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.

SEVENTEEN!!!

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?


 

Sunday, September 30, 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.

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.

Tuesday, September 18, 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 is 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.

NOTHING DIFFERENT  OR SPECIAL  OR MAGICAL
HAS HAPPENED HERE!

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

STOP 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.



Wednesday, September 5, 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.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Making Friends With the Locals

I grew up out in the country. For the majority of my childhood, we couldn't even see another house from our yard. We were familiar with the wildlife of the area and lived among all kinds of creepy-crawlies. Mice, spiders, snakes, lightning bugs, are just part of life when you are surrounded by grass and trees. We even had raccoons, skunks, salamandars, deer, foxes, snakes and other animals we caught as pets.

Throughout most of my adult life, I have lived in town. There are critters in the cities also, but not nearly as many. Snakes just aren't as interested in concrete as they are dirt. Dirt is sexier.

Since leaving the States, I have only lived in big cities. I spent a year in San Juan, Puerto Rico (355,000). Almost two years in Beijing (28 million) in an apartment on the 11th floor and then three months in Da Nang, Vietnam (1,300,000). So, I've never really gotten familiar with the wildlife of anywhere but southern Illinois. But a couple of weeks ago, Red and I found the house we wanted and moved to Hoi An.

Now, Hoi An has 120,000 people. However, we do not live in town. We live way out on the edge and are surrounded by rice paddies. We love our big new house, but there is no urban wall of separation between us and nature anymore. Red learned pretty quickly that she was just going to have to come to terms with the ants. They are not going to go away. It doesn't matter how clean you keep your kitchen, they are still going to invite themsleves in. They're quite rude.

Next, are the geckos.


These cute little guys are everywhere. They range in size from one inch to almost eight inches. It is fun to watch them stalk their prey across the wall and then take out a moth or cockroach. Although, the bigger ones can be a little unnerving when they bark at you.

Next, we have a snake that lives in the small garden on our front porch.


He just skulks around the flowers looking for something to eat and doesn't really pay attention to us, but we have learned that he is venomous. His teeth are typically unsuccessful at penetrating human skin because they are designed for small prey, but it was good to know. The locals told me that venomous or not, we should leave snakes alone. Many Vietnamese believe that they are actually remnants of people's ancestors and it is very culturally disrespectful to bother the snakes.

 All those critters I can deal with. Here is the one that is taking some getting used to. This video is from my Facebook page.

  

This guy is huge. AND about 90 seconds later he was dead. I didn't want that thing clomping around at night keeping me up with his loud footsteps.

Since posting that video, I have been informed by many of the locals that you actually want those spiders in your house. Those are the "good spiders" my New Zealand friend told me. They hunt down and eat roaches, smaller spiders, and mosquitoes. So, we are changing our approach toward them.

  
We are trying to make peace and let them be. They could probably overpower us anyway.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Fortune Cookie #12 - Ghost Month

Red and I have moved into a new house in Hoi An, Vietnam and are still unpacking. Yesterday, I came across one of my old writing prompts.


When we still lived in America, I would save my fortune cookie fortunes to write about them later. Apparently, they have been following us around the world.

FYI: Fortune cookies do not exist in China. 

Here are the posts I have done in the past based on my fortune cookies:

1 - Lesson in Patience - My favorite one
2 - Fortune Cookie #2 - I got lazy with the title on this one
3 - New Experiences Aren't Always Good
4 - Fruitless Argument
5 - Mayan Apocalyptic Debacle
6 - Confidence Isn't Enough
7 - Opportunity Knocks
8 - Let's Get To It
9 - Whistling in the Dark
10 - Adventure is Where You Find It
11 - Chinese Beauracracy

 I pulled the first one off the top and here's what I have to work with today:

Keep an eye on national affairs

As an expat in a foreign country, this is an interesting one. Should I be keeping an eye on the national affairs of my home country (America) or the country I live in (Vietnam). Or a careful eye on both since our countries have quite a complicated (and fairly recent) combined history.

It didn't take long after moving to China to discover that keeping up with American news was more difficult from outside the country. The news I did read had a much different perspective since it wasn't generated in America and I had to make more of an effort to stay on top of it. Plus, when you are not actually there, the constantly changing political climate quickly begins to sound like white noise. I'm just not interested anymore. I've decided that if we ever move back to America, we will just have to get caught up when we get there.

As for the national affairs in this country (Vietnam), I still rarely know what is going on. I hear something every now and then that I feel the need to look up, but so often it is about issues and events that I have no knowledge about. It takes time to understand the people and the culture. I grew more and more interested in what was happening around China the longer I was there, but it took a little while to get a feel for how things work. The better I understood, the more interested I was to read the news and stay up to date.

