Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A pthalate and a dollar short

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time will tell....

Friday, July 14, 2017

BBQ's and Bureaucracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Kia Tigers of 2017

I guess when you blog as long as I have, or maybe it's just when you have lived for as long as I have in Korea, or argued for as long as I have with others living in Korea, or maybe what I'm trying to say is, when you have been associated as closely with Korea for as long as I have, you tend to go over a few of the same topics again and again. And since I blog, you will see those topics in these pages. Again and again. One of those topics that I am particularly happy to share at this time is Korean baseball. The KBO. The Korean Baseball Organization. For my money, the best baseball in the world. Oh it's not the best baseball in the world. MLB is the best baseball in the world. But for my money, (I've never seen a major league game or bought baseball cards. A couple Blue Jay hats on sale at the Biway is the extent of my investment in MLB), the KBO is the best. I went to about half of the Kia Tigers' home games one season when I was in Korea. I was frequently on TV while at the ball games; I got to know the cheerleading MC pretty well, (even did a story on him for the Gwangju News), so participated in throwing, arm wrestling and beer chugging contests between innings; I bought a few shirts and several hats; and I would say I've been to close to a hundred games; went out for soju with the cheerleaders and some of the players one time and lost my baseball glove; went out with the coaches for sam gyup sal, (and soju), another time and was given a special patch that only superfans can get, sewed it onto my Tiger shirt, which I lost; was just down the street from the stadium when Na Ji Won hit the Korean Series clinching homerun in 2009 jumping up and down in my dorm room with my buddy Guns while we could hear the ROAR from the stadium. Before you ask, I wasn't there because I didn't want to be. The crowds were just not worth it even for a patch-carrying superfan like me. I don't regret not being there.

However, this year the Kia Tigers are some kind of phenomenal ball club! The best they've ever been EASILY! Well, since I've been watching anyway. They had a dynasty in the 80's and 90's as the Haitai Tigers winning four seasons in a row and 5 years out of six at one point. Between 1983 and 1997 they won the Korean Series 9 of 15 times. Those were some good times to be a Tiger fan I'm told. And I bet the old time Tiger fans in Gwangju are reminded of those days when they go to the ball park this summer. It's not the same ball park. Moodeung Stadium has been replaced by Champion's Field, which I don't like as much. It's got flimsy, plastic seats that are restrictive in all directions to a person of normal size, much worse a person MY size. But I'll tell you something I WILL regret as a Tiger fan: if I don't get to put my arse in one of those restrictive seats and watch this loaded team play at least one game this season, I will turn in my patch! And time is running out.

I go into the entry/exit office today, (hopefully), to apply for resident permission, and will have to surrender my passport for 2-3 weeks. I've been told that I will have no work for July and August so I have the time to visit Korea and see a game or ten. But I am grounded here in Taiyuan. I can't even travel to Beijing without my passport. But I'm going to wheel and deal with some of my camp contacts in Korea and maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to swing a deal in which I can do a camp there and use the extra money I make to finance a bit of a baseball road trip. That's my plan for now. As for the team, let me introduce you to this year's version of the Kia Tigers. At this moment they are .667 and first place in the KBO. That's right, they're winning two of every three games they play. Unheard of! And they're not just winning, they're CLOBBERING the competition! They recently went on a string of eight games in a row when they scored 10 or more runs. That goes back to June. Before the streak they got swept by the NC Dinos, who they are currently leading 2 games to zip in the revenge series. Tonight Yang Hyun Jong pitches, so it looks good for a Tiger sweep.

Okay, things are gonna get a bit statistical here so if you don't like that kind of thing, just skip ahead to where the numbers stop. I'll give you the scores from the last 17 games the Tigers have played. You're not going to believe this. And I am going to focus on one particular player on the supersquad: Na Ji Won. Yeah, the hero of the seventh game in '09. He's still with the club and right now NObody is hitting more homers! Yet, he's only a semi-regular. That's how good this team is! Okay here we go:

This is a pic of Na Ji Won after hitting that famous homer. Well, famous in Tiger lore anyway.

Last night the Tigers beat the second place NC Dinos 7-6 in a dramatic game in which they came back in the 9th from 4-6 to tie it up at 6-6. Then in the 10th, Choi Hyung Woo, who was 4/5 with 3 RBI's in the game, hit his second homer, a walk-off jobbie that earned him a water bottle shower at home plate. (He leads the KBO in RBI, OPS, and WAR, 2nd in average with .375 and is third in homeruns). Dramatic win! Na Ji Won went 2/3 with a homer.

