Monday, August 25, 2014

A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO BESTIALITY

STORY TIME

The tribesman sat and listened to the Outsider through the translator.  Bright eyes shown out through faces darkened like the nuts of the Coula tree by the harsh suns.

"We take water, clean water." said the Outsider through the translator.  "So clean that it would taste odd to you but it would be safe for even your babies or old men to drink.  We place it into the vessel.  The vessel is more white than the most white clouds in the sky."

The outsider gestured upward but the sky was pale blue, an unrelenting sun have burned off the clouds soon after rising.

Fascinated, the tribesmen leaned forward.  The bravest of them all, the chief asked "And what do you do?"

"We shit in it."

After a stunned silence, the chief leaned toward his brother and muttered, "What an asshole."


Except from "The Book of Logan", volume 8, Logan describes flush toilets to tribesmen.



A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO BESTIALITY

And now from the guys who are copying the "Time Life" book idea despite the internet, a new book series -

Coffee Table Books

Every month, you'll receive a new book including such titles as:

"A Beginners Guide To Bestiality"
"Necrophilia - How Old Is Too Old?"
"How To Cook Meth" combined with "Rebuilding Your Home After An Explosion"
"How To Dispose of a Fresh Corpse"
"How To Hotwire the Space Shuttle"
"How To Host A Tailgating Party From the Space Shuttle"
"How To Avoid the USA Government - The Snowden Way"
"Stealing Cattle For Fun And Profit" combined with "Chop Shops For Cattle - How To Find Them"
"Satan Lives In The Toilet" - a young children's guide to getting them to poop.
"It Scares The Shit Out Of Them!" - adult's guide to SLITT.
"Moist And Other Words Women Love"
"Committing Suicide - The Robin Williams Way!"
"Eat A Dick" - By Chris C.  (This is his followup to the book "Women Are Junk")
"How To Not Stress Out Before Giving A Panel On Writing" - By Jim G.
"A Is For Assrape - A Guide To The American Penal System"

If you choose to keep the volume, enclose just $19.95 in the return envelope.  Should you choose to return the volume, you pay only the shipping and handling of $19.95.



GOODBYE ROBIN
On a completely unrelated note, rest in peace, Robin Williams.



FAIRY TALE

Once upon a time, a wicked witch put a curse on a young princess.

"She shall lie as though dead until a prince shall come and kiss her."

Unfortunately, the only kind of princes that go around kissing women who look dead are 'princes of necrophilia'.

Ladies, men who molest corpses they find in the woods do not good husbands make.

Especially, if like the prince who found the young princess, they carry a gimp mask.

She was never...well...kissed, at any rate.



ALBANIA - FIRST GLANCE

Because there are people who are interested in such things, I'm putting my rough research notes here on research into Albania.

As usual, my first stop is Wikitravel.  Unless otherwise noted, any quote is from there.


For citizens of the USA, no visa is required for 90 days.  I'll probably be there two months (possibly a tick more) because
And,

Since I'm neither rich nor cool enough to do winter in Hawaii, I will have to find somewhere closer - and cheaper to 'do winter'.   Going to stay in either southern Europe or perhaps northern Africa.


Back to Albania...

Pretty much everyone I've spoken to on Albania agrees that the south is nice, the north is bad - and potentially dangerous.  Because of my current location and potential next locations, south works out.

"There is a €1 road tax for the first 60 days of your stay. For every additional day it is €1 per day. Be sure to receive a receipt and keep it with you, as guards may request it upon exiting the country as proof of payment. The former €10 entrance fee per person has been abolished. The Albania guards are very nice and do their best to help out and will, on occasion, allow fees to be paid in dollars or will forget to charge you. It's worth making sure you've got the Euros on you..."

Logan:  OK.  Get a receipt and be sure to keep it.  Note that in some countries, if you don't pay something (ludicrous) like the 'road tax' and have the receipt, you get charged the 'per day'.  Hence it could go up from 1€ to 60€ quick.  That is a receipt that goes into my passport and stays there until I leave the country.  This is one of those 'taxes' I'd personally abolish for tourists.  "KISS" as they say.

They also have additional 'taxes' for using the airport, going into the city center and presumably the bathroom.  Since I'm going to be going in from the Macedonian border, I should be able to avoid that crap.

Looking at the map,
I do see that I am tantalizingly close to both Greece and the boot of Italy.
Unfortunately, I know the answer to the above question and that may just keep me out of both.

Judging by the bus prices they list for other destinations on Wikitravel, it should cost me under $10 to get from Ohrid into Albania and less than six hours.  Which is one of the reasons I decided to stay in this area - easy egress.


Where to hang out?

This statement caught my eye:

"In Gjirokaster you can buy a bus ticket to Athens, Greece or anywhere in between. The buses are new, cheap, air conditioned, and stop along the way at some service stations."

This might mean that the town - which I have no clue how to pronounce might be a good place for me to spend some time.  Maybe a quick in and out field trip into Greece.  Not sure.  Something to consider.

Another statement: "Ferries from Corfu to Saranda every day."

Note that Sarandra and the town I will never be able to spell, Gjirokaster, seem to be pretty close together.

Skipping over to the entry on Sarandra, I read the depressing statement "Saranda is characterized by a Mediterranean climate and warm sea waters. Saranda typically has over 300 sunny days a year. Due to its location and warm weather Saranda is one of the most attractive tourist towns on the Albanian Riviera, where honeymooners traditionally spend their holidays."  Read as "This is probably the expensive bit."  Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by reading of some 10 euro dorm accommodations.  Possibly cheaper as I'll be going in the off season.  I hope.  When staying in a hostel, I will again be looking for my next apartment.

It also mentions that to go to the Greek island of Corfu it is about $50 round trip.  Prices seem to be about double there but it might be good to go for a couple days, not sure.  Would have to do more research.

[Yeah, I know if I was a productive member of society money would not be such a limiting factor but since I am essentially a vagrant, it is.  I'm ok with that.]

A quick read through of some of the towns gave me this information:
The stuff with '?' seemed to be of limited interest.  Not a lot of places to stay, not a lot of tourist stuff listed, that sort of thing.  The places underlined seemed of more interest.

Given how I live however, it seems that anywhere with wifi would be just fine for me.

There could be a problem with getting to see Berat - if the map above is at all accurate, it's a lot of long looping roads (many of which I've read are unpaved) to get there.  Given that wikitravel says "In 2008 it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it is a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town. It is one of the country's most beautiful towns, and is known as the 'town of a thousand windows.'", it sounds as though it may be a shame to miss it.  Hence, I'll have to do more research.

The route may end up going something like this:

The problem (again) is that the areas I want to possibly stay in are near the end of the route.  This presents the possible problem of needing to backtrack if I find an area I like better along the way.  Fortunately, Albania is not a huge country.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EUROPE AND USA

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EUROPE AND USA

There are a lot of differences between Europe and the USA. For example Americans pay ten to twenty percent less in taxes than other developed countries.  Of course, you don't see that in your bank account but you will be crippled financially for decades due to student loan payments and medical bills.  But best not to talk about that...
...and move on to something lighter.



INSECTS

There seem to be a lot less of them in Europe.  The average European doesn't have - nor need - screens on their windows and doors.  This is slowly changing as screens are making their way into Europe.

To give an example, in the USA if you look at any random street light at night, you will find insects teeming around it.  Not so in Europe.

My personal belief is possibly the slaying of the indigenous population left us with some sort of curse.

Not sure what more we can do for the survivors - we have named several sports teams after them...

...And even gave them casinos...

I mean, what more could people want?  Well, other than not being slaughtered.

My god, this gif can get annoying.  On to the next thing...



