Monday, January 28, 2008


Actually kind of a sucky day, as the pmpkn is running a fever and has been grumpy since 0’ dark hundred. On the bright side, I ran into a guy with some great job leads in my field yesterday afternoon. We’ll see where this all leads, but I’v been busy revising the old CV for mechanical work versus conversational English lessons. The sunny side of it all of this; is the mechanical work pays three times more than the teaching scale. Lesson there is: Gold is where the money is, or copper and uranium.. I’m pretty certain English lessons will be included with the mechanical work. Apparently, the usual workers have fled to home base for the duration of the Mongolian winter, but the companies are spooling up in expectation of the new government finalizing the various licensing deals. At any rate, this job will pay enough to allow Erdene and the pmpkn to live in the smog free air of Erdenet with the grandparents and younger sister while I toil in UB. I’ll miss them day to day, but in the long term we’ll save some money and the lad will live in a more healthy environment. If all goes really well this summer, we can make our return to the mainland via Saipan. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to organize a Wednesday bloggers meetup at Porky’s with the bloggers who have given us so much pleasure and support. Yeah, I’m looking too far ahead, but the plan has to start somewhere.

My Cousin Bill from New England sent me this LINK to a very interesting WWII diary by a Japanese soldier who was stationed on Saipan before transferring to Guadacanal as part of the ill-fated Ichiki detachment. The Japanese have a reputation for severe craziness during the war, but the individual soldiers were still people with human feelings and failings. Worth a read anyway.

Otherwise, all is quiet on the outer Mongolian front. The pmpkn's fever only lasted for one day and he's up to the usual at home this Monday. If there is a better feeling than having a warm snuggly baby curled up on the lap, I don't know what it could be. I noticed on my walk across town, the ice sculptures are in place at Suggater Square. I'll take some pictures on my next trip to the Post Office. Too cold, to carry the camera around these days. I'm satisfied to ID my subjects first and then make a trip for pictures when I know I'll be heading directly to the spot.

Oh! one last observation. My weekday mornings with the pmpkn revolve around Humphrey B. Bear, an Aussie kiddie show, when we aren't checking out the wiggles and larry the cable guy on utube, but the weekends are Humphrey free and we are forced to find alternate programming. The Mongolian channels feature three kid shows which center around little ones' singing and dancing, an interview show with just the cutest little boy and girl, and a talent show of sorts judged by a panel of puppets. Pmpkn loves all of them and has learned to recognize the theme songs. Well, the talent show's closing has a cute little jingle with some of the most inapropiate lyrics I have ever heard in my life. Here's the link; You Decide, just make sure the kids are out of the room MY LITTLE BROTHER AND ME I'v been watching the show at least every other weekend since June and didn't really really listen until this Saturday. I was appalled with two P's. I checked out the performer's bio on wiki and was horrified with two F's. I quess the programmers, like myself, enjoyed the tune and didn't pay attention to the words. Erdene is calling the station this week to suggest a small change. Still better than the Saipan Cable music, however. If my link doesn't work and you still want to hear the tune, look up on utube Lily Allen and Alfie. Peace to all and Missy/Melissa/Deece (check out the finest kind blog in my links column) she has some great knitting/crafts stuff.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Seen my ring?

Not in Saipan, but it disappeared one afternoon here in UB. Ever notice how fingers and toes are bigger in humid climates, than dry ones? These pictures are for Erdene's sister Siigi in Saipan. We're hoping she can blow this picture up and show it to the lady who sold us our rings. Yahoo picts don't blow up well.

