Thursday, September 17, 2015

Debate #2

Random notes.  FYI, I wasn't able to watch the whole thing, or the under card:

  • Usually I don't watch such things and Kid Sandmich took noticed and inquired about why I was watching this one.  I hadn't thought of it, but then realized (and related) that while debates are usually just a series of scripted talking points designed for the question that they're being asked, Trump has changed that.  Since Trump violates the gentlemen's agreement that everyone respect everyone else's canned answers, the candidates have to give, well, "more real" answers.
  • The most interesting thing in the debate for me occurred right at the beginning.  The moderator explicitly stated that candidates would not be given more time unless they were called out by another candidate.  The moderator then (after intros) went to Trump who almost immediately called out Rand Paul for having no business being on the stage since he was the lowest polling candidate, to which Rand was able to give a nice long retort.  Why did Trump do this?  Because he meant to.  Rand Paul for SecDef?  Who knows....
  • Along those lines it was interesting that Carson and Cruz didn't slam Trump all that much either, hmm.
  • I thought that for the most part even the weakest candidates improved their lot.  Again, I thought that Cruz, Rand, and Walker did the best because of selection bias, but even the odious Marco Rubio and ¡Jeb! came off much better than they deserved.  The exceptions to this seemed to be Trump who felt that he had to play his cards close to the vest in a defensive maneuver and Carson who probably should have done the same and kept quiet a time or two.
  • I think Trump needs to change his 'bankrupt' talking points.  His point is fair: business units go out of business all the time, even the small place I work at has gone through that, repeatedly.  He just needs to take the focus off of him (yeah, fat chance) and restate it as just being the normal course of capitalism that not all ideas work out.  On the other hand, he closed in too late to press his point about Lucent in regards to Fiorina.  Fiorina's vendor financing scheme and dubious accounting nearly sunk one of the great American technology manufacturers.
  • Criticism of W. Bush ran through portions of the debate.  It's safe to say that no one is going to win running on his record.  However, as I've stated before, the post-Iraq war debates are easy to have now because Saddam is dead.  Without the threat of a hegemon in the Middle East (with Saddam arguably the only one who could fill that role) people are free to have whatever opinion that they want.  W. Bush's gift in this area was allowing people to be intellectually lazy in this regard.  Again, Trump came too late with a real criticism: W. Bush's crap economic decisions.  W's tag team with Wall Street and government rent seekers blew up the economy and only a fountain of cheap credit continues to mask the problem (while turning the U.S. into even more of an oligarchy).  Only the absolute corrupt ineptitude of King Putt makes W look good by comparison.
  • A couple of candidates mentioned, in name, Western Civilization.  Interesting that.  I'd like to see someone call them out and see if they think that importing a bunch of Islamic rabble from the Middle East is good, or bad for Western Civilization.
  • A few points continue to nag at me.  First is the repeated deference to Israel.  Israel is a fine place and I have nothing against them, but they're still a foreign country, not the 51st state.  They're a free thinking and determined people with military superiority and a suite of nukes. They're perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and at this point in time my bet would be that Israel will outlast many other places in the West and East.  Secondly, the whole "What Would Reagan Do?" line of thinking that continues to dog conservative thinking in general.  It's not bad to use the past as a guide, but Reagan was such a creature of his time and it's illogical to think that magic can somehow be bottled and used again (in fairness the Dems did this for decades in regards to FDR, it didn't exactly work out for them though).
  • My guess would be that the next debate (looks like a CNBC debate next month?) will have a trimmed roster.  My hope is that Rand can stick around while Huckabee/Firiona/Kasich/Christie go down to the undercard, however I'm prepared to be disappointed.
How about them Dem debates?  Looks like the first one is in...January?  And one of their few debates isn't even English, nice.  Looks like the plan is to hide Hillary until the election, not the worst strategy I suppose.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Drunk Blogging Part 104

Some consultants came to visit us at work many months ago and they were kind enough to leave an old Airport Express behind, one that they were so stressed about losing that they had their name and phone number stickered on it.  Despite their apparent concern about losing the unit they never came back for it and this past Friday I finally worked the gumption to ask the big boss if it was okay if I, like, borrowed it so that I could stream my, hmm, like, borrowed music...

