Thursday, December 6, 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.

Saturday, December 1, 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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Movie Homework

I am a huge movie buff. I love movies. I can curl up on the couch and watch movies all weekend long and not feel even a tinge of guilt about it. It's time well spent.

However, living in Vietnam, I am not as up on the new movies as I was when I lived in the States. This is fine with me. As I hear about new movies or see people talking about them on Facebook, I go download them and watch them here. It works for me, but it often means I am months behind what my friends back home are watching.

A few weeks ago. I finally got to see Avengers: Infinity War. It was a great movie and I needed someone I could talk to about the heavy stuff that happened at the end. (Don't worry - I will not be spoiling anything here.) So, I called my nephews to talk some of this out. Now, of course, they saw it many months before I did, so they'd already had time to sort it and each of them mentioned a connection I should have made from Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Now, I stated this earlier. I love movies, but this is not the first time this has happened. Sometimes plot points and important details get missed because I have not been properly educated on the entire pre-existing universe of the movie I am trying to enjoy.

To illustrate, let's pause my commentary for a moment to take a look at what is actually required if you want to be totally up to speed in the Marvel universe. If you want to watch the events of this world in chronological order, here is what you must watch. And, in case you didn't know, it's not all movies. Half the content is television shows. Content list provided by The Independent.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Agent Carter (seasons one and two)

Agent Carter (Iron Man 3 DVD extra)

Iron Man

Iron Man 2

The Incredible Hulk

The Consultant (Thor DVD extra)

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer (Captain America: First Avenger DVD extra)



Item 47 (Avengers DVD extra)

Iron Man 3

All Hail the King (Thor: The Dark World extra)

Agents of Shield (season one: episodes 1 — 7)

Thor: The Dark World

Agents of Shield (season one: episodes 8 — 16)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Agents of Shield (season one: episodes 17 — 22)

Guardians of the Galaxy 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Daredevil (season one)

Agents of Shield (season two: episodes 1 — 19)

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Agents of Shield (season two: episodes 20 — 22)


Jessica Jones (season one)

Daredevil (season two)

Agents of Shield (season three: episodes 1 — 19)

Made it this far? Well done, you’ve watched a whole lot of Marvel! This next set marks some of the best MCU movies so far, but also some timeline bending difficulties. For instance, Doctor Strange begins before Civil War, but finishes after Civil War, Slingshot features lots of flashbacks, and Agents of Shield season five features a lot of obscure time traveling. Also, Black Panther and Spider-Man both take place directly after Civil War, while Ragnarok, Panther  and Ant-Man and The Wasp lead directly into Avengers: Infinity War (and presumably Avengers 4). There's also the latter part of Shield that takes place concurrently with Infinity War.

Captain America: Civil War

Agents of Shield (season three: episodes 20 — 22)

Luke Cage (season one)

Doctor Strange
Agents of Shield (season four: episodes 1 — 8)

Agents of Shield: Slingshot (web series)

Agents of Shield (season four: episodes 9 — 22)

Iron Fist (season one)

The Defenders (season one)

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Inhumans (season one)

The Punisher (season one)

Runaways (season one)

Black Panther

Jessica Jones (season two)

Agents of Shield (season five, episodes 1 — 19)

Cloak and Dagger (season one)

Luke Cage (season two)

Thor: Ragnarok 

Ant-Man and The Wasp

Avengers Infinity War

Agents of Shield (season five, episodes 20 - 22)

Congratulations. If you’ve watched all of the above, you’ve processed over nine days worth of Marvel movies and television. Nine days of 24-hour viewing! And there’s still more to come, including: Captain Marvel, an untitled fourth Avengers movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Luke Cage season two, Daredevil season three, The Punisher season two, Iron Fist season two, Jessica Jones season three, and New Warriors season one. Phew.

Once again, I love movies, but come on. I didn't devote that much time to my entire Master's degree.

What happened to the days when you could sit down and watch a movie and just enjoy it without having to do months of homework first to know what is going on? The Marvel universe has just hit the 10-year mark. Even if you have actually caught every single piece, it has been spread out for so long, how often do those really dedicated fans do a refresher to be able to stay up on what's happening? I'm having a difficult enough time just struggling with the two year gap between Game of Thrones seasons.

Star Wars has a similar thing going also. Not only have 8 of the eventual 9 movies been slowly released over the course of FORTY years, but they have not come out in order. And now there are spin-off movies and the television shows that go along with it. For the full picture, here is the world of Star Wars. Once again, provided by The Independent.

Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
The Clone Wars (film)
The Clone Wars (seasons 1 - 6 plus unfinished episodes)
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Star Wars Rebels (seasons 1 – 4)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Episode IV: A New Hope
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Untitled live-action Star Wars show
Star Wars Resistance
Episode VII: The Force Awakens 
Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Episode IX: Jar Jar’s Redemption

After Disney acquired LucasFilm for $4 billion, they quickly began churning out Star Wars movies, beginning with The Force Awakens. Now, the company are further investigating the post-Return of the Jedi era, unveiling a Jon Favreau TV series (to debut on their upcoming streaming service) and a 2D animated series centred on a young fighter pilot in Resistance. Whether they will continue the main films past an initial trilogy remains to be seen, but considering Force Awakens and Last Jedi made a combined $3.4 billion don’t expect them to stop anytime soon. Plus, there are rumors about a pre-New Hope era movie about Obi-Wan, a Lando movie and there was a Boba Fett movie in the works at one point.

And the spin-offs? What about that Rian Johnson trilogy? And the David Benioff and D. B. Weiss trilogy? Yes, those are still being developed, but where they will take place on the timeline, who can say? They will reportedly have nothing to do with Skywalkers, making for something of a drastic change.

Star Wars, like the Marvel universe is has become cumbersome enough that being a true fan requires a big commitment.

The Harry Potter world took 10 years to get from the first movie to the last one in its eight movie initial series. There were eight-year olds just discovering the series and books in 2011 who soon learned that this series began before they were even born. They had a lot of homework to do. Plus, now with the Fantastic Beasts spin-off we are being threatened with FIVE more movies. And the Cursed Child can only been seen on stage…for now.

I'll say it again. I love movies. I really do, but they are supposed to be an escape. And it is just becoming too much work. Plus, I'm a little past middle age now. I can't bear the thought of putting decades of commitment into a series when there's a real possiblity I could die before I get to see how it all comes to an end. That would be tragic.

Now I'm depressed. I may need a new way to waste my time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Live Your Life

If you know me personally, then you already know this about me.

I love life.

I really do. I enjoy almost every day and have a good time wherever I happen to be.

I said this to someone recently and they wanted to try to balance my statement for me. "Well, why wouldn't you love your life? You're basically retired. You live on the coast in a beautiful city. You are married to a beautiful woman. You have no reason not to be happy."

Now, all of these things are true, but I don't let people dismiss me like that. I know a lot of people who have good lives and do not have a reason to be unhappy but are unhappy. Your happiness is rarely going to be dependent upon your life circumstances. Happiness is deeper than that.

I have this life philosophy that I have said and written thousands of times.

You only get to live this life once.
You might as well enjoy it.

And it's true. You get one shot at this life. ONE. Do you really want to spend it being miserable or angry?

I know there are people who deal with genuine depression and have no control over the way their brains are wired. However, there are many, many, many others who just aren't enjoying life because they have chosen (and I use that word intentionally) to feel sorry for themselves or to not let go of something from their past. They allow themselves to think about things they would like to do but never put out the effort to make it happen. They are not happy or content with a current situation but have settled and don't try to escape it.

People have more control over their lives than they realize. Yes, there are some things you have no power over and sometimes crap happens to people that is terrible. However, it is rare that it cannot be overcome. And most of the people I have these conversations with could change their circumstances by first changing their attitudes.

Here are some simple things you can do to enjoy your life more:

Let go of the past. It is absolutely true that we are a product of our past experiences. Our lives up to this point have shaped us into the people we are today. However, we are also a product of how we have chosen (there's that word again) to react to those circumstances. Did your spouse leave you? Did you have an abusive father? Do you regret something you said or did? Whatever terrible thing happened to you or terrible thing you did, it's over. Reliving it does no one any good. If it is something you can fix, go fix it. If you can't, then you have to put it behind you. Hanging on to this stuff only robs you of being a happier person. I know this is easier said than done, but that doesn't make it not true.

Stop looking for the negative side of things. I had a friend who won a brand-new $45,000 car. He sold his old car which gave him enough money to cover the taxes on the new one and he no longer had his $300/month car payment. He had a beautiful new car, but couldn't enjoy it because his insurance went up $107 for the year. No amount of explaining how much he was coming out ahead helped him to have a better attitude about it. He could only see the negative.

Here are more examples I have seen of people being unhappy because they chose (see that word?) to focus on the one bad thing instead of all the good around them.
  • A woman's long-awaited date night with her husband was ruined because the wrong salad dressing was put on her salad. She was in a foul mood for the rest of the evening.
  • A father berating his son for getting tagged out when stealing a base, but not mentioning the triple and double he accomplished earlier in the game.
  • A coworker got a promotion that came with a very substantial raise, but she wouldn't stop grumbling about the dress code for the new position.
  • I've met countless people who don't really have any friends because they are chronic complainers about everything and no one wants to hang around them.
There are good aspects and bad aspects to virtually everything. No situation is perfect and very few are completely bad. However, a large portion of your enjoyment or hatred of a situation is entirely up to you. There have been many times I have been listening to someone tell a story about a wonderful thing that happened. It might have been a great vacation or party or anything. Not long into the story, another person who was there with them cuts in to correct them and tell everyone how terrible it was. These are two people who were at the same event sharing the same experience, but were focused on different aspects of the day. Which one do you think is typically happier in life?