I'm not too badly off, Erdene lost her matching ring in the yard at Kannat Gardens, so it isn't like I was the first. Bruce B. What is your ring size? I've forgotten mine, but I figure we should be close enough, than I can have it resized here. My story is; it is so cold and dry here, that it slipped off my finger while walking around. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Revel in Randomness

Quiet week so far in UB. The liquor ban seems to be winding down in the city, although a death in the countryside was announced on the news last night and the government has expanded the ban nationwide while they check out the inventories. From what I observed the countryside death was a one off occurrence, caused by a couple of buddies trying to mix some ingredients which shouldn't be mixed. Two of the three large grocery stores in the city are selling beer and one has Liquor. My neighborhood is still beer less, but I'm over it at this point. It's too cold and too far to be traveling the city in search of beer. Erdene has been happy; the intensity of my snoring has decreased in direct proportion to the decrease in my beer consumption. One lesson learned. I'll have to check into the metaphysics of that phenomenon. I wonder if there is a pill?

I hope by the time we leave here, they will have one for cholesterol. Booze or no, the fat content of the foods here is so high, I'm beginning to worry. My personal history of fat can be summed up in the words; bring it on. I've been known to prowl the un-licensed mess on prime rib night looking for someone who doesn't like that surrounding quarter inch of rich fat, and my family history on my dad's side, involves frying bread, mushrooms, tomatoes, and eggs in bacon fat. Erdene has me save the trimmings from the mutton we prepare for the brother and his buddies in their dormitory. I think I'm in the right place, just hoping my genetic makeup is stronger on the English side, than the Boston Irish half.

I'm not at all sure, I want to go back to the states. I'm thinking about cutting out that sentence (I miss my mom, dad, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews horribly. In numbers, that would be One, one, three, two,{plus; Nancy, Rich, Randy, Russ, Ginny, & Maureen] and the little ones; Josh, Alicia, Camille, Riley, Finnegan, George, and Lily), but has anyone checked out the news lately? I know, intellectually and practically that it isn't that bad, but jeez.. Seems like everyone is in a rush to make the papers by killing the neighbors/family/passerby in the most unimaginable ways possible. The only bit of news which made laugh this weekend was the armed robber who stuffed his pistol in his pants and managed to put a bullet in his leg after it removed a testie. The runup to the presidential race is just about the same as always. Bad ju ju. I should have stayed in school, long enough to get a degree and be at the pool on Kannat Tabla after work, dining on Mangos from the tree outside our bedroom, which my dear wife so loved to harvest during the day.

Speaking of which. All you people on Saipan. Get along, damn it. Oil futures aren't going down far enough to matter and you are a few thousand miles from the nearest refinery. Work together and work on a common solution to the common problem. tsk tsk. I was just disgusted to see the exchange between Angelo, of the Saipan blog and Ed Probst, the publisher of the MP magazine. Bad on both your parts. I can understand the why in this instance. My concern is; how much more good could these two accomplish by pooling their energies and experiences? Min wage and the spector of federalization of labor is the least of all the CNMI worries, personal problems are so far down on the list of what people should be fighting about. Bruce Bateman's column last week, had some words of wisdom. To put my own slant on his conclusions; If you can't agree, then let it go, but try and find a common ground first. Look back at Harry Blalocks exchange with Bree, if you want to see how to work through a difference. That was a shining moment in CNMI blogger history, as I see it.

Crap! Now, my battery is dead and I didn't touch on what I wanted to write about. What I like about Ulan Baatar. Variety of dress, a general positive attitude among the populance, the looseness of behavioral norms in relation to a western christian sensibilities, but adherance to generally good standards of behavior. I should qualify my words more, but I did put "Randomness" in my title. I'll work on it.

I did like the word Deece brought up "blossip", it might just make the dictionary next year. Also, Boni's "De-lurking" was a lot of fun and a positive rejoinder to an increase in negativity. Tami's dish of week has potential too, although I can't find many of the ingredients here and I can't respond in kind, as everything I cook is meant for a cooler climate. Crap, I miss the local ingredients on saipan. I'm going to buck up and buy some shrimp, but I'm going to use horsemeat sausage, as I think the flavor should be "interesting" In my travels around the blogs, I have yet to find a blogging community as interconnected as Saipan's and it would be a shame to let external influences tear such a fine group of concerned people apart.

