If a guy somewhere in Asia makes a blog and no one reads it, does it really exist?

Wednesday, December 29

Your weather is probably way nicer

Average Monthly Temperatures of a Few Cities (°C)

Average Monthly Precipitation of a Few Cities (mm)

That's Jecheon, S. Korea, where I am now; Oita, Japan, where I lived for two years; Miyazaki, Japan, where I lived for three years; Granada, Spain, my home for half a year; Herndon, Virginia, my "hometown" in the States; Salem, Oregon, stomping grounds of my relatives; and Honolulu, Hawaii, where I'd like to live, but probably never will.

What prompted me to make these? (Aside from having only one class to teach today?) I think it's the fact that my face feels like it's freezing off every time I step outside. I haven't experienced such a cold winter since I left Virginia in 1998. It turns out I didn't really miss the cold one bit.

Of all these places, I think the Oregonians have it the best. They enjoy both mild summers and winters, and despite getting a bad rap for their rainy weather, Oregon is practically a desert compared to East Asia. Oregon receives a scant 993mm (39in) of rain a year. Compare with Miyazaki, oft touted as the sunniest place in Japan next to Okinawa, which gets inundated with 2522mm (99in) of wet stuff yearly. Pfft...Oregonians. You think you know rain? Gimmie a break!

It is cold in Korea, but at least they know how to deal with it properly with heated floors and well sealed buildings, unlike the Japanese, who still build houses out of rice paper and twigs.

Thursday, December 23

Nasal membrane reaction to cold air

I finally know why my nose gets stuffy when it's cold out!

"When a person breathes cold air, the tissues lining the nose swell as the capillaries dilate, bringing warm blood to heat the cool air. Swollen capillaries in the nose are the cause of nasal congestion (nasal congestion is backed-up blood, not increased mucus). In addition to the congestion, the mucus in the nose, as we've said, increases and becomes thicker. This happens more in some people than in others. Thus cold air, by itself, can produce both nasal congestion and stuffiness. These can be treated with decongestants and/or antihistamines."

Interestingly, the symptoms temporarily subside while I am engaged in aerobic exercise, perhaps because adrenaline acts as an antihistamine. I've also read that nasal tissues are almost identical to penile erectile tissues, so I guess you could say that my nose is just really really excited all the time.

There's even a condition called "honeymoon nose," which is a sympathetic reaction of the nasal turbinates during a period of prolonged sexual stimulation. In other words, a stuffy nose is a sexy nose.

In my case, however, there's no doubt that the symptoms are brought on by nothing more than the cold air.

Wednesday, December 22

Fukuoka Googlized

I typed "Fukuoka" into Googlism, and here's what I got (the ones that make sense, anyway):

Fukuoka is...

...a well known and important city in japan and in asia
...a modern vibrant city
...a compact city with a good subway system
...one of the few large cities in japan that can actually be described as "laid back"
...also the japanese city closest to asia
...the largest city on the southern japanese island of kyushu with a population of over 1.3 million
...the energetic city as the center of economy
...punching way above its weight
...one of the areas where many universities are located
...a relatively modern city of approximately 1.3 million
...closer to china and korea than to some of the eastern japanese cities
...host to a national sumo tournament once a year and is host to the champion daiei hawks baseball team
...cold in winter but it rarely snows so warms jumpers and a jacket to keep out the cold wind will be fine
...the largest city and the cultural center of Kyushu
...the closest major city in japan to asia and this proximity gives easy access to the major cities of the asia
...growing rapidly
...an ancient city with a long histoly of opening towards the western sea
...also the birthplace of karashi mentaiko
...the leading area in western japan
...the largest city in kyushu with a total area of 336 sq. km and a population of 1.3 million
...the fourth largest commercial city in japan
...a thriving metropolis
...blessed with mountains
...een stad met twee miljoen inwoners gelegen aan een baai in het noordwesten
...the economic powerhouse of southern japan
...generally mild
...truly a city with a rich history of tradition and a friendly open spirit of progress
...a sprawling city
...japan's gateway to continental asia
...closer to korea than to tokyo
...a big city compared to the capital of laos
...a waterfront city located at hakata bay
...just the right size
...the largest city on the island of kyushu and the eighth largest of japan
...surpassed only by tokyo and osaka in terms of its high concentration of international economic exchange organizations such as diplomatic missions
...the economic and industrial center of kyushu
...famous for delicious foods such as fresh fish and hakata ramen noodle
...the major entry point for kyushu and the westernmost part of honshu
...located on the northern coast of kyushu and is thriving as a hub of culture
...also the seat of five universities
...a city that fosters talent
...a busy international terminal linking directly to many asian cities and indirectly to europe and north america

Compare with "Beppu" Googlized:

Beppu is...

