Friday, March 24, 2017

Near Perfect Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

Star Dreck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Some of my best writing is just comments on other posts

This seems to be the only way I can post a video. So if I figure a way of putting my apartment video onto YouTube, then I will be able to upload it here. I'll add it to my last post. THIS post, however, will be about some other stuff. The video above was a chance occurrence for me. I got onto YouTube and it suggested this video for me. I don't know why. I have a curiosity about human behaviour, especially the extreme type like the psychopaths/sociopaths, so I have watched a few of their stories on YouTube. I also have this belief that the psychopathic serial killer can give us a lot of insight into the kind of mental deviants that I think are far more dangerous: the C.E.O., captain of industry, Donald Shithead Trump type of sociopath. I don't think there is that much difference between the two and often wonder if one wasn't screwing people out of billions, would he be serial killing? Or does he derive some sick pleasure out of knowing that he IS serial killing, however indirectly? I could be wrong but I think the psychopaths are the ones who kill people and they ARE sociopathic, and the sociopaths, (a nicer sounding word), are just destroying the world, killing far more people, but they wear business suits, not leather or hockey masks.

I guess that's how this came up. So I decided to find out what Ted Bundy had to say for his last words and a lot of my opinions were strongly reinforced. Watch the interview. It's a great example of how these guys are not dummies. Now, Trump, and this is actually in his defence, may not be smart enough to be a full blown sociopath, but if you look at Bundy, look into the studies and read people who are experts in the field, they'll tell you the same. Sociopaths are usually very smart. And they KNOW it. They want to SHOW it to themselves and to the world. This is almost always how they get caught. Their egos. This guy who has raped and killed several people actually had me feeling a little bit sorry for him for a little while. He blamed it all on pornography and the craving for pornography, sexual violence and more and more extreme amounts of it. That's how addiction works. I heard that Elton John was flying over some mountains covered in snow and he said that that was about how much coke he'd sniffed. He was snorting it every 6 minutes I think I heard. Because you just aren't satisfied, you need more and more. That's what Bundy was carefully explaining. And he used a lot of textbook manipulation, things that are used by con artists, politicians and used car salesmen the world over to shape the softened, under exercised minds of average folks.

But here's what prompted this post: I have been wondering how much, how should I say this... attention I get when I put stuff on the internet. Being in China I know that my computer is monitored just like every single computer in the country. But with so many of them, just how closely is it monitored? And I wonder that about other sites all around the internet. Three days ago I posted a comment on this video something to the effect of:

Wouldn't it be nice if people could see some literature depicting clothed people doing nice things to each other, then become addicted and crave more and more fully clothed people committing graphic acts of kindness? And soon become so hooked on decency that they go on mass sprees of good deeds? This doesn't happen as often. Why not? Because there's no power in being nice. In fact it's giving power to other people. A person has to first like graphic sex, rape, violence and killing to want more and more of it. The pornography didn't make Bundy like these things and crave more and more of them, it's pretty roundly accepted that it's the selfish lust for the power that comes with them that is the attraction for people who do these things. And the narcissism that makes people think so highly of themselves that they believe they somehow DESERVE the power over their inferior victims. Often it is a feeling of superior intelligence. (Jeffery Dahmer drilled holes in the heads of some of his victims and poured acid into the holes in attempts to create sexual zombies that were completely in his power.) Let's not forget, Bundy'd been in jail for a long time and a few stays of execution before this interview, so he'd had years and years to perfect this snow job he gave Dr. Dobson. Along with the hours and hours in front of a mirror perfecting just the right pained expression to paste on his face when the victims and victims' families were mentioned. And he almost had me identifying with him up until the point when a phone rang in the background and for an instant his entire demeanor, not to say mask, was dropped. I thought he was going to crack a joke! But within a second he got back into character. He also used textbook manipulative tactics like saying how he "harmed" people rather than savagely raped and killed them and destroyed untold numbers of lives in the process. The cliché conversion to Christianity when you are put on Death Row, (or in the Whitehouse). And he acted like he was overwhelmed by grief and couldn't even talk about the 12-year-old he raped and murdered. No, he just knew there was no way this little project of his could maintain any credibility if he tried to talk about that. I guess his God complex hadn't reached the heights of omnipotence necessary to think he could sway public opinion on THAT particular count. So the less said the better. Then the old, "I'm not bad, I'm sick. I need help," ploy. Which must be accompanied by the, "I take full responsibility. I'm not claiming I'm innocent," con. Closely followed by the, "BUT, I don't take full responsibility and I AM innocent," gambit. All very well played. His purpose for this can't be known, but I guess it was just one last way for him to feel smarter than other people before he got the chair. The whole time he had to be thinking, "People are STILL stupid enough to believe me! I AM the greatest!" At the end of my comment I mentioned how several times he says that he wants to make clear he's not innocent but then explains how he's not totally guilty. It's like the old, "No offense, but...(proceed to offend)" Why do we fall for this? I guess I should have started this comment with, "I want to make clear that I don't think Ted Bundy was a sociopathic, selfish, power-hungry, sadistic, guilty as sin piece of garbage who deserved what he got, but...

When I checked the video today, to see if anyone responded, all comments had been disabled.

Now, the comment before mine had been posted some 4 months before I seem to recall. And while I don't remember exactly what I posted, (the above is probably better worded), I do recall that the comments were very infrequent. SO, I have to assume it was MY comment that made someone suspend them all and I am wondering what the reason might have been.

Here's another video I commented on:

I've heard VPN's are quickly disappearing here in China and I won't be able to access the sites that are not freely allowed such as Google, Facebook, and others I want. Right now when I use my internet without the VPN it's great. But with it, it's crap. I talked with a rep from Pure VPN and they pretty much told me it doesn't work. See last post. So I tried to find out some information by watching this little vid. It hit a nerve that has been tweaked a few times before so I thought I'd make a first attempt at putting it into words. And this is what I posted:

Here's a question: What's the difference between "transparency" and "theft of intellectual property?" Is it just point of view? If I look at the massive American businesses that China is limiting, I have to think, "Well, they ARE American businesses." Even in America people want to know how the super businesses get super rich and, I'm just going to say never here because it's close enough, they're never without their dodginess. Even their president, who is the poster boy for American business, won't release his tax information. So Americans trying to keep business or politicians honest are said to be calling for increased transparency. What I'm wondering is how much of China's Great Firewall is this and how much is straight theft of intellectual property? And how different are they? The cheating and stealing techniques ARE intellectual property, aren't they? Donald Trump's secret accounts in the Cayman Islands are his intellectual property, aren't they? To put the question in a more cynical way, are American businesses just upset that China is stealing their best methods of screwing the world and getting rich?

The whole post I entitled positive negativity and a lot of my attitude that I think will make this new workplace more successful was inspired by a comment I posted in answer to my Filipino friend's question about glass half empty and half full types of thinking. I read it and a wave of philosophy warshed over me like darkness over the Dude! I now had a way of describing this positive negativity in another way. I think I posted something like, "There are glass half full, and glass half empty people. As I get older I am becoming an, 'At least the glass isn't ALL empty' person." Why, just today I was asked about my next visit to Korea. I replied that I need to get my work visa here processed in about 10 days or I will need to leave and get my other visa renewed. Then I can take a little trip to Korea. Either way the worst thing that could happen will be something gums up the works and the work visa will be delayed. No surprise. It will be expected. AND, bonus visit to Korea! I am planning people to visit, things to do and things to buy. Sure it's money out of pocket that could have been avoided but if you plan for the worst, you can make it not so worst??? My new philosophy.

