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    Here’s something of a personal update, an explanation, an excuse, a lamentation.

    Also, rather than answering Coco’s non Red Beard questions from the women thread, I’ll tackle issues like food poisoning and the state of Hungarian economy here. ๐Ÿ™‚

    So, the last month has been pretty busy for me with work on the one hand and fighting with the bureaucracy on the other. While I have no idea if the bureaucracy issue will go away any time soon, I at least expect November to be no less work-filled.

    The work itself is fortunately fine, and I quite enjoy what I am doing (which has to do with exploring new ways of promoting Finnish playwrights internationally). However, I work from home, or “telecommute”, as the term is — which makes me think of travelling to work by phone lines, which really should be a type of teleportation, huh? Anyway, it means that I sit in front of this computer for at least six hours a day, and at the moment most of that time is spent processing written texts and writing stuff as a response to or at least based on them. Unfortunately, there is a limit to how many hours per day I can stare at this screen and write stuff without going nuts. Which is pretty much the reason why I haven’t been as active here as I perhaps should have, considering my title as the Evil(i) Overlord Dictator. As my defence, I can say that I have pretty much dropped offline everywhere else. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anyway, the good news is that while there is still a lot of work, there should be somewhat less writing in the coming months, so I hope to have more energy left for this website and other things. Ikiru certainly deserves all that I can throw at it.

    So, my excuse is that I’m snowed in with work (while the weather here is anything but snowing) and bureaucracy. The food poisonings may have been some sort of a result of all this, I don’t know. I am fine now, thanks for asking Coco. I’m not sure if I would consider a food poisoning as something like a bad flu, though — or perhaps I have simply never had a bad enough flu. ๐Ÿ˜†

    In any case, I learnt a lesson there — it’s not enough to check the date on the yoghurt if you have no idea what the current date is! Which is a problem, because I rarely do.

    As for Hungary’s economic crisis, I don’t actually have much of an idea what the situation is here. In the past couple of months, apart from my evening jogging I have left the house maybe a dozen or so times, almost every time just to go to the local Tesco to shop for the week. The Tesco was still there this week, so I assume that it is not Fallout 3 yet.

    But if you read this BBC article, you will pretty much know as much as I do.

    Based on what I have heard from the people that I have talked to, the economic package has got mixed reception here. The government says that they won’t use the money, but that it is good to have it. The opposition, however, says that it all plays into the government’s hand as they can now proceed with their controversial privatisation plans under an IMF mandate — something that many don’t really consider a Good Thing. Personally, I have no idea.

    Finally, thanks for the bento links, Coco! I may try some of those justbento.com recipes, although unfortunately it is still quite difficult to get hold of the more exotic ingredients in this country. You can certainly find them in Budapest, but they’ll cost. Anyway, I saw that many of the recipes were actually perfectly doable from European ingredients, so I’ll certainly try out some! It’ll be a nice creative change to my more typical salad or hummus or sushi or bean dip type of lunches.



    Hey Vili, thanks for the update! Sorry about food poisoning. I really wasn’t making light of it-I once had what might have been food poisoning or the stomach flu-and I don’t know which it was. The symptoms were dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea-to the extent where I felt so weak and faint that I really thought I might die. It didn’t last more than a day, though, and I didn’t go to the doctor-I was a poor art student and didn’t have health care! Since food poisoning agents can be viral, noroviral, rotaviral, bacterial, parasitical or toxic-it’s hard to know what did it! That was my first, and most frightening experience.

    Less distantly in time, I have had very mild food poisoning in Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan. Those were definitely caused by a reaction to food and water. The first years traveling to Turkey I almost always experienced some form of reaction to the food, and always drank bottled water. Over recent years, though, I seem to have built up resistance to whatever is in the food and water-and can drink tap water and eat anything. (Or else I’ve been incredibly lucky!) I’ve been fortunate to never have had giardia, although some of my students have been less fortunate.

    Vili, you mentioned Tesco still being there when you go out to jog…well, I am seeing some businesses go under overnight. My local pet store had a sign in the window “75% off” so I went inside to see if I could get a bargain on the little turkey bite treats for my mother’s little dog-and everything was on sale because they were going out of business! A woman approached me and said, “if you take all the parakeets, I’ll give you cages for free.” I thought, “What the heck am I going to do with six parakeets?” But, somehow she talked me into getting two parakeets for $5 and a free cage and free food and tins. Unfortunately these two parakeets evidently hate each other, because they squabble from the moment I uncover the cage in the morning until I cover it at night. Whenever I look at them they cower, but peck at each other. They also hate me, and try to bite me, but their bills are tiny (they are baby parakeets) and they are afraid of me, too. These are the least happy parakeets I’ve ever seen,a nd I don’t know why I am their caretaker.

    I’m no political scientist nor am I an economics professor, but recent world events make me interested in learning more about how these human endeavors work and interact. New bankruptcy laws give a shorter time for reorganization and turnaround. So, we’ve seen the demise of national companies like Bombay Company, and, I think Sharper Image has filed, but I’m not sure if they’re dead. When a company goes out of business or files for bankruptcy, folks holding gift cards can see their value evaporate. And, it’s a bad thing for communities to see empty storefronts. In my community, houses have dropped in value at least 25% over the past year and a half. So we have lots of folks with upside-down mortgages. The bank bailout doesn’t go down well, here. I watch these developments, and am curious to know how things are in the rest of the world.

    Well, tomorrow is the day for us yanks. November 4. Dia de Elecciones! I hope that the winner has a mandate and that we all can get on board and see some positive action, after these last hellish 8 years of cupidity and lies.



    Hey, Vili, how do you like us yanks, now? We did something pretty bold-I’m proud of America in a way I haven’t been for….oh, 8 years.



    Heh, I don’t think I like Americans any more or any less today than I did yesterday, but congratulations for your candidate winning! To be honest, I would have voted for Obama had I been forced to pick a side, but I’m happy that I wasn’t. As I have noted before, I am not a big believer in mass democracy.

    I must also say that I am a little concerned about the way some of the regional ballots went, like for example how same sex marriages were banned in all the states that voted about it. It somehow seems so very medieval a decision to me, but then again there certainly is that strongly old-fashioned, narrow minded side to the US national psyche. It feels strange to me, but then again who am I to judge.

    In any case, with Obama’s election there now seems globally to be something of a new air of hope around amidst all the recent economic, ecologic and political gloom. It is certainly a good thing, and perhaps the celebrations that CNN showed not only from the US but from across the world can contribute to lifting our recent depression (at least the psychological, if not the economic one). We shall see how long the honeymoon lasts. Let’s just hope that it won’t end the same way it did with Bush — it is strange how he managed to play his cards so poorly internationally, considering that at one point in late 2001 he held all the Aces.

    Russia’s reaction to Obama’s victory was quite interesting, though. There are strange things going on in that country.

    Coco: I really wasn’t making light of it-I once had what might have been food poisoning or the stomach flu-and I don’t know which it was. The symptoms were dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea-to the extent where I felt so weak and faint that I really thought I might die.

    I guess it’s just me not experiencing a bad flu then, the symptoms certainly sound familiar! And I actually didn’t go to the doctor either, as there is no free healthcare for me at the moment (that’s actually the main source of my bureaucratic problems — Finland kicked me out of their social security, and Hungary doesn’t really seem to want me).

    So, do the parakeets have names? Have they settled down?



    There are a few odd bugs going about, i had one myself on Monday – went down with a raging temperature, but fell fine next day. Thankfully, not as bad as anything you guys seem to have had (touch wood ๐Ÿ™„ )

    It felt great yesterday morning though, to wake up to the news. There will be very tough times ahead, but at least there is someone in charge who doesn’t seem to have any wierd demons and is rational and sensible (at least I hope so).

    What was the reaction in Russia, Vili? I’d be curious to know. I somethings think Russia is one of the hardest of all to understand (but I guess you Finns became experts at reading them, no choice!).

    Sadly, i’ve a bit of an economics background (not a good one, hated it in uni, just scraped a bare pass), but I’m a bit of an economics nerd when it comes to looking at countries around the world. The one thing I can see is that there are some very unpleasant surprises going to happen the next year or so. As Warren Buffet said ‘you don’t know who’s been swimming naked till the tide goes out’. Well, there are lots of nude swimmers out there about to have their private bits exposed to some very harsh sunlight. Hungary is one of the first, but there are others to follow (and I’m living in one of them I think).

    BTW Jeremy, you can come out from under your bed now, the world hasn’t come to an end! ๐Ÿ˜›

    Well, not yet anway ๐Ÿ˜ฎ



    Vili you said,

    …there certainly is that strongly old-fashioned, narrow minded side to the US national psyche.

