Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Don of a new era

Well I got the visa! FINSCALLY! So now, for the last half of August, I can work, so long as the boss gives me the okay. I called my buddy Faith and she has already set me up for some work next week. It's actually good news! I can't say I haven't enjoyed the down time but I am sure I will enjoy coming out of hibernation, getting out of the house, and mixing with the populace again. I've actually tried to get a little bit done every day so as not to waste the month off. A little exercising, a little studying... My sole companion has been my computer and this has lead to my learning a lot about two things, and these will be the subjects of this blog.

One of the subjects was inescapable and I have little doubt that I'd be better off now had I learned nothing about it at all. Still, in a guilty pleasure sort of way, it is kind of interesting. The subject is Donald Trump. Geez, it was difficult to write his name properly! I think almost nothing of him as a human being and because of that have a habit of using any of a thousand nicknames when referring to him. Most recently I think I called him the "cheese doodle in chief." I'm sure you've heard many more. Even "trump" means to fart. It's pretty hard to take him seriously. He is all that is terribly wrong with our world and because we have made virtues of all that is terribly wrong with our world, he's now the president of the United States. The whole fiasco that ended with him as president that they VERY euphemistically call an "election," to this day in America, has never been given an ounce of credence in my mind. He is not their president and he was not elected. And it's not the first fraudulent presidency they've had.

But we are meant to think that nobody wants to undertake the massive project of giving democracy in America a complete overhaul starting from scratch. We're supposed to believe Americans prefer to settle. So the 90% disappointed people continue to play act their way through the next four years, like they did with Dubyuh, hoping and praying the president stays out of the big people areas and doesn't do anything that's completely un-undoable. And the people who put him there hope and pray the general public's apathy in the midst of yet another fake presidency holds out while they, the rich, get richer and richer. All the while hoping that the trials looking into DNC fraud favouring Hillary over Bernie Sanders, who, polls consistently show is the OVERWHELMING favourite of the American people, and looking into outside influence of Russia, (Putin), in setting up this bozo as a figurehead who will obediently restructure national laws to favour the rich, take just about four years to come to the conclusion that, he wasn't honestly elected. It was all a big fraud. Oh well, whatareyagonnado?

As we'll see, this is how President Hairpiece does business. He enters into it in unscrupulously bad faith, goes to court when his business partner finds out about his ethical flexibilities, drags the court case on longer and longer until it doesn't much matter who wins or loses it any more because during the court proceedings, he has run the company so far into the ground that there's nothing left for the partner to collect on. That's right, if his business pattern holds, he's fixing to run America into the ground, then declare bankruptcy!

How can I make these claims? Who is this guy they have in charge of the most powerful country in the world and why is he the perfect stooge for the people who fraudulently placed him there? The more I see of him, the more I think he's a robotic drone devoid of personality and empathy. He's single-minded in purpose, obsessed with money and power, infatuated with himself and would qualify as a poster boy for sociopathy if he had the charm and charisma that is usually part of the package.

Like many, I thought George W. Bush was a big joke and there couldn't possibly be a worse president. But at least he had a sense of humour. And there should be no underestimating of that! A sense of humour is without doubt a sign of intelligence and should be mandatory for any world leader! It is also a sign of humanity and soul. It makes us feel that a person is more down to earth and a member of our struggle when he or she can have a good laugh.

Watch this interview of Donald McDonald. Terrifying! Especially the part where he talks about Syria, missiles and killing people. He says "killing people" twice! Then he flippantly tosses it off with, "I hate it. But things have to be done." At the 5:50 mark the interviewer tells him an old George W. Bush joke, which Trump clearly doesn't get then tries to act like he HAD understood it while the interviewer explains it to him. The buck stops with you. The Oval Office has no corners to hide in. You are the final authority. Do yourself a favour and go to the end of the interview where, like a willful child, Grumpy Trumpy refuses to answer a question and waves the interviewer out of the oval office as though TRYING to give an A1 illustration of why the buck should absolutely NOT stop with him. Then goes to a desk and looks at some papers trying to give a presidential appearance.

Sense of humour - Survey says....   X  BZZZT!

Another thing that might make a person feel like Heir Schtroompfmeister is someone we can relate to is if he were ever seen to be having a good time. You know, like a few beers at Oktoberfest, singing, dancing, socializing with other people, having a few laughs. Does he? EVER? Do this? The only thing I've seen him do that he appears to enjoy is

He golfs far more often than Obama did even though he bashed Obama frequently about wasting his time golfing while president. But I'm a sports fan. I believe in sport we can learn many of the lessons that are most important in life. This is why I'd be willing to bet Darnald Palmer probably cheats like a Banshee on the links. If you ask him what he got on the last hole, he'd be evasive. "I think the record will show what I got on the last hole. A beautiful, well maintained hole! The greens keepers should be congratulated. A lot of very, very great people at this course. Tremendous people. The best people."

Does he sing? I apologize for this one. Just look at Melania's face and that should be good enough. You don't have to make your ears bleed by pressing play.

And this is a song about the national U.S. sport. It may be just as dear to the average American as their national anthem. Roseanne Barr probably sings it better.

Can he sing? Survey said...  XX   BZZZZT!

What about dancing? He's a big guy and maybe it's an unfair question, but look at Dan Aykroyd  and John Belushi. They could dance. If you're going to be visiting different countries all over the world and doing the job of president, it calls for dancing. I saw Trump in Saudi Arabia at a sword dancing ceremony trying to bust out of his crusty, all business persona and move his body a little bit and it was a sad thing to behold. Much like his visit to a black church somewhere, (I assume), in the U.S. There was a gospel song playing and people were praying, worshipping, singing and dancing and Trump must have got a little jolt of the spirit because he did something approximating dance. In both cases to me it looked as though he was wishing he were anywhere else. Or maybe he was thinking that since he had no partner, therefore no shot at getting laid as part of the deal, the effort expended should reflect that. Both can be viewed on the internet, but they're sad spectacles, be forewarned.

If you want to watch something difficult, just watch the Trumps first dance at the inaugural ball. Now, they embraced, and moved around so, technically they danced. Barely. But the whole thing was spooky to me. The song "My Way" to which Trump mouthed the words during the dance, was used at two inaugural balls as the first dance music. At one, the singer just completely missed his cue to start singing. This didn't help the president's moves that were described by political journalists as "wooden." They were joined by other members of the political team and their spouses all decked out in their finery and rocking back and forth like pendulums. I guess to a narcissist the spotlight might have had its attraction, but this certainly didn't look like fun to me!

Can he dance? Survey said.......   XXX  BZZZZT!

The famous, or infamous Connie Chung interview of Trump reveals that his brother, Freddy, smoked, drank heavily and liked to have a good time. Donald said he watched his brother and learned from him. He was loved, liked to have a good time, enjoyed flying, cared about other people, had friends and was described by Donald as, "the opposite of me." So this, ostensibly, is why Donald Teetotaller doesn't drink, smoke, and maybe why he doesn't want to have fun. Here's an article that explains it in more detail. Trump said he was a wonderful guy but he opened up to everybody and was taken advantage of.

In the same Connie Chung interview, however, Trump comments that he is always looking for more excitement. "It's achieving something... When I buy the Plaza Hotel, to me that's exciting because it's a trophy. It's a total trophy. They're important deals and the importance turns me on."

So I'm thinking that maybe the presidency is just a "trophy." He's trying to make some important "deals" like flight bans, healthcare repeals, and maybe, because things have to be done, wars. That's what turns him on. I suppose that and sex. And I don't want to get into his pussy grabbing ways. We KNOW that about this man.

What we don't know about him is how deep he's into the pockets of dangerous men like Vladimir Putin. We don't know this because he refused to reveal his tax information. And since he's probably lost half the marbles he had when he did the above interview, we also don't know if he's crazy enough to work with Putin on some big, important trophy deal, perhaps like bombing the shit out of North Korea and then buying up all the cheap resources from the war torn country. North Korea has a lot of gold, coal and other minerals and it's one of few places that has yet to be fully investigated for oil and natural gas, but some has been found and there are signs that there is more both on and offshore.

If people are killed in the vulture capitalism North Korea "deal," I'm sure when the trillions of dollars are rolling in any innocent victims, be they American, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, whatever, they'll be acceptable collateral damage to a wooden, robotic, money-addled, soulless man like this. As long as he and his friends make tons of money and by cowardly bombing, droning and maybe sending in a troop or two, HE appears like he's got balls. The great white Trump. It kinda looks like him, doesn't it? Just think of the skill and masculinity required to hunt down a dangerous beast like a lion... without damaging your sunglasses that are dangling below you chins!

Or it could be Guam. Or it could be Venezuela. It seems like he's just itching to make his mark. In an interesting report entitled "Leaving a Mark," Rachel Maddow gives us a rare glimpse into exactly how Agent Orange does his job. The phrase that sums it all up is what the auditor of that first big NY deal he talks about with Connie Chung says about it. The Commodore Hotel that he "bought" then changed into a Hyatt Hotel. He cheated the city he talks about loving so much and because the city was participating in the deal financially, they had access to his books. The auditor called their content, "Extraordinary flim-flammery." And the important thing I want to point out is that maybe you think this makes what was done sound clever or extraordinarily ingenious or something a 5-year-old kid couldn't have thought up, but it's not. The extraordinary maneuvers were things like declaring the hotel made less money than it did so that he wouldn't have to pay the city their fair share of the profits. "Give your brother half your bubble gum. How many bubble gums do you have?" "I have six, no, I have TWO."

