The American Women Who Carved Their Initials in the Colosseum

I don’t know if many of you read this story in the Guardian.  I’m not sure which US newspapers picked it up (if any), but 2 young American women decided it was right to carve their initials in the wall of the Colosseum in Rome so they could take a selfie.  This is wrong on so many levels and it burns me up that people have such little reverence for history and antiquity and these monuments that have stood for thousands and thousands of years.  These women were arrested, and will probably be sent home with a fine, but I’m sure they won’t learn a thing.

colosseum

And, what did the women have to say for themselves?  “We apologize for what we did. We regret it, but we did not imagine it was something so serious.”  REALLY!?!?!  Defacing a thousand-year-old ancient Roman building isn’t something so serious.  Maybe I should go to their houses in California and carve my initials in the wall outside their front door, or maybe graffiti their swimming pool.  These people don’t think!!  They just do whatever gratifies them at that moment.  And for a SELFIE, no less…those vile, disgusting weapons of conceit that young people are so fond of these days.  I hope these GIRLS, I’m not calling them women anymore because that denotes some level of maturity, get fined more than they can pay and end up in jail.  I’m sure there are some nicely carved initials in the walls of the cells!

Here is the link to the story:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/08/us-tourists-caught-carving-names-into-colosseum-rome

Forgetting Labor Day

labor 1

I have lived outside of the United States for 8 years now.  I have celebrated the holidays of my “home” country, as well as holidays of Spain, China, the United Kingdom (in a British curriculum school) and Singapore.  I forget the “old” holidays and get used to the new ones.  This year has come with a slew of new holidays (Vesak Day, Hari Raya, National Day and Deepavali), in addition to the old stalwarts of Christmas, Easter and Labor Day (May 1).  What?!?  Labor Day isn’t May 1st??!!  Well, in 99% of the world it is, so I have celebrated Labor Day on May 1st for 8 years now.

The first Monday of September, to me, is just that: the first Monday of September.  I holds no special meaning, it’s just a regular work day.  I have not remembered American Labor Day in a long time, and it really doesn’t matter.  In the US, Labor Day signals the end of summer and in other countries (on May 1st), it signals the beginning of it.  I think I’d rather like to celebrate the beginning…especially when you get a day off for labor day in the beautiful spring!

Well, my forgetting of Labor Day has not meant much.  It’s just not celebrated anywhere in the world at the same time as the one in the United States.  Well…it hasn’t meant much until today.  Today, I decided to go pick up my new passport.  I got notification over the weekend that it was ready, and I could come pick it up at the US embassy any week day between 9AM and 12PM or 1PM and 3PM.  I decided to go after my period 4 class, and return to school when I was finished.  I left around 1:15PM.

I was expecting another quick turnaround, as the time I went there to renew my passport was very fast.  I actually spent more time in the taxis traveling to and from the embassy than I spent in the actual embassy.  How’s that for efficiency?!  After living in China and Madrid…the lands of perpetual bureaucracy, it was nice to see that the US (just as bureaucratic as others) was at least quick about it.  I expected to be back at school around 3-3:15.  I was back at 2PM!  I forgot about Labor Day!!

labor 2As the taxi was pulling into the driveway of the embassy, I noticed a small sign posted near the entrance: “closed Monday, September 1.”  Hmmm…I thought, maybe there’s some kind of emergency and they had to close the embassy.  I started to wrack my brain for any terror threats I may have heard about recently, or about any specific issues with Singapore.  I couldn’t think of anything.  I asked the taxi driver to pull closer so I could go to the guardhouse and ask what was going on.  The guard, who was Singaporean, said “it’s Labor Day in the US, everyone is off today.”  D’Oh!!  I forgot about Labor Day.  I asked the taxi driver to take me right back to school.

Where can I get an embassy job??!!  Not only do they get off all the American holidays, they also get off the Singaporean (or any host country) holidays.  It’s like double the amount of holiday…sign me up!!!

People Who Walk Up or Down a Moving Escalator

escalator 2Living in Singapore, I’m told I have to stand to the left on the escalator so that the people who want to walk up or down can get by me on the right.  In Madrid, I had to stand on the right, so the people could get by me on the left.  Does anyone see the issue with these instructions?!?  Why are people walking at all on a MOVING STAIRCASE?  There’s a reason the escalator moves; so people don’t have to.  That’s why the escalator moves!!