And then the other day I was looking at someone's post about one of the ever growing stable of douchebags in Trump's G.O.P. shooting his mouth off discriminating, being called a racist and claiming that just means he's winning the argument. Or maybe it was Ted Nugent. I forget. But I started thinking about how ignorant and racist it was and then I just thought about the origins of racism and the actual word. What the hell does it mean exactly. It's just another word almost everybody uses, I just used, and almost nobody knows, I don't know, what it actually means. If we did, we wouldn't use it. Here's what I wrote:

Think about this for a second: In the 18th century, people were divided by a German, (maybe not surprising), anthropologist into five ridiculous races: Caucasian (white), Mongolian (yellow?), Malayan (brown), Ethiopian (black), and American (red?). The Caucasus region includes India. Not many white people there. Where do the people of Europe fit in? Germans? Homer Simpson actually IS yellow unlike any of the people I've met from the "Mongolian" region. He's not Mongolian. I have a good buddy who has Down's Syndrome, which some folks used to call Mongoloid because they saw some resemblance to Mongolians. He's not yellow. I've never met a red American. Having said all this it embarrasses me to say that I've been forced to fill out forms, IMPORTANT forms, on which I have had to check "Caucasian" as my race.
So is a "racist" just a person winning an argument? I've been called racist a few times and in every case it was by a person who chose ignorance over facts about people from other cultures.
A Caucasian is a drink, a delicious drink, nothing more. A race is a sport. Any use of these terms otherwise is pure ignorance. But that's just... like... my opinion, man.

This was also brought on by my filling out of forms for my Canadian passport. In a nation that prides itself on multiculturalism, to still have any forms with questions about race is embarrassing. I think I remember quite a long time ago, while I was still in university, a big fuss about this on the Canadian census. I thought we wiped it out back then. Then I saw this vid:

55% of adults have degrees? The most educated country on earth? Third largest oil reserves, 20% of the world's fresh water IN ONE PROVINCE? Trees everywhere, mining everywhere, riches beyond any country, and yet, a population lower than Tokyo to divide those riches amongst! 18% of these degree holders are unemployed in Canada. And another percentage, including me, have to find work in other countries. Needless to say, I had a little bit to say about THIS post. It's quite possible that given these statistics, the high tax rates in Canada, and I'm sure others we are unaware of, we probably rank number one in another category: citizens most royally FUCKED by their country. I've used Norway as the best example. They just have the oil and not nearly so much. But everybody there has a job and a million dollar pension. Why? Because the riches of Norway were given to the people of Norway. The resources of Canada get sucked out of our country. Look at what Nestle did to the aforementioned water in Ontario! During a drought! With forest fires burning! So I don't know if I really should be that surprised at being asked my race. Canada discriminates against its own people! The only people who matter to government are their customers. Who are their customers? Why, lobbyists representing big business foreign and domestic. If you don't believe Canada is a corporation READ THIS closely. "Lobbyist" is a euphemism for a customer who is buying a government.

So we've come full circle. Since Canada is being run as a corporation by corporations and has been for some time now, since corporations are run by sociopaths who think they are WAY more wonderful than you and deserve WAAAAAAY more money and happiness, since discrimination is as prevalent in corporate sociopaths as pornography in psychopaths, I'm just wondering if the world doesn't need a healthy round of political and corporate big wigs tried and sentenced to the exact same thing Bundy got. There's a reason why the only video I posted was the Bundy one. Watch it! He would have made a hell of a politician, car salesman, C.E.O., lawyer, news reporter, or any other profession in which lying is central. When you watch Trump speak, does he seem more sane? When I watch Justin Trudeau speak about why Canada needs to continue building pipelines that suck even MORE of Canadians' legacy right out of Canada while destroying the beauty of the country that belongs to us, because I'm not a foolish girl watching a Disney Prince, I can see that he's full of shit. Just as full of shit as Bundy. And he probably gets off on knowing how badly average people are being screwed and that HE is the genius that can placate them and convince them to bend over and ask for more. AND SAY PLEASE! If you still don't see how wonderful he thinks he is, you haven't been paying attention. But what are the options? It looks like maybe Kevin O'Leary, basically Trump North, a fucking piece of dog shit might be J.T.'s replacement. You want to see him in action? WATCH THIS!

"Fuck water conservation, fuck the farmers, concentrate on the money!" When they ask why only 5 dollars and he answers that he's working with farmers, look at his face. "What a shmuck!" is exactly what he's thinking. You make it for 2 bucks, you gotta sell it for 12! THIS is the kind of thinking that is ruining the world and indirectly killing people. It gets people into positions of power and government, but it shouldn't. Then the WORST part is when this shithead who just said no to this guy, and probably wanted to call someone who could steal this idea immediately after the show, says, "Tell your father he's a great man!" "I want to kill millions of men just like him but tell him I love him." You want THAT soulless fuck even LIVING in our country spreading his disease?

Try them all and see if they're worthy of positions of power or the electric chair. It's just so crazy, it might work! I am sort of leaning toward NOT supporting capital punishment, but I believe that some crimes are of such magnitude that it is sometimes warranted. Politicians and captains of industry who are causing poverty, climate change, starvation, slavery, pollution and general misery worldwide affect more people than serial killers. Their crimes are far greater. So if we give Bundy the chair, we should fry Kevin O'Leary too?

Okay, it's a bit extreme. But we can at the very least do what Korea did. If we have these assholes who think they're untouchable once they've placed themselves in positions of power basically thumbing their noses at us and DARING us to do anything about their corruption, let's do it. I believe it's our duty. Problem is, where do you find a replacement? You use the same broken system for that. If we only understood what a billion dollars is, we'd all agree that NObody should have that much money. It is an affront to common decency for anyone to have more and if you can PROUDLY state that you have more than a billion, you are a mentally ill human being. There are, according to Forbes Magazine, 540 billionaires just in the U.S. They could solve all the problems of the world, let alone just their own country, with their pocket change! That is NOT an exaggeration! But, like Uncle Elty and his coke, they feel they need more and more and MORE. And this is Forbes Magazine. You NEVER get the ACTUAL number in Forbes, just the legal ones.

It's a sad world controlled by sick human beings. But to end on a note of positive negativity, I'm going to continue treating people like brothers and sisters instead of competitors and enemies the way our rulers want us to. And I hope love will someday conquer the world. Right now greed is winning. Greed and hate. Selfishness and lust for power. Killing and porn, politics and discrimination. Where is the love the love the love????

I don't agree with all of this and it's not all factual, but it's fairly close to how I feel.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

My New Place

Well folks, I took a video of the new place but am unable to upload it to this blog. I am positive I've uploaded vids before but now can't. I go online for help and get the idiot treatment. "You go to your blog, click on the icon that says upload a video. It's got a movie camera pic. Then you..." Wait a sec, there IS no icon on my blog for uploading movies. I'm sure I remember it being there at one point. Now it's just not. "Oh sure it is. You just aren't looking in the right place. It's right beside the picture icon to upload pics. See it? It's there." No it's NOT there.

I've sent messages to several blogger help places, left messages on chat boards, everything, but nobody else in the world seems to have this problem. I even seem to remember this problem going away for a short time and being happy that I could upload vids again. But now it's returned. But this is just the start of my technology problems. I am typing away here only because I have a VPN. For those who don't know, that's a way to give your computer a false IP address from another country. Because of China's REAL great wall, its FIREwall, I can't use any Google sites, Facebook or this blog without a VPN. So I pay 10 bucks a month for that service. You need to find a country and contact a server in it, then you will get a fake IP address and you're off to the races. Some countries never work at all, and some are usually good. I find Saudi, Azerbaijan, Finland, Norway, sometimes Australia, NZ or the U.S. to be good. But I'd been in the Beijing hostel for so long and the wifi there was such crap that I figured the VPN wasn't the problem. I just had a trickle of wifi so that's why most countries didn't work. And when the above countries DID work, the service would only last 30 seconds at a time before I'd be searching for another country. It was a real pain in the arse! One of many I had in Beijing.

