Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Moved


I moved to WhereAmIWearing.com in February of 2007. The blog highlights my quest to meet the people who made my clothes, a journey that became my first book that was released in November of 2008.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I've Moved!

I’ve moved to WhereAmIWearing.com.

I will be blogging about my trip, which is now less than a month away, for the BootsnAll Travel Network. It should be a lot of fun. Even more fun, if you GO THERE EVERY DAY and make comments.

I am really looking forward to this trip, but I’ll get lonely. So, go make comments. You wouldn’t want me to get all homesick and wallowy. I go on these trips for YOU people. I’m going all the way to Bangladesh to see where my underwear was made. You could at least go to my new Blog.

Does that sound needy?

Well, I am!

LOVE ME!

Go now to WhereAmIWearing.com

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Results: Where was your T-shirt made?

Where our T-shirts were made:
(updated 2/14/07)
Honduras - 3
Mexico - 1
USA - 1
Turkey - 1

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Me Tube!

One of my pre-trip goals is to have the know-how to create audio-slideshows. Missions accomplished!



Windows comes with a nifty program called Windows Movie Maker that makes the entire process really easy. The audio is from an old podcast that many of you have heard already recorded using Audacity. I expect the quality of future recordings to be better because I have had more practice reading for the radio and I purchased a nice mic and minidisk recorder.

For the record, I find this recording to be a bit corny. My fiance does to. She really thought the "Kill it! Kill it!" portion of the adventure could use some work. I think I sound like a stoned Mr. Rogers.

I’m hoping to be able to post audio slideshows during my upcoming trip to Bangladesh, China, and Cambodia.

Friday, February 09, 2007

World Champions

I like to pride myself on not getting caught up in semantics, but this one really bugs me…

World Champion Indianapolis Colts

World Champions? The world is made up of about 200 some other countries none of which were defeated by the Colts. US champions – Yes. NFL Champions – Yes. But not World Champions!

I really try to not let it bother me. I tell myself that the other countries couldn’t throw together a team to beat the Colts, that our athletes are the best in the world.

They’re not.

They are probably better than average because we have a lot more leisure time to play games with balls. And, of course, their salaries match the Gross National Products of many small countries, allowing them to purchase trainers, nutritionists, and human growth hormones. But even given all of this, we regularly get our gym shorts handed to us in international competition. Don’t even get me started on our basketball team.

Many of the Colts’ players read this blog. If you are one of them, please stop saying, “We are World Champions, BABY. Yeah! Woohoo!”

Why would any of the Colts players read this blog? Because I just formed the National Blogging League and Touron Talk kicked the font out of every other blog out there.

Touron Talk is the World Champion of blogging, baby. Yeah! Woohoo!”

Update: Touron Talk is the Galactic Champion of blogging, baby. Yeah! Woohoo!”

Update: Touron Talk is the Universal Champion of blogging, baby. Yeah! Woohoo!”

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Are you and Ugly American: Part 4 of 10

Budget Travel’s tips to avoid being a jerk abroad:
Don't overtip
Why I’m apparently an Ugly American:

I once had an older woman in New Zealand rake me over the coals for tipping my whitewater rafting guide. It seems that I was tearing the fabric of Kiwi society while at the same time polluting it with my insolence.

I also, peed in the river. But she didn’t know it.

Basically, she told me I was an Ugly American.

The guide was a friend of a friend and I had gone on the trip for free. I knew that if my tail had needed saving the guide would have been the one to do it, putting his own life on the line for me, a freeloading American. This, coupled with the fact that I worked for tips as a SCUBA instructor and knew what it was like to save bumbling tourons, was why I slipped the guide 10 bucks.

$10 bucks! That’s it. Plus, I copped a story off the whole ordeal. Have a read:
Mother’s Nightmare! Imminent Death!
By Kelsey Timmerman

Rotorua, New Zealand-

“This river has a waterfall that is sweet-as! It is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world- 10 meters!”

Sweet-as? Is that good?

I’m staring at a glossy photo in which four people are hanging on for dear life to a raft that appears to have dropped off the face of the earth. There are other people in the photo falling beside the raft with strange, “I-hope-I-don’t-land-on-a-rock” faces. It is easily apparent that their butt cheeks are as equally clenched as their faces. Paddles and people are the detritus of the plunging raft.

A little math: Ten meters equals thirty-three, “I-can’t-believe-I-paid-money-for-this” feet. It’s a height where people are no longer tourists who are rafting, but tourists that are projectiles. By the time they splash down at the base of the waterfall, the raft, the rafters, and the paddles are falling around 30 mph.

