Friday, August 30, 2013

They Take Soccer Pretty Seriously in Ecuador

A woman who was about to be elected as the president of a second-division (think of it as Triple-A) club in Quito was murdered just before the election.
The only candidate for the presidency of a 2nd-division team in Ecuador was shot to death just minutes before the beginning of club elections. 
Police officer Juan Vinueza said Aucas club director Monica Gordon was killed on Thursday. 
Ramiro Gordon, Monica's father, told radio La Red that somebody entered his daugther's office and opened fire after saying that she shouldn't have become involved with Aucas. Ramiro Gordon is also a club official and one of the team's top investors.
The article goes on to say that she had been vowing to thoroughly audit the club's books, so perhaps she was killed by someone who didn't want that to happen. If so, one would think killing her would merely make such an audit more likely, but perhaps that's just the gringo in me manifesting itself.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Piranha Brothers Were for Real

I am a big fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus (and I can quote large portions of many skits). One of the more famous Python segments is about the notorious Piranha Brothers -- a pair of outrageously violent criminal, given to such excesses as nailing people's heads to the floor.

I had always thought that Doug and Dinsdale Piranha were just another figment of the Pythons' extremely fertile imaginations, but I have just learned that they were based on very real (and only slightly less violent) London criminals of that era -- the Kray Twins.

Ronnie and Reggie Kray had just been sent to prison for life shortly before the episode first appeared in 1970 (judicious timing on the Pythons' part, since the twins were sensitive to criticism).

You may remember that Dinsdale was thoroughly batty, believing himself pursued by a giant hedgehog named Spiny Norman. This is presumably based on Ronnie Kray's mental problems; while perhaps not quite as crazy as Dinsdale, he was at least twice diagnosed as being paranoid schizophrenic.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Time Travel

I have a weakness for time-travel stories. I have been assured by those who know more about science than I (which means damn near everybody) that the idea is ludicrous, especially travel into the past, where the potential contradictions and impossibilities become a real problem.

Thus, I loved this item. Take that, all you ultra-practical naysayers. Here’s a real honest-to-goodness scientist explaining exactly how it can be done.
A wormhole would allow a ship, for instance, to travel from one point to another faster than the speed of light -- sort of. That's because the ship would arrive at its destination sooner than a beam of light would, by taking a shortcut through space-time via the wormhole. That way, the vehicle doesn't actually break the rule of the so-called universal speed limit -- the speed of light -- because the ship never actually travels at a speed faster than light. 
Theoretically, a wormhole could be used to cut not just through space, but through time as well. 
"Time machines are unavoidable in our physical dimensional space-time," Davis wrote in his paper. "Traversable wormholes imply time machines, and (the prediction of wormholes) spawned a number of follow-on research efforts on time machines.
Not that I understand any of that. But I take it to mean that I am perfectly justified in continuing my dreams.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


According to the most widely-accepted current theory (as I understand it -- and I don't claim that I do), all the current land on earth was once part of a single continent, called Pangea.

Pangea started breaking up about two hundred million years ago, and the various pieces have used the ensuing time to move to where they are now (and they continue to move, I am told, though I must state that I've not seen any of them do so).

I've seen maps of Pangea before, but I enjoy this one, which shows where today's countries were way back when.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Didn’t Take Long for Another One

I posted just a few hours ago about a bus accident that killed a woman here in Cebu. In that post, I commented that:
Bus drivers here are notoriously crazy – they speed, they pass on blind corners, they race each other, and they battle for passengers. These practices were apparently involved in today’s incident:
Here’s another, this time in Palawan and this time seven deaths, but once again it appears to be because of the insane driving that the bus companies encourage (emphasis added):
Seven people died on the spot when the van they were riding collided with a passenger bus in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan on Monday afternoon. [ … ] 
He said the Toyota Innova van was coming from the city proper when it was hit by a bus, which was on the opposite lane. The bus overtook another vehicle and encroach the other lane, thus the collision with the van.
Nothing will be done.

Charles de Gaulle

General de Gaulle models the hat that won the World Leader with the Silliest Hat award at four consecutive sessions of the United Nations.

Don't Count out Joe Biden

I think it's safe to say that I'm not a big Joe Biden fan. In fact, I think he's a half-wit. But I don't think it's wise to assume, as some seem to do, that Hillary Clinton will march unimpeded to the Democratic nomination if she chooses to seek it.

Recent history tells us that vice-presidents are tough to beat.

In the past fifty-plus years, four incumbent VPs have sought a promotion. All four got their party's nomination -- Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, George Bush in 1988, and Al Gore in 2000. That's not enough cases to prove anything, but 4-for-4 ain't bad in any game I know of.