But now I'm in Taiyuan. I bought my own high speed internet, got a powerful, brand new 450 megabyte router hooked up and now I'm blazing right along! Right? Well... no. I still go to facebook and watch the page load pixel by pixel. I can't stream. Downloads take forever. I try to watch sports highlights but 1 second of vid followed by 10-20 seconds of waiting for the next second of vid gets pretty hard to watch. I usually don't make it through the highlights. Same goes for vids people upload to facebook. The VPN doesn't time out every 30 seconds but usually I get the minimum mbps. A thin flat line across the bottom of the graph. I check my wifi and it says either "good" or "excellent" strength. There are almost always three full bars on the little wifi strength meter. Yet I try to play the one game I play, Simpsons Tapped Out, and it takes about 20 minutes to load. When I finally get going it's not long before I lose the connection and have to try to regain it again. I find things to do while I'm waiting. I'll turn on the hot water for a shower, turn on my Kindle and select the Simpsons game, then that'll give me time to have some breakfast while I wait. If the game hasn't turned on before I'm finished breakfast, I take my shower. Then hopefully after the shower I'll be able to play until I get booted. Who knows how long that'll be? Yes the days of good internet in Korea may have spoiled me, but I KNOW the shit internet I have here is not normal.

Here's the thing: it WAS better when I first got here. It was better when I first got to the hostel in Beijing too. It deteriorates. Almost like Big Chinese Brother is watching me and limiting my bandwidth.

But, at least it's usable. I'm getting stuff from my ESL websites again and I can keep in touch with folks on Facebook. Those are the main things. The new place is pretty good. It was a dusty, dirty mess when I moved into it but I saw potential. Yeah, ALL the places I looked at were dusty, dirty messes. That's how the landlords here sell them. And expect a year's rent up front! When you have a huge market, I guess you get away with crap like that. Not like the new flooring and wall paper you normally expect in Korean apartments. Although, if you'll go back several posts, the last two places I was at in Korea were dusty, dirty, (and moldy), messes. So I guess the landlords are keeping up with the hagwon owners and expecting more while giving less. The glory days are over. Here at least I have a better contract than I can get in Korea. But I'm starting to really worry about this apartment.

I have spent my first month here cleaning, scrubbing, demolding, dusting, washing, organizing and figuring things out in the apartment and it's feeling pretty comfortable. I'm in the smaller bedroom now because I don't have a mattress for the big bed in the big bedroom yet. But that's on order. I'm cooking meals every day here and that's a HUGE step up from the hostel where I ate mostly sandwiches. Wasn't allowed to cook there. I also didn't have a fridge. The one I have here also needed to be demolded and cleaned but it's working and I can now have a COLD glass of juice or water or, (THANK GOD), beer. Like everything in China, I have to settle. The beer is not very good here. In fact it sucks. The taste is fine but I don't want to get bloated on 10 beer before I feel a buzz, know what I'm saying? So I usually buy the German dark beers, which, even here, are expensive and STILL not the kind of beer I like. The food I am eating is much better than the sandwiches but again I have to settle a lot. The other day I had some Russian spaghetti noodles that were absolutely gross! How do you fuck up spaghetti, Russia? Yuptvoyu mat! And I ordered some cardboardy parmesan cheese online here. Again, very expensive. Bread is not the best and meat is a challenge. Some things are surprisingly scarce here like tea, normal tea, I have to hunt for. Soy sauce! They have a million kinds but I just want the regular soy sauce and still haven't found which brand that is. Cheese is a luxury and butter is not common. My kingdom for some basil! And I'll tell you what, the Chinese food ain't so hot here. It's nothing like the Chinese food I have grown to love in Canada. I used to wonder at my students in Korea when I asked if they liked Chinese food. They would often answer that it's too oily. Of course there are still those in Korea who think the Chinese eat three things, but I digress. I am actually on their side now. Chinese Chinese food IS too oily! If you get fried rice or chow mien, eat it ALL while it's hot. When it cools off you notice how disgustingly oily it is.

There was a little restaurant a few doors down from the hostel where Allan and I used to eat once in a while. Convenient. It was just a hole in a cement wall with plastic stools and I think 5 tables if that. VERY rustic. Well one time Allan and I were eating there and the security, I think it was the MPS, Ministry of Public Security, pulled a pick-up truck up to the doors and stormed in. One guy barked at the restaurant owner and cook while about half a dozen others started removing furniture and fixtures and throwing them into the back of the truck. We just kept eating. Awkwardly. The owner didn't seem too worried. He never said a thing to either of us on our many visits but this time he smiled and sort of communicated for us not to be worried. I guess he hadn't paid his "taxes," or whatever they're called. But he remained casual the whole time. UNTIL somebody grabbed his big wok and his giant can of oil. Then he put up some resistance. Without the oil the restaurant wasn't a restaurant.

I have found some things that are good. Milk, luckily, I have found but at a price. More than 3 bucks for a litre. I know that's normal price but this is China here. Most of the bread is cake but you can find some good bread if you look hard enough. I have farm fresh eggs, fruit and veggies just across the street from me. And the lady who runs the place seems like someone I'd like to talk to. Her hands are obviously those of a farmer. And you can't beat her prices. I can get everything I need for stirfries except the meat. And I can get the meat, bread and butter at another place close by. I have my staples, it's just a few things I will miss. But as I get more familiar with the local cuisine, I'll need the staples less. I found a place in Burnaby when I lived there where they made chicken chow mien that is making my mouth water just thinking of it now. Hopefully I'll find something like that here.

I found some Raisin Bran the other day. A tiny box was 5 bucks. With the expensive milk on it I feel like I'm dining at the Ritz! I went to the only pizza place I have found so far besides Pizza Hut, which is expensive and not good. I say not good because all the pizzas they have are abnormal, Asian types with stupid toppings like squid, mustard, spam and such. This place I went was called "Margrita's" so I reckoned I could get a Margherita pizza there at least. Then I saw the website, "maglita@..." and wondered. Sure enough there wasn't a normal pizza on the menu. I asked several of my students if they know what pepperoni is and they don't. So I selected a Brazilian Barbecue pizza because I thought it might be close to normal. It was crap. The crust was a soft cookie, the sauce was spicy ketchup and the toppings were unidentifiable. Except for the corn! There's gotta be corn! I think I'll just settle for an expensive Pizza Hut pizza next time.

But I'm sure I'll work that stuff out. The BIG problem I think I'm going to have is one I'm plagued with year after year over here AND at home: mosquitos. It's still winter here. Below zero at night. I opened a few windows yesterday, with fully intact, sealed screens on all of them, and tonight I killed 6 mosquitos. Two of them woke me up at 3:30 and were full of my blood when I smacked them. It's February THIRD!!! I shudder to think what will happen in the summer! So yeah, it's 5:30 now and I've been up for a couple hours. What did I do in that time? Why, I decided to try to get a VPN for my Kindle. As I said, I already have a VPN. So it should be easy to just get the ap for the Kindle, flash 'er up and get going. But again, this is China. I go to the VPN site and log in. That works! I'm all happy because I thought the site would be blocked or my password wouldn't work. I've had the usual username and password woes with my VPN provider. Always! Always. So there's an ap for androids. I click download to get it and we go to the Google ap store. Everything Google is blocked in China. So I'm at the usual impasse. I need a VPN to download a VPN. And the help website is also blocked. However, I've learned through much trial and tribulation, that there is online help for my VPN in the homepage on a chat box. I open the chat box and ask for a way around the Great Firewall of China. I am given a link. I click it and get a warning that this program could damage my Kindle. I ignore that and keep going. The download starts. Should be a cinch with my speedy internet. Nope. It says, "Unknown time remaining on download," then stops at about 21%. I retry and it stops at 50 or something. I try a couple more times and finally after half an hour I got it! YAY!

So I start it up. It's different than the VPN I use for my desktop. Same company just different looking. But I go to the usual countries. Azerbaijan - waiting for server reply, Saudi Arabia - waiting for server reply, Norway - waiting for server reply, you get the idea. It doesn't work yet. So I will have to chat with the chatbox some more. I just don't want to. Instead, I decided to write this blog post and whine about it.