ELECTRIC KETTLE

Believe it or not, I had to go to England to see one of these.  Really.

They just don't have them in America.  Instead, we have
Yep.  This blurry shitty picture is the best I could find.  'Merica!  And Logan's laziness.  Laziness is indeed a stereotype of Americans.

It seems to baffle Europeans that people in the USA don't own electric kettles.  "How do you heat water?" I have been asked on numerous occasions.

When I moved in to my apartment in Macedonia, the kind people I rented it from made sure the apartment had a comfortable rolling chair for my ever widening ass and...and electric kettle.  I'd asked for a microwave which baffled them.  I was warned that I would become sick (and possibly die) if I used it overly much.  "If that were true, most of America would have already died." I retorted.

After having lived in Europe for a year or two (?) I would say that if you drink instant coffee or tea, an electric kettle is indispensable.   It heats up water faster than the stove will and I've heard that some advanced models even have a 'keep the water warm' setting.  Honestly though it heats up fast enough you really don't need that.



PHARMACIES
In the USA, especially if you have medical insurance, you go to the doctor if you think something is wrong.  Within Europe you go to the doctor if you think something is severely wrong or you are dying.

Instead of going to the doctor, you go to the pharmacy.   In the USA, it seems you need a prescription for almost everything.  For example, I take medicine for high blood pressure, muscle relaxants and for my ankylosing spondylitis.  A prescription is needed for all five medicines, which entails an expensive and time consuming doctor visit.  Every other country I've been to - including all the European nations I have visited - all these drugs are over the counter.  Although I've chosen to go to a doctor to have the prescriptions verified from time to time, it is not obligatory.



WASHING MACHINES

Coming from the land of top loading washing machines, the front loader is one of the most baffling things about Europe.

These are a huge pain in the ass.

When the machine is running, the door automatically locks to keep you from opening it and spilling a couple of liters of hot, soapy water onto your floor.

While this may sound reasonable in principle, it is one of the worst designs I've ever seen.

Often the door decides to stay locked until it feels like opening.  If ever.

With the top loader, you can open it whenever you want without the risk of a foot bath and burn.  The machine merely stops whatever it was doing.

Forget to add some socks?  No problem with a top loader - just open it up and toss them in there.  Front loader?  Too bad.  Maybe you can get it open but you feel a bit like...
...you're trying to crack a safe.  In fact, I've had an easier time getting into a couple of safes than some of these front loaders.

So why do Europeans use them?  According to some sources, they do a better job, use less water and detract less from counter space when installed in the kitchen and are more gentle on clothing.

From my perspective, using the top loader is much easier, therefore better.  See American stereotypes above.



PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Having lived in five different states within the USA (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska and Virginia) I would have to say "Public transportation in the USA sucks donkey cock."

Within Europe, public transportation is easy to use.  Buses, streetcars, subways, bike paths and so on.

America, not so much.   Women see men who don't own a car as a loser.  Corporations also want you to drive and are not above evil means to make that happen.  Lots of places in the USA don't have adequate public transportation and unless you own a car, keeping a job won't happen.

Don't get me wrong, plenty of people in Europe own cars but public transportation is a viable option.  Heck, you can even travel across Europe using public transportation.



FURTHER READING

I thought this article was an interesting read.  Disclaimer:  No, I am not trying to get anyone to move anywhere.  Honestly, I don't care where you live.  It would make me happy if more people from the USA left it to travel extensively and see some of the world.  It opens doors in your mind you did not know were there.



FOR PEOPLE NOT FROM AMERICA

Do not be discouraged by my views on the differences.  Although Winston Churchill said “When I am abroad, I always make it a rule to never criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home.”, I am not planning on living in the USA any more so have to do it from abroad.


For Europeans planning on visiting the USA, here are five recommendations.

First - unless you are wealthy, you'll want to travel in a group of two to four people to reduce costs.  I recommend renting a vehicle large enough to sleep in as most of America hasn't really figured out the whole 'hostel' thing yet.  Hotels are freakishly expensive.  They have showers at some rest stops and you can get your own camp showers.
Yeah, it sucks but it beats blowing a hundred dollars a night for a hotel.



Second - when you go to a restaurant, have only one person order food and the other share with them.  Seriously - you will get at least double the portions and can feed two, maybe three people from one order.  This will help you save money.  Remember, unless you tip at least 15% to 25% or make sure you never go to that restaurant again.  Unless you like steak seasoned with ass.  The movie Waiting will show some of the dreadful things that can happen should you run afoul the staff of a restaurant.



Third - be sure to visit the 'hick'/'redneck' states.  I did a search on the internet to try to get a good map of which states are included in this.  The best I could find was this map:
I have no idea why the 'most religious states' are those most closely associated with hick/redneck culture.

But if you want to watch people race lawnmowers (yes), go noodling, attend tailgating parties, get to see an individual's closet full of guns and meet some really unique people...
...you owe it to yourself to go there.



Fourth, the USA is frigging huge.
While you don't need to plan out how long to spend at each location (don't recommend it either) I do recommend coming up with some sort of route.  This can make it much more probable you will hit all of the things you want to see.



Lastly, be sure to speak with people outside your group.  If you are looking for...intimate companionship, know that Americans love foreign accents.  Except Mexican.  There we have a bit of racism.  But if you are from Europe especially countries Americans get excited about the thought of visiting (not actually visiting, just the thought of it) such as France, Switzerland, etc you will find 'picking someone up' (ie one night stands aka quick sex aka bonk bonk vroom vroom...  Hopefully, you get the idea) much easier than a local.  Play up on your 'being exotic'.  Enjoy.



WEIRD SHIT AND MEMES

Be careful what you type in.  Notice that 'lobbyists' fails to appear?  Was Google bribed by one?  If only the aliens had paid up!


Know your Gods!

What an amazing sight to come home to every day.


There is some of that in this fucking blog.

Because 'Merican!

Wish I'd found this for my previous blog.  It could have used more casual racism.

But not this much.  Way over the line here.  Note, if I still have any fans of Asian ancestry, be sure to write in and tell me how much you love this blog.  Despite me.

Lastly, this reminds me of my good friend Chris C.  He use to have a profound skill in projectile vomiting.  Also, this blog may cause some people to do this.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

GLAD MY SHOWS PRODUCER WASN'T AROUND

ABSENT PRODUCER

Today was one of the few days I was happy my shows' producer wasn't around.  If I had a show, or a producer it would have gotten awkward.

Producers like to put all sorts of stuff on the air.  Especially if it is awkward.  Especially if it is a rotund man in his underwear doing laundry.

Note that 'rotund' in this case is an American word meaning 'rounded' or 'fat'.  The rest of the world would have seen the show and said "Let me guess - there were co-stars but he ate them?"  In 'Merica we have a different set of values.

As they do in the rest of the world with regards to fixing things.

Anything dealing with water - right or wrong - in most of the world comes within the purview of the plumber.  Including washing machines.

If there are any actual professional plumbers within Eastern Europe, I have neither seen nor heard of them within the two years of living there.  It is always 'the guy'.  An acquaintance or friend who knows something about it and has a toolbox dating back to the Hittites.

The repairmen are always 'motivated amateurs'.  Their amount of motivation depends solely upon how well they know the person the repairs are being done for.

There are no professional plumbers because nobody pays for them - possibly due to having no money.

As a result, the house may be immaculate but the water works in the bathroom are always suspicious at best, a ticking time bomb at worst.

Because of this, one needs to have the skills to be able to clean their clothing while the washing machine is broken.  As it often will be.

Which brings me back to washing clothing in my underwear.

Because this is an ancient and secret skill I wanted to share it with you.