Amazingly enough he was totally cool with me stealing borrowing it, probably because he didn't want it littering up his desk anymore, but anyway...
One of the songs that came up over the Airport was Tears for Fears Head over Heals, one of the best songs of the eighties, and therefore, one of the best songs ever:

It's amusing because even though they had a band name, the "band" was basically just Roland Orzabal (the lead singer in the video) and to a lesser extent Curt Smith (backup), when they split Roland put out a few albums under the 'Tears for Fears" name, although he was the only one putting the music together (think, Trent Reznor and "Nine Inch Nails", which are one in the same, I guess a group name sounds better?)
Anyway, a place down Columbus way was selling, oh yes, 64 oz growlers of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale for $16; $16!  I of course, couldn't resist.  My desire was rewarded with an immediate and sever head cold which meant that I was unable to drink my ale until now, dear reader.  Alas, I have to drink it all at once before, Cinderella style, it turns into Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Vinegar.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Way early and way late at the same time, I need to write it down lest I forget myself!

  • Hillary Clinton: Quite possibly the worst candidate the Democrats could have found to run.  The personality of a porcupine combined with the moral code of a heroin junkie.  Her one notable, and now dated, attribute is that she's still preferable to Obama.
  • Bernie Sanders: The one democrat who is not afraid to call himself the socialist that he is.  He's late to the game in realizing that unlimited immigration is incompatible with his socialist dream.  Unfortunately for him the rest of his party party is even later and haven't reached that conclusion yet.
  • That guy from Maryland: How did a Democrat forget that it's all about the blacks?  Black, black, black, black; that'll learn you O'Malley.  He could have stuck to his guns, but that would have automatically made him a Republican hate mongerer.
  • Jim Webb: He's a Democrat?  Well, as the only common sense choice in the Dem grouping his fight is pointless.  It would be interesting though to see the Repugs run Jeb against him and then when Jeb wins all the Dem states and Webb all the Repug states the single party singularity would be complete and the utter pointlessness of American Federal elections would be cemented in place.
  • Joe Biden: Creepy, dimwitted Joe's best attributes are that he's neither Hillary nor Jeb Bush, which is more than enough to win.
A weak slate of Dem candidates has drawn out every would be contender in the Repug field which is, in my mind, pretty strong, in no particular order:
  • Bobby Jindal: He made a name for himself by running as "not a criminal" in Louisiana and has somehow excelled there to the point that he's found much success.  I like Jindal and in another age he'd have a better shot, but being the biggest fish in a little pond that will end up in the R column anyway isn't enough to attract attention.
  • Lindsey Graham: If America wants a gay Democrat for President they'll just vote for Hillary.
  • Rick Santorum: His policy positions are OK, but he tends to play up the religious aspect of his beliefs, a sentiment which gave us the nasty Big Government Religious Charities from the 'W' years.  If someone wanted to destroy religion I can think of no better strategy than joining it at the hip with the government.  All that aside, Santorum's biggest fault is that he wouldn't even be able to reliably deliver Pennsylvania to the Rs.
  • Rick Perry: This guy still doesn't know what he's trying to do, methinks.
  • Mike Huckabee: Basically a 'W' clone, but without the charm and political acumen.  A better pundit than a presidential candidate, which isn't saying much.
  • Rand Paul: In my mind, the only candidate in the whole list who knows that we're broke and that the Federal government cannot be trusted and isn't afraid to say so.  Despite his rather odious immigration positions he makes my short list, though my guess would be that he's reached the zenith of his political ability as a Senator.
  • Donald Trump: He is the knife that the long ignored GOP base is using to stick in the ribs of the Chamber of Commerce controlled GOP elite.  So long as the GOP elite insist that they'd rather get stabbed with a knife than acknowledge their woeful leadership, they will continue to get stabbed with the knife, possibly up to and including them getting stabbed to death.  Of note from the Sandmich, Trump is a real estate developer which makes his "evil" potential possibly even higher than that of Obama or Hillary. 
  • Marco Rubio: Tying his ship up to the sinking rocks of Graham and McCain may have just been a dreadful mistake by a rookie senator, but I'd like to see something where he admits that this may not have been the best idea.  Instead I get the faint impression from him that the "base just didn't understand".  Oh we understand Rubio, now go away.
  • Scott Walker: Walker has a brief, though impressive resume and the best immigration stance of any of the candidates* and my personal first choice of the bunch.  The fact that he could probably deliver D state Wisconsin to the R column would make his presidential fight a bit easier.  My only concern is his lack of action in regards to the illegal "John Doe" investigations in his state; he seems to have that 'W' belief that the system will properly work things out.  No it won't, the system is out to get you and will consume you, it's inherently broken and some cynicism is in order.  As well, his strong stands may make winning Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania rough.
  • John Kasich: A clever Twitter commentator noted that John Kasich is an endangered species: a moderate Democrat.  He's had budget success in Ohio basically from many one time cash gimmicks that will leave a smoking crater in our budget long after he has left office.  His potential cannot be underrated however: his political capital in Ohio is strong and along with his policy positions he would stand a strong chance of putting all of the midwest sans Illinois into the R column in the general election which would make a near insurmountable hurdle for whoever was running as the Dem.  My guess right now is that he's the GOP establishment choice after Jeb inevitably blows up.
  • Jeb Bush: Whatever.
  • Chris Christie: Congrats on the weight loss!  If he could deliver the northeast in the general his candidacy might be of interest.  That feat is extremely doubtful though and he would need to depend on many states whose voters couldn't be bothered to show up to vote for Mitt who was a better candidate than Christie.
  • Carly Fero..Firo...F...Fiorina: Her years in backstabbing board rooms have served her well since she is quick on her feet and is always looking for an attack; as well, her knowledge and ability has won her proper accolades.  However, since there is no prayer of her pulling California into her column in the general, she's a candidate without a country and I seriously doubt that she'd be able translate her big-business-California-elite persona into a candidate that people elsewhere in the country will vote for.  Her recent statements that seem to favor government data slurping don't help her cause.
  • Ted Cruz: His back and forth with Huckabee in the debate proved that Cruz is not divorced from reality like much of the party leadership.  Like Rand Paul, he has picked all the right fights in the Senate and hasn't backed down which makes him endearing.  Unlike Paul, he doesn't have the libertarian baggage and is a bit more electable.  I should point out though that his stance on H1-B visas may be the worst of anyone with the possible exception of Rubio.
  • Ben Carson: Ben Carson seems like a great guy, but good guys finish last in this race.
It's worth pointing out that the next President is going to face some very, very hard times in an era where 99.9% of our elites are the worst elites in modern history and the FSA (free-shit-army) making up half the population.  This makes Trump somewhat more appealing because the future President will have to ignore what s/he's being told, a lot.  However my rankings are something like:
  1. Walker (a proven record of ignoring conventional "wisdom")
  2. Ted Cruz (a proven conservative who is realistic about many of the challenges that we face).
  3. Carly/Paul/Trump (all of whom have endearing, though differing attributes that put them outside of the regular party hierarchy). 
That's all fine and good, but how about candidates I won't vote for?
  1. Ds/Graham
  2. Kasich
  3. Bush
  4. Christie
  5. Rubio
  6. Huckabee (who loses out for being clueless more so than having bad policy positions (which aren't all the great either), but I would suppose a Huckabee/Biden debate would be pretty entertaining; it would truly be a sign of the end times as those two would spend hours getting everything wrong about crap that no one cares about).