    Yup. Those Puritan ideas somehow have crazy staying power, and have morphed into some whack attitudes! You woulda thunk those narrowing tendencies would have gone the way of the ruffled collar for men…very strange and disturbing how tenacious those attitudes are in some sectors of society. Still, I’m just gonna give Michigan a big pat on the back for finally voting decently, and for passing some forward-looking legislation on stem cell research. Plus, my man, Carl Levin, was re-elected to the senate, and he’s a good guy.

    Luigi Barzini (Jr.) has a chapter on us Yanks in his book “The Europeans” …and I am probably going to misquote, so, let me try to get the sentiment…(I read this so long ago…) he says of us Yanks that we really are an odd lot to try to figure out because we ricochet from idealism to pragmatism, and the rest of the world never knows which card we’ll pull from the deck. That internal contradiction…desiring hope and wanting to believe in our leaders is contrasted with a desire for doing the expedient, practical thing (in our best interest). That doesn’t sound nearly as brilliant as Barzini sounded when I read it.

    “The Europeans” is pretty wonderful, and I’m going to have to dig it out again. Barzini has some very funny stuff to say about Europe’s usual suspects. His bits on France were particularly hilarious to me (I actually love France, well, Paris, which may or may not count) , and what he does, in trying to get a handle on “national character” is back it up with policy and international relations decisions. That’s pretty interesting-it’s like looking at nations as personalities and seeing how they interact based on their types. It’s something like the results of a Myers-Briggs type indicator for nations, plus case studies of how things work out in real life for those personalities.

    Ugetsu, you said,

    I’m a bit of an economics nerd when it comes to looking at countries around the world.

    I envy your training (although I haven’t the temperament to make it through an actual course in econ) and trust you’re right when you indicate tough times ahead. I live in what is called “Greater Detroit”-the most blighted, embattled, mismanaged, and economically challenged community! Detroit’s former mayor is in jail, GM, Chrylser and Ford are in the dumper, and we are reeling with layoffs and bankruptcies and foreclosures.

    Jeremy, they said that Texas was one of the richest states in the nation. Is that right?

    Oh, and I haven’t named the parakeets, but one might be “bitey” because he bites.



    Well, it wasn’t a direct response to the election, but Russia’s president Medved directly blamed the US for the current economic crisis in yesterday’s state-of-the-nation address, and announced that Russia is going to move new missiles to Kaliningrad in order to neutralise America’s planned European missile shield system. There was also a mention of boosting Russia’s Baltic navy for the same purpose. Clearly, Russia is testing how far they can go while there is a change of guard at the White House.

    Another interesting point that came up in the speech was Medved’s plans of extending the term of presidency to six years, instead of the current four. Medved’s current term runs out in 2012, at which point Putin is again eligible for re-election since Russia’s constitution doesn’t limit the total number of terms, only the number of consecutive terms one can serve. It may well be that the plan is for Putin to hold office from 2012 to 2024.

    Incidentally, 2012 is also the year when, if some current legislation passes, the first phase of a large restructuring plan of Russia’s Army should be over. (Otherwise the date is 2016.) This may be just a coincidence, though.

    I’m not sure if I am any more capable of reading the Russians than is anyone else. ๐Ÿ™‚ The problem is that Russia has no freedom of media, the country as a whole remains in a relatively chaotic state, and the people on the top level who are the only ones to know something are extremely tight-lipped about what is going on.

    Another thing that is a chaotic mess is, indeed, the Hungarian economy. But this is actually something that anyone living in this country has known for a good number of years now. ๐Ÿ˜€ In just 10 years Hungary went from being one of Europe’s fastest growing economies in the late 90s to (I think) Europe’s weakest economy in 2008. There are probably various reasons for that, but I think that the most important one is the de-facto two party system that Hungary has fallen into, and the mindless partisan politics that it has created. People and political representatives rarely vote for the issues any more — they vote against the opposing party. Obviously, no progress can be made under these conditions.

    But I didn’t know that Ireland was doing so poorly as well? Maybe it’s good then that I didn’t apply for a recent job opening which I considered, as it would have taken me to Dublin. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Coco, you are right about the stem cell research bit, also I was glad to see that pass. It just feels strange that things like that need to be voted about in the first place. But then again, perhaps it is still only good to have checks like those. If we didn’t, we might have mad scientists and their creations running around in no time. I’m just not sure if your common citizen is able to understand what they are actually voting about without spending a lot of time studying the issues, so I don’t know why ask them.

    It’s also true that there seem to be many interesting contradictions about the US. Watching the election coverage reminded me about the, for me, somewhat disturbingly strong American patriotism, almost nationalism, which is at the same time something that fascinates me as it seems to go against the individualism that also appears to rank very high within the American identity.

    We actually did quite a bit of exploration of national identities in Australian studies, which was a side major for me. (Furthermore, in my other side major, language pedagogy, I heavily concentrated on studying cultural identities — although mainly within the communicative context.) There is an especially rich body of literature about this in colonial studies, as topics of personal, national, regional and global identities come together in quite interesting ways when you start thinking about the different countries of the old British Empire.

    The US, as a melting pot of sorts in itself is obviously no less interesting in this way, and considering the multitude of backgrounds and histories that people there have, it is probably no surprise that you find both patriotism and personal independence, idealism and pragmatism, and a whole number of other things that, on the surface, seem to be in direct contradiction with each other.

    As for Jeremy, I’m actually not sure if he is currently reading the boards here. The last time when I heard from him he told me that he is suddenly going offline for a while. I hope not for too long, as it would be great to have his input here.



    Right, Vili, I miss Jeremy! He’s funny and smart and has incredible insights into the “thingness of the thing” in film. I love his visual analysis-those frame-by-frame posts are absolute treasures!

    Can’t speak for the nation, but I can something about the USA that might relate to the discussion about our contradictory national character: the first is an anecdote set in Israel, in the shadow of the Russian Compound, in the first days of the second Intifada- I was drinking a Guiness at the outdoor tables of the bar by the Russian Compound walls with a guy who did the newscasts for IBA-Israel Broadcasting Authority. He was a former British citizen, transplanted to Israel, and I used to watch him do the 6:00 news, then meet him for drinks after the broadcast. The night was filled with folks filtering through the conversation-a Palestinian telling me that he remembered sitting at a table and hearing screams from the compound during the first Intifada-a Jew telling me how he had brought his family from Chicago to settle in Israel, a Christian wioman making her pilgrimmage to Jerusalem. Anyway, the broadcaster, at one point in the conversation leans in close and says, “I don’t understand what America is about. What is America?”.

    Vili, you noted:

    …somewhat disturbingly strong American patriotism, almost nationalism, which is at the same time something that fascinates me as it seems to go against the individualism that also appears to rank very high within the American identity.

    Yeah, well the way it actually works is this: Americans believe that a strong individual makes for a strong America. You can throw any adjective you want in there-an intelligent individual, a loving individual, a healthy individual…it all contributes to the good of the country. My Israeli friend couldn’t figure out how, without the glue of a common ethnicity or religion, how the USA could have an identity at all. I get that.

    I dare say we are a country based on ideas. (although we all know at the lowest common denominator ideas are replaced by emotions and garbage, which brings me to the next thing you said, Vili):

    I’m just not sure if your common citizen is able to understand what they are actually voting about without spending a lot of time studying the issues, so I don’t know why ask them.

    Well, it’s easier to be informed than it once was. I’m no genius, but I downloaded a sample ballot from the internet (and looked up my polling place hours just to be sure!) and then, on the proposals that seemed “tricky”, did a little internet hunting and pecking. It isn’t brain surgery to find out stuff anymore, thank goodness, and you don’t have to have tons of free time or super-human energy. So, I dunno about people being all that “dumb” about the issues.

    There are reactionary voters, and there are folks who don’t think the issues through, and there are folks who get blindsighted and misled. And, that’s how you get a George Bush. But, we’ve had our fill. We gorged on lies, and now the country is vomiting up blood. We’ll have our work cut out to clean up the mess and get healthy again…but, there is a window of opportunity!



    But I didn’t know that Ireland was doing so poorly as well? Maybe it’s good then that I didn’t apply for a recent job opening which I considered, as it would have taken me to Dublin.

