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


Tuesday, August 31, 2004  

Like most college students, I had posters of my favorite bands on my dorm room walls. However, mine were a rather eclectic mix: a poster of the album cover from Pink Floyd's "The Wall", a poster of 80's greatest hair band Def Leppard (still at the height of their "Hysteria" fame), a poster of speed/thrash metal band Megadeth, and a poster of...Debbie Gibson (that's it, the one on the right). From teeny-bopper pop to psychadelic stoner music to ear-bleeding metal, it was a combo that certainly threw most of my friends for a loop. As much as I generally despise bubble gum pop (boy bands, girl bands, metrosexual girly-men, they all make me want to chuck myself into a swimming pool of blood-sucking leeches), I absolutely adored this pop princess. "Only in my Dreams", "Shake Your Love", "Foolish Beat"...man, syrup never tasted so sweet!

Happy 34th, Debbie!

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:08 PM |
 

I'm think I'm dying.

I haven't worked out regularly in a really really really long time. My waistline has gotten larger, my pants are a bit tighter, and I catch myself wheezing after climbing 5 or 6 steps. I eat at Burger King 3 to 4 times a week (there is one really close to the office where I do my work), I knock back 3 or 4 cans of Coke a day, and I scarf down Snickers and ice cream bars like they're going out of style.

My rapidly deteriorating health is incentive enough to get my shit together, but the prospect of taking a job where I'll have to wear a shirt & tie every work day (something I haven't done since 1997!) means a severe update in wardrobe. And hence, an obsession to reduce that vat of Jello I like to call my physique.

I popped by California Fitness (now an offshoot called California Wow) to sign up for a short-term membership (the clubhouse at our new house will have a gym of its own), and spent 45 minutes on one of the stair climbers, and another 15 minutes doing sit-ups. I never fail to completely overestimate my capacity for hard exercise after such a long drought of inactivity. I'm tired, and I ache all over.

Correction: I know I'm dying.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 6:21 PM |


Monday, August 30, 2004  

I haven't listened to her music in many many years, but Laura Branigan was very much part of my childhood memories. I've loaded "Gloria" onto my playlist, and will be listening to it many times over the next few days. Rest in peace, Laura. You will be missed.
_________________________________

Singer Laura Branigan dies at 47
Sunday, August 29, 2004 Posted: 6:35 AM EDT (1035 GMT)

EAST QUOGUE, New York (AP) -- Laura Branigan, a Grammy-nominated pop singer best known for her 1982 platinum hit "Gloria," has died. She was 47.

Branigan died Thursday at home in her sleep, said her manager, John Bowers. He would not disclose the cause, although her official Web site listed it as a brain aneurysm.

"Gloria," a signature song from her debut album "Branigan," stayed atop the pop charts for 36 weeks and earned her a Grammy nomination for best female pop vocalist, the first of four nominations in her career.

She also made television appearances, including guest spots on "CHIPS," and in the films "Mugsy's Girls" and "Backstage."

Branigan released seven albums after her debut "Branigan," including "Solitaire," "Self Control," and "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," which was co-written with Michael Bolton. Her songs also appeared on soundtracks for the films "Flashdance" and "Ghostbusters."

Branigan, born July 3, 1957, and raised in Brewster, New York, attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan. During the late 1970s, she toured Europe as a backing vocalist for Canadian singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen. She signed as a solo artist with Atlantic Records in 1982.

After her run of success in the 1980s, her releases in the early 1990s attracted little attention. In 1994, she sang a duet with David Hasselhoff called "I Believe" for the soundtrack of the television show "Baywatch." She released a 13-track "Best of Branigan" LP the next year.

After the death of her husband, Lawrence Kruteck, in 1996, Branigan stopped performing but returned to the stage in 2001. In 2002 she starred as Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway musical "Love, Janis," which earned her rave reviews.

Branigan recently had been working on material for a new release.

She is survived by her mother, two brothers and a sister. Funeral services are scheduled for Monday.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 10:13 PM |
 

Define irony.

When my main Hotmail account only allows a paltry 2 MB of storage capacity, but Billy Gates upgrades my junk mail Hotmail account to 250 MB.

Bloody fucking brilliant.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 9:01 PM |
 

It's Monday morning, and I dragged myself out of bed at 7 am. Why in Buddha's name would I do that, being both a night owl and a freelance banker who has enough flexibility to play with his own schedule? Here's why:

9 am - M&A deal strategy meeting with colleague in office

10 am - Financial model discussion with deal parties at client office

Ok. I can drag my sorry ass out of bed Monday morning for back-to-back meetings when it comes to the deal. However, given the highly variable nature of Bangkok traffic, I'm either gonna be twiddling my thumbs in the office at 8:15 am, or rushing in panting and sweating at 9:15 am.

Fast forward to 8:15 am. I'm in the office twiddling my thumbs. At least I have time to read the paper, have some bottled water, and struggle to pierce this haze of drowsiness and lethargy.

Fast forward to 9:15 am. Still waiting for my colleague to get this meeting underway. I have to run by 9:45 am if I want to make my 10 am client meeting. Two minutes later, an SMS: "Have a breakfast meeting forgot about it will be in office at ten sorry". Argh.

Fast forward to 9:30 am. I'm in Starbucks across the street from the client office. I have time to take down a tall cappucino, a slice of spinach quiche, and read another English language daily. I've paid for my coffee and am waiting to pick it up when I get a call. It's from one of the clients: "Paul, would it be possible to reschedule today's meeting? I know it's last minute, but we are extremely busy getting ready for this week's board meeting."

"Sure, no problem." Double argh. I'm sleepy. I'm sweaty. I want to stick my head into the coffee grinder.

Monday mornings. Gotta love 'em...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 10:14 AM |


Sunday, August 29, 2004  

10 days worth of randomness…

1. I got the job offer. I’m still negotiating the details, but the work is in line with what I want to do and the salary range fits within my criteria, so I will likely be taking the job. The more I think about it, the more excited I become. I was never all that keen about working for local Thai companies; it’s that haughty expat disdain that I sometimes harbour for all things local, being the Westerner arrogantly looking down on the “primitive, Third World” companies. There are however a small handful of truly professional, progressive companies in Thailand, and this company I’m speaking with is one of the very best. They would make me a Vice President of Corporate Strategy & Development, with my primary focus being on international expansion. The head of human resources told me that part of the training regimen would be to visit and observe shopping malls and department stores around Asia and Europe. Nicha almost killed me when I dangled that in front of her.

2. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, some in preparation for this new job in the retail sector, some just for the hell of it. In preparation for my interviews, I picked up three textbooks on retail strategy & management. Reading texts can be a bit dry, but I still managed to learn a few things. I’ve also picked up some “corporate self-help” books, topics on how to write more concisely & persuasively, think and structure problems logically, and negotiate better (a lot of skills I honed in business school, and could use a bit of sharpening). Last night, I finished Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation", an excellent overview of the fast food industry and the impact it’s had on the way America eats and conducts business. The only shortcoming is that the book lacks a more thorough look at the healthcare impact of fast food, as well as how fast food is influenced by and has influenced societal trends and behaviours. Overall, it was a quick and enlightening read, and strikes me as "The Jungle" for the 21st century.

