Friday, April 28, 2017

Up at 2:30 Friday night

Yes, as the title would have you believe, I am up at 2:30 on Friday night. Most people who know me would assume that means I'm out. Having beers with friends or meeting some new ones. Some who know me a bit better might think I have just arrived in a new country and am too busy drinking it in to hit the sack. Some who know me even better might think of my current situation and put the fault on the ever enterprising Chinese mosquito. And those who know me best might think I'm just watching sports that are being played at some godly hour in some godly country. But you'd all be wrong.

It's actually 3:30 now since I had to check Facebook and make TWO cups of tea before writing this. Though I just put an end to the parasitic lives of two mosquitoes with no less relish than I'd feel doing the same for a couple of their human counterparts in politics or the ESL industry, I was not awakened by high pitched whining in my ears. NHL playoffs are 5 hours away and as far as I know there is no rugby, curling, baseball, Olympics, golf or other sports of note happing at this time. I'm not even nervous, excited or stressing about a class I have tomorrow, which, might have caused the stress to compound with every hour of sleeplessness. This happens too sometimes, but not this morning. And I say, "this morning," because I have already slept a couple of hours. That might be all I get for a while.

It isn't all that uncommon in my new place for me to be up when I shouldn't be and for that matter, sleeping when I probably shouldn't be. I give at least some of the blame for this to the air here. Taiyuan can be a nice city to walk around in. Some days. Why, just yesterday the AQI was around 50 or 60 and I took a stroll down a very modern shopping road. It was mostly full of shoe stores and athletic apparel from huge name brands like Nike, Adidas and such. I was more interested in the shopper food that was available. It was just more of the wandering around I've done since coming to Taiyuan, and the fortification of the idea that there is nothing I am interested in buying here really. I mean, I DO need some running shoes, but I won't be buying them from a team of workers dressed in matching pastel athletic gear hawking overpriced merchandise made by companies that are already too rich at stores with spine-rendingly loud and popular music encroaching on any possible transaction and earning a dollar an hour if they're lucky. And thinking that is a fantastic wage! No, I just spectate.

But I've learned that when the AQI gets above 100, I probably shouldn't do any such wandering or spectating. Even when I stay indoors, I need to open a window or two and let some air into my apartment and I think that air, coupled with the fact that I pretty much seal myself into a small bedroom with an electric oil burning mosquito killer going the whole time, makes it so I need to wake up every couple of hours, open the bedroom door, replace at least some of the stale air with mildly better and cooler air, probably invite in a mosquito or two, then try to get back to sleep, is the reason I find the only time I am sometimes unable to sleep in Taiyuan is at night when I should be sleeping. Now, during the day when I can leave the bedroom door open without mosquito attack being a certainty, I can, and do sleep very well, thank you. My whole life I've loved the nap. I feel like stealing a couple hours of sleep in the daylight is like getting away with something. I've read that Taiyuan people are actually very fond of the nap too. The kids at school here get lunch from noon to 2:30 and almost all of them nap. I've got a couch in my office where I've napped and I have walked in on more than one teacher/cleaner/administrator/stranger using the couch for that same purpose. It's one of the things I see during my wandering as well. And it's one way I'm fitting into my new city.

This is a watermelon vendor in Taiyuan bagging some Z's between customers.

Here's a shoe vendor from Taiyuan doing the same. I have seen about 100 similar stores about town with the identical selection of shoes. NONE that I want. Shoes are difficult for me. They have to be wide enough, which rules out 99% of all shoes in Asia. Then if you find that rare shoe made for a man, not a Japanese geisha girl, you're really pushing your luck to hope it has ANY arch support to it. So generally, I HAVE to get my shoes from other countries. If I absolutely MUST buy them in Asia, I try to find a western shoe store, hopefully without brain-melting music and ten underpaid, hardselling students per customer sporting referee shirts or some other matching uniform.

Anyway, I don't think I'm the only one in this city who doesn't sleep the best at night. And even though I should be working tomorrow, (Saturday), but my Saturday student is sick, (yippee!), I won't feel like I've really had a day off unless I get enough sleep. And since I'm going to watch about 6 hours of hockey starting at 8 this morning, guess who has two thumbs and will be getting his main sleep at 2:30 PM instead of A.M.

It really is one of the sacrifices I have accepted for this job. I wake up at least once every couple of hours to cough, blow my nose, go to the bathroom, kill a mosquito, take off my sweaty shirt, let some cool, clean air into my sleeping dungeon, get a drink, or any combination of these. That's every single night. Not one time have I slept through the entire night since coming here. Not once. It isn't all because of the Taiyuan air, of course. The clogged head goes back years. I think the polluted air of Korea started that. I've tried medicine while in the drug pushing environs of North America, but nothing helped. I reckon I'm stuck with this for life. When I'm upright, I hardly notice but lie down and it feels like I've caught a cold. Usually when I get up in the morning it takes a while and a few sneezes and nose blowings to drain. So at night I'm a noisy, snoring mouth breather. Somewhere out there there is a gal who didn't marry me who is awfully lucky to be sleeping alone and in peace. I wonder if she knows...

Again, the new philosophy applies. That gal might think she's got it bad being lonely and single but, hey, at least she doesn't have a husband who's getting up 20 times a night and snoring when he's not up. As for me, I'm up to my elbows in this job and this city. I just finished paying for the first half of my year of rent on this apartment. I have lost my great helper, Faith. She has been replaced by a girl who looks as though she's in over her head. She has until May 19th or so to get all the Z visa stuff worked out and I have serious doubts about that happening. That's right, I STILL don't have my Z visa! My first paycheck was half of what I expected because I was purposely not informed of the two week stagger in payday and cut-off day. Or maybe that was created on the day I was paid. Then the second payday was a week late and even though they can't pay taxes without the government finding out I don't have the proper visa, taxes were taken off. I've already made two visa runs while employed here, at my own expense, may have to make another, and will be paying for the Z visa run so my kindness is definitely being taken advantage of by my employers. BUT, at least I'm not THESE GUYS!

While, I must say, again, new philosophy, Robert Flower may think this is bad now, but I have seen so few of these Korean wives with western husbands situations work out, he can surely count the possible cancellation of wedding plans as ONE positive to come out of this whole mess. On the other, the MANY other hands, this has been going on forever. It's happened to me in Korea, Indonesia, and even sort of in Canada. It's never the teachers' fault, but they are almost always the ONLY people who suffer. The business and the ministry that probably conspired to create the sketchy situation in the first place won't even get slapped on the wrist. They'll be opening up fake schools and issuing improper visas again before these poor teachers get back home. But if you think Korea's bad, why were these teachers who are qualified to teach in Canada over there to begin with? Because things are even worse in Canada. Gone are the days of full time work, summers off, great salaries and benefits for new teachers in Canada. Fully qualified teachers are just barely scraping by doing part time ESL gigs. CRAPPY ESL gigs! And that might be what these teachers will be forced to return to. Some might return to Vancouver where they are way too late but FINALLY starting to plumb the depths of the fraud the government has been allowing in education since it has been corporatized. That's why I'M over here. That and I'm too "nice" to do anything about it.

But hey, at least they're getting their trips home and salaries till June paid by the school! That's a free holiday! When Lincoln International School in Icheon, S. Korea jacked me up, I got an apology and two week's pay. When Wall Street English in Indonesia got busted for hiring teachers on business visas I got the promise of help finding a new position, (which was bullshit), the promise of a flight home, (which was bullshit), an apology and no extra pay. I have STILL not recovered from that disaster!

So these guys might think they've got it bad, but at least the glass ain't totally empty! And, it just might not be such a bad thing to be getting out of South Korea right about now. I'll tell you, the entire time I was there I had people asking if I ever felt nervous about war breaking out. I never did. NOW, even though I'm not there any more, I feel more nervous than ever before. I fear for the safety of my many friends in Korea. I think Trump is just the whackjob to start something up over there. I've seen all kinds of signs recently and have been waiting for breaking news out of Korea. Still nothing, but as election day rolls around in the South, tests always happen in the North. What will the self-imposed king of the West do?

The unplumbed shallowness of the mind of Donald Trump being what it is, I wonder if on some level, conscious or usual, he isn't almost angry at South Korea for impeaching their president and giving America such a good idea! It did allow the sneaking of the THAAD missiles into Korea, where they are highly unpopular, while the country is between presidents. But I still think the Trumpster might not want any country getting the idea that ousting a shitty leader is a good thing. Or maybe he just wants to blow some more shit up.

