Archive for the 'Random Rant' Category

14
Jul
12

We Are…Never Letting It Happen Again

With the release of the damning Freeh Report, it is clear that there was a complete breakdown in morality at the highest echelon of one of America’s top universities, where a massive coverup was engineered to unsuccessfully hide the fact one of the marquee names on the Penn State football coaching staff was sexually abusing young boys over the span of at least a decade.

If you are unfamiliar with the details of this case, you will find plenty of coverage all over the internet, Google will even know as soon as you type Sand what to suggest. I don’t have the time or stomach to catalogue all the horrors that so many better writers and journalists already have.

Before settling new roots in Thailand, I grew up in the good ol’ US of A. Born in Chicago (Big Ten country) I moved to Florida before middle school and became indoctrinated into SEC fandom, Florida Gators to be specific. I had the privilege of going to university at the University of Florida, where I learned firsthand how passionate people can be about their teams. Your Head Coach is a living god, until he leaves you for another school (or worse, can’t produce winning seasons). The Starting Quarterback deserves consideration for All-Conference/All-America honors, or at the very least, he gets all the hottest girls. Your rivals are considered inbred idiots, cursed with supporting an obviously unlovable football program…until your interests align and you find yourself saying “Oh, I’ve never really had a problem with Georgia/Alabama/FSU. At least they’re not Tennessee/FSU/Georgia. I really hate them.”

In many ways, the passions and prejudices are comparable to what I’ve seen from soccer* fans in the likes of England, Italy, and Turkey. Your Opponent is scum, while Your Team is full of unsung heroes, and anyone who really knew how special your team was would not be able to help but support Your Team.

What makes the situation at Penn State such compelling theater are the larger than life characters. The unimpeachable head coaching legend. The depraved predator. The dutiful son turned whistleblower turned hate figure. The Nittany Illuminati, whose provincial powers were likely enough to cover a murder or two. And the Unnamed Victims.

I have three young sons of my own, and while I can currently protect them from most of the world’s evils, eventually they will have to graduate from chattering nestlings to take flight into the sometimes bruising, oftentimes cruel universe, armed only with what survival skills they have learned from me and their mother (and maybe Bear Grylls).

From most accounts, the victims at Penn State didn’t have that luxury; they were vulnerable because they lacked father figures. Sandusky took advantage of this fact, using his charity to groom victims, and enabled by a university administration, in fear for its crown jewel cash cow of a football program, was unwilling to face the horrible truth of a monster in its midst.

The immediate reaction in the immediate aftermath was to “pray for the victims.” I know I’m in the minority, but my first thought when I saw a mass of football players on bended knee offering prayer was disgust. Not about the intention, which I have no doubt was largely noble, but of the utter futility of the gesture. What if any of the victims were not Christian? What if, after what one had endured, he had decided to be atheist? And how could some of these people profess to care about the welfare of young men they did not know, while they deified a man who probably had an idea of what was going on?

Perhaps it is part of the continued infantilizing of society, that so many people do not understand power. The lords of fiefdoms may not be present when the shit goes down in the dungeons, but if they genuinely don’t know, then they are not the one wielding true power, and do not stay on top for long.

Coach Paterno was widely acknowledged as the most powerful figure on campus for the better part of four decades. He is no longer around to admit it, but he had to know something was rotten in the State of Penn. The Freeh report only reinforces this suspicion.

Here is the part of the narrative where the audience seeks closure. Sandusky has already been tried and found guilty, and will spend the rest of his life in prison. The university president and athletic director have lost their jobs and face further charges. The head coach died of lung cancer. Now folks are calling on the NCAA to impose a death penalty on Penn State University’s football team.

Sorry to warp a popular analogy, but that would be like burning down the barn after the horses already left. As I understand it, canceling football would have a devastating economic effect rippling through the university and the community in which it is based. And who would benefit? Maybe only the self-righteous who would eventually move on to the next cause du jour. The victims should be compensated by the university no matter what (though that might be difficult if it goes bankrupt).

What Penn State should do is never let anyone forget what happened. Ever.

That means not letting this scandal fade into a footnote with the passage of time, as happens extraordinarily quickly in this age of information overload.