I’ve heard all the hype about exercise and how little changes can mean a lot.  I understand that, and the people that choose to walk up the stairs are making those little changes.  Notice I said UP THE STAIRS!!  Why do you think the stairs are always next to the escalator??  So that people who choose to walk up or down can do so on the stairs, not on the escalator.  I’m tired of having to squeeze myself over to the side with my packages in hand so some idiot can get by me on the escalator.  Really!?!?!  Where are you going that you can’t wait the 15 seconds it takes for the escalator to reach the top?!?!  What’s wrong with you?!?!

Everyone over to the left so one lone man can walk up...ridiculous!

Everyone over to the left so one lone man can walk up…ridiculous!

 I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on an escalator with bags, only to have some moron walk past me and knock into my bags.  Often, they are food bags containing things like eggs, and I get nervous that their carelessness has broken them.  More often than not, when I reach the bottom or the top of the escalator, that same “climber” is right in front of me again.  They have not gotten anywhere faster by annoying everyone around them and walking up or down.  They have ended up in the same place as I have, and in the almost the same amount of time.  Unless they’re running for a train or bus, there’s no reason to walk up or down the escalator.  USE THE STAIRS!!  That’s what they’re there for!  Stop annoying the people who know how to use the escalator in the manor for which it was invented!

Having to Oil Hair Clippers

clipper 4

I have an Oster hair clipper that I bought about 15 years ago when I lived in New York.  I love it because it has all the accessories I like, and it trims my beard and neck exactly how I like it.clipper 2  I even bought a designated electrical converter for it, because I haven’t lived in the US for years and the electricity is a different voltage outside the United States.  I have bought 2 more hair clippers in the 15 years since I have had this Oster clipper (a Panasonic and a Wahl), but they are not as good, and they don’t clip my beard the way I like it.  The Panasonic is rechargeable, which serves me no purpose, as I constantly forget to charge things (hence why my mobile phone never works).

When I bought the Oster clipper, it came with a set of attachable combs, small brush (for cleaning), a regular plastic hair comb, scissors and a small bottle of mineral oil (to keep the blades running smoothly).  The mineral oil bottle was very small and, within a couple of years, ran out.  I thought I didn’t need it, and kept using the clipper for a couple of more years until it no longer cut as well and pulled hairs out of my face (very painful).  It was then that I bought the Wahl clipper, but quickly went back to my original one.  I used the oil that came with the new Wahl to oil the old Oster.

clipper 3I took the clipper with me when I moved to Madrid, but I bought a new bottle of mineral oil to use with it.  The new bottle lasted for a long time, and I even moved with it (and my clippers) to China.  While in China, the bottle of oil ran out.  It was then that I bought my Panasonic clipper, because it was next to impossible to find the right mineral oil in China for my Oster clipper.  I quickly became disheartened with the Panasonic clipper, and went back to using my good, old Oster one.  It lasted about 6 months before it started pulling the hairs again.

clipper 1Instead of sucking it up and using the Panasonic one until I could return to the United States and buy more clipper oil, I did something stupid.  I tried using olive oil to lubricate the blades of the clipper.  It worked…for a little while.  After a few uses, I noticed that the clipper blades were sticky, and beginning to catch the hairs again.  I put more and more olive oil on the blades and they became more and more sticky.  They began to rust and, eventually, became permanently stuck together.  I guess that’s the difference between using a mineral oil (the correct kind) and an organic oil (from a plant)!  My beautiful Oster hair clipper had died!

I tried to fix it.  I took it apart and cleaned each blade individually.  I bought more clipper oil when I went back to New York, but the clipper has been irreparably destroyed.  This task of oiling the blades has become troublesome.  The amount of oil they give you with the clipper is enough for 1 or 2 oilings, and that’s it.  Then you’re on your own!  As a hairy man who likes to keep his beard trimmed neatly (I’m not a stupid hipster), I use the clipper 3-4 times a month.  This kind of use is not what the makers of the clipper had in mind and they do not give you enough mineral oil for that kind of use (I wonder how much oil they go through in the barber shops and hair salons)!  They need to provide more oil for the clippers.  The Panasonic one (the one I’m back to using now) didn’t even come with oil, so I’m just waiting for the day when it starts to pull the hairs and not clip them.  My “designer stubble” doesn’t look as clean with the Panasonic clipper, I miss my Oster one.  I have tried to find the same model clipper from Oster, but it’s been discontinued and I don’t want a used set (look at what happened with mine).  I still have my Oster clipper, I can’t bring myself to throw it away.  It gave me so much happiness for all that time.  I guess 15 years isn’t bad for a $25 hair clipper. 