Go after the things you want. When I was working on my Master's Degree my neighbor told me, "Man, I wish I could go back to school." I told him that he could. He told me he couldn't because he had a daughter. I responded that I had two children and was a single father who had full custody of those kids. Having children does not exempt you from being able to go to school. I also shot down his next three excuses. For each of them, I had the same situation. I had used the same excuses for years, but one day decided to do it anyway.

I finally told him, "If you're not going to go, don't go. But do not claim that you can't. That is not true."

Take time for yourself. It is okay to relax now and then. Don't be one of those people who fills their schedule so full, they don't have any downtime. If you have kids' sporting events, PTA meetings, book club, carpool, work meetings, church group, neighborhood watch program and dozens of other things to go to, just remember you agreed to all these things. You didn't have to.

You don't have to spend your entire existence by serving other people. Learn to say NO and learn to not feel bad about it afterward. Life has responsibilities, but it has other things as well.

Eat more tacos. That's just good advice for everyone.

I know that these all seem really simplistic, but for the most part, it really is this simple. People who have a lifetime of bad mental habits cannot just change them overnight, but they can change them if they intentionally work on it.

Of course, no one has to do these things. It is their own life, but they will be unnecessarily unhappy. And it's not like you get to try it again. Enjoy life.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

FOR HIRE: Healthy Writing Habit

I have no idea where this blog post is going to go, so you will just have to bear with me. The main reason I am even writing this post today is to achieve some of the writing goals I have set for myself where I have to write a goal number of words every week.

For several years, I have had a book bouncing around in my head and just never took the time to sit down and write it. I have a bit of what my mother, teachers, bosses, guidance counselors, and coworkers call a procrastination problem. Plus, I am incredibly lazy. I've also learned that choosing to own that label does not help to get things done. It just makes me feel less guilty about it.

 However, last year I came across this amazing website.

This website has been around for several years. You can click here to go to the site to learn about its history. I'm not going to tell you the whole story. However, the purpose of the site is really cool. It seems custom-made for people like me.

The National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, for short) challenges people to write an entire novel in one month. Specifically, in the month of November. It has tons of tools to help you accomplish this goal, offers support groups, organizes writer meet-ups all over the world, and gives awesome prizes for the people who accomplish the goal.

The goal they suggest is to write 50,000 words over the course of the month. That breaks down to 1,667 words per day. However, it does not mean that your novel is ready to be sent to publishers come November 30. It just means you did the most difficult part to get past. The actual writing.

If you reach the goal and finish your book by the end of the month, it still needs to heavily edited, gone back through to fix plot holes, maybe develop your characters, be read by beta readers, etc. It is not ready to go, but it has been written. You have in your lap 50,000 words that you did not have a month ago.

Last year, after spending a summer being all excited about my book because it was really starting to take shape, this website is what gave me the incentive to actually sit down and get it written. I did it. And I did it in a tiny sardine can-sized apartment in Beijing. My wife even found time to be out of the apartment so I could have the place to myself and concentrate on my writing.

That was an extra incentive also. I always felt like I had to use that time wisely since she was doing it for me.

I finished the writing of that book last year, but it was really rough. Parts of the story were all over the place and really needed to be pulled together. Plus, I still had a few plot issues that I hadn't worked out yet. Not to mention that I know how the story of the book ends, but writing it well I have found to be quite challenging.

So, now it is a year later and it hasn't gotten past that initial 'crank it out' phase. And now November has rolled around again. I'm told it does this every so often.

I have decided to get back into writing mode again and tackle NaNoWriMo this year as well, but 1,700 words a day is a lot when you are not used to it. So, I've been working out. I sit down and write every day. Sometimes it is personal journaling. Sometimes it is blog writing. Sometimes it is brainstorming on the book I will be writing this year. Whatever it is, I just have to write and get my creative juices flowing to help me develop the habit of doing this every day.

My plan is simple. Getting my daily word count up will make it easier for me to tackle and complete the challenge of 50,000 words in thirty days. Then when I hit the end of the month (hopefully with a completed story), I can set it to the side and pick up the book I wrote last year. I think it has sat long enough and it is time to get back into it.

I will tie up all those loose ends, clean it up and start sending it out to beta readers to see what problems I may have missed. Then, once I get it all taken care of and sent out to agents, I can go back to working on the book I will have just finished this year so I can do the same with it. Once I get it finished, then I can send it out as well.

I feel a lot of pressure to get on these books because we spent a lot of time and effort and money to obtain a new house that would give us the extra space to be able to write without distraction. Red and I have spent the last two years in small apartments in both China and Vietnam. Now, we have a large comfortable place and we each have our won writing rooms. So, if we do not take advantage of this, then what was all this for?

