After eating in dozens of restaurants in countries where tipping is the norm, one figures out a pattern: Waiters, if one ever bothers to look at their expressions after receiving tips, are often never happy about the amount of tips received. It does not matter if one tips 12%, 15%, 18%, or 20%, the expressions are often completely blank or laced with a slight frown, indicating that the amount could have been more. They obviously cannot show negative attitudes outright, but the underlying unhappiness is all too clear.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Monday, August 14, 2017
at 1:08 PM
The continuing protests in Charlottesville, where two groups of opposing protesters slug it out over issues on race, should concern all minorities in America on exactly what their places are in America. If sometimes violent protests by white supremacists become political norms backed by supposed freedoms of assembly and political expression, minorities in the country will face more and more legitimate political opposition from such fringe groups when fighting for equal rights. There is no doubt that political rights of white extremist groups must be restricted in order to secure peace among minorities in the country.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
at 10:17 AM
We all have those moments. Sometimes we show up in a social gathering with supposedly close friends to talk about major events in their lives, yet as the conversations go on, one just finds oneself drifting away, aloof, staring into the space. It is not that the conversations are boring. In fact, they might be humorous, full of exciting details, drawing interest of everyone else involved in the conversations. But even as everyone else laughs and ask follow-up questions, one cannot do much beyond weakly laugh along without understanding the context, just to be polite.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Many backpackers travel alone, not because they have no friends or inherent distaste of other people, but they find solo travel to be much more carefree than if the travel had conducted with others. Traveling by oneself means there is no need to consult others when making decisions on where to go, what to do, where to eat, and where to stay. The travel plan can be executed so much quicker, and changes in the itinerary can be made much more flexibly. The freedom of traveling independently comes from the fact that there is no restriction of others having different opinions, who needs to be persuaded otherwise.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
at 10:56 AM
In the recent years, business news outlets and analyses websites have been keen to present the rapidly increases Chinese debt pile as one of the biggest risks facing the global economy today. The numbers are certainly scary. The debt levels, less than 80% of the GDP less than a decade ago, recently surpassed 300% on official estimates. The numbers would be much higher if grassroots level "shadow banking" of informal community loans are accounted for. Given the size of the Chinese economy, the amount China owes as a collective is definitely not a small number.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
at 12:03 PM
In the previous post, this blog argued that nationalism, in the form of openly supporting people from a particular nation at the expense of often negatively stereotyped foreigners can be a huge obstacle for true globalization where people can freely move, work, and live across national borders. Unfortunately, the fact remains that most people (never mind state governments), educated in a context of patriotism, cannot simply become open to the idea of rendering nationality as irrelevant in order to achieve freedom of movement. The concept of nation, and the state-level polity, associated with it, remains far too strong today to alter.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
at 12:54 PM
One of the staples of Hollywood blockbusters is disaster movies. In these high-expense, high-action,-high-computer graphics films, disasters strike our planet, in the form of natural disaster, alien invasion, or unstoppable epidemics, leading to global humanitarian crises of scales unimaginable to modern human society. In most of these films, Hollywood unequivocally uses US assets, whether it be the military, political leadership, or individual heroism, to defend the planet from the disaster, ultimately achieving victory for the world (and for America) after great sacrifices and prudent actions.
Monday, August 7, 2017
at 10:36 AM
In previous posts, this blog has noted how mutual ignorance has continued to plague the relationship between China and India, the past and future superpowers of Asia (and the world), and how the ignorance ensure that bilateral relationships, especially at the grassroots level, remain highly underdeveloped and susceptible to mutual suspicions. Unfortunately, the recent (re-)flaring up of the Doklam border issue has only further entrenched the mutual suspicions, threatening to take the relationship a step back and wipe out positive results from nascent efforts at cooperation through the BRICS framework.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
at 5:00 PM
Whether democracy is universally applicable is perhaps the political, ethical, and philosophical question of the past decades. From the confidence of democracy as the logical "end of human history" in the immediate aftermath of Soviet collapse, to the failure of newly installed democratic structures to bring prosperity and peace to post-dictatorship Iraq and Afghanistan, democracy has only divided opinions in its implementation despite the fact that no credible alternative has emerged in the recent years to challenge its moral authority in the eyes of liberal internationalists.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
at 3:16 PM
For those who know, I am a freelance translator who translates all sorts of different things in Japanese and Chinese into English. However, I rarely translate in reverse, from English to the two Asian languages. As someone educated almost entirely in English, I have much more confidence in writing in English than I am of Chinese or Japanese. And in the past week, I again had to put that confidence up to the test, by first working on an assignment translating a research report in English into Chinese, followed by a school guide in Chinese into English.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
at 5:14 PM
From his candidate days, Donald Trump promised to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US and save the Midwest Rust Belt. For that Trump, the past few days finally brought a major victory that he can publicize. Foxconn, the manufacturing contractor for Apple (and main other electronics brands) announced the biggest single investment by a foreign company ever in the US, launching a manufacturing facility in Wisconsin that will bring tens of thousands of jobs to the middle of that Rust Belt. Major news outlets did not shy away from putting on their front pages pictures of smiling Trump next to Foxconn boss Terry Gou.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
at 2:02 PM
For anyone who spends significant time in China, getting a working VPN is almost part of the common routine. With the authorities blocking many foreign websites that foreigners love and have came to rely on, VPN is a necessity for many to go about their daily business on the Chinese Internet. For these people, the recent news that Apple China has decided to pull all VPNs from its China App Store, no doubt due to government pressures, should be a sign of worry. Making VPNs less accessible to the general public should foretell a further tightening of Internet censorship in a country that is already known for it.
