Monday, April 29, 2013

Today was a good day

Woke up in the morning, gotta thank Zod. Don't know what it is, but today seems kinda odd. All those assignments I've been pulling all-nighters to complete? Not actually due until Sunday. Those algebra exams? Smooth sailing. That job offer I've been sweating? Arrived, accepted and better than I initially thought. I got to say, it was a good day.

Now begins the months-long vetting process before I can start said job. Every effort will be made to expedite things, but I expect the College World Series to be done and dusted before I depart from Eppley. One realization I've had since making my pre-departure checklist is that I'm going to need a new passport. Even though I've only had it since 2006 and only been using it since 2008, it's showing its age. The text and the seal on the cover are almost completely worn off and the pages (even the additional ones I got in 2009) are dog-eared and packed with stamps. The latter bit is odd as I didn't think I'd been to that many places. Because I'm me, I thought it'd be a good idea to tally up those stamps.
  • Indonesia: 6 full-page visas, 66(!) separate stamps. That includes arrival and departure stamps at Soekarno-Hatta and Ngurah Rai, visas on arrival and multiple-entry visas.
  • Singapore: 16 stamps, all on visa runs save for one trip to cover the Asian Champions League and the Asean Basketball League playoffs
  • Malaysia: 6 stamps, including covering the 2009 AFC Congress and a stopover at an airport hotel en route to the Philippines
  • Japan: 6 stamps, two entry/exit sets at Narita and one at Kansai
  • China: 2 full pages (visa and residence permit) and 2 stamps
  • Philippines: 2 stamps, traveling with Satria Muda Britama for an ABL game against the Philippines Patriots
  • United States: 2 entry stamps from my good friends at the Department of Homeland Security
  • New Zealand: 1 stamp -- just an entry stamp, no exit. Considering I was able to walk all the way to my gate at the Wellington airport before encountering security, maybe it isn't all that surprising. Or maybe those clever Kiwis just assumed I wouldn't want to leave (and they'd be right).
Will I miss my old passport? Maybe somewhat. I'm sure the new one will be all shiny with the latest technology, but what my beat-up old passport lacks in shininess it makes up for in character. All those smudges, wrinkles and staples tell a story, after all, and I do have a track record of assigning significance to objects others may find mundane. Oh, well -- guess I'll just have to do my best to fill the new one to the brim as well.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Evil Dead: No "the," lots of "uggh"

The list of films I've seen twice in theaters is fairly exclusive. As late as last year, it wasn't a list at all -- I hadn't ever gone back for seconds of a film. The combination of "The Avengers" and the cost of movie tickets in Jakarta topping out at $6 changed all that, and now Marvel's mega-hit has company on my list of double dips in the surprising form of the remake of "Evil Dead." I'm going to spoil parts the movie while giving my thoughts on it, so go beyond the jump at your own peril.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why is New Zealand so cool?

This is why New Zealand is so cool. Not only do they have the good sense to embrace marriage equality, but they have politicians like this guy:

That guy, incidentally, is Maurice Williamson, a conservative(!) MP with a degree in physics. No venom, no vitriol, just laying out some common sense -- allowing homosexual people to marry will not have one iota of deleterious effect on the lives or marriages of straight people.

The United States has about 314 million people to New Zealand's 4.4 million, so where are all the American politicians who can speak with such frankness and humor? Instead, we're stuck with guys (and it is still mostly guys) who continue to pine for the Way Things Were despite America looking less and less like it did on Leave It to Beaver. Not that straight, Christian white males pining for the days when they ran the world and didn't have to worry about undesirables -- women, racial minorities, homosexuals, etc. -- should be the least bit surprising.

And as if to drive home the greatness of Aotearoa, after the result of the vote (77 for, 44 against) was announced, there was a sing-along:

That was Pokarekare Ana, a Maori love song that is said to be New Zealand's unofficial national anthem. Can you picture the US Congress breaking out into song after passing some momentous legislation? It'd have to be a duet, of course, as bipartisanship is verboten these days. Maybe a little something from Les Miserables?

If any Christians are feeling oppressed by this development, 1) get over yourselves, and 2) the New Zealand legislation allows clergy to decline to perform same-sex marriages if they conflict with their beliefs. No priests forced to marry people at gunpoint, no people treated as second-class citizens in their own country thanks to state-sanctioned bigotry -- everybody wins! Now get down off your cross and love thy neighbor.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Drip, drip, drip....

Another day, another match-fixing story out of Singapore. A group of Lebanese referees have been prevented from taking charge of an AFC Cup match in the Little Red Dot over fears of corruption.
Three Lebanese soccer officials have been dropped from refereeing an AFC Cup match in Singapore and are helping the country's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) with their enquiries, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said on Wednesday.
Ali Sabbagh and assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb were taken to the CPIB early on Wednesday, the FAS said, and replacement officials would take charge of the match between Tampines Rovers and East Bengal of India later in the day.
In case you were wondering, as I did, it appears that Andre El Haddad -- the Lebanese man in the middle for Indonesia's 10-0 loss at Bahrain a few months ago -- was not involved. This time.

Poor Singapore can't seem to get its once-squeaky-clean name out of the headlines. Despite all the frantic hand-waving by FIFA, the Asian Football Confederation, the Singapore government and the Football Association of Singapore, Dan Tan -- who is wanted by European police for fixing football matches across five continents -- is still free and looks for all the world to be operating under the protection of the Singapore authorities.

FIFA and the AFC are doing everything in their power to convince the world they are expending every effort in the fight against match-fixing. As usual with these organizations, though, the gap between their rhetoric and their results is predictably vast.

EDIT: Apparently the allure of those Geylang girls proved too much for our friends from Lebanon.
Three Lebanese soccer officials have been charged with receiving sexual bribes to fix an AFC Cup match in Singapore, a government law-enforcement agency of the island city-state said on Thursday.
Referee Ali Sabbagh and assistant referees Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb were hastily replaced by officials from Thailand and Malaysia for Tampines Rovers' 4-2 defeat by East Bengal of India on Wednesday. 
The Lebanese trio were taken to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) instead and appeared in a Singapore court on Thursday. 
"Ali Sabbagh, Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb were produced in court, each with a charge of one count of corruptly receiving gratification, in the form of free sexual service," the CPIB said in a statement.
Simply delish. As you can imagine, the trio is not taking it well. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the person doing the bribery was a bookie.