    Yes, probably just as well! We are actually not suffering so badly now, but there will be a delayed reaction in about 6 months or so. Our government idiotically tied our tax system to the property boom (i.e. cutting direct taxes while increasing them on development), which has meant that after years of healthy surpluses, there is now a catastrophic shortfall. And our banks are in a very perilous position – not of collapsing, but of being crippled for years (Japanese style). But on the bright side, there will be some very good January sales ๐Ÿ™„

    The issue of identity is very interesting. I don’t have the book to hand I know one writer on the context of America and Japan is that the American character is defined by ideals, while the Japanese is defined by a coastline (or words to that effect). There was another fascinating book (again, the writers name eludes me) who ascibed much of the contraditions in the American character to the nature of what he identified as four major pre 19th century in-migrations. Two of them were of dissenter protestants, settling from New England across to the north-west – bringing a strong religous sense, but also a deep belief in community action, with egalitarianism being a major driving force. The third was of the Scots Irish (the cattle thieves, as one writer describes them), who settled further south, who brought a sense of personal honour and an abiding hatred of heirarchy, and a suspicion of anyone unwilling to fight for their family and kin. The fourth was of English Royalist refugees, mainly to the south, who had a strong sense of hierarchy and entitlement. A slightly more complex mix than the petty thieves sent to Australia ๐Ÿ˜€



    Ugetsu-I so wish you had more info on the writers. Good stuff! A bunch of cattle thieves and dissenter protestants, with Africans, Jews, Asians, Royalists and, well, remember that bit that Dana Carvey used to do on Saturday Night Live…he was an old Jewish balladeer and would say, “gimme a “c’ a bouncy “c”…” then he would extemporize a rhyme until he ran out of gas and would say…”and whatever the hell else you wanna throw in there…”



    coco, the book is called Albions Seed by David Fischer. There is a description of it in this blog. I haven’t read it in detail, but I remember browing it back in the days when ‘browsing’ was what poor students did sitting in a library or bookshop to while away the hours. What struck me about it was how accurate the cultural description was of those Scots Irish I know in Ireland – 300 years of separation hasn’t made much difference (although the cattle are marginally safer these days. The cattle thief description I think comes from Joe Bagaent. The latter is a brilliant book, by the way, a great read.

    The Japanese quote is from Japan Rising by Kenneth Pyle. He quotes someone else, but I don’t have the book at hand to check it out.



    Ugetsu, I appreciate the links! Thanks so much! Albion’s Seed looks like a must-read for me. Spending so much time looking out at the world-not a bad idea to take a fresh look at home from this “successive cultural waves” perspective.

    I haven’t read Japan Rising-I did read China Wakes (I took Chinese, not Japanese, and travel to China somewhat often). But, I think Japan Rising would be a good one to add to the bookshelves! I actually haven’t spent even a minute thinking about Japan’s history or politics-I’ve been indulging myself in its culture, and have made the excuse that I have so much I must learn in so many areas (that’s what you get being a generalist). Perhaps I can find a minute to correct my absolute ignorance. Thanks very much for the suggestions.



    That China book looks interesting. Coco, although I don’t really like Kristofs articles in the NYT. The last China book I read is The Writing on the Wall by Will Hutton, an economist I admire. Its a good read, although I think old China hands would dispute some of his analysis. It did, however, explain very well some of those things about modern China that puzzled me (like super modern hotels with gold plated taps that come away in your hands when you try to turn them on).

    BTW, totally unrelated, but I’m kinda excited now, i just booked my winter holiday – 3 weeks in Taiwan, just me and my bike. I guess i’d better to get some old Ang Lee movies…..



    Thanks for all the book recommendations! I clearly have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to (among other things) Asian subjects.

    Ugetsu: A slightly more complex mix than the petty thieves sent to Australia ๐Ÿ˜€

    Tsk, tsk — Australia is a wee bit more complex a topic than this historically inaccurate view would have it. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Ugetsu: BTW, totally unrelated, but I’m kinda excited now, i just booked my winter holiday – 3 weeks in Taiwan, just me and my bike. I guess i’d better to get some old Ang Lee movies…..

    Wow, that sounds absolutely brilliant! You must send us a picture or two!



    Ugetsu, I am very jealous of your upcoming visit to Taiwan!

    If you can brush off the bias, I suggest Mao the Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. There’s some fascinating stuff in there. Wild Swans is by the same couple. History as memoir. Dr. Edwin Pak-wah Leung’s Essentials of Modern Chinese History is small enough to be portable-a handy reference.

    Wish I could spend a week with the Taipei National Palace collection of art.



    Thanks coco, its a very long flight, so I’ll try one or two of those books. I believe there are some nice hot springs down south, I’ll be looking for a good read as I soak in one for Christmas Day ๐Ÿ˜‰



    We could use a hot spring here, Ugetsu. And, I could use an adventure like your upcoming Taiwan holiday.

    The snow fell for the first time this weekend, so I turned on the electric fireplace, watched the ersatz “flame”, snuggled under a woolen blanket and popped Tokyo Story into the dvd player. On our first day of leaden skies and cold, I watched a Japanese family dissolve in the sweltering heat of summer.

    The beautiful, mysteriously sad and compassionate face of Setsuko Hara is like a blanket of warmth-

    Tokyo Story is one of the saddest films I have ever seen.



    Is it safe to assume you’ve conquered your food-poisoning, Vili? And hows Hungary economy doing? The Euro has really taken a hit, the whole 1to1 exchange might just happen.

    I still reading the boards, but I’ve been back in forth between Mexico and home, and havent had too much time to write. Although shortly I will off to China, in hopes to enter Russia though there, and in January will be back to do my write up for Seven Samurai. I had plans for N. Korea, but was denied, by their guided tours policy, because of some passport problems, largely for blame from Interpol and the FBI, getting mixed up with some of my old history that never got cleared up. N. Korea was really the highlight, so I’m really disappointed in not going.

    cocoskyavitch wrote 2 weeks ago:

    Hey, Vili, how do you like us yanks, now? We did something pretty bold-I’m proud of America in a way I haven’t been for….oh, 8 years.

    I dont know about proud, If America was trying to impress Europe by showing we can elect a black guy, then it’s a sad day, when race overrules political importance. This is I think had a lot to do with the win, America wanting to showoff to the world. Plus, when has a black guy ever not had the ability to raise high in the ranks? Bush has several black running the show already. This is not a great day for the blacks, it’s a set back, if they think this was a race thing. And I thought race had nothing to do with anything.

    Also I dont understand a lot people saying how bad the last 8 years were. How? Bush is only partially to blame, but largely he has only become a whipping boy. Should be like the Russians and blame Bush for the rest of the world too? I suppose Bush is the cause to the Europe collapse, that oddly is in some case much worse then America.

    Anyways not to sound bitter, I willing to try Obama, but I the man has problems never seen before. And he made some impossible promises that people will expect to be done.

    My main problem with Obama is he is still preaching “Change”. What the hell is “change” anyways? He has failed to explain what “change” is.

    Is change installing 3/4 of the Clinton administration? Is change already backing out of your promises before even being in office? Is change installing principals that boarder Marxist ideals? Is change, having the Russians make odd moves? Is change having al-qaida already testing Obama, by calling him, just a “house nigger”?

    I dont know the whole phrase-โ€œIt is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.โ€ โ€” William Shakespeare

    sort of sounds like Obama’s whirlwind of “hope”, and “change”.

    I got to go, I finish up later today.



    Well, looks like I went off in a rant, but just to some up my thoughts on Obama. He isnt doing anything different, it has all be done before with bad results. People seem to be blinded by “Change” and “Hope” but I dont want a president, that only chants out meaningless words. And when has “hope” ever been a good thing. It’s stupid, you dont run a country with “hope”.

    He also has made impossible promises, that can’t be fulfilled, has some major wars to deal with, has old enemies reappearing, the worst economy ever, and the man still wants to increase taxes and spend more money.

    My “hope” is that giving that 46% of the country didnt vote for him, and Democrats wanting to be reelected, and with Republican still able to knock back a few things. Obama cant become the extreme left wing president, he is trying to be. This is good, because some of the stuff Obama wants to do, like civilian military, regulating media, mandatory government work, government owning everything it can, and the whole “spreading the wealth” is down right scary and dangerous. This is socialism. And for some reason people think it’s the greatest thing ever.

    Anther issue, is Obama has to be first person to announce his second term in office, before even beginning his first. And he will properly get it, as for every problem and promise he cant solve(and there will be a lot) he will simply blame Bush. And the people will blindly follow their empty god, because he will continue to dangle the carrot in front of people though impossible promises, and false hopes.

    And speaking of “spreading the wealth” since it doesnt appear over half of America has a clue about how economics work. This is the best way I have ever seen it explained.

    Barack Obama discovers a leak under his sink, so he calls Joe the

    Plumber to come and fix it.