As you can see, the Tigers paid a lot for Choi when they bought him off the Samsung Lions. I'd say they're getting their money's worth. He's a no brainer MVP winner so far.

The night before, Hector Noesi got his 14th win, (leads the KBO), Kim Sun Bin boosted his average to .384, (leads the KBO), Na Ji Won went 2/4 with a homer. Kia 7, NC 4.

Hector used to pitch for the White Sox but is now the best pitcher in the KBO. He won 14 last year for the Tigers and could win 20 this year. I think the record is 21 but I don't want to put the pressure on him. Although, this team is breaking all kinds of records and is sure to break more. This might be one of them.

The game before that, the Tigers won 20-8 vs. the KT Whiz. Roger Burnadina went 4/5 with 4 RBI and 4 runs scored. (He is second in stolen bases and he leads the KBO with 79 runs scored). Na Ji Won was 2/4 with a homer.

Burnadina was crap at the beginning of the season. He was struggling to hit a buck fifty. I said his swing is too long and he can't hit the low ball. I didn't figure he'd stay in the line-up. I am eating those words now. He's batting .318 for 9th in the KBO, he's 4th in RBI's and has plenty of speed and power. A fantastic center fielder too!

Before that the Tigers played the SK Wyverns and won 5-3. On this night, last year's MVP for Kia, Kim Ju Chan, went 2-4 with an RBI and a run. Na Ji Won did NOT get a homer.

As opposed to Burnadina, when Joo Chan started this season struggling to hit a buck fitty, I wasn't worried. "He's always a slow starter," I said. I am NOT eating those words. His average is .258, which means he's been hitting well over .300 recently to climb up out of the 100's and 200's in batting average.

I'm not sure if last night's game was better than the game Kia played on July 5th against the SK Wyverns. The Wyverns got out to a 12-1 lead. It's over, right? But this Tigers team had scored over 10 runs the previous 7 games! They put together a 12-run 5th inning to take the lead 13-12! But the ever-consistent Kia bullpen managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by giving up 6 runs in the 8th inning. The Kia batters put up 4 more runs and almost bailed the bullpen out but ended up losing 17-18. Still, if they're going to lose... Lee Myung Gi went 2/6 with 2 RBI and a run. Na Ji Won went 4/6 with 3 RBI, 3 runs and... you guessed it, a homer.

This youngster has gone virtually unnoticed in the organization until now. He's the Tigers' lead-off hitter and is one of three Tigers in the top 5 in average right now. He's a good fielder and he is a smart hitter. Rarely does he swing before looking at at least one strike. This way, like truly great hitters, he makes the pitcher work. He's rocking a .349 average right now.

The previous game, the Tigers won 15-6 vs. the SK Wyverns. In this game, Kim Seon Bin got his league-leading average up to a gaudy .380 by going 2/4 with 2 RBI and 2 runs. Na Ji Won? Just 3/5 with two RBI and 2 runs. Oh yeah, plus, he got a homer.

Seon Bin has been a Tiger for a long time. He is back for his first full season in a few years because he had to do his mandatory military training. And he's making up for lost time. He is the shortest player in the league so he plays shortstop, and along with his insane average, is half of what may be the best double play combination in the KBO.

On July 2nd, the Tigers beat the LG Twins 13-4. Yang Hyun Jong got his 11th win. Na Ji Won went 2/4 with 4 RBI and 3 runs. Yup, he got a homer.

In the KBO, 15 wins is like 20 in the majors. In 2010 and 2014, Yang got 16 wins. In 2015 he got 15. Last year the shyte bullpen robbed him of at LEAST 5 wins and he only got 10. If you go 10-12 with a 1.34 WHIP, your bullpen is shyte. But he's already got 12 wins this year to be 2nd behind Hector in the league.

In the previous game the Tigers beat LG 10-4. Na Ji Won went 0/4. No homer! So in the month of July so far, the Tigers have scored 10 or more runs in 5/8 and Na Ji Won has a homer in 6/8.

June 30th Tigers 10, LG 6. Before that a three game series with the Samsung Lions. 22-1, 13-4 and 11-4. Sweep for the Tigers. In the 22-1 game, An Chi Hong went 4/6 with 2 RBI and 3 runs and Lee Bum Ho went 4/4 with 3 RBI and 3runs.