“That’s the Kaituna (River).” Ryan waves at the photo, “It’s harmless compared to the Wairoa, and mate, lucky for you the Wairoa is where we’re heading today.” A smile creeps across Ryan’s face, “You ever been rafting before?”

“(GULP) Nope.”

Ryan’s smile gets a little wider and I get the impression that he doesn’t care for me much. Maya, his girlfriend, who I had met a few weeks previously while hiking on New Zealand’s South Island, invited me to come and stay with the two of them and go rafting. Maya had warned me, “Don’t be alarmed, sometimes Ryan can be a little moody, a little jealous.” Following this, I inquired into his size and strength.

At the shoulders Ryan is wide as a door frame, muscle built-up after years of rafting, but supporting his hulking torso are two twig-like legs. He’s built like a caricature drawing, except not so happy and much more menacing.

Ryan tosses me a paddle, life jacket, and a helmet before walking away with an evil laugh. My life is now his.

“All right everybody,” Ryan is yelling over the sound of crashing water, “this is a little rapid called Mother’s Nightmare.”
Our boat consists of two of the rafting company’s staff members who had never been down the river, Maya, Ryan, and me. Ryan’s briefing was somewhat informal and definitely not the one normally delivered to customers.
“Flipping on this rapid is a bad thing. You definitely don’t want to swim this one. There is one spot where if you fall in, you’re not swimming out. If you go in, as you are getting pounded relentlessly by the river and death is drawing near, make sure you reach up and feel along the rocks- if you can. There is a rope to pull yourself out- again, if you can. Otherwise, consider your day ruined.”

Some of you may know that class IV’s and V’s are the biggest rapids rafted. The Wairoa consists of nothing else. Lucky for me where fear should exist, ignorance has already kicked up its feet waiting for a good show. Ryan, the jealous lover, who I might add has no reason to be jealous, the rafting guide with my life riding on his paddle, slowly gives me an ambiguous nod, either, “Good luck,” or “Good riddance.”

“LEFT FORWARD!” my signal to paddle ahead furiously. “LEFT BACK!” now I paddle backwards. I can see no sense in the river as it pours over and around the boulders. I don’t know whether to paddle or to hold on, whether to close my eyes or stare at undeniable doom.

Everything is chaos and drama.

The rock comes from nowhere and brings our PLINKO down the river to a sudden stop. We teeter on spilling. With the time difference between here and Ohio, my mom is likely in bed and about to have a nightmare.

Fear shuts my eyes, but curiosity pries open the right eye a crack, just enough to see the other paddlers mouthing four-letter words. And then silence. The water is calm as we pull over to the bank to catch our breath and listen to our pulses pound in our ears.

Each rapid must be approached differently, each has a unique line that must be followed. In places, Ryan would intentionally bounce us off a boulder to spin the boat and continue on down the line. Rafting guides must have mental pictures of each rapid in order to safely run them. The lives of their passengers depend of this knowledge and their skill to execute these lines. To this point, Ryan has expertly negotiated each rapid and my confidence in him is complete. Approaching the last rapid, named something that translates to “Imminent Death,” we pull to the bank for the briefing.

“Hell, if I know. I really don’t have a clue about this one. Just hold on and be ready for anything.” Before I can express my concern and suggest a portage around the rapid, Ryan shoves off.

We float towards Imminent Death.

“Left Back, Right Forward,” around one rock.

“Left Forward, Right Back…” down a narrow chute and beyond the ugly white water.

Ryan directs us over to a standing wave and has us all paddle backwards. The wave picks up the boat and holds it in place- we’re surfing. We hoot and holler before the wave spits us out onto flat water. The celebrating continues with the high-fiving of paddles and splashes in the water. I’m not sure, but Ryan may have smiled in my direction.

That night over pizza, at a party in a room full of strangers, sitting with Ryan, we chat away. His attitude toward me has changed. He either saw that I was no threat to him following my girly cries for help on the river, or he respected me for surviving his innumerable attempts to do me in.

Traveling alone forces one to go out of their way to meet others, and sometimes, their jealous boyfriends and the deadly rivers they raft.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The whole world in your hands

And the world's such a toy
If you just stay a boy
You can spin it again and again

--- Jimmy Buffett in Jimmy Dreams

It’s been a while since I’ve held a globe. The World has changed a lot since. I got one for my birthday yesterday from my in-laws to-be, Jim and Gloria. The globe was Gloria’s fathers. He used it in his classroom. Her accompanying note got me a little verklempt and all.