However, I know that I do need to pay more attention. Yesterday (August 31), I learned that tomorrow (September 2) is National Day here. National Day commemorates President Hồ Chí Minh reading the Declarations of independence of Vietnam at Ba Đình Square in Hanoi on September 2, 1945. It's considered to be the day that the Vietnamese officially declared their independence from French Colonization.

This is a major, major holiday here and it would have gotten by me if I hadn't seen a random post on a Facebook forum mentioning internet quality this weekend. I should probably be up on that kind of stuff.

A couple of weeks ago, Red and I were walking into town to get something to eat and all the businesses had pulled tables out on the sidewalks. They had incense and fake money burning on the tables. Some people were burning cloth. They all had various food items diced up and spread around the fires they had built. The smoke was very thick in the streets and made the already treacherous traffic/pedestrian situation even more difficult to navigate.



I had no idea what was going on until I got home and learned that we are in the middle of Hungry Ghost Month. It is the time of the year when Taoists and Buddhists believe that the realms of Heaven and Hell are open to the realm of the living. It is believed the dead will come to visit the living during this time and it is the time of year when the living can help to alleviate the suffering of their dead ancestors.

A local making offerings to the ghosts

It's a time to pay respect to your deceased ancestors, but there are also supposed dangers associated with this month. Thanh Nien News provided a list of things you are not supposed to do during the entire month:
  1. Don’t hang the washing at night since some ghosts may notice it and borrow your clothes for a while. When they return them, they will leave a miasma which is likely to cause the next wearer a bad flu, headache or an even worse illness. Tip: A tumble-dryer will help you skip the hanging part. Modernity could save the day.
  2. Never shout out another person’s name at midnight because ghosts will remember the name and later trick the person into following them. Tip: If you hate someone, such as your ex-spouse, invite them to hang out until late and shout their name at Zero Hour, hopefully thus consigning them to hell.
  3. “A leg hair manages three evil entities,” claims an old saying. Dear female readers, you should never wax a limb during these days. Your leg hair will protect you from evil and all other spirits. Thankfully, bikini waxing or underarm waxing is okay during the month.
  4. Never steal even a single cookie or small guava from the offerings tray before it is offered to the spirits. They could extract fierce revenge for eating their offerings on the sly.
  5. Do not take any photos of people at night, especially in dark places, unless you want to have an unsolicited companion standing beside them in the printed image.
  6. If you plan to celebrate your wedding this month, you could do worse than postpone it to next lunar month unless you are the kind who’d love to be available again soon after getting married. The Ghost Month is associated with bad luck in daily life, including married life.
  7. Don’t wear clothes with skull and bones images because the ghosts could mistake you for one of their own and take you back with them after their short visit to earth.
  8. Don’t pick up any currency bills you see on the street during the month. It could be money offered to the ghosts, who will come after you later to claim it back.
  9. Don’t buy white clothes or have white suits made during this month. White clothes are for funerals.
  10. If you are sick and hospitalized (maybe because you committed some of the "don’ts" above), be sure to keep the light on in your room at night. Otherwise, a wandering spirit from a nearby mortuary might, seeking out its favorite darkness, call on you.
So, staying up on national affairs isn't just abut being aware of the current political association. More awareness could keep us from getting dragged into the realm of the dead. I believe this is the most ominous fourtune I have ever received.

Let's Make Another One

About five years ago, I moved to Indianapolis. It was not a terrible distance away from my hometown, my kids, and my friends, but it was far enough away that going home was a big enough undertaking that I didn't do it very often. Once every few months was enough.

After about my third trip back "home" I began to notice something.

Every time I was about to make a trip back to Mt. Vernon, IL, I would start getting excited about what people I was hoping to visit with, what restaurants I would eat at, and the fun things I would do. However, the trip was often disappointing because people wouldn't be available to hang out, some of the key people I was hoping to see at church that weekend weren't there, or one of my favorite restaurants closed. It just wasn't the same.

Despite having only been gone about a year, I could never recreate some of the memories I had of being there.

My wife had a similar experience when we went to visit the city that she had lived in for 12 years of her adult life. We were in Lewes, DE and were having trouble meeting up with people who had been a huge part of her life for over a decade. Connections were missed and even some of the reunions that were accomplished were disappointing for her. For her, like it was for me, it just wasn't the same.

Nostalgia is like that.




Those great memories of a place are just that. They are memories. They cannot be recreated. You have changed and the place you left behind has changed. Plus, every person you left behind did not just freeze themselves in time waiting for you to come visit. Their lives have all continued moving and changing. You weren't there for it. That does not mean you can never go back to your hometown or alma mater and have a good time, but it definitely means that you should change your expectations. You cannot recreate the past. Plus, you need to recognize that much of that thing you are looking back at has been greatly romanticized in your head over the years.