I've been cheering for both of these guys for a long time. Chi Hong is the other half, (2B), of the fantastic double play combo for the Tigers and Bum Ho plays the hot corner, (3B). Bum Ho got 33 homers and 108 RBI last year and the year before had 28 and 79. He's already well on his way this year to similar stats.

Chi Hong looks like he could hit 20 homers and 100 RBI this year if he stays healthy. Bum Ho is flirting with .300 and Chi Hong is well over.

There are a few other players who are making good contributions to the team also. Super sub Seo Dong Wook would make just about any other team. Even with his occasional appearances, he's got 5 homers and 40 RBI.

Kim Min Sik came over from SK last year and is already making an impact. With a staff of wild pitchers like Kia's it was a smart move to get this guy. He is not letting many pitches past him. It's one of the most frustrating things about the Tigers to watch mostly the bullpen pitchers walking people and throwing balls to the backstop allowing runners to move up and squandering wins for the starting pitchers. This guy will help a bit. Right now, he and last year's MVP Joo Chan are the only players in the batting order below .300. That is something!

Almost every game I watch, I say to myself, "It's a great time to be a Tiger fan!"

Keep an eye on this team and its assault on the KBO record books. They've already broken some records and if they stay healthy, they are going to destroy some more.

So, to finish the next three games were 6-9, 1-6 and 1-4 losses to the NC Dinos. They're the only squad who can keep the Tigers' below 10 it seems. And the series before that was against last year's champions, the Doosan Bears. They played two games which the Tigers won 11-5 and 20-8.

Those are their last 17 games. 189 runs in those games. That's more than a 10 run average. Three of them included 20 runs or more. I actually saw in one of those games something I have NEVER seen before. One batter in the ninth inning for Kia stood in the batter's box nowhere near the plate and just gave himself up. Didn't swing or make an attempt. And the pitcher just threw him three juicy fastballs and he sat down. I don't know what to call that, a sacrifice out!!! Kia Tigers are dominating the statistical leader boards in every category offensively and in wins defensively.

I have watched almost all the games this year. You can too on

Go Tigers!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Another Sleepless Summer Night


Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?

Ever sing a song or hum a song or have a song in your head, or, in my special case, have a song as your dream soundtrack, that you have sung, hummed, listened to or had in your head a thousand times before and said, "It's time to really scrutinize this song!"? And by the way, is there ANY correct way to punctuate that question?

This is Charlie Rich, the singer of the song, "The Most Beautiful Girl." It's a country song from my childhood. It's a catchy piano tune and it was very popular for a while. Last time I heard it wasn't even a year ago. It's one of those songs I've heard my whole life. No matter where I go.


I like that part of the song. It's a grabber. He's saying, "Let's get personal audience. I'm talking to you. No I don't mean the collective you, I mean just you. One on one. It's you and me amigo and I'm asking you to do me a solid.

Hey. Electric word, "hey," and it means the same thing in a lot of languages. Hey, I need you to listen to me right now. I need your full attention. Look at me! Listen to me! Pay me some attention. For the love of God, don't ignore me! The Gary Larson cartoon when "Dave" invents a helmet that allows him to understand dog language and he puts it on and every dog in the neighbourhood is saying, "Hey!" "Hey, hey, hey!" "Hey. Heyheyhey. Hey!" Like that fox in the picture might be saying.

Hey. We're good so far. Hey. Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?

Well, Charlie, that's a tall order. I have traveled a bit, but of the four billion girls in the world, I gotta tell you, I'm pretty sure NObody's even seen half of them. But... hey. I'm going to try to help you out cuz your song has brought me some joy so let's say she's between the ages of, what, 18 and 30? Okay, 18 and 40. It's still a small window of 22 years when a woman's beauty is most appreciated. Isn't it? And, let's say her beauty IS appreciated and she's won homecoming queen or a beauty contest or she's an actress or an internet hostess of some sort. A model, flight attendant, she is doing something that exposes her beauty to the world, STILL, maybe I HAVE seen her, but I find a woman with a stretched neck, huge holes in her lips and ears and a massive gap between her front teeth beautiful. What kind of weight are we talkin' a deuce, deuce and a half? lol Well, some men are attracted to hefty gals. They're not as apt to bite your head off for a snack. Hangry. Skinny girls tend to be more hangry. Have a bitchaway sandwich, why don't you?

