Thursday, February 22, 2007
BRING THE TROOPS HOME
That is a war we can never win now. Incredible bungling in Washington has blown that entire campaign. When they combined the war against the Taliban with the war on drugs, it made the whole thing unwinnable. So now American and allied troops are being killed over there because of the idiotic decision to combine “crusades.”
It’s sad. Americans will never understand the tribal mentality that exists in that part of the world.
Some are now suggesting we just buy their opium crops. That would be a laugh. The altruistic Americans would never know who to pay. In their sense of “fair play” they would insist the farmers who grew the crop should receive the money.
Sorry. Wrong guy. The war would continue.
Would the right guy come forward? Fat chance. So the Americans could arrest him? No way. The war would continue.
If the Americans ditched the war on drugs at this point, would that help? No way. The Americans have shown their colors. Once they subdue the Taliban, they would restart the war on drugs. That is their nature. The war will continue.
Washington has lost this one.
Bring the troops home.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
THE IDEA OF A LIFETIME
There are thousands of people with that problem. Doctors say it is incurable.
I think I found a cure. This is the idea of a lifetime. How about Scott Adams hires a hip-hop backup group? There are a lot of them around, broke and hungry. When Adams wants to speak, he signals the group. They start with that mouth sound. The guy with the drum sticks starts beating on something and Adams does a rap. There you go.
When the phone rings, the backup guys just start automatically and Adams can answer the phone doing rap. It that perfect or what?
Adams describes himself as a “minor celebrity.” When news of this gets out, and it will, he will still be on the minor celebrity list but with a bullet.
Not everyone with this affliction can afford to hire a hip-hop backup group. I envision a charitable foundation that will hire backup groups to join these voice challenged people. Everyone benefits. Broke and hungry hip-hoppers get jobs and these poor unfortunates get a voice.
This idea is so great I’m sure I’ll get some kind of a prize. Probably not the Nobel Prize because this malady only affects a few thousand people and is not life threatening. But maybe someone will give me a ribbon I can wear sometimes.
Monday, February 19, 2007
A headline reads: UTTER MAYHEM IN SOUTH. The Thai military government wants to pursue talks in an effort to mollify and appease the “separatists.” They want to find out what the Muslim radicals desire. I can save them the effort. They can ask me. What those Muslims want, Mr. Thai military man, is you and everyone like you dead. Do that for them and they will be appeased.
There’s a summary of the recent happenings *HERE*.
Thailand is called “Land of Smiles” for good reason. These are a friendly and beautiful people. But get their ire up and they are capable of some pretty violent things. When the Muslims killed a Buddhist monk in one incident last year, there was some bad stuff done in retribution. The Muslims are still complaining about that. I can picture some more serious balancing of the books coming if the Muslims do not rein in their own. It is, after all, the Muslims themselves who must police their own ranks. No one else can do that for them. But they appear to be unable or unwilling to do that.
Call me a cynic or a pessimist but I see a great deal of escalation down the road. This stuff will eventually lead to border clashes and perhaps war between Thailand and Malaysia. It is only the border provinces adjacent to Malaysia that are heavily involved in this. Those provinces have most of the Muslims in Thailand. Malaysia is more than 90% Muslim. Can you see a pattern here?
In the meantime, there are fears that Thai tourism will take a hit. As my Mexican girlfriend used to say, “No sheet.” You can read about tourism fears *HERE*. What they don’t say is how it will affect overall tourism. To a potential visitor, a bomb is a bomb. It doesn’t matter that it could be a thousand miles south of his would-be destination. The bombs are going off in Thailand so all of Thailand will pay with loss of the tourist dollar.
Also in the meantime, the G..D…ed Thai baht keeps getting stronger, screwing this farang who lives on the exchange rate. What has to happen for that damned thing to go the other way?
I know it’s not all about me but I can’t win.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
BOMBS IN THAILAND
That does seem strange that there was so little damage to humans. There are several reasons according to the reports. None of the bombs was larger than a kilogram. No metal enclosed the explosives. They were left in places where extensive casualties were not likely to occur.
The bombs were carried in hollowed out books.
One result is that this attack is being linked to the string of bombs that were set off in Bangkok a while ago. Previously, the military government was linking the Bangkok bombing to the previous, deposed administration.
