Monday, January 14, 2019

Call Me...Maybe?

I received the following writing prompt in my inbox this morning and knew exactly what I would be writing about.

A phone ringing in the middle of the night is symbolic of something terrible has happened. Everyone knows this. A phone call this late is reserved for emergencies. Unless you had idiot friends when you were a teenager who had no concept of manners time. I always hated having to go to my school to yell at some idiot who was inconsiderate enough to call my house in the middle of the night. In the '80s, we didn't all have cell phones. You called the house phone which woke everyone up and my dad would answer. I would then get in trouble for having stupid friends.

So, if you don't have idiot friends, then a late-night call meant something terrible has happened. The pulse jumps before the first ring has even finished as you imagine all the terrible news that is awaiting you on the other side of that receiver.

However, a middle-of-the-night call doesn't have the same meaning for me any longer. I have lived in Southeast Asia for the last two years. This means 98% of the people I know are on the exact opposite side of the world than I am. My hometown is 12 hours behind me in Vietnam. This means that midnight for me is noon where my parents and kids live.

A phone call in the middle of the night means someone forgot about the time difference. Plus, I don't have to worry about this because my kids never call me anyway.

Additionally, neither my wife nor I keep our cell phones in the bedroom. So, it becomes even less of an issue. If someone does call us in the middle of the night, we won't even know about it until morning. Plus, what good does it do to call us in an emergency anyway?  We are freakin' 12 time zones away! What can we do about it? A couple of extra hours before we get the "bad news" wouldn't make any difference.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


In my last post, I stated that I would be blogging every day (except Sundays) for the rest of this month. I also showed a picture that may guide many of my posts to make sure I have a topic.

Today is the 14th in my part of the world. So, my word for the day is ACCOUNTABLE.

This is perfectly appropriate for being my first day jumping into this new challenge. The entire reason I posted saying that I would be writing every day for the rest of the month was for a little accountability from other people. 

Not that anyone actually says anything to me. I just know that it's out there. I have said it publicly, so now I take making sure that it happens a little more seriously.

I don't know why this works for me, but it does. I can easily come up with excuses not to do something. It's one of the few things I actually work hard it, but I'm a natural so it's easy for me.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with accountability. Every jobI've ever had, I  have always felt like I was about to get in trouble at any moment. Even when I was doing jobs where I was confident and really knew what I was doing. I would be crushing it, but still always looking over my shoulder waiting for the shoe to drop. I always wanted to please my bosses but also felt like I just wasn't doing it well enough.

I don't perceive all aspects of life this way. Just work. However, making a public declaration of my intentions does give me more drive to make sure it happens.

So there it is. I'll be back every day. Just like hunger.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Maybe This Time

I have an issue with motivation.

It's something I have been aware of my entire life. My parents used to tell me I was lazy. And they were right. I have an extreme aversion to having to put out effort to do anything I don't want to do. I just don't want to do it. In fact, I often have an aversion to doing things I actually do want to do.

Right now, the thing I want to do more than anything else is to write a book. Several books actually. And I have done this already. Sort of. I joined this National Novel Writing Month competition last year and competed again this year. The goal of the competition is to complete a novel (50,000 words) within the month of November.

I accomplished this both years. It was so much fun to toil over the creation of my worlds and come up with the rules of how things operate in my reality. To come up with the little twists and turns the plot was to make. Thinking up the little idiosyncrasies of my characters and how they interact with each other. That was the creative part. I loved it.

So I have two novels sitting on my computer that no one has ever seen. And they have not been seen yet for a reason. They just aren't ready for that because now I need to go through and re-write them. Edit them. Re-edit them. Scrutinize the plot trajectory and the character arc. Check for plotholes and logical inconsistencies.

All of this stuff sucks.

However, it is part of what must be done if these writings are ever going to see the light of day.

 So, once again, I am working to develop the habit needed to get back to work and get this done. I am going to blog daily for the next few weeks (maybe even months) to kickstart the writing habit again. And to give me no excuse about not having something to write about, I will be using this graphic as a suggested daily topic.

On any given day, if I do not feel that I have a topic to write about, I will use the topic for that day from this list.

Now, I intend to write every day, but I may excuse myself from Sundays. Sunday is the one day that I work all day. Basically, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. I get a couple of short breaks in there, but may not use them for writing.