Getting elected is another matter -- only one of the four (Bush) won in November. But I would say that is simply proof that the public seems to think that two terms is enough for any party. But I would also note that the three who lost all came close -- Nixon lost in the closest election up to that time; Gore won the popular vote; and Humphrey made a huge comeback in the closing weeks of the campaign and lost the popular vote by only 0.7%, in what should have been a horrendous year for Democrats.

Joe Biden is not to be taken lightly (politically, at least).

Bus Travel in the Philippines

There was a bus crash in the town of Argao here in Cebu today; one of the passengers was killed and ten were injured.

Bus drivers here are notoriously crazy – they speed, they pass on blind corners, they race each other, and they battle for passengers. These practices were apparently involved in today’s incident:
He said that based on witnesses’ account, Ceres bus 8304 (plate number CEH 994) was chasing another bus, Sunrays, about 10:45 a.m. as the drivers of the two vehicles were apparently having a contest on who could pick up more passengers at the Argao town proper. 
Ceres came from Samboan town and was heading to Cebu City like the Sunrays bus. After overtaking Sunrays, Ceres driver Ernesto Zerna failed to control the Ceres bus as it was running too fast and the road was slippery, Tecson said, citing initial findings of police investigation. 
The Ceres bus rammed a big Gmelina tree along the national highway of Talaga, about three kilometers from the town proper.
 The driver was taken into custody and may very well be punished.

But I can guarantee you that nothing will be done to the executives or ownership of the bus company, who pay the drivers commission on the number of passengers carried and the number of trips completed, thus not merely condoning but incenting the reckless driving.

For similar examples, we have Sulpicio Lines, which has been involved in several fatal maritime incidents, but never punished, and Cebu Pacific, whose plane crashed in Davao recently and received no punishment for their failure to train their crew on emergency procedures.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Malunggay Goes Mainstream

Back in April I posted about my new favorite food, pan de malunggay. It's pan de sal made with malunggay, which is billed as a super-healthy ingredient. I'm not that much into healthy eating, but this stuff tastes great.

Anyway, it appears that malunggay (aka moringa) is about to break into the big-time in the US. Here's something I found featured on Yahoo's front page:
"Moringa has incredibly nutritious qualities—it has 3.5 times the calcium of milk and 4 times the vitamin C of oranges," says David Wolfe, author of Superfoods. All you have to do is open the bag and let the good nutrients roll. 
A recent analysis of the leaves found that moringa contains more vitamin A than carrots, more iron than spinach, and more potassium than bananas. It also packs as much protein as milk or eggs.
I am sooo far ahead of the curve.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Embassy Still Closed (and Some Info on Holidays)

An update: The US Embassy/Consulate in Manila remains closed because of the flooding -- Manila gets floods just about every year around this time (good reason not to live there). Tomorrow is a holiday, so it will be closed then, too.
The U.S. Embassy will be closed again on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, due to continued severe flooding, road closures, and continued government warnings.  The Embassy will also be closed on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 in honor of Ninoy Aquino Day. We expect to re-open on Thursday, August 22, 2013, weather permitting. Consular services remain suspended in order to keep the public and our employees safe.  Individuals with scheduled visa interviews should watch our website or contact our visa information service at 02-982-5555 to reschedule. For U.S. citizens with American Citizen Services appointments, please either re-schedule your appointment by visiting our web site or await contact by the ACS unit in the next few days. For emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please contact the Embassy through the main Embassy telephone (632) 301-2000.
The Philippines has a lot of holidays, by the way. Visitors need to be aware of them, though the degree of business closure varies a lot. Most places that cater to tourists and expats remain open on most holidays -- Christmas and Holy Week are the big exceptions.

Embassy Closure

For any expats reading this blog:

  Emergency Message to U.S. Citizens
U.S. Embassy, Manila, Philippines
August 19, 2013
Embassy Closure, August 19, 2013

The U.S. Embassy will be closed today, August 19, 2013, due to severe flooding around the Metro Manila area.  Consular services have been suspended in order to keep the public and our employees safe.  Individuals with scheduled visa interviews should watch our website or contact our visa information service at 02-982-5555 to reschedule. For U.S. citizens with American Citizen Services appointments, please either re-schedule your appointment by visiting our web site or await contact by the ACS unit in the next few days. For emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please contact the Embassy through the main Embassy telephone (632) 301-2000.