Then there are incriminating documents. How were they ingeniously disposed of? "Oh, they were sent to Chicago. They're not there? Hmmm, well then they were lost in a flood. Yeah, a flood! That's the ticket."  And here's another of his brilliant business policies: when he makes a deal, he makes promises, in writing, to pay back certain amounts of money he has borrowed. When that money comes due, he just doesn't pay it. Isn't that clever? In his book, "Think Big and Kick Ass," he was asked about his "troubles" with banks in the 1990's and this was his reply, “I figured it was the banks’ problem, not mine. What the hell did I care? I actually told one bank, ‘I told you you shouldn’t have loaned me that money’.” Then when the banks sue him for defaulting on the loans, he just countersues. His recent loan from Deutschebank to make his mark on the Chicago skyline with a massive skyscraper there is in default. But he won't pay because of the predatory lending financial crisis of 2008 in which Deutschebank was a major contributor. He's actually suing THEM for losing him money during the crisis. He personally guarantees he'll pay them back 30 million, he sues them for 3 billion. Can you see the genius here? 3 billion is MORE than 30 million.

Other banks stopped loaning him money years ago because of shenanigans like this in the 80's and 90's. It's rumoured, and I am very excited to have the details exposed, that he had to resort to borrowing money from the richest guy in the world. If you think that's Bill Gates, you're probably off by 12 figures. Yeah, we're talking hundreds of billions. The new Tsar of Russia, Putin, has loads of cash. And wouldn't he think it was great if the president of the U.S. owed him money? For years before Trump was president, his name was bandied about as someone who might throw his hat in the ring. How much of a stretch is it to imagine Vlad seeing Trump holding out his small hand for a loan and thinking, "He's not gonna pay this back, but if we could make him president and have him in our debt... hmmmmmm..." I've heard unconfirmed estimates that Trump, through Deutschebank, borrowed 4 billion from Vlad the Enabler. Or one of the various banks and businesses he rules with an iron fist. With what we know about Humpty Trumpty, when he falls off his little wall and all of his shady dealings are exposed and he finally gets the real estate he has earned, (a jail cell), he'll be yelling through the bars, "I'm a great man! You can't put me in here! I wasn't afraid of the banks! Fuck them! I wasn't even afraid of Vladimir Putin! You think I'm afraid of jail time?"

He's an absolute phony! He is a failure as a businessman, though, inexplicably, people continue to think he "Kicks Ass" at business. The source may not be the least biased, but here's an article that sums up a lot of his failed ventures, bankruptcies and bailouts by Daddy. The only thing that makes him rich is money that people loan him because they think he's rich. When he blows all of that and defaults on the loan, the banks eat it, he declares bankruptcy or Daddy bails him out.

Kicking Ass!

I guess the one positive out of all this might be that he doesn't drink. Can you imagine this buffoon drunk? But even that gets me wondering. It seems a bit of an extreme overreaction to never smoke or drink or party or have any friends because this caused his brother to be "taken advantage of." I wonder what that means. And was it the partying and drinking that caused Freddy's death or the harsh life as a Trump which lead to the drinking and death. And apparently Daddy was no picnic either. A suspected member of the KKK, (which explains a whole lot), and a man who would disown you if you didn't choose the path he wanted for you. That was one of the things that reportedly led Freddy to the bottle.

We are all living a massive, international practical joke, my friends. It's a new era of big money coming out of hiding. They are no longer concealing their fraud and greed and the world's foolishness is being exposed by our apathetic non-action. If anyone survives to look back at this, it will be looked back at with awe and embarrassment. The fact that we already know what should get Trump's ass impeached and thrown in jail will inspire the future citizens of Earth to ask why he lasted as president so long or how the hell he made it to that position in the first place. I don't know about you but every DAY I'm in awe that he continues to be the president. What does he have to do to get thrown out of office? I'm almost sorry I asked that because I fear it will be something drastic and un-undoable. And even THEN he might hang around.

One last story that ties Trump to Russia and Putin. Ever notice how he never says anything bad about his boyfriend Putin? Even when he sends US diplomats home in response to tougher UN sanctions on Russia, Trump thanks him for relieving the US of that expense. Probably because he's in league with the Devil. Or however you say "the Devil" in Russian. Folks when another company in the shady-at-best business of scavenging for failed real estate and picking over the bones, pays 6 million dollars to have your toxic name removed from one of its ventures, you should probably know where you stand. And yet, president he remains...

Anyway, I've spent too much time on the Nuclear Nobhead. The second topic I've been looking into, Chinese folk tales, will have to wait for another post. I have to get ready for work tomorrow! Like everybody, I'm going to enjoy the un-Trumped-up world for as long as I can. I sure hope it's longer than I suspect it's going to be! Fingers crossed!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dream Summer

I woke up in a sweat this morning/afternoon startled, no TERRIFIED awake by my dream. It was MUCH worse than the previous awakening by mosquito a couple hours before that. I'm used to that. Now, to clarify, I've woken up in a sweat on average about half a dozen times a night all summer long so there's no way of knowing if the dream had anything to do with the sweat. I always sweat when I sleep. A lot. I have to wash my bedding every week. I have to but don't. Hey, what the hell? I'm the only one who has to smell my funk. So, as the Vassar Clements Band might say, "Don't mess with my funk, just let me be."

It's summer in Asia. Even just sitting around dong nothing I sweat. I think, so far, (touch wood and thank God simultaneously), the reason I still haven't broken out in my annual sweat rash is because I haven't had to work since early July. If it were up to me I'd take every summer off and just hang out in gotch alone. Well, I'd wear gotch and Johnson's baby powder. That's it.

I've explained this before, I'm sure, but here's how I've been sleeping for this past month off. It's the old six in one hand, half a dozen in the other, air con vs. mozzies. If I turn on the air conditioner and close the bedroom door, it gets too cold and with the humidity and poison in the air around here, I get an air con cold. If I leave the door open and keep the air conditioner on, the air is relatively fresher, but I'm wasting energy and letting in the mosquitoes. If I have no air conditioner, my gasping, wheezing and snoring are like dinner bells for the mosquitoes. The gasping and wheezing are partially sleep apnea and partially long term effects of breathing in polluted air. Nasal, chest and throat blockages begin as soon as I lay down and create a symphony of sounds lemme tell you!

So what I do is go to bed really late, like around 4 AM. I'll be fighting mosquitoes from nightfall till then. Last night I'd guess I killed about 20 or so. Then for the first phase of sleep I turn on the air and hit the hay. I'll be up in two hours or less to take a leak so I don't worry too much about breathing in too much air conditioned air. I get up, turn of the A/C, go to the bathroom and go back to bed. Now with the door open because it's light outside and light disperses the mosquitoes. This way for the second phase I get cleaner air and even a couple of times this summer it was cool air. This lasts about 2 hours until a mosquito finds me. I wake up, kill the bloodsucker, maybe go to the can again, and go back to sleep in a sweaty bed, with the door open. Another couple of hours, another mosquito, same drill. As the day heats up and gets brighter and brighter, I get my best sleep. This is the time I usually remember my dreams. They've been characteristically weird and I do believe I've been sleepwalking. Something I don't think I've done since I was a little boy although it's hard to be sure.

Two nights ago I was having a dream that I was on a TV show being interviewed by this beautiful host in a multicoloured dress made of flashy material. You know the movie poster of Tootsie?

 The dress from that is similar. It was that material only it was red and burgundy and maybe a little brown in a thick stripey pattern. It's weird that I remember any clothing but this was a stand-out garment! She had a scale model of my Uncle Jim and Aunt Valerie's property in Hamilton, Ontario. I spent a summer with them, my cousins, Shawna, Chris and Kim and my brothers Andy and Rob. It was probably the summer that made the second biggest impression on me and I have had a million and a half dreams about my cousins, my Aunt and Uncle, the Stoners, (who were the neighbours), and the property. I think I was 11 at the time so it's a very impressionable period in the life of a man.

In case you're wondering, the summer of love in Penticton when I insinuated myself into my best friend, Grant Pilla's family vacation, was probably number one. Who's to say though? You can't really measure. But I was 15 and there were bikinis, waterslides, video games were coming into their own, go carts in the rain, Fast Times at the drive in, summer love and the soundtrack was the endlessly repeated Journey Escape album. What a summer!

But back to my TV show... Yeah, a model of the property I remembered from my childhood. I was me in the dream. Today. This age and everything. I'm sometimes not. Anyhoo, the gorgeous TV hostess points out the old house where everybody used to live and said they don't live there any more. I said I remembered helping to paint that house and cutting the grass and such. But the host said it's just abandoned now. Nobody lives in it. They still use the pool behind it sometimes. I said to the host that I remembered a lot of fun times in the pool. But we couldn't splash too much. They had a diving board but we hardly used it because too much water splashed out of the pool. My Uncle Jim was a truck driver and he delivered water! He had more water than anybody! That didn't bother me though. Conserve. Always a good thing. The pool was still awesome. And we slept outside in a tent sometimes right beside the pool. Wow! That was a great summer too!

Now we're on the property. Me and the gorgeous host in her flashy dress. She's still carrying a microphone. She shows me how they bought the land further up and built a huge house on it. I said, well let's go see if anybody's home! They'd kill me if I was in the neighbourhood and didn't visit! And then I inexplicably asked the hostess if she'd do me a favour and say she was my wife. NO idea why I asked that but she said she'd do it. We knocked on the basement door. This was a massive house! A young boy answered the door and invited us in. It was obvious to me that he was my cousin Chris' kid because of an uncanny resemblance, but I let on like I didn't notice. I'd say he was 12 or 13. He had a friend with him about the same age who didn't resemble anyone to me. I assumed he was just a friend. So I asked the kid if anyone was home. He was playing a game on his phone and just mumbled something. I looked around the unfinished, obviously new basement and said, "This is huge! When did they build this place?" He didn't answer. I asked again and he didn't look up from his game. A swell host he was! Then I picked up a hockey stick with a plastic superblade that was just lying on the cement floor and tapped it a few times saying, "Hey, Chris' kid, looga me!" I did the two finger point to the eyes. "When did they build this place?" That got his attention and he said, "I dunno, like ten years ago?"