Monday, July 31, 2017
at 10:28 AM
In my nearly one month of travels across South America, there was one thing that was commonly done in every country and city that I set foot in. That is, the bars and restaurants repeatedly played this summer's (or in South America, this winter's) smash hit, Despacito. While the Spanish-language reggaeton dance number is just as popular in the US and many other countries around the world, in South America, the craze is at a whole new level, with the song played as part of the pop music hit list so frequently that it is impossible to not go anywhere that plays music without hearing it at least once (if not more).
Sunday, July 30, 2017
at 10:58 AM
In the past years, reality shows have become a staple of Chinese television. In particular, owing to the popularity of karaoke and pop music, American Idol-style programs that seek to discover untapped musical talents in the general populace have become extremely popular and widespread. Different TV stations and independent media websites have invested and competed to host the biggest, most professional, and most lavishly set "talent search," drawing some of the biggest popstars of Chinese musical industry today to help discover some of the best raw talent hidden in plain sight.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
at 2:11 PM
Not a month goes by now without news about the latest progress in North Korean development of weaponry that can pose realistic threats on the US and other countries. Whether it be missile testing, nuclear weapons testing, or a combination of both, Kim Jong-un has made sure that the world has not forgotten about him and his growing ability to strike the mortal American enemies with weapons of mass destruction. All previous efforts to reverse the developments, whether they are economic sanctions or diplomatic talks, have largely come to nothing.
Friday, July 28, 2017
Why Decoupling Asian and Asian-American Issues are Disadvantageous for Social Standing of Asian-Americans
at 11:16 AM
There are plenty of groups in America that fights for rights and recognition of ethnic issues in this country. They admirably devote great energy in ensuring that the general non-Asian public in America become more aware of the unjust treatments individual Asians and the Asian community as a whole receive in this country. By publicizing issues such as United Airlines' ill-treatment of Dr David Dao, these groups have slowly and gradually changed the misconception among non-Asians (especially whites) in this country that Asians tend to face less racism problems than other peoples of color.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
at 1:36 PM
What is the longest downtime a traveler can have? For many, the answer would be zero. Being in a new place, new environment, and potentially new people, there would be little in terms of boredom. Always something new to see and experience, the traveler should never be bored while being in new and exciting destinations that the traveler him/herself chose in the first place. Unfortunately, such is but empty speculation from people who rarely travel. The reality is that traveling, more often than not, involve much waiting and sitting around than the traveler would experience back home.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
at 12:49 PM
Traveling across multiple countries, it often makes very little sense to purchase Sim cards in every destination. Without it, one's smartphone would not be able to take advantage of mobile Internet networks available to local carriers, instead strictly relying on whatever wifi networks that can be obtained for free and for a fee in public and private institutions. The constant search and usage of these wifi networks are a unique sight and experience in travel nowadays.
Monday, July 24, 2017
at 10:47 AM
It is difficult to generalize a whole continent, and that is especially true for one as big as South America. From the north tropics of Cartagena to the Antarctic extremities of Patagonia, the varying climates of the landmass is only superseded in variety by the existence of many biomes, from the frigid high altitudes of the Andes, to the palmy Caribbean coasts, to the humid Amazon, to the Mediterranean weathers of Chilean and Argentine wine producing regions.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
at 4:43 PM
There is a weird phenomenon at the hostel that I am currently staying in. Many of the guests are long-term residents. And by "long-term," I mean not weeks or months, but years after years. Some of the residents are foreign students at local universities doing their proper college degrees. And they tell me that for some reason, it is cheaper for them to stay in a hostel, even with their inflated daily rates, than it would be to find a shared apartment in a decent part of Buenos Aires.
Friday, July 21, 2017
at 8:26 AM
A few days ago, Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo passed away in China, after lack of in-game treatment for cancer that developed unchecked during years of house arrest. The fact that Liu was gravely ill was not unannounced by the CCP (and thus not known to the international community) until treatment would have been too late. In supposedly compromising moves at the last minute, the CCP invited foreign doctors to go to China to help with treatment of Liu, an act that was seen as more symbolic than practical.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
at 4:01 PM
Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. I have been spending the last two and a half hours waiting for the bus heading across the border to Argentina. The customers waiting at the bus stand are getting rumpled by the minute, as buses bound for other destinations pass through one by one. Finally, the right bus arrives, but the customers are not relieved. The bus opens, and the long luxury bus is crammed full to the aisles with passengers that the bus probably spent way too much time collecting elsewhere.