* It's a bit of a misconception that Trump has the strongest law and order immigration stance, at least on paper, but in fact Santorum's is followed by Walker.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Flag Burnin'!

There's a school of thought in conservative circles that we'd be better off voting for Democrats in order to hasten the end of the republic (such as it is) so that something worthwhile might eventually be salvaged from the ruins; particularly since (as they would put it) voting for the Republicans just results in 'D-lite'.

I can't say as I'm a big fan of that line of thinking since I don't think that reformation is completely impossible.  Most of the egregiously bad laws (TARP, TPP, ACA) were not desired by wide swaths of Americans, but the monied interests that drive them have their talons inserted inches deep into our ruling elite (or worse, they're just one and the same).  If a way could be found to get these elitist groupthinkers under control...

To me this is of interest due to the 'Confederate Flag' imbroglio going on now.  Black people (not black rulers, such as they are) never had an issue with white people having something to hold onto.  So who has such hatred for the flag?  Why, other white people: the 'right' white people.  This can be witnessed by people who sport their superiority on Twitter and elsewhere saying stuff like "how will we know who the stupid people are if they can't put their flags on their cars?".  Perhaps oh wise netizens, you can just look for the "Coexist" sticker instead.

With the people who should know better giving into the left's raving demands, the "year zero" crowd is now emboldened and calling for such things as getting rid of memorials to Jefferson and Washington while actively expunging American history of the people and events that are incongruous to the dinner party set.