PREPARATION

Lock up your dwelling tight.  Draw curtains over the windows.  As you will be doing this naked or nearly naked, it is best not to give the neighbors too much of a peep show.  Unless that is your thing.

Turn off or disconnect all phones.  If you are the type of person who cannot live with their cell phone on at all times, put one kilogram of uncooked white rice into a large, covered container.  Place well out of the way.

At minimum, you will need one large bowl capable of holding all of your clothing.  Additional bowls of the same size makes the procedure easier.

Have a drying rack set up.  Note that at minimum you will have three hundred milliliters of water drip onto the area under the drying rack.  Placing the drying rack over carpeted area or baby's crib is not recommended.

Carefully fill one container with water and a little laundry soap.  Since your washing machine is quite obviously broken, you should have plenty of laundry soap sitting around not doing anything.

Get naked.

Carefully wash the clothing in the container with the soap.  Toss wet clothing in the sink.  Curse at Logan for being a slob and having a dirty sink.

Note how much water splashes over your naked body.

Good.

Yes.  Just like that.

....

After washing all of the clothing, transfer the wet garments into the now empty bowl.  Begin rincing the clothing.

Wring it out as well as you can.

Note, it will never be good enough.

Think of the wringing out as strength training for your hands and arms.

Note, if you are Arnold Schwarzenegger, be careful when you wring out your clothing you don't accidentally shred it.
Whoops!  There goes another shirt!

After wringing out your clothing, transfer it to the drying rack.

If suffering from addiction to your cellphone and your dumbass dropped it into the water (or toilet) place the cellphone into the bin of rice.  Cover it with rice.  Cover the bin and keep it away from your clumsy ass.

If you didn't drop the phone into the water, look smug and have the rice for dinner tonight.

Special note:  If you did drop the cellphone into the water and are using the rice to suck the moisture from the phone, do not cook and eat the rice before removing the cellphone.

Wait for the clothing to dry.  This will take hours.

Pose naked in the mirror.  Do not feel bad you are not attractive.  If you are attractive, feel bad for Logan.

And you're done!

Monday, July 21, 2014

DON'T MISS LEG DAY

DAILY SCHEDULE

I've not been doing a lot recently that warrants a lot of blog posts.

Going on long sweaty and often painful walks, eating, drinking, playing my video games.  This is not newsworthy stuff, though I'm guessing Fox News could still make it fill several hours.  "And is there a chance he is talking with aliens?  Does he know where the Malaysian plane could be?  Was he some sort of "Jame Bond-esque" super villain who stole it?"



THE OTHER OTHER WHITE MEAT

Tam is one of my friends from Macedonia.  With her permission, here is one of her statements:

"I, for example don`t eat meat, and am born here, raised here, forced to eat meat when I was small and refused it as I got older and older.

I never understood why people in Macedonia in Serbia also eat that amount of meat. I don`t have anything against it, I just cant discover why.

And not that I don`t eat meat, I don`t eat fish (which is considered as sin especially in Ohrid), and don`t eat food that is touched or prepared together with meat.

The most common question that I get here is "what do you live from?"

At first, I tried to explain that you can eat pasta and a lot of vegetables and fruits + mushrooms.

They looked at me and asked me again "what do you live from?"

Now I just answer "I am a cannibal".

Usually, they go away."



FEELING EUROPEAN

Order some olives (not pitted) and a beer.  Sit around eating and drinking those and watching the people.

Note, in the states they may yell "Wot chew lookin' at?"  Followed by gunfire.



DANGER IN BEING NICE

When I've been to a restaurant more than once, there is a huge danger of them sometimes being too nice.  Extra food, special dishes and all of that.  I don't get charged for them but it does cause some guilt which I try to absolve through tipping.  This creates a dangerous cycle.



LEG TIME

Some people were asking about my legs.  Apparently, them being big through edema and now trying to shrink has caused me to begin to turn in to a lizard.

They are very dry and as painful as if I'd gotten very stupid with too much sun.

The following pictures may horrify and mortify you.  This is to be expected.

Before anyone asks, yes I am consulting a very nice doctor about it and she has prescribed medicine and such.






Someone asked "How does it feel?"  Answer, no where as bad as


Saturday, July 12, 2014

THE GREAT FLOOD

[Author's note:  The blog was named after the video at the bottom of this blog.  See link below.]


PANORAMA RESTAURANT

The Panorama is a famous restaurant in Ohrid.  The prices are cheap, the food is good, the portions are big and the staff is friendly.

I've made friends with the wait staff and current manager, Risto.  He is working there while his brother the owner is tending to his broken leg.

Risto is quite an interesting fellow and we've had some good conversations.  Here's one:


Risto:  "Where are you from?  Which ethnic background?"
Logan:  "Don't know.  Adopted."
Risto:  "Your name?  Where is 'Horsford' from?
Logan:  "Might be Norwegian, not sure."
Risto:  "You don't know your family history?"
Logan:  "In America, most people don't.  They might have some memories of their grandparents, but usually..."  (shrug)
Risto:  "I know eight generations back!"
Logan:  "Most people in the USA would find that surprising.  We have no sense of history."

I didn't have the heart to tell him that when people outlive their perceived usefulness, we like to stick them in old people's homes and usually they have little to do with the families.  Here, the grandparents always live with the family and help raise the kids.

It's a different culture.

(Disclaimer:  Yes, I know of at least one person who has traced their family back to the Mayflower but that is - in the USA - an anomaly.)

As a side note, I think the culture of the USA may be slowly changing within my own lifetime.  Because of the poverty induced by the corporations.  Kids now have to live with their parents much longer (often into their 30's).  Poverty will continue to change things.  Whether this is better or worse, I cannot say.


Some cooks and wait staff freak out if you try this but it worked here:  I told them "I don't want anything that has ever lived in the water and keep the bill under 500d ($10).  Bring whatever."

Rather than doing the cowardly thing of thinking "What if he doesn't like it!" they just brought food.

Some of the best meals I've had in Macedonia.

If you visit Ohrid, Panorama is a must go to restaurant.  It will be about 120d (less than $3) by taxi to get there from the tourist area.



ALCOHOL

Somewhere, I'd made a comment that "in Macedonia I hadn't been drinking".  This isn't quite true.  Meals generally have a beer or two with them.

While in the 'we were founded by Puritans (later muddled by 'Victorian thinking') and still have all that baggage" USA, it might be seen as alcoholism, here it is 'just another drink'.

When I get beer with my food is is generally because:
a) only an idiot would drink tap water of a different country (even if it is deemed 'safe')
b) you get a half liter for the same price as you get a quarter liter of soda.  I've no idea why.



MACEDONIAN CUSTOM

"Let's go for coffee" could mean any kind of drink, including alcohol.

It is probable it will involve sitting around a cafe for a long time.



DAILY SCHEDULE

There may be a couple people who are curious as to what my daily schedule looks like.  For them as well as posterity I have taken the time to write it down.  In several hundred years, my hope is that a teacher will come across it and force their students to learn it in order to bore the shit out of them.  This, teachers, is your payback.  Note, if apes have mastered the world by then, be sure to put in several 'groom myself and others' parts.


7:00-10:00 Depending on the amount of pain I am in, I wake up somewhere between these times.

10:00-11:00  Play my video games until somewhere within these times.  In most of the world, there is really no point to go out before this time unless you like looking at closed shops.  If a male asks another male to 'wake up early to see the sunrise', he should expect to be punched in the nose.  If a boy asks a girl to 'wake up early to see the sunrise', it is a seduction thing.  If a girl asks a boy, it's because  she doesn't want to go by herself.  If the boy accepts, it is because he wants to sleep with her.  If he responds "Are you fucking nuts?" it means he thinks he has no chance of having sex with the female.  Just so you know.