Since I had the stick anyway I asked if he was any good at street hockey. He immediately predicted that he could score on me about 20 percent of his shots if I were in goal and that I could score on him on only 50% of MY shots. I conceded the 20% prediction because I suck in net. Always have. But I said, "Oh yeah? Get in net." So I got the tennis ball that was on the floor and started doing some stick handling with it and scored on some dekes and some shots. Then the blade changed into a sort of spoon blade with a concave indentation just large enough for a tennis ball. Like this pic only it obviously was not a teaspoon. It was not at the very end of the blade either.

It allowed me to pick up the ball lacrosse style and kinda THROW it into the net. Well, now I was scoring on almost every attempt. I don't know what happened to the other kid or my fake wife, I never did get to visit anyone but this nephew or first cousin once removed or whatever the frig, but he and I invented the sport of "lacrockey." I'll probably get shafted on that. He'll take all the money. Whatever. He's going to live longer and needs it more than I do.

Anyway, when I woke up that day for the last time, I noticed something on the floor of my bathroom. It was a lugi. I know it was me who hocked it because there hasn't been anyone else in my house for weeks. I must have spat on my bathroom floor the night before. Then I remembered that while I was taking shots on my nephew in my dream, he spit on the basement floor. You need to spit when you play floor hockey, street hockey, ice hockey and, apparently, lacrockey, so I spat too. Was I wandering around my apartment the night before taking imaginary shots and spitting? I'll never know.

Although that wasn't the terrifying dream, you can read through what I've written so far and imagine for yourself why I was terrified. Okay, I'll end the suspense because I know you're all BURSTING to know! I was in an unfamiliar house. I think it was mine because I was looking for something nice to wear to a wedding and telling my Mom, who was sitting on the couch behind me, that I didn't even own a suit. I don't own a suit. In real life. In my dream I said, "Mom, I don't even own a jacket!" Then I sat down on the couch beside her and asked, "I don't suppose anyone has rented a tux for me, have they?" Mom said, "Yes, Andy's bringing one." Andy is my oldest brother. I said, "But the wedding is in an hour and Andy's not here yet." Mom said, "Don't worry. He will be here. If not you can wear what makes you feel comfortable. As long as you are in love, it doesn't matter." I thought about my future wife. She was Asian. A bit plump with a cute round face. In my dream I definitely DID love her. My Mom said, "If Andy doesn't show up till tomorrow, he doesn't show up till tomorrow." And I said, "When I'll see him as a MARRIED man!" That brought a feeling WAY beyond cold feet!

You already know some of my sleeping habits. Can you imagine putting any woman through THAT torture? Who wants a noisy, smelly, sweaty, sleepwalking, possibly spitting partner to sleep with? Many other habits I have that a lifetime of bachelorhood has entrenched in me would be thrust upon this poor girl as well. I can't even have a roommate, why the hell am I getting married? And my days of freedom - gone! If I want, I can sleep till noon, get up, eat spaghetti and binge watch 15 episodes of Get Smart if I want. Or I could pour myself a rye and Coke. I'm not working tomorrow. The dirty dishes in the sink can wait. The laundry isn't too backed up and the bedding won't get much funkier if I wash it later. Hell, I can just go to the airport, roll a die and go to a random country for a week if I want. If it's the Philippines I can go kayaking into a mountain in El Nido. If it's Vietnam I can see Halong Bay and visit some friends there I haven't seen in ages. If it's Thailand I can go golfing with my old buddies I also haven't seen in ages. Laos, Cambodia, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, I could have a blast! And in all but Korea, I would surely meet some cute girls who really like old, fat, bald guys, "No shit, I love you!" NOT if I have a wife!

What kind of wife, and I'm sorry but even more so, what kind of Asian wife would allow her husband to take an entire month off in the summer? Even though I have a good reason to do so? What kind of wife would let me eat the foods I eat, the amounts I eat, and at the times I eat them? What kind of wife would allow me to spend as much time, or maybe more accurately, WASTE as much time as I do in front of my computer? There are little habits I wouldn't get away with too, like using a plate I used yesterday that didn't get too, too dirty. Never making my bed. Stinky cheese spaghetti... I'm no bargain to live with, believe me! I'm getting a bit of a panic sweat on right now as I type this!

The dream ended abruptly. She seemed like a nice girl, this nameless, pudgy Asian I've never seen before, but I am pretty sure I would have left her at the altar. If I were snorkelling and saw a great white shark swimming toward me, I don't know if I'd feel fear as strong as that dream invoked in me.

Crazy, isn't it?

Well, I've been told that I will be getting my passport back this week sometime so the sleeping schedule will need to change. That's if I get some little bits of work here and there, which I plan to do. If, for some reason, I can't find any work, I'll just continue batchin' it and doing what I do in my downtime. Aside from the freaky sleeping, it hasn't been totally bad. In fact it hasn't be UNproductive either. I'm on a rough regimen of either exercising, (and sweating even MORE), or studying China and Chinese every second day. I've cheated a couple of days but it hasn't been too bad. I'm learning to make sentences in Chinese, something I never did in Korean. I have lots of Korean vocabulary but can't make sentences. In Chinese I can already make a few useful sentences. I just need vocabulary to fill in the blanks. I think this is the better way to go about learning a language.

And speaking of that, it's time to do one or the other.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Is Korea it's own worst enemy?

In 1988, then prime minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney, made an official apology to Japanese-Canadians who were sent off to internment centres and camps during WWII. According to this article, written by one heck of a good hockey player, Paul Kariya, it was because they were uprooted from their lives, their assets were seized and not returned, and they were branded enemy aliens by Canada. Canada was at war with Italy, Germany and Japan, yet no Italian-Canadians or German-Canadians received the same treatment. It was clear discrimination against the Japanese. Between the 22,000 uprooted Japanese-Canadians the estimated losses were 443 million dollars. Survivors in '88 received an apology and 21,000 bucks. To my knowledge, Japanese-Canadians have made no further organized pleas for apology or compensation.

In this article, there is mention of something that happened to Ukrainian-Canadians who were interned like the Japanese, only during WWI. Its main focus is the Chinese head tax, which totally shafted Chinese immigrants, who were instrumental in the building of the Trans Canada Railway. Between 1885 and 1923 in Canada, people who governed the country or wrote for newspapers were mostly proper English loyalist snobs. They would have no personal truck with the dirty, stinking, inferior Chinese. However, the Chinese did twice the work of a white guy for half the money so they were tolerated. The Chinese were treated horribly! They were blamed for everything from disease to financial hard times. Though never interned, their suffering was probably worse than the Japanese or Ukrainians in Canada. For it, surviving head tax payers and spouses received an apology from our worst prime minister ever and 20,000 bucks each.

Here's a Canadian newspaper cartoon from the time. The caption says, "And he went for that heathen Chinese."

I am certain there are Chinese or Japanese Canadians who feel these not much more than ceremonial apologies and token payments were not sufficient, but most have chosen to put it in the past and move on. Neither of the past issues interferes with modern business or international relations between the countries. In fact in both articles, and in many personal examples, Chinese and Japanese Canadians say that the apologies made them very happy.

In a matter of let's say 100 years things have changed a lot in Canada. Why, a person would be lynched, drawn and quartered or worse for publishing a cartoon like the one above. In Vancouver and Toronto, where most Chinese-Canadians settled, you can see signs in Chinese, bank machines have Chinese, many places of business have service in Chinese. A Chinese person could live an entire life without speaking a word of English or French.

As for Japanese Canadians, they too mostly settled in Vancouver and Toronto, but not in Japanese towns. Most Japanese Canadians are Canadian born, unlike the Chinese-Canadians. They have adapted to the Canadian culture, speak Canadian languages and fit in seamlessly. Asking them where there from is not different than asking me where I'm from. I'd either answer with what part of Canada I'm from or my ancestral heritage. So would they.

As a Monty Python troop member might say, "And now for something completely different." The relationship between Japan and Korea. It's a brutal one complete with attempted genocide, and cultural elimination, rape, murder, pillaging, and all with one being the aggressor and the other the victim. It's hard to empathize, but not hard to sympathize with the Korean hatred of the Japanese. For anyone. Including the Korean descendants of those victimized by Japan. But Koreans believe differently.

What the average Korean believes might shock the average non-Korean. I can't tell you how many intelligent people I've had conversations with in Korea that I thought were tongue-in-cheek but turned out to be completely serious. Conversations about the origins of their "race" from the union of a god and a bear turned into a woman that resulted in Dan Geun, the first Korean. Conversations about how one of Dan Geun's descendants, a Korean princess, mated with a large, hairy aboriginal of the Japan area, which gave rise to the Japanese "race." About what foods to eat and NOT to eat before exams; about how babies and mothers need to be kept warm, and not eat or drink anything cold for a long time after childbirth; about how fans can kill you; about how Koreans are great at science because they use chopsticks; about how countless foods give you "stamina"; about their language is extraordinarily "scientific"; about how you can tell the sex of a baby by the shape of the baby bump; about how Koreans learn differently and think differently than other people; about how there are no gay people in Korea; about how only Koreans share a special kind of love they call "Jung"; about how an interviewer can judge the character of an interviewee by his face; about fortune tellers, name choices, the list goes on and on. In my 20 year relationship with Korea and the dozen years or so that I lived there, I argued some of these points and found no solid evidence backing the ideas. I found it was best to just write them off as interesting quirks of the people so as not to impinge upon their rights to their own personal beliefs. Who knows, maybe some of their crazy ideas might even be true. Maybe kimchi cures cancer. Maybe dreaming of pigs means you'll win the lottery. I haven't done the research. The research I HAVE done lead to the finding that more than a little opposition to a cherished Korean belief can quickly and permanently lose you a Korean friend.