Immigration officials, businesses, schools, and governments should be allowed to completely fuck up the lives of nice people with impunity, shouldn't they? Our acquiescence, no matter how reluctant, makes their occupational sodomy consensual in their minds.

Leastaways, that's what I reckon.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Think of nothing

Sometimes I wish some intellectual areas were as malleable as others. I mean for instance, science. Even though there are so many past scientific "certainties" that we now know are false, and everyone has heard at least a million times how people were killed for not believing the earth was flat, there are an awful lot of science bullies out there who are trying to force me to believe and not question the science they theorize to be fact. And the more insistent they become, the worse they are going to look when and if what they are saying is disproved by science. And chances are pretty good it will be. Then what will they do? Will they snap into a state of cognitive dissonance and just willfully ignore the truth? Or will they have the strength of character to admit they were wrong? The harder they push, the worse they will look whichever the case may be. But push they do.

How do you think this guy feels?

It is particularly distressing to me because I can think of two science bullies that I absolutely love! I really wish they'd stop doubling down their bets because sooner or later it's gonna cost them. I'm speaking of Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bill Nye the Science Guy. I watched Bill Nye's show. It was a bit after I was a kid, but I love science so I watched it anyway. That was his niche. Telling kids not to believe their parents, but to believe HIM is NOT his niche.

Okay, okay, it's quite unlikely that science will find irrefutable proof that the earth is only a few thousand years old, but, still, when you start targeting children's impressionable minds, it sure looks like a desperate tactic.

Then there's Neil Degrasse Tyson. This is a guy I have a ton of respect for! I bet he drinks beer. I'd love to have a beer with him! I've seen him on TV a LOT and he's always very interesting and I almost always learn and agree with him. But not just once, a few times, I've seen him take an all or nothing stance on the losing side. Yes, he's been WRONG about science more than once, but tell me who is going to challenge this man. Even if you're right, he can probably overpower you with the support of his many fans. And if you're wrong, well his legend grows. Here's a recent example.

I'm sensing a very palpable desire during this entire video, almost more of a MIKE Tyson desire, to just thump the listener over the head and say, "Scientists are smarter than you, just believe what we say!" And you know what? That would be great! If science was the way science is supposed to be. But it's not. It hasn't been for a while. Like most areas, science, or certain parts of it, have been commercialized and corporatized to the point where the scientists don't publish, or study what they want, they study and publish what pays. Publish or perish is nowhere more apparent. Ask a scientist. Not a famous one like Neil or Bill, one who's still got 50 thou in student loans. Are they really trying to find new things? No. They're mostly trying to prove or disprove things they're told to prove or disprove. This breaks rule number one of proper science: Above all, remain objective. If you are given a desired conclusion, objectivity flies out the window.

From the facebook page of the very same friend I got the above video, I read one about why marijuana was illegal in the States. It was about a fella in a position of power in the U.S. way back when, who went to 30 scientists and asked if marijuana was harmful. 29 said no, but the 30th, who knew which side his bread was buttered on, said it was harmful. And they tied marijuana use to an axe murder committed by a dude who never actually used marijuana, but nonetheless, it worked. For practically a century, marijuana has been feared in the U.S. More tragically hemp, but that's probably got more to do with Randolph Hearst, Dupont and plastic than anything. A great shame if you ask me. But there again, the greatest crop ever, scientifically transformed into anything from clothes to fuel for a car, repressed. Scientists, who were well paid by the tobacco industry, proved for years and years how safe tobacco smoke is for us. Why, it's probably healthy! And the hardest scientific pill for me to swallow has been the pharmaceutical industry, which I have only a tiny shadow of doubt has cured cancer many times but would rather treat patients for a long, expensive time than cure them cheaply. There are several other areas I've gotten into on this blog before that could be repeated. How many times have you gotten frustrated with wires for every electronic device you own? If science were science, there'd be no wires. We wouldn't even be paying for electricity. But you can thank Westinghouse, Edison and I think J.P. Morgan for the expense and the inconvenience. They wouldn't have made a bazillion bucks if they'd allowed Nicola Tesla to give the whole world free wireless electricity. THIS is why, in my mind, we MUST question science, because it has been successfully repressed in the past and I have no doubt is being successfully repressed as we speak right under the noses of Tyson, Nye and all of us.

The video appears to use four examples of how people who don't know much about science are standing in denial of it. I just gotta include this vid of someone who doesn't know much about philosophy standing in dismissal of it. Anyhoo, there's evolution, which I have blogged about before. Micro-yes, macro-requires a healthy scientific suspension of disbelief to accept as fact. It's not made clear in this video, but I know from past experience with Tyson that he believes in the harder evolutionary theory to believe. Vaccinations, again, if you say vaccinations are bad, I would agree you are just as wrong as if you say evolution doesn't exist. But there ARE and have been vaccinations that contain dangerous ingredients, are not fully tested and are being $old and administered. The government of any country could just as easily decide to use untested vaccines on the general public as they did their armed forces. Maybe they have. This is something we NEED to look into, not just trust science on. It's a trick as old as Moses' shorts to group people into black and white categories that make derision easier. That's what's being done by the science bullies. I'm not an antivaxer or antivaccer or however you want to spell that ignorant word. But I AM against shooting people full of untested drugs so pharmaceutical companies can collect their pay without fully earning it. This makes me an "antivaccer!" Burn him! ANTIVACCER! I believe that various parts of the theory of evolution are still highly theoretical and in fact identical to the metaphysical quandaries innate to religious belief in God. Then I must be against evolution! Ignorance! BURN HIM!

So that's two strikes against Tyson. Global warming I definitely won't complain about that. I trust the science, not the politics in that case, but COME ON, Tyson! GMO's? You want us to literally swallow THAT science whole? I mean, I sure HOPE Tyson is suggesting that the science being done to find harmful effects of GMO's is the science that should be trusted, but it's not clear. I am not going to trust anybody who is making a paycheck to mess with something so physically intimate as my food, thank you very much. And, again, from past experience, I know that Tyson believes GMO's are perfectly safe and it's science that should not be questioned. Strike three, mon ami! It absolutely SHOULD be questioned because we put it into our bodies every day! "I now believe, as a much more experienced scientist, that GMO crops still run far ahead of our understanding of their risks." That's a quote from a scientist who worked with GMO's and doesn't share Tyson's ideas.

Tyson, bless his gullible heart, still seems like he believes in science. And good for him! But, like I said, he's been wrong before. This is science that demands PROOF, not science that treats theories like proof. Apples and oranges. Yesteryear we had the apples, today we get oranges. Respectable scientific journals have printed articles on how the definitions of "theory" and "proof" mean different things in today's science. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, and I've read, in these same respectable scientific journals, how the Higgs Boson has finally been discovered! YAY! Maybe you might have read that too! It's been printed. But the God particle, as yet, retains its elusiveness. STILL not discovered. But, if the science bullies are to have their ways, we are to BELIEVE that it has been! Well they're, like, almost, sorta, totally positive it's like gotta be true. You know? Go back to painting your nails, I want to talk to a REAL scientist!

Notice in the video how in the beginning Tyson talks about how science is questioned by other scientists and then others. That's the way it used to be and SHOULD be! But then later in the video he says you don't have the option not to believe the equation of relativity. (I can't type the squared). Yes, yes I DO have that option. In fact greater minds than mine have opposed it. Like Nikola Tesla. One of its pillars, if I understand it correctly is that the speed of light is the fastest speed anything can go, yet other scientists have shown, (Tesla demonstrated TO Einstein), that things can move faster. He also said that when you have an established scientific emergent truth, it is true whether or not your believe in it. BECAUSE proper science is a process of constant questioning, emergent truths are being disproved all the time. That's what I call scientific progress. Accepting something because science says so is not.

Science is becoming a subject I don't really want to talk about with friends because stances are becoming too strong. People are willing to go to the mattresses over theoretical ideas that Ray Bradbury wouldn't even include in one of his books because they're so implausible. The Chuang Tsu might say, "Our words fly off like arrows, as though we knew what was right and wrong. We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. We are caught in the current and cannot return. We are tied up in knots like an old clogged drain. And yet our opinions have no permanence: like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away."

