Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to all

Santa with Ghengis Khan facial features and a plastic palm tree. Reminds me of Christmas in Florida. We are all very happy this holiday season and the reasons have nothing to do with decorations. Peace and Love to all.

A cause I can get behind

These critters have been bugging me for years, here's a link to a world wide group dedicated to removing these noisome irritants. Click here for the campaign to ban Mimes.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A UB shortcut

This will be a short walking tour of our neighborhood in UB. My friend, the Doctor, whose palatial mongo/euro digs we inhabited on our arrival in UB, lie over a mile away by the mainstreets or a quick ten minute walk as the crow flies. Well, the crow flies a little crooked here. Most of the newer apartments are fenced, sometime with a gate which opens, but often not. The best ones have a small opening on either side for foot traffic. Finding the shortest route will always involve some backtracking, the odd territorial dog, and few tight squeezes.

Coming out the door of our building, one is facing east. Downtown and the Doc's is towards the west. First off, turn right from the east to the south,and then right again, around the lower/southern corner of our building to the west in the direction of the local market. No choices here, there is only one entry/exit from our building and only the hole in wall, as above, for egress to the north.

Orienting oneself in UB is relatively easy. The hills to the south are unpopulated and make for a basic orientation. Compass directions are best understood, rather than street names, as they are seldom used. The are a few tall buildings under construction which help provide basic directions, when one is deep in a the less-developed regions, and looking for an exit.
The exit from the market area is a typical alley way, visible just over the older ladies back

Transiting the market is always interesting. Goods aren't exactly packaged here. It is more common to see the bread man unload a car, than a truck and not unusual at all to see someone pop the trunk and haul out a couple of whole sheep.

Above is one of the many gates, which seem to spring up from nowhere. Behind this gate, is a twenty foot deep hole, awaiting fill. Take the narrow alley to the right, as below.

Most paths through the housing lead to the broad dirt surfaced avenue in the picture below. Only problem is the road leads to an unfinished bridge over the small river which bisects the city from south to north.

The pathway along the river is a pleasant walk most days, with the southern hills to the front and a small ger district to the left. Doc's hood is on the other side of the river. Good location; except for a large amount of construction projects. One of which; a twelve story hilton makes for a convinent landmark and aiming point.

Crossing the river isn't much of a problem, as there is hardly ever (well, once for a couple of days towards the end of summer it was impassible) Otherwise, just rock piles and construction debris bar the route.

Once across the river, it is a tad difficult to pick out the correct road leading to the west. There are several streets of the same ilk, but the misplaced traffic signal is a dead giveaway.

A short distance after the traffic light, there is a bit of a tricky hole in the wall entrance, which gives way to another small road, but if you miss it, no problem there is only the roadway in and hole for exits. A short walk to the west, turn to the south to another alleyway and you are nearly there.

Another turn to the west and the gatehouse and powerplant signal the end of the journey.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

For Pmpkn

Angelo is probably getting tired of all my visits to his page for the now infamous "we're not going to take it" download so I'm putting it here Oh, this is the alvin version not the TTT diatribe. I might be going out on a limb here, but what are they thinking? The CNMI is going to be in need of serious federal help and portraying themselves as they have on their videos, isn't going to help. I'm looking forward to posting my first video of the pmpkn (who else) grooving with Twisted Sister, coming soon. Almost had it today, but he had just come up from his nap and yawned, just as he was getting down. Then the batteries died. I think I really pissed the internet gods off with the Al post. Surely, my mom is a bit upset. OOps.

Monday, December 17, 2007

To Hector & the internet giveith and taketh away

My rant on old Al, coincided with an internet connection failure at home over the weekend. I actually have to go out for my fix and at home no internet has produced a few difficulties. No Humphry B. Bear or alvinish downloads for the pmpkn, so we were forced to play together. Not all that bad of a thing. Also, I was forced to think for my self without backup. Erdene asked me this morning for definition of insolence. Tough one, I can use it in a sentence, but explaining the nuances of insolence is beyond me. I would use it as either sassy (in this case it was a perfume name) or in the classic sense to be withdrawn and unresponsive. Still can’t find the right word, may have to go to the thesaurus

To Hector, is actually to bully. Comes from the Greek, aka. Hector in the Iliad. Had to look that one up. I think it more as unwanted lecturing or re-occurring advice and that is what got me started on poor old Al G. Great timing, my mom visits the blog for the first time in months to find me dissing one of her favorite public figures. Haven’t been able to read Hector’s soliquouys yet, to see what he said to deserve his own verb.

Some child rearing tips, a little less controversial than picking on poor old Al. Disclaimer, these pictures were sent by people without children. I'm not responsible for anyone trying these techniques at home.
For the baby who won't sit still, try a little tape and a favorite toy.