A couple mental conventions that are supposedly shared by all Korean blooded beings are called Hwa Pyung and Han. These are states of rage and melancholia respectively which are believed to be the result of Korea's history of unavenged mistreatment, most of it at the hands of the Japanese. These, like many other strange Korean beliefs, should not be challenged too vehemently by any foreigners because we just can't hope to  understand.

These two guys? Sure, they understand because they have Korean blood. Just look at all that rage and melancholia! But foreigners must try to understand that we can never understand the Koreans' "unique situation."

Almost every male foreigner has either tried to stop, or witnessed another guy trying to stop a Korean dude from assaulting his girlfriend. I have. It was the female, not the male who told me to mind my own business and let her boyfriend continue beating shit out of her. Basically, "Try to understand our unique situation."

I've asked some female students who had bruises on their necks or arms from fighting with boyfriends why they don't just dump the guys. The reply was usually, "Because they're passionate." I went out with one Korean girl who was constantly baiting me and obviously trying to get me to hit her. If I had, maybe we'd still be together. I think possibly this is all written off as this Hwa Pyung or Jung or Han or whatever. But only if you're Korean.

North Koreans still believe their leader to be a sexless god. Kim Jong Il got 5 holes-in-one the first time he ever golfed. The emperor of Japan was considered a god until I think 1989 when Hirohito died. The Chinese too. They called their emperors "Sons of Heaven" and still believe the Dalai Lama to be a reincarnation of a god-like being. And Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon martial artists flying through the trees is not yet so much the stuff of fantasy as it might appear to us in the west.

What I'm saying is that over here in Asia, there are some traditional beliefs that are hard for foreigners to subscribe to. Some are hard not to laugh at or even make fun of. "Fan death" makes an uproariously funny Halloween costume. But if I've said this once, I've said it a thousand times, like soooo many other things, Koreans carry things to the extreme. I'll give two examples.

During a trip to South Korea for a soccer friendly between the North and South national teams, the passengers on the North Korean team bus saw a banner on the side of the road for the event. It had the image of their then leader, Kim Jong Il on it. And it was raining. The bus was immediately stopped and several people got out of the bus in order to shield his holy countenance from the elements.

The second incident took place in the south. There are two statues of girls that are monuments to comfort women in Korea. As this article explains, one is outside the Japanese embassy in Korea's largest city, Seoul, and the other is outside the Japanese consulate in Korea's second largest city, Busan. Notice the stocking cap and scarf placed with love onto the statue to keep her warm in the harsh, Korean winter.

This is a dangerous time here in Asia. Trump recently said that if China won't deal with North Korea, the U.S. will. Martin Luther King Jr. said that the U.S. is the greatest purveyor of violence on the earth. He said this during Viet Nam, which was one giant war crime. Civilian killings went unpunished, rape was rampant, napalm was designed to stick better to skin and even burn under water, as so many well done Viet Nam movies can give us a sense of, it was pure hell.

Similar to Vietnam, the U.S. bombing of North Korea during the Korean war was described in the identical words: "Kill anything that moves." As this article attests, the bombing, and napalming, they used napalm in N. Korea too, was merciless and endless. A key line is,  "After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops." This is war crime. You can't DO this! You are killing innocent people, and in a Noam Chomsky video on YouTube I recently watched, he says American solders were glorying in it talking about the awesome sight of all that water washing over the farmland killing all those people and crops.

Knowing what kind of man Donald Trump is, knowing the hatred North Korea has for America, which is not quite as deranged as we are meant to believe it is, and knowing that the first thing North Korea or China will do in response to U.S. aggression is bomb the shit out of Seoul, it should be one of the most important things on the Korean political agenda to mend ties with Japan and present a more formidable defense against this. Japan has a more powerful military than most people think.

Yet I hear nothing about Korea pursuing issues of unity with Japan and am constantly finding divisive reminders of things like Dokdo and the comfort women. Nobody is expecting Korea to forget about the horrible atrocities committed by Japan against them. The two Canadian analogies that started this article can't compare in brutality. But the spirit of the two examples is something that would be healthy to foster in Korea and maybe through it begin forgiving individual things such as the comfort women issue, which they have received apologies and payment for no less than three times. The most recent settlement in 2015 netted each of the 46 remaining comfort women 187,000 American dollars each. That's WAY more than Canada pays for atrocities!

The argument goes that the apology was proven untrue because Japan didn't include the story of their occupation of Korea and war crimes against them in their history books to the extent that Koreans would like. The fact is, it is mentioned, including the comfort women. If Korea want the Japanese to have a full feature article with a pull-out poster or to write a Broadway play about it, I think they're asking too much. I didn't learn of the Chinese head tax in school and only briefly learned about the Japanese internment areas and camps.

At any rate, it doesn't help when you say you will get rid of the comfort woman statue in Seoul in exchange for the apology and payments, then not only go back on that promise, but you build ANOTHER one in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan. Worst of all is the terrible Korean melodramatic acting of Kim Eun Sung behaving like he's stunned at the Japanese "overreaction" to this intentional act of defiance and provocation. "How can a statue hurt Japan?" he muses.

More recently a film clip has been released that people are told is the first verifiable film clipping of Korean comfort women. But you look at it and the soldiers are Chinese, one girl is wearing a kimono, and the girls could be farm workers waiting for a ride home. I presented a simple question asking how we know they are comfort women. The soldiers are talking but my video had no sound. I asked if others had sound and if the soldiers are saying something incriminating. I was met with extreme hostility. People instantly jumping for the jugular. "Have you ever been repeatedly sexually assaulted?" "Do you loathe Korea so much that you rationalize the rape and murder of hundreds of thousands of women?" "You must be a Trump supporter." Then, after the video alone was enough to convince the previously convinced, this came out:

Now they have comparisons between the video and some photos. Okay, that's a little better, but still... I mean seriously, if you put a black and white, blurry photo of Jackie Chan next to some of these girls, you'd see as much resemblance. It shows how little evidence there must be for them to say that this further solidifies the evidence of Korean comfort women. The strongest evidence is in the minds of the old folks in Korea and in the many, many stories that are spread through Korea in every way possible to make sure this is not forgotten and the Hwa Pyung and Han do not diminish. Even though while the stories were told of Japanese burning textbooks and killing people, stealing land and possessions, forcing Koreans to be their slaves, to speak Japanese and to pledge allegiance to the Japanese Empire, oddly, the comfort women were not part of these stories until the early '90's. That's 50 years after the fact.

Whatever! Don't challenge this story, it's like walking through a mine field. Ask Park Yu Ha.

Korean representatives of the comfort women, (it's important to note, it's NOT the comfort women), have discounted apologies from Japan as not sincere while at the same time making promises to bury the hatchet that are not sincere. The newspaper, T.V. and internet stories, the protests, the ads, the building of statues in other countries, these things are actually increasing and so is the anger and the alienation of the Japanese people. A friend of mine took at bus in Los Angeles and saw a sticker on it that read, "Dokdo is Korean territory."

And for all I know, Korea may be in the right. I believe there WERE comfort women, I just believe there are reasons why they were kept secret for so long that aren't yet part of the official narrative, and may never be. As for Dokdo, I don't know or care.

What I care about, despite, or maybe somehow because of their crazy quirks, are the Korean people and I don't want to see them blown up. One of the people who attacked my challenging of the above video clip was a Korean girl who accused me of being one of many foreigners trying to tell Koreans how to feel about Korean issues. If you don't think about it, you may think she's made a good point. But if you understood how insular Koreans can be about ideas they hold dear, you'd know that it can't possibly be a Korean who encourages them to put Dokdo and the comfort women on the back burner for now and try to patch things up with Japan. That person would be lynched. But a foreigner has access to news, opinions and facts outside the Korean peninsula and they are not held to as high a standard of blind faith in Korean beliefs. The catch 22 of the whole deal is that the foreigner cannot be expected to understand the Korean plight so his/her advice will not be heeded.

So you see, it is their culture that will be the downfall of their culture. I don't literally think that. There is a disturbing trend to Koreans they call the brain drain. A lot of their smarter citizens are leaving the country and the most common reason stated is it's because of the way Korean people think. This article explains several more examples of the way Koreans think including a lot of the duties forced on everyone and the pressured they cause. I feel sorry for the creative Korean who wants to express him/herself or have different ideas. There is a saying in Korea that the nail that sticks up will be hammered down. It will take a little while for all the older more traditional opinion makers of Korea to die off before the younger Koreans can modernize the national thinking, but I think it will happen. If they aren't blown up first.

Meanwhile, yesterday a statement was made by Lindsey Graham, a U.S. senator from S. Carolina that conflict with North Korea is inevitable if the ICBM program continues. This is something that has always struck me as the height of arrogance in international politics. Who gets to have nuclear weapons? Who has them? We all know Russia and the U.S. have most of them. But there are seven other nations that have them. France, U.K., China, India, Pakistan, Israel and, you guessed it, North Korea. Why can some nations have nukes and some others can't? North Korea says their nuclear weapons are a deterrent. We've been conditioned to think the leadership of North Korea is too crazy to have nukes. But they haven't pressed the button yet. Who has? Only one country. And present leadership of that country is peerless in lunacy if you want my honest opinion.