Overall, globes aren’t that useful as a teaching tool. They are hard to hold and too tiny to show a class. A single finger blocks out about 13 countries in Western Europe. But when I was in school, every classroom had one in the corner. I remember getting out the globe during break times when we were supposed to be learning quietly with a buddy or playing a game with some educational merit.

There are three ways to pass the time with a globe:

1. Spin the globe as fast as you can and imagine all the World’s people vomiting from dizziness and, if spun fast enough, flung into space with said vomit.


2. Spin the globe and blindly place a finger on it. Wherever your finger is, well, that’s the place that gets bombed to hell by your fleet of imaginary, heartless bombers.


3. Spin the globe and blindly place a finger on it. You will go wherever your finger lands. If you land on Hawaii all of your buddies will be jealous. But in truth, anyone that lands on Hawaii is a big fat cheater. What are the odds of landing on a spec in the middle of the Pacific?

#1 no longer holds my attention like it used to and #2 is a bit twisted. We’ll blame this on the A-team and my parent’s allowing me to play with guns. But #3 is still cool. Lets’ give it a whirl. First in the northern hemisphere and then in the southern…

Northern Hemisphere – Quebec. Ouch! I let my finger slide a little to far from the equator.

Southern Hemisphere – Java, Indonesia. Nice. I hear they got some good diving there.

A globe, just what I needed another day dreaming device to distract me from actually getting any work done.

How about one more spin? I’m shooting for Hawaii this time. Here goes…

Close! Marshall Islands, here I come!

Monday, February 05, 2007

We all live in a Fantasy Kingdom

My whole “Where am I wearing?” idea stems from the disparity between Us and Them. What’s really strange is when you find out that all of the Them’s are not so different than all of us Us’s.

Over half of Bangladesh’s 130 million people live in poverty. But that didn’t stop the Them’s that aren’t so different than us Us’s from spending $400 million to build the amusement park Fantasy Kingdom. It has all of the things we We’s, and you know who you We’s are, love about amusement parks – greasy food, semi-maintained roller coasters manned by people who really don’t give a crap. And the entrance fee is only $3!

I’m so there.

The storyline of Fantasy Kingdom, as told by Fantasy Kingdom’s website:

“Once upon a time, there was a magical kingdom of fun and excitement where Prince Ashu and Princess Lia along with their four extraordinary friends, Zipper, Zuzu, Bangasaur and Bobo, spent their days in fun and frolic, dancing and playing with the people of their kingdom. But with time, this mysterious kingdom disappreared because the people in Prince Ashu's land had forgotten how to smile and became busy with their day to day lives. Then many years later, Prince Ashu recreated his lost kingdom here in Ashulia, Dhaka, so that people would forget their worries and again learn to smile and have fun.”

If this sounds like an experience in which the real culture of Bangladesh may be under-represented. It probably is.

In a 2002 BBC report:

“Located on a greenfield site more than an hour's drive from Dhaka, the Disney-style theme park sits a little incongruously alongside paddy fields and villages that have no running water or electricity.”

The villages with no lights or plumbing can be seen from the roller coasters. What more cultural experience do you need?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dave Barry's guide to Miami

My buddy Dave has done it again. Read Don't be alarmed, Miami isn't so weird.

Oh, by the way here is a picture of Dave and me in Dayton, Ohio. The dude just idolizes me. It’s embarrassing.

Travel writer to travelers: Don't travel

Bits of posts in a recent travelwriters.com thread:

“I'm pretty worried about global warming, what with the report published today (Feb 2) by scientists who met in Paris. Some of my income comes from travel writing, and I'm worried that if I encourage people to travel, they may be adding to a problem that will ultimately cause misery all over the globe.

...shouldn't travel writers be doing their bit - however small - to discourage people to indulge in activities that might add to the problem, such as air travel?”

- Petra

I get updates from travelwriting.com a few times a week. Most of the threads tend to be of the I-hate-editors or the why-ain’t-I-making-it-as-a-travel-writer variety. This post is the first to suggest that travel writers should discourage travel.

Heck, why not stop writing too? All those trees dying with each word printed and computers eating up electricity.

If you continue to read the post, it eventually turns to “cow farts” and their impact on the environment. No matter what the issue, any time “farts” are debated you can be sure there’s a person in the debate with a level head.

Here at Touron Talk we, and by we I mean me, recognize global warming and its potential apocalyptic results. We also, much like the “fart” debater, like to keep a level head about these things. We’re not going to get preachy about travel ending poverty and hunger, and promoting world peace, skipping, and international Kumbaya-ing. But we do think travel does much more good than harm.