Instead of spanking the child, a pleasant journey in the family car normally has a soothing effect.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Go away now

Al Gore is back and he seems angry about something. No Crap, Al. No one is listening to you. We didn't vote you in, so you've thrown your lot in with Europeans. Nice. Just your luck, to support a cause that many of your countrymen are a bit skeptical about. Move to France, they might listen to you. Or better yet, move to China, they're listening. Right. As your fellow citizen in Mongolia; bring on Global warming, we could use it. Just go away again, please. If I want to get yelled at by my mom, I'll leave my socks on the floor.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

No thaw in sight

Christmas spirit is alive and well in Mongolia. I'm just trying to decide when to celebrate the actual day. We are closer to Jerusalem time than any other. Weird thing, next to the Reindeer Antler headpiece in the store are madri gras type masks. More research is in order. Christmas jingles haven't made it this far east, for which I am grateful.

I'm also glad the ice sculptures aren't near my house. Pretty, but I have enough trouble getting out into the cold without a constant reminder. There is going to be a big sculpture show in the main square just down the road, we'll take the lad and the spam for a photo op on a good air day. No tree for us, but I'm considering taking the good doctor and his car to a nearby wooded area and collecting a few fir boughs, so we at least have a wreath. Our friend Captain Tom from the Bonneyman has been kind enough to send a package from Saipan, so we are expecting SPAM for our holiday festivities, plus some warm fleecy goodies from Maine. There is no joy close to having a shirt with a long tail on a cold windy day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My own mom doesn't read my blog

Updated:Mom is due to possibly visit a member of the family with a slightly more powerful connection, so I thought a more flattering picture might be in order. This is mom Scease with two of my sisters. Amy and Becky are more than sisters. They are; advice, love, shopping guru's and all around fun people.

Hi Mom, love you. Your package arrived today, the one with the blueberry syrup. Erdene hasn't seen it yet. I'm sure she'll enjoy her breakfast on Christmas morning, though.

You are making me look bad, mom. Hitch up the mule team to the generator on the next satellite pass. I spend a lot of time on rewrites, thinking you might visit soon. As a result; my grammer looks half-way decent and I don't use many f'bombs. As you can see below; the neighborhood kids love the new slide. Might want to look for one not made in China next time. Love; Mark, Erdene, and the pmpkn

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A word game

Entomology of “what you going to do with all that junk inside your trunk” Always, wondered about this line when Lynn and Dominga, played this song at Wild Bill’s. I’m sure everyone, who has been inside a bar within the last two years, has heard this song. Some more than enough. Wish, Mariana’s Cable would play it instead of the steady drone of elevator music, Glen? Heard it a couple of times too many, Bruce?

Anyway, my theory is this song was written by an Englishman or maybe scary spice (and I know nothing about this song) Although, I can say Russian MTV rocks, as the dancers do so, topless. Me and the pmpkn are big fans of Russian cable, don’t get me started on the game shows, They have a hostess who would put Vanna White to shame, she jiggles more than Jacob possibly could, even after a gallon of apple juice and a snickers bar. Anyway, I digress.

All that junk inside your trunk, referrs to a woman’s backside, in my narrowly focused mind. Ask me about chicken breasts sometime. In spoken English, as practiced in England, the boot is the trunk of the car. In hip hop America, booty is the backend of a woman, not your mom or sister. Close enough. I think I’ve nailed this one down, but would like some confirmation. So, head to the bar and ask the waitress to play the “what’s that junk” song. It isn’t in here in UB, so I can’t do the foot work myself. Wouldn't mind having a link to a download of the song either, as the theme song to "Humphrey B. Bear" from the Australian channel is getting a bit old.

Whew! It’s stinky today

That’s right, I’m not talking diapers, we’re having a subpar air quality day. Actually, there have been quite a few lately, with the onset of winter. UB air is a little tough to swallow during the summer with all the dust flying around and the odd high pressure system which tends to trap all the bus and car exhaust. During the winter, the layout of the city conspires against itself. The hills which surround the city, combined with the frequent high pressure systems and subsequent windless days, hold the air in at a level I’ve never experienced over a large area. LA (that’s Los Angeles, not Lewiston-Auburn for the Maineiacs out there) and, on rare occasions Saipan, will experience the same effects, but the residents of UB add their own twists.

Latest reports put the population here at around 1.4 million, but less than fifty percent live in apartments heated by steam from central generating plants. The remainder live on the hills surrounding the north, east, and west sides of town, with the odd ger village close to the city center. The Gers and small wood frame buildings in these areas rely almost entirely on small wood or coal burning stoves, with zip for emission control. Combine those stoves with the buses and cars and the CO2 and soot levels soar.