Monday, July 17, 2017
at 9:09 AM
Before I embarked on this long trip through South America, I had the fortune to be approved for a traveler's credit card that charges no foreign transaction fee anywhere in the world. Considering that foreign banks generally charge administrative fees for ATM usage, this traveler's credit card has now become by far the cheapest way for me to access money. Hence, more than anytime I have in the past, I have been swiping credit card anywhere that the option is available.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
at 1:06 PM
If there is anything that surprised me about Chilean culture, it is the sheer openness with which locals show romantic affection to one another in public places. In subway cars, shops, plazas, and especially bus/train stations, couples casually French kiss, with not a care in the world that there are hundreds of people around that are baring witnessed to their romantic displays. They just pick a spot, hold hands, face each other, and start making out, loudly and at length.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
at 6:23 PM
Valparaiso, Chile is known unofficially as the mural capital of Chile. Pieces of art spray painted on walls grace every other building in the colorful hills hugging the Pacific Ocean. Tourists trek through the hills looking for the most beautiful pieces, snapping pictures on literally every other street in the city's hilly neighborhoods. Along with the architecture and the natural settings, the murals contributed to Valparaiso being granted UNESCO heritage status.
Friday, July 14, 2017
at 12:39 PM
A few months ago, the Singaporean newspaper Straits Times did a great piece on what is called "beg-packing," a phenomenon whereby foreign tourists, often whites from developed countries, finance their backpacking trips across Southeast Asia by selling knickknacks like postcards or performance arts on the streets of their travel destinations. Sitting on the street sides, these tourists get handouts from local people drawn by curiosity of foreigners practically begging on the streets.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
at 6:26 PM
Going on tours, I always have a dilemma. Does the tour guide expect a tip, or is the tip included in the service? Does the guide earn a living from tips, or is it culturally taboo to give tip (yes, in many Asian countries, tipping can be considered an insult). For a person new to a foreign country, the answer is not a simple one, often requiring careful observation to see how others behave so that one can follow suit accordingly. But when everyone is looking at others for guidance on the topic, the dilemma becomes a collective one.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
at 5:16 PM
Uyuni, Bolivia is really in the middle of nowhere. Surrounding the town is endless expense of deserts, themselves hemmed to one side by towering mountains that separates the area from the mountainous bulk of the country. From the window of the bus that comes down from the mountains, the town looks like a mirage, a clump of civilization surrounded by inhabitable nature. Indeed, the town abruptly ends at deserts, overlooking into complete nothingness.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
at 6:19 PM
Walking down the streets of major cities in Bolivia, one would come across an interesting phenomenon, almost all of the minibuses that serve as the main form of public transport for the local populace is decorated in the front and the sides with a series of Chinese characters, printed on in order but making completely no sense. These characters add a sense of the exotic to otherwise bland one-color exterior of the busses. Occasionally, the same is observed for trucks that carry products within the towns or across the country.
Monday, July 10, 2017
at 9:57 AM
Look at any major tourist site in the world today, there is bound to be an adjacent area with hundreds of shops serving the needs of hundreds of thousands of travelers coming through every year. They do a roaring business. People need to eat, sleep, be entertained, and have their laundry done. And away from home and unfamiliar with the local prices, the tourists are willing to pay much higher prices than the local residents for services and products, some of them so basic as to not cost that much to provide.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
at 3:24 PM
Looking various tourist sites around the Incan capital city of Cuzco, it is rather obvious that the local inhabitants take their Incan heritage very seriously. From the grand citadel at Machu Picchu to the various museums lining the capital city's main streets, the locals have tirelessly presented an image of solidarity with the Incan tradition. The rainbow color flag of the Inca still fly the streets along with the Peruvian national flag, and major streets still retain their names in Quechua, the language of the Inca.
Saturday, July 8, 2017
at 11:31 AM
If there is one thing that world travelers tend to get used to quite quickly, it is the idea of not understanding anything in the destinations that they end up in. No matter how many languages one learn over the course of one's lifetime, the number of unique languages spoken in different parts of the world is simply too many for one person to speak even the very basics of, not mention really master. There always need to be some way to communicate with locals that does not involve actually learning the local language.
Thursday, July 6, 2017
at 2:16 PM
The main square of the Cartagena old Town is beautifully lit up at night. Against the background of illuminated clock towers, colonial buildings, and the defensive walls, restaurants, bars, and night clubs throng with revelers from around the world, taking in the beauty of the 16th century architecture over a cold beer or two. Some walk around the neighborhood, seemingly traveling to the past when the city was the thriving main port of the mighty Spanish Empire in the America's.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
at 11:38 AM
With increase in global connectivity and the importance of international trade, a new kind of trade pattern is emerging. Small traders, towing no more than a couple of suitcases each, cross international borders in search of merchandise they can potentially sell back home. They purchase the merchandise in (rather small) bulk in foreign markets, throw them into their suitcases. Once back at home, they throw open their suitcases and sell the contents at a margin. The profits on the foreign merchandise finance their next trips, which hopefully would involve more scale and more valuable products over time.
Monday, July 3, 2017
at 9:34 AM
Now as it had ever been, there are many advertisements of get-rich-quick schemes, on TV, on shady websites, and as inline ads for social media. Along with the texts claiming Mr. xxx had made $yyy in the course of just few years, many of these unbelievable figures also add in that the new wealth allowed Mr. xxx to retire in his 30s or 40s. Without saying so explicitly, the ads assume that logically, what someone who earned a massive quantity would do is to immediately retire, so that s/he does not have to slave for some heartless employer or work hard for him/herself anymore.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
at 1:11 PM
As North Korea steps up nuclear testing in the recent years, the fears of nuclear materials proliferating beyond the control of state-level actors have reemerged. Not since the mid-2000s, when al-Qaeda sought to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan (primarily via its nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan) has the worry of nuclear proliferation been so realistic, probable, and risky. The situation in North Korea calls for redoubled efforts to ensure that all the incentives align to prevent spread of nuclear materials.
