Known Unknowns

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Yesterday’s posting reminded me of a recent conversation I had in a Chinese airport on my way back to Chengdu. It was a theological conversation with a young guy from Zimbabwe. He was a chapter-and-verse kind of Christian. He was an earnest guy, and we had a friendly but contentious debate.

I told him that I suspected that reincarnation happens, with memory erased after every lifetime, and that at the end of the process (9 lives perhaps), a soul either ascends or is extinguished. But I cannot be sure. Reincarnation seems logical to me, but I cannot prove it.

I told him that I am inclined to believe that the Aztecs were right about our being in the Fifth World, with the Fifth Sun – and that Hinduism (which believes in reincarnation) is a residual religion left over from the previous world. In any case, I suspect (but cannot prove) that the Hindus were onto something.

The Christian, however, was absolutely certain that reincarnation was impossible. No ifs, ands, or buts. Christianity does not allow for this view. He categorically denied even the possibility that reincarnation could exist.

To me, such a firm position reflects the deeper arrogance underlying so many Christian views. How on earth can he be so certain? He cannot be. For humans, whether or not we are reincarnated is ultimately unknowable.

This is the Christian mistake: to claim knowledge of the unknowable.

I asked him if he remembered what it was like, you know, before he was born. Exactly. No one does. That, I said, was probably what it was going to be like after death. The soul might be eternal, but for your mind it’s probably going to be lights out.

Is not the past the best predictor of the future?

Is not your pre-birth status the best predictor of your post-death status?

Another example of Christian arrogance is Heaven and Hell. Like reincarnation, the existence of either Heaven or Hell is ultimately unknowable at the human level, despite what is written in the Illuminati scriptures.

I can suspect, or imagine, that there might be a Heaven and Hell. If there is, I’m fairly certain that one’s soul is separated from one’s identity, from one’s ego. The soul and the ego are probably disambiguated after death.

I asked the Christian if, upon entering Heaven, would he remember his name? Or his Social Security number? Or passport number? He was only stumped temporarily, because Christians have a ready answer for absolutely everything. He said yes.

So now I’m thinking, and this is directed to all you Christians out there: If you think that you retain knowledge of your Social Security number in Heaven, then you would also know who is among you and who is not.

You would be aware of who among your dear family and friends are with you in Heaven and, more crucially, who are not (those who are in Hell).

So if you continue to enjoy Heaven while a family member is in Hell, well, that would simply make you an asshole.

Being human means that we don’t get to know the unknowable.

Religion allows people to temporarily fool themselves into thinking that they do.

History Repeats

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This years Hurricane Harvey is bad (Category 4), but Hurricane Carla of 1961 (Category 5) was technically worse, and the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 (Category 4) killed more than 8,000 people.

I only mention this because it is easy to read too much into the latest hurricane: that it confirms “climate change” theory, for example. I’m still waiting for very detailed, scientific, unbiased and testable evidence that the climate disruptions of today are significantly different that the ones that have always been underway.

Others, mostly Christians, are convinced that the hurricane signals a “quickening” of the end times. Surely people were around who said the exact same thing in 1900 and in 1961. When the next biggie hits Texas, say in 2052, people will be repeating the same line.

I remember many Christians saying that the 2005 tsunami in Indonesia was the Lord’s wrath, harsh punishment brought down on a region where Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam intersect. That is what these people actually fucking said.

I know, because I lived in Texas back then, and many of my ex-wife’s friends and family were on the God Squad.

Hurricane Harvey – and many other hurricanes – has a habit of hitting the USA right in the Bible Belt, but these modern versions of Jonathan Edwards now have their mouths shut.

Dico’s: KFC + McDs

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In 1994, when China’s domestic market began to open to international fast-food companies like KFC and McDonald’s, Chinese and Taiwanese tycoons launched “Dico’s.” The food is a tad cheaper than in KFC and McDonald’s.

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It is now as popular as the international brands. Dico’s is heavy on the chicken but also specializes in fries and some franchises have traditional hamburgers.

Some stores also serve Chinese-style breakfast like dumplings and porridge. I grew up calling this “oatmeal” but the Chinese use the term “porridge,” which seems as Dickensian as the word “gruel.”

I think Dicos could have made even more money, and been even more successful, by streamlining Chinese food. After all, these outfits (Dico’s, KFC, and McDs) are not as popular as the restaurant chains serving traditional dishes or hot pot menus (where people wait in line on weekends to get in while the fast-food franchises next door are nearly empty).

Back in the 1990s, the expectations for McDonald’s were grand, perhaps unrealistic. The company ran into all kinds of problems (legal and logistic, since the concept of drive thru does not really exist here), but McDs is now poised to reach 5,000 stores in China by 2021. Still, McDonalds was overly-optimistic back in the 1990s.

