Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bad-ass Article About Guys Who Save Ships

My friend Jason sent me this article about a marine salvage company made up of guys who seem so tough-as-nails that even Hollywood couldn't have found better characters. Here's the head guy, who lives in Jackson, Wyoming:

The article is pretty long, but if you don't have time to read it, here's a video summarizing what they do:

Damn, and I thought my job was cool.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Elliot Meets "Ethel" -- an M24 Sniper Rifle

Hilarious how a leftist like me is drawn to guns.

Since my wife won't let me own one, I am highly lucky to have an old friend like Colin who has an entire arsenal locked in a 7-foot steel case in his basement. He has some of the coolest weapons I've ever seen, and he loves to shoot them -- often.

Shortly after I arrived, out came Ethel, a metallic black M24 sniper rifle with built-in tripod and is the official sniper rifle of the United States Army.

I figured if it's good enough for the Army, it's good enough as the first gun for Elliot to experience.

Luckily, my wife had bought the little dude a pair of infant-size blue earphones to protect his tender ears from the sound of this black beast blasting out .300 magnum match-grade ammunition.

Actually, the little guy didn't even flinch while sitting in his seat on the back deck while we fired it across Colin's backyard at some plastic bottles filled with water. KER-SPLOOSH!!! with every hit.

Cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce ...

Summer is nice, isn't it.

Ng-Ka-Py Liqueur

I finally finished Steinbeck's magnum opus, East of Eden. My grade school English teacher, Mrs. Voelker, would be proud. God, she loved Steinbeck so much, I wish I could track her down and tell her.

Great book, highly recommended -- was hoping it would be good enough that during the last couple pages I'd be tearful, but no.

There's a character in the book whose parents were brought to the U.S. from China to build the railroads. He was born in secret on the side of a mountain and grew up in the Salinas Valley. He's a self-made philosopher named Lee who drinks a Chinese liqueur called "ng ka py" which is described as tasting like "good rotten apples".

Never heard of this stuff.

The book was written in 1952 and took place between the 1880s and the end of World War I (1918).

Apparently it's still around: a google search yields some Taiwanese manufacturer. No idea where I could get it in the States but if you know somewhere in the DC area, tell me. I expect it tastes like the typical liqueur you get at Chinese business meetings -- a spiced and heavily fortified "wine" which runs at around 60 proof.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Surabaya Crabs

Picture taken at a restaurant in Surabaya, Indonesia. The crabs are wrapped with ribbon or leaves so they won't pinch people.

Thing is, they have great crabs over here, but they prepare them to detract from the meat's taste by slathering the hell out of them with gooey, spicy-wet sauce. Often, Asian food is so good but they don't understand the concept of letting the meat stand on its own sometimes. They should prepare crabs the correct way: by covering them entirely in a DRY spicy salt. Much much better.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Asia's Gotta Get This Customer Service Thing Sorted Out

Nearly five years now doing business in a dozen countries in Asia, I feel qualified in making crude-yet-experienced generalizations about the quirks about the part of the world where most of the people live.

This service thing ain't like the West. I'm talking about staff in retail stores or restaurants, specifically. This one's easy to describe: those fuckers peer at you with overhelpful anticipation while you eat or pick out underwear in a way that still amazes me years after I first saw it.

I just returned from eating sushi at a nice place. I was the first one in there, sitting alone at the sushi bar reading East of Eden, with my steaming hot sake and fatty tuna stomach cut into nice strips on top of balled rice. Trying to enjoy all this with -- not exaggerating -- 10 eyes unflinchingly watching me. No feeling of privacy whatsoever.

I'd get down to one small strip of ginger, and before I could even realize I needed more, someone pounced and already was asking me if I wanted me. Hardly the last sip of my first mini-bottle of sake was gone, and a hand from nowhere was whisking it away, asking, "Sir, you need more?"

God, it was even hard to look up at them because they'd quickly look downward, trying to play it off as if they hadn't been staring at me, waiting to jump at me, and serve my needs. I don't need to be obsequiously served like a god damn British Colonial, god dammit. Can't a man eat at a nice place in Asia without being hounded over?

It sure is hard being a white man in a foreign land sometimes.


I'm sorry, but I fucking hate when people fucking tell me "be careful".

I've hated this since I was a kid. This annoyance goes back to one of my core annoyances -- irrational fear derived from a poor understanding of risk.

Ok, I know what you're thinking: people who tell me "be careful" before a trip are just being nice, and they care about me. I will grant you that, sure.

But really, people. The true risks one encounters, whether abroad, in suburban suburbanyland, or in the big city of the USA, are considered and dealt with by any half-intelligent human in about the same way.

Is there ever a time when a thoughtful farewell of "be careful" actually resulted in that person who received that farewell having taken actions that he or should would not have normally taken?, ie, the "be careful" comment having helped? And even if a major fluke of an accident did take place -- like a car accident or slipping in the shower and breaking your skull -- could the most careful person have avoided it with even the most obsessive precautions taken?

Answer: no.

We live in a pretty safe world. The odds are in your favor to do whatever you want in over 190 countries and not come away harmed. "Be careful". What a shallow thing to say, based in fear.

Friday, July 09, 2010

People just seem happier in the poorer parts of Asia. Why?

Today at the trade show in Jakarta, I was chatting with a Dutch supplier who's been doing business in Asia twice as long as I have -- 11 years. I commented how it seems people in the poorer regions of Asia seem generally happier than people in the US or parts of Europe. I asked him if he had any opinions on the matter.

He's had the same observations and he thinks it has something to do with the 'law of diminishing returns'. He explained with an example.

The pleasure of going from owning no TV to owning a TV for the first time is huge. The pleasure of going from owning no AC to owning AC is equally as huge. The pleasure of going from owning no car to owning a car, I think, is hard to understand for people who live in countries where having a car is taken for granted.

These are serious life improvements and when these sort of big shifts happen to millions of people on a grand scale, a static electric kinda feeling runs through the population that things are really changing for the better for a great many people. It doesn't matter that the TV or AC are in wooden shacks with dirt floors and corrugated metal roofs. This is a phenomenon that hasn't been in Europe or the US for quite some time.

And in many of these countries like Vietnam or China you have more than 10% growth in the economy so this is happening on an unimaginable scale for thousands of major life quality upgrades.

But take a rich country like the US. Everyone's got a TV and AC and umpteen other things of equal comfort. Our lives are saturated. What more pleasure can we obtain on par with going from zero TV to having a TV? Upgrading that TV to a bigger one? or with HD? Getting two or three or four TVs? Sure, that brings a level of additional pleasure, but the pleasure is far more diminished than the feeling you got when you got your first one; you can never get that original thrill -- kind of like the effect of a drug -- and the pleasurable feelings are more and more diminished the more stuff you continue to obtain. Hence, 'the law of diminishing returns', and more happiness in regions where people are poor and the economy is roaring.

Maybe this is one reason why polls in rich countries show a larger proportion of the population disapprove of the direction of their country. In China, for example, I think over 80% approve of the direction of their country, as opposed to less than 30% is the US.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Another Reason Islam Sucks: No Dogs

I'm in Lampung, Indonesia and noticed the lack of stray dogs that are usually so present in the poorer parts of the earth. I asked my associate why.

Turns out, Islam forbids the keeping of dogs as pets because of their saliva; being licked by a dog is filthy, according to the Muslims -- on par with eating a pig.

What a mirthless, humorless religion.

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