...to go to hell
...located in part of south west island named kyushu
...visited by many foreigners
...located on the east coast of kyushu island
...located between sea and mountain
...the famous city for its unique and various hot springs
...the leading hot spring resort of japan
...a city of perhaps 100,000
...an unusual and extraordinary place
...one of the largest hot springs resorts in japan
...a seaport on the southern main island of kyushu
...an impressive sight to behold
...on the island of kyuushu
...one of japan's most famous hot spring resorts
...situated about 1000km southwest from tokyo
...located in oita prefecture
...always mentioned as a region famous for hot springs in japan
...the place for healing mind and body and it is the reception room of asia
...situated in the middle of oita prefecture
...far more geared up for tourism than the prefecture's capital
...a major center of bamboo basketry production in japan
...the leading hot spring resort of japan with as many as 104 public baths
...a city committed to international exchange
...inviting because it exists as a place of immersion and dissolution
...famous throughout japan for its hot springs
...the spa town with the largest amount of spring water in japan
...beppu is the number one hot spring city in japan because of the high volume of water output and because of the variety of hot spring there
...a coastal city on the southern island of kyushu with a population of some 135,000
...the third stop from oita by local train
...a highly volcanic area
...also known for its bamboo products
...a city with a lot of hot springs and geysers
...perhaps japan's most famous hot springs resort
...a monkey park
...indeed an unusual and extraordinary place in kyuushuu
...one of the most exciting hot spa resorts in japan
...a town built on 3800 hot springs and includes the famous boiling hells
...a good hotspring resort in oita
...a health resort city famous for natural hot baths
...not only known as a honeymoon location
...more attractive than tokyo
...a very famous spa resort towns in kyushu island
...a famous city in kyushu
...located on the northeast coast of kyushu
...well geared up to entertaining its constant stream of hot spring visitors
...one of the most popular hot spring resorts in japan
...kleiner dan sasebo
...bigger than you'd think
...known as the city of hot spring

So let's see... a thriving and modern, yet laid back city that is Kyushu's gateway to Asia, or a city with lots of hot water, bamboo baskets and monkeys. I think the choice is clear.

Then again, Beppu fares far better than poor Jecheon, which produces no results at all when Googlized.

Monday, December 20

APU = hell?

This is quite funny. Someone thinks the university at which I used to work, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, is HELL ON EARTH! He writes of incompetence, bad attitude, lies... How dare he say all these horrible things about... waaaait a second, these are all completely valid points! How dare he expose the truth about APU!

At least the school's new bilingual website is awesome. From looking at it, you'd never guess the place to be such a sinful den of corruption and evil. I'm sure APU's really not that bad. It has a gym.

I just got a free calendar that says "Keep Korea Green" on the cover. Strangely, it does not have a single photo of Korea in it. What it does contain is beautiful nature scenes from Canada, America, Europe, Australia and Japan. Draw your own conclusions. (Sorry. I am not feeling terribly pro-Korea right now.)

Saturday, December 18

Bamboo homes/biodiesel

Bamboo Technologies is a company based on Maui that sells prefabricated homes made of Vietnamese bamboo. Very cool designs. The bamboo they use is a thick-walled variety called "timber bamboo," used for telephone poles in SE Asia, that has only a very small hole running through the center. They say it's stronger than wood, can be sustainably harvested in just seven years (it can grow 4 feet a day!) and yields 2o times more building material per acre than hardwood trees. They also say that it takes about an acre of trees to build a typical American home, but not much more than the area of the home itself to grow enough bamboo!

The Thai Hale and Pavilion hale designs are my favorite. I love their huge wrap-around porches. (Interior pics here. Awesome loft!)

Each house is first assembled in Vietnam, then disassembled and shipped in crates to the building site. And since it's all prefab, it can be assembled in just three days with nuts and bolts! (videos here) The total cost, including labor, electrical and plumbing, is $75,000-$113,000 for the Thai design above. I think these houses are best suited for a tropical climate, though; the walls look rather thin.

