I originally started this site as a travel blog but it has since taken on a life of its own and I write about whatever comes to mind. Politics, culture, my experiences around the world and in my own country. Feel free to follow me and leave comments!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zombie (1979)

If you haven’t heard of this movie I don’t blame you. It’s pretty obscure and if you’re not a horror movie buff it’s probably under your radar. Lately I’ve been getting into all these Italian movies from the 70’s and 80’s. Grotesque zombie and cannibal movies. They’re really intense and often have scenes of gruesome violence so if you have a weak stomach then for the love of God do not watch. “How bad can it be?” you may be asking yourself. Well I’ll tell ya. In “Cannibal Ferox” (1981) a guy gets his dong cut off and eaten and a lady gets impaled through the boobies. Yep.
Anyway, I’m here to talk about “Zombi 2” or just “Zombie.” They tried to market it as a sequel to “Night of the Living Dead” so they tacked a 2 on the end. This movie is cheesy to the extreme but if you like camp then go for it. It’s a delight. Just don’t let your girlfriend or wife watch it with you because they’ll think you’re a sick bastard. The make up effects, especially when someone gets a chunk of flesh bitten off is surprisingly good and over-the-top. Here’s a no bs synopsis of the movie:
Some guy shoots zombies as they reanimate back to life and then it cuts to an abandoned yacht in New York. Some cops get on. There’s a zombie. One of the cops gets chomped and the other blasts the zombie into the water (no headshot) and the soon to be zombie cop gets taken to the hospital. Some lady is being questioned by the police and then she goes to the yacht, meets up with some reporter dude, they make out, go to the Caribbean, go to some island, then zombies attack. They meet some Dr. Monroe wannabe whose wife is a nervous wreck and raging alcoholic. She’s taking a shower, boobs, then a zombie pokes her eye out with broken shards from a door. Last stand against the zombies. They survive but then it cuts to New York where the zombies are taking over the city. END. There’s a little more to it than that but you get the idea.
This film is pretty famous in Europe since it saved the director’s career and is one of the most violent films ever made. Some of the notable scenes include the alcoholic wife being pulled by the hair into a sharp fragment from a destroyed door and stabbed through the eye.
Of all the times to be sober… Then there’s a scene where a 500 year old conquistador zombie with worms falling out of his eye sockets bites the throat out of a lady. Some of the best, most creative make-up design in the horror genre. No joke. Oh, and let me not forget the best zombie scene I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Check it out. If you dare.

Travel in China,

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's a Mad Mad Mad World #2

What’s up cool dudes? As those of you in the know are already aware of, the world is about to boil over with crazy but for time’s sake here’s just a few of the stories that mattered to me. WARNING: This post contains kind of a lot of profanity.

1. U.S. Charity Warns North Korea’s Food Will Run Out in June. And whose fault is that? Surely not the immaculate, handsome, almighty, brilliant and sexy supreme leader? It must be those dastardly southern traitors and the imperialist American Empire! -_- I have zero sympathy for a starving country that doesn’t have money for food but apparently it can have a nuclear weapons program and the fourth largest army in the world. All of North Korea’s problems are the product of shitty decision-making, a shitty form of government, shitty leaders and shitty friends. The whole country is just covered in shit. They keep trying to bribe NK with food or financial aid to get them to chill out and come back to the negotiating table to drop it’s nuke program and maybe consider reuniting with the south. But seriously. The south probably doesn’t even want to reunite. Do you have any idea what a pain that would be? All the brainwashed zombies that would have to be reeducated, all the work it would take to build and update infrastructure and the inevitable battle with loyalist insurgents. It’s just not worth the trouble. Let them starve to death. Good riddance.

2. Barrack Obama. I actually don’t have a huge problem with Obama. The GOP likes to try to blame all our problems on him but our issues started years ago. The debt was trouble when Bush went on his rampage across the world. I was cool with Afghanistan but Iraq was our bad. Sorry about that. The financial crisis was the result of people making too many tweaks to a system that worked great and over several decades the constant little "fixes" broke the system. I agree with most of Obama’s policies and the only gripes I have with him are that he’s too cautious in his foreign policy and too laid back. It’s one or the other. When countries start getting out of line he needs to step up and slap them down. China has gotten brave in the last 2 years and when they are going to do something bad they send out a preemptive “mind your own business America” announcement. Obama needs to make it his business in a clear and confrontational message. The world needs to see that the US can’t be pushed aside so easily. And when the North Koreans sank that South Korean ship last year he should have gone on national television and said, verbatim, “North Korea, if I find out that you were responsible for this, we WILL fuck you up.” But he didn’t. He was pretty quiet about it. That was also the time when the US government was waiting to see if China would take responsibility of mediating the crisis as a rising superpower. It didn’t. Obama should have flipped his shit.