10:00-14:00  Wander around for one to three hours.  The actual length of time is heightened by interest and decreased by pain and or hunger.  Or diarrhea.   The last will cut the time way down.  Leaving a brown trail around the city is not generally smiled upon by the people living in that city.

12:00-14:00  Stagger back to flat and shower.  Possibly take a nap ranging from :15 to 2:00.  The time is dependent upon the amount of fatigue vs the amount of pain I'm in.  After this, it is a combination of wandering around the flat muttering to myself (I talk to myself when I require an expert opinion), playing video games and writing blogs.

22:00-02:00  Bed time for Bonzo.  The actual bed time depends on the amount of pain, fatigue, insomnia or drunkenness.



VIDEOS

Hills of Macedonia
The Great Flood

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

MACEDONIA, A FRIENDLY NATION

This blog is dedicated to Robert Price who gently reminded me that people want me to write more stuff.  (Disclaimer:  Please note that I only make these when something is happening but in this case, I am moving around a bit...)



FRIENDLY FOLK

I have met pretty much nothing except friendly people here.  I wanted to illustrate that with a story.

Trying to find an apartment to stay in Bitola, I'd gone down to the real estate office.  There was a guy in his thirties with an elderly couple I judged to be his parents.

Because I'm a foreigner, the man working there wanted to know what I needed.

Honestly, this always is a bit awkward.  I really don't mind waiting my turn - but in this case it turned out to be fortuitous.   I explained I was looking for a place to stay long term.  The other customer in his thirties kindly helped translate.

After awhile, the elderly couple took off and the broker discovered he had nothing for me.  I thanked them both and left.

The guy in his thirties (Nikola) caught up with me after I'd gone a block or two and offered to take me to a different real estate agent.  Thinking it would just be a block or two I accepted his generous offer.  It was - to his car.  Then, we drove to the other real estate agent.  Who also didn't have anything.

But this story illustrates just how kind the Macedonian people really are.  Heck, if he'd just tracked me down to give me the name of a different real estate agent and vague directions to it, that would have been really nice of him - but to drive me there?

I offered (repeatedly, just in case any Islamic custom had taken root here) to buy him breakfast but he steadfastly refused as he had other stuff to do.  Stuff he put off doing to try to help me out.  In addition, he even reached out to his contacts.  Though they came up dry, it was extremely friendly and I felt very good about having come to Macedonia.

Whether they know it or not, people like Nikola are ambassadors for their nation - and they are doing a great job of it.

A side note for my American readers:  I'm sure many of you read that I got into a strangers car and went with him through parts unknown.  Yeah.  I do that quite a bit.  Given that I've an excellent sense for people and a pretty decent ability to read faces, my chances of getting hurt doing that are about half what I judge getting run over on the sidewalk.  Regardless, people are generally neutral with more being friendly than out to hurt someone.  Here in Macedonia, they seem to lean heavily toward the friendly side of the scale.  In fact, if you were to say "American people are paranoid" you could say "Macedonian people are friendly" and it would be at least as true.  Turn off the news - you are only hurting yourself by 'trying to keep informed'.



MACEDONIAN CLIMATE

I've lived in at least five different deserts.  Honestly, I've lost count at this point.  But the heat is between 30 and 40 degrees (C.  If stuck on an antiquated system the rest of the world has abandoned, please read as 'damned hot').

Why anyone would choose to come here on vacation during this degree of heat - other than to go to say a beach - is a mystery.

Starting to form the belief that south eastern Europe is best during the 'shoulder seasons' - spring and fall.  You don't want to be here during winter.  Apparently, it use to be much more mild but for no apparent reason (read as 'global warming') the temperatures have plummeted.



COFFEE

Macedonian.  Greek.  Turkish.  They all taste pretty much the same to me.  I asked someone about it and the difference turns out to be the way it is prepared - not the ingredients.  One you heat the coffee first, then add water.  Different  one you heat the water then add the coffee.  Third one you...  I'm not sure.  Blow a squirrel, toss everything into the pot and boil it?  I can't remember but you get the point.



WAITERS

Most people complain they have trouble with waiters, especially in countries where if you don't tip them they don't get paid.

Try being funny, outrageous, shameless and over the top.  I've never had bad service.  Oh, and treating them like humans who are stuck doing a kind of shitty job doesn't hurt either.   But they shall be freed from their shitty jobs when we build small robots to do this work (or trained pigeons) and then they shall have no jobs and rejoice!



BITOLA

Not sure why Bitola has only one decent/affordable hostel.  It's OK, but nothing I'd travel there to stay in.  For tourists, I'd recommend staying in Ohrid and making Bitola a day trip.  You can see all the major sites in a day.

One odd thing they have is a kilometer or two (or more?) of nothing but restaurants and cafes.  No clue why it is set up like that but they're all along the same street, pretty much in a straight line.

Skip the 'bazaar'.  It's not.  Nothing but a bunch of small huts selling stuff, closed on Sundays.  None of the wonder, romance and chaos of an actual bazaar.

It's a nice town but not really that noteworthy to tourists.



OHRID

Though I was told there would be 'lots', there was only one woman waiting around at the bus station hoping to rent out a room in her house to tourists.  She was kind enough to point out I'd left my plastic bag with my water behind.

If you're wanting a 'home' experience, go with one of these women but as always make sure to first take a look at the place then find out what is actually included.  If they have noisy pets and noisy kids, find that out.  Food may or may not be included.  Haggle!

After lying to the nice lady and telling her I already had a reservation, I walked the kilometer to the place I'm staying.  It's called "Valentin Hostel".  It's extremely basic and not all that clean.

The owner is one of those 'really happy to help you initially' kind of people but by my fourth request he was losing steam fast.

He strongly cautioned me to turn off the boiler before having a shower so that I don't die.  Really.  I missed seeing his copy of "So your hostel's a death trap" book lying around but got the hint anyway.  Since I'm use to some element of danger (though usually self inflicted) this doesn't bother me overly much.



GOOD MACEDONIAN QUOTE

"You are a vegetarian?  What the hell are you doing in the Balkans?" - unknown.

Good food here begins and ends with meat.



LOGAN EXCHANGES

Personally, I think a lot of them are funnier than the stuff in "An Idiot Abroad", but I don't have famous friends who make movies.

Logan:  "The chicken ceasar salad please."
Waiter:  (pause)  "That is all?"
Logan:  "Your salads here are big, right?"
Waiter:  (eyeing me dubiously) "For one person."
Logan:  (patting belly) "I know I am two people but..."


Logan:  "Cheeseburger, please."
Waitress:  "You should try the double cheeseburger - it's very big!"
Logan:  "I don't need very big - besides, I just woke up!"
Waitress:  (looking pointedly at Logan's huge belly)  "For you, I think it's OK."

I managed to resist.  Doing the 'just eat when you're hungry' crap doesn't work when you've been raised to 'clean your plate!'.  Fucking starving children in China.  Later, having the "Eat fast, we may be attacked at any second!" training from the military doesn't help.  Parents, if you want your kid to be chubby (ie fat) remind them to always 'clean your plate, there are starving children in China!'  Of course, you could have said "There are starving children down the street" but that might give the kids ideas about just bringing them the unwanted portion and we don't want that kind of social responsibility cropping up.



TRAVEL SKILL

It would be nice to say that after several years of travel, I've gotten slick at it.  The truth, however, is that I am still fumbling around letting luck sort out several important details.

A friend of mine (the evil TJ) put up this video of Indian Jones explaining how Logan thinks he is (Marcus Brody) vs reality.

Fortunately, the truth is somewhere in the middle.  Probably way toward the last part of the video, but still.