Saturday, July 1, 2017
Recently, there has been talks of a new way of dealing with growing problems of air pollution caused by emissions of carbon-based pollutants into the atmosphere. The idea is to install large numbers of large air purifying devices that filter large quantity of air in the surrounding area, removing the carbons in the air that the devices then proceed to pump back into the atmosphere. Optimists speak of such devices benefiting not only as a scalable mechanisms to rid air of toxic elements, but also as a way to manufacture man-made diamonds with the captured carbons.
Friday, June 30, 2017
at 11:56 AM
In the novel Beloved, Toni Morrison follows the life experience of several freed slaves before and after the Civil War, as they struggle with the harshness of present economic realities and continued discrimination against blacks, while they seek out family and friends from the days as slaves. The novel transcends different time periods and voices of different characters, creating a highly diverse portrait of how individual African-Americans and the black society as a whole cope with constant and permanent coming and going of people due to slave sales and botched/successful attempts at escapes from southern plantations.
Thursday, June 29, 2017
at 11:05 AM
In a recent podcast for the Odd Podcast, Vanderbilt University anthropologist Prof. Arthur Demarest discussed the signs of a civilization on the verge collapse. Prof. Demarest postulates a unique point of view, arguing that a civilization is at its very vulnerable at its supposed zenith, when its political, economic, and cultural achievements are at their highest, and the territorial extent at the greatest. Instead of the civilization showing gradual decline with reduced wealth and territory over centuries, civilizations are much more likely to collapse decades after achieving the zenith.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
at 2:17 PM
The UN can become prominent only when it is willing to step above national interests. To do so, it must aggressively push for compromises that align with interests of all sides in any particular conflict. Only with such initiative-taking can the UN not succumb to one-sidedness when conveying international legitimacy. In other words, its task is not to offer moral high ground to any particular side, but to establish objective forums to discuss how conflicts can be halted in a positive-sum fashion.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
at 11:30 AM
The recent years have seen renewed prospects of regional violence. Just in Africa, internal repression of Eritrea, disorder in Burundi, and tense standoff between Muslim and Christians in Central African Republic, to name a few, continue to disrupt the normal livelihoods of millions. One point of commonality among these conflicts has been an acute lack of international intervention to prevent escalation. The lack of international interest has been most visible in these conflicts’ lack of appearance in global headlines, where international conflicts of choice have largely been those in the Middle East.
Monday, June 26, 2017
at 11:00 AM
In the novel Blindness, Portuguese author Jose Saramago describes a world where a sudden epidemic of unexplainable blindness that struck an entire population led to sudden collapse of human civilization. Amidst the disorder of a post-apocalyptic world where everyone is reduced to blind savages only concerned about procuring enough food for survival, the lone woman who can still see witnesses how quickly human morals can fall apart, just as quickly as physical infrastructures and institutions. Yet, the stories of camaraderie among strangers in distress also speak to the power of human bonds in collectively overcoming difficulties.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
at 1:59 PM
There are certain areas of San Diego one can go to feel completely Asian. Beside the palm tree-lined boulevards, Asian supermarkets, restaurants, and living goods stores completely fill malls and shopping centers, with only the ubiquitous American fast-food chains (which are also ubiquitous in major Asian cities these days) the only non-Asian physical presence. Signs in Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean predominate, with English signs in much smaller fonts as translations for the Asian language signs. Asian cars carrying Asian families stream in and out of the parking lots.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
at 1:47 PM
If there is anything positive about living in rural Tanzania, it is the low price and availability of medicine. Even in the most remote village, there tends to be one pharmacy that sells everything from Band-Aids to tablets that treats malaria. With many generics that cost no more than a few USD for something that would cost many times more elsewhere, it makes sense for price-conscious foreigners to purchase medicines in rural Africa rather than in their home countries. What if one falls ill? In market towns across the country, district- and regional-level hospitals exist to provide basic treatments.
Friday, June 23, 2017
English Use in Foreign Setting Revisited: Is Forceful Use of a Foreign Language Leading to Cultural Conflict?
One of the most difficult things about working in a foreign setting is the need to communicate with locals in the local language. Many people are not talented in the art of learning new languages, and many locals have not had experience having to slow down their usual ways of talking to accommodate nonnative speakers of their local language. The result is frustration on both sides. For the learner, it is a daunting experience of facing an unknown tongue spoken with plenty of ridiculous speed and incomprehensive slangs.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
at 9:46 AM
As noted in a previous blog post, one of the most admirable feature of American society is its charitability. Not only is there ingrained culture of charitable giving among a significant portion of the local populace, there are physical institutions, ranging from tax reductions on donations to multiple large nationwide organizations that take in donations, that allow people to act upon their charitability in highly convenient fashion. The result is a highly efficient and productive charity sector. On global rankings for charitability as measured by percent income donated, America consistently rank at the top of the table.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Comparative History of Human Development Can Provide New Clues for Explorations of Extraterrestrial Life
In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Prof. Jared Diamond argues that the different levels of development among modern human societies, in terms of institutions, wealth, and technology, are ultimately due to different environmental conditions faced by their historical predecessors. The availability of wild plants/animals for domestication and fertile climates/soil for food production enabled some societies, more than others, to adopt agriculture, explode in overall population, and create non-food producing specialists that enable innovations and complex society-building.
