Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama Backs Off Wright

So I couldn't fall asleep and I turned on the tube to while away the time.  Flipped to CNN and caught them carrying a live Obama presser in NC where he's a bit down, explaining how he's now disavowing Rev. Jeremiah Wright based on the latter' comments at the National Press Club the other day.

Because I'm still wide awake, I head over to Youtube to catch the NPC presser, all 30+ minutes of it, including the question session.  

Wow, the Rev. was pretty darn middle-of-the-road and melba toast like in his comments.  I'm not an Obama-bot and am far from calling myself a Christian, but this dude made a lot of sense.  I have no idea what the controversy is all about.

For an old Reverend, he was acting a bit silly, sorta like a college jock preening in front of his frat buddies, during the question -and-answer session.  This was mostly due to the fact that the audience was filled with friends and supporters who lustily clapped for him - he was just egging on the crowd, having a bit of fun.  Also, the NPC woman was overmatched, in wit and theology, so his overenthusiastic parries of her questions, or to be fair, written questions from the assembled press that she delivered, and the ease of his deflections, only served to goad him into more mugging for the crowd.  

Wright did state that he thought the US Government is capable of having had developed the HIV virus - of course it is capable, but HIV is a shitty biological weapon if it was crafted as such - and that 9/11 was, in part, provoked by past US Government policies.  These are definite political third rails, but, at least for the latter 9/11 statement, a lot of folks would agree.  One of them happen to be named Ron Paul.  

I have no idea what the fuss is about.  That Obama is now disavowing Wright makes him look more political than principled.  But of course I would think that, because I'm for the other guy (or gal).  

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

An Eternal Flame

While we are likely not headed to Beijing for the Games, I did stumble
across the Torch this evening.

The pix is not flashpacker DSLR quality and some girl's butt is in the
way. Sounds like the story of Thirsty's life. More pix later.

Vietnam Rescinds Adoption Law with US

Saw a snippet in the local paper announcing that Vietnam will terminate their current agreement on international adoption with the United States in July of this year; afterwards, they will consider whether or not to renew (or amend, I suppose) its terms.  

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Soft Shell Crabs

Had this last weekfor lunch. Dunno if it is crab season here, but they
had it in the kitchen.

They brought out only one and I asked about the second one, as stated
on the menu in Vietnamese. The owner sweetly apologized for the
kitchen's mistake and got me another one. Good thing I can read
numbers in Vietnamese. Really reasonable at 70k for a two crab portion.

Eating in Pham Ngu Lao

Sitting in the streets watching the non locals walk by on a rainy
Saigon evening. These were some of the best clams I've had in the
country. Wonder if I'll have to pay for it tomorrow.

What you see here is about 100k.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


So Hilary wins Pennsylvania by 8 points and the Obama camp will spin this as a meaningless, too-small win that was gained by rough house tactics (see NYT editorial).

Who will be the first to say that Hilary should quit the race because she didn't win by double digits?  

Hahaha.  We're not in Kansas anymore.  

I predict that  McCain will handily beat Obama in the general election, and the Obama Dems will galvanize around Hilary with hand wringing and woe is me sobs.  But it won't last long enough to push her towards 2012.     

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Indian, again

So it's kinda boring to show yet another Indian lunch, but this time
it is Bombay (I think) on Mac Thi Buoi near the Sun Wah.

What this and the previous post demnostrates, however, is the cool
iPhone tool called Sketches, which allows you to go all Perez Hilton
on your photos, right on the phone. More fun than useful, but
sometimes fun is a useful goal in and of itself.

No links for the software, as you can easily find it under the
Installer package.

I've also managed to install Fring. Some friends have told me they've
had trouble with it but it works fine (with some beta useability
issues) for me. Maybe it is because I had an existing account prior to
hooking it up to this phone.

Also, I only use it to have text chats. It is difficult enough to have
voice chats on Skype over a wired connection in this country, so going
over a public wifi through a third party intermediary like Fring using
a mobile device's CPU is really asking too much I think. But having
multi protocool IM really is useful, and fun.

Weekend at Ben Thanh's

Tipping, the Scale

Ah.. it's been a while since I've teed off in this space.  Maybe because I'm bothered from the lack of actual, real live golfing in my life.  Hitting the greens is a bit more relaxing than just hanging out at the range.

Anyhow, after moving down to Saigon, I've scoured the 'net looking for advice on where to eat and what to do.  I'm trying to discover more about this town, but there is only so much aimlessly walking in the midday heat that I can accomplish.  Getting coordinates to destinations would be helpful.