After badmouthing wide swaths of their nominally fellow countrymen in order to sport their anti-racism peacock feathers, some of the group are having a pause for thought.  Now with American history under attack generally, some of our 'betters' want those that they denigrated to join with them in defending the portions of history that they themselves find acceptable.  Well, y'all can bite me; what exactly did you think was going to happen?  I was never a fan of the flag myself, but I'm even less of a fan of the snob set that thinks it knows better than anyone else.  In this way the Confederate battle flag came to represent exactly what it's adherents said that it did: a symbol of group solidarity for those who do not tow the party line (which is all the more reason why it must be crushed, no?).

I have to wonder if reformation of American history (society/government/etc.) is possible at this point.  With no one left to defend it, I have to hope that the destruction of American history will mean that at some point something can be salvaged.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


I'm tired, so let's skip to some pics!

The Vikings new stadium/corporate welfare project.  Seriously, thanks all football haters for  helping to pay for these sports palaces!
Various Skyway bridges (6) can be seen crossing above the road below

A Skyway mall
I'm not sure about the zoning peculiarities regarding Minneapolis' extensive Skyway.  Many buildings have a two story lobby as seen above.  It still has to be disconcerting to be mandated to allow strangers to walk through your building I would think.

View from the Marriott workout room, for all the good it did me...

At $3.50 a bottle, it better come from some place other than Earth.
Really?  $1000 a night?  These rack-rate postings are supposed to be a hedge to keep the innkeeper from gouging unsuspecting patrons, but when they're marking the rate up by +500% I don't quite see what the point is.

The Mississippi river running through the city.

Mary Tyler Moore

Panorama of the Twins game (Twins beat the Tigers, yay!)

From the hotel window at night (helps hide the grime on the window).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Lenten Special

So I decided to give up video games for lent.  Yeah.  Unlike previous years though, actually tried this time.  Success was limited, though not bad for myself, I suppose.  I made it about five days in before I realized that my sanity toolbox only has a handful of tools in it: booze (makes me fatter, so that's out), food (ditto), exercise (I gave that up for lent too ;-), and video games.  Without video games I knew that I was doomed to do the other three (well, two) more often.  I had high hopes on cranking on my Chinese language training and other betterment options, but I'm really running at that about as quick as I can already with my tired brain.


Some hay has been written about the use of "measure words" in Chinese, but they actually make sense on some level since no one in English says "two papers", it's "two pieces of paper".  In this case, "pieces" is the measure word used for paper in English.  The only difference is that measure words are used all the time in Chinese rather than half the time in English.  My favorite thus far being "two cars" or Liǎng liàng chē (or 'two vehicles of cars') since the double 'liang' is so hard to nail.

I'm almost through the first book in this fairly decent set.  It's pretty complete, though it helps to have a Chinese person to ask to round some of it out.  For instance the Chinese have multiple words for restaurant (as we do in English) though the language training set only comes with one of them.  I slowed when I got close to the end of the first book since the beginning of the second book goes over family relation words.  I'd really only concentrated on learning the words for younger brother and younger sister to this point (one advantage among the few of the being the oldest sibling), but the book has a rash of separate words for relations such as "father's brother's daughter, older than you".

I asked Sally about those words since I thought that they'd be a waste of time to learn.  She responded that trying to do that was a bit quixotic and then illustrated it perfectly by not even getting the prefix for mothers/fathers side correct.  She also said that she had a faux pas at the wedding when she used the wrong word for one of her relations.  I guess she didn't have much of an excuse as she said that they make apps, for Chinese people, so that they can put in the relation and get the word.  I mean, really?  I know Americans are stuck on English measures instead of Metric, but I'd think that we'd give it up if we couldn't ever remember how long a mile was.

Job Lottery

I'd gotten a lead on a higher end IT management position at a private college in the Cincinnati area and it was inspiration enough to send in a killer resume and cover letter to see if I could get an interview.  It was a slight wait, but I got a response from them that they'd like to do a phone interview and to let them know what times were good and...what salary I was looking for.  Unfortunately for them I had an inside track and knew:
  • They had issues hiring technical staff to fill vacant positions, to the point that they gave up and went with contractors.
  • This position was actually replacing a position that was eliminated late last year.  They found the existing position too costly so they fired that guy, downgraded the position, and now they were looking to fill it.  That doesn't exactly exude a ton of confidence in the position, no matter who fills it.
  • Colleges this size have had a habit lately of vanishing very suddenly.
  • Managing a college IT department is like being in a Sultan in the late Ottoman Empire: all title/no power.  I already knew of at least one failed project and knew that with their previous issues they probably had more in the pipe.
  • It's a college.  This means that even if everything goes well I might get fired for saying a word that is offensive to the Eskimos of Papua New Guinea or some such crap (or, alas, running a rarely updated, intentionally offensive blog site).
So for each of those bullet points I added a couple thousand dollars and came up with what I called "a job lottery amount" since, if they didn't scoff at it, it would be the next best thing to winning the lottery.