I'm on it and confident that I can do it. It is just a matter of developing the habit and being sure that I stick to it.

It was just difficult to get started because we didn't have Netflix the entire time we were in China, but we do have it now in Vietnam. It's been a big temptation.

I mean, have you seen Santa Clarita Diet or G.L.O.W. or Stranger Things? You miss a lot when you're out of the country.

So, I write in the morning until I hit my word count. I then have a few hours free to do whatever I need or want to do before I teach in the evenings and then I can watch my Netflix at night. And I do watch it. I have missed it.

So, now that I have a routine and a goal, it should make things easier for me. Hopefully, this will help me develop the habit I so desperately need and will begin a long-time practice of daily writing. I really want to give up working a regular job and just be a writer, but that will require discipline. Something I have always been concerned that I do not have enough of.

I can do it. I know I can. I just have to keep at it.

If you read this all the way to the end, I am sorry for the rambling. I am just throwing down the words as they come to me rather than planning a post as I normally do.

Literary vomit.

Monday, October 8, 2018

PSA: Stop Being Stupid! - (Take 2)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an angry rant about the idiot lemmings on Facebook who just copy and paste everything they are told to. Click here for that rant.

That was about people posting that their timeline was missing people and this Facebook post could fix it.

Do you remember these posts floating around?

Well, now that I have educated the world about just how stupid that is everyone should know better, but apparently they don't.

Today, Facebook is flooded with these posts.

Now, before I get going, I want it known that I do not have a problem with any of the people who made these posts. They were told by one of their friends that they had received a bogus friend request and just chose to warn people that it was not them. They didn't know what was going on and just chose to share a warning. They got the same message the rest of us did and fell for it, but at least they didn't forward it on.

However, I DO have a problem with the people who sent out the private message to their friends that caused this panic.

I have received this message from 17 different people today.


And that is just so far. One of those came in while I was typing this post. It's not over yet.

Let's break this down a bit.

When I received the very first one this morning (before I knew this was going to be a big thing), I knew it wasn't true.

Now, I am not making this claim to say "Oh, look how smart I am." I am saying it because the message makes no sense.

The first line states that the sender received a friend request from me. So, at first, I thought they had. After all, that's what they claimed. However, as I continued to read the message, it was very obviously a message that they received and were told to forward. So, they did.

Now, it's bad enough that someone just forwards anything they are told to forward, but when I called the first person out on sending this thing, he responded in the same way as four other people responded later in the day.

ROUGH PARAPHRASE: I really don't know anything about computers, so…

Now, I'm sorry…but no.  You're not off the hook.

You may have told me you don't know anything about computers, but you are familiar with the English language. The message that these people sent to me and many of their friends includes the language "I actually got another friend request from you". This is not complicated computer lingo or industry technical jargon.

You may not know anything about computers or the internet or Facebook, but you DO know that you did NOT receive a friend request from me and you are sending me a message that states you did. That has nothing to do with your knowledge about computers. That has to do with your grasp of the English language. And I know you understand English because you followed all the directions included on how to copy and paste. However, you paid no attention to the content of what you were sending.

I said this in my last post about Facebook lunacy and I will say it again. Sending someone a message that contains content you know not to be true makes you a liar. Strong language, I know. But that is the definition of the word.

You did not receive a friend request from me, yet you sent me a message that claims you did. Why? Because someone told you to send it.

Let's put this in a real-world setting and try to imagine what the average person would do.

Let's say one of your co-workers walks up to you and says, "Hey, I have received three party invitations from you. I know they are not from you, but I thought you should know. Someone is throwing a party in your name. You need to let everyone else know so they don't fall for it."

You are shocked as to why someone would want to host a party and say it was your party. "OK. I'll let people know they should not accept invitations for my party since I am not throwing one."

Your co-worker says, "Wait. No. Don't tell people the invites from you are fake. Go tell someone you received an invitation from them and you know it was fake."

Now you are confused, "But I didn't get an invitation from them. You said you got one from me. When did you get it?"

The co-worker sighs. "Ugh. I didn't. Someone told me they received a fake one from me, so I'm trying to spread the word."

You cock your head, "So, why am I telling people invites came from me when they came from you?"

"Oh my goodness. Listen, they didn't actually come from me. They were fake. But Brenda told me that Charles had told her he had received some from her…for her party…that she is not actually having. Anyway, you better hurry. And be sure to tell everyone in the office individually to ignore any party requests from you. Also, they need to let everyone know to ignore any requests that are sent from them. Understand?"

"You are crazy."

That conversation seems more realistic. Why does logic and critical thinking just fly out the window as soon some people read it on Facebook?


Monday, October 1, 2018

Freedom Tycoon

Now and then a person makes a decision to restructure an area of their life. They may decide to start eating healthier or join a gym. It might be a decision to stop doing something. Stop smoking, stop gossiping or stop complaining about the boss. It might be a decision to tackle an issue in a new way or to start a household budget or join a new activity.