I advance the hypothesis that Dicos was never really about making money. Dico’s was about building a Great Wall of Fast Food. Foreign fast-food frachises companies could not be allowed to enter China without some kind of cultural response.

Also, some of China’s power players wanted to participate, in their own way, in the western-global custom of fast food. Like drinking Coca-Cola, eating this food has become a sacrament symbolizing the commodification not just of food but also of the experience of the meal itself.

For globalization to make inroads, the leisurely family meal, with no real beginning and no real end, must be replaced by a time-constrained ritual.

Thus, the Chinese required their own churches and temples of fast-food. Hence, Dico’s was born.

The Gates of Vienna

China's bike sharing system to be launched in Vienna

Because I’ve reported on the upside and downside of China’s bike systems, I thought I’d relay this article.

China’s bike sharing system to be launched in Vienna

VIENNA — China’s station-free bicycle-sharing-system is to be launched in Vienna, capital of Austria, on Sunday, the Beijing-based Chinese bicycle sharing company, Ofo, told Xinhua on Friday.

Found in 2014 as a student project, Ofo was supported by the internet technology and is pushing forward its station-free bicycle-sharing-system, which would allow bike riders to share the Ofo bikes by using app to scan and unlock the bikes, searching the bikes available in the city by their smart phone.

Unlike the traditional bike sharing system, no bike stations are built, commuters could leave the bikes any corners allowed in the city.

The company has launched 8 million bikes worldwide, the major market is still in China, especially in the large cities like Beijing and Shanghai, meanwhile, the company is trying to explore the oversee market.

The complete article is here:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/tech/2017-08/26/content_31135451.htm

Globalization’s Localization

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(I’m not gleaning any deeper meaning or omen from the tee shirt. But I have my eyes peeled).

Starbucks in China is a good example of how an American brand has been interpreted locally in interesting ways. Of course everywhere, including China, half the people waiting in line are busy with their smart phones, oblivious to the world.

I was thinking about this topic because at more and more Starbucks in China, including the one above in Dujiangyen, Sichuan Province, you can’t buy a real cup of coffee. There is no ordinary coffee to be had, no drip or percolated coffee, no choice between medium and bold blends – just a long menu of frappuchino-style smoothies.

Well, yes, you can get an americano, but I was in the mood for a regular cup of joe. I’m not lodging some huge complaint with the Universe. I  just find it interesting.

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In China, Starbucks does not offer much in the way of substantial food, and certainly no salads or wraps. No bagels with cream cheese. Because of the tea culture, these foreign cafes are more inclined to serve treats, most of which are not as sweet as they look (the Chinese do not as strong a sweet tooth as Americans).

It’s rather clever of Starbucks really, to adjust their stores for the local market. The Starbucks in the Philippines are also completely different.

Starbucks in China is an afternoon idea. People go shopping in the mall and then stop in for a coffee-inspired milkshake (to be accurate) and a snack. Most Starbucks in China are not even open in the early morning hours, and many cafes do not open until 10 or 11 am – unthinkable for westerners who are hoping to be jacked up on caffeine by that time.

Tee-Shirt Wisdom

Today’s post is very light because I was flying from Manila to a city near Xiamen to Chengdu.

But in a crowded Manila airport, I saw the same Chinese guy twice, and then he was actually on my plane, walking down the aisle, and paused in front of me. Each time he was positioned in a way that got my attention.

His tee shirt said: “GO SOMEWHERE NEW

I took it as an omen from the gods or whatever. I leave China every 60 days because of my visa and, like an android in Westworld, I run the same loops in Manila or Bangkok. And across China’s new year I run the same loops in Mexico City and Panama City. Same hotels, same restaurants, same loops.

If fortune continues to smile upon me, it looks like I will have an entire month free from work, and I’d be seeing my kids on either end. So it’s a month free.

I need to be somewhat close to the Internet and someplace cheap. So where? Papua New Guinea? Tonga? I can probably find super cheap flights from Hong Kong to the South Pacific… Or Brazil?

How do I decide? I can either flip a coin or wait until another tee-shirt omen appears.

Wheatless Week

So yeah, I spent a week with no wheat – no bread, no pasta, no grains of any kind, including rice.

I’m not counting the few croutons on some salads… The only other change I made was to drink vegetable juice once a day, grinding it all up in my hotel room with a powerful juicer (and then hiding the evidence so that the staff don’t question running powerful appliances in the room).

Actually, the other change I made was to eliminate eggs and chicken. I’ve been eating fruit in the morning, then vegetables with sweet potatoes or avocadoes and hot sauce, apples smeared with peanut butter, lots of hot chocolate with water (no milk), and plenty of coffee, often with honey and coconut oil in it.