These sets of pictures give some idea of what constitutes a good air day and a poor one. They are more or less taken from the same spot, mostly less, but I'm not illustrating a Harvard study. Close enough to see the similarities and differences.

Here are some examples; The doctor and I have often wondered, why the Mongolian habit of drying and hanging clothes inside out? The missus and I were outside with the pmpkn this past week and I brushed what I thought was a lint ball from below her lower lip. The “lint ball” left a black line, similar to mascara, from one side of her mouth to the other. Plus, the dust and soot, will leave a fairly thick layer of black dust (unburned coal?) along window ledges within a week.

I was downtown last night, when I received a “hurry home, the pmpkn is driving me nuts” message. No luck with a cab, so I put my head down and pushed the intervening mile under my boots at a good clip. Upon arriving home, I felt light-headed and damn close to heaving my milk tea and booz (dumplings) lunch. My conclusions; were that the increased CO2 levels and proportionaly lowered Oxygen levels, combined with the increased respiration, did me in. I see why everyone over the age of twelve smokes here, might as well enjoy your pollutants.

The strangest thing is, when the wind has been blowing for more than a few hours, the air almost sparkles with brilliance. Here is a link to a somewhat detailed report on air quality from the UB post. Not bad, but I think it was written and the study conducted during the more favorable summer months. AIR Quality Study Results

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Well, I did make chicken soup yesterday

This is more of a this week in UB post, than anything meaningful. Ice sculpture season is here. As I write this, from my seat in the grand khan Irish pub, some fellows are erecting eight foot tall blocks of ice outside for future carving. Not something, I would see in Saipan. Sure enough, the ice is here to stay. When I bought my boots a couple of months ago, the salesman suggested some nifty slip on crampons for the "black Ice". I understand why, now. Just a little slippery underfoot. I've taken to stepping on the odd broken bottle for traction down the road.

Nothing too disturbing on the streets. The neo-nazis have vanished into the woodwork. We've made plenty of friends with the other baby walkers in the neighborhood. There have been good air quality days and some real horrible ones, but we all usually manage to get the babies outside for a little while. Pmpkn has a little girl friend who sits with him in the sandbox (frozen) most days. His favorite activities these days is watching the neighborhood kids play a little basketball in the courtyard. He's still as outgoing and smiley as ever. I'm looking for a little better cold suit for him, so he can indulge his new found walking skills in the outdoors. Poor kid, set him down and he's so bundled up he can only lie there like the little slug brother from "Christmas Story"

My Dad, back in Maine, sent a little gift back of newspaper clippings, so I can enjoy the world series at my leisure. For which, I am so grateful. Thanks, Dad. I had to make a choice this week; whether to stay here and try and pursue my visa issues from Mongolia (twelve hours differnce from the US) or head home and move things along. I had decided to go, but waffled. We are going to give it a shot from here, even if it means for health reasons Erdene and the boy live in Erdenet with her parents, while I work in UB. I've heard it said that the correct decision is always the one you don't want to make, but looking at the lad's face in the morning as we fool around, makes me want to stay. I understand the dilemna military families face a little better now, as I've spent the last week wondering, how many months might pass before I see his happy smile again. Maine and Mongolia don't have much in common with a war zone, which makes me appreciate all the more how strong the people have to be, on both sides of the seperation.

I've never tracked my blog visits by location, but learned this week, I have readers in Mongolia. Our landlords daughter, dropped by to help with some ISP computer issues, we've been having and told us; she and her friends at University read the blog as part of their english studies. Pretty cool.. That's why I added the email addresses on the right, didn't get a direct link, but they can cut and paste, and ask questions of us. Don't be surprised to see more than one mongolian reader on the saipan pages. We are both totally stumped so far by the WWII entry for this week, but I'm still basking in the glory of my five points last week. I'm out of the house at the moment, working on my resume' with the good doctor, once he finishs obtaining his mongolian drivers liscence, but she is at home studying the book to photo shop and trying to remove some of the more troubling elements to the picture. It's all fun.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

first post on gambling in Saipan

That's it. No pictures, just wanted to be the first one to report on what the bloated tick on a dog's back legislature is going to pass today. Nice thing, a Constitution, as long as you can bypass it. click on something here for the story in the Saipan Trashbin. OOpps. Tribune.. Bloated tick

He walked

Yes! Four steps towards dad. Mom's asleep and I don't want to wake her up, but had to tell someone. Now, we enter the toddler years. Sweet.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mongolian Mobile home park

The good doctor picked up a car from a close relative who passed. We used it to view a camel on our way up to the higher land south of the city. Fine day, strong winds from the north pushed the pollution down towards China. My first view of a two-humped bacterian Camel, on the outskirts of the park.