3. I’ve also been watching a lot of films lately. I really enjoyed the Japanese bloodfest “Battle Royale” when I saw it a few years ago, so I had high hopes for the sequel “BR2”. I have rarely seen a worse film. The plot, character development, dialogue, and acting were all a pile of steaming cow turd. The thought of having paid for the DVD makes me want to jam a pencil in my eye. I managed to catch the comedies “The New Guy” and “Undercover Brother” on cable. TNG was decently amusing, but I found UB surprisingly funny, and a fantastic take on the great blaxpolitation films of the 70’s. I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of it on Silom Road. Most surprising however was how much I enjoyed watching the Eddie Murphy bomb “Pluto Nash”. I guess all the bad press had lowered my expectations to almost nothing. I had it playing in the background the other week while doing some late night work, but found myself becoming engrossed in this schlock sci-fi tale. I even watched it again a few days later. I guess I’ll have to put it up there with “Hudson Hawk” and “The Last Action Hero” as “films-that-earned-less-money-than-a-ditch-digger-but-which-I-really-enjoyed”.

4. Friday night, Nicha and I went to the movie theatre for the first time in a long time. We both took an afternoon off from work and wanted to spend so fun time together. She picked “The Village”, but 2 minutes before the theatre went dark, she started getting all these panicky phone calls from her colleagues at work requesting help to manage a few clients. I don’t know who was more peeved: her for having her day off ruined, or me for watching about 97% of the movie without my wife. Not that she missed a whole lot. M. Night Shyamalan strikes me as a highly intelligent and talented screenwriter and director, but I’ve never taken to his films. Like the “Sixth Sense”, The Village has a bit of a surprise plot twist at the end, and like in the Sixth Sense, I figured it out about halfway through the film, which made the second half of the movie anti-climatic. I did find Bryce Dallas Howard’s (Ron Howard’s daughter) performance impressive.

5. My Microsoft OS seems to be set to some Limey British setting, which is converting all my “colors” to “colours” and “theaters” to “theatres”. I’ll get around to correcting that little linguistic quirk (sorry to all my Limey friends!) when I’m feeling less lazy.

6. I still find it unnerving to have female janitors walk into the men’s room and start cleaning while I’m at the urinals. This would be unthinkable in the states, but commonplace here in Thailand. Apparently, neither cleaning ladies nor male patrons seem to be bothered by this, but it gives me the heebie-jeebies. None of this bothers me as much as the night club restroom attendants who ease up behind you at the urinals and start giving you a shoulder rub. Ack! This is supposed to be relaxing? Tension relieving?!? It’s like something out of a prison shower scene. I’m all respectful of cross-cultural differences and such, but some customs are just plain wrong.

7. I just got season 3 of “24” on DVD, which means that season 4 should be kicking off soon. Can’t wait! Rumor is that Kiefer Sutherland is the only cast member who will be returning, which is unfortunate, but having fresh characters does allow for new plot twists and turns as the audience tries to distinguish heroes from villains.

8. After a bit of delay, the work on the house seems to be back on track. We had gone back and forth with the developer and contractor on a bunch of flaws in the house which set back the interior work two months. We negotiated a fee penalty from the developer to cover the extra rent we have to pay for extending our condo lease, which has eased but not eliminated the frustration and irritation that Nicha has been experiencing over the ordeal. But now that we are designing the interiors, her mood has picked up a lot. We’ve spent the last few days looking at different kitchen layouts and browsing for furniture. If all goes well, we’ll be entertaining friends come Thanksgiving.

9. What wonderful weather we've been having here. In a word: craptastic! Want another? Fucktacular! Or another? Shiterrific!. If it isn't as hot and humid as the 9th circle of Hades, it's hot and humid as the 9th circle of Hades and raining down buckets. I'm either drenched in sweat, rain, or both. This extreme climate has been giving me nasty migraines for the last few days. I could really use a nice snowy winter...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 1:38 PM |


Thursday, August 19, 2004  

"In a perfect world, spammers would get caught, go to jail, and share a cell with many men who have enlarged their penises, taken Viagra and are looking for a new relationship." - Dan Lyke

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 12:48 AM |


Wednesday, August 18, 2004  

Paul Ark = Weirdo Magnet

I thought the last set of search terms that brought people to my blog were pretty bizarre. This next set is flat out disturbing. Then again, so am I.

"toddler exposure to pornography masturbation"

"singapore pirated dvd shops"

"girl masturbation ejaculation video clips"

"who goes to santiago"

"procrastinate addicted to porn"

"mosquitos infested in my apartment"
(this one was searched on the Dutch version of Google)

"x-ray colon light bulb"

"elway teeth pic"


Of course, me listing these on the blog will only make it easier to attract the weirdos. Cie la vie. I console myself by telling myself that I didn't attract the freakshow that Lynn did. My condolences, Lynn...hahahahaha.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 8:37 AM |


Monday, August 16, 2004  

Congrats to Udomporn Polsak, Thailand's 3rd ever Olympic gold medallist. Any gal who can lift more kilograms than I weigh is a hero in my book. Too bad the U.S. Basketball Team can't seem to put in an effort that's even half as inspired (Though the Puerto Ricans sure can, and deserve to celebrate like mad dogs for handing us our 3rd ever Olympic defeat, and 1st since the Dream Team era)

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Thailand celebrates local weightlifter's Olympic victory
August 15, 2004

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Thais rejoiced Monday after local weightlifter Udomporn Polsak clinched the country's first gold medal at the Athens Olympics -- the first ever for a Thai woman -- with officials promising financial rewards and family members taking Buddhist vows to show thanks.

Udomporn's victory Sunday in the 53-kilogram (117-pound) class with a total of 490 1/2 pounds handed Thailand its second medal in Athens. Aree Wiratthaworn won bronze medal in the women's 48-kilogram (105 1/2-pound) class.

The 23-year-old's grandfather and father had earlier prayed at a statue of a mythical folk hero, Yamo, and promised to be ordained as Buddhist monks if Udomporn prevailed at the Games. In Thailand, men often enter the monkhood temporarily to commemorate significant changes in their lives.

"I made a vow to the statue of Yamo, that if Yamo blessed her to win the gold, her father and I would be ordained as Buddhist monks," said Udomporn's 64-year-old grandfather, Lue. "Now that the gold has come true, we will set a date to be ordained."

Her mother, Sasithorn, showed a more earthly appreciation. "I bought her a townhouse as a present," she told reporters.

Millions of Thais were glued to television sets to watch Udomporn's performance broadcast live from Greece.

After winning the gold, Udomporn told reporters in Athens that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had telephoned to congratulate her, and that she asked him to give her the rank of a military lieutenant. "The prime minister said he could make that for me," she said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapallop said he would give Udomporn $24,000 of his own money and several companies offered sponsorship deals.

Udomporn's victory was splashed across the front pages of local newspapers. "Gold For Our Girl!" read a headline in the English-language daily, The Nation.


****************************

Gold for Udomporn!
Korat weightlifter powers into history as Thailand's first woman Olympic champion
WANCHAI RUJAWONGSANTI

Athens _ Weightlifter Udomporn Polsak powered her way into history last night, becoming Thailand's first female Olympic champion with a golden performance in the 53kg division.

Current world champion Udomporn, 23, now joins boxers Somluck Kamsing and Wijan Ponlid in the kingdom's short list of Olympic gold medallists.

She is the second Thai athlete to clinch a medal at the Athens Games. Team-mate Aree Wiratthaworn won a bronze in the 48kg division a day earlier.

The Nakhon Ratchasima-born lifter is the country's 11th Olympic medallist since Phayao Poontarat won the first medal _ a bronze _ in Montreal in 1976.