And this naturally leads us to inner or outer beauty. Some very attractive girls can lose a lot of beauty points with bad personalities, and depending who you are, some can gain a lot with good ones. Maybe I'm a guy who goes for sense of humour in a girl and Charlie Rich isn't. Who's to know? And I think most guys like a woman who is generally happy and smiling. But then, if you're ugly, you have less to smile about. If I ask a girl, "Hey. Do you know who Quasimodo was?" and she says something like, "Rings a bell!" I have instant wood. But maybe the old Silver Fox is more of an outer beauty sort of fella. Maybe he's a breast man or an ass man and as long as baby got bongo back she can say, "Sure, Chuck, she does my nails," and he won't care a lick.

Or, maybe Charlie Rich was employing some poetic licence. Maybe he was just saying, "She walked out on me. And I miss her. And maybe she wasn't perfect, maybe she had her flaws, maybe sometimes I wanted to strangle her, but, aw screw it I'll just come right out and say it, she was the most beautiful girl in the world!" And this'll probably get him a few awwwws. Maybe most from the female listeners. Perhaps a smattering of applause from an audience or even a tear. Yes, we will clap for you, you big romantic, lying lug. Self-delusion applause comin' up! Atta boy! You keep telling yourself that! Hang in there! We're behind you a hundred percent in your efforts. To keep yourself and your girl trapped in the relationship by building it on lies. I'll buy your album and listen to your song again.

But we're all a little stupid when we're in love, aren't we? The most beautiful girl in the world, no matter how you're measuring beauty, is statistically going to be in China or India. If she really is the one, if she really, REALLY is Charlie's soul mate, you gotta ask, "Charlie Rich? Ever been to China or India?" China is not a musical country. How many Chinese artists or bands have you heard on the radio or seen on Soul Train or Top of the Pops? They're too busy working, having babies and trying to rule the world. "Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting." That is China's musical contribution and it's only the Kung Fu that's Chinese, not the artists behind the song. India, on the other hand, may be the most musical country in the world! You can't find an Indian movie, of the thousands they make, without a song or two in it. Think of all the Indians you know, (and I'll break your face if you are picturing native North Americans). Don't they all seem to constantly have songs in their heads? They do to me. Most of them. But I just don't think country music is their thing. In fact I imagine any of the country music standby's sung in an Indian accent and it's comedy. Just try it, it's fun! "Stand by your man." "I've got friends in low places." Or, "Hey. Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world?" All sung by Apu Nahassapeemapetalon. Comedy gold!

But I'll give old Chuck a break for being love stunned. Even though he probably hasn't been to India or China, even though he probably hasn't seen more than 1 or 2% of the girls in the world, even though his soul mate probably doesn't like country music much less HIS country music, doesn't live in his country, doesn't speak the same language, eat the same food, or have much if anything in common with him, let's just say she is this girl who lived in the same country, state, city, went to the same school, had some of the same classes, and was in the after school jazz band where they met, let's say she IS his soul mate, and to him, is the most beautiful girl in the world. Well, then you could have a pretty good little song if you sing something like, "Tell her I'm sorry. Oh won't you tell her that I love her?" He's hurting. He needs his woman back. You can feel the sorrow and even a tough parole officer could sense remorse in those lines. The only thing he could do to mess that up would be to include some example of human frailty, imperfection and annoying narcissism and selfishness. Like,

"Hey. Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world? And if you did, was she crying?" "Heh heh heh. The old Silver Fox has STILL got it!" "Oh yeah! She's missing all of THIS!" "I made HER cry! I am the MAN! WOOOO!"

This morning at the usual time between 3 and 4 AM, I'm up fighting mosquitoes and singing this song in my head because it was the soundtrack of the dream I was awoken from, and for the first time I'm really contemplating the lyrics. And I gotta say, nah. Not terrible, but coulda been better.

What else is rattling through my grey matter waaay too early this morning? I'm done the school semester and finished with my camp so have no official work until September. It's nice to have time off but Taiyuan, where I am, is not the most happening place. I can't find a mountain or hill nearby to hike, sports facilities or a gym to work out at so the only thing I do for exercise is walk around. If there WERE something to do, I would have found it by now. Then, given the air quality on most days, walking around and around may not be the healthiest of pastimes. Plus, it's 36 degrees and humid so I mostly sit indoors in a layer of funky slime and use my computer. Yesterday I was watching some of these hidden history videos on YouTube. These things are GREAT! They make me wonder how much really cool stuff there is out there somewhere just waiting to be found. Or how much they have already found and are keeping secret.