Erdene's and my anniversary afternoon together was such a disaster, we had to laugh. Our designated baby sitter failed to show, as he was involved in some school work and we had to wait for the back up BS. Then, Eredene and I had a mis-communication, such things happen when every other place in town is named something "khan" She ended up on the other side of town, but thankfully had the sense to hold the taxi while she looked for me. I was comfortably ensconced in a soft sofa, perusing the web and drinking beer with the Doctor, so no problem on my part. Our first choice of spa was not where the Australian guy said it was, and our second choice had a huge line. So, we went with plan B.. Shopping. No troubles there, once we were together. If there is a lesson I would pass along, it is; when you find someone you like being with, doing whatever, that is the one for you. We went to town, had tea, shopped for necessaries, a gift, and generally just had fun being with each other. No blame, no recriminations; only a pleasant few hours together trudging across the windswept icy streets of UB. Upon arriving home; cooked dinner for ourselves and the plan B babysitter, which wasn't half bad. Just wish I had made twice as much garlic mashed potatoes, as we ran a little short, before the bbque chicken ran out. Last night, I made scalloped potatoes in cream sauce and an extra batch for the Doctor in the more traditional milk and butter sauce. (I borrowed his casserole dish for the chili and wanted to return something in liu of the loan), but he didn't claim his food by the time Erdene felt hunger pains at lunch today. She liked the cream sauce bleche mel?? (white sauce, anyway) version, and was also happy with the more traditional milk/butter/flour mixture. The Doctor missed out.

Oh! the pictures.. The rather maniacal guy on the .50 cal is one of my old shipmates from my grey hull days. I think I've used this picture in an earlier post, but it is one of my favorites. The other two are from the grey hull days also. Fun times, perhaps worth a post one day. The photo of the empty deck is one of the Bob Hope class ships, almost certainly heading from Kuwait down to Diego Garcia in the Indian ocean to await a load of vehicles for return stateside and refurbishment. The loaded deck is also a Bob Hope class, but where we are going to or coming from is a mystery. Amazing how much will fit on one of the larger vessels. I'll try and find some links today with stats on the size and capacity and update this post again.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A big day

No they have not repealed prohibition, such as it is, here in UB. You can read the latest HERE . zzsbomb is having a lot of fun with this. I would be a little more amused, if I could have a beer at home in the evenings, but so it goes. The bit about the guy being attacked by wolves, actually happened. He looked like the sort of guy who would wade into a pack of wolves on horseback with only a hatchet. Had that sort of wild gleam in his eye and the towering hat made of wolf fur made it's own statement. Just wished he'd waited until the skin cured as the aroma was a might gamey. Well, if you lived out in the countryside herding sheep, you might need a little freshen up too. Wish I'd had a chance to get better acquainted, but my time out had expired.

The big news is the second anniversary of Erdene and my meeting for the first time. Our first date was a trip to Pau Pau beach on Saipan during the early morning hours. Didn't have my camera with me that evening, but the memories of riding through the back streets of Tanapeg on the scooter, looking for the beach at the meeting hall will live inside both of us always. Yeah, we didn't find that beach, but we did make it up to Pau Pau. The gentle boom of the surf breaking on the reef, as clouds floated across the sky, made the most romantic setting imaginable. Pumpkn is a year and two months old, so it wasn't that kind of romantic, but a beautiful night all the same. We rode home in the rain, while the sun slowly lightened the gloom, as it rose on the other side of the the hills around Kalabara Pass. There was some sort of bicycling riding event going on (Triatholon maybe or the xterra) and cops were everywhere. Ever the gentleman, I gave Erdene my raincoat and she reciprocated by holding on tight, so we both enjoyed the trip home. Between a warm girl behind me, slick roads, random cyclists, and bubble gum lights everywhere, I probably set a personal record for the slowest scooter ride home ever. I thought we had breakfast at Shirleys in Garapan that morning, but the missus has corrected my faulty memory. Breakfast at Shirley's was our second date and it became a regular way to start or end our evenings together. I was so impressed with her, when she devoured an entire New York strip followed by a shared order of ice cream crepes, that I knew she was the one for me. For her part, she liked my swimming instructions at Lau Lau on our second date. There isn't much water in Mongolia, and it took a lot of trust on her part to let me lead her out to where she could put her legs to work in the water. I was so ignorant of Mongolia at the time, I had no idea she had never been in water other than a bath tub and just went with what I thought would be right. Here we are in the grass trying on hats.