So, cows keep farting. Travelers keep flying. We’ll just have to find other ways to combat global warming. Oh like, I don’t know, maybe driving vehicles that get a bit more than 8 miles per gallon and flossing our teeth.

Wait flossing doesn’t help slow global warming? Well, in truth, it’s inconvenient all the same.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Beneath the surface, we're all lumberjacks

Whatever happened to flannel shirts, flapjacks, and big blue oxen? Remember when it was manly to be a lumber jack?

I don’t mean to boast, but I earned my Totin’ Chip from the Boy Scouts at a very young age, much younger than most.

I’ve split a few logs in my days. Okay, they were branches. But they were big branches and they quaked in the shadow of my mighty axe.

Yeah…yeah…you got me… it wasn’t an axe it was a hatchet. But I swung that little hatchet with such force that when it landed on its target – or somewhere in the near vicinity, give or take 14 inches – the ground shook and the leaves shivered.

Alright, I’ll level with you. I’m no Paul Bunyan. If a branch or stick was sturdy enough to take a few whacks against a tree, I threw it to the side and searched for something wimpier. I didn’t reach for the axe or the hatchet. But even all that was many times manlier than downing trees by controlling a submersible with a tini joystick.

It may be kinda nerdy, but it’s kinda cool too. Read this article, Reservoir Logs, in the most recent Wired. It's about a fella who’s harvesting underwater forests.

Go environment! Go nerds!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Screw you, New Year's resolution

I haven’t admitted this to anyone, but I did kinda make a New Year’s resolution. It was to average a post per day on Touron Talk. Well this post makes 30 posts in 31 days.

I could come up with something else to write here at the eleventh hour, but I won’t. It’s just my way of saying that resolutions are for sissies.

Have mortgage, will travel

I spent the better part of today haggling over interests rates and closing costs. What’s funny is that 8 weeks from now I’ll be haggling over $5 accommodation in Bangladesh.

“5 dollars! Are you kidding me?” I’ll say.

“5 dollars is very best deal in all of town. We even have fan.” The innkeeper will say.

“Next door,” I’ll say, “I can stay for 2.50.”

“Next door no have fans.”

I’ll spend the night sweating in the room with no fan, cooled by the knowledge that I saved $2.50. After all, now that I’m a grownup with a mortgage, fans are a luxury I can’t afford.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I'm a Rogue Traveler


Bootsnall Travel Network has named me as one of there Rogue Travelers for 2007. It’s supposed to be a good thing, but consider the meaning of the word “rogue.”

rogue (rog) n.
1. An unprincipled, deceitful, and unreliable person; a scoundrel or rascal.
2. One who is playfully mischievous; a scamp.
3. A wandering beggar; a vagrant.
4. A vicious and solitary animal, especially an elephant that has separated itself from its herd.
5. An organism, especially a plant, that shows an undesirable variation from a standard.

So, I’m an undesirable plant, a vicious elephant, a vagrant, a scamp, or a rascal. I like to think I’m somewhere in the middle between 2 and 3.

Bootsnall is sponsoring me. What does that mean? Well, they’re not really paying for anything expensive like airfare or other expenses. But they are hosting and designing my new blog WhereAmIWearing.com that will follow my 3 month trip to Bangladesh, Cambodia, and China.


BootsnAll Travel hasn't made it official yet. I'll keep you posted. Until then checkout their 2006 class of vicious elephants.


To give you a better idea of what my trip is about, I’ve pasted my Rogue Traveler Application below:

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

I am going on a global quest to answer the question: Where am I wearing?

Check the label on the shirt you are wearing. Where was it MADE? China? Indonesia? Macau? Chances are it’s somewhere you’ve never been. You may not even be able to place it on a map. Do you wonder what the country is like? Who made your shirt?

Read the tag. Let your mind wonder. That’s what I do. My feet are about to follow.
A pile of unfolded laundry has set my course:

T-shirt: MADE IN HONDURAS
Blue Jeans: MADE IN CAMBODIA
Boxers: MADE IN BANGLADESH
Lucky shorts MADE IN USA

And no list of where I wear could be complete if I didn’t include the staple of my wardrobe:

Flip-Flops: MADE IN CHINA

I will visit these countries seeing what there is to see; doing what there is to do. Once I have a feel for the country, I’ll seek the factory where the item of clothing was made and, ultimately, the people who made it.

And then I’ll tell their story.

WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?