Udomporn was virtually in a league of her own last night after North Korea's Ri Song-hui, her most formidable opponent over the past few years, moved up to compete in Athens in the 58kg class.

Udomporn defeated her closest rival Raema Lisa Rumbewas of Indonesia, who won another silver to add to the silver she won in Sydney. The Thai lifted a 222.5kg total to beat Rumbewas' 210kg.

Spurred on by her supporters, who included two cheerleaders, Udomporn gave the crowd a wai before comfortably lifting 92.5kg in her opening attempt in the snatch. She was successful in her second effort of 97.5kg. She failed to clear 100kg in her final attempt in the snatch, but still had a 2.5kg advantage over the Indonesian who lifted 85, 90 and 95kg.

In the clean and jerk, Udomporn had little problem lifting 117.5 and 122.5kg in her first two efforts. When Rumbewas failed at 125kg, the gold medal was hers.

Udomporn's final attempt of 125.5kg for a total of 222.5kg was just a formality. "I'm very happy. It is a great achievement," said Udomporn. She received a phone call from Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra through Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop who was in the competition hall. "The prime minister asked me if I felt tired. I said 'yes'," she said.

Udomporn said she told Mr Thaksin that she wanted to become a military officer and he replied that he would assign Mr Suwat to look after the matter.

The Thai star, who shot to fame when she won a silver medal at the 2002 Asian Games, will get at least six million baht in bonuses from the government and private firms. More financial rewards and gifts of all forms are expected to pour in.

At Udomporn's home in Nakhon Ratchasima's Muang district a large number of people turned out to cheer her performance on a giant TV screen put up by the municipality.

Tents were erected in front of her house, food was served and the atmosphere buzzed with excitement. Relatives, friends and well-wishers rooted loudly for her during the live telecast from Athens.

Udomporn's mother, Mrs Sasitorn, 45, said she was particularly proud of her daughter. "I told Nong Orn to fight to the best of her ability and I will give her moral support from here," Mrs Sasitorn said.

Thai weightlifters have now won three Olympic medals after Khetsaraporn Suta set a precedent by winning a bronze medal in Sydney. Two more Thai women could still add to the glitter.

Wandee Kameaim competes in the 58kg class today, and Pawina Thongsuk, another gold medal contender, lifts on Aug 20.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:52 PM |


Sunday, August 15, 2004  

Some disconnected random musings, anything and everything but my work at hand...

1. My friend Ami pointed something out the other week, which hasn't really been nagging at me, but just keeps popping into my head as a rather intriguing piece of trivia. Apparently, the cashiers at Bangkok's 7-Eleven stores hold the title of Assistant Manager, and in order to qualify for a position as a 7-Eleven Assistant Manager/cashier, one needs to be a college graduate. If you look at the ID badge of any 7-Eleven cashier in Bangkok, the photo will be of his/her college graduation photo. I find that pretty amusing, and now I always look for the photo when I get something there.

The whole thing does makes me wonder: is the quality of many post-college entry-level positions such that an Assistant Manager at 7-Eleven is an attractive option in terms of gaining valuable skills and career advancement, or is Thailand so horrendously inefficient at maximizing the use and productivity of its college graduates?

2. I've only just started paying attention to the types of text adds that Google is tossing up at the top of my blog. Lately, they've been about bathroom fixtures:

Find pedestal sinks: Alibaba B2B online marketplace. Forbes Magazine “Best of the Web”
Beautiful bathroom sinks: Gorgeous handmade copper sinks made to your specifications


I can only assume it is because of my recent blog about the couple who left their sleeping infant on top of a men's lavatory sinktop while they swam in a pool. Given my last blog on Hooters Restaurant and my August 13th blog that contains the words "penis enlargement" and "hot teen barnyard sex", I'm hoping for something more colorful during the next ad rotation. Perhaps I should mention stuff like boobies titties nipples pasties fun bags just to skew things in my favor?

3. Robert Redford & Dina Meyer. I've been seeing a lot of these two lately. The first, I'm sure most are familiar with. He has two movies currently in circulation on the cable channels: "Spy Game" and "The Last Castle". I've seen each one multiple times, and enjoy them a great deal. I also watched "Sneakers" again this weekend for something like the 20th time, another Redford film I rate highly. Who can deny that Redford is one of the koolest kats on the planet, a totally suave motherfucker. Who can blame Demi for rolling in the hay with the guy, million bucks or no? Hell, I'm not anywhere close to being gay, and he could probably get me in the sack for less than a million. Just kidding. I'd do it for a million, no less. Haha (weak chuckle in vain attempt to mask homosexual tendencies, or depleted bank account)...

Dina Meyer is a bit harder to identify, especially if you're not an aficionado of cheesy Hollywood mind candy like me. Dina played the gun-wielding frizzy-haired redhead in "Starship Troopers" (one of my favorite guilty pleasures, which I watched again this weekend while working away), the axe-wielding frizzy-haired redhead in "Dragonheart" (yes, that Dennis Quaid/Sean Connery crapfest), and the very un-redheaded Romulan captain in "Star Trek: Nemesis" (the latter two also currently in circulation on cable). I wouldn't quite put her in that "uber babe" category, but there is something rather appealing and intriguing about her. Methinks it's that whole "attraction-to-girls-that-can-kick-my-ass" thing acting up again. On second thought, having taken another, more lurid glance at her photo, perhaps she does belong in the uber babe category...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:11 PM |
 

"It's something Jesus would've done." - Southern Baptist Reverend Dennis Rogers, on holding Bible study at Hooters

Two reasons why I should consider going Christian:

1. World's largest religion. As a Buddhist, "We're Number Five! We're number Five!!" just isn't catchy enough.

2. Hooters: Coolest Bible Study Locale on Earth
_______________________________


Christian youth group meets in unconventional place: at Hooters
LOUISE CHU
Associated Press

KENNESAW, Ga. - Voices hush around the patio table as Rick Lamborn poses his first discussion question during a Christian youth group meeting at a popular restaurant.

The topic this night is consistent relationships, and Lamborn begins by asking the college-age group, "How does inconsistency negatively affect your relationships with others?"

As responses sprinkle in, a blonde in a tight white tank top and orange hot pants quietly scoots up to the table. She joins the discussion for a few minutes then has to scurry back to her boisterous customers inside.

Interactions like these, that bring faith to the uninitiated, are one of the reasons why Single Focus Atlanta has chosen to meet at a Hooters restaurant every week for the past four years.

"We've seen a few of the waitresses become Christians. One of the former managers here became a Christian. So it's worked. The whole object, in reality, is that this is just to get inside the door," said Lamborn, whose nondenominational group invites all those who are curious to join their Hooters sessions.

Some Bible study members initially resisted holding meetings at the restaurant known for its scantily clad waitresses.

"Somebody comes up to me and says, come to a Bible study at Hooters. And my first reaction was ... I can see McDonald's or another restaurant, but why Hooters?," said 21-year-old Charles Bailer III.

But Bailer, who joined Single Focus two years ago, said he quickly began to appreciate the casual, nonjudgmental atmosphere at the meetings.

On a recent night, rock music blared from the restaurant's speakers, as the group of about a dozen - more than half of them women - sipped sodas, smoked cigarettes and snacked on chicken wings and burgers while Lamborn read passages from the Bible and provoked a discussion about how to weather social and spiritual turmoil.

Some took the opportunity for personal reflection, while others joked around, but the topic never strayed too far from God.