Below is the evening after our day at Pau Pau, sporting some decent sunburns. If you look closely as the bag in Erdene's hand, you can make out the green bottle of aloe after sun lotion. I think I was calling Noi Blake for a taxi ride, to somewhere we could have walked to, if we hadn't been burned in the tender spots..

Here we are at year two. Our habits and location have changed, but the important aspects to our love are still the same. Started the day with a little hug and tickle session with the Pmpkn, then off to breakfast. We used the last of the pancake mix from my mom and thankfully they were perfect. We have probably the most uncontrollable stove and the worst frying pan ever to see the light of day, but all the elements cooperated today and the pancakes were "perfect anniversary pancakes". (Erdene's words)

Last but not least, a tribute to my friend and shipmate, Dave Thompson aka. Santa Claus, who introduced the two of us on a warm Friday evening two years ago. Thanks, Dave.

Erdene and I are off shortly to a spa, assuming Dad Mashbat shows up to watch the lad, after that a romantic dinner for two or Five at the Silk Road resteraunt. Cheers everyone and remember that someone special in your life. If you can't remember, I like Microsofts Calender program for those special dates.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lurk or don't lurk UPDATED

Just leave as a comment or email a recipe for leg of camel. If you really want to make my day, tell me a little of what you know of the CIA activities on Saipan during the cold war years. I'm not writing a book, just indulging a whim of insatiable curiosity. This delurking idea is a lot of fun and informative. Plus, I don't want to get hauled off to the Principals office. I hear she uses; Sarcasm, metaphor, pathos.. She knows all the tricks.

Here's what I know so far on the CIA issue. I heard at Hamiltons bar, that the island was closed to civilians from Capital Hill to the the seaward edge of the Kagman Pennisula with the southern edge of the prohibited zone around the area of Lau Lau bay. At Kagman; there was a downlink station for radio interceptions and a training base for Chinese Nationalists. There was a shoot to kill order in the area, but no one was ever zapped. I always took that info to be gospel, until one of the rememberancers mentioned that the no-go zone was on the Marpi end of the island. Mark from MAJIC has weighed with Marpi being the site. I'm just curious and since there is still no beer in UB have some time on my hands. I'm also looking for a decent image of the island. I really like the clip art on Middle road, if I could just get the image without Adam lying over the area I'm interested in. Anyone have any comments?

Can't resist

Anyone interested in Global Warming will be challenged and enlightened by this series of videos. Link to it HERE Thanks to Saipans Beach Boy for digging this one out of utube. Yeah, I am sucking up to my mom after my Al Gore rant last year, but this is a most thought provoking series and worth a listen. At least it seems to be, as I type these words with a soft warm bundle of pumpkin on my lap.

Now on to the meat of the post. I felt compelled to mark up this washington Post article on another congress critter gone astray. Some things just can't be spun. My lines are in the parentheses.