Who fears a deterrent? Those who don't want to be deterred. See we don't want you to have nuclear weapons because we might want to nuke you at some point and we don't want you to be able to respond in kind. The fact is we don't want to fight unless we have an absolutely HUGE advantage. And this has always been my problem with the American ideal of bravery. Western movies, action movies, folk tales, even their history, guns. I don't like you. I get a gun and shoot you. I am a hero. This has never played well in my mind. This is not bravery, it's cowardice.

Having supreme firepower is not cowardice but the use of it could be. It all depends upon the values held by the person whose finger presses the button. Donald Trump has a habit of borrowing money for business ventures, reneging on those ventures and then suing the lenders. This is why he can't get money from most banks any more. But he's found one. Deutschebank. A bank that has strong ties to Russia. Russia is the kingdom of Putin. He is the 200 billion dollar man. It has been speculated that Trump is into Russia, (Putin or one of his army of thugs), for 4 billion and that this is why he refuses to reveal his tax information.

While we were busy over the weekend watching his new gameshow The Whitehouse Apprentice and The Mooch was fired, there was something very important going on. Bill Browder was giving testimony, damning testimony for Vladimir Putin, at the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings. Read the whole thing and you will see the kind of gangster kingpin control Putin has over Russia. It's sickening! The very idea that he has total control over Russia and, with Trump deeply in his debt financially and possibly for helping him get elected, this means Putin has a lot of power.

Now you may think this makes it less likely for the U.S. vs. North Korea hostilities to amount to much. If so, you haven't been watching the world lately. Putin has been strengthening his ties to North Korea, but it could be the old wolf in sheep's clothing. China's long relationship with North Korea is cooling. The North Koreans need an ally. Putin steps in. This may make North Korea feel safe, but it is actually the opposite. In true international vulture capitalist style, Putin, with his influence over Trump, might encourage a U.S. strike on North Korea simply to weaken the country. Then Russia can step in and "save" the North Koreans from the U.S. getting the country and all its resources at its most vulnerable and cheapest.

Maybe I'm overthinking this, and maybe even an allied S. Korea/Japan would STILL not be enough to stop this from happening, but I think now, maybe more than ever, Korea would be wise to buddy up with the Japanese instead of pissing them off.

I sure hope I'm wrong about all this!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A phthalate and a dollar short

Not long ago, I remember some issue with artificial colorant in one of my favourite foods, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. So it was removed. My KD is still as orange and delicious as ever. Now there's a new whammy inside. Something called a phthalate. Here is a little explanation.  At first when I heard about phthalates in KD, I thought it was the stuff that made it orange. But then I thought, "No, everyone knows that phthalos are blue." Anyone who enjoys the artistic stylings of the great Bob Ross will know exactly what I'm talking about. Why, he's even got his own line of paints!
So, I'd say it's pretty irrefutable, a phthalo is blue. Right? Empirical evidence right up there! Okay, maybe it's not a scientific fact, but it's a strong theory. Will you give me that? The phthalo blue theory? Hey, maybe I'll get it published. Maybe I'll win a Nobel...

Aw geez. Well that's why science is science. We constantly question and test so that even strongly held, (but stupid), theories or even things science presents as facts, can be scrutinized and changed if necessary. Remember this during the second half of this blog post.

So I guess phthalates and phthalos are not the same things. So what is a phthalate? As the article linked above tells us, phthalates are used in soap, plastic, glue, rubber and, HEY, paints. They are rather ambiguously referred to as "hormone disruptors." How they disrupt hormones, what effects they have, how dangerous it may be, these are not really explained very clearly.

The National Institutes of Health says they are "believed to be" endocrine disruptors. High levels have been "linked to" another ambiguous wording, fertility "issues." They are also linked to behavioural and neurodevelopmental "issues" in children exposed to them IN UTERO. So don't eat KD when you're pregnant I suppose. But speaking for myself, if I ever got pregnant and had the clichéd pickle craving, I wouldn't be pairing my Polski Ogorki with ice cream. Or maybe a better choice would be a BABY dill. heh heh. If you ask me, absolutely nothing goes better with pickles than Kraft Dinner!

But what kind of levels are we talking about here? What's the science? It's not easy to find. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says, "the impact of low level exposure on humans is unknown." What does "low level exposure" mean? They don't say.

FDA spokeswoman, Megan McSeveney says, "For a phthalate to be used in food packaging, there must be sufficient information to demonstrate the substance is safe under the intended conditions of use." That sounds reasonable, but again, the safety or danger is in the dosage. Where are the numbers?

Tom Nelton, chemicals-policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund, says about phthalates, "A chemical is not allowed in food unless there is a reasonable certainty it will cause no harm. We don't think the FDA can say there is a reasonable certainty of no harm." So does that mean there should be absolutely none allowed until it can be proven harmless? What if a little bit is harmless? And, yet again, what constitutes a "little bit?"

Going back to the pickles, if you have a family of 6 and you have the jumbo, family-size jar, after 50 people have plunged their unwashed hands in there to fish out a pickle before you, if you are stuck with pulling the last pickle out of the scum slicked juice it's floating in, you just might be eating trace amounts of things not bargained for. But what? I think we all want to know, don't we? We want to know what shit is in our food! We LITERALLY want to know what shit is in our food. The FDA itself allows 9 milligrams or more of rodent shit per kilogram of wheat. Here's a list of 10 ways you will probably eat shit today.

Well, Tom Nelton, there is no reasonable certainty that rat shit will cause no harm. On the contrary, here is a small list of rodent-borne diseases including the friggin' PLAGUE!

So back to the same question: what kind of levels are we talking about here? Of phthalates in KD? Well, to be specific, it wasn't just KD, but since about 80% of the 2 million boxes of mac and cheese eaten each day in the U.S., (and MORE per capita in Canada, (and probably a higher percentage), are KD, please allow me this generalization. A Kraft spokesperson said the phthalate levels in KD are, "more than 1000 times lower than levels that scientific authorities have identified as acceptable." Well, here we go again: exactly WHAT levels? And btw, what authorities?

I checked an article about this same study printed in a Seattle newspaper and found lots of the same concerned language, but no levels listed.

I read an article in the Dallas News written about the study saying that "high" levels of phthalates were found, but, again no quantification.

If you're buying tuna and it's canned white, or albacore tuna, it has on average 0.32 parts per million of mercury in it. This means an adult can safely eat 6-8 ounces 3 times a month. For canned light tuna, which is the safer kind and only has on average 0.12 parts per million mercury in it, an adult can safely eat 6-8 oz. once a week. Do they have stats like this for phthalates?

The study that all of this concern was based on appeared in the New York Times. Here's a New York Times article called, "Please Don't Panic Over the Chemicals in Your Mac and Cheese." It points out that the original story is not clear on the amount of phthalates nor the amount that is dangerous. It also mentions that the source for the story was a website called The article also includes a comment from associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, Sheela Sathyanarayana, who says she hasn't run the numbers yet but you'd probably have to eat multiple boxes a day to start seeing clear negative health effects.

Still and all, going back to the first article, where the conclusion was to make Kraft isolate the source of the phthalates and eliminate it, I STILL gotta go with that idea. Even though the dangers are "believed to be," so hypothetical, and not yet clearly defined in action, effect or danger, why not be on the safe side and get rid of them? It won't change the taste of the mac and cheese. I hope. And from a guy who has eaten hundreds, if not thousands of boxes of KD and still has no hundreds if not thousands of boxes of KD and hundreds if not thousands of boxes of KD and still has no neurodevelopmental side effects, I say, yeah, just to be on the safe side, get rid of the phthalates.

Now, the hard part. I'm going to take flack for this, but it seems to me the same logic should apply to some shots that are administered quite commonly, and to be fair, I have seen nobody with hormone issues obviously arising from consumption of Kraft Dinner, and I have seen nobody with cancer, autism, Alzheimer's or madhattedness directly related to a flu shot. But why take the chance?

Thimerosal is the ingredient in some vaccines that contains mercury. It's about half mercury. There is NO safe dose of mercury known to science, but the EPA safety limit is set at 5 mcg per 0.5 ml. dose. That works out to 10 parts per million. This is MUCH higher than the safety levels of tuna although you often hear vaccine supporters comparing the two. A lot of flu vaccines, the FluLaval vaccine, for instance, contain 50 mcg of thimerosal per 0.5 ml. dose. That's 25 mcg of mercury and that, my friends, is a whopping 50 ppm.

People are concerned with this. And rightly so! And before anyone even thinks of calling me one of the most ignorant of modern pejoratives, (antivaxer), why is there ANY mercury in the shots? What is its purpose, and, like the colorant and phthalates in KD, why can't it be removed? Same with formaldehyde. It's a preservative and it causes cancer. Same concentration in most flu shots and some other shots: 50 ppm. Why do I need this injected directly into my body? As long as it doesn't affect the purpose of the flu shot or whatever the vaccine is that contains these toxic ingredients, why take them at ANY level?

I have heard lots of evasive arguments about how the body naturally produces formaldehyde and about tuna and about historical vaccine successes and about how levels are safe and about no links to any negative outcomes and about how people in third world countries need these vaccines, but I have yet to hear an argument better than what I will call the KD gambit because it is a risky argument to put forth in social settings so chock-a-block full of "Antivaxer" haters: If the dangerous ingredients are not necessary, take them the fuck out! How much more obvious can it get? I don't care if the levels are safe, or they are probably safe, or they are not directly linked...blah blah blah, get that shit out of the flu shot. And it's even more immediate an issue for shots because as opposed to orally ingested KD, something injected into the bloodstream is much more efficiently absorbed.