Scotland Yard is opening a new investigation into allegations that Princess Diana was murdered. No, I'm not kidding.
The decision to examine the new claims suggests that officers believe they must be looked at by detectives to assess whether they have any weight. 
However they come from the estranged parents-in-law of “Soldier N”, an SAS soldier who was a key witness in the successful prosecution of Sgt Nightingale. He was himself convicted of illegal weapons possession. 
His estranged wife’s parents wrote to the SAS’s commanding officer claiming the soldier had told his wife that the unit had “arranged” the Princess’s death and that this had been “covered up”.
Now there's a credible source.

I think a strong candidate for the title of World's Shortest List might be 'Famous People Who Were Not Murdered by the Illuminati'.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book Review: The Chief Witness (1940) by Herbert Adams

This is the first book I have read by Adams, a somewhat popular British writer of Golden Age mystery novels.

At the start of this story, featuring Adams's series detective Roger Bennion, Bennion is hosting a dinner for his father, Sir Christoper; his Scotland Yard friend, Inspector Goff; and a newspaper reporter. Crime is the principal topic, of course, with much discussion of the role of coincidence.

One assumes that we are about to be treated to a coincidence, and one is not disappointed. The next day, Bennion drops by Goff's office to return the latter's forgotten pipe, and is invited to accompany the detective as he looks into a strange case: two men, brothers (attorney Alexander Curtis and accountant Frederick Curtis), both committed suicide by shooting themselves, at precisely the same moment – 10:58pm – the time being established in both cases by that tired device, broken timepieces.

Though the possibility of a suicide pact is floated, no experienced reader is fooled by a clock that fell off a desk, and such a reader would be disappointed by a detective who was so easily misled. The suicide idea is quickly discarded, and a few days later the accountant's feckless nephew-by-marriage, Wilfrid, is arrested for his murder – with inheritance as the presumed motive.

Wilfrid is a good name for a feckless nephew, isn't it?

Bennion, who had left town and done nothing in the first week after accompanying Goff on the first day's inquiries (and pointing out the clock) is drawn deeper into the case upon his return by the nephew's attractive fiancé, the niece/ward of Alexander's partner, Morant. She is pregnant (the word is not used – she says that she "must" marry Wilfrid, and that it must be soon. Bennion, being a detective, gets the hint).

Bennion is not satisfied about Wilfrid's guilt, though there is a fair amount of evidence against him, because he had no motive whatsoever to kill Alexander, to whom he was not related and with whom he had only a slight acquaintance. We're back to coincidence – were two brothers killed on the same night in unrelated acts? If so, who killed Alexander? The police aren't satisfied either, but go ahead, based on the evidence, with the prosecution of Wilfrid.

On the Alexander front, the first suspect is of course his wife. This gets muddled considerably when it turns out that she and Alexander were not in fact married (!) and that Alexander wanted out of their irregular relationship in order to marry (properly, this time) another woman. The 'wife' threatens to expose him to scandal unless she is properly rewarded for their years together, and there has been disagreement about the monetary definition of 'properly'. There is, however, no evidence against her.

But if we are not willing to accept the coincidence of two brothers being killed on the same night, we have the difficulty that nobody seems to be sufficiently connected to both brothers to have reason to kill them – other than the thoroughly unlikeable third brother Marmaduke ('Smarmy Marmy' as one character calls him). But though he seems to have owed Alexander some money, nothing can be found to indicate he killed either, much less both.

Another character who behaves somewhat suspiciously has an airtight alibi, which is checked thoroughly and attested to by the police.

Though all the on-stage detecting is done by amateurs, this still has some elements of a police procedural, I think, because much of the work is doggedly tracking down clues, following blind alleys, and questioning witnesses. A good deal of time is spent on a box of chocolates left in a cab that really don't mean much (I think this might just have been filler, because the novel is relatively short).

Readers who prefer strong characterization will be disappointed with this book; pretty much everyone is two-dimensional. The only character with any depth at all is a rather secondary one – Alexander's 'other woman'). All the rest are totally forgettable, including Bennion (though he has some amusing lines).

The solution is (mostly) fairly-clued, although final proof relies on the villain 'confessing' when he (to choose a pronoun at random) thinks he has the hero cornered.

As the foregoing may indicate, I have mixed feelings about the book, but overall I liked it sufficiently that I will give Adams another try. I have another book (Death of a Viewer) downloaded, and there are a few more here.