GOP Congressman Tied To Abramoff Will Retire
Californian Is Still Under Investigation
By Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 11, 2008; A02
Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), under criminal investigation along with his wife concerning their dealings with Jack Abramoff and other lobbyists, announced yesterday that he will not seek reelection.
Doolittle, a member of the leadership team during Tom DeLay's tenure as majority leader, narrowly beat back a Democratic challenger in his heavily Republican district 14 months ago. He bowed to months of pressure from House GOP leaders in deciding not to seek a 10th term this year.
"My wife, Julie, and I have made this decision after much prayer and deliberation," Doolittle said in a written statement.
(after making sure their investments were safe in no name overseas accounts)
"It was not my initial intent to retire, and I fully expected and planned to run again right up until very recently.
(Yeah, until the indictments were leaked to his staff)

" Doolittle made no mention of the Justice Department investigation, explaining only that "we were ready for a change after spending almost our entire married lives with me in public service."
(that means; my wife and I cannot see any more payoffs on our political horizons)

The Doolittles have been under investigation since 2004 in connection with luxury trips, campaign contributions and employment for Julie Doolittle provided by Abramoff and other lobbyists.
David Barger, the congressman's attorney, said that the investigation continues, but that "there have been no legal developments that prompted his retirement."
(Except, perhaps a sote voice; “take off and don't let us hear from you again. You are making an embarassment to the party by your very presence and since the democrats can't seem to come up with an electable candidate, why make things worse")

Abramoff had a social relationship with Doolittle and put Julie Doolittle's event planning firm on his lobbying firm's payroll, paying her $66,000 from fees he collected from one of his clients, the Agua Caliente tribe in Southern California. Julie Doolittle also was hired for bookkeeping services for the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, founded by Edwin A. Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff. That organization subsidized a $28,000 trip to South Korea by DeLay and his wife, and a luxury trip to a Malaysian beach resort for Doolittle and other members of Congress.
(what? he didn't do the Saipan sex tour. Must be the only republican, from the
80's to travel with his wife)

The FBI raided the Doolittles' Virginia home last April. Under pressure from Republican House leaders, he resigned from all his committee assignments, including his influential post on the Appropriations Committee.
While the investigation of Doolittle and other current and former members of Congress continues, anxious GOP officials are looking to clear the way for other Republicans to compete against Sacramento area Democrat Charlie Brown, who has been building a war chest for a rematch with Doolittle. Candidates for the race file as early as next month.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) met with Doolittle shortly before the Christmas break and issued a statement yesterday saying, "John's decision was made in the best interests of his family, his constituents, and the House." Without referring to the probe, he wished the Doolittles well "as they work to bring this difficult process to a resolution."
(Please, I said nice things. Don't drag me into this)

Doolittle is locked in a court battle with the Justice Department over a grand jury subpoena seeking what his lawyer has described as 11 years of records from his congressional office. The litigation, which is under seal because it involves a grand jury investigation, involves questions of how far the Constitution goes in protecting members of Congress from legal action by the executive branch.
Doolittle's decision to retire makes him the fifth Republican member of Congress to fall victim to the Abramoff corruption scandal. Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) was convicted; others who lost their seats or resigned include DeLay (Tex.), Richard W. Pombo (Calif.) and Sen. Conrad Burns (Mont.).
Julie Doolittle also served as a paid fundraiser for her husband's campaigns, an unusual setup that fueled voter ire during the last election. The congressman said he would hire an outside fundraiser a year ago, announcing: "I recognize that change is needed for me to rebuild the trust and support of my constituents."
(I need to drop out of sight long enough for a trip to the bahama's and maybe everyone will forget about the indictments while I'm away)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Adventures in Cooking

Just a note of warning: Camel meat is amazingly similar to beef. If this bothers you in any way, read no further.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks compiling the ingrediants for chili and soaked my beans last night, ready now for the big day. All I needed was a little more beef. No problem right? Just run next door to the market and buy a small chunk. Silly me, I thought I had run afoul of all the shoals in buying meat here. I know now; horse meat has yellow fat, goat is skinnier than mutton (plus, they leave the tail on) How was I to know Camel has white fat and a similar muscle structure to beef. I always believed that I know my meat. I’m the go to guy back home in Maryland when there is wild game to be prepared. I’m humbled. Thankfully, my good wife informs me that Camel is actually quite tasty and tender. Whew… Still, I’m the only person, I know of, to prepare Camel Chili. Now, I need some inspiration on what to do with the remainder of the leg, I bought.