    Joe drives to Obama’s house, which is located in a very nice

    neighborhood and where it’s clear that all the residents make more

    than $250,000 per year.

    Joe arrives and takes his tools into the house. Joe is led to the

    room that contains the leaky pipe under a sink. Joe assesses the

    problem and tells Obama, who is standing near the door, that it’s an

    easy repair that will take less than 10 minutes.

    Obama asks Joe how much it will cost. Joe immediately says, “$9,500.”

    “$9,500?” Obama asks, stunned. “But you said it’s an easy repair!”

    “Yes, but what I do is charge a lot more to my clients who make more

    than $250,000 per year so I can fix the plumbing of everybody who

    makes less than that for free,” explains Joe. “It’s always been my

    philosophy. As a matter of fact, I lobbied government to pass this

    philosophy as law, and it did pass earlier this year, so now all

    plumbers have to do business this way. It’s known as ‘Joe’s Fair

    Plumbing Act of 2008.’ Surprised you haven’t heard of it, senator.”

    In spite of that, Obama tells Joe there’s no way he’s paying that

    much for a small plumbing repair, so Joe leaves.

    Obama spends the next hour flipping through the phone book looking

    for another plumber, but he finds that all other plumbing businesses

    listed have gone out of business. Not wanting to pay Joe’s price,

    Obama does nothing. The leak under Obama’s sink goes unrepaired for

    the next several days.

    A week later the leak is so bad that Obama has had to put a bucket

    under the sink. The bucket fills up quickly and has to be emptied

    every hour, and there’s a risk that the room will flood, so Obama

    calls Joe and pleads with him to return.

    Joe goes back to Obama’s house, looks at the leaky pipe, and says

    “Let’s see this will cost you about $21,000.”

    “A few days ago you told me it would cost $9,500!” Obama quickly

    fires back.

    Joe explains the reason for the dramatic increase. “Well, because of

    the ‘Joe’s Fair Plumbing Act,’ a lot of rich people are learning how

    to fix their own plumbing, so there are fewer of you paying for all

    the free plumbing I’m doing for the people who make less than

    $250,000. As a result, the rate I have to charge my wealthy paying

    customers rises every day.

    “Not only that, but for some reason the demand for plumbing work from

    the group of people who get it for free has skyrocketed, and there’s

    a long waiting list of those who need repairs. This has put a lot of

    my fellow plumbers out of business, and they’re not being replaced

    nobody is going into the plumbing business because they know they

    won’t make any money. I’m hurting now too all thanks to greedy rich

    people like you who won’t pay their fair share.”

    Obama tries to straighten out the plumber: “Of course you’re hurting,

    Joe! Don’t you get it? If all the rich people learn how to fix their

    own plumbing and you refuse to charge the poorer people for your

    services, you’ll be broke, and then what will you do?”

    Joe immediately replies, “Run for president, apparently.

    Ugetsu wrote 1 week ago:

    BTW Jeremy, you can come out from under your bed now, the world hasn’t come to an end! ๐Ÿ˜›

    Well, not yet anway ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

    No, but Obama hasnt even become president yet, wait until in office and 6 months time ๐Ÿ˜† In all seriousness, Obama could very well make a bad problem worse, and the whole world will feel it.

    The first issue will be Obama raising the already record high business tax in America, despite massive layoffs and bankrupt companies. No money being spent in America, kills Asia, and Europe.

    cocoskyavitch wrote 1 week ago:

    Jeremy, they said that Texas was one of the richest states in the nation. Is that right?

    I think the average income in Texas is in the top 15, since we do have a fair share of low income families, from Mexico messing our stats up, and those damn Katrina people from Louisiana, that never left.

    As for the state itself, it does make a massive amount of money and the economy has historically remained very strong even in bad times.

    Last I check Texas alone brings in more money then all of Canada, and Canada making more money then most states, and countries.

    But to describe Texas, I would say it has fowl scent of free flowing money in the air. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    What’s going on right now, is a massive move to push out the poor people, by raising property taxes, and investors buying homes in the ghettos around major cities, knocking them down and building town homes for the rich as a second house, or typically a place to sleep when a doctors has to work late.

    So you now have, old houses and poor people, mixed in with rich people. And the rich people were becoming victims of crimes from the poor, so Texas further relaxed, already easy laws on self-defense in 2006, so now good guys are killing the bad guys without fear of punishment. So crime has dropped, and the gang members are now scared of the rich people, and it really funny to see some obvious gang members hanging around the same place a doctor with a Ferrari is at, but never do anything, as the cops have been harassing them and they have been dropping life flies. It doesnt always work perfectly, but it’s a pretty damn good thing.

    It’s all rather lovely, and Texas has profited big time in a renewed major town area. Then middle class and the rich from other states have been moving in massive amounts to Texas to work and live. I know areas around me, where 80% of the people are first year Texans, most coming from California. So this has sparked the new technology and entertainment hubs in Austin, and the medical and oil hubs in Houston, plus Dallas, and San Antonio have grown too, all pushing out to smaller towns, increasing their growth.

    See Texas doesn’t really like poor people, nor do I, and they appear to support the whole “the best defense against violence is stronger violence” and I just love that.

    Things have slowed here, but it not all that bad, and I find it hard to understand areas like Detroit when all is going to hell. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

    Uh, and by poor, I mean the Obama people- the ones that do nothing and expect everything. I do like the hard working people, that have to struggle-they are good people, and are good, because they work hard to achieve success, if not for them, at least their children. They I’ll help, the rest, I hope Texas sinks them so bad, they have to move to Louisiana.

    Ugetsu wrote 1 week ago:

    BTW, totally unrelated, but I’m kinda excited now, i just booked my winter holiday – 3 weeks in Taiwan, just me and my bike.

    I would really like to know your thoughts upon return, I’ve never been to Taiwan, but March 2010 is my next trip to Japan, and from their I plan to hit some areas of Asia I havent been to.

    Have fun.

    Well, I dont know what I’m even talking about, so I’ll quit.

    Wish everyone the best, I’m off the Russia and China, or maybe the opposite, my flight plans have gotten messed up.

    I know your all going to mourn me, for surely your life will now be empty with my absence. But fear not, I’ll be back in January with a Seven Samurai writeup. LOL ๐Ÿ˜‰



    Aw Jeremy, we really will miss you! I don’t care how much you rant about Obama, you always have really interesting stuff to say, and thanks for that info on Texas. (That anecdote/allegory about Obama and Joe the Plumber was awesome).

    Hope China and Russia are as cool as ever. We’ll want to hear about it all when you return! Safe travels!



    I’ve traveled a bit, but there are two places I haven’t seen, but want desperately to see. One is the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Just check out the painting (this is such a fabulous site!) …National Palace Museum. The painting Early Spring by Kuo Hsi (Song dynasty) makes me crazy. I want to see it so very badly. There’s so little Song dynasty work to see in Shanghai or Beijing…almost all of it gone to Japan or Taiwan…or the West.

    The other thing I want very very desperately to experience is Hokkaido in the winter. I want to stay at a hotsprings ryokan…with the world muffled in snow, and read Kawabata’s Snow Country again. How does Ichinomatsu look?




    I’ve done a bit of travel, most has been Asia, once I complete that, I will try to finish up Europe, but Europe I’m not all that crazy about, and will properly just tour the states, since I’ve been to less of them, then countries. Although, I’ve always wanted to got the European museums, just I’ve always felt rather lost, so avoid them.

    Anyways my plans are for further rural China then I’ve ever been. I’ve always considered Shanghai and Beijing, be like a pretty bow on a mangy dog. Although the cities are great, and the new middle-class upraise is interesting, it’s all rather fake, becoming more clear the deeper you go, where entire towns are full of 14 year-old girls working 18 hour jobs, in semi-sweat-shops. This time I’m trying to head where these girls come from, the villages were they are sending their money to and the boys that are considered valuable enough to send to school, or sell off to rich families in larger cities.

    I dont plan to encounter too much trouble, money is rather precious out that way, and get you anywhere or anything. Plus, previous adventures have taught me to always befriends all the kids, not only are they more willing to try communicating with you, but tend to know everything that is going on, and offer protection, or at least warning if some adults decide to do something. This my goal for China; Russia, is not nearly as easy, and military presence in past experience has limited my movements, since all the trains are typically full of military personal. I may be stuck to the bigger cities, Russia I dont think I will venture too far, or push any boundaries-Russian police and military dont screw around, but I’m going to give it try-that being what has gotten me in trouble in the past ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

    I’ve always been fond of Japan, minus Tokyo- Hokkaido is far too touristy for me, and never stayed at Ichinomatsu. Most of the hot springs in that region are indoors and privately owned.