This is the last, and possibly only, driving range in Mongolia. I have ,the Doc's permission to freely quote him on this; "best damned construction I've seen in Mongolia". The concrete footings and the overbuilding of the pylons holding up the screen were particularly impressive.

This is the "Bogd Khan" resort. I'd like the three oxen ger for the weekend, please." Excellent restaurant, plus the odd camel for riding. Gotta love this. $42/night. showers included, but oxen not included. In the shower. Smaller gers are as low as $22 and telemark skiing is close by. I've more pictures of the driving range for you, Glenn. The doc and I are planning to hit a few buckets this wedsday and we'll bring the camera. Check this one off the list; golfed in Mongolia in December.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sumo, as I see it

This post is not for the squeamish. Lot's of man breasts.

Well, forget about fully understanding all the nuances about sumo, might as well try to figure out cricket. The sum of my knowledge could be written on a postage stamp with a grease pencil. The tournaments or Bashos of which there are around ten a year, center around the wrestlers attempting to pin or most often push or throw their opponents out of a clay circle. And that is total of my absolute knowledge. The remainder of my post is based on observation and conjecture.

The sport is sacred to the Japanese, as only they can elevate sport (and war in past days), to a religious art form. Traditional Japanese cultural identity is reflected in the traditions of the match and in the wrestlers, themselves. Sumo salaries are fairly large, especially to a mongolian, who normally works on the side as a wrestler. Sumo though, is not so much a sport as a way of life, and that creates some problems for those not truly acclimated to Japanese culture. As a side game, the higher level matches are interrupted regularly by a parade of kimono wearing gentlemen carrying signs which advertise the various stakes on each participant. Took me a little while and a friendly Canadian to figure out what that was all about.

Mongolians seem to like the sport, because wrestling is big here and they can dominate the Japanese, if only because they tend to be larger. The Mongols are definetly the bad boys of the sumo world; Asashoryu, winner of 21 tournament titles, holds the top rank of megashira, and is considered to be in the top five of all time, is just returning from serving out a two basho suspension for not acting in a manner suitable for a sumo. He was busted playing soccor in a charity tournament while recuperating from an injury. Sumo’s do misbehave on occasion, but almost never at the level, so often seen in American sports. Mongolians are just to fun loving for me to believe they fully embrace the more gentlemanly aspects of sumo.

The ring is a shrine in itself with a large pagoda roof rising above the clay circle which makes up the allowed wrestling area. There was a huge gnashing of teeth during a basho this summer when a women protester attempted to enter the sacred ring, from which women are absolutely prohibited, less they profane it. As the news reports put it at the time, “there were no shortage of volunteers in keeping the woman away from the ring” The Japanese papers as translated here; referred to her as the "crazy woman"

Sumo is very fast moving when it is happening, lots of time and posturing (in a humble fashion) between matches. Leaving the bulging buttocks out of the equation, I enjoy watching these behemoths finally lunge at each other from the set stance. I always amused by the little nuances of leaving the set position to toss some salt on the ground and stamp about in an intimidating manner. They put Wade Boggs and Nomar Garciappara to shame with their little habits of scratching and patting the gut and other areas, before making the big push. Glad they wear those big belts, the amount of flesh on display doesn’t need any enhancement. The wrestling in itself is rather short lived and usually ends in a pushing match, although the better wrestlers have some pretty good throw moves. I never want to sit ringside though. Imagine having one of those monsters fall off the slightly elevated ring into your lap. Shaq’s elbow would be one thing, but an extremely large, presumably sweaty, nearly naked fat man??
With no baseball to watch, and even less football, I’m enjoying the whole sumo experience. I most enjoy the elegance and ritual to the matches. Everything seems to be set, right up until these huge guys push up and out towards each other. I would think; John Madden would be an awesome commentator for sumo. His comments on the line of scrimmage, seem to mirror what I see, when the matches are in their final stages. Beyond the gambling, there is no bs, no public comments, just two guys pushing. A clean sport to me.

Apparently, there are no clay sumo rings here in Mongolia, but Erdene promises to take me to one of many wrestling matches they have at the palace next door to our place. Mongolians groove on the whole wrestling thing, the pmpkn and I even saw sumo classes for nine-year old boys on the tube one morning.

to the right are the little symbols which announce the amount being bet on each contestant. Sort of like a seventh inning stretch.

Sumo on the tv

I stole these pictures, off the tv, so they aren't all that. But some illustration is better than nothing.

Not sure why the ref is getting into like this, they usually don't do much.

During Asashoryu’s absence Hakuho did a good job and did not lose the Emperor’s Cup to the Japanese. From what I see in the papers, the mongolian wrestlers are a fun loving happy bunch and enjoy their homecomings. This is the second cup Hakoho won, after the first he and his japanese wife were feted all over UB. Seems like a David Ortiz type to me. Fun and happy, but humble with his success.