The various vaccines I'm talking about CAN and HAVE BEEN made without these ingredients. Thimerosal-free shots are more expensive, but, if rat shit-free grain was a bit more expensive, wouldn't we all pay a little bit more? In order to mass produce the vaccines, and, (you HAVE to suspect this from Big Pharma, I mean COME ON!), give them a longer shelf life to MAKE MORE MONEY, these preservatives are used. For the love of GOD, why hate people and call them childish names for not wanting dangerous shit shot into their veins? Mandating flu shots would be just like forcing people to eat the Kraft Dinner with the phthalates and dangerous colouring. Okay, maybe the levels are safe, but it's NOT the responsibility of the people to endanger our health, it's the responsibility of the manufacturers of the shots and the mac and cheese to remove the unnecessary, dangerous ingredients.

Now I can just hear the people railing about how if you are infected by phthalates from KD, you won't pass it on to someone else, maybe a kid or an old person and kill them. Well, to me that just adds to the urgency to have the crap removed. Do you know that until very recently, flu shots didn't even come with a list of ingredients? And when a doctor tells you he's going to give you this or that vaccination, how many of us ask about what he or she is pumping into our bloodstreams? Yet we DEMAND phthalate-free mac and cheese. What massively effective social training brought us to this?

I don't want to put any mercury into my body at all. So I stop eating tuna altogether. No more tuna casserole, no more tuna melts, no more tuna in my macaroni salad... none. Ayam, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea start an expensive campaign to force me and thousands like me to eat tuna. They say the tuna population is exploding and they're eating other important fish and disrupting the fragile ocean ecosystem. They call us "Antifishers." Even though I eat salmon and walleye and cod and trout and lots of other fish, I'm ignorantly called an Antifisher. People protest against me and spit that word at me in derision. There are protests and internet memes. "If you don't eat tuna, you might as well move to Japan and kill dolphins." You join one of these protest groups and you call me an Antifisher. Are you a hero, or are you just a soldier for corporate tuna?

The whole Antivaxer business is almost as stupid. I say almost because of the one argument they have in their favour, and that's the fact that people who don't get vaccinated could spread disease. So for people who are constantly around the old, young and more susceptible to disease, there is an element of irresponsibility to not getting vaccinated. I get it. But my question is why do we demand change on the part of the company in the KD scenario saying people shouldn't have to eat dangerous chemicals, yet some of the same people get mad at other people in the vaccine scenario saying they SHOULD have to inject dangerous chemicals into their bodies? If you think corporate brain seeding is not at work here, you are naïve.

I am not writing this to discourage vaccination. At all. I have lots of vaccinations and I am positive most, if not all contained thimerosal. What I want you to ask yourself if you have ever used the word, "antivaxer," or supported an argument against a person concerned with vaccine ingredients, or liked one of a thousand spurious memes online about how if you don't get a flu shot then you should get polio or whatever, think about this: If you met a person who wanted Kraft to remove the phthalates from its products, would you get angry at him/her and call him/her an antiphthal? It would be idiotic, wouldn't it? How about making it mandatory to eat multiple boxes a day? Some of us wouldn't mind so much, but it's still unreasonable.

Anyone who wants to mandate the flu shot has been duped. Big Pharma foams at the mouth at the thought of it. Mandatory! Hoo hoo haaa haaaa! That means a guaranteed market and you can set the price at whatever filthy thieving level you want. I don't even agree with mandatory CLEAN flu shots. If they had no toxic ingredients, you'd be silly not to get one, but making it mandatory is just draconian. Get the shit out of them and I think you'd see a LOT of so called antivaxers getting vaccinated. Maybe even most of them.

It's a far better solution than childishly calling people names, don't you think?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Me? I'm fine. How 'bout you?

This is going to be another of those posts where I write things down just to get them organized outside my head. It's an evaluation of my job. A sort of half way check list.

To this point I have worked much less than I had expected and I have been paid the full salary for it. So that's a big plus. The accommodation is a bit more pricey than expected and I am confined mostly to the smallest room in the apartment due to mosquitoes, but it's way cheaper and WAAAAY more comfortable than living in Beijing! Cold beverages, air conditioning, hot meals and even barbecue now! So that's a definite plus too. And Faith. We'll get to her later.

Those are the only pluses. Three. Now the list of things that are both plus and minus. There are quite a few. Friends. I have met a few nice folks here. Mostly co-workers. Well, ALL co-workers. And one by one, they all quit. Every teacher or HR worker for the company I work for has quit. Some of the HR workers have been replaced, but not yet the teachers. This is not a comfortable feeling for me half way through my contract and just starting a 3-month period without pay. The plan is to start work again at the beginning of September. With the two week salary withholding policy here, I'm going from mid July to mid October with almost no pay. That'll head up the minus column.

Taiyuan. The city has it's good points and bad points. I have walked for hours and hours and have come across one, place where I can play a sport or exercise. One. And I tried to find it a second time and couldn't. I think there's a pool and maybe a gym, but I haven't been inside. I  have found no driving ranges, batting cages, gyms, hiking trails, walking paths or anything promoting fitness. But, most Mondays, because there's no KBO to watch, I walk to the one park I have found. I just walk around or sit and watch people usually but if I wanted a sport, I guess I could buy a kite. There is some SERIOUS kite flying going on at that park at all times! I'm talking about guys using this kind of equipment!

I've taken pics of them but on the camera that isn't recognized by my computer. The poop phone. There are also paddle boats so I guess I could get some exercise THAT way. So most of my exercise has consisted of just walking around town. In the polluted air. I'm not sure if I'm not doing more harm than good. And often, when I walk around, I go past a McDonald's. Or I DON'T go past it. So that kills the walk too. But my plan was to be antisocial for a while and save money. So in that way, Taiyuan has been perfect. Just recently I've noticed some of the folks in my neighbourhood talking to me. Like just blathering away in Chinese. I think they are trying to be friendly but I don't know jack for Chinese yet and it's making me nervous. I'm going to sound like a dick here but, have you ever given a few coins to a beggar or a homeless person and they started talking to you? Even FOLLOWING you? It's like, "put money into the cup. Don't make eye contact or encourage socialization in any way. Now back away slowly as if from a wild grizzly bear." That's me at my usual stores nowadays.

Yesterday I went to the place where I pay my electric bill every month. The lady just started blabbing away. I guess since I've been here a few months she reckons I have a firm grasp of the Chinese language now. I'm just shaking my head saying, "Wuh bu je dao. Wuh bu je dao." Which means I don't know. I don't even know enough Chinese to say I can't speak Chinese. So she just lets me pay the usual 85 quai and shushes me away. Then I go to my milk place. The Niu Jiu Private Ranch. It's a bakery but I bought bread there once and it was more like cake a la Korean bakeries. But they have good milk. Which is hard to find here. I'll never forget the day when one of the girls was wearing a t-shirt, for an entire 8 or 10 or 18 hour shift, that said, "Fuck you, asshole!" There are 3 or 4 of them and they know me and they know I know that milk is exactly 13.5 quai. It's usually hi, thank you, bye bye. But yesterday it was horrifyingly more! She just wouldn't stop talking to me! I scurried out of the bakery in fear! I had Faith and Mr. Li, her husband, over for a barbecue a few days ago. That's enough socializing for the summer.

Mr. Liu. He's the second in command here. Diana is the owner and she seems nice but we can't really communicate because of a language barrier. I don't speak Chinese and she doesn't speak English. Mr. Liu is the voice of business for the school. So far my dealings with him have been strong minuses. During the brutally expensive first 2.5 months here I was trying to impress upon him how I was paying to move here, rent an apartment, pay the bills AND make visa runs with no help from the school. I said that was unreasonable and asked for an advance and was refused. I had to borrow money from Faith. Also unreasonable. I didn't meet him face to face until the very end of the semester. At that meeting he said he'd find lots of work for me during the summer. Debates, nature hikes, even golf teaching were mentioned. "Don't worry, don't worry." he said. A lot. Then, not much time later he informed me that there was nothing.

At that same meeting I mentioned my rent and that the third three months of it would soon be due. Since our September semester will be at the new school, I will have to move and won't need the apartment for the whole three months or the next three. But I told Mr. Liu that the landlord was pretty adamant about my staying for an entire year. He said he'd be able to talk the landlord into letting me pay only two more month's rent. That way, Sept. 1 I could be at the new school. Again with the don't worry don't worry. Well, a little time later the landlord called the school and asked for the next three months of rent. I texted Mr. Liu and said, "Go ahead. Work your magic." Within a few minutes I got a text back from him saying, "I guess you will have to pay the next three months of rent." That means either I'll be living here for all of September and half of October and somehow commuting the 30 or 40 minutes to and from the school every day, or I'll be paying for this apt. and not living in it. Neither is a plus.

We are 40 days from the start of the semester and I have heard from the teachers who quit that they don't have any students yet, never mind teachers. No concrete plans for housing, never mind classes or schedules. For all I know my employers could be slowly drifting into insolvency and taking me with them. But, he took me to the driving range room. That was cool. And I'm going again tonight. Whack a few balls and hopefully get a few answers to some of these questions. Even if it's the dreaded, "Sorry, but there isn't going to be a September semester," at least I'll know. I've already started looking for jobs. Sigh. Again. Plus he sweats! It sounds strange but I've seen so many Asians who don't seem to have pores. Hiking on a hot humid day, my third shirt soaked right through with sweat and I look around to see Asian hikers with not a drop of perspiration on them. It's a sort of envious hatred I've developed over the years. But at the driving range he sweats as much as or MORE than me! Probably because he insists on drinking hot tea to cool himself down. For that I gotta like him. Not the tea, but the sweating.