Sure, it's conspiracy theory. Some of it. But I like having my already well fortified conspiracy theories bolstered. Like William Paley's watch analogy. I find this argument to be common sense and have never understood how anyone can block that out and actually scoff at it. Most notably Richard Dawkins, who wrote an entire book snidely mocking it and talking about the blind watchmaker. But, consistent with everything I've read from Dawkins, and a lot of people who are on the whole secular science bandwagon, a lot of really obvious flaws in reasoning arise. For instance, science is almost always used to defend their arguments. The fossil record, paleontology, archeology, geology and such. So they can find a watch and somehow question the necessity of a watchmaker, yet, find a sharp rock in some 30 million year old layer of the earth and have no doubt it's a sure sign of man. Or a footprint or a rock that was rounded. Definitely early man! The fossils don't lie. Someone fashioned and used that sharp rock to cut or the rounded rock to crush herbs. They talk about that as fact but question Paley who said that if you find a watch, it's a sure sign that the watch was made by someone. Why? Because Paley used his far more plausible scenario to support a belief in God. That was not the direction science wanted to go, so he was ignored. Made fun of.

In fact, if the sharp and rounded rocks were found in 30 million year old soil, THAT is not the direction science needs to go either so they would be rejected. Screened. "We need something identical in 100,000 year old soil to match our scientific aspirations," is probably what the official rejection would be. The vids I was watching were showing all kinds of things that were actually accepted and placed in museums for a while, but as science's chosen path made them obsolete, they were changed or just removed from the museums. There was a human footprint found in some soil that was pretty old. Too old for regular man, but consistent with ape man. It was pretty obviously a normal man's footprint, however. The differences are quite obvious even to a layman. The big toe of an ape-man is larger and can move out to the side of the foot like a thumb moves to the side of a hand. Much like an ape's foot. Other toes are longer as well. So the scientists agreed to put it into a major museum, I think it was the Smithsonian or the Berkeley natural history museum, but only if it was agreed that the ape-man just happened to be walking with his big toe pulled in and the other toes curled up so they appear smaller.

This is the kind of dismissive and frankly evasive thinking that my research has come up with time and time again. And I watched on happy that I am not the only one who thinks it is making science less scientific. It makes you wonder how many brilliant discoveries have been suppressed due to their variance from the accepted, (and probably not accurate), scientific model. It also makes a person wonder how many studies that might have turned up contradictory evidence have been defunded over the years.

I've never been a believer in aliens, but have always said that I would LOVE to find some evidence of them. The more I watch these vids the more I think there might be some pretty good evidence already and some other fantastic evidence being suppressed. The more I learn about scientifically advanced cultures from long ago and the relics and temples and monuments they left behind to be decoded when earth people finally caught up technologically, the more I wonder if there wasn't extra-terrestrial intelligence in ancient history. We all know the examples, the pyramids, Angkor Wat, Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, etc. But there are others I didn't know about and possibly others still to be officially discovered. There is supposed to be an underwater city just off the coast of Northwestern India that could be the oldest city ever. They've only been able to dredge so far and come up with iffy stuff. Is the funding for that slow to come about because science is worried about what might be revealed? Or are they at this moment secretly removing anything that might contradict popularly held scientific beliefs?

The best example I saw in the vids was talked about by a Swiss scientist who had been to the pyramids in Egypt and believed that the two rooms, and the shafts to them, are not the only rooms in the pyramids. He believes, and gave some old Sumerian tales and Sanskrit tablet writings that said there is a whole library of knowledge in a library inside the main pyramid. He actually went there and found a shaft. Nobody could tell how far back the shaft went but it was too small to go into so all agreed it went back a few feet then stopped. Well this guy found a friend who made a robot with a cam and some lights on it and, though it took a long time, got permission to put the robot into the shaft. It went WAAAY back, 208 feet back, and finally came to a door. But they weren't allowed to open the door. Why did it take so long to get permission? And while getting permission, was someone removing anything interesting that might be found? This intrigued me so I searched the internet and found this page.

It seems they DID get permission to drill the door and behind it they found - - - another door. This made the skeptic in me wonder, while they were getting permission to drill the first door, did someone put in the second door? If so, who and what is behind the door that they so desperately want to hide? Still, it's encouraging to see some real scientific exploration! Who knows what there is left out there that will blow the doors off our comfortable, but in need of updating, scientific knowledge?