There are reports *HERE* and *HERE* and *HERE* and *HERE*
One difficulty in reporting this is CNN is off the air here. They have been off the air for a couple of months. This was because of coverage they were giving the deposed Prime Minister Thaksin. The military government did not approve of that. That void in English language reporting has not been filled. The BBC is pretty lame.
Friday, February 16, 2007
I was living in Saigon working at Tan Sun Nhut airport. I was as happy as a flea on a fat, furry dog. Saigon was a great town.
Then they sent me to Nha Trang because there was a problem. Nha Trang was about halfway up the coast between Saigon and Da Nang. To call it a “problem” was an understatement.
They were building a parking apron at the Nha Trang airport. It was 150 meters wide by 300 meters long (to the best of my memory). After they put down and compacted their base rock and added a seal coat (a coat of heavy oil) they had a rain and discovered it didn’t drain. They sent me to fix it.
The American engineering staff had disappeared. The OICC (Officer in Charge of Construction) didn’t have a clue as to what had caused the problem. Finally, the Vietnamese surveyor told me the crown of the parking apron had been lowered two meters to save base rock. The job had been completed a month ahead of schedule but the apron was flat. Two meters of crown was the entire slope in the design. They told me to fix it. It seemed impossible. How the frack do you drain a flat apron?
My first idea was to scarify the surface and blend in some base rock to give it some sort of a crown, even if not all the designer intended.
That was objected to by everyone. I think there was an embarrassment quotient involved such as completion reports and payments. Some people were stressed out.
“You will fix what is there,” I was told.
I had no idea how to do it until I started talking to the paving superintendent. This guy, it turned out, was super-competent. We were supposed to put a 10 Cm (4 inch) layer of asphalt (also called black top or tarmac) down as the final surface of the apron. The superintendent explained how he could vary the layer depth so maybe, if we could find existing swales, we could increase improve on them.
Base rock can never be laid completely flat, even if that were the design. That’s why they put in a large crown to drain it, so uneven areas of the base won’t matter. It was worth a shot so I painted dots on the parking apron in 5 meter intervals, the width of the paving machine (12 ft.) apart. Each dot had a letter and number. That gave us nearly 2000 points. We shot elevations on them. Then I made a contour map with a one Cm interval.
Now some people are gifted at one thing and some at another. I must confess that, as a lifetime engineer and surveyor, directions confuse me. I cannot get off the Bangkok subway and go up the reversing escalators without getting totally disoriented.
Ah, but contour maps are another thing. The making of those things was one of the gifts bestowed on me. When I went through surveying school, I did the maps for the entire class of 12.
So I did a contour map of the apron and found a few windows. The cross-sections and the contour map showed up swales and high spots. Following the instructions of the paving superintendent, on each point on the apron we painted the thickness of pavement needed accentuate the tiny slope. We worked closely together during the paving.
The test came at the first rain after completion. Except for a “bird bath” or two, it drained.
We didn’t say a word; we just looked at each other. No one would ever know the miracle we had performed. We had drained a flat parking apron.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
What caused all the problems?
I can’t say for sure but I have a pretty good idea. There were rumors of corruption among the construction management at the airport for some time. Someone wrote into a blog anonymously and said he was a successful bidder on a portion of the construction but was asked to give 40 million baht (a million dollars) as a kickback before proceeding. When he refused he lost the contract. I don’t know if that was true but it certainly fits the pattern of a failed construction project.
A contractor who has to pay a huge bribe in order to get the contract is going to have to cut corners to make money on the deal. The manager who has taken the bribe will not be critical of the work he inspects.
Again, I don’t know if that’s what happened, but it fits the pattern.
I also must say, I have never personally seen corruption in my three years here in Thailand.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Since the Iranians seem to be ahead of us in this field, we can even copy their technology and surely improve on it. We can produce bombs of the type needed without limit and for little cost. Adding some innovation might be fun. The old standard of the bomb wrapped in a scarf seems too tame. How about milk bottle bombs along with suitcase or disguised as a baby bomb? They might even have some contests for laughs. The potential variety seems endless.
With our technology we can surely increase the strength of the explosives. We ought to be able to get a much bigger bang with smaller packages. Get the labs working on that.
As for personnel, that would be easy. There are Iranian dissidents everywhere. There was a whole camp of them in northeast Iraq when the war began. Iran asked us at the time to wipe them out because of the threat they imposed. I seem to remember that we did conduct operations against them because they were unfriendly to the Kurds also. Anyway, there should still be thousands upon thousands of them.