QUEEN'S PUB

I ate breakfast (well, OK a shitty cheeseburger) at 'The Queen's Pub'.  This brought up images of the Queen of England.  Then, my friend Matt Lunn, who is British.  Then, Matt Lunn dressed as the Queen.  Then, Matt dressed as the Queen being forced by his nation to knight me.

Then, my brain put him into this video.  Matt is the guy in gold wings, and calls me 'Gordon'.

For those that know both Matt and I, that is fucking hilarious.  If I had 'big money', I'd do a video of it.  Which a couple dozen people would think is great.  Everyone else would be confused.



PRICES

'Deniro' salad (fucking big) and two Turkish coffees, 220d

Cheap meal (generally, with a couple beers), 300-500d

Friday, July 4, 2014

MACEDONIA, INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

FROM BULGARIA TO MACEDONIA


Despite "Hostel Mostel" being the 'top rated hostel in Bulgaria', I only got a couple hours of alcohol induced sleep there.  The hostel qualifies as what I term a 'high density feedlot' type of place.  Lots of tourists in and out.
A great place to meet up with other travelers, not so much for languid relaxing.

I'd gone with some nice people I'd met to the first bar on their nightly pub crawl and ended up hanging out with three Bulgarians discussing the history of the region as well as Macedonia.

Every patron was outside of the bar - whether they smoked or not.  Due to the rather silly law of 'no smoking inside buildings'.  This is a law which has failed.  How would Logan do it?  Every bar would get to choose whether they wanted to be a smoking or non-smoking bar.  This must be advertised large outside of the bar.  If a bar wanted to change from smoking to non-smoking, a group of non-smokers would be sent in to make sure it smelled fine.  A bar could change only every set period of time (quarterly, bi-yearly, yearly, whatever).  This would allow both groups to get their way.  As the laws now stand they do not seem to have the interest of the actual patrons in mind.

Despite sleeping in my clothing, I nearly left my security pouch behind.  Better to be lucky than good, as they say.

The person who checked me in to the room forgot to mark me as paid so the person checking me out wanted more money.  Fortunately, my fanatical devotion toward getting a receipt any time I hand over money paid off.

Since their wifi was out (at the 'top rated hostel in Bulgaria') I went to the bus station a couple hours early.  Not a recommended hostel for more than a night unless you are wanting to party.



SKOPJE

This is one of those countries where the capital city is more expensive than the villages.  Rather than competition driving down the prices, they charge more.  Why, I cannot say.

After my usual period of bumbling around, I lucked out and found a nice private room for 15 euros per night (Lounge Hostel).  Even more luckily, I made friends with the owners.  In the 'bonus round' of luck, the owners mother has some property I will rent out on a later part of my journey through Macedonia.

Unfortunately, I had to hike 5.5 KM with everything I own to get there.  Well, that's stubbornness for you.  It nearly killed me but I made it.

Skopje seemed find but was more expensive than I'd thought it would be.

On the city itself; a lot of people are making fun of it saying they are trying to make it into a sort of 'Disneyland for tourists' by putting up a lot of statues and other tourist crack.  Personally, I think they are 'making an effort' as the British would say.  It will look great in a hundred years when everything has gotten to age some.

I liked Skopje just fine.  Considering it is the largest city in Macedonia, it really didn't feel that crowded.



COFFEE?

Like much of the Eastern Europe, it is a 'cafe culture' here.  People enjoy sitting around outdoors under umbrellas, sipping drinks and discussing things.  Much as many Americans believe it is.

It was time for coffee.  Because they are large, I ordered a coffee 'Americano'.

Owner:  "No Americano!  This is Macedonia!"
Logan:  "Ah.  What kind of coffee do you have?"
Owner:  "Turkish!"
Logan:  "...okie dokie then..."

A quick note on coffees.  If you stir the coffee for any reason, don't get close to the bottom at all.  There is a layer of sediment you don't want.  If you stir it into your coffee, it will be gross.  Leave it alone.

Within Eastern Europe, I've seen people having beer and wine (though not at the same time) for breakfast.  Without the Puritanical views America got stuck with, these are seen as just something different to drink.



SKOPJE TO BITOLA

Because I wanted the romance of the train...  I screwed myself.  (Yes, I was warned but I'd already bought the train tickets).

You would think a metal tube with open windows would get some air.  You would be wrong.  Sweated all the way here.

Rather than the compartments it was one long seating thing.  Blerg.  Nothing I'd want to repeat.  Take the bus instead.  Trust me on this.

Because the train had stopped for awhile and I decided to risk a cigarette outside, I discovered I'd reached my destination.  There were no announcements.



BITOLA

My first impressions were very positive.  The narrow, medieval streets (known as 'crack for tourists') called to me as did the crumbling buildings.  It looks like quite an interesting place to explore.

Unfortunately, the prices are such that I'm eating once or twice in a day and sitting around sucking on a warm two liter of cola the rest of the time.



MACEDONIA

Some extremely friendly people here.  These are the "I will drive you to somewhere you need to be" or "I will walk with you to your destination".  Not because they want anything from you - they are just that damned nice.  

Less German is spoken here than Bulgaria but about the same amount of English in the couple towns I've been thus far.



LIST OF PLACES TO CHECK IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A LONG TERM RENTAL

For folks who ask 'where do you even get started finding a place', here are some suggestions:

1)  The hostel/hotel you are staying at.  They may know someone or they may offer you a lower extended rate on a room.  If no luck there, all other hostels/hotels/guest houses.

2)  Real estate agencies.  These places often rent property.

3)  Travel agencies.  Bit more of a long shot here.

4)  Other.  You don't have to directly ask your waiter if he knows of anyone renting a room but you can mention to him that you are looking for a place to rent long term and are not sure where to start.  Shrug and go back to doing something else like looking at the menu or smoking.  (If you don't smoke, this is a great time to start a new hobby!)  Don't just stare at him like you want him to suddenly solve your problems - but he might.



'MERICA?

Like much of the rest of the world, people want to know where you are from.  If you tell them America (I always do now) they will always ask where.

The reason why is they have relatives in America and or have visited.



COSTS

Excellent salad and two Turkish coffees, 220 dinars.
Private room, 900 dinars.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

LOCK ON SHOPPING

SHOPPING

My friend who owns the grocery store I always go to had a bunch of ice cream stolen out of his external locked cooler.

Since the only locks protecting it are the usual cheap 'outside of westernized country piece of shit locks a grade schooler can defeat with a screwdriver' variety, he wanted new locks.

Since I know a little about locks, I went with him back to "Praktisch".  Translated from German, the store name is 'Practical'.  Think 'Home Depot'.

Since one of my particular beliefs/stereotypes/prejudices toward Germans is that they can build great stuff, we agreed that any German made locks would be much better than the OOWCPOSLAGSCDWAS variety most people get.

Like most shoppers, the store owner wanted to roam the vast wilderness of crap you don't need in hopes you stumble across what you came for before finding something you didn't  know you can't live without.

Because I am the kind of person I am (a Logan) I headed for the information desk.  Over riding his objections of "I don't think they can speak English" with "I am Logan!", I went and consulted the girls.

When you first start to talk with people in English, you can run into the "Oh, you expect everyone to speak English but you won't learn our language?" thing.  This is to be avoided as it goes nowhere good.

I do this by asking my question then immediately miming what I need in as funny of manner as possible.

If you come across as funny, friendly and maybe a bit insane, indignity comes hard.  Soon, friendly smiles and helpful directions were given.

They even sent a service guy to help us who spoke excellent English.  I complimented him a couple times on it and thanked him for his help.