This means every current student and incoming freshman to Penn State, from Summer of 2012 to Fall of Armageddon, would be required to learn the facts of what happened, how nothing was done to prevent it from happening, how it was covered up, and the names of everyone who was involved in this abuse of power.

Every current and future Penn State employee would be required to know the facts of what happened, how nothing was done to prevent it from happening, how it was covered up, and the names of everyone who was involved in this abuse of power.

The football team would have to know all of this and focus its community service activities to helping victims of child abuse. They would be responsible for sharing this whatever schools they played against.

Also, it would be mandatory for all of them to learn to recognize signs of child abuse and how to report it safely and effectively.

Let State College, Pennsylvania be known as the worst city in America to be a sexual predator. Let them be an example to others. And let some good result from this.

Many will disagree with this, because they will feel it is unfair to associate so many innocent people with such terrible crimes. How could they ever live down a reputation as safe haven for a notorious pedophile?

You can’t. You shouldn’t. Because if you mean it when you say “Never Again,” then that implies “We Will Never Forget” and “We Will Do Everything To Make Sure Of That.”

No matter what punishment the NCAA decides to hand out, this is what I wish Penn State would do. But this is too optimistic.

(Apologies for the roughness of prose. I wrote this on my iPhone in the middle of the night from Hua Hin. Will clean it up when I get home and post relevant links.)

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25
May
11

Debating about Debating

 

Right now the English-language speaking community within Thailand (and their concerned observers overseas) is all a-twitter about whether or not caretaker PM Abhisit of the Democrat Party is going to debate Puea Thai’s choice for PM,Yingluck Shinawatra.  There are myriad reasons being posed as why they should (or should not) which better blogs out there are going in great detail over.

My personal opinion is that, as someone who has successfully run a large-scale business like SC Assets, Yingluck could probably hold her own against the silver-tongued Abhisit, but there really would be nothing of substance to emerge with regards to policy. (Has any politician ever been taken to task for what was said or promised in a debate? They are frankly just as meaningful as pre-season scrimmages in sports.)

From my experience, Thailand just does not have much of a culture of debate.  Sure, you occasionally hear of Thai school kids who do well in an international forensics competition, but the default mode of deference to age and station makes it difficult in most everyday situations for Thais to risk “selling their face” in order to present and defend a position, in a limited amount of time, with the possibility of being told you are wrong and have definitively lost. (And besides, all those “na krub” and “na ka” can really eat into your two- minute rebuttal.)

The essence of winning a debate is to present your position in a clear and compelling manner that could sway the truly unbiased observer to your viewpoint.  It’s not really so much about being right (as in some competitions you have to be ready to argue for OR against any issue), but more about who is the best at convincing others they are definitely right (or at least less wrong and less appealing than the other guy.)

So herein lies perhaps the only reason for undecideds to see a debate: Who do you perceive as best equipped to lead Thailand?

A lot of folks seem to ignore or discount the fact that there is a whole world out there, most of which could care less about Thailand and some who (openly or not) root for us to fall on our faces.  It’s a harsh reality, and you need someone not only strong enough to face down his fellow countryman (or woman) but also to the juggernauts who, if they really wanted to, could hurt us with a few policy adjustments that would scarcely be noticed by their half billion or billion plus citizens.

In a way, the debate environment is like a laboratory crucible, that would place candidates under a fair amount of pressure and see how they deal with it.  Do they smirk, thinking they are the smartest one in the room? Deflect a difficult question with vague, wonky technospeak?  Or do they make you feel like they understand a problem just like you do and their approach to dealing with it is inspired?

Now it may not work, or rather probably will not work, if neither side takes it seriously, taking for granted that they can spin the perceived outcome, or if we focus more on how someone dressed or did their hair. 

It was framed as more a discussion than a debate, but I remember when the Red Shirt honchos sat down across the table with government leaders on live TV last year to try to hash out their problems.  It was fascinating theater, and on the surface heartening that two sides could try to work things out.  But after the obligatory pleasantries, it just became another disappointing “he said, he did” round of finger-pointing which likely had negligible impact on the heavy-handed crackdown to follow.