Such research on Vietnam ends up being a review of English travel logs and expat blogs.  Ergo, this rant.
  • people talk about giving $1 to someone (local), and then comment on how that's like 50% of the average yearly pay of a Vietnamese national.  Get a clue, m-fer.  The per-capita GDP is about $2,600 (in 2007) [corrected: this is the PPP (purchasing power parity) figure, as chicken leg man - Anh Duoi Ga - pointed out], but that accounts for the 50+ million folks who do not live in the city.  When was the last time you visited a province?  A lot of locals have spending power equal to your teaching salary, so stop trying to figure out how they're sporting nicer phones than you.
  • in the same vein, tip people appropriately you cheap bastards!  Folks write about going to foot massages and tipping 30k VND, like that's a big deal.  Listen, in jobs here where a tip from the customer is expected (aforementioned massages, golf course, etc.), the service folks get a very minimal base salary.  It's like your friendly bartender at home, who can legally get compensated below minimum wage.  If you were able to talk to the folks who have been kindly kneading your feet, or schleping your clubs, you would realize this.  That $15-20 USD caddie fee - the caddie sees 15-20k VND of it!  Per day!      
  • here is the tipping scale for a LOCAL - you are not, so pay more.  Foot massage: 50k; body massage: 100k; caddy (18 holes): 100k.
  • stop bitching about the women here, and how they are so materialistic.  Women are materialistic the world over (so are men - hey, look at me!).  It's just that your mangy ass could not attract the materialistic women back home, but, praise the lord, $omehow you could here.  Let's see - you can't really have a conversation with her, you met while you were either shopping for nice goods or sitting at a table nursing some $100+ bottle of whisky, and you got her number within 30 minutes.  Now you look askance when she expects, at minimum, some nice bauble of a gift the next time she sees you?  Welcome to the real world, from San Francisco to Saigon.
  • so you end up entertaining a materialistic girl.  Stop snooping around to see if she has other boyfriends - she does, just like every other like minded girl in the world.  And then it doesn't work out, so it ends. Be happy that you could entertain one, even for a bit of time.  Talking about bitch slapping people, even in jest, just makes you look like an asshole.  Or more precisely, a special kind of asshole, mixing misogyny with a faint whiff of racism.  After all, unlike a MySpace battle in the suburban jungle back home, your targets generally do not have knowledge of your digital putdowns.  
Saigon is a great city, bursting with life and people.  In a lot of ways, it is like every other metropolis, but it's a lot safer than the cities I know in the States.  So if you're uncomforted by the noise, or the masses, or the incessant commerce, then go back to your Podunk hometown in Australia, or the UK or whatever.  If you want cow-tipping, move to Hanoi :)

And the people here are just like they are everywhere else - from the desperately poor to the fabulously well off.  On average the locals may seem naive and less worldly, but they are like the corn-fed Iowans who had more of a say than you did on our next President.  

So spare some consideration for the kids selling gum, or the old folks selling yesterday's English language papers.  And marvel at the hard working women (and some men) who go about recycling plastic bottles, cans, cardboard, grocery bags and styrofoam, among other sundries.  They're reducing your footprint of waste on the world.  And stop for a moment, or at least slow your rush to the next nightspot for the evening, and take in the street sweeper and city garbage collectors, who work with brooms made from twigs and rope that they have to fashion themselves.  Apparently, the government's sanitation department has a sparse procurement policy.

It has been wonderful to enjoy the humanity of Vietnam, and to experience the humility that it evoked.         

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dinner and a Movie

Coming back to my rental pad, which has a strict 12:30 curfew, wherein they seal the front doors with an industrial, roll-up metal gate, I stopped by the banh mi sandwich guy next door. I was thinking of eating at the local sit-down, open-till-late, Chinese noodle shop this evening, but I didn't want to upset (and wake up) the curfew guardians any more than necessary, for it was a bit past 12:30 already.


The street was unusually lively tonight - this part of town gets pretty quiet after 11-ish pm, save for the strolling couples shacking up for an evening.  There were lots of people about, and the fancy Chinese restaurant down the street was still open for some reason. 

A quick look around, some attempts at reading the banners on the buses, realizing that the tall, slim women walking about were unaccompanied. led to the conclusion that I stumbled upon a movie set.  The bus above, and the other ones parked along the road, served as the actors' trailer.

I got talking to the sandwich guy.  He was a bit amused by all the actresses walking in front of his staked out slice of pavement.  He didn't really care for the actors, who were not much different from the gaffers on set.  I don't think anyone - either cast or crew - patronized his eatery that evening.

He told me, proudly and for good reason, that he's been here "since the French."  You know a Vietnamese person is old when they are referencing the French.  He was older, but the French era was 60 years ago and he didn't look *that* old.  So of course I playfully challenge him on this, and it turned out that he and his father/family, have sold banh mi in this spot since the French.  What a view of history that must've been.  

In the time it took to make me two banh mi, two other customers, folks north of 50 years old, rode up on their motos. I gather with time comes a steady customer base. My Vietnamese is rather poor, so I missed most of the jokes concerning the actresses, but it was an interesting interchange nonetheless. The sandwiches.. well, I've had better. But it was worth it for the conversation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fring on the iPhone

I've used Fring on a Nokia before to get Skype, but now they just released a client for the iPhone

It's a bit of a work-around, as you need to join up to another network, but Fring allows you to IM and voice chat with all the major providers - AOL, Yahoo, Google Chat and GTalk, etc., along with Skype.  No need to wait for version 2.0 of the iPhone.  Nice.  