I’m not a vegan because I do eat honey, and if lacking options I will eat eggs or maybe fish. (Vegans eat tons of rice and pasta, which I do not). I’m not a paleo because they don’t eat peanut butter, and I remain convinced that eating beef and pork, and even chicken, is eating death… Dairy, after a video I watched, now seems like puss.

I have to invent some new term for this diet and elaborate certain principles. Maybe I’ll make a menu.

I’ve lost about five pounds, easily. When I make even more progress I might be willing to do one of those famous “Before” and “After” photos. Actually, it was a before photo of seeing myself standing around at a function, that made me decide to do something. I was fat.

In a month or two, I’m gonna be that guy on youtube who demonstrates different juice blends and smoothies, etc…

Rival Globalizations

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Afghanistan’s last best chance for peace and prosperity would be to plug into the new OBOR system, above. This map does not show one of the latest developments, which is a high-speed rail and transport system between Chongqing in China and Singapore.

Also, the map does not show the latest extension from China to the Philippines. I’m in Manila now, and my hotel is half full with Chinese business people, young and enthusiastic.

While I don’t necessarily support each and every Chinese domestic or international policy, I recognize that China’s version of economic integration (globalization) is superior to what has become of the western or American version. China’s focus is on long-term economic development (as opposed to raw growth), without foreign intervention.

By contrast, the American approach, as it has evolved across the past few decades, is to satisfy the short-term interests of the military-industrial complex; the control freaks, blue blooded aristocrats, and zionists of the deep state; and Wall Street parasites. The only working-class element will be Blood-and-Soil white nationalists. Christians, naturally, are obligated to support the governing authorities (so says “Romans” in the Illuminati scriptures).

For this Skull and Bones coalition, for this circle jerk, Afghanistan is not to be developed; it is to be gradually raped.

Trump’s recent announcement of a troop surge in Afghanistan has nothing to do with anything. Did he really analyze the situation and pour over maps? When everyone in the White House has been neck deep in the snake pit?

The troop surge annoucement is simply a humiliation ritual. His masters made him do this. The controllers allowed Trump to win the election with an “America First” agenda and a campaign promise that will now be reversed. This is their way of announcing to the world that he is their bitch.

Similarly, the troop surge is a humiliation ritual for American voters. For those that voted him in office, they are reminded that their vote means nothing, and that they are dumbed-down cattle.

Life Imitates Art

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The movie War Machine, with Brad Pitt, was quite interesting.

This movie reveals why the US cannot make much progress in Afghanistan, despite troop increases. It turns out that local Afghanis don’t really like foreign troops occupying their country. Who would have thought?

House of Cards also uses troop increases in the Middle East as a subplot. US presidents have a habit of resorting to surges – or just threatening deployments – in order to score some political points with the base, and to provide fodder for the media complex.

The media complex, like the infamous war pigs, must be fed. Talking Heads must be kept talking, or they will explode.

Here, the base of support for further military meddling is quite wide. Christian evangelicals endorse war when it is waged against Muslims (anything to accelarate the Second Coming!), and the pro-Israel group AIPAC, backed by a Jewish political mafia, is dedicated to the conflict model in the wider region. That’s why AIPAC applauded loudly for the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and even Syria.

Interestingly, much of the Alt-Right media, especially Infowars, criticized both the Bush and Obama administrations for their foreign interventions. But Infowars will almost certainly support Trump on Afghanistan, regardless.

Trump is simply sending another 4,000 troops. There is nothing really innovative going on. No breakthroughs, no progress. We are up to… 16 years… of intervention in Afghanistan. A generation. Of course, there has been a lot of “the boys will be home by Christmas” talk, plans for drawdowns, but it is just part of the game.

Actually, if American interests are really for security and prosperity in Afghanistan, then it should leave, and allow China’s Silk Road project to make some headway.

House of Cards

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It must have been back in the 1990s, when I first saw a “real” news commentator appear in a movie.

At the time I thought it was odd, even inappropriate, as this would or should effect the credibility of the newscaster and show. What’s a news anchor or news commentator doing in a film or TV show?

Now I have the opposite view.

I got a chance to binge on Season 5 of House of Cards. Excellent, as usual. It’s a great series. I’m a fan.

Many of the characters are amalgams or composites of the real people who have held high office or who have worm tongued their way into circles of power. Also, House of Cards is predicated on levels of corruption, including murder and attempted murder, that are in fact accurate.

So House of Cards is more accurate than the “real” news that is being advanced in the media complex.

This means that when Rachel Maddow and the half a dozen other Talking Heads are on House of Cards, they are actually being more “real” than they are when presenting and commenting on the watered-down version of events packaged for popular consumption.

Yes indeed. On their regular shows, well, that is when they are “acting.”