    I found the best hot springs to be in the Chubu region, specifically Gero, most are outdoors, and running rivers. Maybe I just like being naked in the cold,with a bottle of sake, and jumping into some naturally hot spring water-I dont know. Frankly, sake and nakedness is just awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

    Gero I can recommended some great places to stay. Two of them where nearly a backwards travel in time, everything was so old-school-it was awesome, and pushed my knowledge of customs and proper speech. Most of these deny non-Japanese, but they arent hard to convince.

    Plus the quiet-hardly any people-train ride from Nagoya to Gero is amazingly pretty.

    I’m at the airport, and these are the only ones on my server. Taken last year, while inside the train heading to Gero and nearby Takayama. These are nothing but rejects, taking photos in a moving train, and dealing with reflection of the windows sucks.













    Long story behind this one, but this is outside the Minshuku I stayed in, the area I’ve been talking about.




    Thanks for the pictures, Jeremy! I’m sorry to hear North Korea won’t happen this year.



    Jeremy, love the pics! I hope you will be able to post some stuff you take in China! My itinerary has been usually Shanghai, Beijing, Luoyang, Xian, Nanjing, Changsha, Yangshuo and Guilin, and Hong Kong or one year it was also Chengdu on our way to Lhasa, and traveling by train, mostly.

    Some of my favorite places are Purple Mountain (Zฤญjฤซn Shฤn) outside Nanjing. it isn’t so much the Sun Yatsen memorial, or Linggu Pagoda (modern!) it’s climbing it and seeing the swaying pines below you, and also, I love Linggu Temple-its’ not much visited (on my last travels, it was under restoration and partly closed), but I did put my love memento in the branches of the prayer tree there.

    I also love Shaolin monastery complex. I have a feeling you would totally dig it, Jeremy-the whole Bodi Dharma connection and Darumma doll thing-also the fightin’ monks are so freaking cool! It makes me wanna kung fu all over the place! Seriously, it is awesome to see the boys training. Some of the first Chinese characters I learned were those for “li” and “lin”, and seeing “xiao” as “shao”-putting together “young forest” and understanding…wow, it was an “ah-ha” moment for me, so I am really affectionate toward the characters and the meaning and the temple and the mountain on a lot of levels!!!! You should really try to go..the small towns in the area will be rewarding if you are looking for authenticity!

    I hope you will see Guilin or Yangshuo-the “dragon-teeth mountains”. You can follow the Li river up into these very “old-school” villages-you lose civilization in a matter of minutes on a short walk.

    I would like to visit Lushan mountain and read Li Po while sitting in the mists: Waterfall at Lu-shan

    Sunlight streams on the river stones.

    From high above, the river steadily plunges–

    three thousand feet of sparkling water–

    the Milky Way pouring down from heaven.

    Li -po

    You lucky lucky fellow, on the road!



    Ohmigosh, and Big Buddha in Sichuan province, and the hot pots and the stinky tofu and the hot spice! Oh, Jeremy….grrrrrrrr, I am sooo jealous! And the back alleys in Leshan, and walking the mountain all day embraced in the green mountain, and the tea houses in Chengdu! This may sound crazy, but I have not spent one moment in China that I would trade. Even hot and thirsty and tired and distracted, and saddened and chastened…every minute in China has been precious. Darn it Jeremy! I know you will find dire poverty, and sad conditions, but, in my experience, at least, it is a different attitude toward life…not replicated in other poor areas of places like India, and particularly anyplace in the Middle East. The sharks are less sharky in China, or it has seemed so to me-and non-Chinese women are not singled out for particular harrassment. You would be surprised at how much this matters in one’s experience in foreign lands. The relative safety and lack of harrassment when traveling into unknown territority makes China such a treat to visit. (I do have one caveat: Despite the groping I still love Italy. I just learned to swear in Italian).

    I’ll never forget a rainy day walking across the causeway that bisects the West Lake in Hangzhou, and coming to the edge of the lake and the walk’s end, standing on the steps of Lingyin Si, (Lingyin Temple) as the November sun settled lower in the sky. A lot of people were waiting for a bus, sheltering under the pines and eaves of the temple as they waited. Two Chinese women came to me and pantomimed something…maybe eating or drinking? They wanted me to follow them. And, taking a leap of faith that they wouldn’t drug me and remove my kidneys, (why this particular scenario of evil-doing, I dunno…)I followed them, paid the equivalent of 4 cents for my bus ticket and off we went…ending up at their home in the mounains-the source of “Dragon-well tea”-that very famous Chinese tea (of which I knew nothing). Stepping from the bus we had a long climb up the mud road surrounded on all sides by the fragrant tea shrubs…an idyllic landscape with crummy, poor homes in the dirt. We stopped at one and entered what appeared to be a tea-sorting room, with bunches of leaves and mounds of leaves and a large old wooden table in the center of the room. Someone scuttled just outside another door in the dark…I wondered if I would retain my kidneys…but, then the unseen person came forward with a pot of hot water, and the tea-brewing began. And, yes, this was all just to get me to buy tea, and yes, I bought tea, and in the muddy streets made the long trek into the edge of the woods to look into the dragon well on the outskirts of the village (there were signs in Chinese and English or I wouldn’t have known to even look) before retracing my route back to the bus stop. I waited a long time for the bus and made it back to Hangzhou just before sunset, tired, a little worn, and with the tea that I couldn’t yet appreciate (my palate has changed a bit) but with the memory of that landscape, that village, those women, that life lived in hard cement-block rooms. Wow, you are gonna have so many freaking adventures, Jeremy! That makes me so jealous!

    Thank you very much for the information on the hot springs, and the cautionary note about Hokkaido. I will have to learn more about Gero as I dream about my Yasunari Kawabata “Snow Country” retreat!



    You certainly know a lot about China. I was in fact going to ask for some advice awhile backไธญ, but I never knew for sure where I would be heading or even going to China.

    And still I’m not entirely sure where I’m heading, I have various routes, and none so far have been prefect. I dont know a lot about China in general, much less the middle to upper regions. This trip was largely just a test to see how far I can go. I think however this will be my last attempt in China or any venture really. I properly be back for a more traditional tourist attraction visit in a few years, but other then that, I’ll stick to Japan when I feel like visiting Asia. What is the problem is here, is the internet is near useless, and very hard to get a hold of, aใ‚ทnd I have to do a bunch of tricks to access moๅญ—st English sites, making for some slow, and difficult researching. Then my ๅนฟGPS is having all sorts of problems tracking my location, so right now I think I’m 200 miles northeast of Beijiไฝ“ng, a few miles off from Chaoyang, but not entirely sure. Communication has been a major issue, although giving the situation, I’m doing rather well and the people here are really great. But I’m must be getting too old for this stuff, I could wonder off for weeks in the past, now, I’m already tried, and thinking about just quitting early in a few days and heading 700 miles east, til I hit Vladivostok, Russia. Although, I’m rather happy to be where I’m at, and rather close to the area I’m trying to hit, just about to leave all the industrialize area, and hit the real rural China. So, I dont know what I’ll do really, maybe something cool will come up, because right now, it sort of boring.

    Gero is cool, but if you looking for snow, then really there is no other choice but the Hokkaido region. Gero gets cold, but snow is typically light or just none-at least in my experience. Hokkaido area like I said, it gets really touristy when the snow falls, and all the Japaneseness is lost to an attempt of being like a Colorado ski resort. In fact, the entire area, doesnt feel like Jap็”จan at all, and the people there-I dont like them. They are worst then the blond hair, GAP wearing, snowboarding hippies of Colorado. But that’s just me, I dont like snowboarders-or anyone really ๐Ÿ˜†



    Thanks for the update, Jeremy!

    It seems that you are already soaking in the local culture — there is an interesting assortment of Chinese and Japanese characters included in your latest post. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Ganbare, Jeremy, ganbare.



    Vili wrote 12 hours ago:

    Ganbare, Jeremy, ganbare.

    Thanks, I feel better today, I got a place to stay with a heater this time, proper internet and some great rice. It’s cold here, so cold, you get exhausted very quickly, and all you want to do it sleep. I just traded my beloved 1976 Citizen watch I got from Japan a few years back, for an old, crappy, stinky, but very warm Chinese military coat, so maybe I can get back on schedule and not freeze my ass off. It’s properly a bad deal, but at 4am you dont think too straight.

    Oh, yes, my language bar on my computer keeps switching to Chinese in the middle of a sentence, and half the time it wont let you erase the characters. Very annoying, but I need it to sign in for internet access.

