Sunday, August 31, 2008

Palin Around

So McCain announced a running mate, surprising most by picking Sarah Palin, a first term governor of Alaska.

Interesting choice, and two reactions:

One - just imagine how pissed you would be if you are Hilary Clinton right about now.  Here is a lady, Palin, that is vastly, vastly under qualified compared to Hilary, yet she got the repub VP nod while Hilary was snubbed by Obama for an older, male version of herself (who is less qualified electorally, than her).  Palin even co-opted some of Hilary's inspiring talking points in her first public speech as the VP candidate.  How much does it suck to be on the receiving end of unbridled, and undeserved hate, from one's own political party.  I mean, there are folks out there who heartily advocated for Obama because they hated Hilary and now they're undecided in an Obama-McCain matchup.  How simply repugnant is that?  Sure, Hilary supporters have to be convinced to go Obama now that she's nowhere on the ticket, but they would never have deserted her for McCain.  Makes one wonder how much of that Obama support is merely anti-Hilary, and how well that would hold up in November.    

Two - the political media are just a nasty, mean, petty bunch of SOBs.  I started to care a bit about politics once I moved into the maelstrom that is Washington D.C.  I started to pay attention more, and did more than simple cursory reading, after the 2000 election - I mean, who didn't, right?  

From 2000 till Obama, or perhaps till Dean's Scream, the views on the lefty press and the lefty blogs probably dovetailed decently with my own.  Ok, maybe not dovetailed, but perhaps friction-fit.

But once you're blessed with not agreeing with their viewpoints, you can step back and see the characters on the lefty media, and it's not a pretty picture.  I've become tired of Keith Olbermann for more than a year now and wish he would go back to SportsCenter so that I can tune into MSNBC.  I used to read the Huffington Post once in a while, less during this Obama-Clinton race, but after today's article by Jane Smiley (about Palin), I'll likely not type the url in ever again.

The early meme talking point on Palin is that she is unqualified to run as VP - and Smiley writes in this vein, offering up as criticism the fact that Palin was a beauty queen and wonders (twice!) if she is breast feeding.  That is bordering on (if not) misogyny, whether it's written by a woman or not.

It is base and unbecoming to attack her in this manner.  It should be focused on policy and process.. and this kind of attack does not endear the Obama camp with the disaffected Hilary supporters.  

Here is something from, of all places, a golf magazine, that, while coming from a totally different direction, is on point - David Feherty, from his piece, the  Hypocritical Headache:

It's tough for women to get through that glass ceiling, and if they do, they have to work with men looking up their skirts. Needless to say, the guy beside me didn't have a daughter.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olympics are Over

Was in the States to catch the end of the Olympics coverage - but in this day and age of the internet, tape-delayed coverage is pretty anti-climatic.  I probably watched more golf coverage than the Olympics here, but I did manage to catch some of the Brazil bronze-medal soccer match.  Man, I've been in Asia too long.  

None of the (two) Vietnamese-Americans picked up a medal, but a friendly neighbor to the north, a Chinese-Vietnamese-Canadian won a gold, in women's wrestling, winning the first medal at the Beijing 2008 Games for Canada (after a weeklong shutout).  The Canadians have an indifferent Olympics history, the only country earning the distinction of *not* having won a gold medal when hosting the Summer and Winter Olympics.  Maybe they spend all that sporting money on their better health care.    

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biding Time

Wow, Joe freakin' Biden.  That's totally gonna get me off my butt to jump through hoops to vote absentee.  Not.  You lost dude.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

No Free Liquor

Just recently discovered that United International flights no longer
serve complimentary alcohol on their flights, as of Aug 1st 2008. I
guess I have to start buying 100ml bottles to smuggle things on board.

From now on bring USD when flying, in increments of $6USD.

Star Alliance at Tan Son Nhat (HCMC), part 1

Here is a picture of the Star Alliance lounge at the new international
terminal (new as of the last six months) at Tan Son Nhat Airport in
Saigon, Vietnam.

I'll put up some more pictures of the comfortable but non-descript
lounge later as this iPhone only let's me mail one image at a time.

One feature of this lounge is a password free wifi hookup - so next
time when I don't have lounge access I will just sidle up to one of
its outside partitioning walls. If the signal can go through my
cranium, it should be able to go thru thin wallboard.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Laundry Laments

Was packing recently for a trip back to the States. Made sure to pack
a few small gifts for family, but these days they've had their fill of
made-in-China but sold in Vietnam goods.

I also made sure to pack my dirty laundry.

When we were in Hanoi, we did our own laundry, with a dryer to boot.
Save for the lack of hot water, clothes came out of the Japanese sized
top load washers pretty decently. Anything that didn't come out that
clean could be pretreated for a second go around.