Single Focus, which has about 90 members, also holds a more traditional Bible study at a house each week, as well as mission trips and ski retreats, but Lamborn said the Hooters gatherings provide an option for people who wouldn't necessarily accept an invitation to a church.

Lamborn left his job as a computer software technician two years ago to take over as full-time executive director of the group after its founder, Nelson Foster, who was a youth minister at several local churches, died in a car accident. Lamborn attends a Methodist church but is not a minister.

"We're about reaching the lost, and I think we're called to do that," he said. "Our attitude is to go where the un-churched and the de-churched are."

Still, some say Single Focus' presence at a Hooters sends a mixed message, since the overt sexuality of the restaurant doesn't fit with Christian ethics.

Mike McNeil, spokesman for Atlanta-based Hooters of America, said the company's restaurants aren't usually host to Christian meetings, but "it's not our job to be judgmental of any group that comes in there. Our job is to wait on them and provide food, fun and great service."

Despite Hooters' recent attempts to reposition itself as more family friendly, it has been a frequent subject of protests. Social conservatives say the restaurant corrupts young children and attracts sexual predators, and feminists say it objectifies women.

"Everyone thinks it's hypocritical," said Victoria B. Pierce, president of the National Organization for Women's Cobb County chapter. "Why would any church group go there?"

Some criticism has also come from conservative Christians.

Terry Erickson, director of evangelism for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a national campus ministry organization, questioned whether a Hooters Bible study could be effective.

"The whole idea is wanting to go where people are at, but the question is, can the place where you're meeting, can it enhance what you're trying to accomplish or does it distract?" he said. "I think someone who comes to Hooters is looking for something else."

Kristin Brooks, a 20-year-old Kennesaw State University student, said she values the weekly sessions at Hooters for their "practical life lessons" and opportunities for evangelism.

The Rev. Dennis Rogers, a Southern Baptist and member of Single Focus' board of directors, added that the spirit of the group is to go where conventional ministries do not.

Said Rogers: "It's something Jesus would've done because he looked past what people may think and looked at what people's needs are."

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 3:51 PM |


Saturday, August 14, 2004  

"Jenny I've got your number
I need to make you mine
Jenny don't change your number
Eight six seven five three oh nine"


- Jenny (867-5309) by Tommy Tutone


The classic story of true love found on the wall of a men's room, this was one of the great one hit wonders of the early 80's. I remember cranking up the volume whenever this song was on the radio. I also remember the story of the Los Angeles-area dentist in the (213) area code that shared the same number as the song, and who fielded thousands of annoying calls asking for Jenny. Below is the story of an Illinois woman who is a much bigger fan of the song than I ever was.

______________________________

867 5309 - Jenny gets her number
By Eric Peterson Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted 8/12/2004

It all started with a phone number.

A seemingly random combination of digits that served as the inspiration for an early '80s pop song and a recent TV commercial is now the license plate number for Schaumburg resident Jennifer Fletcher's Jeep Cherokee.

But the endless efforts of mathematicians to calculate the final digits of the geometric formula Pi almost pale in comparison to Fletcher's persistent pursuit of her preferred permutation.

"867-5309/Jenny" was Tommy Tutone's catchy 1982 hit about the possibility of true love found in a girl's phone number written on a wall.

Although Fletcher shares the name of the song's celebrated heroine, the thought of making the number her license plate didn't occur to her until last year.

Idling in traffic, she noticed that the new random Illinois license plate numbers featured all numerals. As the numbers started getting higher in sequence, the thought of getting that number got too good to pass up.

"I've been inquiring to the secretary of state's office for over a year with phone numbers, e-mails, everything," Fletcher said.

The excuse most people used to get rid of her was that the numbers are only released in sequence, and the sequence hadn't reached the number she wanted. Furthermore, all-digit combinations aren't recognized as vanity plates and can't be specially requested.

Still, no one ever told her it was impossible, and that kept her going.

Finally she was sent to the voicemail of the woman who would ultimately help her. When they first spoke, the woman couldn't understand what the attraction of the number was. Then Fletcher told her to read it again as if it were a phone number.

"She said, 'Oh my God, it's the "Jenny, I've got your number" song, and you're Jenny!'"

Though the woman seemed sympathetic to Fletcher's cause, she said the department would still be unable to break the sequence of the numbers.

But she kept track of where the new numbers were in the sequence and stepped up her efforts as they got closer.

In a last ditch effort, Fletcher asked that she at least be given info about whomever the plates were issued to in order to negotiate a swap. But even that was unlikely, she was told.

But then, in late July, she got the phone call she'd nearly stopped hoping for, from the woman at the secretary of state's office.

"When she called, she shouted, 'Jenny, I've got your number!'" Fletcher laughed.

Only because the number was part of the next batch and only because Fletcher had expressed so much interest in 867 5309 did she get her wish. It was really a combination of both factors, rather than the state changing its policy on requests, she said.

In other words, it's still next to impossible to request the license plate you want unless you shell out the money for a vanity plate.

"Vanity plates and personal plates are defined by statute," said Randy Nehrt, spokesman for the secretary of state's office.

Anything outside of that definition is a standard plate. Plates are produced and stored in bulk as an economical measure for the state and its taxpayers. To start breaking up these pre-produced sets before their regular release would be a costly effort that isn't permitted, Nehrt said.

"That's definitely a coincidence that that worked out that way for that individual," he said of Fletcher's story.

During the week that Fletcher's plates were waiting on a desk at the secretary of state's office, nearly everyone who walked by started singing the song, she was told.

Now that the plates are on her vehicle, Fletcher said her two teenage sons see the whole thing as embarrassingly retro. For her older 17-year-old son, Dan, borrowing the Jeep Cherokee has definitely lost its appeal in the last week, she said without a trace of regret.

"But everyone who grew up then and remembers the music from the '80s has said, 'That's cool!'"

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 2:13 PM |
 

Like suicide bombers, conservatives train their young at a very early age. Order your copy here!

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Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed: A Small Lesson in Conservatism
By Katharine DeBrecht

The story of two boys who dream about opening a lemonade stand when a strange thing happens...

Their dream gets stuck in Liberaland!

"Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed! A Small Lesson in Conservatism" is a wonderful way to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. In simple text, parents and children follow Tommy and Lou on their quest to earn money for a swing set their parents cannot afford. As their dream gets stuck in Liberaland, Tommy and Lou’s lemonade stand is hit with many obstacles.

Liberals keep appearing from behind their lemon tree, taking half of their money in taxes, forbidding them to hang a picture of Jesus atop their stand, and making them give broccoli with each glass sold.

Law after law instituted by the press-hungry liberals finally results in the liberals taking over Tommy and Lou’s stand and offering sour lemonade at astronomical prices to the customers.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 12:37 PM |


Friday, August 13, 2004  

You receive as many penis enlargement e-mails as I do, you start to wonder if everyone else in this world knows something about my penis that I don't. I have to admit that just this past week, it has crossed my mind on more than one occasion whether penis enlargement pills actually do work or not. Now, thanks to the diligent research of John Hargrave at Zug.com, I know (Additional thanks to Greengrl for the link).

