No. We scream like spoiled brats and do everything to ensure that the playing field is tilted in our favor. Fine. However, let's not whine about it when other countries try to do the same.

Lastly, I came across this article about wide receiver Terrell Owens, who not only complains that the San Francisco 49ers violated his civil rights by not letting him become free agent, but actually compares himself to civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Why are so many professional athletes such spoon-fed, pampered vaginas?

Some completely unrelated randomness:

1. My prayers go out to the victims of the heinous railway attack in Madrid. And the victims of all the recent violence in Iraq. And in the sounth of Thailand. Violence begets violence. I'm praying for a voice of sanity that will take the courageous steps to break the cycle of violence and broker peaceful resolutions. Unfortunately, I don't see anyone in the crowd matching that description

2. Just got back from my first overseas business trip since late 2001. Did an over-nighter to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for what amounted to a 1-hour meeting. 4 hours of economy class flight time, 3 hours of transit time, 2 hours of airport lounging time, and overnight in a crappy hotel for a 1 hour meeting. Strangely enough, I'm not complaining. It's nice to get out in the "field". Plus, it looks like this deal and perhaps one other will be picking up, so I may be spending a lot of time jetting back and forth among Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I've been pretty antsy about having my workload pick-up, so I'm happy to see some of my deals go live.

3. Nicha and I are in Pattaya this weekend. Her bank is hosting a seminar on Liability Management and invited about 2 dozen of their best clients and prospects, followed by wining, dining, and golf. While she schmoozes with clients, I'll be sitting by the pool at the Hord Rock Hotel (where we are staying) and getting work done. I'm contemplating sitting in on the seminar sessions, but I don't know if a full day of foreign exchange options and hedges are exactly how I want to spend my Saturday (though working on a debt restructuring proposal by the poolside isn't that much more attractive an option).

4. Finally, here are some pics of my nephew Jadon. These were taken back in August of 2003. I could have posted more current pics, but these are some of my favorites, and were taken at about the time I got to meet the little bugger.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 10:12 AM |


Tuesday, March 09, 2004  

And a healthy dose of randomness, served fresh and piping hot just for you!

1. Thailand's beloved prime minister has decided to reshuffle his cabinet again. No, I'm not talking about his cupboard of jams and jellies. I'm talking about his little gang of clowns, crooks, miscreants and nincompoops that he likes to call our "government". Should this be front page news? Normally, yes, but Thai governments reshuffle cabinet posts more often than most people rotate their tires (or at least ought to).

Not to sound all preachy, but shouldn't people be appointed to cabinet posts and ministries based on their capabilities, specialties, and passions? Is it too idealistic to think that people who are generally incompetent at their jobs should be fired instead of given a different job? It's like the Thai police captain who fucks up or is found guilty of a crime, and gets shuffled to another post instead of arrested or even let go. To me, a cabinet reshuffle indicates that the government as a whole isn't doing a decent enough job for the country. Having a whole group of good-for-nothings exchange jobs with each other doesn't increase the likelihood of the government doing a better job. Though it does remind me of a great joke: A pirate captain calls his men together and tells them "Men, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you all get a change of underwear." "Hurray!!!" the crew cries. "The bad news," the capitain says," is that you change with you, you change with him, he changes with that guy..." I never realized how apropos it was to the Thai political scene.

In all fairness, cabinet reshuffles don't always reflect outright incompetence. Often times, cabinet posts are handed out like party favors to be traded back and forth like baseball cards. When there is a shift in prestige and standing, the prime minister may reshuffle to award more lucrative (by which I mean better bribe/kick-back/exploitive potential) to the more favored, and to demote those who have fallen in esteem in the PM's eyes. Ok, enough political rant for the week. I guess I've been watching too much of "The West Wing" lately.

2. I paid a visit to Silom Road yesterday. Anyone who's spent any amount of time in Bangkok will know that Silom is famous, not only for being in the heart of the city's financial and central business district, but also for being home to Patpong, Bangkok's infamous red light district. However, to people like me that used to walk along thsi street on a regular basis, it is what I like to call Bird Shit Avenue. For some reason, Silom Road attracts a particular type of pigeon-like bird, a whole slew of which flit back and forth during rush hour. Along with a slew of birds comes a slew of bird dropping. All along the sidewalk are remnants of bird splatter, years and years of it. What used to irk the hell out of me was that in any given week that I would walk home via Silom (back when I lived here pre-Asian Crisis), I would be shat upon at least once. I'm not out there as much nowadays, but the odds of getting hit has gone up to 1 in 2 or 1 in 3, up from 1 in 5. As my petty little form of revenge, I always order pigeon in Chinese restaurants if I see it on the menu. Die, you flying rats!

3. In addition to being home to prostitutes (both the ones that work in go-go bars and the ones that work in investment banks =) and bird shit, Silom Road is home to my favorite pirated DVD vendor, to whom I pad a visit last night. Man, the hawker table was packed! It was crawling with people; I had such a difficult time getting a look at the available titiles, and didn't have nearly as much time to browse as I would have liked. I picked up copies of "School of Rock" and "The Passion of The Christ", both of which are of very good quality (surprisingly, since Christ just opened up stateside 2 weeks ago). I'm really looking forward to watching both. I also picked up a copy of "Monster" for a friend of mine, which Nicha and I watched last night. Charlize Theron's performance really blew us away! It wasn't merely her physical transformation, but her powerful acting that really impressed us. It was one of those rare performances that I think without a doubt earned its Oscar. I think Theron just made the jump from a commercial player to a truly serious, big-time thespian.