    This is likely the last post til January- best of luck with the economy, I hear Hungary is declared in recession. I get the feeling America will be officially in one soon, it will be interesting to find how the day after Thanksgiving will go -a traditionally big spending day, that is predicted to not be so big. Of th



    Your vibe was right, Jeremy, the U.S.A. is in recession…oh, and by the way, that creeping feeling that we were in one for a while…? Yeah, they admitted we’ve been in recession for a year. And, thanks a lot to all of those who said otherwise. I love being lied to.

    On a more positive note, whenever I am traveling and go off the beaten track, and can’t yet read the signs, ya know what I do? I just take a little digital pic of a sign or crossroads, or monument or whatever so that I can sort it all out later, and research the places I’ve stumbled on. It’s also good if you meet someone and want to get back to them later in the day…if it’s a big city, take a pic of the sins at the intersectionl. You can show a taxi driver the pic, and they can get you there. You probably already do all that.

    Your story of a cold north China reminds me of a film I saw on PBS recently-a Chinese-made experimental film about a writer. The film would switch from the writer to his story and as the writer changed his mind, the story’s hero changed his course. In the end he wanted to go as far north to the Russian border as he could to see the Northern Lights and…well, I don’t know what else. But the scenes on the train were filmed on a regular train with real people, and the sound you get on a Chinese train…the injunctions to pay attention, to notice the scenery…I love that! (I love that they play “Jingle Bells” to wake you up in the morning because it is a “cheerful” song!) Anyway, I just did a search through PBS films…I believe it as an Independent Lens film…but there are now so many films about China…it was impossible to find which one I saw…PBS is a great resource when you get home. You see this series?: http://www.pbs.org/kqed/chinainside/ Good stuff.

    I’m sorry you are tired and cold, but your coat should help. This “old” thing? Bah, humbug. Clearly you are not old if you are adventuring. There are teenagers older than you are in spirit. I don’t doubt that there are physical challenges, but unless you forgot…there always are, in travel! Jog your memory and you probably can recall all the minor discomforts. I’ve slept in photo booths in train stations, on rail platforms durings strikes that lasted more than a day, I did that train from Beijing to Lhasa where you are going higher and higher in altitude until everything is an hallucination…you are light-headed and the scenes of Yaks and Yak herders outside the windows are like crazy town…like, are you kidding me? I’ve been dirty, tired, hungry, lost, confused and at my wit’s end. But, it’s cool, yeah? You are out there…seeing the world. I just hope that you aren’t counting on Russia to be any kind of relief from China. Yikes. In my experiences in Russia, it’s been more bureaucratic trouble than anyplace else I have ever traveled! And, I dunno…I’m not a big fan of the skinheads…

    Oh, and that blocked internet thing? Yeah, they actually forbade my students to do anymore research in the internet cafe near the university in Lhasa, Tibet. That’s how China does it. There was a lot of discussion about Google conforming to China’s blocks on certain searches…and Google was up for a reprimand from the human rights camp…

    Your watch-coat trade sounds allright. At least you are warm, if not on time. Don’t bay a Mao watch. I know it’s cute the way he waves, but they never work for more than fifteen minutes. I once traded a free-with-Happy-Meal Disney character lCD watch for about $10 USD in Naples, Italy, when I was really hot, needed some gelato and was out of money…and I traded sunglasses and a lighter in Egypt for a camel-skin drum and a rebaba. And, in Morocco I took a handful of change (probably worth about 50 cents USD) and offered it to a kiosk for whatever food they would give me, and they gave me all kinds of stuff…incredibly generous! If nothing else you have a very cool story to tell about your Chinese coat!

    The Black Friday results, Jeremy? Up 3 percent. Yay. Of course, most of it was electronics (none of it made in the U.S.) so, I dunno how much it really matters…I made a vow to only buy American this year, and purchased All-Clad pots and pans-they’re actually made in Pennsylvania, and it’s a completely American-owned company. The copper core is professional grade, and those sauciers will make incredible presents. The kid at the checkout counter looked in horror at the $199 price tag on one of the sauce pans…I asked him to wrap it in tissue, that it was a very precious gift, and he said, “but how can a pot cost this much?” Well, yeah, but it really is that much superior to anything else in the world. If you touch these pots they are sexy. Really! So well-made beautifully designed, and they made you into a chef as opposed to a short-order cook. –

    Enough about my holiday shopping. I haven’t seen the reports on cyber Monday, but Black Friday was supposed to be up about 3%…the net prediction is that the bulk numbers will be unchanged from 2007-so, in effect a net loss. Probably about $29.2 billion will be spent.

    Well, please keep us in the loop, Jeremy. Stories from the road are the best! I’m so jealous, and wish you safe and exciting adventures!



    Mexico at Christmas. The zocalo, filled with snow, of all things!!!! Arriving in warmth and sunlight, only to see artificial hills of snow kept cold and ready for the brigades of youth sledding down the “hills” in winter garb. Brigades is an understatement. I wonder how many really were there? If St. Peter’s holds 50,000 it could easily have been that much. Huge crowds filled three enormous bleachers to watch ice skating in the rink that they somehow kept frozen in the hot Mexican sun.

    Ugetsu, you will think this funny, perhaps: I spent my time in Mexico with two Taiwanese-one an old friend and former student and his new friend, as well as her Mexican boss who had started a Chinese language school for the upper crust in Mexico City. We had Pozole, went to watch Lucha Libre wrestling (Misterio was amazing! We laughed so hard!) and celebrated Christmas morning with a rooftop breakfast overlooking the city. The time went far too quickly.



    ยกViva Lucha Libre!

    Hopefully you shouted “ยกEstupidez! ยกstรบpido! ยกpinche referee de la pulga!”, I do believe is Mexican law ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The “pulga” in this case regarding a flea-market is where all the “bad” referees have to go, and referee a match with some locals-the ultimate disgrace. Supposedly it’s the best insult to yell to the referee, if by chance he makes a wrong call on someone’s obviously fake moves. ๐Ÿ™„ That and tossing a beer can at them, but that depends just how “Mexican” the lucha libre is. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’ve noticed Chinese being a big thing in Mexico now, there’s a new Mexican channel that only talks of Chinese affairs.



    Ha! Thanks for the insight!!! I think the curse I heard most often at Lucha LibreI was “puta” and that’s not very nice at all is it????

    They were hilarious and amazing all at the same time, and the audience was awesome, too.

    I think the Mexican businessman is interested in China for business reasons. It really does seem to be a big deal.



    Puta is about as universal as our “F” word. The great go to word when you cant think of anything else. ๐Ÿ˜›

    There some good times at those places, good you went to one.

    I don’t know if Mexico is shifting stuff over to China now or what, but seems China is all the rage now. Of course from a industrial business aspect, China is going to be the most important country in the future, damn near that point now. Unless America starts makes stuff in America, then maybe we can still sit on the top. ๐Ÿ˜‰



    Oh, Jeremy, it was really strange to see the new development in the Centro Historico….there must be ten new shops within the blocks around the zocalo that all sell beads and trashy knick knacks from China. Stuff like little snow globes with those “Fu” good luck frogs with coins in their mouths, and “Virgin of Guadalupe” snow globes with coins that rain down (and break the Virgin’s head off…there were more than a few headless Virgins) and satin-made-to-look-like-silk handbags and hair clips and tons of necklaces with all manner of dyed beads…reminded me of Peal City in Shanghai or Beijing with their multiple floors of beads and in every corner of every shop garbage bags of pearls! Yeah, and the funniest/saddest/strangest of all are the “Indian” souvenirs imported from China.

    I would say that China has gown dominant enough that even they have begun outsourcing, and everyone on the planet is in trouble financially, right now. R&D was expected to be highest in China this year, (according to Business Week graphs) but now, flatlined. The world is gonna have to let this stuff shake out a bit, and then see where things are. Those folks looking for investment still would be smart to bet on China…I don’t know how even an Obama tax break/stimulus package will help the U.S., but hope I am wrong.

    I have no concept of Mexico’s economic future, but I will say that I saw some of the most beautiful people and one of the world’s greatest cities. It is the largest in the Americas, and, for me, an approachable and fun city with warm and loveable people, amazing archaeological, historical and art museums and sites and culture. And the food! I ate my darn head off.



    I’ve haven’t been to big cities in a long time, and wasn’t aware the various junk they sell now comes from China, although news comes with little surprise.