Unsurprisingly they called me and said that the amount that I put down was a bit high (though to be honest, not crazy high for the type of position) and I got the impression that expected that I would want to round down due to the nature of the institution.  The woman on the other end of the phone sounded like someone who really wanted to drive off the lot in the BMW, but alas, only had Chevrolet money.   This basically reaffirmed my decision though since they seem to be circling the same drain as many failed institutions:
  • They desperately need top talent,
  • Since they don't have the money, top talent demands even more as a form of pre-paid severance.
  • They get bottom/no talent making the situation more acute
  • Repeat.
It's along the same lines as "extend and pretend" used by marginal businesses where their payables go out 60 days, then 90, then 120, then, well then no one will sell them anything without cash on the barrel and the place ends up folding.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chick Flix

Bunny Love

Not a movie, but first we have this offering from a Chinese version (of sorts) of Amazon:
The best thing that can be said for these is that they're significantly less disturbing than the other animal heads on there which look to be made for bizarre Adult Swim bumpers.


The entire time that I was watching this I puzzled over why this movie exists; it's not as if there'a dearth of live action Cinderella knock-offs.  The answer of course is in the movie theater full of cheering women: printing cash for Disney.  Women apparently can't get enough of the "loser babe scores alpha male" story which is refreshing in it's own way since such sentiments run so counter to PC "mores" and feminism generally.  So hooray for Cinderella and the Disney money machine that helps keep lefty extremism at bay despite their own efforts.  But as a guy, yeah, I don't need to see another Cinderella movie again, ever.

The Snow White Murder Case

Quick: pick out the ugly one, the pretty one, the one that was murdered, and the killer, and some are one and the same.  It's easier than you think.
This Japanese movie was sold to me by Sally as being a real plot-twister of a murder mystery.  Fifteen minutes in though I was reminded of when Memoirs of a Geisha came out ten years ago and there was much consternation over the fact that Japan couldn't field any decent actresses so Hollywood had to go with Chinese actresses ("All you people look the same to me").  The accusation at the time was that the animated form had stunted the ability of the Japanese to put together live-action productions.  I made this remark to Sally and she asked what was wrong with the movie and I said "well, the acting,...the directing, um, the cinematography, the script, and, well, yeah it's like an over-funded high school movie project".  I can capture the movie's faults in one screen grab, where, in a rather important scene someone thought that it would be a good idea to put a color-shifting bowl of rotating water, a transparent LED toilet of sorts, in the background:
It doesn't help that the bowl is more interesting than the actors
The movie did have a few strengths.  For instance, what was of mild interest, and what the movie should have concentrated more on, is the absolute pettiness that can accompany large groups of women working together.  Lots of 'fun' was on display such as women putting each other down for their clothes, making efforts to steal the office alpha-male (or what passes for one in a Japanese office), petty thefts, backstabbing, exaggerating stories told in confidence so that they can be crafted into a self esteem killing barbs, etc.  Yes it's all in there and it goes to show that for as much as women may love the workplace, they rarely like working with, or especially for, other women.

It's a shame that a movie that was so close to succeeding in being a cautionary tale on workplace feminization turned into such a hot, unfocused mess.  (Actually the movie could have just been about any one of the four things it tried to be about and it would have been better).

Empresses In The Palace   

The costume drama to end all costume dramas

While in China I may have mentioned that there was a historical soap opera of sorts that played nonstop on one of the channels.  Weighing in at a hefty 76, 45 minute episodes, it is a lot to take in, perhaps...

I bring this up since the series can now be viewed on Netflix in a truncated format: 6, 90 minute episodes.  Talk about a hatchet job!  How one edits this down without translating the whole thing I don't know, so I'm unsure what the point of the exercise is.  The series is meticulous with their set design and costuming and is filmed on a set which is a recreation of the Forbidden City and is a tourist attraction in its own right.