I’m doing this to explore the global marketplace while bridging the ever-widening gap between producer and consumer. That, and because putting myself in random situations and trying not to look like a complete fool makes for great writing fodder. And great writing fodder helps put food on my table.

I’m a freelance writer that has contributed to publications such as the Christian Science Monitor, Transitions Abroad, the World Vision Report (Radio program), and of course BootsnAll. To read some of my writing visit http://www.travelin-light.com/ or my Blog http://www.travelin-light.blogspot.com/ .


HOW WILL YOU DO IT?

I’ve already completed the Honduras portion of my quest. It was a kind of trial to see if the quest was worth pursuing.

It is.

This spring I will complete the quest by visiting the factories in Dhaka (Bangladesh) Guangzhou (China) Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and finally the factory that made my lucky shorts in the USA.

I will work with local university students and labor rights organizations to establish contacts with the factory and/or workers.

WHAT ARE YOUR ULTIMATE GOALS?


1. To get people thinking about Where They are Wearing and to educate myself and others about our position in the global marketplace. If someone reads a post on my blog, or one of my contributions to a publication and turns the neck of their shirt around to read the tag, I’ve succeeded.
2. To contribute correspondences and freelance submissions to newspapers, magazines, and radio programs around the nation.
3. Write a book about the experience. A few editors and agents have already shown interest in the project.


WHY SHOULD YOU BE CHOSEN?

I’m an experienced blogger, writer, and photographer that can provide BootsnAll readers with a unique voice on a one-of-a-kind quest.

WHAT SETS YOU APART?

I’ll be the only person to have ever visited Bangladesh because his Christmas Boxers with ornaments and the text “Jingle These” on them were made there.

This picture: http://travelin-light.blogspot.com/2006/11/jingle-these.html

Monday, January 29, 2007

This Old Blog

I’ve got an announcement to make…but I feel like crap. So here’s a hint. I’ll tell you more about it later.

By the way, this is my 27th post of the month. That means I’ve almost averaged one-a-day. Go me! Maybe I’ll get on my horse and bust out 4 in the next two days.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Email from Kosovo


I have a secret identity. Don’t tell anybody.

I’m Kelsey the small town, country-talking boy from Ohio and I’m Kelsey, “World Traveler.” (Please know that I don’t like the title “World Traveler.” It implies much too much knowledge, and a familiarity with ALL the world, but that’s how I’m introduced a lot here at home. So, there it is – Kelsey Timmerman. World Traveler. I could be called worse things.)

The flat, unremarkable homogeneity of the Midwest makes some of the adventures I’ve had and places I’ve been feel like a dream -- like it all happened to someone else. And then I get an email from Kosovo from a friend. The email is a reminder, proof that “Dude, I was in Kosovo.”

These emails from acquaintances that showed me great kindness while I was somewhere far away from home make my day. I received one today:

hello my friend,how are you,how are things in your country,i hope everything is ok.what can i say for myself i have a new life im living now in croatia with my girklfriend,im very happy with here and i love here very very much,she love me too,but i have one sad news my brother eduardi is sik,he is very bad, for a moment im in pristina with him,he need to operate imediatly in heart,he have to go in wiena to operate,im so sad for him we hope he can survive,your friend luigji.

It was great to here from my friend Luigji, but it’s also humbling to know that life goes on, the good and bad the world over. When I think about L., I still think of him as a student at the University of Prishtina trying to use the novelty of having an American friend to pickup girls. Now he’s living with a girl. They grow up so fast.

I hope that his brother pulls through okay. The few days I spent with L. it was apparent that he was very close to his family. Wars tend to do that. I met one of his brothers. I’m not sure it was Eduardo. But I remember he taught at the University and L. was very proud of him and excited for me to meet him. His brother bought me a Coke.

Now, if you don’t mind I have an email to respond to…

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sharks in the News

Forget the State of the Union. Sharks we're the big news this week. First there was the abalone diver who got bit in the head by a great white and lived to give interviews:

"Half my body was in its mouth," Nerhus told Australian television's Nine Network.

Nerhus said he fought desperately.

"I felt down to the eye socket with my two fingers and poked them into the socket," he said.

"The shark reacted by opening its mouth and I just tried to wriggle out. It was still trying to bite me. It crushed my goggles into my nose and they fell into its mouth."

And now there's this rarely seen frilled shark that normally lives at depths between 400-4,200 feet. Ain't it cute?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Political poll dancing

71% of the world thinks the United States is having a negative influence on the world. Read this story in the Christian Science Monitor.