Now if only someone could help me consolidate my debt and direct me towards hot teen barnyard sex...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:57 PM |
 

The various campaigns for the position of Bangkok Governor are underway, and among the list of typical party machine cronies & candidates are a number of colorful personalities, including an incredibly corrupt former police general and member of parliament (whose son was recently cleared of charges of executing an off-duty police officer, much like O.J. Simpson was exonerated from charges of killing his ex-wife; in both cases, the "true" culprits remain at-large), one of Thailand's leading massage parlour tycoons (who would go from being shaken down by Bangkok's not-so-pristine police force to being the boss if he were to win), and a former telecom CEO (who not only worked at one of our beloved prime minister's chief competitor telecom companies, but joined the PM's chief rival political parties. Hmmm...I wonder what this guy's chances are?). But the one candidate I find most intriguing is this one lady whose masterstroke strategem is to plaster a photo of herself in a swimsuit onto her campaign billboards, flyers, and website. She's pretty much a total unknown and dark horse candidate, and has photoshopped herself into many hilariously cheesy pictures where she appears to be visiting poor people and hospitalized children. Unfortunately, the "best" of these pics don't appear on her website.

I'm rooting for the massage parlour guy...

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 10:43 PM |
 

My kid brother Don called me this morning to tell me that my sister-in-law Fiona is pregnant again, this time with twins! I'm sure they'll be handful, but quite an adorable handful if their son Jadon is any indication (a real handsome young buck, and a funny kid to boot). So now the tally of kids is:

Don & Fiona will have 3
Pete & Jane will have 2
Nicha has me

I told Pete that Don has pulled ahead in this horse race, and I can't get my stallion out of the gate. I keep telling Nicha that if we don't get into gear soon, I'll just wind up getting a dog instead, and it'll likely be humping her leg all the time (though it would be a nice change of pace for her from having me hump her leg all the time).

Congrats, Don & Fiona. If twins are too much for you to handle, Nicha says she would be more than happy to take one of those cutie-pies off your hands.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 6:13 PM |
 

Happy Friday the 13th! Decided to make today a work-free day. Lord knows I'm gonna be busting my ass the entire weekend anyways.

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A sample of the searches that have brought people to my blog:

"colonectomy pictures"

"mr. paul's chop house"

"the cat house phone sex site"

"afgani currency chart"

"90's cartoons, purple dinosaur"

"may queen bridemaid dresses"

"Photos of Olsen Twins Townhouse"

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I've been lusting after the 4th generation iPod for about a week now, especially since the replacement battery in my 1st generation one is starting to gradually fizzle out. Plus, I've pretty much maxed out my 10 Gb of space, and could use a top up.

As much as I love my iPod, the completely pathetic battery life naggingly drive me up the wall. I like to listen to long stretches of music when I work, and given the amount of plane travel I tend to do (especially some of the cross-Pacific long haul flights), having access hours of music is a must for me. To have my player go kaput after 5 hours is infuriating, if not downright criminal.

That Apple boosted the battery power of their 4G machine to 12 hours is a step in the right direction, but still not exactly what I'm looking for. Which is why iRiver's 40 Gb, 16 hour battery H140 has really caught my eye. This sucker costs a cool $575 here in Thailand (a country whose per capita GDP is probably only 4-5x higher than this; ridiculous!), but retails at Amazon for $379. Unfortunately, having it shipped here will probably result in the Excise Department slapping a $200 import duty on it, which puts me no better off just buying it here. So now all I need is to find someone here who can bring it out for me.

Probably just as well. Until I land a stable salary-paying job or this deal pans out, I don't have any spare cash to blow on toys.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:07 PM |
 

I'm putting this in my "Cool Shit That Reminds Me of My 70's Childhood" category. Anyone else a big fan of Hasbro's Lite-Brite? This site rocks.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 12:24 AM |


Thursday, August 12, 2004  

Haven't done one of these in a while...

I hate you so bad
you are the "I hate you so bad" happy
bunny. You hate everyone and eveything and your
not ashamed of it.



which happy bunny are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:53 PM |
 

The office of my friend's advisory company for which I'm currently doing freelance work is situated in an apartment complex, and is actually a ground floor flat converted into office space. It faces the pool area, which I cross in order to enter the small adjacent gym in order to use the toilet.

This past week, I've come across a couple I can only assume live in the complex. He's a tall lanky Caucasian guy (European, I think); she's Thai. They have this adorable infant, no more than a few weeks old. Late last week, I went into the gym, where the both of them were working out and their baby in its baby carrier sitting on the floor in the corner. This struck me as unusual for several reasons. Cockroaches have a tendency to scurry about in the gym; I would be very uncomfortable putting my kid on such a floor. Secondly, the room was very humid, as they neglected to turn on the air conditioning during their workout. I couldn't help but wonder if the child was experiencing any discomfort, being all wrapped up in such a muggy environment. I thought very little of it at the time; I really had to pee.

Two days ago, I saw the couple again as they swam in the pool. However, when I went into the gym's mens room, I saw the baby sleeping in its carrier, on top of the sink counter, not more than 2 feet from the urinals. AND well out of the line of sight of his swimming, frolicking parents. Does this strike anyone else as completely bizarre behavior, if not downright negligent and irresponsible? The climate was pleasant; I don't see why they didn't keep the baby out by the pool. It was very awkward, so I opted to do my business in one of the stalls rather than pee an arm's length away from a sleeping baby. I also had to be the stealthy ninja washing my hands, since I didn't want to wake the child, and its carrier was partially hovering over the basin. I can only imagine what predicament I'll find this family in the next time I encounter them.

Life goes on. As is the property development company merger deal I'm working on. I'm getting worried that this thing is going to drag on much longer than any of us have anticipated or would like. The fact that my friend and I have yet to be paid is also a bit worrisome; if we can't even wrangle the first fraction of our fees from the parties, how much harder will it be to get this whole deal done?

I've also been doing the job interview circuit again. Not in a really big way, mind you. One company at the moment, really. But this would be my first corporate (i.e. a "real" company instead of bank/advisory positions) since the software company I was working for back in 1999/2000. I would be doing strategy and business development for one of Thailand's larger retail groups. My specific focus would be on international expansion, so I would be travelling about Southeast Asia looking to buy up new brands, retail spaces, and possibly even shopping malls. I am apprehensive about talking to a corporate again, the last experience having been so negative. However, it does represent a certain level of stability. Plus, I'm starting to tire of being on the advisory side of the corporate finance/M&A business, having to chase down clients in the hopes that they might listen (and even pay) for any advice I'd have to give. This would be a chance to act on my own recommendations, and be on the buy side of investments. At a very basic level, I would be getting paid to shop, and I like that this makes Nicha green with envy.

Ironically, I'm being recruited by a Kellogg friend who would be my boss if I were to join. This would be my 5th job since graduation, and the 4th where I've been recruited by someone I know through Kellogg. If nothing else, I'm certainly getting my money's worth from the alumni network. Anyways, after having an initial and very informal lunch interview with my friend/would-be boss and a second interview with the CFO and human resources director, I have a third interview next week, presumambly one of my last. It will be another lunch interview with my friend, accompanied by her boss, the CEO. I'm guessing it will be more of them trying to sell the company to me, but not one to take chances, I've put together a fairly detailed research brief and financial analysis on the group, and am plowing through my 3rd textbook on retail management. I started this process by cautiously dipping my toes into the water, but as the weeks have gone by and my research and reading have gotten more involved, my enthusiasm has been building momentum. I think I would really like to get an offer from this company.