The camps. I did a 10-hour, mini camp here in which I taught 8 kids who were going to be participating in the camps in late July and August. These camps will be all over the U.S. In L.A., San Francisco, Idaho, Washington... and they'll be expensive. I was told that these are the children of rich parents. The teachers who work these camps are basically making nothing because they are responsible for their own flights. That's a rip-off. I know how much people pay for camps like this and those teachers deserve more than just a look at America for their efforts. I was asked to do the camps but I can't afford to. However, with the money the company makes from these camps, there should be no trouble paying my salary for the new semester and the new school even if there aren't very many students. That's the way things were in the first semester and I got paid.

And now to Faith. If my employer goes tits up, and that is looking more and more likely to me, Faith assures me that I can work for the place she's working. She even said she'd try to get me more money. And they will get me a place close to the school and get me out of the contract I have at my apartment. And with the Z visa due to arrive in early August, it'll be pretty easy just to change the employer. I don't think I'd have to go through the entire ordeal a second time. However, the hours are long and the students are young. Not the job I am looking for. So there's another plus/minus.

The new school. This is hard to gauge right now. I went there to look around and took pics, (on the poop phone), and it looks like a decent campus. The air is cleaner than right in Taiyuan. The faint smell of cattle came up now and then as I walked the campus with Mr. Jung, the company driver. I don't yet know how large my room will be; if it will have air conditioning; if it will have a fridge and stove; if it will have a sit-down or a squat toilet; if it will have furniture like a desk, wardrobe, etc.; if it will have fast, slow or ANY wifi, and I ask Mr. Liu and guess what he says: "Don't worry, don't worry." I also didn't think to check a classroom and see if there's air conditioning. But this will be the fall semester so we won't need air con for long if at all. There are plenty of facilities for sports on campus like basketball hoops, ping pong tables, soccer field etc. I will probably be forced to hang out with students a lot more and this will improve their English and my Chinese without question. Also, there IS civilization not far away. About a 5 minute drive away I can buy groceries, beer, maybe pizza, who knows? I was worried that the nearest facilities were in Taiyuan, 30-40 minutes away by car. I ALSO found out that during September and half of October, when I'm working there and living here in my Taiyuan apartment, transpo will be arranged for me. Probably Mr. Jung will drive me. Then when the renovations to the teachers' dorms are done, I'll have first choice. They will even help me with the move. Not financially, I don't expect, but like finding me a mover and translation and such. So it's a bit of a mystery, but I'm kind of excited about it. So it's actually more plus than minus for me. One other thing: I asked Mr. Liu if the room on campus will be included as part of my pay or if I will have to pay for it and if so, how much and for THAT too he gave his usual answer. So maybe I'll get free accommodation out of this deal.

On the negative list, this 3 month stretch without pay is for the birds. It wasn't hidden from me. I knew there could be down time. But there was talk of summer programs. Also, I actually HAD a whole month of work planned in Korea. But that had to be cancelled because I was still working a few hours in July plus I have no passport for most of the month. 21 days they take it from you in order to do the residence permit part of the Z visa. I hate surrendering my passport! And from the checking I've done, there doesn't seem to be any camps that start and end in August. They all start in late July and end in August. Then again, the camp idea would probably have had to be under the table work, and that's even harder to find. So it looks like I'm left picking up little bits of work here in Taiyuan while I wait for the new semester to start. And the government knows I've been here 10 months, they know where I live and they're watching me. This is all a big minus.

For a good example of minus number two, just let me refer you to my last post. Bureaucracy. It has been the worst part of every single ESL job I've had and this one has added expense to the frustration. Not only do I have to plow through mountains of paperwork and do the harrowing visa runs and tell white lies to civil servants, it is costing me a lot of money! Which makes it much harder to manage the above 3 month stretch without pay.

Banks. Can you say ANYthing positive about banks? Certainly not! But here, they seem to be even worse than normal. I may have trouble doing simple things like sending money home so I can pay my bills. I also have one more debtor to pay and I don't even know if it's possible to transfer money to her account in Korea. In the two month period during which I was working and getting my head above water I have put away money in what I call the amber fund. It's going to pay off my debts that are still outstanding from the Indonesia fiasco, but since I don't know how to transfer the money to my debtor yet, it is also going to be used as and emergency fund just in case I can't manage to get any work in August. And if I get a camp in Korea, easy peasy, I just bring the money and give it to her in cash. No transfer needed. Friggin banks!

The weather. I've been at this post for a few days and today, July 25, is the first day in quite some time that has been bearable to me. I mean I am sitting here at my computer NOT sweating. There is a little bit of humidity slime but not enough to complain about. Why, I reckon I could work today without bringing 5 shirts to the jobsite. It's 22 degrees and it feels downright cool to me. I know it's too much to ask for the next 9 months to be like this or colder but if it came to pass, I'd upgrade the weather to plus/minus. No, the main reason it's in the minus column is because of the air quality. That's not exactly weather, but the weather website is where I check the air quality. The relatively frigid air evokes in me the spirit of Hal and Joanne. I want to get up and get moving like the letter A trying to turn itself into the letter I. But then I check the AQI and it reads 57. This is what they call "moderate," here. I've heard from the long term breathers of Chinese air that the AQI is, like many things in China, sprinkled with a communal dose of optimistic escapism. So it makes me stay indoors and stay an A.

What? You're not old enough or Canadian enough to know about Participaction? You don't know Hal and Joanne? You've never seen the fatness to fitness Claymation poem? Well here ya go:

That's from the 70's you young whippersnappers. Since then I could always recite that entire poem from memory. Only because this is what we used to get for commercials between cartoons on Saturday mornings. It was a subtle way of telling the parents to kick their kids outside. And it worked on MY Mom, by golly! And I was no A as a kid. NOW, yeah, I'm more A than I but at least here in Taiyuan I have the air quality to blame. The one good thing on this point is that the new school should really promote exercise and a healthier lifestyle for me. Maybe I will become an I again.

So I guess my overall evaluation of the present situation is more positive than negative. If I can manage to find enough work in August, (and don't get my arse busted for doing it), I think I'll have enough money to get through this slow patch. I may need to dip into the amber fund for the move to the new school, but by mid October I'll be rolling again and I will finally be out of Indonesia debt by Christmas.

If not, I may have to blow the whole amber fund on a move to another job, maybe in another country. I have some bona fide (looking) offers in Viet Nam. The one country I haven't explored over here that I want to.

Time will tell....

Friday, July 14, 2017

BBQ's and Bureaucracy

I am two months shy of being in China a full year. My business visa was dated Sept. 16, 2016. After two days of paper-pushing futility, yesterday marked the day that I surrendered my passport for the final stage of the lengthy and blindingly bureaucratic work visa process.

It is cause for celebration! I'll be working legally once again. But not till September. So it will have been a year long process getting this thing. If you've followed the saga, it included 4 personally financed visa runs, three to Korea and one to Hong Kong. I will now have the entire month of July off, without pay, and no passport to pursue work until early August. I actually HAD some work arranged for the whole month of July in Korea. Can't do that now. During July I will have to look for bits of work in August here in China or maybe do a camp in Korea. I hope to do the latter as it would allow me a chance to see my beloved Kia Tigers play live in their best season EVER. At least I'll have plenty of time to search the internet.

Somehow I'll have to squeeze in the always pleasant moving experience, (undoubtedly at my expense), from my fairly comfortable apartment to the isolation and inconvenience of the new school. It will take a lot of getting used to I'm sure, but I'm trying to see the positives. The air will be fresher. Quiet. No crowds. Who knows, I may even grow to like it in the Chinese sticks. The "chopsticks," if you will.

But since my Chinese work visa and residence permit is finally nearing completion, I'll tell you what happens when you try to open a bank account after having been in China on a business visa for 10 months. Or at least what happened to ME. And remember, banks are stupid everywhere. This is not just a Chinese phenomenon.

I asked my co-worker Grace if she could do me a favour and help me open a bank account. This was right after getting my work visa from HK, almost a month ago. I had tried with the business visa but was refused. With my new work visa, I reckoned I'd be okay. She said she'd help me, but nothing became of that. Then on Wednesday I asked Amy, another worker from the HR department. She said she'd do it too. I specifically asked if SHE could send money to Canada for me. She said ok. The next day, another co-worker, Lisa, shows up with the driver Mr. Jung. These are all Chinese girls. I 'm just using their English nicknames. So Lisa takes me to the Bank of China. In the car on the way I asked if she had an account at the Bank of China and she said no. So I knew she was going to try what I had already tried several times: to wire money to Canada from a Chinese bank where you don't have an account. Sounds simple enough and I'm getting the idea that these gals who are hired at HR and end up with the unenviable tasks of helping me do ANYthing here have unrealistically high expectations of their country's abilities to do these simple things. However, I thought that when we were refused, MAYBE I'd be able to open up an account and THEN send the money home. So I played along.

We asked the general inquiries lady. She gave us an application and asked questions like does he have the swift code, a passport, and a CC code. The friggin "CC code!" It's something they have in China that other countries really don't have. But, just like at immigration, banks, some other public offices, and most educational facilities, the people who work there like to believe they know more than you, so if you tell them something they don't know, they think you're an asshole telling them how to do their jobs. Strangely, I went to a Korean police station one time trying to get fingerprinted for a criminal record check and they had no idea what to do. They totally allowed me to get on THEIR computer and download the proper fingerprint form, print it out and tell them what they needed to do. Because I knew and they didn't. So it's not always, but usually.

