Putting My Match Down

Friday morning I posted an offer designed to encourage more people to contribute to the “Relaunch Xanga” crowd-funding effort. My offer was to match the next five contributions to a total of $240 – equivalent to five one-year memberships in Xanga. Additionally, I offered to make those memberships available to people who felt they could not afford to pay for blogging on the new Xanga 2.0 platform.

In the three days since that offer, an additional $1,335 was contributed so this morning I pulled out my credit card, went to the crowd-funding site, and added my $240 to the pot. The total is $1,975 contributed in three days, bringing us to $32,728 – 54.5% of our goal of $60,000.

Sunday evening, Alex (@roadlesstaken) interviewed Xanga CEO John on his BlogTalkRadio channel (recorded podcast here). Hearing the interview, there are a few areas where I feel like he and the team haven’t taken some easy steps to raise awareness – splash screen or large banner on the Xanga.com home page, perhaps. At the same time, I also understand that they aren’t doing this because it makes them a lot of money. Instead, they are committed to the community that exists here at Xanga, the same reason I am willing to put my money where my mouth is.

If you are a member of the community and you haven’t contributed to the relaunch of Xanga, your help would be very much appreciated! Click here to contribute. The deadline is July 15.

 

The Impact of the Supreme Court’s Rulings on Us

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on two cases about equality of marriage for same-sex couples. Many friends have asked how those rulings will impact Tawn and me, especially the ruling in United States vs. Windsor, which found Part 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

Tawn and I were married in Iowa almost four years ago and have lived in Thailand for more than seven years. We chose to live here for a variety of reasons, the biggest of which was that there was no practicable way for him to stay in the United States after completing his master’s degree.

The first state to provide same-sex marriage was Massachusetts in late 2003, so we had the option of getting married. But because of DOMA, the federal government would not recognize our marriage.

This is because immigration is one of the more than 1,100 federal statutes that use marital status to determine rights, benefits, and privileges. Because of DOMA, the federal government would not recognize our marriage so I could not sponsor Tawn’s immigration as my spouse.

Impact of the DOMA Ruling

Now that Part 3 of DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional (Part 2, which excuses states from having to recognize same-sex marriages that are conducted in other states, still stands), the door is open for me to sponsor Tawn, should we want to move back to the United States.

This would make immigration relatively painless and he could be in the United States and able to work within about 90 days. Spouse visas are expedited and are not subject to country-based quotas like other types of immigration visas.

When are we moving back to the United States? The answer is, no time soon. There were many secondary reasons for moving to Thailand and now that Tawn has a one-year old fashion design business and my US-based employer severed my employment after I declined their request to relocate to Atlanta, there is greater gravity holding us in Thailand. 

We will probably return to the United States some day, perhaps splitting our time between the two countries. But right now, it is enough to know that we have the right to return, when we choose to do so.


Posing with my grandparents in Kansas City this spring.

Impact of the Proposition 8 Ruling

With regards to the second Supreme Court ruling, on the case of Hollingsworth vs. Perry, this case does not directly affect us. The case asked whether California’s Proposition 8, which halted same-sex marriage, was constitutional.

The Supreme Court determined that the Proposition 8 supporters did not have the legal standing to appeal the lower court’s decision when the state government declined to appeal the case. This effectively resulted in Proposition 8 being invalidated and same-sex marriages resumed in California Friday afternoon.

The only effect that this case would have on us is if we moved back to California. It would ensure that our marriage, performed outside of California, would be recognized by the state government.

I want to give a quick thank you to all of the friends and family members who supported us and the larger fight for marriage equality. I especially want to thank our straight allies, people who proudly spoke up for equality even though it wasn’t directly their fight.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “None of us are free until all of us are free.”

 

Xanga Crowdsourcing Matching Offer

Just finished with a fun BlogTalkRadio interview with Alex (aka @Roadlesstaken). You can listen to the podcast by clicking this link. One of the things we talked about is the positive aspects of Xanga. I’m a big believer in this community and I am willing to put my money where my mouth is.


