First Steps

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There is a small café I like to visit every two or three weeks. The food isn’t great, but is OK. The thing I like about it is everyone, from the owners, to the managers, to the help, are extremely friendly.


I’ve been stopping there for years. The managers  are a husband and wife team. They have a son who is about 8-10 years old who is always there.

A couple of years ago the wife got pregnant. She popped out a baby girl. Since they keep the baby with them at the café,  I’ve been an observer of the baby since her birth.


Like her parents, the baby is very friendly. Her mother usually brings her by my table where we high five a few times. She always smiles and laughs.

Last week the baby took a few steps on her own. She was a year and three months old.


It’s been interesting to follow the baby’s progress from birth to toddler. I think I’ve enjoyed watching because I missed much of my son’s early years as I cared too much about work. Going to a Little League ball game or taking him and a few friends to a movie was an imposition. Now that it’s too late, I deeply regret not spending more time together.


I rationalized my inattentive parenting by telling myself that my work enabled my son to have a better life with things like private schooling, nice clothes and cars, a British nanny, and living in a big house in an excellent neighborhood. Looking at things today, I think this baby has a great life growing up with her parents and her brother in the café while learning to walk in a parking lot. Which life is better? I’m not so sure anymore.

The Dreaded Learning Curve

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I recently bought a new laptop. It is a mid-range HP with Windows 8. It’s now four months later and I still haven’t mastered the Windows 8 operating system.

If have more than one window open, it will suddenly switch from the window I’m using to another window that I’m not using. I have to manually  switch back. Extremely annoying.

It has a crappy word processing program with poor spell check, no word count, and a few other annoyances. I think Microsoft wants to sell its Office Suite which supposedly has an excellent word processor. I partially overcame this problem by installing Windows Live Writer from my old computer. But it doesn’t work exactly the same in the Windows 8 environment.

It has all sorts of little messages that pop-up to tell me it went offline, should it allow a pop-up from a certain sit to be viewed, etc. I’d like to figure out how to turn them off permanently. In Vista these annoying messages had boxes you could check if you didn’t want to see them again

One especially annoying feature are little weather messages that appear in the upper right corner of the screen. At 11:25 today one came up that said I should expect rain at 12:00. It is now 12:30, and there isn’t a rain cloud to be seen. That thing has never successfully predicted rain, and it has never popped-up before an actual storm. I’d love figure out how to disable it.

I get a lot of useless messages from Norton Security that appear in the lower right corner of my screen, mostly telling me its doing its job. They make me want to uninstall Norton and take my chances with viruses and spyware.

I can’t get the Favorites bar to work correctly. When I want to open a program I can’t get it to open in a new tab. It will only open over an already open tab, making it disappear.

The F5 key (Refresh) doesn’t work correctly. It turns the keyboard backlight off and on. It doesn’t refresh. Instead I have to open View and scroll down to Refresh and manually hit it.

I feel most if not all of these complaints can be addressed by someone who understands Windows 8 better than I. But until I muddle my way to the solutions, I pine away for my old Windows Vista operating system.

The same day I bought the new p.c. I bought a Samsung Galaxy tablet. It got the 7 inch version because it will fit in my pants pocket. I don’t like carrying bags or backpacks when I’m out.

The had two versions, one was locked into Verizon Mobile service, the other one was unlocked. I bought the unlocked model, thinking I could get China Mobile when I returned to Shenzhen.

Of course that didn’t work. Sea took it the China Mobile where she was told it couldn’t be converted. Now it sits next to my new laptop where I use it to play an occasional game, read a bit of news, or check email. That isn’t why I bought it.

Lung Cancer

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I am almost never sick. I’ve been traveling around SE Asia the last nine years eating street food and living in questionable circumstances. I’ve never gotten food poisoning, the flu, a mystery illness, or even a cold. I don’t know if I have a strong constitution, or if I’m just lucky.

A few days ago I awoke coughing. My lungs were congested. The coughing was so violent I had to stand up and walk around until the fit subsided.

I didn’t have the typical symptoms of a cold. My nose didn’t run. my eyes didn’t water, no fever, my sinuses were not stuffy. It was just lung congestion.

A few days earlier I’d read a story about the American actor Michael Douglas. He has lung cancer. In the article he noted the symptom for his illness was a persistent cough. He is a life long smoker.

I smoked cigarettes for about two years when I was a teenager. My mind immediately thought the smoking may have planted the seeds of cancer in my lungs that began to grow today. I immediately thought I must have lung cancer.

The next night I hardly slept because of the coughing. I had to get up three times to walk around coughing to clear my lungs. I was absolutely convinced I had lung cancer.

My son is getting married in October. I hoped I’d be able to hold on to life until after the wedding.

I don’t trust Chinese medicine so I looked at booking a flight to America where I could get decent medical treatment.

Fortunately my cough was considerably better today. I guess it was just a Chinese cold, not lung cancer. But I’m still cautiously waiting for it to go away completely.