I recently made one of these decisions.

I uninstalled Idle Miner Tycoon from my phone.

For the last two months, I have played this game every single day. Many of those days, it was for hours at a time. And more than once a week, I stayed up almost all night playing it. Lots of toilet time as well.

The premise of the game is pretty simple.

You hire a miner to start mining a shaft. You hire another to operate the shaft elevator to carry the mined goods to the surface. You then hire a third to bring the goods to the warehouse where you get paid. Once you get money, you use the profits to hire more miners to get the minerals faster.

Now that the mines are producing faster, you need a bigger and more efficient elevator which leads to needing more guys to haul the stuff to the warehouse. With this bigger workforce, you are now raking in even more money than before which can be used to hire more guys and dig new shafts to further increase productivity. More productivity means more money. More money means you can upgrade even more. More upgrades mean more money which means more upgrades which means more money which means more upgrades…

It's an endless cycle.

However, being a sucker for math and numbers and figuring out formulas, I loved running the numbers and different scenarios to see which combinations of workers would produce the most profitable income. A few days after I downloaded the game I was excited to see that I was about to MAX out the stats on the mine. Yay! I had conquered the game.

However, just before I hit the top scores, I was notified that I had enough money to buy a second mine. I loved the challenge so I bought that second mine immediately. Within a few weeks, I was operating a total of five mines and had money just flying in.

I was a master at this game.

Or so I thought.

The next thing I know, new characters and perks were introduced to advance the productivity and efficiency of the game. A map popped up to show that the world I was in was much bigger and more complex than I thought. It was like watching Game of Thrones.

So, soon I had an entire mining empire on several different continents which had to be overseen each day. And I checked in each day to ensure things continued to run smoothly. I had the game running like a well-oiled machine, but the bigger it got, the more attention it required to keep earning at maximum profits.

Of course, the purpose of these incredible profits was to be able to expand into more areas of the map in order to dig more mines so I could make more money to hire more men to dig faster and deeper and help me to expand my empire so I could make even more money in order to open more mines so I could make more money.

I would get such a thrill over making enough money to open a new mine, but the new mine was only to make enough money to open another one. It took about six weeks for me to realize my obsession and the endless (and pointless) cycle to this game. The feeling of exhilaration was over something that was not even real and had no significant lasting effect other than wasting a lot of my time when honestly I can get the same feeling from opening a new bag of chips, but at least with a bag of chips, I can knock it out in about 20 minutes and immediately get started on the next one.

I deleted the game from my phone two days ago and am grateful to find myself with a lot more spare time. Now I'll be able to knock out the latest season of G.L.O.W. on Netflix.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Six Questions

Today's post is inspired by Terri D's Wednesday Medley over at  Your Friend from Florida...  She asks six questions and answering them helps your readers get to know you a little bit better.

1. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
I would love to say that I would spend more time writing. I have a book I have been working on for over a year and have started another one this month, so not needing to sleep would give me a lot of extra time to get them written. However, I also know me. I'm sure I would get some writing done, but I would also get a lot more TV watched. I would read more and I would spend a lot of time wandering around town discovering the nightlife.

These things would not be the best use of my time, but they are what would happen.

2. What’s your favorite piece of clothing you own/owned?
When I was in high school, I had a striped yellow flannel that I wore all the time.  I loved that shirt and I caught a lot of flak from my friends over that shirt all the time. I always just joked along with them until I was out on a first date one night and ran into one of my friends and he made some comment about the flannel. I had it on at that moment. Maybe they had a point.

Today, my favorite piece of clothing is probably by blue "lounge-around" clothes. It's a pair of super soft cotton short and a shirt that matches. The shirt has a few small holes in the front, but is extremely comfortable. My wife has agreed to never throw it out as long as I only wear it at home when we do not have company.

3. What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
I don't even have to think about this one. Photography.

I have always loved taking pictures, finding just the right angle and figuring out how to utilize the light source. I won a few photography awards when I was younger and one of my photos was even featured in a book, but I never pursued it seriously. I would love to have a great camera and equipment. Then, have all the time and money needed to travel, take pictures, and edit them. I would love it.

4. What would your perfect room look like?

This picture immediately came to mind. This is Stephen King sitting at his desk. He has written dozens of best-selling novels from this spot.

I would want more modern equipment (and lose the phone), but this is it. This room lined with full bookshelves and I might never leave it.

5. When was the last time you climbed a tree?
I honestly don't know the answer to that question. I have climbed hundreds of trees in my life. My brothers and I loved to climb so high that we frightened our parents. We loved to jump from the branches of one tree into another and see who could make the furthest and highest jumps. However, I cannot recall the last time I was in a tree. I do believe that I can say the last time I was in a tree, I was probably much older than when most people get in a tree for the last time. That was still a long time ago and I have no idea when it was. My arthritis keeps me from getting too physically wild these days.