So there. No movie of my new place, no pics because the good camera I have is on my phone and that's where I have all my good pics. Unfortunately but certainly not unexpectedly, the phone is a device not recognized by my computer so I can't put them on it and then upload them to this blog. IF I could get the VPN to work on my phone, I could upload them from there, but same problem as the Kindle. So you'll have to imagine the place. Oh, and why can't I just take pics with the Kindle? Oddly enough, the movies are fine, but the pics are terrible. This is the clearest pic I could get of some of my interior decorations.

So there you have it. My new place. Pretty nice, eh? I'm goin' back to bed.

P.S. So I DID go back to bed and slept well. No more mozzies. When I awoke, I lived a very interesting addendum to this post. I got onto my VPN again, which is PURE VPN by the way and it's costing me 10 US dollars a month, and I told the new guy in the chat box, Jade, how I couldn't get it to work. I told him I was from China. He then asks what messages I was getting when I tried to connect. One was "connecting to server" again and again every country I tried, and then when I changed to the "TPC" setting I got "connecting TPC... reconnecting TPC... reconnecting TPC" ad infinitum no matter which country I tried. So I explained this to him and Jade says, "TPC won't work in China." Okay so I ask if I need to use the other setting and he replies, "No that won't work in China either." So I ask why the other person, who knew I was in China, would send me the link to this useless ap. He asks if the other guy knew I was in China. I said yes. Then he wrote something that was beautiful. I tried to copy it all down but he closed the conversation box before I could finish. Here's the beginning,

"Well it does not work in China however in some cases it might work. Honestly you can try different modes and server but OpenVPN might not work for if that..."

I could tell before this that English wasn't this guy's native tongue. He got the job with passable English skills and probably very good computer skills. At the end of all these conversations they ask the client to rate how helpful they were. I assume this makes a difference to their wages. I probably would have given Jade a thumbs up because, while he WAS trying to do the corporate thing in the end to try to get my thumbs up and maybe defend his colleague and company, he did a poor job of it. My guess is that he's from a country that hasn't yet fully committed to the screw-everybody-but-me corporate culture that dominates the countries we proudly, however euphemistically call "developed." The other people were trying to keep me wasting my time banging my head against the wall trying to get this useless program to work long enough to receive a payment or two more. Which I'm sure they have been trained to do. He also said that if I am using Microsoft I may have some success by opening up the new "Hotspot" function and selecting "Stealth" mode. In stealth mode, which is a bit more complicated because you need to sign in as an administrator, there are only a few countries available to get the fake IP address. I tried them all and none worked. At the hostel AND here with my flashy new internet hook-up. So that's just another wild goose chase.

Bottom line: don't use Pure VPN. They're crooks. And the service was terrible long before this. Every time I try to pay them I need to use support and they have to reset my password to what it always has been and never explain to me how the hell it got changed. I'm done with them. Who needs them? So if anyone has a decent VPN to suggest, please do so. Thank you for your support.

Monday, February 6, 2017

America Should Call No Trump

Okay, I'm still not working, but have taken an extra week off, unpaid. So I think I will tackle a blogpost that I just haven't had the time to get into: the reason I think Donald Trump is in power and apart from his buddies, the FTW rich who made bazillions plunging the U.S. and the world into financial crisis, why I think it will be bad for everybody.

First of all, Bernie Sanders should be president of the U.S. Despite the fact that everything Sanders says is exactly what every poll, study and bit of common sense shows the American people are overwhelmingly in favour of, people continue to satisfy themselves into a flimsy, "it'll-be-okay," assumption that Trump won because people were tired of career politicians in the Whitehouse. They wanted a man of the people. Or some other silliness. Has anything like the inauguration "crowds" that were greatly outnumbered by the impressive worldwide women's marches; the endless internet trolling; the opposition to everything Trump says, does or tweets; made it seem like this bozo has EVER had enough support to win an election? And, not for the first time, the fact that the serving president didn't even really win the election is inexplicably being ignored, AGAIN, should give you some idea that things are not fully above board in the politics of the United States. Almost as though it were being run like, oh I don't know, a turn of the millennium investment bank or something.

Check this out. This is an article in which Bernie Sanders calls that right honourable hairpiece havin' cheese doodle a fraud. And he is. Undoubtedly. But he's a businessman. That isn't even an insult to him. He just said he'd protect the middle and lower classes as their president because he needed their votes. Trump's obvious response to Bernie's statement would almost certainly be the widely acceptable shrug and, "It's just business," that is ruining the world. The legislation Donald the Duke is moving to undo was enacted in response to the financial crisis of 2007/2008. The Act's intentions are to provide rigorous standards and supervision to protect the economy and American consumers, investors and businesses; end taxpayer-funded bailouts of financial institutions; provide for an advanced warning system on the stability of the economy; create new rules on executive compensation and corporate governance; and eliminate certain loopholes that led to the 2008 economic recession. So why is El Trumperino trying to get rid of it? Because his fellow businessmen, flunkies and friends, "just can't borrow money!" If you've ever seen, (and truly understood), the documentary, "Inside Job," you will know that the unavailability of funds for these criminal recidivists is a very, very, VERY good thing. If you haven't seen this MUST WATCH movie, here's a not-so-brief summary of the blatant, sociopathic disregard for the public out of uncontrollable lust for personal wealth that created the '07/'08 financial meltdown:

American laws being changed by highly lobbied and funded politicians to help the financial sector is not a new thing. Back in 1998 Citicorp and Travelers merged illegally to become "Citigroup." They broke the Glass-Stiegel Act, which was passed after ANOTHER recession in 1933, in order to prevent banks from engaging in risky investments with their customers' money. For a year, while legislation was being drafted, the federal reserve gave Citigroup and exemption until in 1999 the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was passed overturning Glass-Stiegel, re-establishing Citigroup's legitimacy and opening the door for ANY bank to invest consumers' money frivolously again, like they had in the good old days of the depression. It also cleared the way for some true creative genius in the financial sector. One example was the derivative. Derivatives were complicated and unregulated and by the late 1990's they had become a 50 trillion dollar market. And as soon as anything was done by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to regulate derivatives, they were quickly overruled by government and congress. Then, ANOTHER act was passed by highly lobbied and funded government. The Commodities Future Modernization Act of 2000 was passed to keep derivatives unregulated. You may wonder how they were able to sell this crap to the American public but your answer is in the name of this disastrous piece of legislation. You just weren't hip or modern if you believed in the old ways of business regulation. Ask a person from Iceland how hip THEY are. Or, a person, (evidently in the minority), from the U.S. who knows what actually happened to their country at this time. Unless it's hip to be an absolute sucker, the whole country was walking around naked thinking they were wearing the fashionable new clothes sold to them by a hellishly corrupt group of financial institutions in cahoots with the government of the time. In the best line from ANOTHER movie that should piss you off, "The Big Short," Steve Carrel's character remarks, "You have no idea the kind of crap people are pulling, and everyone's walking around like they're in a damn Enya video. They're all getting screwed, you know?"

So what exactly is a derivative. Well, like art or fashion, sometimes it needs to be complicated in order for supposed experts to be able to maintain the legitimacy of their narratives simply by saying, "Oh well, don't feel too badly if you don't understand. It's complicated. Just TRUST me." A derivative is something made by banks when they combine home loans and other debts like student loans, mortgages, car loans, investment debts, corporate loans, credit card debts, etc. and sell them to investment banks as collateralized debt obligations. You've heard of CDO's. You may have bought one of these harmless, little bonds trying to stretch the 1% interest your savings account offered to something a little more. Maybe even a little more than a government bond, which, as you were told by an investment banker's narrative, held about the same amount of risk. CDO's were popular derivatives sold to investors worldwide. They often contained sub-prime, or very high risk loans, but were always given a triple A rating. Why? Because, in this unregulated field, investment banks PAID the rating firms to GIVE the CDO's triple A ratings. But this is all too complicated to explain. Just trust me... Pretty nice little scam, eh?