Speaking of Maui, I once interpreted for a guy named Robert King at an APU orientation session for parents. He handed me his business card: Pacific Biodiesel--Maui, Hawaii. Cool. Didn't think much of it until I poked around online and discovered that this guy is involved in some really amazing stuff! His company makes clean-burning alternative fuel for cars. Very innovative. Very cool.

"The firm, still the only producer of the product in Hawai'i, gets used vegetable oil from restaurants and fast-food operations. It is filtered and chemically treated to remove glycerin and then can go right in to diesel engines, either pure, or mixed with regular fuel."

Read this article about it. Here is the Pacific Biodiesel website.

The guy was so mild-mannered and kind, I would have never guessed that he's the head honcho of such an important company.

Friday, December 17

The more things change...

...the more they stay the same. Check these out.

I pulled these off of Sensory Overload, a rather inspired SF Bay area blog. Man, you go to the good blogs, follow their links to other good blogs, and pretty soon you're sucked into a never-ending blog vortex of liberal-minded people with, I guess, a lot of time on their hands. Are they professional bloggers? Lots of good stuff out there. (This blog isn't even in the same league.)

Okay, just one more. Check out this map of the 2004 election results. Pretty amazing, huh? (And what's with that band of Democratic voters that cuts straight across Alabama???)

It's all doubleplusungood

I've just finished my classes for the day and am doing what any normal English teacher does to relax on a Friday afternoon: reading quotes from George Orwell's 1984. It's been a long time since I read the book, and I'm shocked at how many of the quotes evoke the policies of the Bush administration.

"We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. (Abstinence education.) There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. (The Bush cabinet overhaul, filling positions with the faithful.) There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. (Big Dubya.) There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. (Mission Accomplished! We're turnin' the corner, heh heh.) There will be no art, no literature, no science." (Inhibiting stem-cell research, blocking foreign students from obtaining visas to study at American universities.)

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork." (The Patriot Act.)

Lots more here.

A kid was wearing the funniest coat in class today. On the arm was a picture of a maple leaf, together with the slogan, " Fuckin' Freezing." On the back was a big trout, around which was written, in huge letters, "I'd Rather Eat Meat." Maybe it's a Canadian thing.

And what's with those heathens to the north, anyway? (Check out this guy's other columns too. He's very entertaining. The Christian Resource Network says that he's "[A] misguided, lost and carnal individual... filled with vexation and ignorance of God [who will] gladly cheer the anti-Christ." You can't beat that.)

Thursday, December 16

Lost in overreaction

Clickem to embiggenem

Korean title: "Can love, too, be translated?"

While recently sifting through long forgotten Web detritus for info on Sophia Coppola's beautifully bittersweet film "Lost in Translation," I was surprised to find that upon its release some groups vehemently decried its characterization of Japanese people. The Lost in Racism campaign, by a group which seeks to promote a "fair and balanced portrayal of Asian Americans in the entertainment industry," harshly criticized the movie and scared off lots of potential Academy kudos. I didn't realize there was so much controversy surrounding the flick. Now I understand why it took so friggin long to be screened in Japan, and only by small arthouse theaters at that.

Weird. I lived there five years and thought it was spot on. Oh my god, maybe I'm oblivious of my own racist tendencies!

Here are some negative review excerpts from the website:

"[The] humor is too often based in stereotypical perceptions of Asians (they're short, they're laughably polite, they eat weird food)." - Ken Fox, TV Guide

"[After] it's abundantly clear the movie's going nowhere slowly, [the protagonists] encounter Charlie Brown, or "Chalrie Blown" (the director's friend, Fumihiro Hayashi), who's so thinly developed that he makes Bob and Charlotte look like classic Dickensian creations by comparison." - Gregory Weinkauf, Dallas Observer

"Lost in Translation is being promoted as a romantic comedy, but there is only one type of humour in the film that I could see: anti-Japanese racism, which is its very spine." - Kiku Day, The Guardian

"Lost in Translation expresses a distasteful racism through romantic comedy. It says, as racists often do, that foreigners, in this case Japanese, are inherently comic and stupid. Of all the Japanese in the film, not one comes across as much better than a cretin." - Robert Fulford, The National Post