Let's do this.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Let the Right Ones In

The United States has a big problem that has been around for a long time. This topic dominates much of the political discourse not only on television but in bars, restaurants, hair salons and coffee shops around the country.


The immigration crisis is such an issue that every political candidate as far back as I can remember has been expected to have a clearly defined immigration platform. It's right up there in importance with the economy, education reform, and favorite sexual deviance.

Whatever your stance on how immigration reform should be handled, I think most of us can agree that not EVERY single person who wants to come into our country should just be allowed to do so. There has to be some sort of screening process. And I have some suggestions on how to choose who can stay and who has to be sent back.

Before I explain my system, let me explain some of my criteria for how my system works. No one will ever be rejected because of their country of origin. Name the dirtiest, nastiest, most evil-minded country you can think of. I will not be suggesting this country for you. Your own personal brand of racism must be used for this answer. Believe it or not, there are probably a few decent people even from that cesspool of depraved humanity.

They will also not be selected to stay or be rejected based upon their career, education, spoken language, favorite Fraggle, gender, sexual orientation, movie collection, religion, talent, or opinion of the Kardashians. And nothing about their appearance will have any effect on the decision made except for two things: people who wear socks with sandals and anyone sporting a fanny pack. We don't need any more of those people. They will be pulled directly from the line before even making it to the processing interview.

There is just no excuse for this.

Once in front of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, their native language will be determined immediately. If they already speak English as their first language, then there are a few extra rules applied to them immediately. These people will be given a short text to read out loud. This text contains keywords which must be pronounced correctly for the arriving immigrant to be given further consideration.
  • library - both Rs must be clearly heard
  • nuclear - correct pronunciation is (noo-klee-er), not (noo-kyuh-ler) nucular
  • supposedly - this should not have to be said, but there is no B in this word
If English is not their first language and they make it all the way through screening, their case will be reviewed after one year. By then, proper pronunciation of these words should be achieved. Accent is not an issue. Proper letter placement is.

Immigration processing takes a long time. At some point, the applicants for entry will need to eat. They will be provided with a full hot meal in a cafeteria. This meal is just as important to the screening process as the interview. All applicants for entry will be carefully observed while dining. Any individual who does understand the concept of queuing (waiting in line for your turn), will be immediately removed and denied entry. Much of life in America is waiting in line (restaurants, banks, the DMV, etc.) and thinking they can jump to the front causes stress for everyone. The practice or non-practice of this custom in their own country is of no consequence. They are out. Even demanding the attention of a cafeteria employee while that employee is working with another customer will get them removed.

While eating their meal, immigrants will be observed for basic table manners. Some may need to be given a pamphlet to help them understand what may be different from their own country, but there are certain practices that will elicit immediate removal and denial of their application.
  • Biting down on their fork and pulling it through their teeth. The sound is worse than nails on a chalkboard. We can't let more people into the country who are doing this.
  • Anyone who appears to be personally offended by someone else's choice of food.
  • Anyone dining with children who do not keep their spawn at the table with them (not running around),  reasonably quiet, and not a nuisance to other people.
  • Leaving an unnecessary mess behind at your table. Even if you have children. Children are a little messier but after you leave it should not look like a macaroni orgy exploded at the table.

Kids can be messy. However, leaving the table like this for someone 
else to clean up, should get people (including citizens) deported.

To promote harmony within our borders, these criteria are necessary. These rules will not be defined before they eat. They are not based on a person's culture, but on their respect for their fellow man.

This test of respect for other people is extended to bathroom practices also. A restroom attendant will be stationed outside of each restroom. After an applicant leaves the restroom, the attendant will go in for inspection. He will be looking for one thing. If there is any sign of feces outside of the toilet bowl, their application for entry is pulled. Whatever gross practice a person may have for not being able to accomplish the simple task of crapping is none of our concern. However, we are greatly concerned that you just left that nastiness there for some other person to take care of. Get out.