Now whoever wins the upcoming election should be able to focus on what really matters for Thailand as a whole rather than having to devote significant resources to defending against domestic rivals.  But you don’t have to be a cynic to know that is unlikely in our current nose-cutting, face-spiting environment.  In the meantime we are all left doing a somewhat enjoyable, yet ultimately pointless and soul-draining exercise of “mass debating.”

Yes, you can go blind from that too.

19
Dec
10

Blanket Solutions

Today on Twitter, a discussion spontaneously occurred when @tulip_oum posted the following:

From: @Tulip_Oum
Sent: Dec 19, 2010 2:42p

18 ChiangRai’s districts declared cold-spell disaster zone, more than 260,000 still lack of blankets and winter clothing./ @news1005fm

So I replied…

From: @JackPrinya
Sent: Dec 19, 2010 2:46p

@Tulip_Oum That’s terrible, but what happens to all the blankets that are donated in previous years? Why is there a shortage every year?

And a few people responded that the donated blankets and clothing were being sold, to which I proposed:

From: @JackPrinya
Sent: Dec 19, 2010 3:15p

@f_dinkum @freakingcat @Tulip_Oum Maybe some1 should collect donated blankets at end of cold season? Clean and bring them back as needed?

And Dave posed an excellent question:

From: @daveoli
Sent: Dec 19, 2010 3:38p

@JackPrinya just a curiosity, but wonder what the carbon footprint would be to retrieve/clean/store vs making a new blanket?

My guess is reusing old blankets would have less of an environmental impact than making new ones every year.

For new blankets, you have to harvest the raw materials, spin it into yarn, dye and weave it, then transport to storage before distributing it to each village.

Recycled blankets go through the same process once, then collected, cleaned, disinfected and mended, stored, before distribution again.

I think it would likely save money as well, from what seems to have become a de facto blanket racket.

What do you think?

07
Dec
10

I got the BlackBerry Broadcast Blues

This is a message I have received repeatedly on BlackBerry Messenger over the past few days:

“‎​This is the real broadcast from Blackberry© All rights reserved.
Broadcast this message to every single contact on your BBM© to reset your display picture, sorry for any inconvenience.
‎​This message is to inform all of our users, that our servers have recently been really full, so we are asking for your help to fix this problem. We need our active users to re-send this message to everyone on your contact list in order to confirm our active users that use BlackBerry Messenger, if you do not send this message to all your BlackBerry Messenger contacts then your account will remain inactive with the consequence of losing all your contacts
Symbol will automatic update in your  ,when you broadcast this message. Your blackberry will be updated within 24 hours it will have a new lay out and a new color for chat.
‎​Dear Blackberry users, We are going to do a update for bbm from 11pm till 5am this to day. You if you don’t send this to all your contacts your update will be cancelled and you would not be alowed to chat with your contacts as you have the old version”

I find it very disappointing that people are still falling for this sort of chain mail douchebaggery. I understand it’s a lot of “better safe than sorry” but c’mon, these assholes misspelled “allowed.” It’s not just annoying, it clogs bandwidth better served watching stupid people fall on YouTube.

If there is a hell, I like to imagine people that repeatedly forward these types of messages (along with earlier incarnations in emails, MSN chats, and good old fashioned letters) are forever strapped naked to a rack, being force fed all manner of garbage, like a goose being fattened for its precious liver, with all their excrements running down a trough into the mouths of the people who started writing them in the first place.

But if you are still not convinced, that’s fine. Please forward this post, because if you do, I will give you $100 for every new reader you send my way. It’s no joke. Me and Steve Jobs have been beta testing this system to track people through forwarded emails and he’s funding it himself. You can then use your winnings to buy as much foie gras as your heart desires.

17
Nov
10

Reply to Sender

Please read this first, it will only take 90 seconds and you won’t regret it:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/susanorlean/2010/11/dear-reader.html

Then see my follow-up. I don’t usually like to leave comments, but I read this and it opened up a whole line of thought that I used to think about quite a bit, but just took a prodding from a Greatest Living American Writer contender (now wouldn’t that make a fun reality show competition? Fox: add boobs?) to inspire me to add to my Blackberry Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief Fund. I could have gone on, but then it would be a superlong comment. And no one likes that.