The equipment was bought.  On the way out, I again thanked the information desk ladies and bid them adieu.



IS THERE A POINT?

Perhaps the biggest difference is that I'm thinking about how they must perceive me rather than paying attention to my internal monologue.  This could be because I don't find myself particularly important to listen to all the time.

Other people are very interesting to me.  I've always said I already know what I am thinking and feeling.  Hence, I try to be more outward looking.  If I'm mad or flustered this comes harder but when other people can tell you are actually paying attention to them and interested in them, they are happy to at least give you directions.

This did backfire a bit at the cafeteria I normally eat at.  Because I've taken the time to learn the girls names who work there and am always asking how they are and such, they tend to pile on my food a bit much.

And I've not the willpower to resist food...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

MMORPG OVERVIEW

AND NOW, A NOTE FROM THE WRITER

Some of you are thinking "I thought this guy was traveling?"

Well, it can't all be poling down a jungle river.  Sometimes, it's just sitting around a city in Bulgaria for a couple months playing video games.

Fear not, in two weeks I will be again changing where I'm at.  I've no idea where I will be or what dates but I do know my destination is Mesopotamia and I'll have a month left in Bulgaria and the EU in general.

When I travel, I will write about travel.  In the meantime, you have the opportunity to learn about...



MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER GAMES (MMO)


What is an MMO?

This is a game which can support hundreds of people playing simultaneously within the same world.  The world is usually persistent - in other words, when you log off, it is still going.  If you don't have an internet connection, you can't play them.  Or read this blog.  Best to have an internet connection.


A short history of MMO's.

I'd like to note that this is in no way intended to be a complete or even factual history of MMO's.  This is what I saw happen and have interviewed more people who have made the games than I can actually remember.

Back before some of my readers were born, in 1997, a game called Ultima Online came out.  It had a lot of good things that were oddly missing from later MMO's such as the ability to dye gear, build castles, etc.  Sadly, it was most famous for the horrible people who played it.  Because UO was PVP (player vs player) pretty much everywhere, murder ran rampant.  Had there been a command to sexually violate your corpse after killing you, players would have demanded it be scripted in to make it automatic.  Within UO the most atrocities of any game I've heard of were committed.  Fortunately, just two years later something that sucked less in some ways - and more in others was released.

Everquest was released in 1999.  I have vivid memories of playing it on the last day of the year wondering if the Y2K bug would interrupt the game and send me out to loot and pillage with everyone else.   Sadly, the Y2K bug failed to shut down the world and allow us to slide violently back into the middle ages.  Fortunately, this allowed me to keep playing the game.  For another decade.  One of the things which thrilled many people about Everquest was that only a few servers were PVP - the majority were PVE (player vs environment).  On these servers, you couldn't kill the other players but instead concentrate on the monsters.  Well, that was the theory anyway, but the violent sociopaths who chose to spend time playing while planning their next killing spree found ways to kill other players anyway.  But it was still better than UO.

After Everquest briefly held a monopoly on MMO's, other ones such as Dark Age of Camelot came out.  People either left Everquest completely or tried these new games then returned to EQ.  And so it went until just a couple years later when the new gorilla on the block came out.

World of Warcraft (WOW) launched in 2004 and pretty much killed creativity for the next decade.  Because WOW was so overwhelmingly successful, every game wanted to be just like them.  These games became known as 'WOW clones'.  WOW did pretty much everything right and remains an addictive game to this day for millions of people.


What is going on today?

Currently, in 2014, people are beginning to think "If we make a WOW clone, we will be competing with lots of other WOW clones - and WOW itself.  We need to do something different."

Just three years ago (2011) Minecraft was released.  This game can either be played as a single player game (no internet required) or as a MMO.  What the game does right, and perhaps makes it the first well known 'sandbox game'.  Within 'sandbox games' the user decides where to go and what to do.  The opposite to this are the so called 'theme park' games - an example being World of Warcraft.  You go to this zone for these levels then get to upgrade to this zone for the next few levels and so on.

It is my belief that we will see a lot more sandbox games come out in the future.  This is heading toward what developers seem to have had a long held fear of - player made content within a persistent world.  While it would not surprise me to see more pornographic buildings and such, most player made stuff seems to tend toward the very interesting.


Cash Shop Games

Free game with a cash shop.  Because there are a limited number of potential customers out there and most of them are playing WOW, developers had to come up with another way to pay for the game.  There are many different styles of cash shops.  The least hated are those that offer only cosmetic changes to the character or gear.  The middle ranking ones give things which could be normally tediously earned within the game as soon as payment is made.  The most despised offer things which could not be gotten at all within the game but only with cash.

I'm a big fan of the cash shop.  The game needs to be paid for.  When computer games first came out, people would rush out to the stores and buy computer games.  They would take them home and install them to discover the games were buggy pieces of shit which were no fun and sometimes even broke the computer.  Upon returning to the store, they would discover there were no returns on open software.  This gave rise to the sale of personal shrink wrap machines.  With no charge for the game, buggy inferior products can be deleted without expending funds.


Platforms

Platforms are programs you load in to get games.  These usually tend to be crap bearing bloatware intent on smuggling bad shit onto my computer, like Steam.  I've yet to have any of the computer experts I know tell me platforms are benign.   This is a pity because the majority of games downloaded now come through platforms.   Until told otherwise, I will view them with the same suspicion as Skynet.


Graphics

Personally, I prefer realistic as opposed to 'cartoony' graphics.   Despise anime.  But this comes down to personal preference.


Complexity

The game complexity ranges from amazingly simple to Eve Online - a space game which has its own stock market.  The best MMO's tend to start simply and layer in more complexity as the game goes along.  Learn as you play.  The worst ones leave the user so frustrated and confused at the beginning they soon quit.


Point of View (POV)

Games are either first or third person point of view.  Although the majority of people seem to prefer third person, where you look down upon your character as they make their way through the world, I don't find it as immersive as looking through the characters eyes.



MMO'S LOGAN HAS PLAYED AND HIS THOUGHTS

Note that the years listed are publish dates.

Everquest 1 (1999):  Played for about a decade.  It's extra torture!  Tried going back to just take a look around the old worlds and get a bit of nostalgia.  Apparently, they didn't think it was complicated and fucked up enough - they've added new layers of pain and suffering.  At the time, it was the best available.  I'm just convinced the company who made it kills puppies for Satan.

Dark Age of Camelot (2001):  Played this back in the old days, it was fine for awhile and when it first came out gave people one of the first options other than the evil of Everquest.  Got old within a couple months.  Many people praised it for the three realm PVP (also now found in ESO) but I still remember people being 'one shotted' (killed in one hit, very unusual for normal MMO's) by rogues with bows.  Fortunately, the PVE and PVP areas were separate.

Anarchy Online (2001):  At first, I was excited about a science fiction release.  However, my suspension of disbelief didn't hold up with the combat.  For some odd reason, it seems totally reasonable that people can cast a lot of spells at a foe or bang them with swords and such before they die.  This is completely untrue at least with the swords.  Pretty much if someone gets hit with one they're going to either die or be in the hospital.  However, people can accept someone getting beaten several times with a sword - especially if their opponent is armored.  This doesn't work with guns.  If I shoot a squirrel with a shotgun, there will be blood and bits of fur left.  I certainly won't need to hit it with five to twenty shotgun blasts to dispatch it.  You do in AO!