Those great nights of laughing with your friends were surrounded by days of doing laundry, paying bills, and racing to work. But we tend to forget those parts because they are not worth remembering. It wasn't just awesome all the time.

However, here's the great part about those great memories. They DID happen. They are wonderful memories and it is fun to sit and remember those good times…especially when it can be done with other people who were there.

Those good memories are not ruined because you go home one day and it's just not the same. The original events still took place. Your subsequent visit home did not change that. Your memories are great. Cherish them.

This may be a little hard to accept sometimes, but it is something that most of us fundamentally accept to be true. We may not like it, but we accept it.

But let's make one little change and people lose their minds.

To illustrate, let's try a little experiment. Let's revisit this idea, but this time instead of talking about your REAL life and REAL events that happened with REAL people, we talk about an old movie or TV show. Suddenly, people are unwilling to shrug their shoulders and say "Oh well, I guess you can never go home again."

No. Instead, they freak out.

"Why would you mess with perfection?"
"What are they thinking. They're just going to ruin it."
"Hollywood is attempting to destroy all of our childhoods!"
"This will destroy the franchise."

Do you remember the fury and outrage people felt over the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters?

 
All of these statements I gave above were made about this movie. And I've got news for all of you.

The original 1994 Ghostbusters movie still exists and has not changed IN ANY WAY from what it was before the 2016 remake was released.

Now, I am not defending the quality of the remake in any way. Maybe you hated it and that fine. Maybe you enjoyed it and that's fine too. But it has no bearing on the original. If you liked the original and hated the remake, my guess is that you still like the original. So, what's the big deal?

And let me remind you, this is outrage over something that is fake. Movies are make-believe. It's a story someone made up.

The same things have been said about other movie remakes:

Footloose 
The Magnificent Seven 
The Longest Yard
True Grit
Point Break
Carrie
Total Recall
King Kong
Bad News Bears
Death Race
The Fly
The Italian Job

All of these same things have been said about these movies. However, in the end, the audience either preferred the original or the remake or appreciated both. The idea that no one should ever touch an old movie is ridiculous.

But logic and common sense are thrown out the window as soon as someone considers redoing an old tv show also.


Your day is ruined because
they are remaking MacGyver?

Even if you were a hugely devoted fan of the old show (Magnum, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Will & Grace, the Muppets, X-Files, Twin Peaks, Full House, Roseanne, Queer Eye, Murphy Brown, etc.), how does them bringing the show back for a reboot or sequel or anything else hurt you or your memories of the show you are already a huge fan of.

Maybe the new show will be great and you will have a new set of memories and entertainment you can add to something you already love. GREAT!

Or maybe it will suck. In that case, (pay attention here) you don't have to watch it and it still hasn't affected how much you like the old show.

To illustrate the idiocy of this bad attitude, let's try applying it to another area of life.

Let's say that your grandmother made the most amazing apple pies. They were to die for. The whole family just drooled over them and couldn't wait for holidays when she would make them. Unfortunately, grandma is no longer with us and her apple pies died with her.

However, one day you are at the store and run into one of grandma's old friends and you are sharing a few memories of her and the apple pies are mentioned. The friend says, "She and I used the same recipe. There's several of us that use it. I'll send you a copy."

The following holiday, you walk in beaming and exclaim that you found gradma's apple pie recipe and made several of those special pies for the occasion. What would be your reaction if you heard these statements from your family?
  • You did what? Why would you mess with perfection?
  • I hope you didn't screw it up and ruin her old pies for everyone.
  • Why don't we just leave the past in the past?
  • Are you trying to ruin my childhood?
  • What didn't you just try to make something original instead of copying what's already been done?

Those would be considered apalling statements and would never be said. The family would be excited to get to eat a piece of this pie. And if it turns out that it still wasn't as good as grandma's, the memory of her pies are still there and her pies were not hurt just because someone today tried to recreate it and failed. But if you actually were able to get it right, then they get the joy of eating and enjoying those pies once again.

These are easily recognized as ludicrous statements and are no less ludicrous when said about a piece of entertainment. Why would a writer/producer/movie studio not want to create a show that already has a previously established fan base.

But there's no way they can recreate
Tom Selleck's magnificent moustache.

There is no rule of etiquette that says you have to like everything that is created for the screen. Let's grow up and move on.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Vietnamese Banking

If you follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). you are already well aware of the fact that I LOVE Vietnam.

I have lived in Vietnam for just over three months and I love it here. I love the food, the friendliness of the people, the weather, the cost of living, the clean air…absolutely everything. It is incredible here.

On a daily basis, I turn to my wife and say "This is SO much better than freakin' China!"