Hung King Day

It's a national holiday today which means lots of newly hung flags and
me walking around town looking for a quiet airconed space to get some
work done.

Yes, "Class A" office facilities turn off their air conditioning on
holidays and most of the weekend. It's the freakin' tropics here, you
may as well turn off all the power for it's functionally the same thing.

Pho 2000

I like this place more than Pho24, in part because their menu is more
diverse. Like this grilled pork dish - and the grass jelly drink in
the background. Most of the time it is too hot to stick one's face
over a bowl of noodles anyhow.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Set lunch at Jaspas

I kinda don't like western food here in Vietnam, so this place (Jaspas) must be half decent for me to eat here twice in the past week. Or maybe it's because I don't like walking in the midday heat to find food.

Chicken Coleslaw

Barramundi on Pasta, or something like that

Strawberry and Cream Bruschetta - interesting..

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Iceman Cometh

This is some ice delivered to a Mia Da shop right next to Cho Phu
Nhuan. I failed to get a shot of the ice man sliding the blocks down
the shop floor during the unloading process.

Lunch at Hung Ky

This restaurant is one of those late night eateries to stave off an
impending hangover, but I ate here mid day.

This is their roast duck dish for 30k. The duck wasn't roasted very
well - next time I should just have the plain boiled chicken. The
other thing about this joint is that some items on the menu didn't
clearly have a price. Ordered a side of stir fried baby bok choy (rau
thia) that came out to 38k ... hmmm.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

No Madness in March

So I've written before about the lack of recognizable US sports on the
tube around here in Vietnam. A second March has me revisiting the topic.

I missed yet again all those 'one shining moments' but I guess it's
not the most important thing to miss about the States, and I am not
exactly tolerable when I'm watching a marathon sports session.

Again, as previously noted, one can get live boxing fights that would
be ppv in the US - saw Mayweather dissect Hatton and will be getting
up early to see a 43 year old Bernard Hopkins box tomorrow.

However, most concerning is that my mainstream sports withdrawal has
caused me to watch soccer and cricket! I freakin' know what the heck
an "over" and a "lbw" is (hint: Twenty20 is at least tolerable).

And with help from a dash of insomnia, I watched most of the first
half of the final leg in the Arsenal - Liverpool triology. That foul
in the box was bogus (on replay obviously)!

Soccer would be more enjoyable if the players didn't wuss out on fouls
and complain about playing three 'fixtures' in a ten day period. Half
the time during a match they are jogging around - I want to see how
they would handle an NBA sked.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

New World Tumbling

This juice tumbler threw me for a loop when I picked it up without
paying it much heed. I almost spilled things on myself and not down
the old gullet.

After a few drinks at the lounge in the New World Hotel, I wonder how
other patrons handle this glassware.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Eating Local

Bang cuon at a very local joint in District 1. I'm guessing it has
been awhile since someone pulled put a camphone and took a pix of
their dinner here.

Hcmc and Vegas

Hey lookie, it's the Rio. Wonder if there is a Voodoo lounge at the
top of it. This place is a club and not a casino, I don't think. All
the casinos are in the five star hotels.

Thai in Vietnam

Lunch of pad thai at Li, located downtown in an alley off of Mac Thi

I forgot how sweet Thai food can be.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Lunch at Juice

Juice is a juice bar (surprise!) and sandwich shop owned by some
expats I think. Go here for your wheatgrass shots and sandwiches that
are sized the way you expect, such as this roast beef one for 75k.

Hayden From Heroes In HCMC

Look, it's Hayden Pants (I am too lazy to look up her name) on a
shopping stroll in HCMC. First Angelina and Brad now this one.

Ok, not really. This is just a billboard for a development called
Times Square in District 1 near the Sun Wah Tower. With a name like
that I am pretty sure that Hayden isn't getting paid for use of her

Friday, April 04, 2008

Shipping Packages Inside Vietnam - Part Two

The last time my boxes came down from Hanoi via EMS, the locally
operated express mail service. This time we used the national postal

As you can see the results are pretty similar, although the government
service created a box width gash in my packaging, the overall
structual integrity of the box remained. I packed the loose trinkets
in the middle so nothing fell out.

I picked up the boxes during the lunch hour at the big postal office
in the middle of town next to the cathedral. Surprisingly they were
open and the service was super quick - in and out in less than five
minutes. That is probably because eighty percent of the folks inside
were gawking tourist taking snapshots.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Blogroll: Orangwutang

Orangwutang, a blog by a former EPA lawyer now legal instructor at RMIT in HCMC.  

Him Lam Golf Driving Range

It's like Chelsea Piers in NYC except that there is real grass in the
landing area, and it's cheaper - as much or less than the other ranges
in Vietnam.  90k for 100 balls.

234 Ngo Tat Thanh in Binh Thanh District, on the Saigon River at the base of a bridge/overpass.  Only about a 25k-35k cab ride from District 1.  

The net is about two hundred yards out if you are wondering.