Alfred Russel Wallace, who was the originator of the theory of evolution through natural selection, which Darwin rushed to publish the definitive book on before Wallace could, believed in non-material, or spiritual origins of the higher faculties he saw in man. As I've said before, I don't doubt Darwin did too, he just suppressed them, and not so well, in his writing, by euphemistically calling God "Nature." This was to fit into the secular direction science had newly espoused.

Many a Nobel Prize winning scientist were very interested and actually did studies on the paranormal. Names like Curie, Tesla, Crooks, even Einstein come up. Modern scientists are still having their papers refused for publication if they stray too far into the unknown though. However, the hope is kept alive by scientists like Brian Josephson, another Nobel Prize winner.

Mind, spirit, gods, God or aliens, if there is scientific evidence out there waiting to be discovered, I would sure like to see science support this direction rather than ignore it or mock it. I fondly wish for a massive undeniable discovery. I think we could be close.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 100th Income Tax!

Since we've just had about a week of memes and vids about how wonderful Canada and Canadians are, (in celebration of our 150th), I'll even things out a bit with a couple of points that bring Canada back to Earth. One of the worst things about Canada, in my book, is the internet memes and vids about how wonderful Canada and Canadians are. Now, I'm not saying real Canadians AREN'T polite, DON'T love hockey, AREN'T tough etc., etc., I just wish I could take all of these hooray for us ads and tack one more thing onto the end of them: AND we're exceedingly modest! At least that way it would look like they were tongue-in-cheek and not desperately nationalistic attempts to convince ourselves that our country isn't due for a good revolution.

Is that just me? Don't you think the phrase that could be tacked onto the end of almost all of them is a very Canadian, "EH?" As in, "Right?" "No?" "Aren't we?" These memes seem less "Fuckin' A, Canada!" and more, "Well, it could be worse..." like the country is nervously trying to put in a few more good years at their jobs before we fight the power. Well I'm sorry but I believe the patriotic thing to do, the thing that will be best for all Canadians, is to have that revolution and get back to "Fuckin' A, Canada!" We're not a country, in my mind, that should be settling for mediocrity or, (and I'm going to invent a word here), celebrating moronity.

How are we celebrating moronity? Well, I'm glad I asked that question. You see, this month doesn't just mark the 150th year since we became an independent country, on July 25th we will have been paying income tax for 100 years. THERE'S cause for celebration! Canada is statistically the most educated country on the planet, yet this one apotheosis of moronity keeps us grounded. I think we should be handed some sort of award by the other countries of the world on July 25th for being a smart country that has maintained one of history's most brainless behaviours for 100 years! I'll be kind and give us a few years of grace. To be fair the tax was implemented for good reason and it WAS technically fair for two or three years. But still, 97 years of vacuous surrender of hard-earned money to governments who have built up an epic list of wasteful uses of that money? We should all forfeit our degrees and get jobs at the box factory! Paying income tax is the height of moronity!

Now, for those of you, and there are many, who generously illustrate my point, and do not know the full story of Canadian personal income tax and why it's easily the least skookum thing we do, I understand. The people you are ignorantly enriching every year keep you just busy enough so that you don't have time to research things like this. Well, that's not altogether true, is it? We have the time, but we'd rather eat pancakes, watch hockey and drink beer, or Tim Horton's coffee. If you don't see how stunned this makes us all appear, surrendering about half our incomes not knowing why, or what we get for it, put down your mugs, switch off the TV, (or at least mute it so you can keep track of the score as you read), and continue reading. Don't go back to the hockey game and settle for the tired and completely false arguments those people we are annually enriching invented to appease us. You have all heard THEM. "If you don't pay taxes, you don't have the right to complain about the government." "You can't call yourself a good Canadian if you don't pay your taxes." "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's." "We get free healthcare, education and roads for our tax dollar." In the beginning, these sayings were a lot more valid, possibly even true because income tax was fair, simple and I think the governments probably used a little bit of it to help the average Johnny Canuck. But for as long as most of us can remember, the Caesars in charge of governing Canada have been rendered far more than that which is rightfully theirs and they have used it to improve the lives of only the richest Canadians. Read on and see if you don't agree with my defence of that statement.