With this money-making machine established, banks made more and more, and riskier and riskier loans. In fact, the sub-prime loans were preferred by banks because they had higher interest rates. Got a pulse? You got a loan! During this time derivatives went from a 60 to a 300 billion dollar a year industry and bankers got rich while investors and borrowers lost money and defaulted. There were a few agencies that could have regulated this disaster. The federal reserve, basically Allan Greenspan, could have, but he is ideologically opposed to regulation. The Security Exchange Commission, SEC, was systematically pared down to a staff of ONE by the well funded and lobbied government of the time. At its weakest point, (one worker), the SEC was easily convinced to relax the limits of leverage laws on banks so that they could borrow more and loan more. Leverage just means the amount of actual money compared to the amount of borrowed, or invisible, fantasy money a bank has to work with. Some banks leveraged up to 33 times their actual assets. In a situation like this, the bank only needs a small, (3%), cash payout to render it insolvent. The trend toward bigger and bigger banks being created, like Citigroup, through merger, meant that a lot of these banks were too big to become insolvent. Too big to fail. So insolvency meant bail-out.

But that just wasn't greedy enough. Before we get to the bail out, first, another advent to an already ticking time bomb, securitization. AIG was almost single-handedly the culprit here. A credit default swap is basically insurance on an investment like a CDO. But unlike regular insurance, investors can also take out insurance on YOUR CDO. These too were kept unregulated by highly funded and lobbied government, so 50 people could have credit default swaps on YOUR CDO. If your CDO goes bad or defaults, you get some money from AIG, and 49 strangers, who were cheering for hardships to befall all the borrowers that made up your CDO, collect money from AIG as well. This just made every CDO 50 times worse for the financial market because, again unregulated due to government owned by the financial sector, the CDS providers were not forced to put away enough money to offset the obvious future disaster. Instead, workers at AIG bought private jets, coke, hookers and beach houses while money rolled in from people buying credit default swaps. So did CDO salesmen. No doubt they put lots away for themselves in tax shelters too so we still don't know how rich they got during the CDO/CDS heyday. It got so bad, and this is where I almost punched my TV screen watching the despicable greed on the faces of the lying perpetrators, that financial institutions were buying CDS's against their OWN CDO's, telling the CDO buyers about how safe their investments were, paying Moody's to give them triple A ratings to support this crap, while trying to make them Unsafe and DEPENDING on them defaulting so they could collect on the CDS's against them. Think of all the people who lost savings and retirement funds. These were mostly low or middle class people. The ones who ALWAYS pay for the greed of the rich.

Think I'm wrong? What happened? You know what happened. Loans got foreclosed on by the thousands, CDO's failed, and SOME of the CDS buyers, (in all likelihood the bank owned CDS paid out first), made money until there was no money left. Banks and investment banks were all leveraged to the hilt so CDO and CDS buyers just lost all the money invested in them. They would have been better off at the 1% interest in their savings accounts. This was a massive national Ponzi scheme. The money the CDO and CDS buyers invested against, succeed or fail, just wasn't there! NObody had planned for this!

So, the American tax payers, and I don't think I need to point out that, as near as makes no difference, this doesn't include the rich, OR Trumplestiltsken.

They get hit up by congress for a 700 billion dollar loan. And then congress bought credit default swaps on that loan. Probably. That's what happened in 2008. The architects of the whole financial crash, the CEO's, board members, executives of the banks and investment companies, ALL got nice raises and/or severance packages FROM the 700 billion! There was a time when the banks were all declaring bankruptcy and the entire financial sector was feeling vulnerable when some of them spoke out and said, fucking unbelievably, "We should have been better regulated. We're sorry, and it won't happen again, but, geez it's not all our fault." But then they got the 700 billion and the heyday staggered on.

Since then there was Obama, a guy who said he was going to bring regulation back, but couldn't because Wall Street was already running the country. You probably remember as well as I do how fast his "Yes we can" face became "Shit! I guess we can't." Larry Summers was his chief economic advisor for crying out loud! This is a guy in the middle of EVERY big bank and bad investment firm that purposely caused the crash for their own Wolf of Wall Street lifestyles. How often do you think THEY agreed?

The idea of regulation has been demonized in educational institutions and private firms all over America. And probably elsewhere. Guys LIKE Larry Summers are going into major educational institutions and giving "Wolf of Wall Street," and "Wall Street" speeches talking about how greed is good and if we don't make these obscene amounts of money, someone else will, and my favourite, "Hey, it's just business!" Conflict of interest has been eliminated. The lobbying, funding and campaign contributions continue, and Trump's appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, will see that it continues since he's well known for encouraging money in politics. Just about every appointee to every post is a gozillionaire fox in the henhouse so the world control budget money has been well spent on the deregulation of the country, or really the corporation, of the United States. And their best purchase so far has been the fake election of Donald Trump. After all the crap we KNOW these monsters did, and plenty we can be sure we still don't know, you are a moron to believe the financial appointment of Trump into the Whitehouse is just conspiracy theory. This could very well have happened, folks. I, for one, believe it did.

The last crisis affected a lot of countries. Not just America. If history repeats itself, with a tighter global economy, the next purposely created recession could be a veritable global depression. But the guys at the top, including Donald Scumbag Trump, don't give a crap. They just want lots and lots of money. He doesn't look like a great reformer, does he?

There have been bright spots. The E.U. has really shifted back toward regulation. Some signs have been shown that emerging global economies are trying to use their own currencies instead of American dollars to limit the influence of America on the global economy. And in education, which is sadly already WELL on its way toward privatization around this messed up world, THIS is happening in the U.S. Say no to Betsy! But this is what worries me about this guy. Yes, he hates women and Muslims, and there are other big issues that are disracting from what I believe to be the truly scary thing about Trump: what he's going to do to the world financially. Will he and the considerable forces of evil behind him succeed? We shall see...

Friday, February 3, 2017

Negative positivity

Just an update: The C1K1 virus has mutated into something different. I went through a stage of sniffling, sneezing and such, but that was followed by a solid three days of non-stop coughing. My coughing muscles still hadn't completely recovered from the C1K0 strain I had in Korea. You know how it feels when you go back to the gym two or three days after a workout and your muscles are still sore but you know you just have to get through the first few sets and you'll be okay? Well, the old man's equivalent to that is getting through the first few coughing spells to warm up the ab and chest and back muscles I use to cough. Yeah! I was surprised too! BACK muscles! I shit thee not! Now the snot and the phlegm, (a word I like almost as much as lozenge, probably because of its spelling), are WAAAAY the crap back in the head and down in the chest so it takes a(n) Herculean effort to blow or snort it out and/or cough it up respectively. I'm taking that as a good sign. A sign of recovery. So let's see... my vacation started on the 4th of January. It's almost the 4th of February. I've had TWO - count 'em - TWO days of good health during this period. And I'm going to say 6 days of good health in 2017 so far. So here we are again. Glass half empty or half full? I had a whole month off! Half full! And I went ice fishing, tubing, skiing, saw some great friends, and did not work! Half full, half full, half full! I went to Korea and experienced stress-free internet, breathable air, orderly traffic, good, hot food! This is all good. But Life just never rolls me ANYthing without some little, niggling element of it to criticize. Again, glass half full, considering the fun stories I get to record here. But, dog gone it, I'd sure like to have been healthy during my vacation!

Sorry for the graphic health details. You are probably feeling like I was earlier today. I got an update and wish now I hadn't. I feel like that often when it comes to technology. Updates are downdates and upgrades are downgrades. For the past, oh I'd say 5 years, exactly NOTHING I've updated or upgraded on my computer, phone, Kindle or any electronic device has made it better with the one exception of the Simpsons Tapped Out. Updates lead to fun, new games within the game to play. Updates to my computer invariably make it slower and harder to use. Updates to any program on my computer seem to be the same. They often come with increased "protection," which means more dreaded passwords to remember. And because the password additions are new, they don't work. And security doesn't keep malicious hackers out of my computer, it keeps ME out. Oh maybe there are good things that I don't see, (glass half full), but the visible things to me are nothing but pains in my arse!