The biggest laundry hassle then was making sure your clean clothes
didn't touch any surface of the dusty balcony - on its transfer from
washer to dryer to laundry basket. It was Hanoi; every exrerior
exposed surface got dusty in mere hours.

Down here, things are a bit different. I have someone do my laundry
every day, as part of my housing arrangement. You would assume I would
appreciate this more. But of course I don't.

Besides doing a bad ironing job, my clothes do not come out clean. I
don't know if it is because they are sloppy, lack of detergent, or
maybe they hang it outside in the dirty air to dry. I've given up
trying to figure it out.

I'm just packing all the laundry I can so I can give them a good
washing at home.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Flat Grey is the New Black

Skunkworks cars these days are going with flat black paint jobs. That
trend hasn't reached Vietnam yet; instead some folks are going with a drab grey, like these two Hyundai Santa Fe's (which sell for $55k USD new!) that are company vehicles for G7 Coffee.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Some More Street Seafood

It tastes too good not to post pictures. Lots of food and some beers for two totalled 420k in the Pham Ngu Lao area. Some crab claws were about a third of that - I guess it is out of season.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Corn Off the Cob

Off the street; with dried shrimp and chili. 5k, and not too bad.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Soft Shell Crabs at Quan 94

I was seeking something new to eat the other week, so I heeded advice from the Gastronomer on the blog gas•tron•o•my.

This place is betwixt District 1 and District 3 - it seems like all the decent, everyday-eatery type of places are in District 3. They are certainly few and far between in D1, which is unfortunate, because that is where I tend to pound the pavement.

The restaurant is one of those typical open-front deals - you don't sit on the street, but it's open to the street and the ventilation consists of fans only. This place also sports the modern "open" kitchen concept.

The main thing on offer is crab - and it's quite popular. I was here for a late lunch on a weekday and the place was nicely filled with local folks and family. Locals are not known for late weekday lunches - late weekday coffee is more popular - so filling the joint during this time period is rare.

The above is a crab-and-shrimp glass noodle dish. Prices have gone up since Gastronomer's writeup in the local expat magazines.. I think it is 70k now. Still quite the bargain because there is more seafood than noodles in the dish.

The main course for me was the soft shell crabs - I ordered the tamarind ones.  You can't really see it under all those onions though.  Pretty good, tart and sour.  About 70-80k also.  So similarly priced to that soft shell crab place in District 1, but this joint is more down home and therefore tastes better.

Too bad the Gastronomy blog will see its author head back to the States - I guess I'll just have to cull the archives for more suggestions.    

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Vietnam's Netflix

So recently I wanted to get some bootleg DVDs - normally not my thing because I enjoy going to the movies here.  It's reasonably priced enough, and I still am amused by being able to grab a beer from the theater's concessions stand.  Yes, higher-end movie houses in the States allow you to do this too, but here it is normally priced.

I wanted to see Red Cliff, the new John Woo flick, but they only subtitle it in Vietnamese locally.  Likewise, I saw Wanted here, but I had a distinct feeling that a scene or two was cut, so I wanted the DVD bootleg to check it out.

Went to a convenient DVD place, made my purchase and joked with them, asking if I can just bring this stuff back to them.  Normally, with the few boot DVDs I've had, after watching I try to pass it to someone who can use it.  It's not so easy to find such a person, and putting it into the trash seems so wasteful.  

I was trying to tell the DVD store's staff that I just wanted to give it back to them, so that they can recycle it, after I was done.  Thankfully, they misunderstood me, 'cause they said, yes, I can bring it back, to get 50% store credit.

Sweet - it's like the Vietnamese version of Netflix or Blockbuster.  A brick-and-mortar video rental service, at 5,000VND per disc.  Not bad at all.  Besides the copyright infringements, that is.  

The staff also told me that all the discs, the color photocopied liners, etc. come from China, thru Hanoi and down here.  They all get hand packed in the stores here, but the production is outsourced to China.  Just like the bootlegs back home.         

Friday, August 08, 2008

Beijing Opening Ceremonies

So I'm living in the future.. 'cause I just saw athletes' procession at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.  I'm watching it on Vietnamese TV because CCTV is not covering it for some reason.  

It's funny not watching it on NBC.  You don't get Bob Costas (or whomever is doing it this year) prattling on about the countries, pulling out random facts to beat you over the head with the fact that they are smarter than you (when in truth it's all about the research interns).  The local coverage for the most part is just comprised of announcing the country and the number of Olympic participants from said country.  

Some delegations are crazy small.. like two people worth.  Most of these countries coincidentally also served as set pieces for Survivor.  I think China had 600+ Olympians.  

The Vietnamese broadcaster didn't really say much about any of the countries until it got to the former Soviet Bloc - he was talking about Sergey Bubka when Ukraine was announced.  I guess all the communist countries know each other.   