"The film relies on stale stereotypes of the Japanese for laughs: They're short! They're wacky! They can't pronounce their r's! ... The film is replete with racial gags that draw from the same old Hollywood stereotypes" - Melissa Bagtan, Asian American Movement Ezine

"The Japanese are presented not as people, but as clowns ... the hilarity is rooted entirely in the "otherness" of the Japanese people. We laugh at them, not with them." - E. Koohan Paik, Color Lines Race Wire

Pu-leez. I didn't even begin to see the movie in this way. After all, the protagonists are very much the Murray and Johanssen characters; everyone else is peripheral. No, none of its Japanese characters are well developed. Yes, it's peppered with ethnic stereotypes shamelessly employed for comedic effect. But these things didn't bother me one bit, as I think they wouldn't bother anyone who has lived in Japan, because I know how honest they are. The Japanese are shorter than Americans. Showers are set at hobbit-height. Japanese people do bow excessively, and yes, they really can't pronounce their r's. (Call me insensitive, call me lacist, but I still find it leally hilalious.)

And Matthew's Best Hit TV? It's a real show, and Matthew Minami really is that insane.

I think it's rather difficult for most Westerners to understand how homogenous Japan truly is. One can make sweeping generalizations about the nation and be correct much of the time simply because the Japanese, unlike Americans, share so many physical and cultural characteristics. There was nothing in the movie, except for maybe the call girl scene ("Lip my stocking!"), that exaggerated elements of life in Japan--though I've never hired a prostitute so I can't say for sure.

I also think people saw the movie and thought, "The Japanese can't possibly be that quirky! The country can't possibly be that strange!" But, from a Western standpoint, they really are, and it really is.

And why not poke fun at such things? It was gentle ribbing at best. It wasn't as if the movie made fun of terminal illness.

I agree that it'd be nice to see a movie that presents a balanced portrayal of East and West, but first, you need a director with one foot firmly planted on each side of the cultural fence, and second, they have to be willing to take a big risk. The subtleties of a culture are easily "lost in translation" from the script to the screen. At any rate, it'd be a difficult sell. Who wants to see reality at the cinema? I thought "The Last Samurai" made a pretty good stab at a balanced portrayal of cultures (albeit during the Meiji Era), but it's still a far cry from what could be.

Most films are rooted in a single culture and a single language. Bridging cultures in a meaningful way is not an easy thing to do, especially for a film that requires broad appeal to make a profit. Not impossible, just difficult--and this wasn't the objective of Lost in Translation anyway. I mean, look, I couldn't even understand half of Trainspotting, and that was entirely in English!!! How do you expect Joe Blow to understand a realistic film that is both multiethnic and multilingual?

I think the films and performances "approved" by the Asian Media Watchdog tend to either focus on Asian American cultures (e.g. Harold and Kumar)--which is far easier than portraying cultures on both sides of the Pacific--or are so minor that no one's ever heard of them.

The Japanese government, at least, is cashing in on the film. The Japan National Tourist Organization is offering guided Lost in Translation tours.

Wednesday, December 15

My visit to the bank

Just came back from the bank. I had to create a new pin number because I'd forgotten my original one. Here is an actual exchange between myself and the teller. This was all in Korean, mind you.

Ms. Kim: Do you have a passport?
Me: Yes. Well, no, heh heh. She left me.
Ms. Kim: Huh? Passport!
Me: Past tense.
Ms. Kim: #&$+=*!&)@??
Me: Telephone number?
Ms. Kim: . . . . . .
Me: Oh, I understand. It's at home.

Yes, my Korean is coming along nicely. The manager, who goes to my gym, gave me a bottle of Fibre-Mini (embarrassment can sometimes look like constipation) and a gift set of very nice Nonghyup Bank camping cups and hip pack. Later, a cute bank teller who spoke some English asked me if I was married. Man, I should have visited the bank more often! I think I'll have to forget my pin number at least two more times before I leave.

Good morning, Mr. Kim!

Just another humdrum workday at the Korean National Assembly.

Funky Dutch boys

Check this out (Rori): Retro 8-bit electronica by YMCK. They compose their tunes on a Famicom (Nintendo). Reminds me of a street musician Rori told me about who plays music on a Game Boy. I guess YMCK is a step up from that, but just barely.