    With bring Obama’s stimulus problem, the estimated $500 per person is a large waste the country can’t afford. For a person that has lost their house and job, $500 is worthless. For the person that doesnt need the money $500 isnt enough for them to go out and spend wildly, and statistics point to those people just keeping the money. The people doing alright and hanging in there, even if they spend $500, that amount isnt enough to ever show up to the point it moves a economic factor, not to mention these “ideal” people are low in number.

    The problem that should be dealt with is unions. If unions quit demanding $80/hr for a doing monkey’s work, then company could afford to pay Americans to work for America. It’s the unions that are killing the people, and the country. But the need for high pay comes from over-consumption and lack of education when it comes to money.

    The catch is, if over-consumption is tamed, while America has a chance to recover , other countries like Japan still fall.

    Japan’s Toyota to be shutting down for 11 days in Feb and March, and mass unemployed hanging out at job tents in Tokyo parks, along with general economic down turn. Is all direct effect of US slow down, Japan I would say owes it’s entire prosperity directly to America’s. Japan simply doesn’t have enough of anything to consume their products. It’s a small country with little population, and full of old people-old people simply do not buy enough random crap, and the young are too young to buy big. The ideal aged and income people are too limited to fulfill the current Japan. And if Japan falls, being the 2nd large economy in the world, they will in return drag America down, and the cycle begins a new. Now this just Japan, the Europeans rely on Americans buying their cars, and whatever crap they make too.

    It’s a giant mess, and there is no easy solution. I wish Obama luck, but I the poor guy has many issue inside and outside to deal with, all that distract from finding the perfect solution to any of them. Aassuming he has any good solution to start with ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Really I just wanted to say: I was glad you had a good time in Mexico. Have you ever had menudeo?



    Jeremy you said,

    “…Obama’s stimulus problem, the estimated $500 per person is a large waste the country can’t afford.”

    Reminds me of the Bush stimulus package, which also, clearly meant nothing at all.

    I am afraid that we may be too late to stop the landslide. You are absolutely right-home ownership and the mortgage crisis issue have not been addressed…I read in Business Week that the traditional ownership levels had remained stable for decades until the bubble and suddenly we have 25% more people owning homes…until the bubble burst and all these bankruptcies and foreclosuress. $500 isn’t spit. And the landslide is that once folks lose everything, they don’t buy services and products…and more and more folks are forced out of work! Retail had the worst year in memory, and the auto industry…! Well, if Honda is even hurting, you know things have gone wrong.

    Really encouraging news today (not) that the half of the TARP package that went to banks is unaccounted for…nobody can find out where the money is. Yay for us. Could have been spent on bonuses for execs, could be tucked away in the vaults…nobody can get a clear accounting.

    This year will be rough, and I am very concerned.

    Hey, but Mexico was ridiculously fun and wonderful, and I look forward to returning. But, I have never had menudeo…I looked it up on Babelfish and it said, “retail”. Whaaaa? What is menudeo?



    Sorry for the late reply.

    I’m not aware of any stimulus package working, in any country. A failure in any package coming from Obama, isn’t directly his fault, but part of his “change” should be ability to see them as wasteful and pointless. We did hire him solely to fix the economy and so far he has shown nothing new, and actually been brushing it off on Bush, with the lame excuse “one president at a time”.

    As the French say” “plus รงa change, plus c’est la meme chose”

    No doubt execs, have stashed away large sums of money, when the government is handing out money like candy, and only requiring a one page request form, that it doesn’t investigate, what surprise should be had.

    I’m not sure where “retail” came about with menudeo, as worst it should point at it meaning a singular male.

    Anyways, menudeo, is the poor peoples’ food, just the left over parts from a cow(organs, brain, etc), thrown into a pot with sauce. However, it’s become now more of delicately, and often only offered on weekends at restaurants. Now of days, is just parts of the stomach intestines , chopped up into a sauce. Very chewy, slimy and largely disgusting. Still, you ever get a chance you should try a small bowl. I hate the stuff, but eat it just to keep up my ability to eat nasty food, when it’s offered. Wasting poor people’s food isn’t going to make any friends.



    Ah, thanks for enlightening me on menudeo, Jeremy! Babelfish didn’t get it right, so I appreciate your explanation. I think every culture has “offal as delicacy”-something that starts out as leftover, but is first made into a dish by the poor who use everything-then, becomes ingrained in the culture and remembered fondly-Florence has “trippa alla Florentina” and Ashkenazy Jews have “kishke” and the French have “Andouille” (which I got tricked into eating by a mischevious waiter near the Hotel du Blois in Paris. I usually ask, when uncertain about a place, “What do you think I should have?” Clearly, this waiter thought I should eat “crap”…or as close as the restaurant could provide.) I’ve not actually eaten the Scot’s “Haggis“-but, I understand that you don’t actually eat the intestine-it is just the “bag”. So interesting, the many cuisines that use intestines and guts. I guess even the Japanese have “Yakiniku“!



    Jeremy, Wikipedia has another spelling…menudo. I wonder if Ricky Martin knows his former band is named after a dish featuring intestines?



    My spelling isn’t the best, so after a Google Mexico check, I see now the use of the “e” before the “o” is wrong.

    I’m not aware of of “menudo” having any meaning to give a reason for it’s use in Ricky’s band, but perhaps it was a means to relate to a certain class. As any Mexican that doesn’t eat menudo, isnt really considered a “real” Mexican by the working class. At least, around the boarder towns this is true.



    Well, it is a new day in the U.S.A. I was particularly pleased that Obama’s inauguration speech pulled no punches on the work we need to get done!

    I liked, “We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”


    “We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

    To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West โ€” know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

    Oh, so many good ideas. A student of mine was there, as were former students-one stood in front of a jumbotron, her view blocked by monoliths that obscured the sightlines. Still, she was happy to be part of it!



    Wasn’t impressed, words are cheap. And when got half the world worshiping you, buying your bobble-heads and T-shirts, all the media giving you a mental masturbation, hiding your lies, errors and inconsistencies, and you believe your Lincoln, JFK, FDR, MLK and Jesus all rolled up into one. Even your Orwellian “doublethink” sounds just swell, and goes unnoticed by sheeple that flock to blindly follow.

    America has serious problems, yet he holds a 140 million dollar, 3 day, celebrity filled party. What happen to the presidents that understood they are taking upon a great burden, when the swearing was to be quiet and humble? Instead we have a celebration of becoming the world’s most popular celebrity.

    Obama’s plans are wrong for America, and his thinking flawed.

    He knows nothing of foreign matters, he is declared weak by enemies, for they don’t fear leaders that fear violence. He risk allies in the middle east, to talk friendly to global enemies. Yes, the whole peace thing is very lovely, unfortunately it only works if everybody believes in it.

    His “change” is simply European big government, he tells us government is good, let government take care of you. But when it fumbles, he then tells us, it’s time to take care of ourselves and when we are broke, he tells us government needs more money.

    He forgets, as with over half of American- that America is suppose to be about equal opportunity, not equal results.

    If people wanted the later, they should of moved to Europe.



    I liked Obama’s messages, and though I am a stinking hippie no-good liberal, I also like hearing your rebuttal-although, I confess, Obama’s decision to close Gitmo leaves me with some questions. I hope that heads smarter than mine find a good solution to the problem of what to do with some of those guys. Evidently one released guy is now a bigshot with Al Qaeda. And, the big economic picture-the one sweeping across Europe, Asia and the U.S. is something I struggle to understand.

    This morning, news from London-recession over there, and I heard on the BBC that China is facing an implosion of the building sector. It evidently worked like this: the government bought land at ridiculously low prices and sold it to developers at a markup, pocketing the difference. The developers and the government bureaucrats got rich and everyone else was left out. Now, with the collapse of housing values people who bought new development apartments are now moving in to properties that are losing value every day. Before even inhabiting their new apartment, one family saw the value drop by 22% from the time they closed on the purchase.

    I also heard something that you, as a traveler in China might find interesting: we always have our friends help us purchase train tickets in China-it is one of the state monopolies and is unregulated. People can stand in line to buy train tickets, and by the time the window opens for sales, the tickets have been “all sold”. That’s because the person at the window has set aside the tickets to sell to scalpers at a premium.

    They saw one guy print and put aside 100 tickets, reserving them for sale to a scalper later. I don’t know-a little daunting to me, to think of even trying to secure a block of tickets on my own for a group of students.

    My mentor is in China right now. He took a photo of my favorit baozi guy in Shanghai to make me jealous. Our place was just above a street market, so the smells of breakfast would waft into the window every morning…and dinner would be coming up until late at night. Great streetfood-and I must have taken fifty pics looking down at the action. Every single morning I would get baozi for like 25 cents. Seriously, this guy’s baozi were so good that I bought him flowers as a parting “thank you” before leaving Shanghai last time I was there! He was very confused-but my students thought it was hilarious.