3. Chinese Economy to Surpass US in 5 Years. Duuuuuuuh. It was only a matter of time. And if you’re going to blame anyone, blame the US government. They’ve foreseen this since the 1960’s and done nothing. America's dominance is a direct result of the policies implemented by politicians who actually knew what they were doing back in the late 40's and 50's. China’s population is 5 times greater than that of the US. More workers=more production=greater exports=big bucks. That combined with profiteering of Western companies who want to make stuff for cheap over there and sell here for a 10,000% profit. There’s a name for that. Robber Baron or something. I’m not surprised about China’s economy surpassing the US’s and neither should you be. Nothing wrong with second best. But it’ll be interesting to see how China’s economy is affected by the impending shitstorm of social issues that are taking shape right now. For now we need to adapt just like they did.

4. Iran is Making Its Own Internet. Textbook insanity. The Iranians don’t want their people to be corrupted by the Western dominated regular internet so they’re going to make a “Halal” internet just for Farsi speaking Persians so they can “create an internet that conforms to Islamic principles, to improve its communication and trade links with the world.” And to “increase Iran and the Farsi language’s presence in what has become the most important source of international communication.” That’s pretty deep. Too bad only 70 million people in the world speak it and of those only around 80% can read it. So what’s the point? Many governments and organizations say it’s aimed at further restricting freedom of information. I’m inclined to agree.

5. Man Opens Fire on Americans in Afghanistan. That’s normally not such a crazy occurrence in Afghanistan but check this out. The guy was actually a 20 year veteran of the Afghan Army and an officer! He got into an argument with some American soldiers and then shot and killed 8 of them and a civilian contractor. Because y’know, that’s what you do when you get in an argument with somebody. Of course he was gunned down immediately. And then when the police interviewed the guy’s brother he said that the murderer was mentally sick. Yep. That’s right. The ANA allows insane people to serve as officers. This guy wasn’t just a little weird from the heavy action he saw in the 80’s, he was totally batshit insane. This is the 16th time an Afghan soldier has turned on NATO personnel. What. The. Fuck. Why are their dudes allowed to be around our guys? They should be segregated. End of story. Don’t trust any of them with a gun and for God's sake don't turn your back on them.

That’s it for today. I’m sorry it ended on such a bum story but I think it needs to be known what kind of people our boys have watching their backs. Here’s a kitten to lighten things up.

Travel in China,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

8 Ways Your Chinese Girlfriend Shows That She Cares (In My Experience)

1- She peels your shrimp for you. Being a “Southern Boy” I love shrimp. It’s delicious. But I don’t have the patience to peel them. And, gross as it might sound to some people, I used to just eat them with the shell on. But now I don’t have to worry about any of that! Jen can peel a bowl full of shrimp in 10 seconds flat. With her eyes closed. And only using her toes. While hanging upside down. I remember that’s when I was like “Yep. This girl’s a keeper.”

2- She rubs ointment on your mosquito bites. Whenever I’m in China it seems like the gnats and mosquitoes are really into light meat. In the mornings I would wake up to see fresh bug bites on whatever part of me that was sticking out from under the blanket. I’m used to that so I didn’t even notice until my hosts pointed it out to me. Despite my protests Jen insisted on patching me up.

3- She wants you to be comfortable. The very first day on my very first trip to China, I had passed out from exhaustion on my hotel bed after an afternoon in the city. I woke up when she pulled some blankets over me. Classic sweetheart.

4- She looks after you when you’re sick. It was 3am of the morning I was leaving and the turtle shell soup I had the day before was destroying my insides. It was messy. I won’t go into it any further. But she woke up towards the end of it and stayed up with me until 5am when we had to leave for the airport, bringing me water and all kinds of nice stuff.

5- She constantly puts food in your bowl. It means she doesn’t want you to go hungry. But we turned it into a game. Tit for tat. She gives me a piece of pork so I would give her a bigger piece of pork. Or we would try to find the grossest thing on the table to give to each other. She gives me a chicken foot. I give her the chicken head. The people we ate with thought it was hilarious.

6- She gives you neck rubs/massages. And not necessarily the dirty kind. ;-) Not exactly sure what to add to this one.

7- She studies hard to learn your language. Jen had stacks of English workbooks that she had used and her spoken English has improved so much it's ridiculous. You're pretty much guaranteed to be left in the dust in your own language learning endeavor.

8- She pops you on the butt when no one’s looking. This might just be my bad influence but this is a fun game. You go back and forth, back and forth. There’s nothing like a quick booty smack before dinner while the parents are looking the other way.

I can only speak from my experience but when you have a thoughtful girlfriend who does things like this for you, excluding the butt smacking, it’s a good idea to make an earnest attempt to be just as thoughtful. I surprise Jen with flowers or send an unexpected text message while she’s at work or write a poem for her. Just romantic things. It’s easy. I’m good at many things but I think I excel at this. Just try to put yourself in her shoes. If you're having a terrible, boring day, what would you want to spice it up? Know what I mean? Did I leave anything out? Let me know what. Stay cool and always aim high!