Quick anybody who hasn't read my previous post name the Prime Minister that was in charge when personal income tax was introduced. Name the reason. Lots of people know that one! I bet none can name the member of government who introduced it. His ministry or his name. For a lot of Canadians, like me, taxes are the biggest hardship we face every single year, and we know so little about it! Not any more for me, it's a very good reason why I am in China, not still in Canada. But seriously, how much can you honestly say you know about this annual burden? According to this article, which has shiny, good, two-year-old statistics, we pay more in taxes than we do in housing, food and clothing. IF these statistics are accurate, the average taxpayer pays over 10,000 bucks in income taxes. The population in '15 was 35.85 million. Roughly 80% of those people filed taxes. That's 28.68 million people who paid, on average, 10 grand. That works out to 286 BILLION, 800 million. That can't be right! EH?

Well those numbers can easily be contested because they are hard to prove. They have been MADE purposefully hard to prove. The government doesn't want us to know how much they collect from us. We'd go nuts! The original tax code was 11 pages. In 2014 it was 3,206 pages. Over a million words long. But they add more words every year. Legal words. Words that are misleading, concealing and corrupt. And we know that. It's obvious. P.J. O'Rourke once wrote, "Beyond a certain point, complexity is fraud." Ever read "War and Peace?" That's about half as long and although a challenge to most, not even close to as complicated. The fact is, there may be nobody who completely understands the entire Canadian tax code. But there are many who understand enough to find the holes. They work for the rich maintaining a zero, to below zero tax rate for them. You can do that with wildly complicated taxation in a country. It's so complicated that tax return preparation, (H & R Block mostly), is a 4 billion dollar a year industry. But it wasn't always like this...

On July 25, 1917, Sir Thomas White, then Minister of Finance of the Borden government signed the "War Tax Income" bill into law. The U.S. and Great Britain had already introduced personal income tax schemes but White said he didn't want to. But he did. Originally it was a 4% tax on all single man's income over $2,000. Personal exemption for most was $1500, $3,000 for families. That's over 26,000 and 52,000 in today's dollars. And remember, inflation wasn't so bad so cost of living was comparatively cheap back then. In its infancy, almost nobody in Canada had to pay it. One in 50 fell into these tax brackets. There was another area of more than $6,000 a year, which is well over 100,000 dollars. This was very hard to spend in a year back then. Members of this rich tax bracket paid and ambiguous 2-29% tax rate. I wonder what THAT depended on. Still it was a LOT simpler than today. Here's a tax form.

I could fill that out on my own! Probably. But you didn't have to! If you were one of the few, you had help given, for free, when you submitted it.

As its name would indicate, it was implemented to assist in the wartime effort during WWI. It was supposed to be temporary. To quote Sir Thomas White, "We don't know how long this war will last... Therefore, I have placed no time limit upon this measure but merely have placed upon the Hansard the suggestion that, a year or two after the war is over, the measure should be reviewed by the minister of finance of the day, with a view of judging whether it is suitable to the conditions which then prevail." The cost of the war in dollars was $1.665 billion for Canada. There is no doubt the government had the money to pay that debt off. Wartime bond purchases alone exceeded 2 billion. With the bump in the economy when the soldiers returned and the late 20's, which were profitable for Canada, the minister of finance should have repealed personal income tax, but inexplicably didn't.

It's interesting to note that on May 18, 1916 the Business Profits War Tax Act was passed. This required any business making $50,000 a year or more, (again ambiguously), to file a tax return. I could find no percentages or amounts of dollars they should pay. Just file a return. THIS act was evaluated every year during annual sessions of parliament. It was extended 2 years, then repealed in 1918. So the temporary extra tax on businesses was repealed when it wasn't necessary to collect it any more, but not the one for the little guys in Canada. Anybody surprised at that?

Since its invention the taxes have snowballed and exemptions, loopholes and details have multiplied like barnacles making the tax code thicker and increasingly fraudulent. Personal income tax is now over half the federal revenues, which are mammoth. We THINK we have free health care in Canada, but because of all the abstract and intentionally obfuscated taxes, we pay. This article quantifies it at $11 thousand a year. We often say our education is free but every report I've read about this states the same thing: the taxes collected have increased every year far beyond the rate of inflation while the actual student enrollment has dropped. Every study concludes that there is a baffling over-collection then disappearance of education funds in Canada. This is for public elementary, middle and high schools. As for post secondary schools, expenses have risen by factors of from 4 to 10 across the board. MY education would cost about 10 times what it did when I got it 30 years ago.

