Monday, October 5, 2015

Guest Post - 'Overnight Delivery in Vietnam'

With my good-intentioned bus master and friend. (You owe me, girl!)
My clearest memories of Vietnam revolve not around the famous sights and the guidebook-prescribed places but the unexpected, unpredictable moments of during and in between. Hoi An was wonderful, but it was the old woman with the leprous hands who peeled my mango for me that I can't forget, as much as I'd like to. Our trip to the hills up north was nice, but the brick that came flying and crashing through the window of our berth on the overnight train as we slept kind of heads the highlight reel.

Even on that boat tour around Vietnam's crown jewel of Ha Long Bay, the indescribable scenery, the captivating karsts take a back seat in the caravan of memories in my head. The grumbling, almost resentful attitude of the people working on the boat; the overload of French Fries at every meal; my gastrointestinal bout with some expired pineapple juice I drank; these are what stick in my mind, for better or for worse.

After a month it seemed Vietnam was entirely incapable of providing a dull moment. I couldn't even take a bus without having another memorable moment pounded into me. One bus ride in particular is the subject of 'Overnight Delivery in Vietnam', a recent guest post written exclusively for Manouk Bob's travel-inspired BunchOfBackpackers site.

Manouk has a lot of good stuff going on over at BunchOfBackpackers, so take a few moments to poke around. And check out 'Where These Roads Went', the travelogue that shows you in fantastic detail how not to travel through Cambodia. (Print version coming soon, for those of you who prefer paper to plug-in.)

p.s. - every detail of the story is true, even the part about the flying mangosteen.

Travel on!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Indonesia Takes China & Japan For A Ride

Q: How do you get the second and third largest economies in the world to kiss your ass?

A: Tell them you want to spend $5 billion on a train that goes really fast.

Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world so you're bound to find a few clever characters hanging around, has been stringing China and Japan along for months with talk of wanting to build a high-speed railway linking Jakarta and Bandung. China and Japan, blinded by the amount of cash to be made - mainly by the politicians bucking for the deal - have been going totally ga-ga over the idea.

It's a scientific fact that you can't think straight when you are going totally ga-ga.

"Thanks for dinner know, we're just not ready for a $5 billion train..."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pope Francis Brings His Climate Change Game

Conservatives Respond by Whining About His Eligibility to Play

"See you at the Big Dance, boys..."
Back in April the Christian Science Monitor reported that “on Tuesday, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and other organizations hosted a summit at the Vatican called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” billed as a meeting to help strengthen “the global consensus” on the issue.” One intended effect of this meeting is, we are told, “to influence this year’s United Nation’s Climate Change Conference.”

In their own press conference on Monday, before even hearing what Pope Francis had to say, conservative groups held a press conference to denounce the Pope’s stance on the environment. In doing so, certain conservatives did a fine job exposing the truth: that they are contradictory, hypocritical and unwitting masters of irony.
NOTE: I said ‘certain’ conservatives, not all. Because labeling someone does not give you the right to decry them. You have to wait until they say something stupid.

You can check out the Christian Science Monitor article on the subject here. Or keep reading for the two-minute breakdown of some grown men whining about a guy in a white robe.

"No, no, you're not going to Hell if you become a climate scientist, don't listen to those guys..."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Don't Miss This Chance to Alter History!

~ There might be something in it for you ~

Dear Friends,

In Cambodia they let you use your mug shot
for your day pass to Angkor.
It's been 12 years since I made it out of Cambodia alive. 12 years since I made it through some hard
and harrowing days, replete with uncertainty and confusion and a lot of really weird smells. Now, after more than a decade of turmoil and strife (none of which has to do with Cambodia), the stories of these days are ready to be told.

But only with your help will these stories make it to the masses who are, unbeknownst to them, dying to hear them.

Do you like to make people happy?

Awesome. Before you now lies a golden opportunity to help bring happiness to millions of people.

Do you like to give your opinion?

Who doesn't, right? Here's a rare chance to give yours to someone who is actually asking for it.

Come on my friend! Tell me what you think!
And you may even get something in return!

Take a moment to check out the first few pages of the upcoming travelogue 'Take This Guidebook & Shove It' and, at the bottom, let us know what you think, like:

  • Do you feel compelled to keep reading?
  • What do you expect from the rest of the book?
  • Do you prefer e-books or print books?

Answers to the first two questions will help me.

Answering the third will help you as I will be giving copies of the book to those who leave the most helpful and most creative comments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jeb Bush Speaks Volumes

But There Are Problems with the Con-Text

“Jeb Bush sought to cast himself as a political outsider during his first big speech as a presidential candidate on Monday…”

So begins the guardian’s take on Jeb Bush and his brand spanking new campaign. The sub-headline of the article, by the way, refers to Jeb’s touting of his “re-invention of his brother’s compassionate conservatism”.

Look, little brother. To use big brother’s words, either you are with him or you are against him. None of this re-inventing BS.
My name's Jeb, ya see, so I'm kind of like an outsider.

The guardian (they don’t capitalize their name, why should I?) goes on to tell us that ole Jeb is trying to “counter criticism that he represents the establishment wing of the Republican party.”

Let’s try to take his word for it, shall we?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Those Moving Piles of Water Are Called Waves

And Other Things To Know Before Trying To Row Across the Ocean

You need a few things if you’re going to try to row a boat 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. A decent boat. A light on your decent boat. A bit of fortitude.