Monday, June 19, 2017
at 12:35 PM
The year 2000 started well. I was an ecstatic little boy graduating from elementary school in provincial Japan. Finally, I was joining the “big boys” at the middle school across the street, donning the cool uniforms that I observed in pure envy for the past six years. Change was afoot, and I was so ready to embrace it. Instead, the change was much more radical than I had ever imagined. Instead of moving across the street, father came home one day and notified that our whole family is moving to the USA, thousands of miles away.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
at 12:44 PM
In the previous blog post, I discussed the potential correlation between economic development and presence of nationalism at a state (rather than tribal) level. But of course, to incentivize economic development requires a whole host of different factors, the presence of many at the same time in equal importance, rather than any particular dominant one, allow for an economy to take off. I have no illusion that nationalism is the most important factor, and for many poor countries where nationalism is a fact of life, its presence is not even the obstacle holding back development.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
at 1:15 PM
Some months ago, this blog argued that a distinct lack of optimism among Africans is a root cause for governments not putting in the effort to develop their respective countries. However, in the process, that post never clearly defined exactly what is the root cause of that lack of optimism, aside from making vague statements about historical circumstances that both the African peoples and leaders not emotionally tied to their particular countries, thereby precluding any conscious efforts for development in the long-term. This post seeks to make clear what that "historical circumstance" really is.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
I write after two years in the depth of rural Tanzania, where I have worked for an NGO. Our clients, a group of farmers scattered across a series of remote villages, struggles to make ends meet as changing rain patterns and dearth of high-quality fertilizers keep their farms unproductive. It was a tough two years working to reverse these struggles. Idealism turned into cynicism, hope into disillusionment. For failures, I found myself becoming too quick to blame others, whether it be government absence, unmotivated staff, or refusal for organizations, including ours, to prioritize projects that are realistically feasible rather than glamorous for publicity.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
at 3:14 PM
What is the most visual sign of an intellectual? For many people, the answer may be an obvious one. The person must be well-read. And what better proof is there of a person being well-read than having a study full of bookshelves, completely filled up with good books? It is unsurprising than, whenever the average media outlet go conduct a face-to-face interview with scholars, professors, and experts, they are often conducted in their offices, flanked by bookshelves full of books related to the topics at hand and the person's field of expertise. Having many books has become equated with knowledge.
Monday, June 12, 2017
at 11:08 AM
There is no doubt that that rural Africa is not a desirable destination for food-lovers. This blog has reiterated that fact repeatedly in previous blog posts. So, logically speaking, someone who loves food but have not had the chance to enjoy many different kinds of it should make every effort to enjoy that great variety after leaving rural Africa. Without going to excess, the person should be finding the most delicious spots around town, so that s/he can make up lost times of eating rice and beans everyday in rural Africa. And the person would absolutely enjoy that exercise.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
at 11:15 AM
Surfing the Internet around the world is often an exercise in homogeneity. With the exception of China and a few other countries restricting Internet access to certain sites, every country in the world popularizes the same website and Internet services. Facebook is used by people around the world in dozens of different languages to connect with friends, while Google and Wikipedia are nearly unanimous as the first sources of knowledge. On the mobile phone, the likes of Uber and Tinder have provided people in all countries with similar services, despite different on-the-ground conditions.
Friday, June 9, 2017
Today’s students ought to be anxious. As technology develops, many cushy jobs are in the process of disappearing and being replaced by robots and computer algorithms. Government policies, from increased tariffs to fickle visa regimes, make employment in an increasingly interconnected world volatile and unpredictable. To counter these constant changes in the overall economic environment, Educational institutions need to restructure their curriculums and mindset to help students develop a diverse set of knowledge base. Only with varied set of skills will students, upon graduation, be able to weather changing employment patterns as well as rise and fall of particular industries.
Thursday, June 8, 2017
at 2:57 PM
It has been some six ears since I was last at my parents' house in San Diego. And it has been more than ten since I properly lived in it as a high school student. Returning the place where I studied, slept, and waited for news of being able to finally leave for school somewhere else, I noticed, before everything else, just how little the place has changed over the last decade. The same books I read then, the same furniture that I sat on, and the same decorations that I stared at still grace the house, with all of them in exactly the same places that I would have found them a decade ago.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
at 2:03 PM
For first time in perhaps months, I sat down to read a newspaper. For all its conservative leanings, the local paper in San Diego tries its best to look well-balanced, providing views from across the political spectrum on its op-ed pages. Big bold titles with completely diverging opinions line side by side on the same page, giving the audience scanning through the content an ability to look at every view possible at one-go. Even if a certain reader does not have any particular affinity toward a particular piece, s/he is bound to look at it somewhat simply because it sits next to another piece that s/he would agree with.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
at 11:22 AM
"The guy was not doing so well, so we had to let him go..." casually quips the converser when speaking about the recent going-ons at work. Back here in California, firing incompetent people is an everyday phenomenon that one simply lives, so much so that no one assumes that s/he would not be targeted by managers when periods of low performance and intra-office conflicts persist. Even when one performs well, structural changes or financial problems at one's workplace is enough of a reason to fire people, and people, while angry or anxious, simply get on with their lives afterwards.