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

als 1Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for raising money for the ALS Association.  It’s a horrible debilitating disease that I didn’t know much about until someone I know came down with it.  Now I see that person deteriorating away and it’s very difficult to watch.  I know Stephen Hawking has it, and I respect him more than I respect most people.  It must be horrible to be completely conscious of what’s happening to you, but to not have any way of fighting it or stopping it.  When I thought to write about this today, I actually stopped and went on the ALS website (http://www.alsa.org/) and donated $100.  I think everyone who reads this blog post should stop right here, link up to the website and do the same.  Then come back and continue reading.

It is true that the pervasiveness of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has raised record amounts for the ALS Association, and they have more donations this year than ever before (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jose-costa/why-the-als-ice-bucket-ch_1_b_5697932.html?utm_hp_ref=business&ir=Business), but, for most it has ceased to be about raising money and it has become about showing your friends that you did it.

If you go onto YouTube and type “ice bucket challenge” in the search bar, you get a slew of videos of young people doing the ice bucket challenge.  I don’t know how many, I lost count (and the count increases daily).  Of the 18 videos that I watched, only 1 mentioned donating money to ALS.  All the other ones called it the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” but that’s where the connection to ALS stopped.  Incidentally, the one that showed a donation was the one where Laura Bush dumps the bucket of ice water on George W. Bush.  When the celebrities and politicians do it, they do speak about ALS and the good that the ALS Association does in helping to find a cure for the disease.  Even the famous people who have declined to do the challenge (Barack Obama, of course, is one of them) have made sure to let the public know that they are donating money to the cause.  This aspect of donating money has been lost by most in the frenzy over the ice bucket challenge.

People have lost the reason behind it.  When I asked one of my friends (who posted a video of him and his son doing it) if he donated to ALSA, he said that doing the challenge meant that you didn’t have to donate, that only people who turned down the challenge had to donate.  THAT’S COMPLETELY WRONG!  You donate whether or not you do the challenge.  People who choose not to do it should just donate a little more.  “But,” he said, “you do the challenge to “raise awareness” of ALS and the fight that many people are having with the disease.”

Ah…”raise awareness,” the cry of the slacktivist!  “Why do you wear a pink ribbon?  To raise awareness for breast cancer.  Have you donated money, or done any activities to actually help the Cancer Society raise funds?  What?  Huh?”  This is slacktivism.  The slacktivist thinks that by clicking “like” on a post denouncing ISIS on Facebook that they are doing something.  They think that wearing a ribbon or a “Live Strong” bracelet is actually making a difference.  They think typing their name on an internet petition for…whatever…is going to save the world!  They forget that these organizations need volunteers and money, not someone placing the flavor of the month charity bauble on themselves.  These organizations are nonprofit, they thrive on the actual help of people who donate their time and money.  The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has become the newest slacktivist “must-do!”  It’s no longer about actually raising money for the organization, but about showing off to your friends that you did the ice bucket challenge.  I’m sure if you ask 10 of the people who posted a video of themselves pouring ice water over their head on YouTube (the “regular” people, not celebrities) if they donated money to ALSA, at least 9 will say no.

I have to digress a minute.  Most of the celebrities and politicians that have done the challenge take the time to talk about ALS and about their donations, so it’s not all bad, albeit the photo op of the month for celebrities and politicians (hell, the entire Kennedy family did it)!  I’m actually surprised I haven’t seen Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or any of the other grandstanders taking charge and doing the challenge.  These people try to remember the reason behind the challenge and they make a point to talk about it.  All the young people out there who are doing it to show off, or who are making a big deal out of it and not actually donating any money to ALS have broken the rule of the challenge.  They are doing it wrong, but they MUST let everyone know they did it; for their 5 seconds of YouTube fame with their friends.  A wonderful thing that has made a lot of money for an organization that does good has been bastardized into the flavor of the month on Youtube.  I only hope that people continue to remember the point of the challenge and continue to donate to the ALSA.

At least it’s better than the Fire Challenge!

 

Snoring

snore 1I snore…loudly.  I know I snore loudly because I have been told by many people that I have shared a bedroom with (or who even slept in the bedroom next to me) that I snore loudly.  Sometimes I snore so loudly that I even wake myself up.  I usually start to snore before I actually fall asleep; during the “twilight” time when I’m half-awake, and I pull myself back into consciousness.  It’s really a nuisance and very annoying.