A side note: The book was published in 1940, but I have to assume it was finished sometime before September 1939, and published early the next year, since there is no mention of the war, but several mentions of concern about it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


There was a collision of two ships just off Cebu last night, with one of them, a passenger ferry, sinking. About twenty people are known to be dead thus far, but at least a couple hundred more are missing.
Rescuers in helicopters and boats are desperately searching for nearly 300 people missing after a ferry sank in the Philippines, with at least 24 already confirmed killed. 
The Thomas Aquinas ferry was carrying 870 passengers and crew when it collided with a cargo ship on Friday night in calm waters near the port of Cebu, the Philippines' second biggest city, authorities said. 
While 572 people had been rescued by Saturday morning, 24 bodies had been retrieved and 274 were still unaccounted for, said Rear Admiral Luis Tuason, vice commandant of the Philippine coastguard. 
The accident occurred in the mouth of a narrow strait leading into the port between two and three kilometres from shore, authorities said.
Prayers would be a good idea.

I enjoy riding the ferries here. They’re slower than planes, obviously, but I’m not in a big hurry and have traveled several times by ferry between Cebu and Manila. The company I use is the same as the one that sank, and I’ve found them to be good.
Ferries are one of the main modes of transport across the archipelago of more than 7,100 islands, particularly for the millions of people too poor to fly. 
But sea accidents are common, with poor safety standards, lax enforcement and overloading typically to blame. 
The world's deadliest peacetime maritime disaster occurred near the capital, Manila, in 1987 when a ferry laden with Christmas holidaymakers collided with a small oil tanker, killing more than 4,300 people. 
In 2008, a huge ferry capsized during a typhoon off the central island of Sibuyan, leaving almost 800 dead.
Having said I like the ferry company I’ve used, the company that operates the cargo ship involved in this collision, Sulpicio Lines, is another matter entirely.* Those two disasters mentioned in the preceding paragraph were both Sulpicio ships. The Dona Paz, which went down in 1987, was carrying more than four thousand people although the passenger manifest reportedly only showed fifteen hundred.

But nothing was done about it.

* To be fair, no one yet knows who is at fault in this instance.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Snowden Effect?

The US has decided to impose tariffs on imports of shrimp from Ecuador. When I first saw the reports about it, my first assumption was that this was retaliation for Ecuador’s offer of asylum to Edward Snowden, similar to the recent withdrawal of trade preferences on certain products, as I mentioned here.

Then I read a bit about it, and decided I was wrong, since this is a result of a complaint filed late last year by shrimpers in the Gulf against several countries that they claim are subsidizing exports to the US. The US has a law requiring the Commerce Department to impose tariffs on imports that are subsidized by foreign governments, with the amount of the tariff calculated to offset the amount of the subsidy.
The Department of Commerce of the United States (DOC) decided to impose an anti-subsidy tariff of 13.5 per cent for Ecuadorian shrimp exports, which so far have been imported free from tariffs to that market. 
Tariffs were also set for Malaysia (54.5 per cent), China (18.2 per cent), India (11.1 per cent) and Vietnam (7.9 per cent), but decisions were taken to exempt Thailand and Indonesia. 
This decision came following a complaint from the US organization Coalition of Gulf Shrimp Industries (COGSI) in December 2012 that accused the seven countries of using subsidies that contribute to make their production cheap and generate alleged unfair competition.
So Ecuador got hit, but so did several others, and Ecuador was by no means hit the hardest. Therefore, retaliation seems to not be involved.

But then I read on, and switched back (maybe) to my original opinion, that this may be retaliation, at least in part. Because the next paragraph says that the original findings were that Ecuador would get a pass, same as Thailand and Indonesia.
Last May, a preliminary report of the DOC determined that no tariffs would be imposed on Ecuador. But now the DOC changed its mind because in its research it was found out that only Indonesia and Thailand were not granted substantial subsidies …
It’s quite possible, I admit, that Commerce simply got some more info about subsidies in the meantime. My cynical guess, though, is that the change has more to do with Snowden than with shrimp.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


My next stop on The Adventures of Bob World Tour is likely to be Ecuador. Such things are always subject to change without notice, but I’ve pretty much decided on moving to Quito early next year, after a visit home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This has caused me to be following Ecuadorian politics rather more than I have at any other point in my life. Which isn’t saying much, since the amount of time I spent thinking about Ecuadorian politics in the years 1947 through 2011 is pretty close to zero. In the past year+, though, I’ve been paying some attention, and let me tell you, it’s not a pretty picture.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you an in-depth report in this post – that will follow, bit by bit, over the coming months – but just as a bit of background, the current president of Ecuador is Rafael Correa, who is now in his third and final term.

Or maybe not.
Only a few months since the election have passed. But Correa's political allies are now proposing a law that would eliminate term limits for Ecuador's president, the same move Chavez took in Venezuela back in 2009. 
This worries Ecuadorians who believe that Correa has already gathered too much power in his hands by building up a state-owned media empire that responds to his interests, going after media critics with multi-million dollar lawsuits, and interfering in the country's judiciary.
More to come …

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Teen Idols

Once again I was, for no good reason, looking up random information on Wikipedia yesterday. This time it was 1950s-60s teen idols – Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian. As is standard with teen idols in all eras, they had short stays at the top, though they are still going strong (or, at least, still going) on the nostalgia circuit.