Here's what I'm talking about: I got back to China wondering if my VPN would still be working. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was. Both schools I had been in contact with were using my gmail account to communicate with me and, of course, the G in Gmail is for Google. All things Google are blocked by the Great Firewall of China. But I managed to find a country that worked on my VPN and access my Google mail for 30 seconds at a time to do the business I needed to do. Then two days ago that came to an end. The internet here at my 1200 dollar a month hostel room was pretty good when I first started living here but it has deteriorated regularly until now, when I have it, it's like 1970's internet speed. And most of the time I don't have it. For example when I write these blog entries, I have a pink error banner across the top of my screen telling me an error occurred while trying to save my post. I KNOW that. It's because the frigging VPN won't keep me on the REAL internet for more than a minute at a time. I don't want to spend my time bouncing from country to country getting foreign IP addresses for a minute each while typing this thing, so I just type and type and type without saving and hope I can find a country on my VPN when I'm finished that will hook me up and save the whole thing. I'm in danger of losing the whole post, I know, but it beats messing with the VPN every 30 seconds.

Now, to be fair, it's not the VPN's fault. It's the weak trickle of wifi I have at this expensive hostel. Most of the time it's too crappy a stream to even register on the VPN. I've seen it many times where the VPN says it was unable to establish an internet connection and meanwhile the wifi says I'm connected. Then sometimes, (rarely), I'll be torqueing away with a beautiful stream and a good VPN IP address and suddenly, BLAM, no internet at all! So I have to re-establish my wifi connection, then find a VPN connection... you can see how this would eat up the time.

So anyway, the VPN was shut down because I was overdue paying my bill. I hadn't read my notice because it was in my Hotmail, (outlook), account, which I don't use so long as my gmail account is working. Gmail goes down and I look at outlook and lo and behold, "You haven't paid your bill." So I try. I can't access any of the pages to pay without proper internet. That is, all of the payment pages and help pages at my VPN provider are blocked by the Chinese internet police. So I can't pay for my VPN without my VPN. I do, however, know a pretty good help email I used before so I try to go into my outlook email and send my VPN provider a message letting them know I want to pay but can't. Of course Windows won't allow THAT to happen. They automatically log me into Outlook or Hotmail using my Windows email and password, which is the gmail email. THIS was undoubtedly an attribute obtained on some previous "upgrade" or "update." So I have to log out. This, I know for a FACT, is a feature that was efficiently hidden and forced onto all outlook users via a downdate. They hid the log out feature in the last place you'd look. But I found it and logged out. Then logged in manually to my Outlook account using my Outlook email. I checked the box that says, "remember me" and hoped that next log in I wouldn't have to go through this, but, OF COURSE, it doesn't remember me and I have to log out and log back in every single time I use it on my computer. I can't log into my Outlook account using my Outlook email! THESE are the kinds of "improvements" you get through keeping your system "up to date."

Anyway, I email the VPN help people explaining that I'd very much like to pay my 10 bucks and get the service, (for half a minute at a time), for another month. Then I go about my other business, which was coughing, sneezing, suffering, and maybe doing laundry. I check my email again by logging out, then logging back in and there's a reply. They tell me they will give me two days of service in which to pay. I reply with a thank you. I go into the VPN and try to pay. STILL I can't pay because, can you guess? can you guess?, the fucking username and password doesn't work. I remember NOW that THIS is the reason why I have this help email. Because the username and password didn't work for any of the three months I've had this VPN even though I've never changed it. So I log in, log out, log back in again and send another email telling them my passwords don't work. Then wait. I go about some other business. I think it was taking a nap. I wake up and log in, log out, log back in again and there's a reply. "What email and password are you using?" So I reply and tell them. Then wait and go about some other business. Lunch. Maybe watch a movie or something. Then I log in, log out, log back in and they have reset my password, (without telling me why it had changed without my permission, and does so EVERY month), to what it was before and always has been, and I finally am able to access their pay site. I pay and am sent to a screen that doesn't verify in any way that they have received payment, it just forces me to "upgrade" my service so that I won't "miss out" on the valuable new features of the new and improved blah blah fucking blah. I don't know what I was thinking. I should have just escaped or shut down my computer or whatever and tried to get onto my VPN without "upgrading," but heaved a large sigh, accepted what I knew would be the ruination of the already mediocre service I pay 10 bucks a month for.

So, NOW I have this new feature called "Stealth" mode in which I am the administrator of my own IP address. It requires a lot of extra clicking and organization, and extra permission to be more intrusive on my computer, but with the crap stream I have it does no better than before. In fact worse. I get on and it lasts 15 seconds and then I get the message, "You are no longer connected." The feature of graphing the signal strength second by second is now gone. That was a good feature. It's gone. I want to know the average signal strengths of the countries I choose with my VPN! Now all I know is if I'm connected or if I'm not. Oh, I guess I can tell by the pixel by pixel building of the pages. I was on I think France or something and I tried to access Facebook. I can't use Facebook in China without a VPN. The page took over 5 minutes to build enough so that I could comment on a friend's post. And when I finally gave up it STILL hadn't fully finished. It was like this EVERYWHERE for most of the day here. Again, it's not the fault of the VPN. It's the crappy internet stream. HOWEVER, with the new and improved "UPGRADED" and "UPDATED" VPN, and the exact same wifi stream, there is no doubt at all, my internet is worse.

SO, the friend of mine, Allen, who just got back to China yesterday and messaged me on Facebook wanting to go for a beer tonight, said he'd message me, (on Facebook), in late afternoon. He did and I was still battling the internet here until almost 9 PM. I messaged him and it was too late. So we will go out tomorrow. This is the kind of stuff that happens all the time here. It's not that big a deal but like I said before, so far China, or at least Beijing, has been for me a great big compromise. It's the land of lowered expectations. I HAVE TO expect stuff like this to happen because it ALWAYS does. So you CAN'T be a positive person or you will get you ass handed to you! You need to be a glass half empty kind of person. I'm not too upset at missing my drinking session with Allen. I know that this sort of thing is to be expected here. If we HAD hooked up, it would have been a nice surprise. That we haven't is no great disappointment. That's only because I expect the worst here and I get it.

I have only scratched the surface of the hardships China has presented me with, but already you might be saying to yourselves, "Why don't you get out of there?" or "WHY are you going to sign up for another year?" So, my sagacious readers, judge for me whether this is glass half full or glass half empty: I do not hate living here because it suits my negativity. I expect the worst and I am almost never disappointed. When I don't get what I expect, it's always a nice surprise. When I DO get what I expect, it is never a bad blog post. When I am able to access that is...

Is it any coincidence whatsoever that Buddhism and, my favourite, Taoism are associated with China? I think not. When it was said that life is suffering and enlightenment is to discover tactics to derive joy from the suffering, is there any doubt that the mindset I have described was used? Granted, Sidhartha Gautayama or whatever, never had to suffer the slings and arrows of the internet, wifi, or the Great Firewall of China, but I'd bet he was a glass half empty sort of dude who everybody mistook for a glass half full dude. I'm probably the opposite. I am constantly catching myself being far too trusting and insanely naïvely positive about people and yet the negativity is what people see. A lot of people who just meet me, don't like me because they don't want that kind of negativity harshing their mellow. Their "mellow" being the head-in-the-sand escapism employed by many as a defence mechanism against this squalid world. But those who give me a chance will see. I guess I have become a grumpy old man who is an acquired taste. I can't say that has hurt my profession any. In fact it may have made it easier. My students probably don't like me as quickly as they used to, but I win them over.