This just might be an attempt to price average Canadians back to the proper level of moronity so they will continue paying income tax. Almost everybody has heard tales of $400 hammers bought at an MP's nephew's best friend's parents' hardware store; $700 dinners; $10,000 strip bar outings; entire apartment building rented and not used; and other abuses of the massive revenue collected every year in the form of Canadian income taxes. Read Maclean's Magazine's "99 Stupid Things The Government Did With Your Money" if you want an angry laugh. We've all heard that the rich have so many loopholes, they don't have to pay any taxes, and with many advantages, some actually get what amounts to corporate welfare from our taxes. Just one example is the 200 billion bucks in tax havens held by rich Canadians. It was 170 billion in 2013, I'm guessing. Fact is, we probably don't know the half of it. Some rich dude wants some of that money, they set up a fake company, take a loan from their Cayman Island branch, TAX FREE, and bada boom bada bing, it was sent over and brought back tax free. Our highest tax rate is 33%. These funds qualify in my book. 66 billion in revenue would be a good start to fix things up in the lives of the REAL Canadians and it would bring the rich and middle classes a bit closer together. I think the people of Canada deserve this as a start. Call it reparation payments for 100 years of unfair taxation. At a time when our P.M. is saying he envies immigrants who he reckons have MORE stake in Canada because they chose to be here, needless to say people from families who have paid Canadian taxes for generations have a different opinion. But this is so typical of the people we get in government! He's from a rich family. The Trudeaus were not poor. How much do you think our P.M. has stashed overseas? And how much tax has he paid? HE's never felt the tax burden. HE doesn't get any.

And while we're on that topic, maybe the second stupidest thing about Canada is something Trudeau has made a big show of calling close to his heart. The natives of Canada. Trudeau has gotten very emotional when speaking about the terrible state of the Canadian indigenous people and he's made promises to help the situation. How's he doing so far?

But that is not what I find stupid. That's to be expected. Canadian politician would score a G if they could be given that grade on the keeping of promises. No, the document that governs the laws and how the Canadian state interacts with the 614 First Nations bands in Canada by governing reserves and defining who qualifies as an indigenous person, is called the "INDIAN ACT!" That's the second stupidest thing about Canada. First of all, Columbus was a moron. He could hardly have been farther away from India if he'd sailed the other way. And when he asked the natives if they were Indians and they said they weren't, in utter ignorance of their humanity, much less equality, he called them Indians anyway. How does that puerile term persist today? Through the celebration of moronity. I guess we're not as bad as the States who actually celebrate Columbus Day and some people get the day off. Others have to work and find something to do with their kids who aren't in school. And imagine the surprise and flattery felt by Cleveland taxi drivers and 7-11 workers when they found out the name of the local baseball club, the Cleveland Indians! But that's not what it means. Geez, I guess that comment was a little racist. There is another example of moronity. The word "racist" or "race" itself is completely moronic. J.F. Blumenbach defined the people of the area of Caucasus, which did not include India, as Caucasians. People from India are considered to belong to the Caucasian race, which is characterized by white skin colour, which people from India do not have. Natives in North America were considered to have red skin, which they don't, and they were of the American race. Nowadays most North American people are white Caucasians who are not from, and do not live in Caucasus. The natives in North America are Americans but they're called Indians. The Indians in North America, who are not governed by the Indian Act, are considered Caucasian though they're not from there, nor are they white. Most people in Caucasus today are not white. And it's all a great big celebration of moronity!

At any rate, it's high time we had that revolution in Canada and got the 1% out of politics and started getting our money's worth for our taxes. It's been done before.

I suspect it will be a bit harder in Canada after having grown accustomed to 1% rule. Even NEW politicians who promise to change Canada for the better and actually DO what the majority wants will not be trusted at first. But it can be done and I think the people of Canada, though stupid enough to have paid our Cosa Nostra government protection money for a century, have not quite diminished intelligence-wise to the point of moronity necessary to remain ignorant or apathetic to this revolution that is the obvious trajectory for our country.

Eliminate personal income tax.

Tax every dollar of hidden or tax sheltered income.

Trash the tax code and start from scratch making the rich pay their fair share of taxes.

Any agency, bank or public office that does not comply, fire the workers and re-staff it.

There will be violent resistance hired by the rich. Counteract it non-violently.

And start it all on July 25th of this year.

This is never going to happen. I have to laugh just looking at it. The people of Canada are just too complacent in their belief that our country is super wonderful. But I have to dream. And at the first signs of this revolution, I will return and join it. Until then I will avoid the celebration of our national moronity at tax time from afar.

Make me wanna holler n throw up both my hands.