Wednesday, June 27, 2007


What is up, my ninjas?

I'm sitting here in a $6/night hostel in Vietnam's great capitol of Hanoi on a beautiful steamy summer morning. So everyone seems to be asking me about my suddenly overwhelming male pattern-baldness. I figured a shaved head would be a lot more comfortable in SE Asia, and I was right. Tonya says she thinks she sweats much more than I do. It's disgusting. Plus, I get to look sort of like Patrick Stewart or Dallin Oaks. What's not to love about that? My mother disagrees, however; she might've already disowned me.

So Tonya and I took a trip yesterday to Ha Long Bay, about 180 km east of Hanoi along the coast. We took a boat ride around some beautiful islands. It was quite overwhelming, actually. I will post some lovely pics a little later on. Today we're taking another day-long trip to the famous Perfume Pagoda outside Hanoi. Then we'll hop on a night bus and travel to the city of Hue down south.

It's been pretty fun, so far. The Vietnamese are EXTREMELY friendly and accommodating. It's remarkable how little resentment anyone seems to feel over that skirmish, about 30 years back. We rarely, if ever, run in to American tourists, however. Perhaps we aren't so forgiving. Perhaps we have better things to do. And perhaps we're missing out.

Monday, June 25, 2007


After spending 18 hours on an airplane and 10 hours sitting in airports, I've arrived in Bangkok in the Kingdom of Thailand. Fortunately for me, I get to spend the night here on a metal bench in anticipation of an 11am flight to Hanoi, tomorrow morning. So far, this has been fantastic. I don't have any keen insights to reveal, other than the fact I'm no longer a huge fan of airplane food. Tonya gave me most of her meals, and by the end of the Tokoy-Bangkok flight, I was reaching the point of gluttony. Yuck.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I'm back!

Here's a shout out to all my loyal readers who've been forced to satisfy themselves with re-reading year-old blog postings. Okay, I flatter myself. I have no loyal readers. But since I'm the one looking over my own shoulder, it's good to know that at least someone is checking up on me. Yet again, I digress....

So I've been living in Utah (what I like to call the SLC... it makes me sound hip) for the last 8 months, or so. My current employer is the Utah Legislative Auditor General. We're sort of the state-level GAO. We respond to requests from the State Legislature to investigate the performance of state agencies. We check compliance with state code, legislative intent, and overall efficiency and effectiveness. As an auditor, many of my friends assume that I spend my leisure time sharpening pencils. This is patently false. We don't sharpen pencils, anymore. They're mechanical.

In my time here, I've managed to participate in two major audits. From October through February, I worked on a two-man team auditing Utah's Disability Determination Services. As my first foray into the exciting field of performance auditing, I discovered that there's no point in saying in one sentence what you can extend in to three! I had a great time getting to know the people and processes of the federally-funded Disability Determination Service office, and grew to appreciate how frustratingly bureaucratic the government can be. You well may ask: what were the substantive conclusions of our audit? For those disinclined to read the 30-page report, we concluded the following: "work better". Since that time, I've turned my keen analytical eye to an audit of the Utah Transit Authority. I've spent the last few months riding buses and rail, perusing budgets and asking the "hard hitting" questions. This report might very well approach the 100-page threshold. But confidentiality issues prevent me from revealing any future conclusions. Nevertheless, since my blog readership can be represented by a logarithmic function approaching zero over time, I will reveal that UTA can also "work better". What a breach. I might lose my job.

Speaking of losing my job, when I initially accepted this job back in October, I was vacillating between this one and a position at the US embassy in Moscow. I figured that I should try employment in the US of A for a period of time, so I initially turned down the Moscow job. But after 9 months, I've come to realize that I might be somewhat dissatisfied with a permanent career in State Government. Not that I mind working for Utah's Auditor General. I like my colleagues and the work has had its own degree of fascination. I just feel that it's not for me. So the Auditor General and I have agreed that we're going to get into a major row during the next staff meeting. He'll impugn my work ethic, and I'll belittle his leadership capacity. Then he'll fire me on the spot. Everyone will be horrified. He's way too excited about the prospect to make it believable, though. Or perhaps, he's just been biding his time....

So I've got plans to work in Moscow for a bit, and then see what's what. In the meantime, I'm headed out on Sunday for a 3-week excursion to Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. I'll try to make a couple of postings while I'm out there to describe the lay of the land. I'm due to arrive in Moscow around the middle of August. Hopefully that'll spur me to new and more interesting blog postings. I make no promises.