Anyhoo, to my surprise, they said they could wire money to Canada. So we filled out some forms and then went to the window. Behind the window was a guy who looked as new to his job as Lisa. He examined my passport for a long time. That's never good. Then he started telling us stuff I knew was not right. I asked how much I could send. He said 500 bucks. From past experience I knew that $500 American is the limit. I was told that was all you could send per month, but the day was young. I was to be told a lot of things on this day.

I said, the limit is closer to 600 Canadian. He said, "No, 500 Canadian." I said that 500 Canadian is only like 400 US. And then I SHOWED him a form from when I had sent home 600 bucks Canadian. I was grandstanding. Showing him up. Making him look bad. At least that's what he seemed to think. So then he examined the passport some more. All he had was my passport and name address and phone number in China. I told him he'd need more info than that. I gave him the overseas transfer application from my bank in Beijing. (ICBC) Again the attitude. I whispered to Lisa that I didn't think this guy was going to be able to do this. She nodded.

Then the dreaded CC code. He said, like everyone before him, you need a nine digit CC code. I said no I don't. I pointed out on the paper a 5 digit code called the transit number. We don't use CC code as a term in Canada. What sometimes happens is the transit code is preceded by a branch code, which is not always 4 digits. In my case it's three, but I was told it makes no difference if you add an extra zero on the front. In the program the banks use for wiring money, this is done automatically. All you need to do is insert the 5 digit code where it asks for a transit code. The address of the bank will tell the computer the branch number. I told the guy, all he had to do was flash up his computer and fill in the blanks on the program. He said he would rather not do that. Was he embarrassed because I knew more about what he was trying to do than him? Was it the long inspection of the passport and the assumption, (the CORRECT assumption), that I'd been in China too long to not be working here? Or was it something simpler? Remember, my bank in the much more liberal and international city of Beijing told me of some rules they had that only applied to foreigners. Who knows? But they could have done it, they just chose not to. So that was strike one.

There was an ICBC just a few doors down from the Bank of China so we went there. They referred us to a different branch of ICBC. Strike two. On the way there I told Lisa that I had tried with Faith to send money home from the ICBC near the school and they told her they don't do that here in Taiyuan. But I said that if I could start an account there and THEN send money home, that would be convenient. Then I could do it by myself the next time.

So we went to our third bank. I'm not sure but I think the first thing they did was refer us back to the bank that had referred us to them. The same "Oh geez, why me?" demeanor was palpable in all three people. Maybe I'm over sensitive to "extra special foreigner treatment" from my days in Korea, but it was pretty obvious all three of these people felt put out by our request. Even the general assistance lady at the Bank of China. Like the one I went to with Faith, this branch, which was MUCH bigger, told us we couldn't do an international transfer. They went a step further and said that NO banks in town can do it. I said to Lisa that they definitely CAN, they just choose not to.

So I said, "Let's just go to the bank in town where I have done what these assholes just told us can't be done. The Everbright Bank of China." Last time I was there Faith sent the money from her personal account there because I still had my business visa. But I was told that I could start an account with my work visa. So with a count of three strikes and no balls, we went to bat again. The general assistance girl, who I remembered from last time because her English was very good, told us that we could do it. Lisa and her seemed to be having some problem communicating so I called Faith and explained what was happening. She said, "Yeah. You CAN start an account there and send money to Canada from it." Then she told the girl. So we got a number and waited. Lisa and I chatted a bit and the girl actually came over and chatted too. She's from Hong Kong and misses the food there. That's why her English was so good. I told her I had been in HK a few weeks earlier and showed her some pictures. I told her I miss that kind of Chinese food too. It's the kind we get in Canada. The food around here is totally different. And the HK girl and I don't like it nearly as much.

So we got to the love window. That's what they call it. I don't know why. The girl behind the window, like everyone, closely examined my passport. Then she gave it to another person to closely examine. Then another. Then she looked at it again. They asked a few questions and got us to fill out some papers and sign a couple things and she got out a bank card and started initializing it. Even told me that I could send 600 CDN dollars every DAY! I asked if she was sure and she said yes. FINALLY we were going to be able to do this! They figured out that I could send about 600 home and we calculated how much that would cost in Chinese RMB. I had 4000 with me and they said it'd be about 3300 so I said we could put the rest into my account. I asked Lisa to ask her if that card would work overseas. She said that any machine with the Unionpay sign would work. But then there was some confusing comment about only in Chinese funds. To be absolutely clear I told her that my ICBC bank card should work in any Unionpay machine too but doesn't. It doesn't even work in Hong Kong, China. They repeated that it will work in any Unionpay machine worldwide if the transaction is in Chinese funds. I asked, "So, if I go to Canada, I have to take out Chinese funds from Canadian cash machines? That is not going to happen." I honestly think she thought it COULD happen! Amazing!

Then something familiar happened. Again stemming from my days in Korea, I've grown quite good at reading the exact moment in a disagreement, argument or difference of opinion at which the opponent recognizes that standby tactics are proving useless against this formidably intelligent adversary and the good old fashioned LIE is required. Suddenly the story changed and it became, "Yes, you can use this to get foreign currency from foreign machines." No sooner did I say, "Okay, well that's all I wanted to know," than Superbanker - defender of Chinese sovereignty swooped down on this transaction so perilous to the People's Republic of China. He interrupted and told the teller, who then told Lisa, who then told me, that they need to know where the money came from. This guy doesn't mess around. He went straight to the lie. I asked politely what exactly the fuck he was lying his ass off about. He said they needed to know if the money was salary for tax purposes. Did I make this money as salary? I told him that was none of  his business. I think he understood that because then he launched into an explanation with his face close to the screen speaking directly to Lisa. "It was a brand new rule implemented at the start of July," he lied. I was trying to talk to Lisa at the same time but he just overvolumed me until I had to throw up a T. I gave him a time-out sign and said, "Lisa, don't listen to him, listen to me!" He went back to his own desk where he should have stayed and minded his own business. Then I went into a painfully simplistic explanation of the basic human rights violation this bullshit rule amounted to. I said to the teller, "This is my personal money that I earned working in Canada. It's from my Canadian savings. Can we continue?" She said no. I said, "See? They think I'm lying." Then she got a bit embarrassed and said not to Lisa in Chinese, but to me in English, "No, no, no! We believe you!" I said, "Great, let's get this money sent back to Canada!" She said no. I asked why and she said they need to know where it's from. So I said, "Okay how exactly do you expect me to prove where this is from. I took 100 off the top of the pile and said, "This was a gift from my Grandmother for my birthday." Then another 100, "I won THIS in a Chinese speaking contest." Then another, "THIS one I found on the street..." I have no proof of any of that, how can I? She was now laughing and apologizing her face getting redder. I said to Lisa, "Do they ask YOU this question about YOUR money?" Then asked the teller, "How about YOU?" Then I said, "Okay, how about this: I give this money to my friend, Lisa," and handed her the whole stack of 100's." "Now if she gives it back, it's a gift! THEN can I send it? How about I give it to YOU?" and I put it into the little hole under the window. She then laughed even harder and apologized even harder, but still said no and ripped up the forms we had filled out to that point. I had been doing this loudly but with a smile on my face for two reasons, 1. to point out how hilariously unfair this whole situation and the supposed rule was, and 2. because they were RIGHT! I HAD been working in China and this WAS salary. Certainly not by choice, I should have HAD my work visa long before this, but didn't. And I couldn't say that to Lisa in front of them, could I?

So we left. Strike 4. But not before I, still smiling, pointed to the words "Love window" on the glass in front of the teller and asked, "Where is the love?" We stopped outside the bank and Lisa called Mr. Jung to pick us up. While we were waiting, the HK girl said to me, "They won't let me start an account here either because I'm from Hong Kong." So I explained to Lisa that if I had told them that was salary, they would have been able to figure out that I'd earned it before I got my work visa. And I didn't want to find out what could happen THEN. She understood and said she'd get Mr. Jung to try. Neither one wanted to send money from their own accounts, and I don't really blame them since they don't know me, but we went to one final bank where they said a Chinese friend could start an account there and send money home for me. BUT, and this was the highlight of the day for me, I first had to get Chinese money exchanged into Canadian and give it to them to send to Canada. I said, "What? Are you kidding me? What are they going to do, send it by carrier pigeon?" Fucking banks!

So here I sit Canadian bills overdue, still without a bank account in Taiyuan and still unable to send money home. That day, we tried to get my visa paperwork finished but it turned 5:00 and we were told to come back Friday. We went Friday at 9 in the morning and really didn't need to do anything else but pay for the visa and give them my passport. I was superfluous. But at least it's done now.

So Thursday night when I got home after all that nonsense, I watched a soothing game of Korean baseball and drank excessively. The Tigers completed their sweep of the Dinos and are now at least 8 games ahead of everyone else. I figured I'd be 21 days without a passport so I called up Faith, who said she knew where I could buy a cheap barbecue. So she ordered a little electric one for me. Today I have been hoping it would arrive. But still no knock at the door. I invited Faith and her husband over this weekend to test it out but they are busy. If I get it soon, I might invite someone else over. If not I'll just grill for myself.

This is pretty much the grill I'm getting. Good enough! And super cheap! Good old Faith! Maybe next weekend I'll invite her and Mr. Li, her hubby. I will sharpen up my grillin' skills in the mean time. So, at least the glass isn't totally empty!