Looks like the beer ban is on the verge of being lifted. May be a while, before the locals get their hands on vodka, though. The UB Post reported on Thursday, that many of the local bottling facilities have serious PROBLEMS. I witnessed an amusing scene at the local grocery store, the upscale one not the camel market. Forty-odd Mongolians gathered around a table sampling a vodka substitue. Airig, a fermented drink made from mare’s milk. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring our thermos bottle. The Mongolians are taking the booze ban extremely well, as day ten draws to a close. Heads are rolling in the various government departments, however.

I would say the government shut things down in good shape. They are probably a tad embarrassed at the public outcry. More and more the national officials are setting themselves up to be players on the world stage, while people die in dribs and drabs due to many common causes, this large number of deaths has their collective panties in a twist. To put things in perspective, you should be aware that the rate of deaths due to; road accidents, child mortality, exposure, and general alcohol poisoning far exceed what the west would find acceptable. As I see it, they are jumping at the large public exposure and will continue to ignore the more common faults in society.
As a brewer of fifteen years experience, I am a little non-plussed that they lumped beer into the ban. There is no advantage technically nor does it make any economic sense to up the alcohol level. If anything, one adds water to beer to stretch out the production run. Perhaps, they found it impossible to allow any sales and be certain hard alcohol wouldn't be sold. I don't believe and haven't seen any evidence that liquor stocks, other than suspected vodka, has been recalled to warehouses. There is no centralized distribution or storage system, except in the two largest breweries.
Economically, there are problems for the low paid workers in the smaller bars, which rely nearly entirely on alcohol sales. Avg per capita income here equals $1,800 USD. A couple of weeks off, is going to seriously hurt the average bar worker. In the course of our research yesterday, the doctor remarked on the large number of small neighbor bars and the low income levels, as being part of the poverty problem. Can't say as I disagree with him there. Maybe there will be a silver lining, if a few people find they can spend their extra money at night school and actually improve their situation.

Dad Mahbat is visiting this week, which has been fun for all. His knee is still giving him troubles and he’s planning on a few days in hospital. Otherwise, I’ll have an audience in the kitchen and the pumpkin has one of his favorite playmates. We’ve also had the little boy who lives under the stairs up for a couple of playdates. Pmpkn is holding his own with the larger lad and not adverse to sharing. The more the merrier has always been my watchword and watching two isn’t anymore work than one.

Above is Erdene's dad upon his arrival from the countryside. A good third of the people in my neighborhood dress in the same style, which creates some colorful street scenes. I would take more pictures, as I'm enamored of the traditional dress, but too shy to take many snaps.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Home again

Fulfill your resolutions here in Mongolia

Day five and a half of no booze. The locals seem to be taking the unavailability of liquor in stride, the rest of us are scouring the countryside. Amazing, how a city of a million and a quarter can accept deprivation so easily. Of course, seventeen years ago, following the fall of the Soviet Union, they were in the midst of a famine which left scores of dead on the street every day. A little perspective on the situation, please. Simon, of Spam to Mongolia fame, was kind enough to publish some information I sent him on the Bloggers News Net . Check it out HERE. And wedsday post here

My excursion to China was somewhat lackluster. The landscape from the train was a little closer to a moonscape, than previously. The countryside grasses ended the fall season cropped very low. When you add snow and surrounding rock, the Police song “walking on the moon” seems to play through ones’ conscious. My observations were made a few hundred clicks from the border and you can extrapolate my findings with an article on aridization on the Chinese border from a Kiwi new source, click here ARIDIZATION My mom will be happy, I’ve found an environmental cause to get behind. Unfortunately, economic realities are going to make overgrazing a difficult problem to solve. I’ve talked about this before and will try to find the link. Pumpkin Utube/daddy’s lap addiction is cutting into my writing time, but I’ve found a split screen with two windows gives me some cut and paste room. As Red Green says; “the more time you spend with you kids when they are young, the less time you will spend later visiting them in the Penitentiary“.