Mekong Girl

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One afternoon in Saigon I stopped for lunch at an out door café. A few minutes after I arrived a girl sat down at the table beside me. We chatted a bit.

It seems she had just ridden her motorbike from some shithole city in the Mekong Delta to Saigon. She was tired, dirty, hot, and quite attractive. She was pissed that she couldn’t check into her room for another 3-4 hours.

Always the gentleman, I said she could cool off and take a quick shower in my room. She accepted the offer.

My guest house was only 3 blocks away from where we were. We walked there in just a few minutes.

Once inside she stripped completely naked in front of me. I got 30-45 seconds of full frontal nudity as we spoke a few words before she entered the shower. She was completely uninhibited, and didn’t even try to cover herself with her hands. I assumed she came to Saigon to be a prostitute, but who knows?

In many ways Saigon is like a small town. Someone saw us walking together and reported it to my girlfriend, Thanh. Before Mekong Girl got out of the shower Thanh had entered the room.

I explained to Thanh that everything was innocent. I was being a good Samaritan. We weren’t in the shower together, blah, blah, blah. She accepted my story. We laid down on the bed sideways with our feet on the floor.

When Mekong Girl exited the shower she was wrapped in a towel. She laid down on the bed with us. She and Thanh began jabbering away in Vietnamese. They seemed to hit it off.

Thanh was on my right, Mekong Girl was on my left. I ran my hand up Mekong Girl’s leg under her towel and played with her pussy. She didn’t seem to mind, in fact she seemed to enjoy it.

The next thing I knew, Thanh had unbuttoned my shorts and was blowing me. I panicked.

I’d never been in a threesome before. Was I supposed to fuck both of them? Would there be girl on girl action? Who was to initiate what? Was there an established etiquette in such a situation?

These questions went unanswered. The electricity went off, a not uncommon event in Saigon. My room didn’t have a window so it was dark as a cave. Plus with no air conditioning the temperature seemed to rise to 35 almost immediately.

I opened the door so we could get some light from the emergency hallway lighting. We all got ourselves together and went to the street.

After that day I ran into Mekong Girl several times. Unfortunately she never needed a shower.

My Last Cigar, Ruined

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I’ve been hoarding my last cigar for the past three weeks or so, waiting for the perfect time and occasion to smoke it. I concluded the perfect time was not going to present itself, so decided to smoke it today.

I wrapped  it in plastic to protect it from perspiration, put it in my pocket and headed out. After spending two hours in the park, I bought my newspapers and went to a café with outdoor tables to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

I ordered a beer and a cold cucumber snack, spread out my papers, and unwrapped the cigar. When I fired it up it was just as good as I hoped. I took two or three satisfying puffs then laid it down in the ashtray.

A few minutes later I picked it and took another draw. It was terrible. The smoke had an extremely unpleasant acrid taste. WTF? What happened? What changed? I looked at the ashtray and noticed it had a large burned spot in its center where the ember laid.

Examining the ashtray I discovered it was made out of some sort of plastic or vinyl material. WTF again? Who ever heard of an ashtray being made of flammable material. Ashtrays should be made of glass, ceramic, metal, or anything else that stands up to heat.

Hoping to cleanse the contaminated part of the cigar, I knocked the ember off and relit it. Didn’t work. It still had the unpleasant, plastic taste. Thinking about things I decided to abandon the stogie because I was worried it might have absorbed harmful chemicals from the ashtray.

Are all Chinese ashtrays flammable? Does this explain why Chinese often pour tea in them? Anyway, I left the cigar burning in the ashtray and went home. I hope it caught on fire and burned the café down.

Maybe some of the mindless China bashers have a point.

My Darwin Award Nominee

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In the papers today was a story about a Zhejiang woman who killed herself in a car park. I would like to nominate this woman for a Darwin Award.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Darwins, it is an annual award given to the person who’s accidental self inflicted demise did the most to improve the human gene pool.

The woman, who remained nameless in the stories I read, was trying to back her car into a space in an underground car park. Her husband got out to help direct her. Somehow she crushed him to death between her car and a wall. Then she looked of the car door and crushed her own skull between the car and a wall. She died too.

The couple left two children behind, so I’m not sure that the woman’s death qualifies for a Darwin since they had procreated, spilling their clearly defective DNA into the human gene pool. Still, I’ll submit the story. Who knows?

The first Darwin I remember was awarded to a man who was rocking a soda machine after it failed to give him the drink he’d paid for. It tipped over on him, crushing him to death.

My favorite Darwin was awarded to a man who took his truck and dog onto an ice covered lake to go fishing. Instead of cutting a hole in the ice, this genius lit a stick of dynamite and threw it, hoping it would blow a hole in the ice where he could fish.

His dog, a retriever, ran after the dynamite, picked it up and headed back to his master. Then the man then shot the dog with his shotgun. The dog took shelter under the truck where the dynamite blew up, sending the dog and the truck to the bottom of the lake.