6. Tell us something you will do/did today.
I teach Chinese children online and today (Sunday) is the one day each week that I actually work all day. The rest of the week, I only have evening hours. However, due to a national Chinese holiday next week, the Chinese school schedule has been adjusted to make up for the week off the whole country is about to take. This means all the kids are in school today. Since they are in school, they cannot be taking my classes. This gave me an unexpected day off.

Having this time off meant I needed breakfast. My wife and I wandered off and found a new place that had an amazing breakfast. Breakfast food is quite different in Vietnam, so we loved this find. We will be going back.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Look Out, Vietnam

Last week, my entire life changed.

I have experienced what some would already call big changes in the last few years.
  • My children moved out
  • I got married
  • We moved from the U.S. to China
  • We moved from the big city of Beijing to the more rural town of Hoi An, Vietnam
Despite all those changes, last week was different. I broke down and rented a scooter for the month.

Growing up in rural America, having a vehicle is just a given. You have to have one. There is no other way to get to your destination. Even living in a bigger city, typically people have a vehicle to get around. There are exceptions, but not having a car is not the norm.

It was a bit of an adjustment going to China and giving up our cars, but Beijing literally has the best public transportation system in the world. I'm not just saying that because I was impressed. It really is ranked as the top in the world.

Once we figured out how it all worked, there was honestly no need for us to have a car. We could get anywhere we needed to be by using a taxi, subway, or bus. Plus, it was crazy cheap.

Then, we moved to Da Nang, Vietnam. Reliable public transportation is virtually nonexistent there, but living in the center of a big city (1.8 million) meant everything we might need was fairly close. We just walked everywhere. We were already used to doing a lot of walking because of our time in Beijing.

In the end, we settled in Hoi An. Hoi An is much much smaller and we live out on the edge of town. We don't even have an address. This means we cannot receive mail or order for food delivery. There is an outdoor food market near our house, but anything else requires a significant hike. We don't mind the walk, but there is a limited amount of options near us and the trips to see something new required a big time commitment and a lot of sweat (remember this is tropical Vietnam).

So, last week we rented a scooter to see how much we would actually use one.

It took me about 12 hours to answer that question.

We will use it A LOT.

There is a place I love to go for breakfast, but it would take me 30 minutes to walk there. On the scooter, it's only about 7 minutes. I've eaten there every day this week. I can pop over to the market across town that has a few more Western goods the market near us does not have.
And my favorite part…I can more efficiently explore our new surroundings.

I love to wander the streets of a new city and start discovering all the little-hidden gems as I build my mental map of how the city is laid out. This takes a long time to accomplish on foot and it is something that Red does NOT enjoy doing. Now that I have the scooter, I can tear up and down the streets and quickly discover what road meets up with what and find all those little shortcuts. I have learned so much about the layout of our city in the last few days.

And today we ventured outside the city. Having the scooter gives us the freedom to go explore without having to pay a cab to just cart us around all day. Especially when we don't really know where we want to go half the time anyway.

Today we went to Tháp Chăm Chiên Đàn to see some 12th-century towers built by the people of the Champa Kingdom which existed from 192 and was absorbed by Vietnam in 1832. We figured if we are going to start calling this country home, we should probably start learning a little bit about it.

Now that I'm mobile, no part of this country is safe. I'm ready to see it all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

PSA: Stop Being Stupid!

Today is my birthday.

Forty-seven years old.

And as someone reaching the justified "grumpy old man" status, I was met with something that made me grumpy as soon as I rolled out of bed and checked my Facebook. Although, honestly, this seems to happen more and more often lately.

It was one of these stupid Facebook posts. Maybe you've seen this one floating around.

I cropped out the owner of this account to save a little embarrassment

Here it is in text form in case you can't see the picture well.
I wondered where everybody had been!
This is good to know: It's ridiculous to have 200 friends and only 25 are allowed to see my post.
I ignored this post earlier, but It WORKS!! I have a whole new news feed. I’m seeing posts from people I haven’t seen in years.
Here’s how to bypass the system FB now has in place that limits posts on your news feed.
Their new algorithm chooses the same few people - about 25 - who will read your posts. Therefore,
Hold your finger down anywhere in this post and "copy" will pop up. Click "copy". Then go your page, start a new post and put your finger anywhere in the blank field. "Paste" will pop up and click paste.
This will bypass the system.
If you are reading this message, do me a favor and leave me a quick comment...a "hello," a sticker, whatever you want, so you will appear in my newsfeed! It WORKS!!

Please bring back my friend
I have been seeing this all over Facebook for the last weeks. I hadn't seen it for a few days, but it was back again this morning and now I have high cholesterol. It's time to speak up. Let's stop being stupid!

Before I get started here, if you are one of the people who has shared this status, let me take the time to personally apolog…nope. Nope. Nope. I can't do it. You should have known better. And this isn't about computer savvy. Pay attention.

