Life is about Living

Living the Dream… on a Budget!

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Opioid Addiction

There was recently a Town Hall hosted by Anderson Cooper of CNN.  The topic was opioids (what killed Prince, so they think), and how quick doctors are willing to prescribe them in order to keep pain manageable.

The whole show had a very strange, almost circus like appearance, perhaps because of the nature of its participants (there was this mom who brought her brain damaged son along, who sat next to her as she recounted how he became addicted to opioids, had an overdose, and lost part of his brain function), but more so because of the content of the show . A lot of the content was basically much too bizarre to believe.  For example, while America has 5% of the world’s population, it accounts for 80% of all opioids consumed.

One man gave a harrowing account of being in the hospital and being given fentanyl, when his chart explicitly stated that he was not to be given such painkillers.  And then there is Rush Limbaugh, everyone’s favorite talk show host, who used to rail about lengthy jail terms for drug addicts, the whole time taking oxycontin by the handful.

But the main thing that all the guests and experts failed to address is the pressure that the pharmaceutical lobby must exert on the American people.  Pressure that keeps large sections of the population addicted to prescription drugs.

Now that I have read several John Grisham paperbacks, I realize what snakes lobbyists are. They have really made this world a much worse place for everyone but themselves, and their corporate clients.

 

 

Categories: Anderson Cooper, CNN, Health Care, Painkiller addiction, pharmaceutical companies, Worldwide Health, | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lip Balm Guy

I saw this man on TV last night.  His name was Burt, and he had a long beard.  He used to sell honey on the side of the road in New England, until he picked up this hitchhiker who made him famous, and earned him a lot of money.  She earned even more money for herself.

Burt was an interesting character (he died several years ago at the ripe age of 80, in spite of both his doctors telling him he would live to be 100).  He eschewed complexity and embraced simplicity, choosing to live without the creature comforts known to most of us.  For example, he lived in the north woods in a simple cabin with a wood burning stove, no internet, no TV.  He had a dog, however.  Had two at one point.  Labs. He was told they were quite special.  They were.  Especially to him.

The name of the company started by the hitchhiker, and featuring a not so beaming (rarely did he smile, or show emotion, except when crying about his dogs) Burt on the label was Burt’s Bees.  You can look it up.  Better yet, watch the film.  It will tell you more about this guy than I will.

 

Categories: beekeepers, entrepreneurs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apps

I was in Laos.  I wanted to know what the current exchange rate was.   I wanted to know how many kip (8,000?) I could get with my US dollars.  A guy comes up to me in a cafe and says, “Hey man there’s an app for that.”  And then he shows me.

What he meant by “app” (for those of you who just appeared from under a rock), is “application.” An application is a device that one downloads off the internet and then uploads to one’s “smart phone.”

In any case, if you wish to try and make sense of an ever changing world (with the possibility of becoming even MORE confused), then download, or develop, an app. There is no shortage of apps on the market today (about 50,000, but that is just an uneducated guess), and room for a lot more.

After all, in spite of the number of apps currently out there, surely there is room for one more.

 

 

 

 

Categories: computer applications, technology, smart phones, laos, Southeast Asia Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel Weber

With a name like Dan Weber, one would think that this guy is just another of the thousands of Dan Webers out there.  But this guy is pretty hard to pigeonhole.

Dan has traveled extensively all over Southeast Asia by bicycle.  “I went all the way to Singapore,” he says, “and never had an accident.  Then I am cycling in New Mexico, USA, and I have an accident.  A car pulls out of a side street and nails me.

“Anyway, it wasn’t entirely their fault.  They had the sun in their eyes, and so they had trouble seeing me.  In any case, there was a collision, and I was taken to the hospital. Then things got REAL interesting.

“This guy with this clipboard runs up to me and asks me these questions about my insurance–or health care–provider.  I tell him its Medicare, and he writes that down. A couple of weeks later I get these letters in the mail, telling me that I ‘have been denied’ coverage.  Can you believe that?  Our tax dollars hard at work.

“In any case, I helped out with the payment for the collision.  I chipped in.  It wasn’t entirely their fault.  They had the sun in their eyes.  That’s the way things go.”

Dan is currently riding his bicycle somewhere in Laos, near a river with blue green waters that swirl and glint in the sun.

The actual reason that I looked up Dan was because after Mahasarakham University terminated me, I didn’t know what to do, and I needed someplace to escape the torrential heat that is Thailand.  So I called this guy named John Davies, who is a lecturer at the Mahasarakham Business School (MSU).  A former English language professor at MSU gave me his number.  John Davies, wanting to help, or get me a job and at least get me out of his hair, gave me the number of Dan Weber.  He told me that “he runs a language school somewhere in Laos.”  Well Dan did run a language school, but not anymore.  In any case, I was not looking for a job teaching.  I was looking for a cool place to lie down.