I am almost over my flu/cold and am enjoying my 4th tallboy here, banging away at another blog post. I can't say there are a million things I'd rather be doing right now. I have to cautiously say that I am happy from time to time here. I will probably go out with Allen tomorrow night and we'll exchange stories about our holidays over a meal and some beers. It'll be a fun night I'm certain. Allen is also a guy who I can engage with fairly safely on a level of erudite philosophy and unchecked speculation without fear of requisite knee-jerk conversation checks that society has poisoned our brains with. So long as we don't get TOO drunk. lol

So here's the sitch: Monday is supposed to be the first day back for us. Allen is going back. We've all been given the option of taking another week off, (without pay), because there won't be much work done, (we've been told), during this week. Allen's working but I am going to take the week off as I'm sure others will. I need it off to go to the sample lesson and possibly, (hopefully), the contract signing at the other school. The thing is, with the holiday STILL lingering on, (I'm talking fireworks EVERY night for hours and hours and hours!), it's going to be tough to find a train, bus or whatever back from where I'm going. Anything out of Beijing will be fine but coming back is going to be tough. So my hope is to get a contract after a massively successful sample class, sign the thing, start the visa process, find a suitable apartment, pay for it and return to Beijing only to move the next week. Not to go back to work at the present workplace. Oh they'll wonder where I am and they'll probably have to do some improvising and some emergency interviewing and hiring, but that's what I'm hoping for. They've done worse than that to every one of the teachers working for them. Including me.

But this will require some confluence of events the positivity of which I just would be an absolute blockhead to hope for! I will need to be able to negotiate a proper Z work visa with a passport with less than a year remaining on it. A rep from my future school tells me that's possible. Or at least it was three years ago. Mmmmmmmm.... Then I'll need to be able to negotiate said Z visa in Hong Kong, not in my native country of Canada. Again, the rep assures me that this is possible although I've heard from other sources that it's mandatory to return to your home country to get a proper work visa here. Well, maybe all of the sources have been from less reputable schools than this one... but... and I have also heard that almost anything can still be expedited with a little monetary grease in the gears of business. Also, I will need to renew my passport, which, as stated, has less than a year remaining on it. Why would I be able to sign a year long contract without a year on my passport? And, as yet, I still have not established all the details of the work situation I'll be getting myself into if I DO manage to slide through all of these pitfalls. So I'm still going to have to keep a Taoist negativity about me and maintain a silent hope for this new job to turn into an unexpectedly positive surprise, but if that happens, I'll be sure to blog about it. With any luck I'll do so from my OWN apartment, with my OWN fridge, my OWN stove, my OWN internet connection and the VPN's in this country will still work even though there's news that they'll be cracked down upon. And maybe even more importantly, I'll be LEGALLY employed once again! Right now THAT seems a relief too much to hope for.

So as you can see, I'm up against it. It's pretty unlikely that ALL of these things are going to work out for the best for me. But I'll remain in my defensive stance knowing that if they do, that's wonderful! If they don't, I'll have some really juicy blogging to do, but I will have expected it.

I think I've figured life out!

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Kampf cont'd

So I'm back in China again. Got here just before the Lunar New Year festivities got really rolling. I was in the final stages of the three-week bout with the flu I picked up in China and brought to Korea. I'll call it the C1K0 flu because that's what the score was at that time. Well, guess what! The score is even. I think I brought a cold back from Korea. This I will call the C1K1 strain of holiday thwarting influenza. I'm just a germ packing mule between China and Korea. This C1K1 isn't as bad though. It's so far just extreme stuffiness. C1K0 might have been the worst cold or flu I've ever had.

But I'm gonna try not to let this new ailment spoil my plans. I got back to this:

That's Jishuitan, the subway station I have to fight my way through twice a day. The place is normally packed! Now it's like a ghost town.

Here's a street in Dongjimen that is usually jam packed with cars, buses, bikes, and all sorts of vehicles. Empty! It's like Seoul during Chuseok here! And that was the plan. I kinda want to see some of the sites in Beijing, but don't want the annoyance of sharing them with five billion other people. It wouldn't seem like a holiday that way. So now I have a chance to go to the wall, the secret palace, the zoo and maybe a temple or two IN PEACE. The only noise will be my sneezing and nose blowing. But I'll take it. It's better than the crowds.

And there you have it. China: the land of lowered expectations. When I can see to the end of the block, have a warm meal that isn't toast, when I get wifi for more than 30 seconds at a time, I don't hate living here so much. When I'm not fighting a cold, my room doesn't smell like sewage, when I'm able to have a glass of cold water - pure luxury. Some days I'd just settle for meeting someone who doesn't just see me as an easy mark. But I've only been in Beijing. It's a business and government city. Two hideous things that could ruin ANY city. I'm hopeful that a change of workplace will eventuate in a change of heart for me. But that's me: always the hopester. I'm writing this all offline because NONE of the countries on the old VPN are working. I am hoping that a bit later in the day after typing some more I will be able to find one country on the VPN that works so I can get a few seconds of internet and update this blog post. Otherwise, it's all going to be wasted effort. A bit of a microcosm I got goin' here...

I keep thinking someday I will find a school somewhere that will benefit from my years and years of experience and hard work and won't be run by a pack of leeching, soulless vipers to whom I am nothing more than a commodity. If I ever actually DO discover that Snuffleupagus, it'll be a Pyrrhic victory at best. You've heard the saying, "Those who can, do, and those who can't, teach." This no longer applies to our brave, new world. The more accurate axiom would be, "Those who can, have to teach and those who can't, buy schools." I've been looking at jobs in Korea. The pattern for them continues as it has since I started there: it just gets harder and harder to apply. I spend a long time putting together application packages for every job, but the good ones, you can spend a day or two. Maybe even longer. I applied for a job at a university there that would have been comparable to several of the jobs I had in the past in Korea. Here's what they wanted: ALL the usual stuff including resume, cover letter, (which includes date of birth), and a full body picture taken within the last six months, because, hey, it's Korea! You can't possibly do a job unless you look like you can do the job. And teachers need to be young and attractive or students won't respect them. This is why K-pop stars and actors have vastly more influence than anyone else. One of the knocks on the recently impeached president of Korea was that she was either getting plastic surgery or getting her hair done when the Seweol ferry tragically sunk. This, you can be sure, lead to loads of disapproval from the Korean electorate, but you can be double sure that if her hair wasn't so sensational, it would have lead to more.

Of course after you have submitted all the information that is relevant to the position applied for, they make you go to their website and download a VERY detailed application upon which you repeat the relevant information and also have to submit a lot of irrelevant material as well. Your entire work history, sometimes your resident history, your teaching philosophy, your Christian testimony, (oh yes, and this is MORE, not less common!), a self-introduction and, believe it or not, a sample curriculum. An entire curriculum! You may not get the job, but, hey, at least a couple of your better lesson plans and teaching ideas will be part of the curriculum. So you can find some solace in that...

Then there are still the standard time wasters like medical checks, criminal record checks, possible interviews and sample lessons you have to travel to the school, (usually at your expense), to deliver... I know you might think medical checks and criminal record checks are more than just time wasters but we have to get them every year even when we have spent the previous year in Korea so could not possibly have committed a crime in our own country, and even when we have worked an entire year with no sick days taken since the last medical check-up. They are just Trumpy protection against the STD spreading criminals a lot of Koreans, (this too is on the rise not the decline), think foreigners are.

Another popular time, and money, waster is the old stamped degree. If, like most teachers in Korea, you've had your degree verified once, it doesn't ever need to be verified again. I got this straight from Immigration. Why do they make us do it again and again? I just told you! Time wasting. And the sealed transcripts from the teachers' university. This, thankfully is on the decline, but still requested sometimes.

There are other old standby's like the letter of referral and the names, numbers and emails of three people who you have known for x number of years. And of course the necessary documentation like passport, degrees and certificates, visa status, alien card etc. But even with all this crap, that could easily keep you busy for days trying to get a job at a place you KNOW will rip you off, take advantage of you, treat you with disrespect and maybe even ask you to participate in the academic fraud they are undoubtedly purveying, the Korean ESL industry put their heads together and asked, "What NEW and even more diabolical ploy can we add to the application process to thin the herd here?" And somebody came up with the certificate of employment. These are now required by most employers as proof that you did indeed work at the schools you have listed on your resume. And, of course, there are no schools in Korea who gave these out until this new fad started, so if, like me, you worked in Korea more than a few years ago, you have to go to the school you left, probably on bad terms because they ripped you off or demanded you commit academic fraud or broke the contract in many ways, and ask them nicely if they could give you one of these certificates of employment. And they probably won't because they are petty like that. I worked at a couple of places that promised at contract time to allow me to teach kid's camps during semester breaks. When I refused to sign fraudulent grades that gave, (actual example), 70% to students who never attended a single class, they said to me, "Well then we won't allow you to teach at the children's camps."