No way would you get me to part with any of my money to see these guys, but if you feel differently – go for it.

But the interesting thing I read was about Fabian:
He was drafted, but rejected, for military service during the Vietnam War. According to USMC Lt. Col. Arthur Eppley, Fabian was declared 4F (unfit for service) after presenting a doctor's note stating that induction into the Army could cause him to develop homosexual tendencies. 
To be honest, this thing seems a bit lightly sourced. How does the author of the book cited know this about a draft board decision?

But, if true, the question it raises for me is that I thought one had to actually be gay to get a 4F back then. Would a doctor saying that you might become gay work just as well? Heck, I knew a bunch of guys who would have tried that dodge.
Sarge, I'm only eighteen, I got a ruptured spleen
And I always carry a purse
I got eyes like a bat, and my feet are flat, and my asthma's getting worse
Yes, think of my career, my sweetheart dear, and my poor old invalid aunt
Besides, I ain't no fool, I'm a-goin' to school
And I'm working in a defense plant
-- The Draft Dodger Rag, Phil Ochs, 1965

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Government-Approved Names?

A judge in Tennessee has ruled that a baby cannot be named ‘Messiah’. While I think that the parents who chose that name are more than a bit strange, I cannot see what the heck business it is of the government if parents choose to be idiots in such a matter.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Philippine Drivers' Test

I would never advocate cheating, of course, but I thought I would pass on to my friends the following document, which came into my possession by means I can't divulge. It is the written portion of the Philippine driving test (the behind-the-wheel portion consists of driving home -- if you made it there alive, you passed).

The answers are marked in red, though this is just for information purposes. If you are taking the test, please do not use these answers, since that would be cheating.

Department of Transportation and Communications
Republic of the Philippines
Official Drivers' Test - 2013

1. Which side of the center line should you drive on?
  • The left
  • The right
  • What center line?
2. What is the purpose of a sidewalk?
  • A place for pedestrians to walk
  • A place for motorcycles to drive
  • A place for cars to park
  • Whatever you damn well want to do with it
3. What should you do when pulling into a continuous stream of traffic?
  • Wait for an opening, then proceed with care
  • Close eyes and go, while honking horn
4. When a cop stops you, you should:
  • Pull off the road at a safe spot
  • Argue with him
  • Ask if two hundred pesos is enough (unless you're a Kano, in which case, ask if a thousand is enough)
5. When approaching a cross street where you intend to turn, you should:
  • Use turn signals
  • Use hand signals
  • Do whatever you damn well please
6. When turning, you should:
  • Check to make sure there are no pedestrians
  • Stop if there are pedestrians
  • Honk horn if there are pedestrians
7. When should you stop at a red light?
  • Always
  • If there’s a lot of traffic coming from the side streets
  • If the car in front of you has stopped, unless you can go around him
8. If two vehicles approach an intersection simultaneously, which has the right of way?
  • The driver approaching from the left
  • The driver approaching from the right
  • The driver who’s more of a real man
9. If your horn and your brakes both go out, you should:
  • Get them repaired immediately
  • Get the brakes fixed
  • Get horn fixed, wait until next payday (maybe) for the brakes 
10. How often should you check to see that your horn is working?
  • Before starting out
  • At every intersection
  • Whenever you see a pretty girl
  • At blind curves
  • Before running a red light
  • All of the above
11. At sundown you should:
  • Turn on headlights to see better
  • Leave headlights off to conserve gas
  • Do as you damn well please
12. The purpose of the rearview mirror is:
  • To help you see when it’s safe to change lanes
  • To hang your rosary beads so it will always be safe to change lanes
13. What is the appropriate speed to drive?
  • The speed limit posted on road signs
  • The appropriate speed for road conditions, but no more than posted
  • How fast can your car go?
14. When a jeepney stops in front of you to pick up passengers, you should:
  • Stop, check traffic, then pass on the left
  • Stop, check traffic, then pass on the right
  • Honk, then do whatever you damn well please

Sunday, August 11, 2013


I receive a couple weekly newsletters that deal with the origins of words and phrases, one of many dorky subjects I’m interested in. One of them, World Wide Words, featured a discussion of the word agog this week.