Oh, yeah, before I forget: is anyone from Southern Cal planning on visiting Thailand in the next few weeks, or know of anyone visiting Thailand from Southern Cal? I want to buy a new MP3 player, and it would be so much cheaper for me to order one there and have it brought over rather than either buy one here, or have one shipped here only to pay exorbitant excise taxes.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 12:20 AM |


Tuesday, August 10, 2004  

"I don't know whether you're prepared to consider yourself the girlfriend of some guy in there. But that's what awaits you. An 18-year-old fresh face comes in and it's fair game. Think about that." - Judge Ronald Meyers, keeping it real

______________________________________


Judge tells teens to fear rape in prison
Aug. 9, 2004 07:25 PM

WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg judge warned two violent young offenders Monday that they face bleak futures - which could include being raped in federal prison - if they don't turn their troubled lives around.

"Next stop is Stony Mountain," provincial court Judge Ronald Meyers told a 17-year-old boy, who along with a 15-year-old pleaded guilty to three armed robberies of Winnipeg businesses.

"I don't know whether you're prepared to consider yourself the girlfriend of some guy in there. But that's what awaits you. An 18-year-old fresh face comes in and it's fair game. Think about that."

The unusually frank talk was an apparent attempt by Meyers to scare the teens straight in the absence of other punitive weapons in his judicial arsenal. Just seconds after his lecture was over, Meyers agreed to a joint recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers that saw both teenagers receive short jail sentences under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Meyers is among several judges who have complained that they are handcuffed from giving stiff penalties under the new act because federal legislators removed deterrence as a sentencing factor.

Manitoba's highest court cemented those views last month by upholding a one-day jail sentence - coincidentally given out by Meyers - to a teenager who beat an Iraqi immigrant to death with an eight ball hidden in a sock. The high court found Meyers was correct to weigh the needs of the killer in his sentence.

In Monday's case, the 17-year-old was sentenced to eight months in jail and four months under community supervision in addition to two months already served. The 15-year-old received six months in jail and three months community supervision in addition to six months already served.

Both pleaded guilty to three counts of robbery with a firearm. If they had been sentenced as adults, each would have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison under federal legislation.

"You are very lucky the Crown didn't want to proceed by way of an adult sentence," said Meyers.

The older boy has 12 prior convictions, including weapons and assault charges. The younger boy has 10 prior convictions for similar violent offences.

The pair stole nearly $3,000 in cash and cigarettes while robbing three city businesses with a sawed-off shotgun earlier this year. The younger teen wielded the gun while the older boy waited in their stolen getaway car. There were no shots fired or physical injures, although the victims were emotionally traumatized, court was told.

Saheel Zaman, the lawyer representing the 15-year-old, said his client has a troubled background that includes being bounced around in various group homes by Child and Family Services. The boy's mother died at a young age and his father was never in the picture.

Jason Miller, the lawyer representing the 17-year-old, said his client has a more stable family but has battled a host of addictions and fell in with the wrong crowd.

"I'm concerned that if he doesn't get his life together, the next time I'll be in court arguing how long he should be spending at Stony Mountain," said Miller.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:47 PM |


Saturday, August 07, 2004  


Rick James
1948-2004
Rest in Peace

Quintissential 80s for me. Time to play "Superfreak" on the MP3 player. I may even play MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This".

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:20 AM |
 

Today is my brother Pete's birthday. Judging from his August 5th blog, he's starting to feel his age, and is grasping at any straw that reminds him of his youth. Poor old bastard...

Happy Birthday, Dude!

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 10:29 AM |


Friday, August 06, 2004  

Apparently, Gandalf defeated the Spanish Armada

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 10:33 AM |
 

There are days when I truly despise being in this fucking country. This is one of them. I feel cut off from everyone and everything, with my few anchors to reality and stability being slowly stripped away. How did life turn around so quickly in such a short period of time, and how do I get back on track?

I'd explain, but it's more trouble than it's worth.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 8:01 AM |


Thursday, August 05, 2004  

At our very cores, Nicha and I are basically polar opposites. She’s an extreme morning person, and it shows in her choice of career (sales & trading) and her daily habits (she will often wake at 7 am on a Saturday or Sunday to clean house or work-out). I happen to be a night owl. Late to bed (often well past 1 or 2 am), and late to rise (past 8 am on a weekday, past 10 am on the weekends). I tend to be very alert and do my best work after 10 pm, a much cherished characteristic for an investment banker. On any given evening, I will be prowling the Internet long after Nicha has nodded off on the couch in front of the boob tube.

Last night, or rather at 3 am this morning, I was ready to retire to the bedroom, and in what has become a nightly ritual, I roused Nicha from her slumber so that she could crash a few minutes later in the comfort of our bed. As I urged her to get up and make her way to the bedroom, she kept murmuring “mai mee moo gratiem” ("I don’t have any garlic pork").

Moo gratiem?” I repeated, not certain that I heard her correctly. Did she just say garlic pork?

Moo gratiemmoo gratiem…you said I could have moo gratiem,” she replied.

I had no idea what she was talking about, so I let her go off, change into her sleepwear, and settle into bed. A few moments after I shut off the lights, I heard her sniffling and whimpering and crying. I was growing concerned.

“Are you crying, baby? What’s wrong? Are you ok?” I asked her.

She turned to me, tears streaming down her cheek. “You said you would make me moo gratiem. I’ve been waiting for such a long time, and it's not done yet. I’m hungry for moo gratiem.”

Alrighty then. My wife is weeping over garlic pork. Psycho!

“You must be dreaming," I replied, "You know I don’t know how to make moo gratiem.” I was bushed, yet increasingly amused.

“It’s just like making that stir fry garlic shrimp dish,” she explained.

“Uh, you know I don’t know how to make that either. I’m sorry, babe. I’ll learn how to make it for you. Just get some sleep.” I hoped that would be the end of that, and we could both get some sleep. Instead, she rolled over and confronted me.

“Will you make me some moo gratiem? I can show you how to make it.”

“Sure. Can we get some sleep now? It’s late”

“You won’t make me wait a long time again, will you? You said you would make it for me and I still didn’t get to eat it.”

“OK, you crazy lady. Now go to sleep.”

Alright, I didn’t say that last bit, but I sure was thinking it. I assured her I would learn how to make garlic pork, and that she wouldn’t have to wait such a long time for me to prepare it. That drew a content sigh and smile from her, and she fell promptly asleep.

This evening after she got home from work, I asked her if she remembered anything about garlic pork, or weeping in the bedroom. Nope, not really, nary a clue.

My wife, the sleepwalker.

Still, I better learn how to make moo gratiem.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:41 PM |
 

“Dude, come quick! There are these two filthy pussies just aching to get boned by us…I mean, there are these very lovely young pussies that would like to have a chat with you and I.” – Kumar Patel

Thanks to the miracle of Bit Torrent, I finally managed to download a copy of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, the first great stoner flick of the 21st century. Not the most high brow of humor (your obligatory toilet jokes, animal cruelty scenes, and flash of breasts), but a completely hilarious guilty pleasure. To see a Korean and Indian headline the movie is enough to do my Asian heart proud, but the film also managed skilfully to simultaneously highlight and skewer many major stereotypes (Asian, African, and Caucasian). The beginning and the ending were fairly predictable, but it was getting from A to Z that proved to be such a wild trip. Lotta good laughs. Kumar’s dream sequence with the frolicking bag of ganja is an instant comedic classic, and their sing-along with Wilson Phillips has me searching for my syrupy, emasculating pop numbers on my iPod. I’m also in the mood for a hamburger now. I think I’ll watch it again.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 5:57 PM |


Tuesday, August 03, 2004  

An interesting article on why America is the one country that can't seem to stomach soccer.
________________

Why America hates football
Michael Mandelbaum
Sunday August 1, 2004
The Observer

While people from Oslo to Athens and from London to Vladivostok were avidly following the European football championship in June, Americans ignored it. In the United States, the only way to see the Greece-Portugal final, or any other match in the tournament, was to make a special, costly arrangement with a satellite broadcasting company or to find a pub that was showing one of the games. Any such pub would invariably be located in an obscure corner of a large city and filled with people speaking languages other than English.
Euro 2004 was the latest episode in the long history of American indifference to the world's favourite sport, which continues despite strenuous efforts to put the game on the same footing as America's three major team games: baseball, American football and basketball. Why have these efforts failed?