Which brings us to an intellectual area that IS malleable and seldom if ever has caused me the stress of scientific disagreements. Philosophy. More accurately, Eastern philosophy. Or even still more accurately, the kind I'm most fond of, Taoist philosophy. Not the modern, Taoism of magic and mysticism, but the more Lao Tzuian concrete aspects of spiritual obviousness that are hidden in distractions all around us. The thing that I may like best about this kind of thinking is that the harder you try, the farther, (or further), away you stray from the "Tao." The way. The WAY or at least the Way, is something evanescent and unattainable without proper instruction. And as Lao Tsu says at the beginning of the Tao Te Ching, "The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao." Which pretty much negates the entire book. One of the best beginnings I think EVER in a book. He's just conditioning the student to expect negation, contradiction, irony, and complete opposition from life. Only in that way will you understand it. But he cannot teach you, (which made me wonder the entire time I read his book, why Lao Tzu wrote it), only you can teach you. "If one is true to one's self and follows its teaching, who need be without a teacher?" Your "self" is an "it" according to Taoism. It can teach you. It is the ONLY teacher that can teach you! I have found in my many years of teaching that the student learns best who thinks he/she is teaching him/her self. Give them hints but not the answers. When they do the work and find the answers, on their OWN, they remember. Everything we need is inside us. In the Bible, Luke 17:21 says that "Heaven is within you."

This is reminiscent of the idea of the Good that Plato talked about ages and ages ago. He said it is at once a creative and sustaining cause of the universe, the condition of all knowledge, and the Summum Bonum or supreme object of man's desire. And here's the part I think is most pertinent to my point here today, he went on to say, "Being a metaphysical entity, it cannot be perceived by the eye or ear of sense, and is therefore ridiculed by the inferior man of little intelligence." This, in my humble opinion, is possibly best illustrated by some men of science. The bullies. They fancy themselves intelligent, but they can't see the noses on their faces. They are like any normal thinking human being and can perceive things in the universe that require a measure of faith. Indeed, they have tried to dress that faith up in scientific garment as best they can, but what it comes down to is, like Plato's cave full of people who glimpse the wondrous light and still return to utter darkness, like Lao Tsu, who in great bitterness of spirit called himself a dullard and a clown for not being able to lead a careless generation to the Tao, which he venerated as the most precious thing under heaven, they cannot abandon their cherished, comfortable, stable positions of darkness.

Great minds of science have written and spoken about the firm place the metaphysical MUST have in a proper understanding of science. Tesla called it the Aether. Charles Darwin till his death was convinced of a "creative force" beyond human understanding. Even Richard Dawkins, as I have blogged, gave God a greater chance than evolution. Agree or disagree with any of this, when you start thinking about the VERY beginning, you get into some metaphysical areas that science would LOVE to claim, but never will. This, along with the growing number of examples in which science proves to be decidedly unscientific, behove us to question scientists. Even well respected scientists like Neil Degrasse Tyson although we may find it hard to do so when a guy has such a cool name. Neil Degrasse Tyson. Hard to doubt. I'll give you that! And, as I said, despite his very occasional wrongness, I love the guy! I just wish he wouldn't be so adamant about being right. I wish he could catch some Tao and just relax and look at what's in front of him and think REALLY hard about it. Anywhere you are you can do this. This is the first test of the Tao. Just sit there. Where you are. For hours if you have to. It'll come to you. I can't tell you what. You have to figure that out on your own. But it's there.

Someday Peter Higgs might say, "You bunch of clods! How can any field be EVERYWHERE? And even if it can, how can something pass through it? I can't believe they gave me the Nobel Prize for this shit!" Someday Satyendra Bose might say, "A particle with no mass? Absurd! I only invented the Boson to beat the thousand other dudes who were trying to save scientific method and make the impossible sound plausible." We don't know. But it could happen. That's why we shouldn't just trust scientists because Neil Degrasse Tyson tells us to.

Here's a fellow who knows a bit about Taoism you might like to listen to better than me. Go right to the end. It's there, it's all there. The key to the big box too! It's there! Just look long enough... lol. Anyhoo, it's what we all need to do. Slow down. Stop the distractions for a short time. Just sit there. It may take longer for some, but it'll come to you if you give it a whirl. Thing is, most of us are kept busy by people who don't want us to discover what's there. But it's there! And when you come to that great epiphany of self and world knowledge at the same time, you realize what intellectual masturbation a lot of people are engaging in. It's enlightenment. It's worth a try, isn't it?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Nice or Stupid?

It's a long weekend of sorts here in the people's republic. It's a holiday called Qing Ming Jie during which the people tidy up ancestor's tombs and celebrate the dead. I hear that there also used to be a festival called Han Shi that coincided with Qing Ming, during which the people ate only cold food. I was out walking amongst the people of the people's republic today. It was a beautiful day. Sunny, not too smoggy, and warm enough to scare the locals with my white legs. I wore shorts outside the house for the first time today. I got some looks! One girl on a bicycle was so astonished that she almost rode her bike into a tree. I mean staring at my legs and pedalling by so that she was looking almost completely backwards. She was lucky her Mother was walking beside her and stopped her before she wiped out. Oddly, because of months of sock and pant wearing, my legs are largely hairless more than half way up the calves. Perhaps reminiscent of the plucked chicken skin on some of the food offerings at graves on this day. I guess friction has worn the hair away. A couple weeks of sandals and shorts'll take care of THAT sitch.

I didn't notice people eating any more or any less cold food today. Eating habits appeared as normal. But I DID see the paper flower and fake money offerings being sold all over the place. I just love the paper money! Just across the street from the cyclist I scarred for life, there was a small booth selling bills all the way up to a 100,000,000,000. A one hundred billion bill. I noticed no currency denoted on these bills. I suppose it's unclear what the currency is used in the afterlife. Look at the very first pic in this explanatory webpage. "Hell bank?" Is this just a(n) hilarious translation or is this an offering to some ancestors who weren't particularly nice? Maybe it's a sort of, "Thank you for being a bad person and leaving me a nicer house?" Or is the afterlife considered hell? I'll have to ask. Maybe it's a nicer hell than life was, so long as the living continue honouring you with sacrifices. Not sure.

I say the air was fairly good because the AQI, (air quality index), was 77 when I ventured out on my walk in the early afternoon. That's yellow. Not too bad, but not green, which is clean. However, tonight it's up to 109. That's orange and is described as dangerous for sensitive breathers. Take a look at the SECOND pic on that website I linked to this post. That's likely why. Over 1000 tonnes of paper products a year are burnt during this holiday. They're cracking down though because of fake money burning that has led to forest fires. It's funny the things a man recollects. I very seldom think of my Chinese girlfriend from my days when I lived in Hongcouver, but today I remembered her and her aunt going to a place in Vancouver where they burnt fake money. I never would have remembered that otherwise. What was her name? I wanna say Sophie or Sophia but it could just as easily have been Stacy or Selma. She wasn't burning any fake money to honour ME I'll tell you that. Just spending my REAL money. Meanwhile she worked three jobs and saved presumably so that someday somebody will be burning some fake money in her honour. I guess that's one of the horses on this old Chinese merry-go-round.

I actually saw a merry-go-round today outside the little shopping mall I walked to. Both were miniature versions of the real things they might have in Beijing, but I prefer the reality of the smaller city. I went off the main streets a little today and saw some of that reality. Narrow, bustling streets that looked as if they were dug up and patched by the locals, not the city so required that my concentration remain on the terrain and the motorists and cyclists and not so much on the earthy, Chinesiness all around me. Loitering. Lots of loitering. Some good smells of HOT food cooking and some bad smells of liquids being carried out of shops and sloshed down the sewer holes. And everything from the asphalt to the neon and non-neon signs to the vending tables seemed coated in a thin, grey film of pollution and cooking oil. I was looking for seeds, soil and pots so that I could do my part for Qing Ming. This is the time of year when farmers traditionally sow seeds as well. I saw no flower and bird shops, (Interestingly, this is the combination in the shops that sell seeds and pots and soil. They also sell birds, whatever the connection may or may not be...), but I did see quite a few other things. MANY fruit vendors that had bananas, strawberries, pineapples, apples, oranges and other fruits that were so obviously bought off the same trucks that I only really needed to look at one. Some of the fruit vendors had these tiny, pointy nectarines too. I was tempted to buy a few, but they were too hard. I saw variety stores everywhere; some slightly larger markets; barber shops; clothing stores; one tattoo shop that I looked in and saw someone getting a haircut; some coffee shops that, and I could be wrong here but judging by some of the young and sexier than normal pedestrians I saw, could have been comparable to the Korean "coffee" shops where you actually drink with young, available ladies. None of them were open yet. The girls I saw were probably just waking up and going out for breakfast at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I saw a guy pulling orange video gambling machines out of a literal hole in the ground ostensibly to be used later in the evening and put back at sun-up. I saw a few tiny restaurants with big pots of soup or rice on the boil outside and hopeful, mangy dogs and cats lurking nearby. I nodded hello to one young man who was just standing around with a few other young, what shall I say, uh, industrious, shinily dressed, overcalogned, but enterprising looking fellows and he grinned and gave a barely audible ni hao. I saw a filthy, matted cat on a two-foot chain meowing in complaint. I saw kids chasing kids. Two or three 8-year-old boys crowding around a small, weathered video game didn't notice the passing wei guo ren. That means "foreign person." I don't hear that even close to as often as I heard "waygook saram" in Korea! And, although I still expect it, when I am approached by groups of teens, they DON'T say hello in English and laugh their asses off when I say hello back. I've been greeted by some kids, mostly in my school, and when I said hello in reply, there was no laughing! Perhaps the Chinese have not yet tapped into this ENDLESS fountain of Korean enjoyment.