While the man didn’t end his own life, the Darwins made an exception and gave him a special runner-up award.

My Last Cigar

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I enjoy an occasional cigar. I usually smoke one or two a week. The best time to light up is early in the morning while it’s still dark and the air is cool. A cigar goes well with a hot cup of freshly made black coffee. Since cigars smell up the place I rarely smoke them indoors now. I usually go to the park or an outdoor café.

Over the years I’ve tried literally hundreds of different cigars. I’ve smoked $30. Cubans. I’ve smoked $0.02 Laotians that were grossly over priced. I’ve smoked everything in between.

At some point I discovered I enjoy a Punch brand Rothschild with Maduro filler and Maduro wrapper most of all. Since Cubans are illegal in America the Punch cigars sold there are made in Honduras.


In my opinion Cuban cigars are not as good as others made in the Caribbean. My theory is when Cuban cigars were banned in America, the best growers and makers moved from Cuba to places with similar climate and soil. Now they make the best cigars in the world.

Punch Rothschilds Maduro/Maduro are not expensive. That is another reason I like them.

I brought an unopened box with me when I returned to China a few months ago. Now they are gone except for one. I am debating when and where to enjoy it.

Living in China. Flowers for Woman’s Day

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March 8 is Woman’s Day in China. It is a day when women are honored. Typically men give women gifts on this day. This led to a small dilemma.

Are Flowers the perfect gift? Someone once told me they are because they have little value except as gifts. Meaning, for example, if you give your woman a pair of shoes she’s been wanting for Woman’s Day, you are actually killing two birds with one stone. You are relieving the pressure on yourself to buy the shoes in the future at the same time taking care of Woman’s Day. Flowers don’t do this. A gift of flowers is just a gift of flowers, nothing else.


I’m not sure if I agree. The shoes may be more appreciated than the useless flowers. And who says the best gifts shouldn’t have more than one purpose?

The question is far too profound for me to answer. So, right or wrong, I bought flowers instead of shoes for Chinese Woman’s Day.  I also bought her a small child.

Living in China. I Can’t Complain Too Much


I hear lots of complaints from foreigners about many aspects of life in China, and many of the complaints are justified. At the same time there are many pleasant things that happen most every day.

On my way home yesterday afternoon I stopped for a cold beer to drink as I read the newspapers. Before the waitress brought my beer, she sat a small plate of peanuts on the table, along with a partial pack of tissues I could use to wipe the sweat from my face.

A few minutes later the owner brought me two rice cakes. Then the waitress offered a few dried candied fruits. Finally the someone else laid a few pieces of wrapped candy on the table.


This kind of thing never happens in the states, but it is not rare here. Admittedly, the small favors and gestures usually are not as generous as this day. But is fairly common to be offered a few peanuts or a small discount from a bill, or other small favors in China.

On my way home I stepped in a pile of baby shit on the sidewalk. I’m happy trade the niceties I experienced today for a dirty shoe.

Living in China. What I Saw Today

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I’m a people watcher. I find watching people doing ordinary things endlessly fascinating. Here are a few things I saw today

A woman walked toward me. She was wearing unusually patterned stockings. When she got closer I could tell she was actually wearing two pairs of stockings. One was torn, ripped, and was full of runs. She had a good pair on over the ragged pair, and the tears and holes were visible. Is this a new fashion trend?

I saw 8 people get out of a Nissan Tiida. It’s a very small car, built to hold 5 people at the most.

There were two girls making fresh orange juice. I bought a bottle for 8 RMB (under $1.50 USD). It was great, so I bought three more to take home.


Many unusual styles of dress and pattern matching. The women like very unusual shoes in many types and styles.

I noticed a woman being dragged down the sidewalk on her boyfriend’s arm as he was walking too quickly for her. She seemed happy.

I stopped in a café. A man sat at the table next to me. He ordered a tremendous amount of food, ate a little, and asked the rest be boxed so he could take it away. When he tried to pay, the owner of the café wouldn’t let him. Who was he?

There was a loud argument between a man and woman as they walked down the sidewalk.

Many people carried large bags or boxes. What do they contain?

I saw a man with the longest neck in Shenzhen.


A woman was sitting and knitting in the park. I don’t remember seeing anyone knit before today.

I noticed very old people and very young people often stared at me. Most would smile or wave if I did so first.

A woman walked by with bouncing boobs. This is very unusual in China as most women keep them heavily cinched in canvas-like bras with 8 steel hooks in the back.

A very cute YCG (young Chinese girl) walked by. She had a giant red berry growing out of her forehead. Why didn’t she have it removed?

I noticed restaurants trading food to each other’s customers. Why?

A man carried a small furry animal in a cage. I couldn’t see that it was. Maybe it was a pet. Maybe dinner.

A small child was in the park. He had a long rat tail in the back of his head. It was several inches off center to his right.

I realize most of this stuff is trivial and uninteresting to most people, but people watching gives me more or less unlimited pleasure. I don’t know why.

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