After explaining that the word derived from Middle French en gogues, which meant ‘in good humor’, the writer moved on to this:
Sixties-style go-go girls
Incidentally, a related Middle French form was à gogo, uninhibitedly or joyfully … This is still in the language and appeared in Paris in 1952 in the name of the nightclub and pioneering discotheque called the Whisky à Gogo (that is, Whisky Galore) … The entertainment format became fashionable and it and the name were brought into English, leading to the modified version a-go-go appearing all over the place during the 1960s as a fashionable creation.
‘Go-go’ bars became a very big deal in the mid sixties. These were the forerunners of what today are called ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ or ‘cabarets’. They featured ‘go-go girls’, dancers in (usually) bikinis.

The most popular of these bars in Phoenix was called The Hi-Liter. Cleve Cavness, my best friend, and I managed to get in one night though we were underage (which means it was prior to 1968). We had barely gotten settled, though, before one of us (I say it was Cleve, but he may remember it differently) knocked over our beers onto the floor and the bouncer threw us out. An ignominious end to what was looking like a breakthrough evening for us.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

When Did College Football Become a Fashion Show?

It seems that every football team now needs to show up in different uniforms virtually every game, with breathless reports in the sports press on which uniform will be worn which week.

Here is a report giving the schedule of weekly uniforms for my ASU Sun Devils for the coming season.
Arizona State University has many different football uniform combinations, so it's understandable if their color schemes can be a bit confusing. 
Knowing that, Friday the school released the combinations it plans on wearing for its 2013 home games. 
According to the release, the Sept. 14 game against Wisconsin will be the annual Blackout game, and the Sept. 28 contest with USC will be the second "Maroon Monsoon" game.
From there, fans will have the opportunity to choose what combinations will be worn for the games against Colorado and Oregon State, with voting to be conducted online and via social media.
This report on Notre Dame’s choice of ensemble for their 'Shamrock Series' sounds like something out of Vogue.
This years’ edition is another departure, though this time not as severe as last. The Irish will be wearing a gold helmet with a deep flake texture and a smooth, shiny gold shamrock outlined in green. Seriously deep flake. It almost looks like it should be rough to the touch. It is paired with a green metallic facemask. 
The all-white uniform has an interesting shoulder and body gradient texture, shifting below the shoulder seam. The smooth metallic shamrock appears again on the shoulder.
And heaven forbid that the fans should clash with the team’s color choices. What a fashion disaster that would be.

Oregon helps out by telling their fans what colors to wear to each game. You have no excuses now, Ducks fans, so don’t embarrass everybody by showing up in the wrong color, OK?

Does this strike anyone else as a bit silly?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Underage Prostitutes

In certain sections of Cebu City, where I live at present, it's almost impossible for a foreigner to walk any significant distance without getting at least a few offers of sex -- the Colon district, Mango Avenue, sometimes Fuente, and Juana Osmena come to mind. Generally, when I get such offers, I just pass by, but occasionally, out of curiosity, I will stop and ask a question -- most often, "How old are you?" when the girl seems unusually young.

The problem is, though, that there's no reason to believe the answers. If she says eighteen, is she really sixteen, but lying because she thinks I want a 'legal' girl? If she says sixteen, is she really eighteen, but thinks maybe my asking means I'm into 'young stuff'? In any case, the odds are that the answer is whatever she thinks a potential customer wants to hear.

Recently I was walking through Colon and passed a small group of hookers. One called out to me and pointed to a young girl sitting next to her. I asked the girl how old she was, and she answered that she was fifteen. I said something like, "Too young" and walked away. The older hooker said, "How old you want?"

I continued walking, but later I started thinking that maybe I should have answered "Twelve" to see what reaction I'd get. Of course, that's the sort of joke that could get me into a lot of trouble, so it's probably best I just left.

Kokura's Luck

On this day, sixty-eight years ago, Kokura got lucky.

After the bombing of Hiroshima a few days earlier, a B-29 took off from Tinian carrying a bomb called the Fat Man and headed for its target – Kokura, Japan. But when it got to Kokura there was a lot of haze. After hanging around for a while and running low on fuel (the plane was unable to return to Tinian and barely made it to Okinawa), the pilot decided to move on to the alternative target, Nagasaki.
Sweeney and his crew were under orders to only bomb visually. When they got to Kokura they found the haze and smoke obscuring the city as well as the large ammunition arsenal that was the reason for targeting the city. They made three unsuccessful passes, wasting more fuel, while anti-aircraft fire zeroed in on them and Japanese fighter planes began to climb toward them. The B-29s broke off and headed for Nagasaki. The phrase Kokura's Luck was coined in Japan to describe escaping a terrible occurrence without being aware of the danger.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Let’s Discuss ‘Experts’

I was reading an item today that was put forth as a woman’s perspective on relationships between older men and younger women. Upon reading it, however, it turned out to be mostly quotes from a man – so much for the ‘woman’s perspective’. And, though the man is cited as an authority, he’s not identified beyond his name – Hugo Schwyzer.