This really gets me. No matter your politics or mine it really sucks when the world thinks you’re not doing a good job. Of course, this doubly sucks when you, for the most part, agree with the World.

While being a US citizen in the US is not very glamorous, being a US citizen in many other countries is. And by glamour I mean that everyone has an opinion of you. We’re the Britney Spears of geopolitics (note this may be the first time that ‘Britney Spears’ and ‘geopolitics’ have appeared in the same sentence). We should do more to combat global warming. We should pull our troops from Iraq. We should stop sluttin’ around at all the big night clubs and go home to K-fed’s kids.

From Nigeria to the Netherlands, everyone has an opinion.

As a country, we could dress in a tight Red cat suit and dance around all sexy singing “Oops, we did it again.” Some countries will love us for it, some will hate us for it.

In the poll 25% of Germans thought we were mucking up the world. But hey, when was the last time you were polled on Germany’s success in geopolitics. Never! They’re the here today gone tonight reality television star to our A-list, although somewhat trashy, Britney Spears mega-stard. They’re just jealous.

BTW- Did you see that Britney and model Issac Cohen just split. I hope it’s not true. They were so cute together.

Now, what was I talking about…

Ahh, forget it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dam problems in Kentucky

The 240’ dam holding Lake Cumberland in Kentucky could go anytime. Such a catastrophe would leave a wake of an estimated $3.4 billon worth of damage while largely ruining the days of over a million or so people down river, and washing out my water skiing playground.

They’ve started to lower the water level to relieve the pressure on the dam, but officials still seem to be all gloom and doom. Read the latest report.

I hope to God it doesn’t break – all those people and all that money. But until it does, my main concern is purely selfish.

My parents store a boat near the lake and we’ve been visiting it since I can remember. So many sunburns, wipeouts, water wedgies, face plants, and good times, could spill into Tennessee, flooding Nashville.

Somebody call Superman! Surely some underground burrowing and some heat vision could save the day.

God, or Superman, save Lake Cumberland.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Unreligion in China

According to proper Chinese communist doctrine, religion is the “opiate of the people.” That’s why until 1982 the Chinese government banned all worshipping.

Why the lift in ‘82? Probably had something to do with other countries hesitant to trade with a government that preached atheism. Plus, them Buddhist monks sure are good for tourism.

The number one religion in China today is…nope not Buddhism…nope not Confucianism…it’s the Muslim religion. But only 2-3% of Chinese are Muslim. Proof that you can lead a people to an opiate, but you can’t make them ingest/smoke/huff/snort/inject it.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

China China fo fina, me my mo mina...CHINA!

I spent the majority of my weekend researching China. A few things struck me.

1. China is big
2. China has gobs of people

I know, these are both things that you knew already. Good for you. I did too. But I guess I thought China was so big that the population would be spread out somewhat evenly between a few major cities. These cities would be so crowded that if someone stopped while walking down the street to tie their shoe a human pileup would ensue. Rescue crews would be called to the scene. And a few thousand individuals would be late for their morning calisthenics.

Partly true.

What amazed me was all the cities I had never heard of that had populations in the millions. Take for instance, Yichang. It’s relatively far from any major Chinese city and on most maps it is marked by a regular, insignificant dot, nothing colored, nothing circled, nothing in bold, just a dot. The population of Yichang is 4 million!

Hold on let me google research what I just wrote in the above paragraph…

Oops, Yichang is relatively near the city of Chongqing. Chongqing happens to have a population of 15 million. 15 million! And I’ve never heard of it! In fact, China has 200 cities with over 1 million people.

Here in middle-of-nowhere Ohio we use "Big City" to describe cities with populations in the tens of thousands. I feel crowded already.

Question of the day: Which is bigger, the population of China or my lack of knowledge of Chinese Geography?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Home buying made simple!?!?!?!?!

Annie and I are in the process of buying our first home. I never knew it could be this simple…

Forbidden City Vs. Starbucks

Beijing’s Forbidden City has 800 buildings for a total of 8,886 rooms, a smartly named portal known as the Gate of Divine Might, 5 centuries of history, and one Starbucks.

Some are calling for the Starbucks to go. I have to agree with them. For the purpose of full disclosure, I don’t drink coffee. It keeps you awake, sure, but it also stunts your growth (at 28 I’m holding out for that one last growth burst – look out NBA!). And if there is one thing the Chinese people don’t need, it is their growth being stunted. Another thing they don’t need is a symbol of the triumphs of global capitalism staked right through the heart of a historical landmark.

The movement, if you can call such things a movement, all started with a Chinese reporter’s blog.