Basically none of this matters anyway because if you go all the way back to the top and look at the picture and the date of birth, those two things are most important. There is a persistent belief in Korea that a person can be read by their appearance, particularly their face. Which is why EH-VEH-REH body gets plastic surgery in Korea. You know that saying about poor people doing crazy things and rich people doing the same things but then they are eccentric? Well since Korea has become a very rich country, all the crazy shit they do is now covered by the blanket term, "enduring traditional practice." At any rate, I can't pass the most important age and appearance tests any more in Korea.

So I'm in China. Where I'm seeing almost all of the old tactics Korean ESL businesses employed before they got REALLY good at scamming their teachers. I was stopped on the streets of Itaewon during my vacation by a guy doing an internet broadcast about ESL. He was interested that I had taught in Korea and China. He asked me what the basic differences were. I have seen things like this in which people are asked what they think about Korea and they always cave and do the well-behaved visitor thing and try their best to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. I hate that kind of head-in-the-sand self-delusion! And I have often exclaimed while watching one of these weaklings, "Come on! Be honest! Say something like, 'I am surprised to see how well Koreans can use forks!' Or, 'Just greet the person in Korean and laugh hysterically at any Korean response.'" But there I was, admittedly worn right out with the flu, but I was just too tired to get into the realities of the ESL industry so I just said something like China is about 10 years behind Korea. I even said it in a nicer way like, "I am seeing a lot of the things in the Chinese ESL industry that I witnessed 10 years ago in Korea. But China's demand for ESL is huge and they will quickly develop." ... into the highly efficient scam artists that control the industry here in Korea... is what I should have said. Oh well, off camera he asked about the pollution and I was honest about THAT.

The job I have now, we were brought over on business visas for full time jobs. Passe in Korea but still a good scam in Indonesia. It allows the employer to take full advantage of the employee's vulnerable legal status and pile on the work, rules and micromanagement. What can the worker do? He or she broke the law just by coming over. If the employer breaks the contract, or the law, it's just, "Hello, Kettle? This is Pot. Come in, Kettle!" Then there's the old testing scam. You test the students at the beginning of the term and give a brutally hard test. Then at the end of the term you give a ridiculously easy test and at least SOME of the credit for the apparent improvement is enjoyed by the school. They share the remarkable results with prospective saps, uh - I mean customers and the scam goes on. The school where I work now just created the bell curve of all bell curves so that if you get half the questions right, in some cases fewer than half, well that's just 100%. We were giving out 100% scores to kids who had trouble writing their names on their tests.

I recently applied for a job up in Harbin. It was an ad online that didn't include much information. Usually they tell you things like vacation time, class size, schedule, but these things were conspicuously absent. This is a sure sign that the worker is not going to like the information when, or if, he/she gets it. But I sent an application anyway just to see. It took quite a long time before I got a reply. It was, "We are interested in your application. When do you finish your current job?" The one good thing about being hired illegally is you don't need to worry about giving notice or breaking the contract. The contract is toilet paper. I told the guy, nicknamed Steven, that I am available for their February start date. I told him I'd get in touch when I got back to China. Which I did. I sent him a message telling him I was available the next day. He said, "Okay let's WeChat tonight at 10 PM." Another aged tactic. Don't let the worker think he/she is calling the shots. Make things inconvenient for him/her to show them who's boss. I agreed to the WeChat phone call. Well, of course we didn't have a good wifi connection so we struggled with that, but it was nothing compared to my struggle trying to get simple information out of this artful dodger. He got all the info he wanted from me and I managed to get some from him but he eventually just passed the buck to another worker and told me I could get all the information I needed from her. What I DID find out from Steven was that the salary would be about 1300 bucks a month. The lowest I have ever worked for has been 1700 and that was for 12 hour weeks and 5 months vacation. I asked about vacation and even though this was a university and I would be teaching full credit courses, (or at least that's what Steven told me), I would only get "about 3 weeks" vacation. He also said that it changes all the time. How, when the semester breaks are in excess of two months, pray tell, Steven, will I be teaching full credit courses the whole time? No, they have summer and winter camps. I wouldn't doubt they are KID'S camps either. Then he reluctantly answered another important question: class size. He said it would be about 70 but then quickly added that with my experience, teaching would be easy. I said, "Sure, but marking tests, homework and assignments certainly won't be easy with 70 students. Hell, remembering their names won't even be easy." And I didn't say that most of my preferred lessons are group interaction lessons and those are much harder to do in large classes. Even though Harbin is nice and cold, has a big yearly ice festival and is better than Beijing, I was all but ready to give up on this job. But I agreed to talk to another person about things like schedule, visa, accommodation, texts and other things Steven hadn't told me.

Almost immediately I get a WeChat friend request. It's in Chinese so I don't know who it is. She sends me a few messages saying that she would like to set up a Skype interview for the next day. I told her I just want answers to a few questions about missing details in the offer and ask if she could please email me. "When will you be available for a Skype interview. I prefer this because it is more direct." Here's what I did: NOTHING. I just put the phone down and didn't answer. She didn't send me any follow-up messages either. I guess they got the message. But even in China, the employer holds all the cards. They'll find some other schmuck, no doubt, who isn't quite as familiar with the tricks of the trade and who will sign up for the worst year of his/her teaching career.

HOWEVER... That's a big however. I have an offer from what all preliminary indications have shown to be a decent place of employment with some decent people working there. I have kind of been on hold here with the cold and the Spring Festival national shut down here, but I'm going to get busy looking into this opportunity as soon as I can. I don't want to jinx it so I'll wait till it's more solid to blog about it. But it might not be too long before I have an actual apartment, an actual work visa and an actual contract again. I have to renew my actual passport first. I have less than 10 months left on the one I have. But the embassy has been closed. And here's one for ya: You can't pay for a passport in cash any more. The government of Canada, no doubt under Harp-ass, has made it MANDATORY for every citizen who wants to be a proper citizen and/or maybe travel to another country, to have a credit card. SO I'm not Canadian if I don't sell my soul to the evil money changers at Visa or MasterCard. These are people even Jesus couldn't stand! They have to be our friends or we don't get a passport.

Okay, there are ways around this, but I am outraged. What possible reason could there be for not accepting cash for a passport? I don't know yet, but I may have to go back to Canada to get my proper work visa for this job. A Z visa it's called. And I have a few things I could do more conveniently in Canada like get some new cards to replace worn out ones. But smooth talking, easy on the eyes prime minister notwithstanding, I don't know if I want to go back to Canada. Anyways, I will have to send money home to Canada, and the banks are all closed, so that I will have enough in my account to cover the new passport purchase. Then I will have to hope that my debit card, that can sometimes act as a credit card, will be good enough for Passport Canada. Otherwise this'll be just another in a long list of fucking asinine manoeuvres necessary for me to continue my highly rewarding and lucrative career as an ESL teacher.

To be fair, I chose this career because teaching, planning lessons, even correcting writing and marking tests, involves little to no stress for me. I have always said it's the management and the political bullshit that are the cause of all my stress in this gig. It has gotten to the point where I'm at my stress threshold. If this job doesn't work out, I could see myself throwing up my hands and saying, "Fuck it," for like the fifth time, and giving up once again on ESL. Unfortunately, none of the alternatives have been better. So I guess it's crossroads time for me. I'm sure you are as anxious to read how it turns out as I am to type how it turns out.

Keep your blog dial tuned right here to find out.