This is where our fundraising stood as of 9:30 pm Eastern Time, Thursday June 27th – right as the radio show ended. Some people are complaining that a $48 fee to blog on Xanga 2.0 ($0.13 a day!) is too expensive. Now, I’ve already pledged $240 for five, one-year memberships. Even though I’m only working part time, that’s how much I want Xanga to survive.

To help increase contributions to relaunch Xanga, here’s my offer:

For the first five people to send me proof of pledging $48 after 9:30 pm Eastern Time on Thursday June 27th, I will match your pledges with my own additional pledge totaling $240.

Those additional memberships I pledge will be made available, first-come, first-serve for people who feel they cannot otherwise afford to remain on Xanga.

Have you already pledged? Feel free to pledge some more?

Haven’t pledged already? Here’s the chance to double the impact of your pledge!

 

Let’s relaunch!

 

Here’s the “fine print” of the details – pardon my lack of experience writing legalese:

  • The intent of this offer is to drive at least $240 in new pledges to the Xanga Relaunch effort.
  • To qualify for the match, you must send me proof of your pledge that was made after 9:30 pm Eastern time on Thursday June 27th.
  • Once I have received five proof of pledges totaling $240, I will make an additional pledge for $240.
  • When Xanga 2.0 successfully launches, I will invite people who feel they cannot afford to pay for the blogging to contact me for a one-year membership. This process will be subject to whatever steps Xanga management sets up for assigning memberships to other people.
  • Any questions? Feel free to send me a message.

Thanks for supporting the Xanga community! #WeAreXanga

 

Virtual Work World

As I have shared over the past few months, my 12+ year job working remotely for a company in the US came to an end in mid-February. Since then, I have been searching for a new full-time position here in Bangkok without luck. Along the way, I have managed to pick up many freelance jobs, some of which are one-off projects and others of which are ongoing. While I don’t feel entirely comfortable with this uncertain income stream, I am enjoying the variety of work, workplaces, and clients.

For example, one client is the CEO of a start-up social media marketing company. I have the opportunity to provide feedback and coaching around his performance, his business model, and how he is structuring the organization as it rapidly grows. Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to do some interesting things such as write the script he used to shoot a video infomercial and accompany him to the studio here in Bangkok where it was shot.

As you can see, it was shot in a green-screen environment and the “studio” was added digitally (visible in the monitor on the left). The interviewer and the CEO are sitting on two chairs in front of a green sheet of fabric but on the screen, it appears they are sitting at a desk in a fancy TV studio.

Considering I graduated as a Communication major with a TV Production emphasis, this was one of the few times that I have directly used the skills in the workplace that I studied in university!

So far, knock on wood, each project seems to lead to additional projects and new contacts. I would still like to secure a full-time position at a firm and I continue to apply at different companies. But for the time being, the freelance approach seems to be working out well enough. In the back of my mind, I feel I have to trust that this path will lead me to where I need to be. Sometimes, though, it is hard to have the patience to trust that things work out alright over time.

 

Down-home American Cuisine

Two weeks ago, Chow suggested we invite friends over to her house and cook a dinner that relied on a new cookbook she had received. The cookbook contained only “down-home” classic American dishes, organized on a state-by-state basis. Of course, I’m up for trying to cook almost anything in the kitchen, especially if it is someone else’s kitchen!

The main course of the meal was “Kansas Fried Chicken”. Having a lot of relatives in Kansas and having lived there a year before moving to Thailand, I can’t rightly say what distinguished fried chicken as “Kansas” fried chicken. This was only my second time trying to make fried chicken and I have to say, keeping the oil temperature consistent around the 350 F target is a pain in the neck.

The end result turned out pretty well. The chicken isn’t brined or marinated. Simply pat it dry, sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and paprika, and then dredge in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and I added some chile powder. The result was super. The chicken remained moist and with sufficient salt, very flavorful. Afterwards, I used a few tablespoons of the oil to make the best gravy I’ve ever made.

If you have gravy, you might as well have some biscuits, right? These were another recipe from the cookbook and, oddly, they used vegetable oil rather than a solid fat such as butter or Crisco. The texture was tender although I think my biscuit recipe (from my mother) is better. The Crisco in the recipe gives it a flakier texture.