I saw many of the same shops I see everywhere including in my own neighbourhood like video game places, hardware stores, dumpling, dimsum, noodle and rice shops, a couple mobile vendors of fruit, music, Chinese pancakes and wraps, and a whole lot of restaurants serving the same, more genuine, but less delicious Chinese food than they have in Canada. Other than the tattoo parlour and the possible girly bars, I just saw lots and lots of the same stuff that I don't want. Much like the fruit vendors, almost every shop has the same selection of the same stuff off the same trucks. But it was nice to see a new neighbourhood. Different vibe and different people. There were also four very nice, old and over the many years, badly pruned willow trees. I took some pictures of these beauties of nature overhanging the unnatural capitalistic hawking and haggling on this unseasonably hot afternoon, but I took them with my poop cam and that is incompatible with this computer so I can't share them.

When I reached the shopping area where two of my students, Krystal and Tiffany, told me I would be able to find what I was looking for, I had been walking for over an hour. The respite from the warm sun was welcome. Inside the dimly lit building were probably a hundred little privately rented areas where people had about 10 different kinds of shops. Not the first one of these I'd been to. Seriously narcoleptic patrons of shops were too tired to give me their hard sells. I took great pains to avoid eye contact and make their choices to remain in zombieville seem warranted. They weren't all totally idle, however. A few were talking with shop owners nearby, often with the identical products in their basically identical stores. Most who were not full on vegetative were lost in cellphones, which isn't much more alert. So it was fairly non-confrontational shopping. To me, that's a very good thing. I have a few rules when it comes to shopping in Asia. I detest shopping for all things except sports memorabilia and groceries. But since Asia has none of the former stores and so very few of the latter that are good, suffice to say, I detest shopping in Asia. Rules have made the experience a bit more, but not much more, bearable. Rule number one: if the store is playing loud dance music, local pop or even English pop songs, nothing good can be bought and no good price can be found at that establishment. Move on. I HAVE to give a beautiful example from today before we get to rule number two. I was walking down the long street that was almost all sports clothing and running shoes. Much like Korea, China has areas where they sell mostly one thing. Shoe areas, glasses areas, musical instrument areas, etc. So this particular shoe store had two athletically clad, high school to university aged girls either saving for university or paying for it with a job in which they pull down a couple bucks a day more than likely. They had to stand outside the shop and coax people inside. Inside where the song was playing, "Yo, yo, any you mothafuckas wanna rock?!?!" I smiled and almost accidentally encouraged one of the girls to approach me but I looked to the other side of the street.

Which brings us to the rule you've probably guessed by now: number two: don't make eye contact. That just encourages the hard sell. This goes with rule number three: If they try the hard sell, they've lost the sale. Even if I actually WANT what they're flogging. I don't want to encourage that harassment. Rule number four: Don't ask for help. Generally, whether you speak the lingo or not, the people in stores hovering over you as you browse are not there to help and CAN'T help. They know roughly as much about the store as you do. And if it's a store you frequent, less than you do. They're watching to see if you steal. And they're getting paid miniscule salaries, even in the richer countries in Asia, so don't expect expertise. Quite honestly, especially if you don't speak the language, the LAST thing they want to do is communicate with you and help you. And with their salaries, it's nicer of us to leave them the hell alone. Rule number five: No prices - no business. The shops that don't put prices on products WILL rip you off. Most countries over here have fairly standard rates for different races. There's the local price, the not local but same country price, the foreign white guy price, the foreign Japanese/Korean price and probably some others. If they put the prices on things, they can't discriminate. Some say they do this because it leaves the option of haggling open. This brings us to rule number six: I don't haggle. Okay, okay, I know it's our responsibility to do so in order to curb the cheating of our fellow foreigners, but rule number 5 discounts this. This is why I'm not generally excited when someone invites me to a market of some kind. Markets = haggling. I HAVE on occasion been known to outsource the haggling to a female Asian. Take your pick, whatever country in Asia, they're TIED for the best hagglers in the world. If you have a big purchase to make and you want to save some dough and aren't too worried about saving time, an Asian woman will save you money. It's a fact.

So employing these rules, I browsed the mini mall. It didn't take long because as I said there were 10 shops. Snacks where there were supermarket bulk bins full of nuts and sweets. Probably 10 of these with identical nuts and sweets. Toy stores where they had the identical cheap crap as the other stores. Stationary, houseware, salons, electronic knickknacks, cleaning supplies, bathroom and two floors of clothing. I avoided those floors. The first floor, every shop had the same items as every shop that sold the same stuff. I really didn't need to spend as much time there as I did, but because there were only the 10 different shops, it was very easy to get lost and I did. Luckily there were three shops that sold mostly fake flowers but some pots and seed. No birds though. I got some pots and seeds and then exited the mall. Of course the minute I stepped outside I sneezed. It was still bright and sunny out. I walked home down a few new roads. I went to about 10 or 15 stores in a printer neighbourhood I stumbled across including two shops that were Canon printer stores, but none could find me a black PG-945 ink cartridge for my printer. A few of them phoned other stores as well. They have what they have. LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of what they have but no variety. I'll have to get it online. This is why Jack Ma is a gozillionaire! He's the guy who owns Ali Baba. The online megastore. I think he's bigger than Wallmart now. Jack Ma is no genius, lemme tell you. Well, he might be, but his business plan isn't. You give people what they want, not force them to want what you give, and guess what, you get rich! Especially if there are 1.4 billion of them.

So anyway, back to the top when I said that this is "somewhat" of a holiday for China. Believe it or not, it's pretty common in China to have these holidays during the week but do make-up work on the weekends. Almost everybody worked Saturday to make up for the holiday. All the kids went to school on Saturday. So it's really NOT a holiday. Here's how that complicated MY life: I teach one or two hours on Saturdays. Zoe, the Chinese teacher I work with, originally said that she would teach 2 hours and I'd teach one but it has never been that way. I've been teaching two hours every Saturday and she's been teaching one. This past Saturday was cancelled and the one before I was in Korea so my students hadn't seen me for two weeks. Zoe tells me that two of the kids quit and I only have one student now. Then Zoe tells me that because our student goes to classes on Saturday, I'll have to teach her on Sunday. Well I've already been told that I'll be doing make-up classes on Saturday so now I'm only getting a 2-day weekend out of the long weekend. Pretty much like everybody in China. Oh well, no biggie. So Zoe says I'll teach in the afternoon. Then she asks if that's okay and I say I'd prefer the morning because it makes it seem like the weekend is longer. So she says fine and then we talk about what to teach but never really land on anything. So I go in in Sunday morning not knowing what I'm teaching exactly. Then when I get there, Zoe tells me I'll be teaching all three hours because she has to go to church. Then Zoe becomes like one of those university girls getting 3 bucks a day hauling people in off the street: I can't make eye contact with her. I KNOW she knew about church on Sunday when she was telling me about the schedule change on Friday. This is probably why she originally said we'd be teaching in the afternoon. But I think, well, she DID the full three hours when I was in Korea and it's probably not worth complaining. On the bright side, I was never officially told but it turned out that the kids studied on Saturday what they would have been studying on Monday. Since Mondays are days off for me, I didn't have to go in on Saturday. So I still got a three-day weekend anyway, if not consecutive.