The problem with the native series, not that I could understand any of it, is that at least 90% of it is women talking back and forth and back and forth and back and forth about palace intrigue BS (the other 10% is women boring men to tears with palace intrigue BS).  "No wonder they were always overrun by barbarians", I thought while watching.  Sally complained that the Netflix series doesn't make sense in its heavily edited format, but I can easily believe that a version of this series could be trimmed down to an even hour for male viewers.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sandmich China UnFAQ

Q: What, no running diary?

A: I thought of doing that, but this was more of a social visit than a tourist trip.  As an example, two of the days I was there (the second and third I believe) were very nearly exactly the same.  Just as you would expect if you were sitting around your own home, and who would keep a diary of that?

Q: Where's the usual biting Sandmich style of snarky B.S. in regards to the China trip?

A: Let me first point out that the Chinese don't do well with criticism ('self' or otherwise), so I feel that I have to be somewhat guarded in my comments.  Additionally, despite whatever issues I encountered, my hosts were very generous and worked to help me with any issues that I thought worthy of bringing up to them.  It's hard for me to say 'X' sucked when if I actually felt that 'X' was that big of an issue I could have asked for help with it.

OK, but I'll need his address.

Q: How about the flight experience?

A: We packed a bunch of food, which I was against since I'd have to dedicate my limited space to hosting it.  The Air Canada flight (Toronto->Shanghai) was crazy with the food and the beverage cart (two and half meals along with four beers).  This meant that starting out the trip, I was already traveling full of food, something which would rarely go away.

Air China was interesting in that they had what had to be at least a full inch more between the seat rows which meant that I could sit and not have to fold my legs in at an angle under the seat in front of me.  I thought the extra space was all the more interesting due to Asian people's reputation for shorter stature (though I saw plenty of Chinese dudes at my same height/weight and got to sit next to one, yay).  Air China made up for this though by not having air vents (so I got backed like a piece of smelly toast in the middle row) and an incredibly inane policy of not allowing cell phones to be on at all ("off" meaning the screen is off).

Which since I've brought up unreasonably stupidity in regards to Chinese air travel I should bring up Chinese airport security.  I've found that the only thing worse than the American 'airport security-kabuki theater' is the strict Chinese airport security (I'd read an article recently talking about how American airport security was the worst and the author listed all the places that were better, and oddly not one place in Northeast Asia made the list).  Lighters (even empty) are not allowed onto checked bags, everyone gets patted down by a goon with a wand scanner of some sort, and security checks are layered and redundant as if the government is absolutely terrified of...something (this is actually a theme that would come up again and again on the trip).  At Beijing we had to go through four security check points before getting on the plane:

  1. An explosive chemical check upon entering the airport
  2. Baggage inspection at check-in
  3. The ever popular x-ray/metal detection station
  4. A spot bag inspection within the tunnel entrance on the plane where fluids purchased within the airport had to be disposed of (?!?!).
Yeah, f@@k them.

Giant Christmas display at the Beijing airport.

Q: You survived the automotive traffic though?

A: There are no scooters on the highways but there's all manner of 30 mph trucks that pop up.  Intersections without signals are treated in a manner similar to a traffic circle (though with everything from pedestrians to trucks trying to get through).  Intersections with signals are actually treated with a proper amount of respect, possibly because the police in China love fines nearly as much the Ohio State Highway Patrol (this in addition to the huge number of traffic cameras on the highways).  However I was there two weeks and was indirectly involved in two traffic altercations and survived more close calls than I've had the rest of my life, so my survival wasn't for lack of trying.
Note the scooter in the far distance; chances are it A) is electric and thus silent, B) is peeling down this narrow alley at  30mph and C) will run you over if you're not quick enough.

Q: Food?

A: I can remember exactly one meal that I sat down to before which I was actually hungry.  Every other time I was so stuffed from the meal before that it took (even for me) all my will power to sit down to another meal.  Even the smallest spreads had way too much food, the worst ("worst") being this pre-wedding feast which had enough food for twice many people as were at a table:
It was interesting because everyone would be at the table packed senseless and then they'd bring out another dish and everyone would groan, and then another, and another, and so on until untouched dishes sat stacked upon the half eaten dishes that the table inhabitants already couldn't finish off.  As many said while I was there, it was as if every meal was Thanksgiving.  So a Thanksgiving dinner for lunch, and then for dinner, and then lunch the next day, etc.

Q: So no food issues?