4. And lastly, an article (thanks to my perverted friend Terence) about a fellow's "scientific" experimentation with a Real Doll (this link is not safe for work!!), the Rolls Royce of sex dolls (and frighteningly realistic too). Funny stuff. I especially like the author's reminiscence about the 80's classic teen flick "Weird Science", which coincidentally happened to be playing on cable over the weekend. I never get tired of watching Bill Paxton in this movie ("Ok, you die, and she walks out with a severe limp." =).

5. Ok, maybe that wasn't the last one. But since we're on the topic of sex dolls, is there anyone out there interested in buying this special edition "Superbowl Halftime Show" Ken & Barbie? This pic had me rolling on the floor. God bless eBay and the sick and creative minds of our fellow human beings. Thanks go to Dave for the link, who, like Terence, is a fellow Rice Bowl Journals forum addict. In order to clean up the formatting at the bottom of this entry and to keep this picture from spilling over onto yesterday's blog, I'm just gonna keep typing nonsense. There's nothing else interesting here, so feel free to skip the rest of this blog. Ooops! Too late!

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:23 AM |


Monday, March 08, 2004  

How messed up is it to have your work weeks more relaxing than your weekends?

We just came off of a 3-day weekend, and I am wiped out. Nicha and I have started paying for the new house, but it won't be habitable until July. Since our current lease was revoked, we had to find a short-term rental to live in until we settle into our permanent home. Luckily, Nicha found a condo one tower over in our complex. We did a bit of packing over the past week, but did the full-on 8-hour moving blitz on Friday, followed by 24 hours of unpacking and getting settled in. By mid-day, I felt like my calves were going to slide off my bones. It was a a more brutal experience for Nicha, since 1) she won't rest until every last knick knack is in place, and 2) she's never done the super-fast moving blitzkrieg before. In fact, this is really just the 2nd place she's moved to, and the first time she had all the time in the world. What was interesting was when she asked me how many times I've personally moved residences in my life, which got me thinking:

Orange County to Berkeley dormitory to 2nd floor frat house (I won't count the move back to my folks place between school years) to 3rd floor frat house to Warring Street apartment to College Ave apartment to downtown Los Angeles to Berkeley to Lard Prao Road house (in Bangkok) to Mahadlekluang Road apartment to Sathorn Road apartment to Robertson Quay service apartment (in Singapore) to Evanston (near Chicago) to New York to London back to Evanston to Cupertino to MacDonnell Road service apartment (in Hong Kong) to Conduit Road apartment back to New York back to Hong Kong (Robinson Road apartment) back to Bangkok (old condo tower E) to new condo tower F.

Damn! That's 22 moves to 9 cities in 5 countries in 15 and a half years! No wonder I'm so frickin' tired! Hopefully, the next move is pretty much it. Enough, fini, kaput, the end.

I pledged to do no job-related work over the weekend, which was more a function of all my projects being in cruise control mode rather than me growing any balls and putting my foot down. I did manage to finish up some books and videos with my time off, which was time well spent. I finished Roger Lowenstein's "Origins of the Crash: The Great Bubble and Its Undoing", an engaging and well-written acocunt of the stock market crash of 2000 and ensuing corporate scandals, and the factors that led up to them. If I ever pursue my dream job as a historian and writer, this would be the type of book that I'd want to write. I also picked up and finished Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code", which is a decently-written thriller and raises some interesting historical and religious questions (though disappointingly, fails to distinguish history from debate/conjecture from the author's fiction). Even better are reading the point-counterpoint Amazon reviews, which I always enjoy reading when it's about a controversial book. In some bizarre universe, I'm sure there are others like me who enjot reading book reviews even more than the books themselves =)

I also managed to finish watching season 1 of Alias, which I greatly enjoyed. The first performance I've seen of Jennifer Garner's was "Daredevil", which failed to impress me, and set up low expectations for the series. I have to admit, over the course of the season, she really starts to grow on you. The writing could be a bit tighter and cleaner, but overall, some interesting twists and turns, with the action sequences definitely getting better by the finale. I'll probably head down to Silom Road tonight and see if I can track down pirated copies of season 2.

Oh yeah, last week I got my new American Express card. For some reason, I was very happy and excited about that. For the life of me, I can't figure out why. I've owned tons of credit cards in the past, so this one is no big deal. The reward points program isn't the best around, and it doesn't even have a revolving credit line. I guess it's just having the financial flexibility again. I had wracked up an obscene amount of credit debt when I was in college, and it literally took me over 10 years to crawl out of that hole. I went through business school and my first few years with nothing more than a debit card, and was very disciplined with my credit cards when I was living in Hong Kong, but paid off my balances and cut up my cards when I moved back to Thailand. I've spent the last 14 months with only my debit card, relying mostly on cash withdrawals to buy stuff and electronic banking to manage my US dollar obligations. I've been able to get by without a card, but it's nice to have one again, and hopefully I can rack up enough miles to pay for free flights back to the states in the next few years. What can I say? I'm happy, and I'll leave it at that.

On a last and completely random note, I include a picture of Liz's new Yorkshire Terrier, Nala. She (the dog, not Liz =) reminds me so much of my family's first dog, a Yorkie named Tai. My family loved that dog so much, and it broke our hearts to have him stolen from us in his old age.

So in summary: tired (from move), happy (about credit card), double happy (about Liz's new dog), melancholy (about our family dog). Any questions?

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:23 PM |


Thursday, March 04, 2004  

10 very interesting facts about Dr. Seuss. The one I found the most interesting: he wrote Green Eggs and Ham as a result of a bet that he could not write a book using only 50 words.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 9:54 AM |
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