Travel in China,

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good? Bad? I'm the Guy With the Gun.

So me and one of my friends went to an indoor shooting range today. It was freakin' awesome. Everybody should shoot a gun at least once. I mean, when the poop hits the fan you're going to have to know how to operate and maintain a firearm. Zombie apocalypse, regular apocalypse, aftermath of a hurricane/earthquake/invasion/nuclear war, the scenarios are endless. It's just best to have that skill set. Not to mention the absurd amount of entertainment to be had by massacring cutouts of America's most hated enemy.
Burn in Hell.

Or by saving ladies from guys who look weirdly similar to my dad.

I shot a .38 revolver, .45 M1911 and a 9mm Baretta. What can I say? I like the classics. They had some full auto sub-machine guns but I didn't want to break the bank on the first visit. All the guys who worked at this place were super nice. Not like those crazy NRA dudes. The place is called 'Palmetto Indoor Gun Range' about 9 miles outside of Savannah, GA. Look them up if you're interested and in the area. Here's the website. http://www.palmettoindoorrange.com/index.htm The prices for the rental guns are very reasonable and there's just a small fee for using the range. What'll set you back though is buying the ammunition. You'll be having an awesome time and go through it quickly so just take that into account and don't be surprised if you end up spending more money than you had originally planned.

I hadn't shot a gun for several years but I quickly picked it back up and as you can tell from the pics above I am an absolute BEAST. I pity the fool who tries to break into my house. So if you want to release some stress, reaffirm your own badassery or just be a stereotypical, gun-toting American then head on over to your nearest gun range and get to shootin'. Thanks to everyone who reads my blog! Always aim high!

But not that high.

Travel in China,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baishuizhai- The Mountain of Doom

The morning after the near death experience with fireworks we went to a nearby national park called “Baishuizhai Scenic Spot,” or as everyone else called it “9999 Steps.”
Now if you’re asking yourself how many steps 9999 is I’ll tell you. You won’t make it. You’ll die before you reach the top. Not kidding. We got there around 11am and started on the trail. There were thousands of people there. The trail got narrow in several places and the boardwalks were made of old, water-soaked wood. The fact that they supported all that weight is astounding. Possible safety issues aside, the landscape was very beautiful and seemed largely untouched despite all the people around. There wasn’t even that much trash which was refreshing since we just came from the post polluted city I’d ever seen before. One thing that totally blew me away though was that when we were passing by a stream running from the top of the mountain, Jen, her aunt, mother and cousin started splashing water on their faces and a few other people even had the grapes to drink it.

They offered me some and I refused. When asked why I said because people at the top of the mountain are probably peeing in it. “How do you know that?” Jen asked me. “Because it’s what I would do!” I said. The last few days had been very chilly but then all of a sudden it was in the high 80’s around noon. Everyone in our group aside from me was dressed in heavy sweaters and jackets, while I was in pants and a thin shirt. Sometimes being white and having a natural resistance to cold is nice. B-)

Two things I noticed on our little expedition. Every 1000 steps there would be a small eating area where there would be drinks and snacks for sale. And the higher you were the more expensive it was. A bottle of water that cost 3 RMB at the bottom cost 15 RMB at the 3000th step. And the other thing is that the number of people on the trail dropped considerably the higher you were. My group was about as unprepared as you could be for this trip. But there were women trying to do it in mini-skirts and high heels and guys wearing business suits and stuff. Zero preparedness. At least my group had a big bottle of water. To be shared among everyone. So after about a half hour of hiking with a bunch of women who don’t know how to ration vital resources we were out of water. So guess who got to pay for some overpriced orange juice? That’s right! It was this guy! Now I figured I was in pretty decent shape. I eat healthy when I’m at home and exercise fairly regularly. But this mountain chewed me up and spit me out. All the girls aside from the aunt were exhausted and stopped at around the 3,500th step while me and the aunt kept going. I got to precisely the 4000th step before I was like, “I’m gonna die up here.” So we turned around and started the long walk down. In all it took 4 hours to go up and 2 ½ to get down. I even had to carry Jen on my back for about 200 steps because her socks were too thin and she was getting blisters. It’s a good thing she only weighs like, 90 lbs.