One reason has to do with the existing popularity of the big three. Even in as large and wealthy a country as the United States, where the national appetite for playing, and even more so for watching, games is enormous, the cultural, economic and psychological space available for sport is limited and that space is already taken. Baseball, American football and basketball have long since put down deep roots, claimed particular seasons of the year as their own (although they now overlap) and gained the allegiance of the sports-following public.

A fourth team sport, ice hockey, is widely played across the northern tier of the country and has a professional league with teams located across the border in Canada and throughout the United States, even in cities whose climates are so benign that ice has never formed in them: indeed, the franchise in Tampa, Florida, won this year's championship. The presence of four major team sports - more than in any other country - has made the barrier to entry in the competition for the affections and the dollars of American sports fans extraordinarily high, so high that even the world's most popular game has not been able to surmount it.

One in particular of those three sports - basketball - poses a singular obstacle to the national acceptance of football. The two are too similar for them both to succeed. Each belongs to the family of games whose object is to put a ball (or similar object) in a goal.

Because the two games are similar, they have the same kind of appeal. Both are easy to follow; you can immediately understand the point of each one. The rules and strategies of cricket, baseball, rugby and American football, by contrast, are less straightforward. The action of a basketball game and of a football match are easier to follow than that of other team sports as well because the ball is larger than in cricket and baseball and is never hidden in a tangle of bodies or a scrum, as it is in American football and rugby.

Football and basketball are also easier to play than the other team games. They do not require elaborate equipment and satisfactory informal games can be staged without the full complement of players. And both football and basketball players can perfect their skills practising entirely alone.

Spectators see the same thing in the two games: episodes of spontaneous coordination, with players devising and implementing schemes for scoring. They see, that is, acts of creation. If architecture is, as is sometimes said, music set in concrete, then football and basketball may be said to be creativity embodied in team sports.

The two games are both played partly in the air. Basketball players spring off the floor to launch shots at the basket and soar to capture missed shots as they bounce off the rim, even as football players leap upward to intercept a kicked ball with their heads to control it, tap it to a team-mate, or redirect it into their opponents' goal. Football and basketball are therefore the team sports that most vividly evoke a common human fantasy: to leave the ground and fly through the air.

This is why, perhaps, football and basketball are the team sports with the widest global appeal. It is no surprise that each of the two has established a beachhead in the last great expanse of unoccupied sports territory, the People's Republic of China. Their marked similarities, however, also mean that the two sports duplicate each other. They provide the same satisfactions. For spectators they are, in a sense, alternatives. North Americans don't need football because they already get what it has to offer from basketball.

There is, too, the problem of the frequency with which football matches end in a draw. Americans want conclusive results from their games. Baseball and basketball have rules forbidding draws: the two teams must play until one of them wins. Draws were more common in American football until two decades ago when, responding to the national irritation with them, the managers of the sport changed the rules. Now collegiate games cannot end in draws and professional contests very rarely do.

Most American sports fans would regard the method used for deciding international championship matches that end in a draw even after extra time - the penalty shoot-out - as absurdly arbitrary and no more fitting a way to determine a winner than flipping a coin.

There is a remedy for what is, in American eyes, football's gravest defect. The game's rules could be changed to make scoring much easier, which would mean that even if the match were drawn at the end of 90 minutes, one or the other team would almost certainly score in extra time.

Altering the rules to encourage scoring is an old and well established practice in American sport. In the course of the 20th century, baseball, American football and basketball each did so several times. The changes helped to sustain, and indeed to expand, the popularity of all three, since, as one astute student of baseball put it, 'offense [scoring] is making things happen. Defense is keeping things from happening. People would much rather watch things happen.'

To do the same thing for football might well require dramatic modifications in the way the game is now played - the abolition of the offside rule, for example, or awarding points that count in the final score for corner kicks, which, as in prize fights that do not end in knockouts, would give an advantage to the side that makes the most determined efforts to score.

Why has this not happened in the US? One possible reason is that such changes would make the American version of football substantially different from the game played everywhere else, and here Americans are reluctant to be out of step with the rest of the world. If that is the case, then the failure of the world's most popular sport to gain full acceptance in the world's most sports-obsessed country suggests that there are, after all, limits to American unilateralism.

· Michael Mandelbaum is one of America's leading authorities on US foreign policy and international relations and the author of The Ideas That Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy and Free Markets in the Twenty-First Century (Public Affairs)

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 5:33 PM |


Monday, August 02, 2004  

"Why don't you wish in one hand, and shit in the other. See which one fills up first." - Billy Bob Thorton, Bad Santa

It was a Grinch story for the 21st century, an anti-"It's a Wonderful Life". It was an intellectual's gross-out movie. It was crude and profane, cynical and wry, subversive and offensive. Tonight I watched Bad Santa, and it was freaking hilarious. The number of expletives spewing out of the mouths of Billy Bob and partner-in-crime Tony Cox (he was the scene-stealing dwarf from Me, Myself & Irene) was both dizzying and dazzling, so much so that it literally nauseated Nicha (she crashed early, claiming she was near puking from listening to all the "fucks" uttered in such a short span of time). I can see where it's dark humor isn't for everyone, but it will certainly become one of my staples come Christmas time.

On a completely unrelated note, I read a pair of articles that collectively highlight how truly ignorant the great majority of Americans are about the world outside their borders, Asia in particular. The first article reported results of a study testing the knowledge of college-bound American high school seniors. Among the findings: four of 10 students couldn't name the ocean that seperates the U.S. from Asia (I wonder if that number would have improved if the test asked "Which ocean seperates the U.S. from Asia Pacific?"), and eight of 10 students didn't know that Mao Zedong was the founding father of the People's Republic of China of that India was the world's largest democracy (I would wager that they wouldn't know that these countries were the world's 1st and 2nd most populous countries, or that the world's largest Muslim country Indonesia was a close 4th behind the U.S.). It's sad when the country with the greatest access to and flow of information is also one of the least informed of the world around them.

The second article is much more lighthearted, exploring the many dishes found on the Chinese take out menu in the states, and how many of them are so completely foreign to the Chinese in China. It only reminds me how just a handful of dishes in any given Asian country can comprise most Americans' entire conception of that country's cuisine. Those few Americans who have even sampled Thai food are generally familiar with very few dishes beyond your standard pad thai and som tum. And even then, they tend to be blissfully ignorant at how spicy "authentic" Thai food can truly be.

General Tso's Chicken, anyone?
_________________________________

A Guide to Chinese Takeout Menus

July 31, 2004 — Zuo Kuanxun wrinkles his face in skepticism, and you can hardly blame him. A foreign visitor has appeared without warning to inform him that his great-great-great grandfather - battlefield hero and crusher of rebellions against the imperial Qing court - is renowned on restaurant menus across the sea.
Gen. Zuo Zongtang, a hometown legend in his south-central province of China, was the fiercest of 19th-century warriors. Yet today, most of America associates the late military strategist with a chicken. And a tasty one at that.