I wondered if readers were expected to recognize the name, because I certainly didn’t. Curious, I asked Google who the heck Hugo Schwyzer is. The results are interesting, because they tell us the sort of person that the media and the academic community puts forth as an expert.

Hugo Schwyzer, Wikipedia tells us, is a gender studies professor (no kidding, and he even admits it) at Pasadena City College. In addition, his writing often appears in such publications as Salon and he has a column running regularly in The Atlantic.

Professor Schwyzer advises us that older men should not be involved with younger women, but it turns out that he has a history of sex with his own female students. While he claims that such behavior is in his past, the fact is that just a few months ago he had a sexting/phone relationship with a woman eighteen years younger than himself.
… in January 2013, Schwyzer, then 45, had a brief but torrid texting, telephonic and online fling with a 27 year old woman named Christina Parreira, also known [in] “sex worker activism’ circles as Christina Page — and in webcam/amateur porn circles as Gabriela “Ela” Stone. According to Parreira, Schwyzer acknowledged that revelation of their fling would be “career-killing” for him — Hugo has called older men who are “into” younger women – such as men in their 40s being attracted to and pursuing women in their 20s – dirty old men and “creeps.” 
In addition, though presenting himself (and being presented by the media) as an expert on male/female relationships, he has been divorced three times thus far, and admits to having multiple affairs during his current (fourth) marriage, which he now describes as ‘over’. Of course, many people have had multiple marriages, but most of them don't pretend to be experts on gender relationships.

Oh, and he attempted to murder a former girlfriend in a murder/suicide fifteen years ago.

But this is the guy who the media and academe think should be given a platform to lecture us on male/female relationships.

Concerning his suicide attempt last week: Despite the fact that he is a world-class hypocrite, a poseur, and pretty much an all-around jerk – he still is a human being, and therefore I wish him no evil. I sincerely hope he gets the help he needs to get his life and his thinking in order. I also hope that in the process he acquires a bit of humility and refrains in the future from giving advice that he is so clearly not qualified to give.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chattanooga Choo Choo

I just learned that Glenn Miller’s Chattanooga Choo Choo was the first golden record. It was introduced in the movie Sun Valley Serenade and reached #1 on December 7, 1941 (I think that date has some other significance as well). It stayed #1 for nine weeks.

I doubt that it could be released today, because of the opening lines:
"Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?" 
"Track 29!" 
"Boy, you can give me a shine."
The record sold 1.2 million copies. I have the Andrews Sisters’ version on my mp3 player.

A Write-In in Detroit

A write-in candidate, a guy named Mike Duggan, appears to have finished first in the Detroit mayoral primary (there will be a run-off between the top two finishers).

Write-in campaigns are always difficult. But how the heck do you do write-ins in a city with 47% functional illiteracy?

And on top of that, Duggan is white. Amazing.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to Solve the Obesity Problem in America

The effort by labor unions to unionize fast-food employees (the unions are getting desperate) with the 'living wage' campaign seems like something that should be enthusiastically supported by those who believe McDonald's, et al. are responsible for the obesity epidemic.

Let Big Labor do for the restaurants what they did for the American manufacturing sector and voila! -- no more obesity.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Big Mac as a Tool to Compare International Salaries

When I was just new here in Cebu, my landlord (an Iranian expat married to a Filipina) and I were having a discussion about economics. He used as an example the amount of time a Filipino working at McDonald’s must work in order to buy a Big Mac, compared to the time an American worker must work.

I thought it was an interesting comparison, and it turns out others have had the same idea: here’s an article from The Wall Street Journal about an economist who did a study on the subject (and here's the original study).
In order to calculate a real wages across countries Orley C. Ashenfelter of Princeton University found an excellent example using McDonald’s employees. In his paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Ashenfelter notes that McDonald’s workers across the globe by design are asked to perform the same tasks to build the same product: a Big Mac. By calculating how many hours of work it takes an employee to earn enough to afford a Big Mac, he can show how wages change across countries. 
As one might expect, poor countries have to work longer to afford the same goods. For example, in 2011 a worker in a McDonald’s in China would have to work 85 minutes to afford a Big Mac. That compares to just 27 minutes on the job before an American employee earns enough to buy the sandwich.
The Philippines is not broken out individually in the study, so let's take a shot at doing so.

The minimum wage in Cebu City is 327 pesos per day. Since law enforcement in all areas of life here is spotty at best, many companies here pay far less. But foreign companies are watched closely, and a company as highly visible as McDonald’s (or their local franchisee) would be unlikely to take any chances, so we will assume they comply with the law.