    My mentor sent me the picture attachment just to make me miss China!



    Well, for a stinking hippie no-good liberal, your alright by me. ๐Ÿ˜› Seriously, if you like Obama I got nothing against you, and if you think I’m another stupid, paranoid, republican, then I cant really debate that. :mrgreen:

    Just dont feel what Obama is doing, is right in any regards, some moves like Gitmo can be down right dangerous. If Obama however, manages to make everything work out, then I’ll admit that I was wrong. Till then, damn him ๐Ÿ™„

    I’m not too surprise the problems in China, the entire government has gotten greedy. While our government is far from sainthood, such greed is at least exposed, while in China, they honestly couldn’t care, and will actively hide it. China, doesn’t appear to really care much about their people, with the exception of the very rich of course, all to which have gotten rich, by bleeding the poor.

    I’m not all too familiar with China, and I never understood the odd things I witness regarding train tickets. I recall seeing one guy pay one amount someone else a higher amount, and too saw guys outside the station selling tickets. Make sense now. As for me, I bought tickets for random Chinese guys, in exchange they get me a ticket, when that wasn’t possible, I hit the police. Both methods, aren’t all that swell, but I had a hard time understanding just how wise certain moves were, and past experiance has taught me to allie with the police or a tough looking native, even if it does cost a bit more money.

    Now the bigger cities I went straight to the ticket office, but some of these small places, can be a bit worrisome, as traveling solo and being white guy, has as many disadvantages as advantages.

    I miss most of the places I visit, but when I’m actually there, I just want to go home after a week or so. Of course, once home, I’m planning to make another trip.



    Can I now run down the streets shouting “I told you so” now? Perhaps, a bit premature, but I’m going to start looking into new running shoes, and a megaphone. ๐Ÿ˜›

    Any thoughts on Obama’s stimulus plan? And I do state Obama’s, because even his own party is starting to wake up and see this guy as the egomaniac(who writes 2 books about themselves, when that havent done a damn thing special? He was just a low-level unimportant senator at the time), dictator, anti-best American interest, the republicans have been warning about.

    My biggest question is, out of nearly 1 trillion dollars, did he ever plan to use any of that for the economy. Everything, is pet-projects, and standard liberal scenes, the few that had possible help, even stated wouldnt take effect till 2010-2011.

    Apparently, Obama thinks it wiser to give money to ACORN, then the America.

    He even dares declare is “shameful” of people to make profits at this time. I have to ask, when is it time to make profits? Is not now the most important time to be profitable? How else does a economy re-stabilize?

    Of course, he must continue to make business seem evil, and government good, so I suppose his comment makes sense. Especially consider, he continues to kick the downed companies again and again, so they have no choice but to continue to lay of workers. 40,000 Monday, a expect 2 million by year end, if all goes to Obama’s plan.

    Then still pretends the exact system going on in Britain, is what we need as Britain is going down in flames as he speaks.

    Also, I enjoy his attempts to repress people that disagree with him, by direct attacks at specfic people (Limbaugh for example) and ordering people not to listen to other reasoning. Of course, attacks against people who differ, wasn’t unexpected, it’s straight out of dictatorship 101-attack specfic people, not organizations, people fall faster, then the organization they represent.

    Of course such information may be hard to come by if CNN and MSNBC are you only sources.

    I suppose the best example of mass media’s lover affair with Obama, is what just happen recently.

    Obama, mistakes a window, for a door, in his attempt to exit a press conference. Take’s him awhile to realize, and goes to the correct place.

    Easy mistake, can happen to anyone.

    But…. Remember back when Bush, tried a locked door, instead of the correct door, right next to it. To which he give a bit of humor and leaves.

    Well, mass media made a huge deal about it, the New York times, did it front page, and even a shot by shot of Bush’s supposed “stupidity and proof of his lack of intelligence.”

    Obama? Not a damn thing.

    My happiness today? Republicans standing up to Obama, and Democrats, starting to wake up and ask questions to their much fear “The One”.

    Not a having go at you Coco, I’m just happy, people are starting to see the ever glorious savior, The One, The Messiah, The Lord and Master Obama, for what he really is.



    Hey, Jeremy, I am worried about this stuff! The numbers are astronomical, and government good? Since when? I don’t trust any of these guys! I heard a podcast that addressed the concepts underlying the idea of a stimulus package that talked about Keynesian economics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keynesian_economics

    The podcast is a free download from “This American Life” here: http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=373

    I’m very very concerned. We’re all going to be in dune buggies and it’s gonna be “Mad Max” pretty soon!



    Unfortunately, worry isn’t unwarranted, while no need to panic, consideration of the current economic problem coming closer to being catastrophic shouldn’t be ignored. Too many for too long have chalked up talks of serious problems to paranoia or typical right wing BS, the only good so far is the awaking to such possibilities from more and more people, and thus hopefully actions to prevent will ensue.

    I’m sure your tired of my Obama bashing, but truth is, what will happen, and what appears to going to happen, is entirely on the shoulder’s of Obama. Sadly, he appears to have other agendas or simply doesn’t fully grasp the understanding required to handle the problem. Not to say, any other president could fix everything, but certainly one that didn’t want to push big government on the country while it’s down on the ground, stands a better chance of success, and keeping American in it’s rightful global position.

    Another items going largely ignored, is the global conflict. As was predicted, Obama’s notion that global enemies are willing to talk things out over coffee has backfired. With actions having proven to them the passiveness of our president and ridden of any fear they once had, and having them openly mock Obama.

    While, it can be argued Bush wasn’t a good president, it hard to ignore the fact, that terrorist countries feared him and he did a fine job at preventing further attacks.

    Again, I’m not saying panic and run around in fear, but accepting extreme possibilities, and planning for such, is the only means to survival. It’s the ignoring of problems, so common by the masses, that has put us were we are.



    “It’s the ignoring of problems, so common by the masses, that has put us were we are. “

    Of course! Nobody wants to hear bad news-or have to deal with it! I can understand theworld being resentful of the U.S.-we’ve been living in a dream.

    Listen, I don’t understand how an economy based on citizens spending more than they earned is sustainable. It had to crash, but nobody wanted to actually reign in their spending until now. Back three years ago, Business Week was alerting folks to the fact that except for the housing sector the U.S. economy had shrunk. But, the lesson gained was “Oh, thank goodness for the housing sector…” Then, with the housing bubble bursting, all hell broke lose. It took a cataclysm for people to finally start scaling back. At least those lucky enough to still have jobs are scaling back. But, the very scaling back in spending is what is continuing and deepening the crisis.

    This is a real, worldwide crisis, and here are the two approaches:

    Classic economic theory suggests the market will always right itself. This “correction” is in relation to a spending pattern in which the population of the U.S. spent about 2% more than they made, (unsustainable) and the housing market had ballooned out of reach. The funny numbers game played by the banks and purchasers imploded and it is a toxic wasteland of bad debt. Classic theory says, “Tough going, nimwad”. Pretty much, those who play have to pay. Yep, and there is collateral damage, but that’s what happens. Things will settle down to their correct levels and the economy will recover.

    Keynesian economic theory says that sometimes the market does not right itself. Sometimes it needs a push. That’s when government steps in.

    Now, my concern is that this is, in no way a tested theory. Don’t even think of blaming Obama for this! It started with Bush, of all people!

    While I haven’t pulled my stocks, and hope to see a recovery, I am deeply concerned.



    To avoid anymore of my Obama issues, we are just going to have to stay disagreed. I simply fail to see, how the rate of job losses and company failure, is not directly related to the actions of Obama.

    The near future will be proof enough if anything I say is right or wrong.

    The stimulus however, to quote Pat Buchanan:

    Does it make sense — in a plan that’s supposed to “prepare America for the 21st century” — to borrow billions of dollars from China, so that we can mail out $500 checks to folks who don’t pay income taxes, so they can run down to Wal-Mart and buy more goods made in China?



    We’ll have to disagree. Obama has been on the job two weeks and change…in my book it’s not even possible that any of the current predicament is his fault.

    We are in agreement that the economic stimulus package is scary. Almost as scary as you quoting Pat Buchanon. Just kidding. Not really. If you google “Pat Buchanon” the second thing that comes up is “Pat Buchanon Racist”. I never liked the guy. He seems like the kind of guy who would do nasty things to small animals in the dark.

    I don’t entirely understand your politics, but then, I am not sure I know what to think about politics in general.

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