Sonya Baumstein had none of these.

But she went for it anyway. Gotta love the enthusiasm.

'...and I've even got extra oars in case my arms get tired...'

The Orange County Register had by far the best account of Sonya’s poorly-planned adventure on the high seas I've seen. In other words, it gave the most detail. And the details are so flipping funny it would be rude not to share them.

30-year-old Sonya wanted to be the first woman to row solo across the Pacific.

That takes some guts. So far so good. But we learn from the we-don’t-color-our-news OC Register that after departing on June 7th “she spent several days after her departure relatively close to shore as she waited for her sea sickness to subside.”


If Sonya was allergic to cats she would have wanted to become a lion tamer.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

In Honor of National Moving Month

Paying Tribute to Our Founding Fathers

Note: The following bit of history-based humor recently appeared on the HireAHelper blog. A lot of the facts you'll read here are true. The rest have been sanctioned by secret revisionist government committee. Except for the bad word etymology bits. Those parts are just common sense.

Moving Day circa 1887.
Crazy Tuesday (the Tuesday after Memorial Day) ushers in the moving industry’s officially crazy season. With that you’ll likely be way too busy taking care of today and tomorrow to think about yesterday and yesteryear and everything that happened to bring us all to this point in moving history.

That’s okay. We’ve got some historical highlights to make us all appreciate how good we have it now. Seriously. Really. We don’t have to scour the land for fuel. We don’t need a protective convoy. In the grand scheme of things, despite all the paperwork and all the headaches and all the sneaky folks running around, we are living in the Golden Age of Moving.

Now that, my friends, is crazy.

It all started long long ago…

For thousands of years man survived without the services of HireAHelper. It’s true. Ever since man first decided to up and leave Africa he had to rely on his own devices to move himself, his family and everything he owned across the vast land masses to all corners of the Earth.

The fact that man, for most of history, owned nothing more than a few animal skins and a handful of hunting implements made the task bearable. In fact, right on through the entire hunter-gatherer era man was constantly on the move, so he had to live simple and travel light. Otherwise he’d have to hire movers pretty much every day, even on Sunday. And who would be able to afford that? Funny how the time when man moved the most was also the time when a moving company just wasn’t going to make any money.

With the dawn of agriculture man began putting down roots, so to speak. And with this switch to settling in one place for a while came the trend of making bigger homes and finding more stuff to put in them. Unfortunately the time was still not right for the moving industry since no one had invented the wheel yet.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Categorical Bullshit! On...Jeopardy!

Playing the Pro

And now...Back...To…Jeopardy!

Trebek: I believe it's Kevin's turn to go first?
Contestant: I’ll take Bullshit Writers for $200, Alex.
Normally we don't allow swearing on our show, but considering the category, let's sling some shit, shall we?
Trebek: Okay, here’s your answer. ‘It’s how 95% of today’s travel writers do their travel research.’

Contestant; What is…Google?

Trebek: Right you are, Kevin. You pick again.

Contestant: I think I’ll stick with Bullshit for $400, Alex.

Contestant: Who is Jean Folger?

Trebek: Right again! You’re on a roll.

Contestant: Gotta go with what I know. Bullshit Writers for $600 please.

Trebek: For $600 and a share of the lead. This city was recently ranked by a writer who has never been there as one of Japan’s best places to retire, despite the snot-freezing winters that last six months and the biggest attractions being skiing, getting drunk in Susukino and, in February, battling the 2 million people who descend on the annual Snow Festival.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Johnny Manziel, Firing Away

Don’t Mind My Poolside Manners

"All right, that's it you annoying little autograph seeker!"

Observation: ESPN and Jim Basquil need to lay off the how’s-this-for-a-story sauce.

Consider the opening line in the video accompanying this article: “JOHNny ManZIEL, harASSED by a FAN at the AT&T Byron Nelson Golf Tournament.”

Seriously? All that emphasis because someone was bothering someone next to a pool? So what if one of the someones was a professional quarterback? Is this really a reason to put on a striped shirt-striped tie combo and get all worked up?

Jimmy baby, save your serotonin for the part about what color his girlfriend’s bikini was.

A close and properly journalistic look at the situation, however, is worth a peek. That, my friends, is why we are here.

FIRST, the HIGH lights.”

Friday, May 29, 2015

Blowing Smoke: Today's Eruption of Mount Shindake

And the Government's Hot-Air Response

The footage of this morning’s eruption of Mount Shindake, on tiny Kuchinoerabu Island in Japan’s far southwest, is awesome and terrifying and fascinating – and probably very bad for the local tourism industry. In case you missed it, the article accompanying the footage is prettyterrifying in its own way.
Below are a few excerpts in quotation marks.
The keen insights in italics are mine.

“More than 100 people have been ordered to evacuate after a volcano erupted on the tiny southern Japanese island of Kuchinoerabu on Friday morning.”
Ordered to evacuate. Huge volcanic eruption on a tiny island and the authorities think they need to tell people to get the hell out of Dodge? This is what a government selfie looks like.

“Spectacular TV footage captured the moment Mount Shindake exploded, sending columns of thick, black smoke high into the air.”
Guys, the smoke in that ‘spectacular’ footage is medium gray. At best.

“Japan’s meteorological agency raised the alert level to five – the highest on its scale…”
A massive eruption ranks a five. Wow. Tricky algorithm there.