And then some dudes walking behind me called me a “Gwailo” to which I replied “Gwailei teo mo!” That was a preprogrammed response that my Chinese friends told me to say. Still not sure what it means. Something about body hair I guess. Needless to say they were both shocked and after a few seconds of awkwardness the guy apologized. And as fate would have it they would be on the bus that we took back to Zengcheng. They were so embarrassed that I actually felt a little guilty about it but it's a good life lesson for them. Don’t run your mouth about somebody who’s standing right in front of you. That’s an important lesson to learn. When we got home everybody was sweaty and gross so we took turns in the shower. But not knowing that we would be climbing a mountain straight out of the seventh layer of Hell I didn’t bring a change of clothes so they gave me some of the uncle’s things to wear. This guy is a head and a half shorter than me and at least 50 lbs lighter. They gave me a paint-stained Harbin beer shirt and some Steve Irwin shorts. Let me tell ya, it was quite the chore to make sure my package didn’t flop out and scare everyone. And did I mention that I had to share a bed with the aunt's 14 year old son? Weird…… They kept making jokes that I was going to lay on him or do something gay. That poor kid. Kudos to him for being a good sport about it. But they must have really freaked him out with those jokes since I woke up to find him sleeping on the uncomfortable wooden couch. He’s going to go to school and tell all his friends about how some laowai kicked him out of his own bed. Anyway, one day I’ll go back to Baishuizhai with Jen and conquer this impregnable perch of the gods. Even if I have to drag her kicking and screaming to glory.

Travel in China,

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's a Mad Mad Mad World #1

So I want to write about current events and political stuff but I don’t want to suffocate my blog with it so I decided I’d unleash my fury about once a week or so and talk about stories that caught my attention. Ready? Let’s do it.

1.China Issues Report Criticizing US Human Rights. This is just becoming a typical tit for tat kind of thing every year. The US issues its report on China citing the usual lack of freedom of speech/press/movement/religion/politics/torture/repression/etc and China issues its own saying that the US pushes for internet freedom but attacked Wikileaks, that many people are homeless, that there is rampant violent crime, too much money in politics, and some other stuff.
In defense of the US, I think Wikileaks was in the wrong for what it did. I’m all for government transparency but that information was stolen; some of it was classified top secret, and published. That sounds pretty illegal to me. About violent crime, if you aren’t doing what you aren’t supposed to be doing then you’ll be fine. Homelessness? In the big cities I guess it’s a problem but China has homeless people out the yin yang so they got no room to talk. China also blamed “huge civilian casualties” in Iraq and Afghanistan on the US even though numerous reports by many different organizations have proven that the majority of civilian deaths are caused by extremists. China dropped the ball again in its own report. Nice job fellas. You would think that instead of pointing fingers both countries would work on the areas they need improvement. But that makes too much sense for the people in charge so they'll just keep playing their games.

2.Pakistani-US intelligence Freeze- So the Pakistani people are getting riled up because the US is using drone strikes in their territory to kill insurgents that the Pakistani military is too incompetent to handle. That, AND a CIA contractor shot and killed 2 Pakistani men who approached him in an aggressive manner in a busy market district. I’m inclined to side with CIA guy in that situation. And the Pakistani government is using that as leverage to get a little more clout in Washington. They’re mad about alleged civilian casualties in the drone strikes too. But it’s hilarious because it’s Pakistan’s ISI that gives us the intel on where to strike. So either they want us to kill the wrong people on purpose to ferment anti-American feelings in the populace, or they’re just too stupid to know who’s who. Pakistan’s a political mess. Everyone’s corrupt. No one listens to the central government. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and the right hand doesn’t know what the thumb is doing. Pakistan has its head so far up its own ass it can hear the sound of its small intestine as it produces shit. I say scale back the aid money they get until they learn who’s calling the shots or just drop them all together. India is where it's at anyway.

3. US Citizen Detained in North Korea- OMFG. Why won’t people realize that North Korea is not a place where you should go? Especially when you know that they don’t joke around about illegal immigration! Carter and Clinton need to sit this one out. If we quit rescuing these morons that get themselves caught over there the rest of them will realize that it’s not such a good idea. They’re probably going to try to use that guy as a bargaining chip to get some food aid or something. And our government will probably bitch out and give it to them.

4. The US Budget- Sigh….You got Obama and the democrats on one side saying “Hey cool dudes! How about we cut a little bit now but not really?” And then you got Boehner(Ha!) and the republicans saying “No way dude. We’re cutting everything!” So that’s pretty much what’s going on as I understand it. It’s a big mess and these old guys just can’t seem to look into the future and see that we’re still going to be in debt in 15-20 years if they don't something drastic. It’s kind of like my parents and grandparents using up all the gasoline back in the day without thinking that there might not be any left for me. Kind of. Maybe not. The point is there’s no foresight going on. And if the only solution they come up with is to raise taxes I’ll tell you right now, I ain’t paying.

5.NASA Retiring Space Shuttles- Ending on a positive note, they finally decided where the shuttles are going to end up after they’re retired. I’ve seen some concept art for the next generation of spacecraft and they look really awesome. Instead of developing their own ships, NASA is leaving it in the hands of commercial spaceflight companies that are springing up here and there. In 10 years they say you can hitch a joy ride to the moon for like, 100 thousand bucks.

That’s what interested me this week. Let me know if there’s something that should have been on the list. Sometimes I do miss out on some news.