Saturday, June 3, 2017
at 1:22 PM
It is the author's first time in San Francisco airport (SFO) in perhaps 8 or 9 years. The airport seems have gotten much cleaner, brighter, and bigger than before. But amid the positive first impressions of the place, one other visual cue that stood out, maybe a bit too much, was just how many Asian people can be found in the airport. The majority of people at the airport was Asian, from guys assisting passengers at the luggage scanning machines, the people guiding people around airports, to, of course, passengers themselves. Even immigration staff, generally pretty multiracial, tends to be heavily Asian at SFO.
Friday, May 26, 2017
Why is There So Little Serious Discussions of Africa's Economic Falling Behind among Expats on the Ground?
at 4:31 AM
This blog has not been kind to rural Tanzania or Africa in general. From criticizing the people's flippant attitude toward money to oddities of everyday life, it has made no effort to conceal that fact that it has portrayed the locations where the author has resided and traveled to in an overwhelmingly negative light. In the process, much doubt is cast on the future of the continent, much in contrary to the more and more common thesis of "Africa Rising" narrative that is growing prominent in some quarters of popular media and academic world.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
at 7:17 AM
In one day, there was two polar opposite news coming out of Asia on the issue of gay marriage. One is the de facto legalization of same-sex marriages in Taiwan's highest court, making the island the first place in Asia to expliciting state that homosexual marriages are as legal as the heterosexual kind. The other is the public caning of a man caught for gay sex in conservative Aceh province in Indonesia. The young man is humiliated in front of thousands of spectators, and Western media outlets and general public wasted no time criticizing the act as immoral and barbaric, much to the chagrin of the Islamic local population.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
at 7:03 AM
For those interested in the world of investing, the growth in value of BitCoin in the past months and years have truly been exciting. The virtual currency is not only become well-known through its meteoric growth, but is gradually becoming accepted as a form of payment across multiple businesses in multiple countries. With increase in confidence that virtual currencies are now being treated much more than just an investment vehicle (like gold,silver, and other rare precious commodities) but a real currency with real transactional value in everyday life, the number of people holding cryptocurrency like BitCoin is bound to increase.
Friday, May 19, 2017
at 10:19 AM
A few months ago at the G20 Summit held in Hangzhou, China, Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, gave an interview to China Central Television on the Summit's sidelines. One of the key topic of the interview was the recent economic troubles faced by South Africa, especially pertaining to the financial downgrading associated with the recent sacking of the reputable finance minister Pravin Gordhan. The interviewer questioned Zuma on how the lack of confidence international markets and rating agencies toward South Africa will impact the South African economy in the coming months.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
at 9:33 PM
China, today as it has nearly always been, is a land of food. People are willing and will spend excessive ants of money on good food, and tend to seek out the next best restaurant that is coming up. Tens of thousands of restaurateurs battle it out in a city of millions, where good food is rewarded with constant line of patrons willing to wait for hours and days for a taste, while mediocre ones close down in matter of months as they can no longer afford to pay high rents in a expensive real estate market like Shanghai. The sheer competitiveness of the market means that only the most delicious will survive.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
at 5:15 AM
Turn to any non-entertainment TV programs in China these days, and most inevitably touch on a common theme: that of the “One Belt One Road” initiative. Endless interviews with experts and common people across countries that will benefit from the initiative, coupled with news stories and detailed analyses of the latest projects coming online, give a strong indication that the government, and the government-owned media sources, wants the initiative to be the defining economic and political movement of the country and the wider region in the next decades.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
at 10:25 PM
This author grew up around the world. From taking his first trip outside the country when he was age five, he has rarely stayed in any place for more than a few years before moving to the next location with his family. Courtesy of such experiences, he never had the opportunity to meet many of his distant relatives, many of whom are still in China, nor had he the chance to step into his ancestral hometown. One reason among many that pushed him to attend the wedding of his cousin (who he has also not met more than once every half a decade or so) is so that he can at least say hi to these relatives he has only heard about but never met.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
at 5:57 AM
Life is about experience, and that experience can come in many different ways, in work, in recreation, and in entertainment. Sometimes, the boundaries of those three things blur, giving new realizations of how one perceives work, of entertainment, and of what is the difference between "work" and "life." A paid translation project that the author completed in the last few days is a perfect illustration of this blurring. Required to submit English subtitles for Japanese adult videos, he was quite surprised, in a brand-new way, of just how porn, work psychology, and a bit more subtly, how human desire and work ethic works.