The thing I wanted to blog about today before I got sidetracked on the shopping adventure and tips, was just this. It happens an awful lot to me. Because I'm a nice guy. And all you nice people know what I'm talking about. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since you could just scroll back to many other entries in this blog and find on several occasions where I've commented that to a Chinese person, nice equals stupid. I feel like I'm paying all the bills here so far because the school knows I'm nice. I feel like Zoe made that move because I'm nice. I think that maybe this whole Saturday class, for which I make zero extra salary, could just be a private class I've been thrown into to fill out my sched and make someone else more money. But in keeping with my new philosophy, at least I'm still employed. It could be worse.

That said, I've been thinking a lot this week about why we're put on this earth. All the students I get instantly see that I'm a nice guy and they're faced with a decision: do I still respect him and do what he tells me to do or do I take advantage of his kindness and goof off? The problem as I see it, and this goes back to the ancestors living in hell, is that making your life successful by the standards of an increasingly acquisitive world, requires taking advantage of the kindness of good people. So many people sacrifice their principles to screw nice people in order to make money. And it's not only an undiagnosed mental illness, it's encouraged! Being an asshole is not natural, it's not good and it's not honourable. If you make your way in the world by being an asshole to nice people, I kinda hope you get to spend the afterlife in hell and that no matter how much money your descendants burn, they're only doing it because you left them money or stuff, they didn't love you, they never loved you, because you were an asshole! I hope that just makes your hell a little bit worse, you dicks!

When you really give it a think, you will find all kinds of situations in our lifetimes in which we have this same choice and if you ask me, these are the situations that measure the worth of a human being. All your friends are bullying the new kid and he's too nice to fight back. The substitute teacher is nice and he/she can't control the students. The cashier in training gave you too much change. Some jerk pushes his/her way to the front of the line. People are constantly faced with chances to take advantage of nice friends, family, mates, authority figures, all kinds of people. And people are constantly faced with chances to do something about OTHERS who are taking advantage of kind people. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Even animals! It's been said that the way you treat helpless animals says a lot about how you treat people. Or the way you treat people who can do nothing for you, like homeless or poor. There are no grey areas either. No tough decisions. We all know when we are faced with these tests and we all know the right and wrong decisions to make. Nowadays we are much better at justifying the wrong decisions but I think only the truly psychologically damaged can't tell the right from wrong. This is not to say these decisions haven't been a part of life for time immemorial, however. Way back in Biblical times there were decisions like this and people taking advantage of the goodness of their fellow man. There were people who made good livings at it. And even Jesus didn't like them. What? That's not right? Jesus loved everyone, you say? Well, when he was telling us to love everyone, including our enemies, he expanded on that by saying that it won't do much good to love the good people, even publicans can do that! Even a lowly, scumbag piece of human garbage like a publican can love someone who loves him.

Let's get some perspective on this. What exactly was a publican? And why did Jesus, even Jesus, think they were all lower than snakes bellies in wagon ruts? Back in the old Roman times, the collection of taxes was the basest of all livelihoods. They were appointed by the "equites," the richest class of Romans, so extortion, overcharging, and outright fraud went all but unpunished. Since it made the rich even richer, they were all actually encouraged. And who are the people who can do such a loathsome job? People who care not a fig about their public perception. People who aren't out to make friends, just money. People who would rather have people fear them than love them. Psychopaths. Sociopath/psychopath, again, I'm not sure there is a difference and if you've read my blog enough, you'd know my feelings on this: I think a person using the mind to figure out the mind is just creating his/her own personal conundrum. A quandary inside a conundrum wrapped in an enigma. It's intellectual masturbation and far from scientific. The very well accepted "test" for psychopathy, even though it was devised by a Canadian, is a very good example of what I'm talking about. Most of us, through movies, TV, and some of us, books, know enough about sociopathic personalities and even various real life examples, to create as good a test or better. Just look at the test. To me, it's so simplistic, you'd save time by just asking ONE question: "Hey, dude, are you a psycho?"

But, this, believe it or not, is what we have. It's the best tool we have for spotting the psychopath. Yet, within the test itself lie its weaknesses. If a person is manipulative, charming, a liar, intelligent and versatile, he or she could easily see through this test and reverse it so now he/she is in the head of the shrink who's administering it. Look at my earlier post with the vid of Bundy being questioned by Dr. Dobson and see who you think is testing who.

So why bring this up? It's just because of what I see in our world. The number of suspected psychopaths is presumably 1 in 100. With this Hare test as our gauge, I'd suspect higher numbers, since most psychopaths should be intelligent enough to sidestep detection with so obvious a test. But even if the numbers were as high as 2 or 3 in 100, I agree with the thinking that they are the vast minority. Most people have normal emotions and empathy. Most people are NICE.

So why are so many psychopaths in positions of power like CEO's of large corporations or politics? Why are the minority of assholes running this gong show we have on Earth? BECAUSE we're nice and they are just taking advantage of us.

Psychopaths do bad things and some of the nice people go along with them because it's easier to be a dick than to stand up for what's right. Psychopaths lead and nice people follow, making it appear that there are more amoral jerks out there than there really are.

Nice people need to protest! We need to fight back. We need to kick some sociopathic ass! But we're too nice.

At least that's the way I see it.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Safe or UNsafe Zone?

Another chemical attack on the most geographically unfortunate people in the world and this time not just a threat, but an actual attack by the U.S. on Syria. Well, not so much an attack but bombs dropped on Syria to protect it. Or was it in retaliation? Where they were dropped was ostensibly the origin of the chemical attacks, but it is also a Russian military post that has grown in importance recently. But since Russia can't admit to beefing up military presence to protect its interests in Syria, this attack can't technically be called an attack on Russia. But don't kid yourself, both the U.S. and Russia know what's going on here. My question is, does the president? Or is he just some buffoon who wants to build Trump Towers and golf courses in a Syrian safe/no fly zone that will make him rich, but cost the American tax payers a billion a month?

First, let me remind you all of the situation. The government of Syria is a minority telling the majority what to do. Some believe it was purposely set up this way to create war and weaken the country. The religious tension between Shia, Sunni, Alawite and what have you, is not really the main issue in Syria, however. It's just what keeps them fighting and drives the real estate prices down. Syria is much more significant because of oil and natural gas pipelines. I will refer you to a very well written article from the past when Obama was THINKING about doing what Trump just did.

We know what Trump wants to do in Syria. He's talked about it before in his exceedingly non-presidential patois. He wants to "do" a, "big, beautiful safe zone" in Syria. In fact he said exactly this:

"What I like is build a safe zone in Syria. Build a big, beautiful safe zone and you have whatever it is so people can live, and they'll be happier. So you keep 'em in Syria. You build a tremendous safe zone. It'll cost you tremendously much less, and they'll all be there and the weather's the same. And the weather is the same and then when this horrible situation that is so horrible run. We don't know what we are doing. When it's all over they move back and they go back into their cities, and they rebuild there, (or their?), cities. And they start out and they start over again."

He's pretty sure the U.S. will be able to buy a "swatch" of land, and, says Middle East master Trump, "Believe me, you get it for the right price, okay? You take a big swatch and you don't destroy all of Europe."

Trump says he has a(n?) HUGE heart. He cares for these people and doesn't want them to learn new languages. He doesn't want them to go to new climates like in Minnesota where they'd freeze. He doesn't want them to disrupt the good people of Europe. He just doesn't want them... to...

Okay, all fun aside, in context, this bombing was an attack on Russia whether the president was complicit or just an agreeable dolt. The Russians will not stand for the safe zone because it will likely be a strip of land that can be used to connect Turkey to the very valuable Israel/Jordan stores of oil and natural gas, IF that "right price" Trump mentioned includes pipeline building rights. This will allow the massive natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean to be sold in Europe, weakening the stranglehold Gazprom has had for so long. Gazprom, that Russian company that was at one time the richest company in the world. That little company in which Putin owns stock. Billions of dollars worth of stock.

There are all kinds of other scenarios with oil and natural gas that make the "rolling back" of Syria through civil war a very profitable industry for the nations like the U.S. and Russia who, I'll just hazard a guess, aren't quite as saddened and upset as they are letting on.

Still, I wonder if we'll ever find out if Trump knows about all of this or whether he's just being played like a fiddle. This will be interesting to watch.

In the mean time, safe zones don't work. They didn't work in Iraq or Bosnia, it probably won't work in Syria. Any attempt to set up a safe zone will more accurately be a "pipeline safe zone," and it won't be very safe. There will almost certainly be resistance from Russia. Possibly even other countries such as China.

But I guess all we can do is watch...