However, note that the wages are per day, rather than per hour as in the US. Employers here generally require long days. The laundry I use, for example, is open 7am-7pm, with apparently the same staff all day; construction projects go on well into the evening. Ten hours seems to be a normal working day here, so the odds are that a McDonald’s employee makes about 33 pesos/hour. Nonetheless, I’ll use an eight-hour day for calculation purposes, since I don’t know that for sure; and on that basis the pay is 41 pesos/hour.

Recent articles I’ve read about ‘living wage’ protests say that McDonald’s US employees mostly make $7.25/hour. This study says $7.33, which is close; we’ll use the $7.25 figure.

A Big Mac in the US is $3.99 according to things I’ve read, meaning that an employee must work just over a half hour, thirty-three minutes*, to buy one. A Big Mac here is 125 pesos (I checked yesterday), so a Philippine employee must work just over three hours, 183 minutes. So Philippine workers get about one-sixth the effective pay of an American.

What’s more remarkable is that, even compared to China, the Philippine workers are poorly paid – the Philippine workers must work twice as long as those in China to buy a Big Mac.

* The quote from The Wall Street Journal said twenty-seven minutes, but that was based on the $7.33 average wage, and on a lower price for the Big Mac. I’ve tried to tilt all my assumptions against the US and toward the Philippines to avoid being accused of making the Philippines look bad.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Boy Named Sue Was at the Scopes Trial

… and he wasn’t just there – he played a major role in the whole affair.

I looked up the Scopes Trial the other day for some reason. I had been aware that (not surprisingly), Inherit the Wind is not at all an accurate depiction of the events, and I recall reading once a few years ago that it was really just a publicity stunt by the town (Dayton, Tennessee).

After reading about it on Wikipedia, it seems that the whole thing was pretty much a fraud from start to finish.

Here’s the basic story: A fundamentalist legislator got a bill passed making it illegal to teach evolution. The governor signed it, apparently, to appease that constituency, figuring it would never be enforced; the standard biology textbook used in Tennessee high schools had a chapter on evolution.

Then a group of business and professional people in Dayton got the bright idea that they could goose the local economy by staging a big show trial. It would bring lots of people in to watch the trial and get publicity in all the big papers.

One of the group, a lawyer, was good friends with the football coach at the local high school, John Scopes, who also filled in as a substitute teacher as needed, so they called him in. Yes, Scopes told the group, he had taught some biology classes, but no, he couldn’t remember whether he had taught evolution or not (he later told at least a few people that he definitely hadn’t taught it). However, Scopes agreed to say he had taught evolution if that would be helpful, and the group rounded up a few students and coached them on how to testify appropriately ('appropiately' being defined as 'not truthfully').

None of this, needless to say, is depicted in Inherit the Wind, where Scopes is a teacher making a principled stand for academic freedom and scientific truth.

The plan didn’t work all that well, unfortunately. Plenty of people showed up, which gave a temporary lift to the town; but most of the publicity was bad, depicting the town as a batch of ignorant bigots.

But to get back to the headline – the lawyer who was John Scopes’ buddy was named Sue Hicks (he had been named for his mother, who died giving birth to him). In addition to his key role in setting up the whole affair, Sue Hicks served on the prosecution team at the trial.

Hicks later went on to a career as a judge and apparently came to the attention of songwriter Shel Silverstein while addressing a legal conference. Silverstein was amused by the name and wrote the song (which, needless to say, bore no resemblance to Sue Hicks’s life) that Johnny Cash would make famous.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Gloria

Since I posted a couple days ago about the two people I love the most (Robin and Kathleen), it seems appropriate to post today about the one who ran a very close third -- their mother.

Gloria would be fifty-eight today, were she alive. Here's a picture of her when she was twenty-five, taken in her family's living room in Manila, shortly before I met her.

Yes, she was a babe.

If I Were a Politician, I’d Probably Be a Socialist

Or, given that I’m an American, and socialism has a bad reputation in the US, I’d probably be a corporatist, which is what most US politicians are (of both parties).

It’s not that I believe in either economic program – I definitely don’t – but if I were a politician, I would want as much power as possible concentrated in the government (i.e., me) rather than diffused among all those ignorant people (i.e., you); that’s the nature of politicians everywhere.

The best way to do that is through socialism or corporatism, so that’s what I would support.

Wikipedia has a definition of corporatism here (as tripartism). In practice, to oversimplify, it amounts to socialism without the state ownership. When the term ‘crony capitalism’ is used in the US, it is often referring to corporatism/tripartism.