Also, check out this Dutch "electronica" group called C-Mon & Kypski. They're kind of electronica stuff + live instrumental stuff + turntable and DJ sampling stuff, and dey is whack, yo! Click "Listen!" in the lower right of their website to listen to their tunes. Tracks like "Dazed and Confused" and "The Evil Needle" are kind of Indian sounding, but others are reggae, soul, African, funk or something else way out there. These guys are all over the show, and they're great! They're like a bunch of schizophrenic high schoolers with an ear for composition and an appreciation of all kinds of music. Not only that, they can play real instruments and rip it up on the turntables.

Here's what a reviewer had to say:
To describe C-mon & Kypski's music is as hard as playing soccer with a banana. People might find it even harder to describe what they do when they play their studio-recorded music live. They compose and produce in their home studio (El Crib), like any other producer does, we all know that method by now. But that is just one method of how C-mon & Kypski create their songs.

The other is this: C-mon & Kypski can also compose AND produce a song from 'scratch', on stage, in realtime. This includes live sampling, looping, the effects, the filters....and of course monstrous scratching action by six times national turntable champion Kypski. Starting with absolutely nothing, ending with freaked out, booming, skratchadelic funk d...etc
I'm usually not a big fan of electronic music because it's just so repetitive, uncompositional, and just plain uncreative, like some schmo sat down in front of a keyboard and played some chords over the same preprogrammed beat for five minutes straight. But these guys are awesome. I'm listening to "Ode to Rhodes" now. Wow, really nice.

The only other electronica album I really love is "Orchid" by Ishq, which is more ambient and serious, not funky and playful like C-Mon & Kypski.

Make sure to check out the "cloctaves" turntable vids on the site. What a virtuoso. This guy really knows what he's doing. So awesome.

From the site:
A 'Clocktave' is a note scale to scratch with, with a range of 2 to 4 octaves. The notes of the octaves are divided between exactly ONE rotation of a record so when you look at the record as if it were a clock, the root note of the scale will always appear at, let's say 12 o' clock, depending on where you have your orientation sticker or marker. As a result, all notes within one of the 3 octaves of the scale are to be found within one rotation, and when you get the hang of it, you know exactly what notes to play (scratch) because of the 'root-note orientation point' and you'll learn different note combo's (melodies). Great for organ solo's, piano solos, basslines, or just simple hooks.

Clocktaves are great for giving a true melodic approach to your scratching. It is like playing keys on your turntable. It is, also, a totally different way of thinking. And this is why some people might find them hard to use. Actually, if you succesfully want to use a clocktave in a band, or with other dj's, you'll have to start to think melodically and rhythmically at the same time. Whereas with most scratching, you just think rhythmically, with some pitch involved, but without the pitch being actual notes.

'But', you'd say, 'I could scratch an organ solo or a flute melody, those are notes!' Right you are, but the melody will mostly derive from the sample (the organ or flute player) itself, it wasn't you who created that whole melody yourself, from scratch, was it? This is where the 'different thinking' part comes in. Instead of a 'melodic scratchsample' , you now have just a 'note-scale', a range of tones waiting for you to make a melody out of it. All of a sudden you'll have to know what notes of that scale fit or don't fit in the key the music you scratch to is being played in. All of a sudden were from reverse engineering, back to forward engineering.

Got it?

Tuesday, December 14

Hard choice

I've decided to move on and give my heart to someone new. I can't just mope around feeling sorry for myself. I have to live my life to the fullest, revel in my youth before it is cruelly snatched away from me by father time. So my first choice for a new girlfriend--and some naysayers insist I'm setting my sights a little too high--is Korean actress Han Ga In. Yeah, she's got a boyfriend, but that's not going to stop me. (Her bodyguards might...)

Then there's also CNN tech correspondent Kristie Lu Stout. Mmmmm, I just love it when she speculates about the future of China's electronics industry. Rumor has it that she's engaged to be married, but that's not going to stop me either. I won't accept anything but the best! I'll just have to wait and see which one lives up to my expectations. I won't lie to you. It's going to be a difficult choice.

Monday, December 13

Well, Fukuoka me!

Fukuoka, here I come! I'm feeling pretty excited about this move. There's a fairly good chance I'll get the job, but if my past luck is any indication, I'll be kidnapped by North Korean spies next week and work as Kim Jong Il's private English tutor for the rest of my life--which might not be so bad if I get access to his Pleasure Squad.