(Except me, though. I actually love them. I read them all, and the more new thoughts and interaction I can get out of them, the more alive I feel. I even read the spam ones, like the one about “Exciting New Oppurtunities in Sub-Prime Mortgage Funds!!!! And a longer, thicker cock to boot!!!” So don’t hold back. I mean it. I’m a sucker for repartee.)

I am posting this for two reasons: 1. I am not sure if it will show up on her blog (I picture some beatnik NewYorker.com web admin takes one look at my IP address, assumes I am trying to promote cheap airfare to Phuket, and presses delete so they can continue illegally downloading the new Girl Talk album). 2. So you know where to find Susan’s blog on your own next time (follow her on Twitter at @susanorlean). Anyone who is an aspiring writer or derives real pleasure from artful, string-bead arrangements of 52 different letters (UPPER & lower) should check her out. Fo sho.

Cheers,
Jack

Dammit, I meant to write this first. Though not as brilliantly or milk-out-the-nostrils funny. (My audience thinks Jersey Shore is a documentary. (Kidding, audience.))

For business letters, I see the standard practice is Best Regards. But what is that really? To have or show the utmost respect or concern for someone? That would be nice if it were true, though I would be disingenuous to use it for a virtual stranger on an email.

Can we use Bestest Regards? What if they abbreviate it to Regards? Or even BR? Should I believe you are sending me your “best regards” if you can’t even bother to spell out the herculean number of letters in both words? (Though it seems HBD seems to suffice for telling someone Happy Birthday in this day and age. (Did the use of that phrase reveal my syntactic fogeyness?))

I’m sorry, I lost my train of thought. Too many paragraph symbols without an According to Hoyle emoticon, I guess.

Peace Out Yo,
Jack

26
Apr
10

(Not so) Easy Pass

Some of you commuters in The City of Traffic (Krung Thep Mahanakorn) may have noticed a lane reserved solely for users of Easy Pass electronic toll payment system. You may have also noticed an increase in congestion in the areas leading to the toll booths.

The Expressway Authority of Thailand (EAT) decided to roll out this system in the hopes of either making travel more convenient (PR spin) or making more money (cynical view). Over 50,000 commuters bought into the system last year, but when they started testing it they encountered a software glitch.

But if it works, thousands of commuters a day are going to enjoy the convenience of breezing through the toll gates as their fee automatically debited from an electronic account.

So why don’t I think it is a good idea?

No Big Brother issues here, for once. I strongly believe that Easy Pass is fundamentally at odds with the Thai mentality. You are going to see a rise in traffic jams because of the following categories of drivers:

1. Commuter too busy to notice that the line breezing along is for Easy Pass users only, gets to the gate and protests ignorance, insisting on just paying in cash.

2. Commuter (likely a self-entitled asshole in a Benz or BMW) notices that the line for Easy Pass users only is moving fastest, gets to the gate and feigns ignorance, insisting on just paying in cash.

3. That prick who likes cutting in an out of traffic (usually driving a pick-up with a covered bed) takes advantage of the faster Easy Pass lane, and, right before reaching the tollbooth, will try to cut into a normal lane at the last minute.

So instead of making things go faster, this Easy Pass is going to add another layer to the delicious cake that is Bangkok traffic (joining taxis parked/creeping along the side of the road, VIP shopping/movie motorcades, and urban train crossings).

What can EAT do about this?

The only solution I envision is to wave offenders through and have cops waiting to pull them over. Let them know right away that they have to pay a stupidity fine. Say, 200 baht for category 1, and half of whatever is in their wallet if they are category 2. For category 3, take whatever is higher, plus a whack on the head with a tack hammer.

Repeat offenders should be photographed and their pictures published in newspapers and online, under the headline DUMBASS DRIVERS with a caption under each picture with name, car model, license plate, and category of offense. Women will have their estimated weight printed (with an additional five kilos) and men their penis size (Ex: Ferrari drivers no more than 4 inches).

If they do all this, then I change my mind. Easy Pass is a GREAT idea!

18
Mar
10

Oh, Nanny!