My destination, Erlain, China was a little less busy, than my last visit. The Chinese are still celebrating the New year in grand fashion, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for sales. I did manage to avoid both dog and chicken feet during my travels. I enjoyed a tasty plate of stir fried mutton with scallions and ginger with a side of steamed dumplings. Yes, that is pretty much what I eat in UB, but no sense messing with funny foods, especially when the bathrooms on the train are locked for three hours at a stretch. The two pictures below are of a little boy I met in a small store in Erlian. The first from my most recent trip and the second from October. Cute little fellow. New dads can be real boring fellows. Pmpkn’s teeth count is now five..

For writing during the first month of the New Year, I’ll be covering the Vodka scandal and some tidbits of information I’ve been picking up regarding Mongolia’s approach to liscencing and properly exploiting the underground wealth. Oil at a 100$ a bbbl isn’t a good thing back home, but Mongolia has found itself with extensive coal and uranium deposits, along with their previously mapped gold deposits. These could change the country for the good, if they can just do it right. Also, a friend of ours from Saipan asked me to explain what it is I enjoy about UB, besides Erdene and the pmpkn, the question has been occupying my mind to the point of distraction and I’m close to putting it all together. I’ll also have a quest column from my friend and personal physician on; “driving white in Mongolia” That’s it for now.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Quiet Days

I began this post the day after Christmas, entitled the “laziest day of the year” Looks as though my post-prandial Christmas nap stretched out over the entire week. All is well, we’ve had a fun week and avoided the local Vodka poisoning, which afflicted UB over the New Years holiday. Lesson there is, “don’t drink the cheap vodka” According to the news reports, one of the producers was spiking their brands with either wood or industrial alcohol. Twenty-odd people are still in hospital and eleven died. Mongolians seem to handle accidental death road accidents, exposure and the like, with aplomb, but they take murder through poisoning a little more seriously, which makes this no small matter for the government. I think it is safe to say, heads will roll over this. I haven’t had cause to reflect on what the inside of a Mongolian jail would be like until now and I’m thinking it is very very cold inside.

I did manage a small faux pas Christmas eve. Christmas isn’t as big as new years, but it is the custom to pass along a small gift of candys and such to friends and aquaitances.. Well, I thought to prepare one for the little boy and his dad who live under the stairwell on the first floor. The Dad is a nice fellow and keeps the hallways and sidewalks clean, in exchange for a small room fashioned out from the extra space leftover from the stairway risings. Not much space either, maybe six feet by twelve and unheated, but for a extremely lame radiator. The little boy is a few months older than the pmpkn and I thought it would be fun to invite them both up when we gave them their gift. Wrong. Mongolian custom has it that when you invite some in, other than a very close friend or relative, they don’t leave until they are good and ready. When can mean when all the drink is gone and all the food. To make things worse, I was making stock for soup the next day and that was interpreted as food coming. Anyway, the little boy and the pmpkn had fun playing together, Dad and I drank all the beer, but fortunately they took the broad hint about pmpkns bedtime and fled, before we were forced to get into the vodka or my French Onion soup stock.