A: Well...I did get some kind of bug late in the day (after consuming the above feast) and I was not feeling very well the day of the wedding.  I pleaded "stomach issues", not wanting an awkward translation 'back and forth' around the discussion of "fever laden, explosive diarrhea".  In the picture above you can see the clams (about 1:00 on the table, under the multi-colored cake thing, they're raw) but there's also raw crab (probably buried under that plate of green stuff at 11:45), both of which I made the mistake of eating.  As well, all food is 'community eaten' (note the lack of serving utensils) so if any of the dozens of people I was eating with over the course of the days prior had a stomach bug, I was bound to get it myself (though Mrs. Sandwich didn't get ill).

As well, for some reason my eczema was extra upset on the trip and the doctor said "no seafood, no alcohol" (and no spicy food too, though there's none to be found expect for some weak sauce stuff at KFC).  This left me with being able to eat veggie plates, lamb (which seemed to pop up at every meal, in the pic I believe it is under the multi-colored cake opposite the clams) and pork (you may notice the pepper steak sitting on top of the lobster in the picture which is fitting since the lobster showed up more frequently than beef).

Q: A favorite story of Mrs. Sandmich is you being unable to go 24 hours in Japan without having an unquenchable spaghetti jonesing; anything like that this time?

A: Chinese food, at least where I stayed, has a lot more variety, it would seem, than Japanese food.  A few of the dishes tasted outright 'American' and the Chinese aren't afraid to use a wide variety of starches (noodles, rice (not as much as one might think) potatoes, sweet potatoes, tapioca, etc) so it never felt like I was in a food rut.  As well, Mrs. Sandwich bought me some dehydrated peanut butter to bring along for my peanut butter fix (the Chinese frequently had some sort of boiled peanut out as snack, not bad, but not quite the same).  

I should also point out that I did a command performance and prepared pizza one night at the newly married couple's house (they own what may be the one range style oven on the island).  Mrs. Sandmich came by the last imported can of Hunts spaghetti sauce and between the Italian seasoning the I brought over, three packs of very expensive "mozzarella cheese food" (why didn't I get a picture of that?) I was able to make a couple of passable pizzas.

Q: What's it like to be in a police state?

A: It was interesting since crime is known to be low (not Japan low mind you though) but every night the cops would be out by the town square with their giant ass paddy wagon ( I not dare take a picture).  What are they afraid of that they have to be out like that, every night?  I explained the doors in another post where nearly every room in Chinese homes is a panic room, but as well around the development where the newly married couple lives is a high cement wall topped with broken glass.  All larger property developments have private security of some sort (even though and the building's multilayered defenses were often ignored).  I just got the impression that there was some security issue lurking not far below the surface that no one wished to discuss, but this may have just been some natural American paranoia.

Beyond that, I used IPVanish to work around the Great Firewall.  I felt my IQ drop by about five points without my Google access and was glad when I got it back.

Other than that the police state was more PIA than 'goonish', at least where I was.  It was more of a 'soft tyranny' that was indistinguishable from local tastes.  Why is there no foreign liquor?  Because the locals won't buy it, or because some guy in the PLA doesn't want competition for his disgusting rice liquor products?  For all the development, why are the rolling hills almost completely devoid of any kind of buildings of any sort?  Because people don't want to live there, or local government big-men are hoarding it?  Etc.
The undeveloped hills do keep the place looking good though; maybe that's why?
Q: Anything that you think will rank as a lasting memory?

A: With a mind like mine, it's hard to know if anything will stick.  What makes Japan interesting is that it's almost like a giant, Japanese theme park.  It seems that everyone in Japan, from the architects of skyscrapers to the guys who paint lines on the street are of the same mind and are designers where they want everything that they do to match up to each other.  It really is crazy how the whole place just flows.  China on the other hand is much more like America in that, whatever needed to be done at that point in time, was done according to the fancies of whoever was in charge.  Streets don't look the same between areas, buildings bear no symmetry, and stores do the best for themselves without regards for what their neighbor is doing.
This charming store could be almost anywhere.
 As well, the Chinese seem to be more laid back in their definition of 'fun'.  Sure there's movies, TV, and whatnot, but liquor seems to be an afterthought and it's often enough just to sit around with the family spending a couple hours eating a meal.