Here's a couple of oil pipelines that Russian and the U.S. need to build through Syria:

Here's one of the proposed natural gas pipelines. You see how key Syria is.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Wetigo: A Disease of the Soul

Here's a good vid.

I hope that works. I had a lot of trouble posting that here. Plundering the resources of today to wage war will make democracy the insolvent phantom of tomorrow. Eisenhower saw it. I've written about it here before. The natives of North America all saw it long ago. The more I read about them, the more I think they had it all figured out before the Europeans came over and fucked it up. How'd they do that? With whiskey? Small Pox infected blankets? Christianity? Nope. They have done it with WETIGO. Wetigo is a disease of the soul that transforms ordinary people into what the natives called "windigos." A windigo, a cannibal or a soul eater, consumes his/her own soul and the souls of others around him/her with greed. The natives who first met the Europeans were shocked at their obsession with private property and their inability to share. The natives shared everything for the good of the community. Dogsleds, canoes, food, water, husbands and wives... yes that last one is a surprise to many. But just think of the institution of marriage and try to separate yourself from all the years of relatives, friends, teachers, commercials, TV and movies, music, consumerism, books etc, etc, that have pounded the virtues of marriage into our heads practically from birth, and question it. Isn't it just owning another human being? Isn't the marriage licence just a deed of ownership? And can you imagine how barbaric that must have appeared to cultures that don't reward greed and obsess about how much stuff they own?

We often talk about how Europeans brought disease to North America and it killed a lot of the natives. It has been hyperbolically called the first germ warfare. But the disease that really wiped out their superior cultures was wetigo, the greed of the white man. I still suffer from it. I watch Seinfeld and see Kramer or George come in and just go to Jerry's fridge and grab a piece of fruit or a chicken leg without asking. Jerry doesn't mind! He never says anything! I WISH I could be like that!

And our ancestors were quite a bunch! We can only imagine what it was like for them to come to a place where everything was shared. Just help yourself. No REALLY! Just take what you need. That's where the problem probably arose. They started taking everything they wanted, not everything they needed. Anybody know who Billy Ray Valentine is? In the movie Trading Places, Eddie Murphy plays a street person named Billy Ray Valentine who gets taken off the streets and given a big time home and career as part of an experiment the two old brothers were conducting. Here's the scene in which they try to explain to him that they are giving him a beautiful new home.

That's GOT to be how it was for the European explorers who found the natives. "So I can just take this sled dog here. It's MINE. And then just eat some of that meat you're cooking up there. Cuz it's MINE. And then I can just go over here and play hide the salami with your daughter cuz she's MINE." Did I go too far with the last one? Oh I think not! I read a book about the early years of the Hudson Bay Company in Canada. The very first Canadian company I think. And there was a story about the explorer Martin Frobisher who visited the northern part of Canada and met with Inuit people. It boggled my mind when I read that he dangled a bell over the edge of his ship to attract an Inuit in a kayak. When one approached, he was hoisted onboard, brought back to England and given to Queen Elizabeth as a gift. Kayak and all! The story was that he was allowed to hunt swan on the Avon river in his kayak. But he didn't live long. He died, of all things, from a cold.

But just like the natives, the Inuit shared with the English. They just couldn't relate to their insatiable appetites for resources. Many of the tribes were so plundered by our selfish ancestors that there was little remaining for the long, harsh winter after they went back to Europe. Lots of people died. Entire communities were wiped out. Then, in the spring, when the Europeans went back to get some more loot free of charge from the foolish natives, they were met with what even back then they probably called, "totally unprovoked aggression and terrorism." You see "cowboy and Indian" movies and the "good" guys always talk of their savagery and bloodlust. Much like people who oppose the U.S. are characterized today. But again, question. Look at it from the other side. What would YOU have done? In either position. If you were a native, would you keep on "trading" with these selfish, diseased pillagers? If you were the Europeans getting all kinds of loot for free, becoming rich by victimizing what you consider savages far beneath you, wouldn't you distract from the truth a bit?

Speaking of distracting from the truth, the Westminster, London terrorist attack. 5 dead including the perp, Khalid Masood. A very Muslim sounding name, but he was actually Adrian Russel Elms. I doubt many people will remember that name as well as Khalid Masood. It's almost formulaic now isn't it? You see an event like this and you get the usual week of TV coverage and speculation about motive. Nobody yet can make any solid connections between this guy and ISIL. He was actually an ESL teacher and for a while taught in Saudi Arabia. Maybe he converted to Islam because he liked the religion and the people, not so he could destroy decadent westerners. But for now, the world will assume the latter.

Every time I hear one of these stories and see the overwhelming outpour of international mourning and support and the non-stop media coverage, I wonder if there isn't something bigger we are all being distracted from. Like, for instance, the fact that in the month of March, American air strikes and raids in Iraq and Syria have accounted for as many as 400 civilian deaths. That according to Airwars, a UK based organization that monitors international strikes on ISIL. Mostly in the city of Mosul where ISIL forces use civilians as human shields. They have been holding innocent women and children in the city so that any attacks will result in civilian deaths. You want to kill ISIL, you kill civilians too. I can just hear Trump now privately commenting, (awww hell, he could say it publically, it would probably GAIN him popularity!), "Well at least they're only MUSLIM casualties." We all know that Trump doesn't like Muslims. He did a very poor job of denying that his flight ban was a MUSLIM flight ban, because it was "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering America." He wants a Muslim database. He said he wants to send refugees like those from Syria back. He praised Saddam Hussein saying he killed terrorists, so good. He doesn't seem to make a distinction between Muslim and terrorist.

Judging 1.6 billion people on the actions of a few is just plain dangerous. This and other statements were made when 20 million Shia Muslims marched against, and despite ISIS. Trump didn't see the story watching Fox News though. Neither did a LOT of us.

What the world, and Trump, need to see is that ISIS or ISIL or whatever they want to call themselves, is just a small bunch of cunts. Most Muslims don't like them. Amping up the attack on them, as Trump has done, will just result in needless killing of their innocent human shields. And it will create justification for many, many more friends and family members of those slain by American attacks to join the terrorist organization. Making these deaths look less tragic by demonizing Islam, and trying to distract with stories of Muslims killing non-Muslims shouldn't work on educated people. It should make clear to us that the huge sorrow over 4 deaths in England compared to the relative anonymity of the 400 dead in Iraq are incongruent. We care more about the 4 than the 400 in the same way movies make us cheer for the bad guys. But this is real life. We see it on the screen and can easily be tricked into believing we're watching a movie. Donald Trump is Al Pacino in Scarface. "The only thing that gives orders is BALLS! And I have UUUGE balls!" But we always seem to forget as we respect and even idolize these guys with "balls" who go out and take their fortunes, they have to think like Tony Montana did. If you remember the part when he says he wants what's coming to him and his buddy asks what that is, he says, "The world. And everything in it." What kind of swelled head do you need to think that way? The same as someone who thinks he can take a PERSON from his home and give him as a GIFT to the queen. And it is a sickness to think you are THAT much better than anyone else.

So I ask you is the "balls" we love in so many of our rich and famous heroes respectable or is it a sickness? Does it take "balls" to crush others and rise to the top or is it just wetigo. If you steal all the free toilet paper at a Chinese tourist attraction washroom then sell it for one RMB a sheet to people desperate to relieve themselves, are you an entrepreneur or could any Joe Blow have thought of that? Maybe you have some mental condition that makes you think it was clever but really, you're the only asshole who will do such a disgustingly vile thing. Are Trump, Tony Montana, and all the billionaires out there who OWN more than we do, heroes or are they soul sucking, sociopathic cannibals greedily devouring us and the flesh of our children?

Here's how my country and the country where I'm working are viewing things.

The U.S. is a ridiculously rich country. Look at this vid! There ARE hungry people in the richest country in the world. If that's not astounding enough, there are ways of actually using coupons to MAKE money, not just save it. I found that to be the most shocking thing about this clip. If America used some of its riches to stop fighting some countries and start feeding its own, they wouldn't feel any weaker. In fact kindness, (if you can call NOT bombing people "kindness"), would make the extravagant military less necessary. So more and more money could be diverted. Soon feeding hungry people in OTHER countries would be possible. And the massive military spending would be further and further unnecessary. I'm not saying they should cut it. Keep a military for defence. It's necessary. But, come on, how insecure does a country need to be to have such an ostentatious military? How insecure does a president have to be? I dunno about you but I could see Trumpboy getting plastic surgery to lengthen his hands. Is it for similar reasons he is expanding the military?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Near Perfect Trip

I was crossing the street in Donzhimen, Beijing just last week to get to the Canadian Embassy and I noticed a Chinese man with one hand in the customary elderly stroll, behind the back position, and the other holding a brown, leather leash. On the end of the leash was a small poodle with well maintained, curly, brown hair doing the trembling, three-legged hop you sometimes see in a constipated animal trying to start or finish a shit. Although the green pedestrian signal was lit, I didn't look for long, lest a power-tripping motorist, motorcyclist or even cyclist turn the corner directly in front of me purposely forcing me to stop if I saw them or get run down if I didn't. This mockery and abuse of the lowly pedestrian is one of many things I hate about Beijing.