Below are some of the main lessons learned from this little paid exercise:
Below are some of the main lessons learned from this little paid exercise:
Sunday, April 30, 2017
at 11:33 PM
As even the least developed corner of the globe undergoes continual shift of populations off farms and rural villages into the embrace of concrete jungles of urban society, the influence of cities on the overall outlook of the society and its future trajectory is becoming more and more significant. However, to say that major cities are the primary indicator of a society’s characteristic would exaggerate the role that such cities may play in the overall economic and cultural development of the society in question. Instead, the primary focus should be on small towns and rural villages, where the poorest of the poor continue to reside.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
at 5:43 AM
In the capitalist societies of today, often winners in the race to the top, of wealth, prestige, and power, is determined by constant competition for limited resources among all capable actors. Many have been taken aback by the ruthlessness of such constant competition, arguing that the hostility of the competitions bring out the worst in our leaders, prioritizing success over ethics and goods human relations. However, examples can demonstrate that for the youth to become good leaders, competition is still necessary for honing their necessary skills, including the very ability to seek cooperation in order to achieve certain goals.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
at 11:07 AM
This blog discusses rains quite a lot, and perhaps that is unsurprising given how central rain patterns are to the agriculture-centered local economy. Indeed, when in villages, one of the most common topics of conversations is whether or not rains have come, when did it come, how long it was, and how strong was the downpour. In a place where motorcycles are the chief mode of transport, the coming and going of rains is not just important to gauge the success of crops, but when and how long trips to the next village or market town can be.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
at 9:30 AM
A hundred days into Donald Trump's presidency, it is almost comical to see how his foreign policy has deviated from what people thought it would be when he was first elected. People thought was going to make amends with Putin, only to see him profess that Russo-American relations has "reached an all-time low." They thought he would pressure hard on China for unfair trade practices, only to see him profess his "good friendship" with Xi while refusing to label the country a currency manipulator. They thought he would take America out of foreign entanglements, only to see military presence increased in Syria and Korea.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
at 12:45 AM
The incident involving police brutality against Dr David Dao, an Vietnamese-American passenger in the United Airlines flight in Chicago has sparked widespread outrage among the general public in the US. The Asian-American community has especially been up in arms about the fact that the passenger in question may have been selected and roughed off because he is of Asian descent. Media outlets both in the US and across the world has been quick to cover the story, with several videos emerging out of the incident to evidence the level of what is perceived as unnecessary force by the police throughout the incident.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
at 4:00 AM
A few months ago, there was a good article written on the prevalence of chabuduo (roughly translated as “close enough”) mentality in China. A mentality widespread among the nation’s craftsman, it is responsible for countless examples of shoddy manufactures that together plague the reputation for “Made in China” both at home and abroad. The article argues that the persistence of the chabuduo mentality, so ingrained in modern-day Chinese economy but largely absent historically in its ancient civilization, presents itself as a massive obstacle for the country to move up the value chain.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
at 6:53 AM
In economics, there is a type of product called "Veblen good" that does not contradicts the normal supply-and-demand relationships. For a normal good, a decrease in supply corresponds to an increase in price, leading to a corresponding drop in demand as consumers reduce consumption and/or seek out cheaper substitutes for the now more expensive product. But for a Veblen good, while decrease in supply also leads to a price increase, demand actually surges, with consumers assigning higher value to the good due to the higher price of the good.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
at 4:29 AM
The author has been living in the town of Iringa for so long that, not entirely deliberately, he has become a frequent customer in many of the town's local eateries. Given that it is rather unusual to see Chinese people hanging out in local eateries to begin with, he has become a largely recognizable face among the staff of these eateries. And as a recognizable face, he is often treated with smiles, handshakes, and quite a bit of eagerness with it comes to being informed of what are on the menu and recommended for the day. For the longest time, the author simply thought such behaviors are just the norms of how staff in food places talk.
Friday, March 17, 2017
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
at 3:28 AM
A few years back, the author was traveling through the city of Hamburg in northern Germany during his vacation days as a Master's student. Perhaps one of the most shocking (at least to the author) was how the subway trains crisscrossing the city did not have actual entrance gates in most stations. Instead of a series of gates where commuters had to stick their train tickets into before emerging on the other side so that they can proceed to the train platforms, the Hamburg metro simply had ticket machines inside the trains to validate tickets, while the stations themselves simply connected to the outside without restraint on entry or exit.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
at 9:55 AM
About a year ago, the author wrote about how few people here in Iringa carry umbrellas and do not mind being in the rain. It was just another when the author was taking a motorcycle taxi across town when the rains started to fall heavily. The author did have an umbrella in his hand, but the motorcycle was going way too fast for it to be opened. Even as the drizzles turned into downpours, the author did not even attempt to get the motorcycle driver to slow down or stop. As his clothes grew wetter from the rains, he realized that he stopped minding being in the rains...in a way more Tanzanian, maybe.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
at 12:59 AM
What does being "American" mean? When hearing the word, one can usually conjure the pictures of loud being with distinctive accents proudly talking about the wealth and power of their home country, the global ubiquitous pop culture, and voicing their worries at the current political directions. Inevitably (and often quite obviously), these same people will have citizenship of the USA. Without the need to elaborate, the fact that they have the citizenship of the USA makes them America, and entitle them to speak of the country's culture, politics, and wealth in a matter-of-fact, this-is-my-business manner.
Friday, February 24, 2017
at 6:41 AM
Many readers of this blog may or may not realize that the author of this blog is actually an American citizen. Yet during more than six years of this blog's run, the vast majority of posts are written in locations about topics that are distinctively unrelated to the author's country of citizenship. Even when written, America only exists as an elusive point of reference for other countries, a passive player looming large in the background that features much in the collective psyche of the local populace, but not nearly as much in the workings of their daily lives.
Monday, February 20, 2017
at 11:55 AM
When the author was traveling around Eastern Europe a few years ago, a Chinese man met on the bus told him of a Chinese friend who used to work on a potato farm in Russia. The man said his friend was busy gathering potatoes during the season when all the sudden, the boss of the farm told him to stop.
“Hey, we got enough potatoes for the season, so you can stop now,” the boss said in a rather matter-of-fact way.