A few interesting things from this 2008 Long March:
  • Taiwan used it's IOC flag, not it's country flag
  • Taiwan and Hong Kong got similar, hearty receptions from the crowd
  • Russia's reception was close to Taiwan and HK's
  • the USA got a nice crowd react, a bit less than Russia
  • may be my American sensibilities, but Iraq also got a nice applause
  • Sweden's outfits paid homage to the Beijing games in that the women were in Qipaos (cheongsam) and were carrying folding paper fans
  • Yao Ming is freaking tall; he waved that flag like some sort of robot
The locals also did a live translation of the Chinese opening games speech into Vietnamese.  Dang, that female translator is good!

Brutal Beijing Olympics Crackdown

Oh my god, the brutal detainment!  This Reuters clip, courtesy of With Leather.  


 I just love it when people complain about "abuses" that they have no inkling of.  I bet you this is the first time they've been to China.  Are places like China, or Vietnam, perfect?  Of course not.  Could the government do a better job with respect to citizens' rights?  Of course it could - but all governments in the world usurp the power of the people.  It's about hitting the right balance.  Vietnam is not there, but neither is the US.

But, living here, that is hardly my concern.  I'm more affected by the economic hardships that I see daily.  The other day there was a Bentley Continental Flying Spur parked on the street - and across the street, a grandmother was laying out newspaper on the sidewalk for a kid about 4 or 5 to take a nap.  But that's not sexy enough for t-shirts and banners.  

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Nearing the Olympics

It's a few days until the opening ceremony for the Beijing Games; I'm looking forward to it because I'm a bit tired watching all these X-Games reruns on the ESPN they show over here.  There is also a lot of EPL preseason and even wheelchair basketball on TV the last few days - who knew that wheelchair basketball was a big thing in South Africa?  It's a bit amazing that Murderball was such a hit a few years back in the US, yet, for all the ESPN channels, you will never, ever catch wheelchair basketball on TV in the States.  I think there was about four hours of coverage of some wheelchair league over the past couple of days on SuperSport, the Pan-African sports channel.

The good thing about being on this side of the world is that I'll be saved from the syrupy NBC coverage of the Games, and the 12 hour tape delay.  I'm sure I'll catch a lot of coverage on CCTV.  I wonder if CCTV, China's State Owned television, will be blacked out in the US due to NBC's broadcasting rights.  

Finally, for Vietnam's side, the local press seems to intimate that the team may be competitive in sports such as judo and weighlifting, particularly the women's side.  Dunno how accurate that is.  

Perhaps the Vietnamese diaspora will bring home a medal or two.  From this joke post on Deadspin, I discovered that Team USA has two members of Vietnamese descent, Amy Tran (field hockey) and Howard Bach (badminton).  Go Team!    

Alfa Shopping

This thing was just hanging out inside a shopping center. Some sort of
promo prize, but I couldn't figure out how to enter the contest.

One of the prettiest sub $50k cars in the world, but too bad you can't
buy one in the States.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Foodcourt Lunch, Saigon

Here was a lunch last week at the Diamond Plaza food court in D1. Roast pork and some bright orange Che.

Nothing too interesting, except for the fact that I had to get my drink from another vendor in the foodcourt - learn to cross-sell people!

Bun Mam, Constructed

Before I ordered this I wasunsure if I ever had this dish and was afraid it might be unpalatable. Afterall, the name suggested its soup base may originate from some Mam Tom - the infamous purple Vietnamese condiment made from fermented shrimp.

Mam Tom is so popular here that when the government warned that the cholera outbreak earlier this year might have been caused by some bad Mam Tom, folks still continued to eat it. And continued to get cholera. Generally I don't like Mam Tom, outside of using it as a dipping sauce for green peaches.

Thankfully this thing didn't seem to have any Mam Tom; it would've been rude to leave a bowl of uneaten food.

This noodle dish is really eclectic - there is shrimp, white fish, cuttle fish, cha (ie a pork sausage like thing), and roast pork. The soup base is dominated by pickled aubergine (nee eggplant), and the purple (and green) veggie on top is this reedy, celery-like contraption unique to SEAsia. I've had this veggie before by itself in a great, plain soup.

Overall, the Bun Mam had a bit too much going on for my taste buds.

Bun Mam, Deconstructed

Was at my standard weekend eatery and wanted to get something
different. Then I thought about my friend HmL and ordered some Bun Mam.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Stymied by the Rain

Was hungry, so I took a short walk to grab some dinner. Got a block
away from my destination and I encountered this flooded intersection,
just off Dong Khoi in District 1. Normally, you don't see this area
being this inundated with standing water.

I'm still hungry, because this was an impasse on foot. I might have
tried if I had flip-flops on, because I've got my shots and all, but,
alas, I wasn't on vacation.