I made it across the eight lane road unscathed, a feat unworthy of mention in most places but worthy of an athletic point to the Man Upstairs in the city of Beijing. I slowed my pace and got a better look at the spectacle I had glimpsed while Froggering my way to the safety of the sidewalk. Or to keep my blog current, "CrossyRoading" my way... The dog was able to squeeze out a tidy, hard-looking turd onto the strip of lawn that surrounds the Canadian Embassy of Beijing. It didn't occur to me until the man pulled the poodle away from a test smell and continued their walk without scooping the poop, that this was, in all likelihood, Canadian soil that now featured its still steamy, oily-looking log of dog feces.

So, my trip to Korea was great. I met up with DB and Amber in Incheon. We went to Tacos on St. Patrick's Day but steered clear of the green beer and were all happier for it in the morning. I went with DB into Seoul to find some items that are more expensive or just unavailable in Taiyuan. I found quite a few of them and was pleased. DB and I went to a place we'd gone before for one of the more daring of Korean dishes, Hae Jang Kook, a staple for the older men of Korea. It's made from all manner of pig entrails and is FAR too delicious to say, "Well at least it's not dog!" Need it or not, this soup provides legendary stamina for the male of the species. I shopped for more stuff until dinner time and had myself a rack of ribs at Canucks Pub. Amber had fried up some bacon and eggs for breakfast that morning so I think I ate about half a pig that day. I later went out with the whole Peet/Spiwak family for Sam Gyup Sal and Kalbi at Busan Kalbi and could have started on the second half of the pig, but didn't want to, cough, make a pig of myself. I said hello to most of my friends in the area and made cameos at most of my favourite places. Then I successfully flew back to China in the early afternoon of the following day without even a hangover.

Alright, what's missing? Can you guess? No problems! When have you known me to take a trip without even a little hiccup? I don't mind telling you that by the time I got to my old room in my old hostel in Beijing and had a lovely welcome from the staff there and a healthy lunch at the McDonalds nearby, I was getting scared. My apartment to the Taiyuan train station by cab; Taiyuan to Beijing by train; train station to airport by subway; Beijing to Incheon flight; To downtown Incheon by subway; Incheon to Seoul by subway; Seoul to Incheon airport by airport bus; Incheon to Beijing flight; airport to hostel by subway; NO PROBLEMS!!! Not a lost bag, a "lost" cab driver, an objectionable seat partner, a subway going the wrong way, the one and only glitch was a delay in the Beijing to Seoul flight, but there is always a delay. I was having a clean run. A boring trip. An eventless travel experience. I'd heard about these before, but had yet to be gifted with one. All I had to do now was go to the Beijing Canadian Embassy and pick up my brand new passport. It was Monday, March 20th. I was told to pick up my new passport on or after March 15th so I assumed it would be ready. I had waited a bit over a month and it had cost me 300 Canadian dollars, so I would have been pretty annoyed if it hadn't been ready. Even more annoyed than I already was that in the embassy IN China, my Chinese money was refused as payment. I had to use my Canadian debit card. I was just lucky it worked! Otherwise, I might have gone Canadian Postal on someone's arse! That doesn't mean the same as "going postal" in America. In Canada it's more literal. I would have written, and, if you will, posted a strongly worded letter to someone.

But no need! It was ready! My card worked. I had done it! The perfect game! Scored a 10! I was in a travel ZONE! All I had to do now was take the train back to Taiyuan and this trip would be legendary! Just like when you have the last empty seat on a plane, train or bus and you hear, "Excuse me, do you mind if I sit here?" you absolutely KNOW there's a great big BUT, (butt), coming! BUUUUTTT, as she handed me my spanking new passport, then stamped the old one a couple times with her "cancelled" stamp and cut it up, she said to me, "You now have 10 days to transfer the visa." Immediately my head swam with questions and I had to rank them in order of importance because there was someone already pushing his way past me to the window. "I live in Taiyuan. Can I do this in Taiyuan?" She said, "Yes," then to the jerk behind me, "Can I help you sir?" So THAT was the only question I asked. I wanted to ask a few more like, can I even get back to Taiyuan since the train stations make you show your passport a few times before you can get on the trains? WE know I have 10 days, but will THEY know? Was my visa, which I had just renewed for two months with my trip to Korea, still valid even though it was now in a cancelled passport? Would I be able to do the 100 other things I needed to do in China that require a passport? Particularly change over to a work visa.

I had about 2 hours left before I had to check out of my hostel and head to the train station. As I exited the embassy, I texted Faith, the representative of the school sponsoring my work visa, that everything was fine except the visa transfer. But told her I could do that back in Taiyuan. I noticed the pile of dog shit as I passed it once more. Just in case, Faith called the government office in Taiyuan that the Canadian Embassy said could do the transfer and they confirmed that they could NOT do the transfer. I had to go to the office in Beijing pronto. Luckily for me, the staff at the hostel agreed to keep my bags behind the desk while I went to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, Exit-Entry Administration Building to get what seemed to me to be a useless procedure done. Faith told me that she had had the experience before with a foreign teacher and that teacher's passport was kept while they did it. AND it took a month. So then we started wondering what I was going to do with my old, cancelled, CHOPPED UP passport. Would I be able to get the blood tests and medical tests and all the crap needed for the work visa with my old passport? So Faith called a couple places and they said they could do the medical stuff with just a copy of my new passport. A digital copy. So I had to find a place that made digital copies. The hostel scanner was not good enough.

Long story short, one of the girls from the hostel went with me and we got the digital copy done and got to the office and filled out a form and waited in line and got to the teller who said, "Do you have the receipt for your new passport?" I hadn't brought it. I said something like, "Well of course, why wouldn't you need that?" Seriously! What in the wide, wide world of sports do you need the fucking receipt for the passport for when I have just given you the passport? With my picture on it. Taken a few days ago. Wearing the exact same shirt I had on at the time, even! But THEN she said something that invoked in me a muscle relaxation that I can't exactly explain. I know there was some surrender to stupidity, and there was some relief, some flabberghasting and a touch of gobsmackery, but I couldn't hazard a guess at the exact percentages. She said, "You don't need to transfer the visa." My translator and I BOTH wanted a second opinion and we asked another official who said that it's not necessary for the business visa. It's only necessary for visitor visas or something like that. Well, I wasn't about to argue. We got out of there before they changed their minds or the laws.

It still sticks in my craw that the girl at the Canadian embassy didn't check if I had a business or visitor's visa before giving me her totally invalid advice that I needed to transfer the visa and, yes, Taiyuan could do the transfer, AND she hadn't told me the idiotic rule of requiring the receipt for the transfer application. Maybe I SHOULD write that strongly worded letter.

But, whatever, it was a waste of a little time and taxi money. And we got a bit wet in the rain. Does that qualify as a hiccup? If it hadn't been for the stress of wondering if I could take the train home and what I could and couldn't do while they had my new passport, I wouldn't even have taken 1% off my 100% travel success. But then I got to the Beijing train station. The time wasted had postponed my buying a ticket home by just long enough that even though it was only 2 in the afternoon, I had to buy a ticket for 6:02 PM. I was ready to check out at 10 AM and would have taken an 11 o'clock train to Taiyuan, which would have gotten me HOME by 2PM. Instead, I was just buying my ticket at that time and I had a 4 hour wait. It turned out I met an Australian Chinese guy named Ming who's in the coal industry and we had a really good chat. The time passed faster. I got his card and his WeChat. Nice guy.

So I came that close to my first ever perfect trip.