I've wanted to live in Fukuoka for years, and now here's my chance. It's the best city in Japan. Asia Week magazine agrees with me. Here's a 1997 article about the city.

The houses seen in the foreground are on reclaimed land in the super-posh Momochi district. I'm sure they're really expensive. That round thing on the left is the Fukuoka Dome baseball stadium.

Some neat old photos of Fukuoka here and here.

Sunday, December 12

The kids are not alright

According to a recent UNICEF report, "More than a billion children--over half the children in the world--suffer extreme deprivation because of war, HIV/AIDS or poverty..."

"...nearly half the estimated 3.6 million people killed in wars since 1990 were children..."

"There is rarely a justification for war that mitigates the suffering and loss of war..." (Carol Bellamy--Executive Director, UNICEF)

One in six (90m) children are severely hungry.
One in seven (270m) have no healthcare at all.
One in five have no access to safe water.
One in three have no toilet at home.
More than 29,000 children die every day of preventable causes.

Sorry to keep harping on this kind of stuff. It's just sometimes difficult to believe that the world is so crap. Here I am, sipping calcium fortified orange juice in a room with a heated floor, watching the Tokyo Jazz Festival on cable TV. (TOTO is on stage now. Japan: where aging rockers go to die.) For lunch, I stuffed my face with bibimbap and kimchi. I've got it good.

Speaking of children, I've been volunteering at the Jecheon Children's Home for the past several weeks. The orphanage, which currently houses about 90 children, is run by an American woman named Jane White. She came to Jecheon in 1962, opened the orphanage the year after and has been here ever since. A disproportionately large number of orphans used to turn up in Jecheon because the city was once a major rail center, which made it easy for parents to get off one train, drop off their unwanted child at the station, and make their escape on another.

Ms. White has never been married, but told me that she has raised over 1000 children. All her children have "Baek" as their last name, which is Korean for "white." (You can't just choose any old last name. It has to be properly registered.) Imagine if I were the director. All the kids would be named "So" (cow), or maybe "Mokdong" (牧童/cowboy).

There are eight middle school kids living at the orphanage--four girls and four boys. They are all in the 1st grade, and I was surprised to find that they all attend one of my schools! They were pretty darn surprised to see me, too. Now, when I go to that school, it's like we share a little secret.

Last Friday, Ms. White was distributing their monthly allowance of 5000 won. That's about $5.

It's sad that I'll only be here for three more weeks. I wish, for so many reasons, that things hadn't turned out this way with Yoonsung.

Friday, December 10

Don't worry, be happy now

Man, it just don't make no sense. The Puerto Ricans are the happiest people in the world? Are its 13% unemployed happy, too? Singapore was the only Asian country to make the top 25, but come on--we all know that place is hardly a real country. Not much more than a parched little rock with shiny buildings and gum-free sidewalks.

I guess it's true: money really can't buy happiness.

Here is the World Values Survey website. I checked it out, but it doesn't really seem to give much info about their survey methods. Their sample size is over a thousand, but what did they do? Walk up to people on the street and ask them how happy they are? For what it's worth, here's the entire list, ranked from happiest to saddest.

Green indicates high income countries.
Red indicates Latin American countries.
Boldface indicates ex-communist countries.

Subjective Well-Being Rankings of 82 Societies
Puerto Rico, Mexico, Denmark, Ireland, Iceland, Switzerland, N. Ireland, Colombia, Netherlands, Canada, Austria, El Salvador, Venezuela, Luxembourg, U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Nigeria, Norway, Belgium, Finland

Medium High
Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Britain, West Germany, France, Argentina, Vietnam, Chile, Philippines, Taiwan, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Spain, Israel, Italy, East Germany, Slovenia, Uruguay, Portugal, Japan, Czech Republic

Medium Low
South Africa, Croatia, Greece, Peru, China, South Korea, Iran, Poland, Turkey, Bosnia, Morocco, Uganda, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Hungary, Slovakia, Jordan

Estonia, Serbia, Tanzania, Azerbaijan, Montenegro, India, Lithuania, Macedonia, Pakistan, Latvia, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Georgia, Romania, Moldova, Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Indonesia

Man, what in the world is wrong with Japan? The second strongest economy in the world, and it gets beaten by the former East Germany? People in Israel, living in constant fear of suicide bombers, are happier than the Japanese? For crying out loud, the Nigerians are way happier than the Japanese!