World War 2 Online (2001):  The developers said "It's not ready to release."  The publishers said "Release it.  Fuck you, we want our money."  All MMO's have bugs, gliches and problems when they are released.  This game had them in epic proportions.  Not only was it horribly buggy, nearly impossible to get on to play, several hours to patch, etc - but it was poorly thought out.   My memories of this game involve sitting in a truck getting driven to a battle.  For over half an hour.  Seriously.  Imagine sitting in a truck for half an hour just waiting.  In real life, not a big thing but for a video game?  When we got to the battle area, I caught a bullet while getting off the truck and died screaming.  Realistic?  Sure.  Fun?  Hell no.  Even uninstalling this game was hazardous.  This may have been one of the games that screwed up your computer.  I remember thinking "Why did we ever do away with public hangings?"

Asheron's Call 2 (2002):  This one actually got me kicked off of writing for some of the publications on the internet.  I proclaimed the game a big steaming pile of shit.  Microsoft (the publisher) freaked out.  Time proved me correct.  Fuck the weak spines that stopped publishing me.  Besides, they didn't pay me.

Final Fantasy IX (2002):  Levels 1-10, kind and sweet.  Then you found out that if you didn't group, you wouldn't be getting any XP.  Really stupid looking monsters to kill that made me doubt the sanity of the artists.

World of Warcraft (2004):  Mentioned above, this is the standard by which all others are judged.  Not by me, I weigh them mostly against Everquest but this is the big daddy MMO.  I thought it was fine but pretty standardized.  Played it up to what at that time was max level then moved on.

Everquest 2 (2004):  This was a whole lot of 'what the fuck is this shit'.  Think I had that going for an hour or two before uninstall.  Considering it came out the same year  WOW did, I'm guessing some of the people who made it thought things like "So this is the taste of 'fail'..."

Dungeons and Dragons Online (2006):  This game did one thing very right and many other things poorly.  Their huge bright spark was a built in voice communication combined with a good looking for group tool.  If you wanted to find someone for the group, you'd just ask if they had a mic.  This allowed you to disregard all of the children and wildly inept people.  For a time, I had the largest guild in the game.  Eventually, I got bored of it.  Everything is instanced and they didn't have nearly enough 'viable' dungeons to keep people busy for all that long.

Wurm Online (2006):  Danger of installing this game is you have to manually uninstall it.  It just doesn't want to let go.  How this piece of crap has a couple hundred people playing it is a mystery to Logan.  Didn't last on my computer for an entire hour.  Horribly crude and user unfriendly.
Lord of the Rings Online (2007):  A rather bland WOW clone.  Played through it until they ran out of content.

Face of Mankind (2009):  Don't remember much about this other than it didn't stay on the computer for long.

Runes of Magic (2009):  Decent theme park game.  Smallish world.  The best thing about this game was they had interesting daily quests.  At one time, they allowed people to sell the currency bought with real money on the auction house to get gold.  Everyone was happy.  Unfortunately, people with fake credit cards were also happy.  This caused them to stop allowing this.  Their cash shop was a combination cosmetic and things needed to do well in the game.  Hence, Logan gave up playing.  It's basically another WOW clone but it gave me some fun while I was playing and has kept some people playing to this date - five years later.

Star Wars, The Old Republic (2011):  Honestly, if it didn't have the Star Wars logo and story on it, I'm not sure people would stand for the clunky 'what kind of crap is this' interface.  Hell, the Unreal controls (released over a decade earlier) were a lot more smooth and customizable.  This didn't last long on my computer.  It's hard to believe this only came out three years ago - I'd expect better programming.

Star Trek Online (2011):  In my view, an amazingly lame game.  Rather than being able to wander around and explore a working spaceship, you and everyone else become the spaceships.  Also, clunky controls for those rare times you are on foot.  Didn't last on my computer long which is a pity because I've been a big fan of Star Trek for most of my life.

Elder Scrolls Online (2014):  Most MMO's, you have to stand still and slug it out with your opponents.  This is one of the first games where movement is actually encouraged.  They have a decent crafting system.  Sadly, it is a theme park style game.  Due to incompetence, they didn't start with the programming to prevent bots (the computer playing with itself) and gold farmers (people who illegally sell in game gold for real money) so they've tried to implement preventatives post release.  Because these preventative programs are badly written, they often flag people who play legally as cheats and automatically ban them.  In over a decade of playing MMO's, this is the only game I've ever been banned from.  Twice.  Because I am currently banned I spent some time writing a MMO article. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

THIS IS ACTUALLY THAT PROJECT YOUR BOSS WANTED DONE

THE LITTLE THINGS

When you are travelling for a long time, you learn to appreciate the little things more.  Not every day is white water rafting in Nepal or exploring a souk in Morocco.  If you are not travelling solo, chances of your experiencing these things dwindles rapidly.

Some examples of things that have made me happy in Bulgaria:

+The lady who knows how to say 'cheers' in English and her entire table raising their glasses to you just to be nice.

+The waitress who laughs at your pantomime while you are trying to explain 'cheese' with pantomime.

+The cashier who is very excited when you say 'hi' because she knows how to say 'goodbye' in English and is just waiting to use it.

+People who think being from the USA is a 'cool exotic place'.

The Bulgarians have been extremely hospitable to me and I am enjoying living here.  After just a couple weeks I'd become pretty ensconced in the neighborhood.  People know me by sight and smile, wave or say hello ("dobry den") when they see me.



PLOVDIV

For just sitting and hanging out, it is fine.  I've no idea why (despite the glowing reviews things like wikitravel have given it) a tourist would come here.  One or two days maximum in the old town is enough to see everything.

I've been told that the local mafia controlled beaches are fine and the mountains are splendid to see but I've seen more than enough beach front property and fuck walking up and down mountains.  I enjoy cigarettes, food and alcohol far too much.



FUTURE POSSIBLE

The current plan after Bulgaria is Macedonia then Albania.  As I'm still addicted to playing my video game, renting an apartment and burrowing into the local scene like a tick is a very strong possibility.  Were I to spend three months in each of those non-EU countries,  that would take me well into winter.  I've no desire to see cold weather again for several years.  Tunisia is a strong possibility for spending part of the winter.  Perhaps Egypt will have stabilized by the time my Tunisian visa runs out and the rest of the winter could be spent there.  After that is a complete mystery.



QUEST FOR CLOTHING

After taking a repeated tour of a street in a taxi looking for a place not actually on that street, I got out and asked around until it was found.  Naturally, this was a high end athletic shop.  Athletes here don't seem to come in XXXL so I was referred to the local mall.   This was a surprise - no idea they had a mall here.  Found some t-shirts there in XXL size which fit like a surgical glove and are about as thick.  Not the colors I'd have chosen either but at a decent price of 10 lev each, I grabbed four.

To celebrate buying clothing which didn't really fit had a helping of McDonald's and self loathing for 12 lev.

As in all of Eastern Europe, your chances of having tomatoes added to a burger normally not containing such is impossible.  Offering extra money, threatening to kidnap their family and torch their house are insufficient inducements to 'have it your way'.  You will have it their way and deal with it.



TIP OR STAY HOME?

For some reason beyond my understanding, in the USA it is alright for employers to pay their waiters and waitresses well below the minimum wage.  They are expected to make enough in tips to increase their wage to a reasonable amount.  I have no idea how this 'culture of tipping' started.  Alone in the USA, you often get service showing the wait person cares about your happiness.

This is all well and fine but the wait staff regularly complain about people not tipping.  Having managed to stay out of that line of work  all my life, I can only imagine the frustration of doing a good job and not getting what you regard as your fair due.

Now, the reverse should also be true.  If the waiter or waitress does a bad job and receives no tip, this should be fine - right?  The tip is suppose to be for doing a good job?  Or is it just an 'entitled' thing?  The patrons of the restaurant paying what the management has managed to dodge due to the USA becoming a 'culture of tipping'?