Travel in China,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Legend Continues

The day after I got settled in Jen and I went out into the city for most of the day and walked around, not really doing much, just enjoying each other’s company. The initial awkwardness of meeting again after a while apart had faded away quickly and we had a wonderful time. I had forgotten how much I liked China’s public transportation. Buses, taxis, trains, I never had the chance to ride any of that in my small town. It’s so efficient! On the way home some little kid ran up to me shouting “Hello Harry Potter! Harry Potter, hello!” -_- Not sure how I feel about being compared to Harry Potter but whatever. I can think of worse names to be called. When we got home Jen’s dad was cooking some kind of pressed rice cakes. There were three different kinds. One was fried and not that great tasting. It had the texture of dried out grits. Bleh. Another was blackened and had a mild sweet taste to it while the other was dark orange and tasted kind of like pumpkin pie. Now I assumed it was rice but as you’ll learn if you go to China, sometimes it’s just best not to ask too many questions about what it is that you’re eating. After dinner we left early to get a spot along the river to see the fireworks show. There were people EVERYWHERE!!!!! They kind of used me as a battering ram to get through the crowd so we could get right by the water. Me and this guy who apparently worked for the Guangzhou newspaper or something were competing for the best shots of the fireworks. Every time I would lean out over the railing to take a good picture he would shout at me in Chinese, saying I was blocking his shot. When the show was over we compared pictures. He had this thousand dollar camera but had the same quality pictures as me with my $200 model. That was money well spent! Then we fought the crowds to get home and everyone started turning in for the night. For the first few days it was pretty cold, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit after the sun goes down. What is that? Like 10 degrees Celsius? Anyway, it was cold. Especially when you’re trying to use an outdoor shower with ridiculously low water pressure. I thought it was supposed to be hot all the time in the jungle!

The next day we got up late at around 10am and went to breakfast at this classy dim sum restaurant that I had been to last time. Jen’s parents took a sadistic pleasure in sending me to the food bar on my own. I had no idea what I was getting! I purposely grabbed the weirdest looking things I could find for them. So guess what I stumbled across? De-boned chicken feet. I thought regular chicken feet looked gross but this stuff looks like a partially petrified jellyfish that a sick dragon sneezed all over.

It just looks plain terrible. So I got it for Jen’s mom but little did I know that de-boned chicken feet are her favorite food. She scarfed em’ down in the blink of an eye. So my plan didn’t have the effect I was looking for but just as well I suppose. We finished breakfast and went to one of the several public parks in the area. It was really nice. Some guys were playing tennis when the ball went flying over the fence and they asked me in English to toss it back to them. I did and they asked me where I was from. “America,” I said. “Ohhhh. U S A!” and he gave the ol’ thumbs up. See? Chinese people aren’t so bad. We stopped by a small carnival where I bought tokens for everyone. Jen somehow managed to drag me onto a Swinger ride. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the ride where the swings spin really high and fast from a bunch of rusty chains. I already have a fear of heights (And sharks. And bears) and the prospect of riding on a suspiciously rickety attraction in China was not very appealing to me. After I survived that I went to play some of the games where I absolutely stomped these people. There was this one game where you shoot balloons with a bb gun. Now, it wasn’t my intention to live up to the stereotype of the trigger happy American but I massacred those balloons. They never saw it coming. I took my prize and left the small group of young boys wondering why they sucked so bad. Then we went to eat AGAIN at this nice teahouse. Nice environment and as usual a very attentive server/waitress. And I don’t think me being a foreigner had anything to do with it.

The next day on the 6th we took a bus to Zengcheng to visit Jen’s aunt. If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll remember Zengcheng. It’s about an hour outside of Guangzhou. Aside from the trash everywhere it was a nice little city. We arrived before noon and took some motorcycle taxis from the bus stop to the aunt’s house. That was a terrifying experience. I was carrying all these bags of stuff and had to hold on to the guy driving in the least gay way possible I could without falling off the bike. First time I ever rode bitch on a motorcycle. So many first experiences in China! When we got to the house the aunt and her teenage son and daughter (two kids? GASP!) were busy trying to prepare lunch. When word got around that Jen was bringing her laowai boyfriend everyone in town pretty much invited themselves to the cookout. I felt kinda bad about it so I offered to help with preparations a few times and was denied each time. I just wanna help! :-( Lunch was fun and the people were great. Trying to speak in broken Cantonese is a sure fire way to break the ice. When people had gotten their look and everyone started to clear out Jen and I with some other people walked around the neighborhood. It was a rural area and would have been very beautiful if not for the garbage piled up everywhere.

That night we went into town and bought some fireworks. The aunt’s son was a little firebug. He would light a bottle rocket and throw it. No thought into whether it might hit somebody’s car or come shooting back in our direction. I just thought he was clinically insane until everyone else started getting in on the action and I’m pleased to report that I shot something big, a roman candle on steroids, while holding it. You always hear about people blowing their fingers off in the US. I wonder what the injury rate is in China. It has to unbelievably high.