But back to John for a moment.  I had met this man briefly a couple of times before. He had some great stories to tell, like the time his paycheck was withheld for about 4 months.  Finally, he said to himself “enough is enough” and he started asking questions of different people as to the location of his paycheck.  His query was met by a litany of “I dunnos” and “beats me” and various other responses, but what he found most revealing is that nobody had a clue–and if they did they were not willing to share–as to the location of his money.   Finally, he got a great idea.

I located the most gossipy woman in the department,” he relates. “I approached her and asked her if she would write me a letter of recommendation.  The money, including 4 months back pay, was in my bank account in about 3 hours time.  I have since made the transfer, and now work in the Mahasarakham University Business School.  The English department is a thing of the past.”

Back in Luang Prabang, the tourist town where Dan lives in Northern Laos, the man says to me, “Laotian English teachers can’t speak English.”  Then he looked at me as if to say don’t believe anything to the contrary.  I don’t.

Dan Weber was instrumental in helping me get a room at a flophouse in Luang Prabang.   “There are about 500 guest houses in or near this town,” says Mr. Weber.

It was the Chinese New Year, and so most of the accommodation was gone, and certainly all of the good accommodation was taken up (there are only 1.3 BILLION Chinese).  I was lucky to get this room.  The bedbugs were happy when I came along.

We did not have a chance to venture into politics too deeply, but I am sure that he is “Feeling the Bern,”  and I am sure that his sensibilities would lead him to support a certain senator from Vermont.

But back to the infamous English department at MSU.   When Dan Weber found out that I had been teaching there, the first thing he said was, “You mean the place where they DO NOT offer you a computer or desk for the first couple of months?” Then he said, “Don’t worry.  It wasn’t your fault.  Well, not 100%.”

MSU has some problems, is what he seemed to be saying.  That Dan–about the most non-aggressive and reasonable human being on the face of the Earth–had any problems at all there is proof positive that the department doesn’t give a shit about its teachers.

Dan showed me his bike seat.  The seat is made up of two different convex leather-covered scoops that are used to support the arse, entire back, and body, of the rider.   It looked a lot more comfortable than a conventional bicycle seat.  That’s because it probably is.

Here is a picture of Dan.  As we can all see, the man is in great health.  He is currently braving the pre-monsoon Southeast Asia weather, which is pretty steamy, if you ask me.  It is, in essence, the hottest time of the year.

 

20160208_163912

Well, the pic will be up in due time, as soon as I figure out all the crap that needs to be figured out in order to do so (it only took me an hour but I got it).  These app companies are all racing into the future at just breakneck speed.  They all want to be the first across the finish line.  They all want to be the first to develop an app that holds our hand while we take a shit.  To us spectators, er consumers, out there, this race is just another blur across the finish line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: bicycling, Southeast Asia Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking For Simplicity?

Almost three years ago I took a container ship to South America, looking for simplicity.  I interviewed the former three time Mayor of the City of Curitiba (and two time Governor of the State of Parana) Jaime Lerner, to see what he had to say.  I had seen a video on Youtube, in which he said, “When we designed Curitiba, we were not afraid of ‘simplicity'”.

I liked this enough to take a cargo boat across the Pacific.   But this blog is ANYTHING but simple.  WordPress is anything but simple.  I have forgotten how to use it.  Almost completely.  I have no energy, I can barely walk up stairs anymore.  How am I going to find the keys to this blog?  How am I going to find all the answers?  Help me.

Categories: Brazil, Curitiba, World Affairs | Leave a comment

Contract Terminated

One day in late December of 2015, I received an email from my boss, saying that my contract had been “terminated.”  One of the reasons cited, “poor performance,” I had a hard time justifying.

I was an English teacher.  I thought I did a pretty good job.  One of the other teachers, who showed me how to check the students’ evaluations of me looked at them in a jaw dropped state, muttering “There is nothing wrong with these scores.  Nothing.”

I asked him to compare the scores with his, and he immediately changed the subject.  He did not want to compare my evaluations to his.   Wonder why?

Maybe this guy was simply humble and meek.  An Englishman, he had written “three or four books.”  When I asked him if I could review one of them, he became very evasive, again changing the subject.   He basically made it sound like his books weren’t worth much, and they probably aren’t.  I could not find much of a trace on Amazon, although a couple of them DO exist.

What the school, or university, did to me was–well, it left me with a lot of bitterness in my bile.  One would think that they could at least let me finish my contract, but no, they wanted to get rid of me ASAP.  I was some sort of threat to the peaceful (too peaceful for me) existence of so many professors staring at their computer screens.

One of the other teachers said I was fired to “save money.”  Another man told me that he spoke to one of the teachers at the school and they said I was terminated in order to “save money.”  They chose  me because I “could not not get along with other teachers.”  Hah!