Nearly every other country in the world does not tip or their tip is rounding up to the next even amount.  In the USA that would mean if your bill is $15.45, you leave $16 and everyone is happy.  Well, actually some wait staff would chase you down and attempt to shame you into giving more - but that's another story.  In the countries that have no tipping, the service is typically indifferent at best, horrible at worst.  The wait staff (yes, I'm sticking to gender neutral as both men and women are working at this job) in most countries typically stand around talking to each other, ignoring the customers.  They are paid just their standard (substandard) wage - that's it.

In the USA, if the wait staff stood around ignoring the customers, many - but not all - people would feel validated in not leaving a tip.  Others would tip a reduced amount, others would leave a full tip.

If the tip is 'to insure promptness', why do people give one for lackluster service?  Why is there an entire movement which states 'if you can't afford to tip 20%, don't eat out'?

Is it another symptom of our entitlement society?  It does seem a bit 'self serving' (pun intended).

Of course, if people who could not afford the 20% tip didn't eat out at all, would the restaurant be able to remain open?  If not, would that cause the wait person to have to find a different job?  This does not seem to have been adequately considered.

Some restaurants have even gone so far as to make tipping mandatory - thus ridding the entire reason for tipping.  You can get horrible service and still be forced to tip.

It is an interesting question for people who live in the USA but I don't think the answer will be difficult to determine - depending on the person's occupation...



COSTS

An entire lamb (guts extra) ready for the oven, feeds fifteen to twenty people or one American, 150 lev.

Friday, May 16, 2014

VOICE OF AUTHORITY

STATISTICS

Something people agonize about with sporting events and such but they never think about their personal statistics.

Since I'm a weird fucker, I've thought about some of mine.

Hopefully, this will inspire other people to put up interesting ones about themselves.

Current age, approximately 48.  Though arguably my brain stopped maturing long ago.

From least amount to most:

About 2 years:  Working for the US Government in intelligence.

4 years:  Military service, intelligence.  Yes, we all know the joke.

6 years:  International travel and living abroad (including my time in the military spent in Korea and Germany).

10 years:  LARP'ing.  Primarily NERO though I have done a couple other LARP's (they were lame) whose names elude me at present.

20 years:  Working at various jobs ranging from corporate purchasing to temp work (go, America!) with a few cool people and the rest I'd gladly set on fire if I thought I could escape prosecution.

26 years:  Computer games, including FPS, MMORPG's (16 years in just those), strategy.  Does not include many years doing arcade games which pretty much don't exist any more due to the rise of the personal computer.

33 years:  Table top roleplaying games.

What are YOUR statistics?



VOICE OF AUTHORITY

In Eastern Europe, they have something called "the Voice of Authority" (VOA).  Not sure if this is a real term or just one the Evil Cat used once and it became a standard term.  This is usually the person who is either in or seems themselves in a position of authority.  They tell other people what to do.  Because a couple generations of  people got their heads fucked up by the USSR, they usually listen unquestioningly.

Since I was raised in the 'be an individual' rather than 'obey or off to Siberia for you' country, the VOA is usually ineffectual on me.

My headphones died.  Apparently life sitting on the table was too hard for them and they gave up the ghost.  The backup pair had been previously broken and stuffed into a bag to rot.  Time to get new headphones.  Unlike many other people I've been with, I prefer to keep my stuff to myself even when living in my own apartment.  No noise pollution.  Besides, people hearing ESO sounds of combat may get the wrong idea.

After walking a few blocks to an electronics store and finding some amazingly shitty 5 lev headphones that appear to have been made during a really off decade in China, it was off to the largest electronic store in the city.  My friend Tito called a cab and set things up for it to take me there, wait and return.

They didn't have the exact headphones I wanted so I grabbed three.  At the counter, I set two off to one side.  I slapped the money down on the counter and with the cashier's box cutter went to work on the packaging so I could try out the headphones while waiting my turn in line.

At this point, an older lady attempted to use the VOA on me.  It was in Bulgarian but I got the message.  You can't open that till you've paid for it.  I gestured at the money on the counter and replied with a big smile "I don't know what you're saying, but I also don't care."

One of the customers in line started laughing.

After wrenching out the headphones and trying them on, I got back in line, bought the other two and jumped in to the cab.

Going to stock up on my normal brand next time I'm in Asia.

As a side note, in the USA I've taken this up a notch.  Sometimes, I grab things off the counter and eat them as I shop.  Shopping is hungry work.  At the register, they ring up the wrappers.  Although it gets some looks as long as you pay for it, who cares?  That is so far out of the ordinary for most countries that I don't do it.  They would think I'm trying to steal stuff and freak out.



THE VOICES IN MY HEAD

I was wandering around up and down side streets as I am wont to do.  Passing a couple old men sitting on a park bench, I politely said "Dobry den" (formal, 'good day').  No response but they eyed me warily.

At this point, my brain kicked in and immediately gave them names (Ivan and Georgi) and supplied their conversation.

Ivan:  "Isn't that an imperialist running dog Americanski that our old Soviet masters warned us of?"
Georgi:  "Look at his stomach!  He may have eaten our old Soviet masters!"



HOW TO IRRITATE THE AMERICAN POLICE

A simple plan to irritate, annoy and baffle the police.

Lock all of the doors and windows to your house. Go into a room. (Note, if you say you can't because the house is all locked up, you are doing it wrong.) Barricade the door. If possible, nail up the windows.

Put a chair in the center of the room with a small table and a telephone.

Dress bizarrely. Scuba fins, clown pants, suit jacket with a Mohawk wig all together is a good start.

From the center of the room, sprinkle a fine lair of talcum powder in a circle at least three meters wide that goes right up to the chair. Be sure not to touch or disturb the powder in any way.

Have a cryptic note on the table next to you saying something like "The person who is about to murder me says that the police are stupid and will probably arrest the wrong person if they even make an arrest. You will never stop me from my current lucrative counterfeiting operation which shall be used to finance terrorism and the slaying of the US president who I like but want to kill anyway. Bwahahaa."

That note will bring in the ATF, Secret Service, Homeland Security and others. This will be a nightmare in jurisdictional issues for the police. They will hate you for it.

Call emergency, tell them your address in a clear voice and that you are in the process of being murdered.  "Please send help."

Set the phone on the table, leave it on. Say "Do your worst, you piece of shit!"

Die of a sudden brain aneurysm.

I can personally guarantee that if you can pull this off (it only have one complicated part, after all. And you have to assemble a costume) it will annoy the shit out of the police.

 Before you are too hard on the prankster, remember, he is dead.

For an advanced prank, return to life just before the autopsy and run off naked. Show up in a picture with Snowden for good measure later.

This will irritate the police and doctors as well.



ERRONEOUS ASSUMPTIONS

When I first started to travel, there was a lot of talk about 'should I claim to be Canadian, eh?'  Nobody is pissed at the Canadians and if they've bombed anyone it is only in the most polite way.

In the last three years, I've not found one person who was angry that I was from the USA.  In fact, most people seem very pleased and want to discuss their friends or relatives who have moved there.

If someone is dubious, you can always say "I am from the USA but honestly, I'm not too happy with some of the things the government is doing."

And everything is fine.



BULGARIAN FRIENDLINESS RANKING

Friendly and hospitable.  In the top five for that of any country I've been to thus far.  For the record, in no particular order the top four countries thus far have been:

Georgia, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Ecuador and unknown.

I'm thinking I'm missing one country so am leaving one slot as 'unknown'.  If you're extremely nationalistic, you can mentally put your country in there.

Also, I'm not counting the USA simply because when I am fortunate enough to stay with friends.



COSTS

Crossing Plovdiv in a methane powered (really) taxi, 5 lev

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje Bitola Ohrid Struga

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