Let me try to help some of you out there and maybe we can stop this lunacy.

Basically, this post states that the algorithm Facebook uses keeps you from seeing all the posts of your friends (or your friends from seeing you - there's a bit of discrepancy in the language used here).  There is some truth to this statement. Facebook does mess with your timeline a little. I understand that can be frustrating and wanting to fix it. This post claims to be the way to do so.

It is the people who actually believe the claims of this post who baffle me. Once again, no apology. Get a helmet.

Let's break this down a few sentences at a time.

I wondered where everybody had been!
This is good to know: It's ridiculous to have 200 friends and only 25 are allowed to see my post.
I ignored this post earlier, but It WORKS!! I have a whole new news feed. I’m seeing posts from people I haven’t seen in years.

The first thing that caught my attention was this claim that it works.

How do you know that it works? If you are just posting this on your page for the first time, you cannot honestly claim that it works. You have not seen the results yet. In fact, while you are pasting it in, you haven't even hit SEND yet and you are still telling all of your friends that this works when you actually have no idea or even the thinnest shred of evidence. That makes you a liar.

That may seem like harsh language, but it is what it is. Liar. How does it feel to have your britches constantly on fire?

I wondered where everybody had been!
This is good to know: It's ridiculous to have 200 friends and only 25 are allowed to see my post.
I ignored this post earlier, but It WORKS!! I have a whole new news feed. I’m seeing posts from people I haven’t seen in years.
For this section, let's look at the discrepancy in what this thing actually claims to do. The first bold statement claims that some people aren't able to see your post. However, the second bold statement uses language stating that you are not seeing other people's posts. Which is it? Is the problem with how you see your own wall restricting you from seeing other people or with how your posts go out to others and keeps them from seeing yours?

And if you think I'm being picky here, the writer mixes them up again a little further down.

Here’s how to bypass the system FB now has in place that limits posts on your news feed.
Their new algorithm chooses the same few people - about 25 - who will read your posts. Therefore,
Once again, does this algorithm limit what you see or limit what posts of yours your friends can see. These are not the same thing. Even if this thing did work (SPOILER ALERT: it doesn't), it would not fix both your's and your friends' walls.  The original author of this post couldn't even decide which lie he wanted to tell. But for some reason, many of you are willing to help him anyway.

Now, let's look at the most incredible part of this entire thing.
Hold your finger down anywhere in this post and "copy" will pop up. Click "copy". Then go your page, start a new post and put your finger anywhere in the blank field. "Paste" will pop up and click paste.
This will bypass the system.
The instructions direct you to copy this status and then paste it into your feed. And like a good sheep, many people did just as they were told. That is what is supposed to fix it. Let's look at this claim.

By the time you have done this and hit SEND, all you have really done is put up a Facebook status. Something you have done hundreds of times. You did not change any settings. You did not reset your account. You did not bypass the system (what system?). You did not rewrite any algorithm. You have done nothing but post a status. How, in the name of Sofía Vergara, could anyone possibly have believed that posting something on their wall would change their account settings.

Probably the same people who think sharing or liking a status will save a random baby who has cancer. 

I pointed this idiocy out to someone the other day and they told me I was wrong. He said I missed a key part of the message, but I said that I only missed that he was one of the idiots. He pointed out that the message asked the people who see it to leave a comment to get them added to the new list of people who will get to see their stuff (or you'll get to see their stuff - still some confusion there) in order for it to work.

Here is what he was talking about.
If you are reading this message, do me a favor and leave me a quick comment...a "hello," a sticker, whatever you want, so you will appear in my newsfeed! It WORKS!!
This is the same as the problem I pointed out above. How does someone leaving a comment approve them to be part of your feed in any different way than if they were leaving a comment before? In the end, you are still just posting a status and they are leaving a comment.


…other than you are getting laughed at by the person who originally wrote this post to see how many people would fall for it.


The only way to see certain people in your newsfeed more often is to be sure your settings are arranged the way you want them and interact with people on Facebook. Facebook does give precedence to the people you interact with more. But a one-time status, comment or like will have ZERO effect.

The people who believe and post this stuff are probably the same people who post the status claiming that Facebook has no legal right to the pictures they uploaded there. Despite the fact that using Facebook required agreeing to Zuckerberg's TERMS AND CONDITIONS (an actual legal document).

So, everyone, for the sake my happiness, don't be stupid. AND if you see someone else being stupid, please say something. They need to know…and be publicly shamed if you can arrange it.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Cinderella Got It Right

I pulled this fortune out of my collection this morning and have found myself thinking about it all day.