On top of that, we control or have access to virtually the entire Iranian border. This is a border across which it is just as easy to get terrorists in as it is to get them out. It is porous to say the least. Iran would have a huge problem with networks of terrorists in their midst. The terrorists could move freely and blend in with the population. They would find refuge and aid in the general population. Sound familiar? It is any government’s worst nightmare.
The biggest problem would be keeping the operation secret from the CIA. If anyone from the CIA caught wind of it, the news and details would be flashed around the world in an instant via the NY Times. For that reason the entire project would have to be carefully compartmentalized. Everyone involved should know as little about the project as a whole as possible. In that way, the CIA exposes would only get a few agents killed at a time and not threaten the entire project.
That’s the reality of the war on terror.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
ANNA NICOLE SMITH
I AM NOT THE FATHER, I THINK
If she had a normal gestation period (if so it would be the only normal thing about her), she got impregnated last year. I spent the entire year here in Bangkok. I don’t think she came here during that time. I don’t mess with the ladies in the girly establishments but even so, I never saw anyone who looked remotely like her. And I never mess with women who outweigh me anyway.
But then I got to thinking. If she did sneak into Bangkok and sneaked into my house and caught me with the lights out or asleep, who knows? She might have done that so I might be the father.
And now they’ve brought stored semen into the mix. Who the hell can say for sure they’re not the father now that they’ve brought that crap into the mix? I have never stored any of my semen in a bank. (I was afraid of rejection. That would be the ultimate rejection.)
But then I got to thinking. One of my old girlfriends could have stored one of my used condoms with the purpose of implicating me in a rape case sometime (I saw that on a cop show), then she could have shoved it into Anna while Anna was passed out somewhere (which has happened). So I might be the father.
So they’re going to do a DNA test which they think will solve the problem and answer the question. Wrong. The way I understand it, DNA tests give odds of like a million to one that they’ve got the right man. But that won’t be enough in this case. See, there are around three billion men in the world. A test that can narrow it down to one in a million will still leave three thousand men who might be the father.
You see the problem?
Monday, February 12, 2007
It made me start wondering from whence, politically, Russert came. I had noticed a preponderance of far out lefties on most panels he moderated. Usually only one “token” righty. So I decided to look him up.
In Russert’s biography on Wikipedia it says:
Before joining NBC News, Russert served as counselor in New York Governor Mario Cuomo's office in Albany in 1983 to 1984 and was chief of staff to Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan from 1977 to 1982
In the interest of full disclosure that should be mentioned on every program Russert hosts. It is only fair to know a political interviewer’s possible bias.
And while I’m on the subject, full disclosure of the interviewer’s past political affiliations should be a part of every interview show. It’s not fair to the public to pretend neutrality while being a mouthpiece for one side or the other.
Ian Richardson, RIP [Yuval Levin]
I can add that Richardson played Bill Haydon in BBC’s mini-series “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” That is one of my all time favorites. It always gave me pleasure to see his face come up on the screen because I knew it would be an interesting performance.
British actor Ian Richardson passed away this weekend, leaving behind a great legacy of Shakespearean acting, but, to my mind, an even greater legacy for fans of political thrillers. Richardson starred as the fantastically diabolical Francis Urquhart in the 1990 BBC mini-series “House of Cards,” based on the book by Michael Dobbs, and its two sequels “To Play the King” in 1993, and “The Final Cut” in 1995. A very thinly veiled satire of the British Conservative party in the wake of Thatcher, the three are full of intrigue, humor, and wit, and are about the best fix a political junky on either side of the pond could ever hope for. If you’ve never seen them, do yourself a favor and get the DVDs.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Thursday, February 08, 2007
MOVE OVER BEVERLY HILLBILLIES
More evidence is the fact that critics and snobs hated it. No, that is not a redundancy. Although all critics are snobs, that does not make all snobs critics. (There’s a lesson in logic.) Critics are a humorless lot. They would have to watch a show with an audience to know if something is funny. And even so, it would have to be dignified humor. A fart joke would have them en masse reaching for the perfumed handkerchief tucked into their left sleeve. A critic’s first goal is to show they are better than the material they are reviewing.
Okay, enough on critics. You get the idea.