That’s enough for now. Next time we’ll get into the hiking trip from HADES.

Travel in China,

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Brush With an Internet Dating Scammer

I stumbled across a few forums lately dealing with international dating and among them were several topics dealing with internet dating scams, mostly started by the victims so you know that they were bitter about it. One guy even went so far as to claim all women outside of the US were a bunch of “clap-having jezebels.” Don’t really know what that means but I’m pretty sure that’s an unfair assessment. What the whole topic boiled down to was a bunch of na├»ve old men sharing depressing stories about meeting a woman online, sending her thousands of dollars (because you know, that’s a totally reasonable thing to do) and then getting dumped. Who didn’t see that coming? The stories made me remember a run-in I had with a suspicious character.

In March of last year, before my first trip to China in June, I was on AsiaFriendFinder looking for travel buddies that I could meet up with when we go to all these awesome places in the region. First of all, AFF is a terrible, god-awful website. It’s clunky, difficult to get around, and slower than all hell. And it’s crawling with scammers. Now I was looking only for platonic friends. I said as much on my profile and made it clear I was not available for dating since my relationship with Jen was getting serious. I met a few people on there who are cool to chat with and live near Guangzhou so they’re not all bad apples. But one day I got a message from this Russian girl named Larisa. We exchanged a few messages through the AFF email system before she gave me her personal email address. No red flags just yet. So she sent me some pictures and I didn’t really notice until a little later that her appearance seems to vary slightly in each one. She has blonde hair and blue eyes but her facial features changed. And after looking at each picture I reached the conclusion that they were all probably different women. But like I said, I didn’t notice until later.

I kept my letters very cordial but by letter 3 she was referring to me as “My dear James.” Kinda weird. One might just chock the affectionate tone up to her being European but it freaked me out and in every letter I sent to her, 7 in all until I caught on to her, I specifically stated I was just looking for friends. I wanted to be crystal clear about that. I don’t play the “game” and I can’t stand other people who do. I also started to notice that she never answered any of my questions. It was always her asking questions and telling me about her day. Absolutely no reference to my previous statements, even when I started to bring the hammer down on her for being weird. One of the choice things she said is “Your latest letter aroused warmth, admiration respect.” Errrrr……yeah. I imagine this kind of sweet talk makes some guys heads spin but I can’t help but squirm when I read through the old emails. It’s painful to read. She even asked for my address in the third email. Alarm bells are ringing. It only lasted about a week and a half before I kicked her to the curb. Sent her a one sentence message telling her not to bother me anymore and I wasn’t falling for whatever she was trying on me. Come to find out that her AFF profile had also been terminated for violating terms of service. No idea why but I believed it to have some kind of connection with funny business. Maybe I’m wrong but this woman really gave me the creeps. So even if she wasn’t a scammer then I still made the right decision.

In conclusion, things to watch out for to avoid a scammer:

-If the person does not refer to things you said in your previous emails be very careful. Ask questions and be sure that you recieve answers.

-Ask for photos. Make sure it's the same person.

-See each other on webcam as soon as it's comfortable for you. Seeing them as they are is an important step in validating their existence. The next step being to see them face to face.

-If they get too affectionate too quickly. Larisa was calling me 'baby' and 'dear' after 4 days. Really weird. You wouldn't like that from someone you just met at work or down the street so why tolerate it from someone on the internet?

-Don't give out your personal information until you have built up trust. Just because they give you their information don't give them yours. Never ever ever give your Social Security number or financial info. It's common sense but you would be surprised how many saps have done just that.

Just be smart and you won't end up suckered. And keep in mind that internet dating is probably going to end up being the main way couples connect in the future. It worked out for me so if you're down on your luck or looking for a change then give it a shot. Always aim high!

Travel in China,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Death Rattle of Virtual Free Speech

Hey guys. I promise I'll get back to more travel oriented stuff soon but I thought I should bring something up. Cyberwar. Everyone knows that just about every country with an internet connection is battling it out online. The heavy weights are of course the US, China and Russia. But strangely, America seems to be on the recieving end more often than not. What's up with that? You can read about some of the major attacks here. (http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/01/22/the_top_10_chinese_cyber_attacks_that_we_know_of). It's really interesting. It seems to me that if you wanted to put a stop to that kind of dickery you would come out publicy about it and punish them SEVERELY with a cyber attack of your own. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned like that. Russia is mostly bullying the former Soviet countries that are trying to side with the West and just generally acting like Russia. No big surprise there.