Odds are you know him as General Tso, General Chao, General Zhou, even General Ching - namesake of the succulent, sweet-spicy chunks of dark-meat chicken that features in most every Chinese restaurant in America but is almost entirely unknown in China itself.

General Tso/Zuo himself, however, is well known - decidedly real and born in 1812 in this tiny valley in Hunan province. And a bit of detective work turns up the fact that, indeed, there is an obscure Hunan chicken recipe that bears his name - though no one can say quite how that happened.

"We have chickens here. We make chicken. But it's nothing special," says Zuo, sitting in the shade of his open-front house a few yards from the general's old homestead. As he speaks, a hen wanders in. "You say millions of Americans are familiar with our ancestor?"

His son, Zuo Jingyou, offers this: "It's been forgotten here. We Zuos have all heard stories about it. But did it come from him? We don't know."

Chinese food in the United States is full of such anomalies. Dishes that Americans consider takeout-joint stalwarts leave mainland Chinese scratching their heads.

Chop suey? Describe it to anyone across the land and you get blank looks. Lake Tungting shrimp? There is a Lake Tungting - or Dongting, as they spell it - here in Hunan, and it does have big shrimp, but locals say it's not a recipe per se.

Duck sauce? It's brown and made with plums - nothing like that translucent orange stuff that's apparently neither for, nor made of, duck. In the Chinese capital, the sauce is served with julienned scallions and cucumber to be placed on wrap-up pancakes over succulent Beijing duck.

Don't even ask about fortune cookies. Though some Chinese vaguely remember a grandparent putting a secret message in a holiday cake, the notion of finding an aphorism like "Yesterday's enemy is tomorrow's ally" tucked inside one's dessert is utterly alien here.

"A Confucian saying inside a cookie? I've never heard of it, but it doesn't sound like a bad idea," says Chen Huanshun, a cooking teacher at the Beijing Economic and Trade Senior Technical School. "But," he sniffs, "putting a piece of paper inside a baked good doesn't sound too sanitary." [Paul: This really cracked me up. Yanks sure are silly, aren't we?]

Why the differences? The Chinese food that first made an impression on Americans came from the south, because the earliest immigrants to the United States were Cantonese, from around Guangzhou near Hong Kong. Their less spicy cuisine became the standard for a generation of chow mein houses.

Among Cantonese contributions: chow mein (fried noodles), moo goo gai pan (mushrooms and chicken slices) and the universally loved wonton (literally, "swallowing clouds").

In the 1970s and 1980s, a new wave of immigrants with roots in Hunan and Sichuan (think "Szechwan") provinces - both homes to famous cuisines noted for their fragrant, spicy flavorings - opened restaurants in U.S. cities. But in case American palates weren't ready for such intricate fare, traditional recipes were modified to fit the market.

That happened with kungpao chicken, a fiery Sichuan dish that was tamed - some would say dumbed down - for an American audience.

"Every single family in Sichuan probably knows how to make it," says Yang Jianping, a taxi driver in Chengdu, the province's capital city. Then he gets animated.

"I'll tell you right now: I've never been to America, but I know that Sichuan food there is nothing like here. You have your tastes, we have ours," Yang says. "But I would probably take a bite of American kungpao chicken and spit it out."

One dish that emerged from the pack was General Tso's chicken. Though the recipe remains quite malleable - in some American restaurants the chicken is sweet and unbreaded, in others spicy or batter-fried - it was a hit and remains on virtually every American Chinese restaurant's list of "chef's specials."

This is somewhat bewildering to folks in the place that the general called home.

"You're telling me there's a chicken dish named in his memory?" says Geng Ermao, proprietress of a popular family-style restaurant in Changsha, the provincial capital. Her face wrinkles. "You say Americans who eat Chinese food are familiar with his name? I don't know of it, and you'd think I'd know."

Head north from Changsha, drive for about an hour and you'll reach Wenjialong, a verdant valley of tucked-away farms and small houses. Here, living quiet lives, are the remaining descendants of the general, who died in 1885.

Zuo Rensi, another great-great-great grandson, opens the decaying gate of his ancestor's courtyard home and leads visitors quietly into what was once the kitchen. He speaks quietly of the dish known here as "Zuo gongji," or "Zuo's rooster."

"I don't know if he created the dish or it was made for him," Zuo says. "But we all know about it. No one knows how to make it anymore, though."

Aside from his formidable military career - including campaigns to crush the famed Taiping Rebellion and an uprising in the predominantly Muslim western region of Xinjiang - Zuo was known for his belief that China needed to modernize to survive. His method: using tried-and-true Western innovations to improve upon Chinese traditions.

This is instructive when considering the global journey of General Tso's chicken. In a recent random sampling of more than a dozen restaurants in Hunan province, only one - near Changsha's main train station - offered Zuo's rooster on the menu.

What arrived was a melancholy mix of vegetables, shallots and greasy, scrawny pieces of chicken studded with perilous slivers of bone - a far cry from the juicy, boneless poultry chunks familiar to Americans.

- "Chinese are going all over the world, and they're taking their recipes with them. It can only get better and more professional," says Chen, the cooking-school instructor.

Usually, though, the Chinese version of Chinese food is far tastier than its American imitation. Not this time. And there's not a Zuo in town who can explain why.

"All the Zuos who could leave here left. Maybe they took it with them," says Zuo Jingyou, who doubts he will ever make it to America to sample the descendant of his ancestor's eponymous meal. "I don't know the story of the dish. I really wish I did."

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 9:36 PM |
 

How am I spending my 3-day Buddhist Lent long weekend? Working. Crunching away on a cash flow valuation model. What's truly sad is that when I decided to take a break, I couldn't snap out of my anal-rententive, uber-nerd, analyst mode. So I spent the last hour analyzing my entire 26-month history of blogging. The results were rather interesting:



I seem to blog in cycles, hitting my peaks & troughs at fairly cyclical intervals. If I were one of those technical analyst quacks (those that try to predict stock prices by looking at charts of past price movements), I'd say I was entering a heavy blogging mode. I've posted about 15-20 more blogs in my last 26 months (163 posts) than in the first 26 months (146 posts).

I'm particularly surprised at how the mix of my blogs has changed (or didn't change) from my first 26 months to my second 26 months. I assumed that I had become more obsessed with Cal football and politics over the last year, but my pie charts say otherwise. I've taken fewer online quizzes and filled out fewer lists, and have posted less random crap (despite the title of my page), and basically tapped into my plagiaristic side by linking over to a bunch of articles I found on other sites.

Actually, the weekend hasn't been all spreadsheets. Last night, Nicha and I joined some of her Sasin classmates for dinner and karaoke at the Urban Bar near the corner of Sathorn and Naradhiwas. I was duly impressed with the selection of English language songs. It wasn't the most expansive I've ever seen, but they had a fairly eclectic mix with numerous songs I have never seen (nor would expect to find) in your standard karaoke lounge. In addition to standard fare such as U2's "With or Without You" and Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams", I managed to croon away to Anggun's "Snow on the Sahara", Toad the Wet Sprocket's "All I Want", and The Romantic's "What I Like About You." The only real downer is that, given the Buddhist Lent, no establishments were serving booze, which would have made sitting through an endless stream of Thai pop songs a bit less mindnumbingly grating.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 12:29 AM |
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