So what made The Beverly Hillbillies so successful?
It had a lot of things working for it. One thing was Al Capp’s hugely successful comic strip, Li’l Abner. TBH didn’t plagiarize Capp’s creation, but they did borrow liberally. Max Baer as Jethro Bodine was the personification of Li’l Abner in looks and personality. Donna Douglas as Elly May Clampett was pretty close to Daisy May for looks. Granny in looks and personality was Ma Yokum. Even her given name in the show was Daisy May.
Only buddy Epson as Jed Clampett didn’t fit into Capp’s cartoon mold. But he was a familiar face on TV from other hit shows. So TBH had easily, if not universally, recognized characters.
Then the characters are thrown into a completely foreign, to them, environment. “Fish out of Water” plots work well in all storytelling. The shows were well written to accentuate that situation.
The biggest asset on the show though was Max Baer. He was nothing short of great as the giant, innocent, dumb, Jethroe. His was one of the classic, all time comic portrayals.
TBH is a show that should be studied by would-be sitcom promoters for how to do things right. (Granted, a Max Baer does not come around very often.)
Which brings me to "Two and a Half Men". Believe it or not, this show has many similarities to TBH. Each character is unique and has their own niche on the show. That makes them easily recognizable and distinct. So, although they didn’t have the advantage of a national cartoon as a pre-introduction, all it takes is one episode to sort out who is who.
The “Fish out of Water” theme is followed when Jon Cryer, playing nerdy, P-whipped, Alan Harper, moves into the beach front home of Charlie Sheen, playing his worldly, womanizing brother, Charlie Harper. The writing exploiting this situation is brilliant.
The supporting cast is quite good. I seldom like kid actors, but Angus T. Jones, the kid playing Cryer’s son, is excellent. Holland Taylor, who plays the mother of the brothers, has been a favorite of mine since she appeared on Bosom Buddies.
But the show’s biggest asset is Charlie Sheen. He is so perfect in the role of the amoral womanizer you might suspect he has spent his whole life studying for the part. Beyond that, his comedic talents are flawless. He is one of the best sitcom comics ever.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
NOW THAT'S A HAIR STYLE
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
She had a quizzical, unsure expression on her face. “What do you think?” she asked me.
I tried to give a confident smile and I nodded, nothing more. I was stalling in an effort to gather my thoughts.
“It’s the Little Orphan Annie hair style,” she said. “My hairdresser said it looks great. It’s the latest thing.”
This was back when there was a big stage play and movie, needless to say. If I saw someone else in that hair style, I might have pointed it out and laughed. But his was serious business. I had a tough decision to make.
She went to the mirror and touched her hair. “You don’t think it’s weird, do you?”
Do I tell her the truth and have her hate me for a few months or do I lie and have her lose all respect for my judgment? Why do women put you in these positions?
I did what any sensible man would do; I lied. “It looks fine, dear,” I told her.
She was frowning into the mirror. “Are you sure?” She turned to me. “You’d tell me if it didn’t look good, wouldn’t you?”
“Of course I would,” I lied. “It looks okay to me.”
She stared at me in that ‘lie detector’ way that women have. I tried to look innocent and charming, but not too charming. That would raise her suspicions. She finally turned away and I had passed the test.
Next day she came home really pissed. The hairdo had been washed out or whatever women do to get rid of a bad look. “Why didn’t you tell me I looked horrid?” she challenged me.
“Who said that?”
“The girls at work. They said it looked terrible. How could you let me go out looking like that?”
“Well, it looked okay to me. I thought you looked sexy in it.” See, now here’s a tip to all you men out there. Throw “looked sexy” into a conversation like that and it kinda deflects their aim a little. Women always try to look good to other women. Not sexy, just good. But if you throw a “looked sexy” into the mix, it gives you an excuse for not having the same opinion as her women friends.
“You think it looked sexy?”
“Men!” she dismissed the whole gender. “I should never have asked you. What do you know? All you ever think of is sex.”
She had me there, but I was off the hook. You have to make choices in marriage. Some aren’t easy.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Well a funny thing happened on the way to the “free money.” The Colts won 29-17. Good thing I couldn’t find a bookie here in Bangkok. I didn’t know where to look. So I didn’t have a bet on the game.