What got my attention today was an article about how the blogging site LiveJournal was allegedly(truth) attacked by Russian government hackers for the second time in like, two weeks. Seriously. All because SOME of the content was critical of the government. And rightly so! If the government's first response is to attack the blogs of vocal and socially conscious people instead of addressing their concerns then something might not be right in the motherland. Instead of wranglin' tigers and fishing without a shirt on, maybe Mr. Putin should huddle up with his lackey Medvedev (whose blog was also one of those to be affected) and think about some reforms. Oh, wait a minute. They tried that, didn't like people thinking for themselves, and now are slipping back into the days of the Soviet Union. Because last time it worked so well. China is no better either, launching attacks on Google, Wordpress and plenty others I'm sure. And since I'm writing this I'll just assume that Blogspot will never be unblocked again in the mainland. Oh doody. :-( To all you political bloggers out there taking heat from the Man, I salute you. Keep fighting the good fight!

Travel in China,

Monday, April 4, 2011

If I Were Emperor...

I read back over my previous post and thought I might try to be a little more sober and serious. And I should let you all know that I fantasize about world domination waaaaaay too much. Is that bad?

DISCLAIMER: I do not condone overthrowing the government. Unless they really have it coming. Which they might if they don't get their shit together. And the language might be a little more vulgar than usual. Just a heads up.

Assuming I become Emperor of the United States tomorrow after a popular revolution this is what I would do.

1. Pull our forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq. That entire part of the world is a shit hole. Always was and always will be. The lives of 10,000 Afghans isn't worth one drop of American blood. I can't even begin to explain how much it disgusts me to see thousands of people protesting the US for accidentaly killing a civilian but they don't say anything when the Taliban march into a bank and murder 20 of their own people. Spineless morons like that aren't worth fighting for. They should be left to stew in their muck. If they're cool with throwing acid on little girls for going to school or stoning women to death for cheating on their husbands (even if their is absolutely no evidence) then why should we care?

2. Stop attacks on Libya. None of our business. I already made clear my feelings about them in a previous post. And my predictions came true! As soon the NATO airstikes stopped during one day of bad weather the rebels were forced to retreat dozens of miles. How many dictators are there in the world? 30? 40? Why Libya? Libya is a relatively weak country. Seems to me like Iran and North Korea are a much bigger threat. And by not taking them on, presumably because of their nuclear capabilities, it makes other dictators want their own nuke programs. First it was North Korea, then Iran, and now Venezuela is trying to get in on the action. And Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are cracking down on pro-democracy activists just as hard as Libya was. Where's the UN mandate on those countries? Oh, wait a minute, they're all backing each other up in the UN Security Council and Human Rights Commission.

3. Form the North American Union. Or as I like to call it, The Greater American Empire consisting mainly of the US, Mexico, and Canada.

It’s actually a theoretical union similar to the EU. Now I know what you’re saying. There’s no way the Canadians and Mexicans would agree to something like this. That’s where you’re wrong. I can be incredibly persuasive. The three countries would be allowed to run their own domestic affairs but all would answer to me, their Infinitely Benevolent Emperor. A union would benefit everyone. More resources, manpower, industry, and technology. Three G20 countries united? China, India, and Brazil will just have to be happy with having the second, third, and fourth largest economies. Sorry fellas

4. Put a stop to outsourcing. I would heavily tax companies that hire a high percentage of workers overseas and give huge tax breaks to companies that hire domestically. It’ll be too expensive to not hire Americans. According to www.energyandlife.org 5.3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost to globalization since 1978. It’s time we bring that work back here and the money that comes with it. It’s not my problem if some guy in Bangladesh loses his job making running shoes. That’s probably how they feel about us.

5. Regulate major industries. I’m not a believer in the free market. To have a healthy, SAFE economy, you have to have some government oversight. The government should control at least part of steel, weapons, agriculture, and high tech industries.

6. Reorganize the bureaucracy. Congress and the Senate never get anything done. They argue for months, sometimes years, only to put the vote off or make the problem worse. Right now the Democrats and Republicans are arguing about the budget. They’re playing chicken and having a pissing contest with the future of this country. I would introduce a law that requires them to pass legislation in order to receive their salaries. No more arguing about healthcare reform for fifty years. If they have to reach consensus in order to get their paychecks you can guarantee that they’ll be a lot more agreeable. And if they aren’t then I’ll dissolve both of them and hold new elections.

7. Halt most government foreign aid programs. Only countries who know how to appreciate the help will get it. Which means that Israel is pretty much the only one who’ll get anything. In 2009 the US spent nearly $45,000,000,000 on foreign assistance. That includes humanitarian, military and development aid. The State Department seems to think that by offering aid (bribe) money, the recipients will support US policy. It never works. Here’s some info you might not believe.

-Russia got $478.9 million. That’s right. Our arch-nemesis, and allegedly rising superpower (I call bullshit) gets half a billion dollars. Maybe if they dismantled about 10,000 of their nuclear warheads they could have some money to spare.

-South Africa got $570.1 million. They had a nuke program, hosted the World Cup and are a G20 member state. Why do they get money?

-Zimbabwe got $285.5 million. Mugabe, who criticizes the Western world any chance he gets and does everything he can to piss us off is laughing all the way to the bank.