During processing, each person applying for entry will be given a stipend and sent into a small store to pick up a list of things. Twenty random applicants will be in the store at a time to not only observe their shopping practices but their interaction with each other. Immigration officers will be watching on closed-circuit television for certain "immediate disqualification" practices. The following will have them removed from consideration from entry into our great country:
  • Unnecessarily blocking an aisle with your cart. The aisle has room for two carts to pass. No reason to leave it in the middle.
  • Blocking someone's path through a crowded aisle when they can clearly see that the person is trying to get through.
  • Any instance of picking up an item and later placing it on a random shelf in the wrong place. An applicant who changes their mind about a product would be expected to return it to its original location.

As with the restaurant test, these infractions that disqualify a person will not be explained to them ahead of time. This scenario was designed to observe their respect for other people. Every culture has polite and rude people. And the concept of what is considered rude is vastly different around the globe. However, being a nuisance or a burden to other people says something about the offender's character. No one should have to be told that preventing other people from getting through is unacceptable. It should just be the natural way a person thinks. Letting these people in would only increase the number of inconsiderate people in our country who also believe it is acceptable to just leave their shopping cart anywhere in the parking lot.

Another test happens at the desk of the interviewing officer. Once the interview process has begun, any applicant who chooses to answer a text, check Facebook, post a selfie, take a phone call, tweet or do anything with their phone other than check the time will be escorted back to their side of the border.

One of the great things about America is the fact that we are a nation full of immigrants. There is no typical way that an American looks. We have people from all over the world and those people bring the customs of their country here with them. This makes for a rich and diverse cross-section of people and practices. This massive conglomeration of beliefs and practices only works when we respect each other and treat other people the way we would like to be treated.

The behavior guidelines stated in the preceding paragraphs are intended to give ICE officials the tools needed to weed out the inconsiderate jackasses before they enter into our country. Cross-cultural interactions already have enough confusions and misunderstandings. There's no need to add self-centered carelessness into the mix as well. We already have enough people here like that.

In fact, give it a few years, and I strongly suggest we start cracking down on and revoking the citizenship of the pricks who are already here doing this stuff now.

Give me a chance. I'll clean this stuff up.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Get Used To It

Red and I have now lived in Vietnam for just over six months and the contract with my job just ended. My job does not allow for vacations. So, for employees who want one, they are instructed to take some time between contracts. My new contract starts on December 15, so I have the next two weeks off. YAY!!!

I already live in the tropics and am less than a mile from a beautiful beach. This means I already live in a place where many people choose to go for vacation.

So, there is no need to go anywhere.

I've known this would be my time off since I started this job six months ago. I was looking forward to exploring the area and seeing more of this beautiful country. And unlike the wintertime Hoth-like landscape of the Midwest where I grew up, it never gets cold here. A December vacation spent at home would be awesome. Except for one thing.

This is my first winter in Vietnam and I didn't know about monsoon season. It's supposed to last for three months and I've been told that means heavy rain all day every day. Except for a few days when it will rain even more.

Here is what is currently going on in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Here's a picture of the city I live in (Hội An).

 This picture is actually from last year because it has only just started raining here, but the locals tell us that this is common. It floods every year. We were in a clothing shop yesterday and the owner told us that last year the flooding was really bad. She showed me the stains on the wall that were as high as my shoulders. Water was in her shop FIVE FEET DEEP!

I told her that I knew last year was especially bad. Luckily, that's not every year. She said, "Yes. Normally, it's only this deep." She then held her palms at chest level. That's still close to four feet deep.

The entire downtown area of Ancient Town Hội An floods that high every year.

When we were first looking for houses in this city, we looked at one on a small island in the middle of the river that runs through Ancient Town. I asked about the potential for flooding, the landlord showed me the marks on the walls to know what to expect. It would be about three feet of water in our house. I asked how often this happens. She told me, "Oh. It's not too bad. Only three or four times per year."

She then informed me that when the area starts to flood, she and her husband would come to our house to help us stack the furniture up on the tables to avoid water damage. Nothing to worry about.

One of the homes we visited, had a huge hole in the middle of the floor on the second level. It was used for pulling things up to the second floor during the rainy season. It was easier to pull large items up through the hole than carry them up the stairs. This was told to us just as a matter of fact. It's the way it is if you want to live close to the river. Everyone just understands that.

We live a little further out and our house is supposedly safe from the flooding. Last year was the worst flooding that had been seen in decades and it did not flood this house. Hopefully, it will stay that way. We've finally learned to accept the spiders and lizards we can't seem keep out of the house. Sharks may be more than we can handle.