"There is no Starbucks in Louvre in France or Buckingham Palace in Britain - because there is no such thing as "for rent". If we now blame solely Starbucks for its presence in the Forbidden City, it seems to me rather unfair. After all, Starbucks did not take the land by force. They comply with the regulations. They pay rent. They signed contract."

And before you go thinking that this is a silly little bit o’ tid, look at what the China Consumer Journal has to say (as read on CNN):

"This is no different from slapping China's 1.2 billion people and 5,000-year traditional culture in the face. Some people's anger is no different from their feelings when our embassy was bombed."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Countdown begins

It’s official. I handed over the credit card digits. That audible groan you heard just a little bit ago was my checkbook. On March 27th the quest begins.
I fly from Dayton (OH)-Chicago(IL)-Tokyo-Bangkok. In Bangkok I'll arrange my own flight to Bangladesh. And then I'll make my way overland through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and, on June 27th, fly home from Hong Kong.
The countdown starts now…

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I vant to buy your Castle...and suck you blood

Dracula is a vampire, by most accounts Romanian, a night dweller, a shape-shifting nosferatu, a good host but a bad guest.

But above all Dracula is a whore.

At least that’s what the Romanian government treats him like. For years they’ve heralded easy to reach Bran Castle as Dracula’s Castle even though it has nothing to do with the historical Dracula. The village of Bran has a Dracula market and is swollen with paper thin I ♥ Dracula t-shirts, while the real Castle Dracula sits in obscure isolation with nary a tourist in sight.

The commie government seized the Castle in 1948 and the marketing blitz began. In preparation of joining the EU and righting past wrongs, the government gave Bran Castle back to Dominic von Habsburg descendant of Princess Illeana of Romania.

Get our your checkbooks. Find a pen with a full well of ink. Von Habsburg has put a $77 million price tag on it. And the Romania government doesn’t want any part of it.

In the Chi Trib:

Culture Minister Adrian Iorgulescu has criticized the planned purchase (by a local council) of the castle, saying it is worth only a fourth of Habsburg's asking price. "I have nothing against the castle being bought by the city council if they are stupid enough to pay this money," he said.

There is so much that is wrong with this. I’ve started a list:

* If I ever inherit a castle, I ain’t selling it.


* The Romanian government should enter negotiations to buy something that is part of their cultural heritage.



* No one should ever have ‘von’ in their name. Kelsey von Timmerman. Come on! If you do have ‘von’ in your name and you are a descendant of a princess you probably got enough loot to drop the price of your inherited castle, oh, I don’t know, a few $10 million.



* Dracula is tired of being a whore. How about pimpin’ out the Wolfman for a bit or the gypsies? Give big D a break.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Beer, Boobs, and Bulgaria

Guys like beer. Guys like boobs. Combine the two and you got yourself the reason men from across Europe are flocking to Bulgaria to buy beer for their ladies.

Boza beer is believed to enlarge the breasts of the women who drink it. But really, is this anything new? The same can be said for Twinkies. If a lady eats enough of ‘em and puts on an extra 20 pounds, you can bet her boobs will get bigger, but so will everything else.

Kudos on the marketing Boza beer, but you ain’t fooling this Touron. Call me old fashion. I believe if you want your lady enhanced you should do it via creams, tonics, and pills.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Is there anything worse than...

...biting into a hollow malted milk ball?

No watch 24 = Planet Htrae

Zen question of the day: If I’m not here to watch the entire season of 24, will the show go on without me? Will Jack save the world? Or will down become up and black become white as the earth enters into a dark age, a bizarro age of awfulness and reruns?

EEEeeee….!

I just did the math and this season of 24 will end some time mid-June. I leave on my upcoming trip late March/ early April. By this time, after 14 episodes, the ultimate threat in 24 will be revealed and Jack should be fully recovered from the 2 years of Chinese torture -- water torture I suspect. The end will be in sight and it will appear that Jack just might not make it through this one.

And I won’t be able to find out until I return from my trip if he does!

Maybe I should reconsider. Of course, if I don’t leave until 24 is over, then I might not make it back in time for my wedding this summer. Ugh! Does anyone else ever have these horrible problems of their real and fantasy worlds colliding?

I guess I better stick to my schedule and miss 24.

You better stock up on bread and water.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Jack is Back!

Some might think that I live to travel, or perhaps to write. They’d be wrong. I live to watch Jack Bauer save the world each January to June on Fox’s 24.

In honor of the best show on television being back on the air tomorrow, I have re-posted last year's break down of my own life to 24. Since my life is somewhat less action-packed than Jack’s, I use years as opposed to hours.