If that means trying to initiate conversations with them, then yes.   I am a garrollous individual.

The guy across the aisle from me did not say a single utterance to me in the six months that I was there.  His wife, who was the manager of the American Corner, was really hard to figure out.  I guess she did not like me, although I am not sure.  At a couple of times she DID acknowledge my existence.

An English teacher (not the one previously mentioned) told me an interesting story about a man who went to work one day, like he had a thousand times before.  When he returned, his wife had cleaned him out of everything, including “their” life savings, packed her bags, and left, forever to disappear. This is how difficult it is to detect the true feelings and meaning behind the faces in Thailand.  It is really hard to get a pulse on what it is to be Thai.

In any case, I was left with a lot of bitterness when I found out that my contract had been “terminated.”

Not to mention hate.  I have a lot of hate inside.  I would like it forever to go away.

I think now that I have reached the ripe old age of almost 60, this is going to happen a lot.  It seems that people, let alone corporations, do not really care for their senior citizens.

 

Categories: Getting Older, Teaching in Thailand | Leave a comment

The Latest

I have been too tired to post.  Too drained, too lacking in energy, hardly motivated, depressed, uninspired, you name it.  And, I have absolutely NO ENERGY.

I am, if you will, the complete opposite of the Old Man in the House of The Spirits, forever riding his horse around, forever getting the “help” pregnant, forever terrorizing anyone that gets in his path.

I am currently in Laos, but let me explain how I got here.

I took a plane from South Korea, where I had been manager of the Yellow Submarine Cafe and Bar.  When I say I had been manager, what I mean is it was basically me.  I opened the place, closed the place, ordered the food, prepared the food, served the food, did the serving, took the orders.  At the end, this woman called Kim Min young came and helped me, but she only had a couple of weeks before the earth moving equipment arrived, and the razing began.  By that time I was on a plane to Thailand.

In Thailand, I worked at a university in the hot town of Mahasarakham.  It was so hot that we had palm trees (not coconut trees but palm trees) and I expected to see a camel caravan pass by.  It was so sandy that the sand was everywhere, turning the water in the bathroom toilet a yellowish color, which, when combined with my yellowish urine, made a bright red color that signaled the end of the earth, or a bleeding kidney, whichever comes first.

I hated Thailand, but my students were pretty cool.  They were mostly women, by the way.  There were even a couple of guys posing as girls.  Those are called “ladyboys.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Ladyboys in Thailand, Mahasarakham University Students, Southeast Asia Travel, Teaching in Thailand | Leave a comment

Heroes Do Exist

Doug Hughes is one.  Read about him here, or there, or anywhere.

You can also read about him here

Categories: Gyrocopter Captain, mail carrier, Modern Day Heroes, Money in Politics, The Constitution, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Culinary Epicenter of The World?

Strarbucks comes to town (acutally, it has been in town now more than 10 years).

One reason Americans are so fat. Drive through Starbucks in Yeonhui dong, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

Tres mariachis en el bano.  Tomatillo, Itaewon dong.
Tres mariachis en el bano.
Tomatillo, Itaewon dong.
The posh interior of Tomatillo in Itaewon.
The posh interior of Tomatillo in Itaewon.
Itaewon Tomatillo.  Mexican dining in pure elegance.
Itaewon Tomatillo. Mexican dining in pure elegance.  An American I recently spoke with remarked how “Koreans can dress so elegantly, and then put on tennis shoes.”
Tuk Tuk, one of the many Thai restaurants on offer.  Preparing vegetables to go with the noodles.
Tuk Tuk, one of the many Thai restaurants on offer. Preparing vegetables to go with the noodles.
Acai is all the rage in Hongdae.  And I thought its popularity was confined to Brazil!
Acai is all the rage in Hongdae. And I thought its popularity was confined to Brazil!
Tuk Tuk from the inside

Tuk Tuk from the inside

Bandeira Brasileira

Brazilian flags flying in the window

Beerfest

Craft beer is currently the rage in parts of Seoul, especially where young people hang out.

Breads, like coffee before it, is really starting to catch on

Breads, like coffee before, are really starting to catch on

Superman preparing soup at one of my favorite places, Soupman.

Superman preparing soup at one of my favorite places, Soupman.

breadman2

Tomato soup at the Soupman. In the summer, when things start to “hot up,” they even serve gazpacho, “watermelon gazpacho” according to the man working there.

This guy sets up his cart every evening around dusk, and gets the sophisticated to sip some wine and eat his delicious food

This guy sets up his cart every evening around dusk, and gets the sophisticated to sip some wine and eat his delicious food.  I could not believe my eyes.  Talk about economy of space!

Remember, this is what this place was made for........

Remember, this is what this place was made for……..

Categories: food in hongdae seoul south korea, hongdae, itaewon, seoul | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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