At first I was going to make this a Facebook status update, but it turned out too long. So forget trying to squeeze it into 140 characters on Twitter. Now I can just natter away as long as my thumbs allow. (I’m trying out posting directly from Blackberry.)

As working parents, we have to rely on nannies to help take care of our triplet sons during the day when we are not around. So far we have been very fortunate; one (we’ll call her B) has been with us since they were born, and as an older nanny is very knowledgeable. The other one (O) is young but very sweet, never seeming to tire playing with all the boys. She joined us about 5 months ago when our other nanny W, (who we loved) had to leave because her husband was a irrational, jealous piece of human waste (a story for another time).

Our housekeeper P helps us a lot as well. Even though she has no formal training with kids, she’s a natural, especially with our hellion-in-training, Troy.

Many households in Thailand use nannies, who mostly hail from the Isaan region of Thailand, though some families go for Burmese or even Filipinos. Burmese usually cost much less, but many of them are illegal migrants. Besides that reason, I don’t want to hire one because they usually speak Thai with a heavy accent, which I don’t want my kids to adopt. They are already going to be burdened by Daddy’s shitty Thai accent.

So in essence, we have 2.5 live-in nannies. And my Mom flew over from the States to help look after them during the day. Everything seems peachy; the wife and I even have chances to go on a few movie dates after they go to bed.

Then O tells us she is going to get married.

Her private life is not my business, but I didn’t even know she had a boyfriend. But now she is planning to leave at the end of April. To her credit, she hasn’t let it affect her work, and she helps give Trip the attention he craves. We’re going to hate to lose her.

On the other hand, B has two grown children, and one of them needed tuition money, so she asked for an advance on next months salary. At first we were hesitant, but we felt like we should help Trey’s favorite nanny.

Most nanny centers have a policy where they don’t allow their staff to hit up employers for loans. After 10 months, B told us she was leaving her nanny center, so she could take the full salary (instead of having a 2000 baht cut taken out each month). We didn’t ask her to do this, and it seemed a little fishy but she said she wasn’t planning on being a nanny after us so she might as well quit the nanny center then. She mentioned it happens all the time for nannies who don’t plan on taking on future cases.

What we should have realized is that we would be at a disadvantage if she started slacking, because we wouldn’t be able to ask the nanny center to help reprimand her. And now she was talking about becoming a retailer later because she could make more money.

Meanwhile, B’s true nature began revealing itself in more blatant displays of laziness, not cleaning up after herself when preparing food for the kids or herself, complaining we take the kids out too often (which we most definitely do not), and getting up a little bit later each day.

So now we have learned our lesson, and have begun the arduous search all over again. Finding a good nanny is very difficult, you need someone knowledgeable with a great attitude who you can trust with the most important little people in your life. All the great ones seem to be taken, so it feel a bit like trying to take home a hot and sane girl from a bar at closing time; the pickings are slim that late in the game.

An we need two (and possibly three) new ones. Stress levels are high right now.

In the meantime, I would like to impart to you some of our hard earned lessons:

1. If you suspect your nanny is thinking of leaving, replace her as soon as possible. An unsettled nanny is just not going to be focused, which is annoying at best and, in the worst case, possibly dangerous.

2. Don’t loan your nannies a significant amount of cash, especially if it would take them more than a month to pay you off. Then they have you by the balls knowing you can’t let them go until they pay you back. (Though some will seem like they are doing their best to make you fire them so they can default*.

3. One last thing, which we didn’t worry too much about in the beginning (because nanny centers provide blood test certificates), if you want to hire someone, send them to the hospital to take a blood test. Recently we know of one nanny with excellent references who tested positive for hepatitis B, while another family (who fired nannies like Donald Trump wannabees) discovered nanny applicants who had syphillis and even HIV. Now that’s some scary shit.

BTW, if anyone reading this knows of a good live-in nanny (or two) who can start right away please let us know! Thanks…

Cheers,
Jack

*”Oh but you can sue them” you might be thinking, but it doesn’t work like that in Thailand. It would take forever in this legal system, and cost many times the amount of the loan. It would actually be easier to have her executed, which right now I am a bit tempted. Kidding. (Sort of.)