-Afghanistan got $8.8 billion. No surprise there. You also shouldn’t be surprised to know that less than 10% of that money was actually invested in what it was supposed to be invested in. Go to Afghanistan and see a brand new governor’s palace where a water treatment facility was supposed to be built.

-Pakistan got $1.8 billion. Probably about half of that was lost to corruption and the other half went to Pakistan’s ISI, a shady spy organization that ANSWERS TO NO ONE. It’s common knowledge that they give supplies and information to terrorist networks in the region and plan attacks like the Mumbai Massacre in 2008.

-And finally, Sudan gets $1.2 billion. $39 million of that is military equipment. We are supplying an Arab Muslim country that uses its military to massacre Christian Africans. Total. Fucking. Insanity.

8. Legalize gay marriage and marijuana. You can’t say that some people are allowed to get married and some aren’t. That’s not the way it’s going to work in my country. If you don’t like it then move to Europe. Legalize marijuana, tax the poop out of it and count the money.

9. Withdraw from the UN. The United Nations were formed to stop wars and mediate conflicts. It has failed spectacularly. Since its creation in 1945 there have been nearly 200 wars and over 3000 violent conflicts. How many has the UN intervened in? 63. Out of 3,200+ conflicts. And when they do intervene it’s usually a half-hearted peace keeping mission.

The US pays 22% of the UN budget. Billions and billions of dollars. When the UN acts unfairly against the US and its allies, America decides to be a little late with its money. So the UN actually has the balls to tell us that we are in debt to them by $500 million as of 2008. Even though China is now the world’s second largest economy it pays 3.2% of the budget while Japan pays 12.5%, the UK pays 6.6%, France pays 6.1%, and Russia, a Permanent Security Council Member, isn’t even listed in the top 10 donors. If you don’t pay a certain percentage then you shouldn’t get to have a permanent seat on the Security Council. You have to put your money where your mouth is.

10. Create a new world body. The League of Nations preceded the United Nations. And now the United Nations will precede the Earth Federation. I swear I’m not trying to rip off Mobile Suit Gundam. It will be governed by the heads of state of the member countries and only handle matters of global importance like alien invasions, black holes and global warming. Membership will be very hard to get. You have to prove that your nation is a force for good in the world before you can join. So that automatically cuts out about 80 countries.

11. Cut down on immigration from Muslim countries. Now I know I’m probably going to catch a lot of flak for this one. I know that all Muslims aren’t terrorists but the majority of terrorists these days are Muslims. If you’re a Pakistani and you want to come to the US, you have to have family here already or be on a business trip or something, and even then, you’ll have to get a background check and have all kinds of credentials. I don’t know a whole lot about the procedures but it will be really hard to enter the country. Count on it.

12. Become a leader in alternative fuels. Solar, wind, hydrogen. Those are all old news. And they won’t be able to provide all the energy we’ll need. There has to be another way. It’s a race. And the first one to find the next big thing will be rolling in the money. And quite possibly save the planet and humanity.

13. Adopt an isolationist policy. Nothing short of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan (I doubt Taiwan would need any help. They've been planning for a Chinese invasion for the last 60 years) would get us to go to war for someone else again. We would still back up our idealogical allies like the UK, France(bleh), Japan, South Korea, Australia, etc but no more bouncing around in the deserts of Africa and the Middle-East. If you got problems then deal with it yourselves. We're done with you. Whenever something happens the world always looks to the United States to say or do something. and when we do something they call us imperialists. You can't have it both ways.

14. Cut back on the size of the military. If the US unites with Canada and Mexico the combined active duty armed forces would number over 1.8 million soldiers. I would cut it down to 1 million and use the money saved from that to invest in education and infrastructure throughout the empire. Our military would still be the most advanced in the world. And with a ocean on both sides of the continent any major invasion would be fought with air and sea power. So a large ground force isn’t really necessary. We could always just train militiamen on the weekends if we’re worried about getting invaded.

15. Fix healthcare. The American healthcare system, once the envy of the world is in shambles. And as I understand it, the reason for that is because all the money for it was supposed to be held in a massive trust fund but the government was actually spending it. I would create many government owned businesses and the majority of profits would go into funding the healthcare system. I’m not talking about buying up a few Mom n’ Pop grocery stores. You remember the next big alternative fuel I was talking about? Well my government would have a monopoly on that technology. We would make trillions of dollars.

16. The United States of Space. Pour funding into NASA. Research new materials to make an orbital elevator and a rail gun capable of shooting spacecraft into space without costly rocket boosters. The ideas are solid but the materials just don’t exist yet. It can happen. Establish mining outposts on nearby asteroids so we don’t have to transport materials from Earth and BAM! In a couple years we have our first space colonies. Space is like the Americas in the 1600’s. Whoever gets there first claims it all.

That's it for now. My fingers are tired. I'm sure I forgot some stuff and I'm sorry if it got too political but I'm glad I got it off my chest. Bow to your emperor!

Travel in China,