About a year and a half ago I underwent tests for sleep apnea.  Lo and behold, I have it.  It’s a disorder whereby my soft palate is too soft and it obstructs my airway when I sleep.  This causes my body to stop breathing, or to breathe so heavily that I pull air between the palate and my tongue, making that all-too-familiar noise.  Sleep apnea can be deadly because it keeps people from getting enough oxygen at night and actually causes people to wake up several times during the night (usually without remembering it) to “reset” their palates and inhale deeply.

snore 2Once, when staying in a hotel in Mallorca, Spain, I was even approached by the person who was in the room next to mine offering up a snoring cure.  It was very embarrassing when he said he could hear me through the wall.  I’m not sure if it was thin walls or my loud snoring, but I was mortified.

Whatever the reason, I have tried almost everything possible to stop snoring.  I have tried the Breathe Right strips that you place along the bridge of your nose to open the airway.  They only work when I’m sick and need to breathe.  I have tried throat sprays that are supposed to cause the soft palate to tense up, I have tried nasal sprays to keep my airways open.  I even had a custom mouthpiece made when I was living in Spain!  I have tried sleeping on my side, back, stomach…nothing works!

snore 3Last year I got a sleep apnea machine.  It’s one of those machines where you have to wear a mask all night and it forces air into your throat, keeping the airway open and not allowing you to snore or suffocate.  The machine actually works, and I don’t snore with it, but it’s noisy and it’s uncomfortable to have to wear that mask (especially when you are a “moving” sleeper like me and the tube gets wrapped around your throat).  Recently someone told me about a chin strap that keeps your mouth closed during sleeping, there’s also a new product that adheres to your chin to keep your lips together during the night.  Hey, I’m willing to try anything (http://www.helpguide.org/life/snoring.htm).

I get nervous when I am told that I may have to share a hotel room when I go on work-related trips, so I pay extra for a single.  I keep myself awake on planes because I don’t want to disturb the people around me, I even wait until others have fallen asleep when I’m sleeping somewhere unfamiliar so that I don’t keep them awake.  I have been embarrassed to sleep with anyone for many years (by “sleep,” I actually do mean sleep).  I know I’m going to keep them awake and I’m going to embarrass myself.  I read somewhere that men have narrower airways than women, which is why men snore more often, but mine must be miniscule.  People also say that losing weight can help…well, I’m working on that.  Maybe I should record myself again in the night and see if I’ve gotten any better.  I hope so, I’d like to be comfortable sleeping around other people again!

The “Speed and Slam” Driving Method

speed

I know it’s not a Singapore-only affliction, but I’m going to talk about this in the context of Singapore today because, I think, all the taxi drivers and bus drivers must have gone to the same driving school.  You can also throw the taxi and bus drivers from Madrid and Suzhou into that mix (that must be a rather large driving school)!

For those of you not familiar with it, the “speed and slam” method is when a driver is stuck in traffic/on a side street/moving between speed bumps and they decide to speed up to as quickly as they can possibly go before slamming on the brakes to avoid a collision or damage to the car.  This seems to be the chosen method of driving for taxi drivers in most of the places I have lived.  I do have to say one good thing for New York….the taxi drivers there (for the most part) did not subscribe to the “speed and slam” method.  I don’t fully understand the reasoning behind this phenomenon, nor do I understand the drivers’ rationale for doing it.  All I know is I have been victim to the nausea that ensues through the “speed and slam” method many, many times.  I have also fallen (more than 1 time) on a bus that was driven by a “speed and slam” driver.  These people create hazards for other drivers and their own passengers.

“Speed and slam” drivers should be made to go back to driving school, or, at the least, take a driving test again.  These people drive for a living, you’d think they have the common sense or courtesy to drive at a more uniform pace and to hit the brakes with a gentle foot.  NOOO!!  They speed and slam their way through traffic and side streets all the time.  I think more times than not I have had a taxi or bus driver that subscribed to the “speed and slam” method.  Many of them even take turns at a breakneck pace!  This is really an epidemic in countries around the world.taxi

I am a firm believer in people having to take a driving test at certain milestones throughout their lives.  People who drive for a living should be forced to take them more often.  This will keep bad drivers off the road, or, at the least, make them aware of their bad driving and may make them more conscious of how nauseating their driving can be to their passengers.  This is especially true for bus drivers who very often have passengers that are standing up, and holding on for their lives!  “Speed and slam” needs to be added to the driving violations lists of all countries, and the police have to enforce it.  If it’s something that these people can be fined for, they’ll stop.  I have no idea why it began in the first place!!