From the Nigeria Lonely Planet guide:
"From religious tensions in the north with the spread of Sharia law, to border conflict in the southeast with Cameroon as well as violent crime throughout the south, travellers need to be aware of what is going on around them at all times. Lagos and the Niger River delta in the south are particularly unstable, with carjackings, kidnapping, piracy, riots and ethnic clashes prevalent; the northern city of Kano is also dodgy. Travelling from the airport to Lagos can be an unpleasant initiation. Visitors to Lagos should arrange to be met on arrival. Street crime, robberies and muggings occur throughout the country, often in broad daylight."

And yet, the country ranks #20 to Japan's #42 and Korea's #49.

Here's my theory about the Latin American countries: they're lying. Come on, everyone knows that lying is a virtue in Latin American cultures! In contrast, Asians rarely admit to being happy, even if they are. This is, after all, a subjective well-being ranking. It's a bunch of quasi-scientific BS, man; I don't buy it for a second. There are a lot of cultural factors that aren't being taken into account.

But wait...I'm not happy, and I'm in a "medium low" country. Hmm, it all makes sense now. Bueno, no me voy a Japon, y empiezo a buscar for jobs in Puerto Rico.

Here's the bottom line: "Research around the world shows that married people or [cohabitating] people are much happier. Yet there's hardly any relationship between income and happiness," Veenhoven said. "So, rather than worry so much about your work, worry more about your wife."

But, but, but, Dr. Veenhoven, I tried that already, and it didn't work!

Thursday, December 9

East Asian half-breed nomad boy

I handed in my resignation on Monday. My last day on the job is December 31. I'm back at my dank and dusty base school again today, two days after I notified them of my resignation, and my "contact teacher" hasn't spoken a word to me. Granted, she never does, but I'm starting to wonder if she forgot to send my resignation to my supervisor at the Board of Education. Or maybe she just doesn't care. I'll just kind of silently disappear from my desk and see if anyone notices.

I've applied for a teaching position at Brighten College in Fukuoka, Japan (yes, I thought it was a misspelling too). It's located in downtown Tenjin, the central district of the city. With only 200 students, it's by no means a big school, but I think that's a good thing; it'll have a more friendly atmosphere and I'll have more diverse duties to perform. In addition to twelve class hours a week, I'd have a variety of other jobs that deal with curriculum planning and recruitment.

So, just four months after I arrived in the Land of the Morning Calm, I'm packing up my home in the Land of Glorious Natural Vistas (Jecheon), loading up the horses and heading back to the Land of the Rising Sun. I sometimes feel like a nomad.

Speaking of nomads... People of China, hide your daughters! It's Hurd!

Wednesday, December 8

The gravy life

The International Labour Organization recently reported that half of the global work force, some 1.4 billion people, live in grinding poverty, subsisting on less than two bucks a day. Some 550 million, almost 40% of these impoverished people, earn less than $1 a day. 200 million have no job at all.

You'd think that with the world in such a miserable state, people like me would be grateful to have any job that allows them to pay for decent food and shelter.

Considered from this perspective, it seems ridiculous that I should get so upset over something so trivial as losing my fiancee. Oh, woe is me, I can't sleep well, food doesn't taste good, I'm so so sad! Poor Nick!

Well, waaaa. At least I have food to eat. I have the ability to earn money, I am healthy, I am a card-carrying member of the upper crust. I have more money saved up than most people in the world will see in their entire lifetime. And I'm sexy. What the hell am I worried about? Job satisfaction? Give me a fucking break. I wear clean underwear, take hot showers at night and eat three decent meals a day. I even get two whole days of the week, and six hours every evening, during which I don't have to work! What more could I ask for.

I'm reminded of a line from Platoon that goes, "We don't add up to dry shit. Whoever said we did man? All you got to do is make it out of here. It's all gravy. Every day, the rest of your life--gravy."

I am living the gravy life. We all are. Anyone who is reading this on a computer with an Internet connection is probably living a life smothered in the richest, lumpiest gravy imaginable. Do you think the concept of romantic love means anything to these 1.4 billion destitute people? Offer a starving man a bowl of maggot infested rice or a beautiful woman and he'll choose the rice. While guys like me are having dreams about sexy chicks, these people are dreaming about eating chicken.

With gravy.