These days, I am more and more keenly aware that even though I came to this city and applied for this job with considerably more money in the bank than many of the jobs I'd started in this racket, I am still broke! Since I first contacted this school I've paid for everything. The interview was a flight here, a stay at a hotel, taxi around town, food and a train back to Beijing. I've paid for two of the visa runs to Korea described above. I've paid for three months rent on my apartment and all the cleaning and supplies that were needed to make it into my home. I've paid for my food, travel and entertainment. Now I'm told that I'll be paying for the aforementioned medical tests, the flight to Hong Kong including hotel and food during my work visa run. By the time I get my work visa, I will have paid for everything but the cost of the document itself. Since the school is making far more money than I am from my teaching, you'd think it only fair for them to offer a more equitable split of the price of setting me up here. Every school in the ESL industry does! I know I'll look back at this post in a few months and I'll think I was whinging a bit, but right now I'm feeling a little ripped off. I like the offer, I realize it's a fantastic salary and I'll be making more than a lot of people over here who work longer hours and all that and I appreciate that, but... right now I feel like I'm paying the school to allow me to work for them.

Another thing that makes me a little nervous about this job is the low number of students in my classes. Don't get me wrong, I love low numbers! But I am not sure of whether I should be worried about them or not. Whether the international school is a separate part of the school or if it's funded by the THRIVING school with a couple thousand students I see exercising on the soccer field every day. I am worried about job security here. Will this job be phased out before I can even finish my contract? I am hoping to work for several years here. With this deal, I can save enough to retire at a young age. So I don't want to appear ungrateful by complaining that they're not paying their fair share of the initial fees. So I had a chat with Faith. She gave me some good advice. There is an 8000 RMB flight reimbursement that comes at the end of my 1-year contract. That's about 1600 Canadian bucks. Not bad. I am going to ask for 4000 of that in advance to help cover the work visa costs. I don't see why they wouldn't do that. And it saves me from crying for equitable treatment and losing favour.

It is another example in my evolving "At least the glass ain't ALL empty" philosophy. Yeah, they SHOULD pay more and I shouldn't pay so much. But after working a few years at the highest salary I've ever received, it's not going to matter much to me. So it's best to just not complain.

This is all contingent, of course, upon a long term stay here in Taiyuan. I know it isn't going to be the work that drives me away. I like the school and the students there. The mosquito problem I have already reduced to reasonable levels. I don't yet have friends here so it's a bit boring, but I am hoping to do some teaching in the off time in Korea, where I still have good buddies. I'd be crazy not to expect problems, but I'm still pretty hopeful about my new life here. And if I'm going to be totally honest, the amount of raw materials, oil, water, wheat, trees, minerals, who knows what China gets at ridiculously favourable rates from Canada, the number of laws Canada relaxes for China, the number of opportunities for work and education I've missed out on in Canada because privileged Chinese people filled them, and eventually forced me to work away from home, the way China has metaphorically shat on Canada just during my lifetime, and not even including my Chinese girlfriend I waited on hand and foot who gave so very little back, I think China owes me this. If I lose this job I'm going to Beijing to that strip of grass surrounding the Canadian Embassy, which is always festooned with various shades, ages and consistencies of dog shit and I'm going to find an offending pet owner, pick up his dog's doo-doo and do to him the reverse of what his dog did to a little strip of Canada. I hope it never comes to that.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Star Dreck

The above is a short scene from the despicable TV show, The Shark Tank. Every time I watch it or the Dragon's Den I see how easy it would be to make money if I had money. In every episode you see people who are smart and talented and have business savvy, but it's not the sharks or dragons, it's the people whose ideas are stolen. The Simpsons recently did a spoof in their episode called "Havana Wild Weekend" that included the show, "The Vulture's Nest," in which Mr. Burns, the Texas oil man, Lindsay Neagle (the cliché female C.E.O type A personality), and H.K. Duff are the investors. The tag line for the show is, "The Vulture's Nest: Where billionaires swoop down on your investments and peck out the eyes." Milhouse and his Dad are on with an idea for a retainer that looks like gangsta bling teeth. Lindsay Neagle offers 3 hours of her time for 90% and a second later says, "Too late! 95%!" At the end of the show Homer makes a pitch for toilet breakfasts and Burns offers him no money for 100% of his company because there is no doubt that he developed the idea on Mr. Burns' time.

As always, I agree with the Simpsons. That's how I see those TV shows. The above episode is a bit of a departure in that a good human being gets money to help others. Now I don't know if the investor that partnered up with the farmer raised the price of the Tree Teepee to 12 bucks or not, but Kevin O'Leary would have. He would have charged at LEAST that! I recently read a little list of things Kit Thornton is tired of and one he mentioned was, "we believe in the “right” of rich douchebags to charge as much as, and more than, the market will bear." I don't believe in that right, the farmer in this video doesn't believe in that right, but, as he shakes his head in derision at the 4:40 mark of the video, you can tell Kevin O'Leary thinks it's a no brainer. Ironically, this is what passes as smart business in this day and age.
Another "smart" businessman, Donald Poindexter Trump agrees.

This is NOT smart business, it's what is slowly killing our planet. But neither Trump, nor O'Leary are going to go down in history for their intellect. I just love the part at the end when O'Leary tries to hone in on some of the sweet, sweet love that emanated from this man he just tried to put the screws to and says, "Tell your Dad he's a great man!" Well the guy's Dad is dead and that is what he answered. But that giant foot in his mouth doesn't deter O'Leary from desperately trying to keep himself from looking like the fool he's proving he is. "Well he's STILL a great man!" he says. Wow, nice catch, Kevin! You don't have to be smart to make lots of money. Mattel Toy Company thought Kevin O'Leary was smart and bought his company SoftKey, which resulted in losses and lawsuits but it made him a multi millionaire. Screwing Mattel is what got him on TV.

He was on celebrity Jeopardy once. He lost BIG to Green Bay Packers QB, Aaron Rodgers. Let's see, do I have a photo of that? Oh yes I do!
Not taking anything away from Aaron Rodgers, but, man that's gotta hurt! Particularly when you write your name as Kevin Mr. Wonderful! What a bozo!

When on TV on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he says he gets back at the station for the ridiculousness of making him work for women by wearing no pants. And, while he doesn't grab the jean model on the Dragon's Den "by the pussy," he does grab her ass. He's an obvious Donald Trump wannabe. The only thing he could do now to be more like the object of his broner, would be to run for office. This mental giant with degrees in environmental studies, psychology and entrepreneurship, announced his candidacy for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada in January of this year.

I'm not the only one who has noticed the connection. Here he is exhibiting what my new friend, Kit Thornton would call, "The scathing rebuke of the politically illiterate." Singing the praises of his hero, Donald Dipshit Trump and how he's making America great again by cutting carbon taxes and corporate taxes to attract investors. PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE. I've posted it before on my blog but the message hasn't reached my country yet. It's written by someone who IS politically literate and who cares about Canadians. It is saying exactly the opposite of what O'Leary is blathering about. O'Leary doesn't care about Canadians. He thinks they're all stupid enough to believe that giving big corporations tax breaks will help Canada's oil industry. He thinks we're empty-headed enough to believe even if it did, regular Canadians would somehow benefit from it and not just the super rich. He thinks we're braindead enough to believe that what he did on the Shark Tank and the Dragon's Den was tell the truth to investors. And he thinks Canadians are so irretrievably stunned that we'd vote for him.

78% corporate tax rates, folks. That's what Norway charged and people still drilled there. This snake oil salesman is trying to make himself and his rich buddies in Canada and other countries even richer. And he's trying to screw regular Canadians to do it. Just think what he'd do as Prime Minister. Now I'm not saying Trudeau is perfect. I'm not even saying he hasn't employed a tactic or two in common with Trumplestiltskin.

Where's the electoral reform? Where's the tax reform? Why does he show such compassion for the native people of Canada one day then give a long speech about why we need the oil pipelines they, (and all the politically literate people of Canada) hate? Where's the legal marijuana?

Having said that, at least he's better than Trump North would be. Is this what politics is coming to? Just find the biggest pecuniary psych-job you can to lead the country? People with high levels of greed are sick. Money addiction is a disease. This is a realization the world ignores at its own peril. They need to be put into rehab or jail or at least be diagnosed and treated for their psychological dysfunction. It is unhealthy for any human being to think they NEED a billion dollars. If a person actually believes he needs more, why, we put that person in charge of an important company or country in the world. Trump and O'Leary are fun to make fun of and make jokes about, but in all seriousness, how long before it's not funny any more?

Both are TV Stars and both are, in my opinion, pieces of human trash. Their four-year political missions: to boldly go where no moron has gone before them. To get us into space before they destroy the earth. So here's another joke. Let's enjoy the laughter while we can. Star Dreck. My first meme. Oh well, you can find it on facebook.