“Wait, so what do we do with the rest of the potatoes? We still have many hectares that we haven’t harvested,” the friend was positively confused by the boss’ order.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
at 5:13 AM
To anyone outside the highest echelons of North Korean political hierarchy, the Hermit Kingdom's state-directed intentions remain completely opaque. Any provocative moves emerging from the country almost often come as unpredicted and surprising, giving major media outlets all that much more to work with when they think about breaking news headlines. In the past years, that usually meant the next missile or nuke testing that raise the blood pressures of the Japanese and South Koreans. But apparently the North Koreans have other initiatives up the sleeve that change up the pattern a bit.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
at 1:14 AM
An immigrant leaves his/her homeland for a reason. For some, different political and religious beliefs opposed by the ruling establishment force them to seek more tolerant host societies. For others, familial ties and international romance must be maintained through physical relocation. But for the vast majority, migration is about economic opportunities, a chance to escape relative poverty by heading toward destinations that offer better-paying jobs and a safer, more orderly, and more entrepreneurial environment to realize unfulfilled dreams of individual prosperity.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
In his work Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki attempts to dissect the mentality of the poor, the middle class, and the rich. Among all the differences he notes of the three, one is constantly repeated and stands out as pivotal in the difference. The rich, he argues, invests in assets and not liabilities. And when the rich makes these investments, they do so through incomes earned through assets, and not by taking on more liabilities in the form of loans to be repaid. By wisely investing in income-generating assets within their means and then reinvesting resulting incomes in more assets, a small initial capital can quickly turn into a large sum.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
at 5:06 AM
There is an interesting fact that few foreigners know about Japan. That is, the biggest ethnic population of Japanese people outside Japan live in Brazil, numbering more than 1.6 million for a diaspora that just 2.6 million strong worldwide. From a modern-day perspective, the oversized presence of the Japanese in an economically struggling and geographically distant country like Brazil seem rather strange, especially when Japanese migrant populations everywhere, including in US, Europe, and Asia, are shrinking as fewer Japanese seek to go and live abroad.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Saturday, January 28, 2017
at 12:06 AM
Chinese New Year, come to think of it, can be a very elusive holiday. Since it follows the lunar calendar that shifts back and forth relative to the Gregorian calendar in use today, the exact date for it fluctuates every year. There simply is not a clear reminder that "ah, it is Dec 25 today, so it is Christmas" or "ah, it is Jan 1 today, so it is New Year's Day." Instead, to remember Chinese New Year's, one often just go with the flow as everyone else celebrates. The local malls and streets, and at home the dinner table and the decorations certainly would not have one forget the important day.
Friday, January 20, 2017
at 12:43 PM
Many people see one's academic and professional lives are two separate,distinct phases. Schooling is something done in young age, a process of learning that culminates in certifications that signify one's ability to think critically and apply certain skill sets. Those skill sets are prerequisites to a second phase, professional work that apply and further enhance academic knowledge that can be directed and sharpened to achieve certain goals that are worthy of financial compensation. For most, one leads to the other (sometimes in reverse), and the two rarely, if ever, crosses paths.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
at 9:42 PM
As predicted in the previous post, the author's time in Japan cannot possibly pass without having to answer some questions about Africa. The questions are really as general as the title of this post suggests, and the inquiry usually comes with unusual solemnity incompatible with the rowdiness of restaurants filled with drunken salarymen. A deep breath needs to be taken before an answer is given. The inquirer is expecting some serious details, and with so much seen in Africa, it is difficult to select for which details that will most interest the inquirers within their short attention spans.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
at 10:20 PM
Despite the continued doubt about exactly how useful English language really is in Japan, there is no denying that there is in fact an active, if small, segment of avid English learners in Japan. To call them "avid" does not imply half-heartedness. Instead, the avidity comes from the fact that there really is no urgent need for them to learn the language at all. They do not use English in their jobs, they have no need to travel abroad for either work or pleasure, and indeed, they have no need whatsoever to interact with foreign persons or cultures if so they wish.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
at 11:08 PM
The author is a big user of hostels. Being cheap locations with many people to meet and relative safety of numbers, they generally fit the author's intention to travel on the shoestring and bump into random people in random places. Interestingly enough, the author had never before stayed in hostels in Tokyo, despite having lived in the country for over seven years. The current trip gave him that particular opportunity, as he specifically sought out perhaps the cheapest place to sleep in central Tokyo, with the price tag of about 180 USD for a whole week and a half of stay.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
at 9:04 PM
Japan is a country of old people, the stats are very clear on this point. With one of the world's lowest birthrate and the highest median age, the country is set to become more and more elderly in the coming years and decades. But those numbers do not really sink in until one hits the streets and sees the country at work. Especially on menial public services jobs (such as street cleaners, trash pickup, train station maintenance staff), the average worker is definitely no less than 40, and more realistically (averaging) somewhere in the 50-60-years-old range. It is sad to see such old folks bending over to carry large bags or wipe low places.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
at 12:19 AM
Looking at international news on New Year's Day, they are filled with the revelations of big ities around the globe. The massive firework displays, the pulsing light shows emerging from skyscrapers, and the thronging crowds counting down in joy, the big city celebrations certainly deserve the coverages they get for their sheer scales, efforts, and mass participations. Here in the little frontier Tanzanian town, the same, of course, cannot be expected. But in its own, much more toned-down way, the people did go out to usher in the New Year, with drinks, food, and more reasonably scaled gatherings.