Side dishes included a baked spinach casserole. The bread crumbs Chow used were panko, the Japanese bread crumbs used in tempura. The dish was very dry; not sure if something more was meant to be added to the greens. It was tasty, though.

The asparagus side dish was fantastic. It used cream of mushroom soup straight from the can, spread in alternating layers with the asparagus and then baked. On the top are crushed Cheese-It crackers. 

Used this opportunity to break out a jar of the pickled green tomatoes and shallots that I made a month ago. These were great. I need to figure out somewhere to get a larger quantity of green cherry tomatoes so I can pickle more.

Dessert was a cherry and blackberry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Nice and simple, keeping with our Americana theme.

 

Rainy Season in Bangkok

About six months of the year. That’s how long our rainy season lasts here in Thailand. Starting in May and concluding in October, nearly every day sees some precipitation. 

A typical Bangkok afternoon this time of year looks like this. Big, ferocious clouds darken the skies. They move quickly, forming close to the ground like wisps of steam in reverse. The wind begins to pick up, a sure sign that rain is imminent. In fact, with the picture above, while I had a good view at least a kilometer down the tracks, within ten seconds (literally) of taking this picture, the rain had started and within thirty seconds, the view had diminished to what you see in the following picture.

The rain came down with such force that visibility was reduced to just a few hundred meters. Anything beyond that was lost in the grey mists. Thankfully, I was at the Skytrain station and could sought shelter. 

The intensity of our storms is often matched by a surprising brevity. I boarded the train within two minutes of the storm starting. It took eight minutes to travel west four stations (less than six kilometers). I exited at Phloen Chit finding the rain finished, very wet pavement and large puddles the only signs of its visit. That is the nature of our rainy season – one corner of town will receive a downpour and another corner is enjoying sunshine.

 

In terms of volume, there are peaks at either end of the season. So far this year, we have had pretty normal rainfall. Look out for September, though! While this amount of rain would probably drive lots of people (except those from Seattle) crazy, I actually like the rainy season. Yes, there are the flooded streets and the torrential rains for which an umbrella does absolutely no good. But the cloudy skies offer a respite from the otherwise cruel sun and the breeze usually picks up, helping lower the ambient temperature.

 

Dining in Taipei: Kiki Restaurant

This last trip to Taipei marked my third time dining at Kiki Restaurant. Despite being owned by a celebrity (usually a black mark) and having multiple branches (often tough to maintain quality), Kiki Restaurant serves very good Szechuan-inspired food in a pleasant setting with attentive service. Each of my visits has been to the branch on Fuxing South Road in the Zhongshan District.

Crispy deep-fried egg tofu. Egg tofu is literally a type of tofu that has eggs incorporated before the soy milk is coagulated. When fried, the inside has a creamy, custard-like texture that is very pleasant to eat. This dish was not oily at all and was a very enjoyable start to the meal.

The second dish was a marinated chicken dish. While the chicken is cooked, the dish is served cold. This is a bit of an acquired taste for some people as the chicken skin has a texture that might be described as “rubbery but not chewy”. The flavor is excellent – Taiwanese chickens are the most flavorful I have eaten anywhere. The seasoning was chili oil, peanuts, and green onions.

The third dish was stir fried minced pork with Chinese chives and fermented black beans. This was a fantastic dish, lots of umami thanks to the black beans. Visually, it is eye-catching, too!

Our fourth dish was Szechuan style spicy noodles with minced pork, also known as “dan dan noodles”. Made with Szechuan peppercorns as well as chilies, this dish gently numbs the tongue while also setting it on fire. The key to this dish is to achieve the right balance. Too many of the peppercorns and your tongue ends up useless.

What might be one of the most popular Szechuan dishes worldwide, four season beans with minced pork and Chinese spices. Cooked in a blazing hot wok, the beans are seared quickly, locking in their flavor and freshness.

We also consumed several orders of the “home-style” Chinese bread roll, a very simple wheat flour roll served either steamed or deep fried with a side of sweetened condensed milk. Sugi and Tawn both liked the deep fried version. I found it a little oily and preferred the steamed version.

As always, we benefitted greatly from Andy (yang1815) handling the ordering. Andy’s good taste and enthusiasm for food is infectious and makes traveling with him a blast.