I’m not much of a gambler.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
PUTTING ON THE RITZ
When I started to make some good money I wanted to see how the other half lived. There is a famous place in downtown San Francisco called the Palace Hotel. Movies of old San Francisco mention it and sometimes have scenes in it. The Palace Hotel was a cultural icon to me. I determined to actually see the insides.
I put on my best suit and, feeling like an interloper, went to have dinner there. Lucky me, I got a waiter who spotted me immediately as someone who didn’t belong. His patronizing tone was something to hear. For years after I thought of clever things I could have said to put him in his place, but then is then, now is now.
The capper came when I asked if they had Tabasco. I knew immediately I had made a mistake. A look of glee came over his face. “Tabasco?” he repeated loudly. “Yes sir, we have Tabasco. Just one moment sir.” He went to the edge of the large dining room to a condiment cart. He ostentatiously wheeled the entire cart clear across the dining room to my table. By that time I felt every eye in the room was on me.
“There you are sir,” he said snottily. “Will there be anything else?”
I wanted to stand up and tell the diners I had only asked for Tabasco, but that wouldn’t help. I had been put in my place and my place wasn’t inside the Palace Hotel.
At the time, I was the chief surveyor on a large construction project. This guy was just an a-hole waiter. The knowledge of that comforted me a little.
Friday, February 02, 2007
MAN ON FIRE – ACTOR’S CUT
I thought about that after watching the “interrogation” scene in the car in Man on Fire. But it is not the same. Although his adversary is doing a magnificent job of acting, Denzel Washington is not just reacting, he is giving one of the top performances in the history of cinema. He is the epitome of cold, professional, fury. I thought he was even better than in Training Day which got him the Academy Award.
Unfortunately, I got the impression that the director, Tony Scott, thought Denzel Washington was stealing the picture away from him. He kept putting in flashbacks and segues to diminish the impact of the scene and to remind the audience that it was his, the director’s, film. (Hey! Look at me! Don’t look at Denzel.) The editing seemed like a flagrant ego trip. What else could explain so many idiotic cuts?
Directors get a chance to get even with studios by putting out a director’s cut on DVD. Of this movie I would like to see an actor’s cut in which the heavy handed editing is taken out.
Critics on Rotten Tomatoes only gave it a 39%. I’m sure the negativity is due to the editing.
Anyway check it out. The “interrogation” scene in the car is one of the greatest scenes in history. It ranks right up there with the Brando/Steiger scene in On the Waterfront. What a pity the director tried to ruin it.
AFTERTHOUGHT: I would like to see Denzel Washington play that character over and over, sort of like Charles Bronson in his Death Wish series. I know it won’t happen. The point is, Denzel Washington brought “tough guy” to a new level and it would be a pity to let that character go.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
HILLARY, TWO VIEWS
Dick Morris is no fan of Sen. Hillary Clinton, having spent much of the past decade writing and speaking out against her. And he took his always-quotable opinions to the offices of Americans for Tax Reform Wednesday at a breakfast sponsored by The American Spectator.
» “It is in the national interest that, if there is a Democratic president, that it not be Hillary.”
“Hillary will be the next president, and she’ll be the worst president we’ve ever seen…
You can read it all *HERE*. Whatever else you might think of him, Dick Morris has one of the smartest political minds in the US. But to say he “is no fan” of Hillary is a gross understatement. How much his animus has clouded his mind is hard to say. He is always worth listening to though and very often he is right.
On the other hand, this is what Ron Rosenbaum has written:
…of all the candidates so far, I’ve favored Hillary Clinton. Because she’s a woman and because she’s mean. Even if she doesn’t have a 16 point foreign policy plan, I feel her heart is going to be in the right place when she looks at the aggressive worldwide spread of a vicious and murderous medieval theocratic movement (jihad) that promotes the “honor killing” of rape victims, denies all the hard-won rights of women (not to mention gays, and liberals, and dissidents of all religious and political stripes). A culture that essentially wants to lock women up in the home, deprive them of the right to vote, to an education, to a full life as human beings.
…all the reasons the Hillary-haters can’t abide her (the ruthlessness, the aggressive ambition etc) will make her the president we need: she will strike fear into the hearts of our enemies.
You can read the entire article *HERE*. The main objections that came up to Rosenbaum’s points are that all of Hilary’s enemies are domestic. She has not taken firm positions on international enemies. In a time of war it might be better to have ones attention focused on the people who are trying to kill us.