We will not know the worth of the water 'til the well is dry.
The analogy here is water, but it can be applied to a large number of things.
  • Many people don't realize how much their parents mean to them until they lose them.
  • Young adults often don't realize how good they had it at home until they move out on their own.
  • People who have always had money have no idea how difficult it is to be truly broke.
  • Young people take their energy and health for granted. It's rarely appreciated until they get older and tired.
However, this fortune really reminded me of the quote from Boris Yeltsin - "We don't appreciate what we have until it's gone. Freedom is like that. It's like air. When you have it, you don't notice it."

I have lived the last two years outside of the United States. The majority of that time was in China. It doesn't require much time in China to feel how oppressive the atmosphere is. You really do have to watch what you say and do. I'm not going to get into all the details of what can happen and just how particular their rules are, but it is possible to get into a lot of trouble for just opening your mouth about something you think.

This was something we were aware of before going but didn't really understand it until we got to experience it firsthand. We kept our noses clean and stayed out of trouble, but the times it was most difficult was when speaking to a Chinese person who honestly has no idea how oppressed and controlled they are. Having never experienced being free, they think they already are.

I had a Chinese girl get really upset with me at a party after she asked why I didn't teach on a particular subject. I explained to her the restrictions I was under and she got very defensive. "We have total freedom of religion here. I can be anything I want. I can believe in Buddha or Jesus or Allah or anything."

Talking to her further, I learned that she had no further argument. Yes, she could believe whatever she wanted. However, that was the full spectrum of the freedom she was allowed. She is not allowed to voice it, to tell other people about it, to share her faith (whatever it may be), to invite someone to join her at a religious event, to show any outward appearance of what her beliefs were, etc.

That is not freedom.

She had the right to have her own thoughts and praised her government for allowing that.

This is just one example, but it was the same across the board (personal ownership of property, taxes, educational choices, speech rights, media control, volunteer spies on every street corner) and most have no idea that much of the world does not live like this. This is simply because it is all they know. Having never experienced freedom, they have no idea how sweet it is.

I know America is not perfect and there are things we can point out as not being as free as they used to be, but way too many people take our freedoms for granted and have no idea just what that freedom means. This is especially troubling when I see people flying into rages over the smallest infractions on their "rights".

So many of the people screaming that America is a cesspool are working hard to make it worse without realizing they are doing it. The more and more they chip away at our freedoms, the closer we get to losing the very things that make our country a place to be proud of.

I'm trying to be careful and not single out any particular movement or recent event because people will want to focus on their opinion of that event instead of my overall sentiment.

Please appreciate what you have. Whether we are talking about money, freedom, spare time, health, whatever. If the time ever comes that you lose it, you don't want to look back and realize that you squandered it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Fortune Cookie #13 - Making that Goat Money

This morning, I reached in my bag of collected fortune cookie fortunes to see what the day had in store for me and I got this.

You'll make foreign money in the year of Goat.

Now, a fortune telling you that you are going to make some money is always a good fortune. Who couldn't use a little more money?

However, my first thought about this took me right to my time spent teaching English in Beijing. Consistently, regardless of age, every student would get this question wrong.

What is this animal?

Every student I ever had would answer "sheep". ALWAYS. From grade one all the way through high school. They would tell me that was a sheep. 

I would correct them and show a picture of a sheep.

THIS completely different animal is a sheep.

The students never questioned me. They had the foresight to understand that the native English speaker in front of them is probably correct. However, the new knowledge rarely stuck with them. Inevitably, at some point, this would come around again and they would label a goat as a sheep.

Once, I heard a Chinese English teacher call a goat a sheep and I realized that the kids weren't mixing the animals up, this was what they had been taught. However, it was a pretty consistent mistake since I had encountered this phenomenon in several schools and even different cities. Why was this happening?

I eventually cracked it. The confusion can be tracked down to the way the Chinese language functions. Many of their words are two other words pushed together. In this instance:

See, the Chinese don't really have an original word for goat. They have the word () Yáng for sheep. But for a goat, they take the already existing () Yáng and add (山)Shān to the front. 羊.

山  means mountain.

So, their language provides a word for sheep, but then the word for "goat" is literally "mountain sheep." This doesn't even account for all the little goats that are running around farms and have no association with mountains. I understand the confusion.

Due to all this confusion within the Chinese language, I turned to Google to investigate my fortune to ensure we were even talking about the correct animal.

It appears to me that even within Chinese culture,
they don't know what animal we are talking about.

 I also discovered that the Year of the Goat…Sheep…uh, Ram…whatever isn't coming around again until 2027. Eight years from now! What am I supposed to do until then?

I went back to look at the fortune.

Wait a minute!

Due to my international lifestyle, I already make foreign money. I spent the last two years in China and am now in Vietnam. My money comes from a few different countries. Given my current circumstances, the best the fortune is offering me is letting me know that I will still be employed in eight years.

Although, these fortunes were all collected by me when I still lived in the States. I just still have them. Had I read it at the time, it would have been letting me know that my income would not be US-based a decade down the road. This may be the first fortune cookie I've ever gotten that actually came true.