24 years ago I was about 3.

The following takes place between the ages of 3-5: I stop pooping myself long enough to hold the UPS man at bay with a simple garden hose and clown-head sprinkler.

The following takes place between the ages of 6-8: While sitting on the bus I notice a girl a year older and twice my size. She is much too ugly and I am compelled to beat her up. Overcoming shots to the head by a very stiff trapper keeper, I am able to control the ugly hostile.

The following takes place between the ages of 9-11: I pick up a BB gun, pump it once, hold the barrel to my leg, and pull the trigger. It is the last time I ever fire a gun, because they hurt.

The following takes place between the ages of 12-14: Chemical warfare ensues inside of my body. Some call this puberty. Hair grows from my arm pits.

The following takes place between the ages of 15-17: I am running from the law in my Trans Am at 56 MPH. Eventually, they pull me over and ask me if I had been drinking. After further interrogation the police officer determines that the drifting over center was caused by excessive dancing to Billy Thorpe’s one, and only rock hit, Children of the Sun. The officer refuses to admit that this is the best rock song ever written. I’m let off with a warning.

The following takes place between the ages of 18-20: I’m shot by a skunk while running. I smell for days.

The following takes place between the ages of 21-23: Having vowed never touch a gun again, I begin the transformation into a lean mean terrorist butt kickin’ machine by studying Kung Fu. Terrorist’s butts kicked by me - 0; my own butt kicked by me - 67.

The following takes place between the ages of 24-26: I am held hostage by Tibetan monks and force-fed four meals a day.

Stay tuned.

I have never: been in a helicopter, shot at someone, been shot at, climbed through an air duct, punched anyone out, downloaded any schematics, or said something as cool as, “the only reason you are still conscious is because I don’t want to carry you,” Jack did all of this in the first 4 hours of his day last year.

Life is worth living again. Go get ‘em Jack!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Morbid bit o' tid

In Cambodia amputees are just as likely to have lost a limb via infection from snake bite as from a landmine.

Not too cheery, sorry.

I knew about the prevalence of landmines, but I had no idea about the snakes. We’re talking cobras, King Cobras, and more. Oh my!

I’ll be visiting Cambodia this spring. Why? Because my pants were made there, of course.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Our House

Annie and I are house shopping. Whatever we decide on, it will be decidedly nicer than anything I’ve ever lived in before - other than my parents’ home (and since living with your parents comes with a certain degree of social stigma, which I’d prefer to avoid, this really isn’t an option anymore. Of course we could move in with Ma and Pa T and pitch the rights to our story to the WB. Plus mom would cook and do the laundry. Hmmm.....).

The home shopping process inspires recollections of past dwellings.

There was…

…dorm life at Miami University and all of the piss, puke, urine, and stank that came with it.

…the off-campus apartment where the stoner roommate was growing 13 marijuana plants in his closet.

…countless hostels, not unlike the dorm life described above, in various armpits of the world.

…the conch house on Key West steadily being gnawed to dust by termites.

…the attic in Key West – dark and blazing hot during the day. But it was only $500/month, which was pretty good in Key West, even for an attic.

…the small apartment in North Carolina that was directly in the path of low, incoming flights landing at the Raleigh-Durham airport.

After years of a fluid living situation, it will be nice to settle into a place. Look at me, I’m getting’ all nesty. Have no fear, fortunately the travel writing gig requires some travel. But even so, it will be nice to come home to my home.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

RIP Takamoto. Scooby lives on.

My all-time favorite cartoon is Scooby-Doo. I’ve got the cookie jars, tooth brush holders, telephones, statues, and action figures to prove it. In fact, I have the world’s largest collection of Scooby-Doo boxers, which just so happen to be my one and only layer (last layer) of security against terrorists and other ill-bringers.

Sad news: the animator who created Scooby died today. Reuters reports:

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Iwao Takamoto, the animator who created the cartoon canine Scooby-Doo as well as characters on such shows as "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons," died Monday after suffering a massive coronary, a spokesman said. He was 81.

Takamoto died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was being treated for respiratory problems, said Gary Miereanu, a spokesman for Warner Bros. Animation.


I always figured that it was Hanna or Barbera that created Scooby.

Takamoto received “informal illustration training” from fellow Japanese-Americans while in an internment camp during WWII. I don’t know much about the internment camps, but I would have guessed them to be ugly, dark, depressing, imagination-stomping kind of places. Thinking about a group of prisoners huddled together drawing cartoons in such a place makes me smile.