I’m off for a couple of days to renew my visa in China. Hope they let me back in. UB was all astir yesterday afternoon. I ventured over to the Doctor’s in the afternoon, to push his car into the garage. Mongolians take New Years most seriously and his apartment attendant fled, leaving his car out in the cold all night. He has most of his ignition troubles worked out, but his vehicle seems to require some semblance of heat during the late night hours. At any rate, we headed to town for a restorative and found out the government is taking the vodka poisoning most seriously. Even though most of the bad product was distributed in the outlying areas, more than the city itself, most of the small stores in the city center were shut, with the clerks stripping the shelves of all vodka. No small task here, with Vodka filling up the majority of the liqour aisles. I have the feeling the government is a tad embarrassed to make headlines all over the world, over what is either a case of blatant stupidity or a seriously mis-quided excess of capitalism. Mongolian pride, however rooted in the past shouldn’t be discounted. There is no faster way to get into a fight here than to disparage Ghengis Khan and the government ministers count themselves to be equally above reproach or criticism. More on this subject when I return. Erdene and I found ourselves with a lot of time to discuss the news of the day over the holidays, which has led to some interesting conclusions on my part. UPDATE, the government has gone a tad overboard. I went out to my favorite hotel bar to post this and found that ALL liquor and beer sales are kaput for the timebeing. If this is the case city-wide, the doctor will be a tad pissed at the end of the workday. Click on UPDATE for a the best news source I’ve found regarding this monumental crisis.

Pumpkin is doing exceptionally well. He’s walking from one end of the apartment to the other and hasn‘t done any face plants. He would like to walk outside, but the temperatures haven’t risen to a level where we take him out, without the restraining snowsuit. We (Erdene) picked up some puzzle toys for his Christmas presents and he’s enjoying the challenge. Doing quite well, I must say, with hint of pride. My Utube distraction backfired, however. He likes nothing bettter, (other than the boob) than to sit on my lap, listen to and watch the Chipmunks and the Wiggles. Cuts down on my typing, but the enjoyment on his face and his snuggly little body make up for a lack of verbage on my part. He’s been in excellent health for a month now. I’m considering the possibility both he and Erdene had to build up their immunities to the local bugs. Not sure about this, but Erdene was in Saipan for over two years and may have lost her immunities. Anyway, he’s in rare form these days. We’ve weaned him off biting and chewing, since the ruptured battery incident, so I’m not too worried about his lead paint intake from his wooden toys. He’s learned that biscuits are much better, than having his toy taken away for chewing. This whole parenthood thing, while occasionaly fraught with peril, is a lot of fun.

Erdene’s other find this holiday was an English language cookbook. “Great Menu’s of Britian” Stop laughing. My dad was born in London and once past the stale canned peas, spam substitutes, and the like, English cooking can be quite excellent. In other food news, the spam fairy visited us and I found the luscious processed meat for sale in a local western store, previously unvisited. I had to drink too much with the Austalians to gain this knowledge, but my somewhat late appearance at home was balanced with a fresh can of locally obtained spam.

In Saipan news, I found Zaldy’s editorial last week to be particularly enlighting. Here is the LINK. Seems he see’s through the crap, to the issue which is truly constraining the CNMI’s growth. Namely, shoveling all the available cash to the government employee’s. Be damned if I have an answer, but nice to see someone with the balls to call it as it is. Despite, EE’s failings as a writer, having an independent newspaper is a valuable balance.

I thought I had a snappy line re. Aereflot. The Russian airline. Their slogan. “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, you’re as likely to die on this flight as from smoking“. However, exhaustive research on my part, informs me; Aereflot has cleaned up their act and haven’t had a fatality since ‘96. Oh well, here’s a picture of their office in UB, for no other reason, than I don’t want to remove it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Calvin RIP 1995

Could twelve years have passed so quickly? Any Calvin and Hobbes fans out there should click on Calvin for a little shot of love and some great snowman cartoons. My personal favorites were Calvin's dads fatherly advice. To wit: "Dad why are your old pictures not in color"? Dad; "The world until 1960 was black and white. Color is a recent invention" And my all time favorite, "Dad, how do they figure out the weight limit of a bridge"? "Well Calvin, they drive heavier and heavier trucks across the bridge, until it fails, weigh the last truck to safely cross, and then rebuild the bridge" Winston Churchill wrote a most elequent for Ian Fleming's father who was killed during the first world war; "The brightest lights of England are being extinguished all over Europe" That isn't the entire quote, but I've always thought of C&H in those terms. Damn you, Bill Waterston, how could you leave us this way?