We had some great experiences in China and we learned a lot, but it cannot be denied that things are so incredibly and unnecessarily difficult there. Anything you try to do is stifled by mountains of ridiculous and redundant paperwork that must be completed and filed at 27 different government offices scattered all around the country who do not communicate with each other to share your information.

To give you a glimpse at what I am talking about, I will tell you about a recent task I had to tackle in Vietnam. I dreaded this task so much, I put it off for almost three months. Last week, I opened a bank account.

I was able to put it off for so long because the cost of living in Vietnam is unbelievably low. We have lived the past three months off the cash we brought with us from China. My pay has been getting dumped into an international account, but I haven't had access to it because I did not have a local bank to funnel the money through. We just lived on (not only bought groceries but paid rent and all our bills) the cash we had on hand FOR THREE MONTHS!

Our cash was starting to run low, so I reluctantly succumbed to the pressure to finally take care of this. I really dreaded it because my only experiences with opening a bank account in another country have been in China and it was not pleasant.

Take your time to count all the smiles in the room.
I'll wait.

Visiting the bank in China is like going to visit someone in prison:
  • You have to wait until your number is called
  • You must carry proper identification 
  • The person you are talking to is behind a thick pane of glass
  • Guards with large batons are watching your every move
  • The tiniest little (or imaginary) infraction can get you thrown out
  • There's always someone screaming in a back room somewhere

And all of this had to be tolerated to visit the bank for anything. The first time I went was to open an account and it was SO much more complicated…and took four attempts to get it right. Seriously, I went back four times. It was not pleasant. Add to this the fact that China doesn't really let you choose your own bank and it gets worse. You have to bank where your employer tells you to because they will only pay through direct deposit and they will only do it at the bank where they do business. And then, in order for you to pay your company-supplied insurance, they will only deduct that amount from a particular bank (not the same bank, a different one because…well, you know…reasons. Shut up!). They don't deduct it from your pay, they will deduct it from your separate bank account.

This means you must open accounts at these two banks (one to receive your pay and one to pay your insurance) and each month you must transfer money from one to another to have the money in the proper place for the insurance.

And none of this was told to me until after I had already gone out and opened an account at the bank I had decided would offer the best customer service to a foreigner. So, after doing all the research to choose just the right bank for me, I wasn't able to use it. I spent the next two weeks sitting in bank lobbies getting all the proper accounts needed to be able to receive pay that never ended up going through any of those banks anyway.

China was fun!

So, you may understand my reluctance to start this process again.


So, back in Vietnam now, after doing a lot of research and talking to other expats about what banks they use, I finally decided on the bank I wanted. The bank I chose had an impressive English-language website (this is one of my requirements) that suggested I register myself with their bank before I go in to save time on the paperwork on site.

So, I started an account and plugged in all my info (passport #, name, address, etc.) and hit enter. I then received an email asking me to set an appointment to come in. I scheduled it to be as soon as possible and set out the door with all my legal documents under my arm.

Twenty minutes later, I walk into the "bank"

Does this look like a bank to you?

This was not what I was expecting. I had to go back outside to ensure I was at the right place. This was the bank. Except, they don't like to call it a bank. They call it a hangout.

As soon as I walked in, a young girl approached me. "You must be Mr. Minor. Have a seat. Would you like a drink?"

They had water, juices, several types of coffee, and even beer.

You conduct your banking business
at a coffee bar counter.

I sat in one of the large cushioned chairs by a low round table while she whipped me up an espresso. She returned with my coffee and the paperwork from my online registration. Over the course of the next ten minutes that I was there (yes, only 10 minutes), she got a copy of my passport, had me sign two papers, gave me a bank card with my name already printed on it and explained to me some of the features of the new account I now had.

DONE!

I stepped back outside unsure about what had just happened. That was way too easy. Even for America. A new bank account in minutes? I didn't need any of the paperwork I brought with me? And I could have drunk a beer if I had ordered one. Incredible!

Here is part of what saved time. The place is able to have the more personable setup because they don't handle any money on site. I could not have made a deposit if I wanted to. This bank is a purely digital bank. It is designed to all be done online. If you want to make a cash deposit, there are a few banks around town they are partnered with where you can do that for a small fee, but it's rare that people do that.

Because there is no money on site, there is no need for all the extra security, guards at the doors, thick glass walls, or cameras everywhere. This place facilitates paperwork and they are incredibly efficient at it. Since I had already filled out all the needed information online before I came in, they didn't need me to do that when I got there. In fact, the only reason I had to go to the office at all was was to physically sign the papers, let them scan my passport, and hand me my card. The only reason they don't just mail you your card and have you do the other two digitally (which would be easily possible) is due to banking regulations to prevent fraud. You must physically show up with your passport. Small price to pay for this kind of ease.

I love this country more and more every day. Vietnam is awesome.