I have to say though that the one thing that will be hard to purge from my mind was being cold.  In preparation for our trip I had bought two sets (shirt and pants) of Climatesmart stuff.  I dare not buy more since I couldn't have imagined wearing them much since, heck, I live in Cleveland and haven't needed them!  I have to tell you that there was only one day when I didn't wear them (aggressive wash schedule obviously) because there was no heat anywhere even though the temperatures typically ranged between 45 and 55 (with occasional dips below freezing).  I can remember one occasion where I was sitting at my computer (inside mind you) and I had my Climatesmart attire on, a flannel shirt, a sweatshirt, and my light winter jacket and I was still cold, oh so cold!
The air-conditioning boys are happy because they will probably never see a day of service.
 But maybe it's because I'm a wuss?  China is a hard country full of hard people and perhaps I just can't compete.
The 'box spring' is, as Mrs. Sandwich said, "a skid".
 Hard beds, hard decisions, hard to read language, hard to eat food (at times, and I mean difficult, not distasteful), hard government, hard traffic, etc.  It's probably to be expected that a people that has seen (and continues to see) as much adversity as they have, that they probably don't care about silly things like heat when it's just as easy to dress warmly, or about any sort of kitchen gadget when a cleaver can open cans as well as fruit and meat.  Why bother with drinkable water when heating it up does the job?

I suppose that it may not be a bad thing for life to be more closely stripped to the essentials so that people can stay focused on what's really important.
The bride and ring bearer try a duet.
Q: Believe or not, some of us are not dudes and we actually care about the wedding part of the trip!

A: It's...different.  Being a guy it's hard to know what people would be interested in.  Although the marriage was not arranged, it still operated a lot as if it were.  The groom's family had to put up a substantial investment: buying the newlyweds a new home with all the fixuns', and other help to make sure that they get off to a good start.  In return the bride is formally a member of the grooms family.  Therefore, wedding ceremonies carry a bit a business air, but they're serious and they actually mean something and have weight.  The traditional ring exchange occurred at the grooms house and a few facets including paying respects to ancestors and the bride having to serve her new family.  The latter ceremony (pictured above) was (I believe) put on by Sally's family and was basically a redux of the earlier ceremony with a little bit of a western flair and a reception all rolled into one.  None of the ceremonies had an 'authoritarian' figure of any sort (i.e., a minister, etc.) and both involved a serious amount of food (of course).

The whole situation was a little bit odd since I and Mrs. Sandwich were considered part of the wedding party (a distinction we frequently noted was not required).  This allowed us to go to the ceremonies at the groom's parent's house (only Sally and her cousin came along since they were part of the wedding party as well, no one else from Sally's family was permitted to attend) as well as sitting at the main table for the ceremony at night.  Our hosts were crazy good to us and it really stretches the imagination to think of a way to repay their hospitality.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

China Post Four

Some more pictures perhaps...

I'd buy these for my nephews if there was school in the USA that they could take them to without getting kicked out.

Condo sitting beside a construction bog.  It seems like labor is thrown at any project if they can get by without a machine.  I'm sure at some point in time this will be prettied up (well, not that sure), but outside the complex they had a crew of men doing prep on the road to be blacktopped with brooms and dustpans.

View away from the front of a hospital where I saw a dermatologist, got a prescription, and was in and out in ten minutes, all for the wallet ruining cost of ~$35.  The whole experience left me even more disenchanted with the American medical system than I already was.

You pick it, they cook it.

Weddings are a big deal all over, from what I hear.  It's interesting that the spouse's family is noticeably less well off than Sally's family, but then so is most of the rest of the planet.  This 'modest' house would be a regular middle to upper middle class home in the U.S. and with hot water, indoor plumbing, flat screen TV, etc. I'd have to guess that they're well on the upper side of 'good' in China.

Monday, January 05, 2015

China Post Three

The condos/house (in China there is no term for "condo" apparently) buildings exhibit a beauty from afar in China, but then as you get closer you find the facade applied to the concrete form buildings doesn't hold up quite so well and that the locations lose some of their allure when there's laundry hanging out of every window (to be fair, even the most expensive palaces have laundry hanging out their window)*.  Sometimes though there's a real treat hanging out the window.

Here's a Google shot of a building close to the location where I'm staying:
This building is, so far as I can tell, the highest condo tower in the city; so naturally the very highest floors will be held by an exclusive elite with the rest of the building populated by their hangers-on.  Here's an exterior shot:

Cool, but it looks like there's something hanging out the window on one of those upper floors...


*I'd probably hang my laundry up too given that I had someplace to do it (and negating the fact that for large portions of the year I couldn't do it at all).  As well I noticed this same thing in England where people blithely leave their windows open and can hang sausages outside with impunity.  If I tried the same thing wildlife would have the sausages eaten in matter of hours (minutes if at night) while any gap in a screen means flys, hornets, and all manner of creepy crawlies in the house.