Friday, March 31, 2006

Brilliant!


Went to apply for a visa to the Philippines this morning. By virtue of my being from not-a-country, I was told that I couldn't use the same application form that everybody else uses. Instead of a usual application form with boxes, I was given one that asked for the same information in a grade school way, as in:


  1. My full name is _____.

  2. I am __ years old, having been born on ____ at ____.

  3. My passport number is ____, issued on _____, and remains valid until ____.



and so on for a page. Unfortunately, nobody informed the Filipino authorities that the People's Republic of China isn't really that serious about the One China Policy. In fact, I can probably walk into a PRC consulate for help and get citizen-grade service. As long as you don't let the Taiwanese use their flags and don't call Taiwan a country, you don't literally have to refuse to put a visa stamp in my passport and instead staple a sheet of paper to it with the visa stamp.

This sort of thing happens with such regularity I don't even get a little upset anymore. I seem to trip on every single possible exception to what bureaucrats know what to do with, and it's amusing to watch them give themselves more work for no reason. For example, the web site of the Philippine consulate says that US passport holders don't need a visa to tour the Philippines, and then says that citizens of other countries should call them to see if a visa is necessary. So instead of listing out the countries, now they have to answer any number of phone calls.

...

There's a kind of visitor who is neither really a tourist nor a resident. A spouse of a citizen falls into that class, because we tend to visit often enough for tourist visas to be irritating, but not for long enough that they need resident visas. There's really no reason not to create a new class of visas for us, which makes me happy and saves them work. But that would just be smart.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Fame


Celebrity is a funny thing. A recent headline on CNN said "Village People 'policeman' faces jail", which made me realize that I have no idea what the names of any of them are. CNN probably doesn't think anybody else would know, either, or the headline would have his name in it. Another example is that some commercials have to specify that their spokesmodel is actually Andie MacDowell.

If I don't know her face, is she really a celebrity to me? If not, why should I care if she's endorsing you? Are you really famous if you're just "the 'policeman' from the Village People"?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Stupider


It's stupid week, apparently. The IRS just returned our tax forms to us. We forgot to sign it.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Stupid Stupid Stupid


So I got here in the morning, and a former co-worker left an IM with a link for me to check out. I clicked on it, seeing full well that it was a geocities account, but somehow responded to the Yahoo! login by typing my user name and password. A few hours later, everybody on my contacts list received the same link, and I observed some interruptions in my IM client.

Once another former co-worker helped me understand what was probably going on, it's time to change passwords all around. The Yahoo! account compromised financial and other dealings, so there were a lot of passwords to change. I feel pretty stupid and angry at myself right now, and I wonder how malicious this particular little phishing attempt was.

Sigh.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sayonara


Korea just beat Japan again, this time all but eliminating them from the World Baseball Classic. I'm happy that even though Korea could've thrown the game to eliminate the US, and they chose not to. Now, that may be because of any of several reasons, but I choose to believe that they decided that fighting one game at a time is the sportsmanly thing to do. Even if they should fall to the US team later, they did the right thing and would have nothing to be ashamed of. I'm not sure I wouldn't have thrown the game to get rid of a stronger rival.

[Update: Japan later advances to the semi-finals thanks to a US loss against Mexico, and eliminates Korea in a 6-0 shutout. It's not the poetic justice I would have written into a sappy Hollywood movie, but I think Japan was humbled by how close they came to elimination, and Korea gave us some great reasons to cheer. I'm still happy for how far they've come.]

Monday, March 13, 2006

Guts


Korea just beat the United States in the World Baseball Classic, and along with their win against Japan, marks them not only as a talented team, but a team with guts. In comparison, the Taiwanese team played to lose. After losing against Korea, they assumed that they would lose against Japan and actually held back so they could preserve their strength for a meaningless game against China. Korea, on the other hand, could not have expected to beat both Japan and the US, but played each game to win. Kudos to them.

I'm so happy for Korea right now.

Look Who's Talking Now


Yahoo! headline: "Bush Calls on Iraqis to Embrace Compromise". Because aside from Freedom and Democracy, the other thing that Bush really stands for is Compromise.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Snow!


The top bits of the Fremont hills got a coat of white overnight, and looks like frosted flakes right now. Further southeast, the mountains are actually snow-capped!

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

The Armani Man


Two ostensibly Italien men (supposedly father and son) in a SUV stopped us in a mall parking lot last Sunday. The "father" went on and on about how he was a bigshot manager at Armani, how he's been to Taiwan many times, how his friend who lives nearby was not home, and so on. Finally, we got tired and asked him how we could help him. Turns out, he has a plane to catch, and wants to avoid being taxed for bringing back product samples. I'm not really sure what he wants, but Mabel thinks he wants to sell us an Armani jacket for cheap, and throw in another two for free.

It has several of the telltale signs of a scam. One, there's a time pressure: he has a plane to catch and we must decide quickly. Two, he is distracting: nobody really cares about his story if he has legitimate merchandise. Three, he is ready to show his passport, plane ticket, and even the insides of his wallet, which any experienced traveler would be cautious about. There are also other signs. No manager would give a damn about getting taxed, because the company pays for that. He was also trying very hard to get to a familiar place, like rattling off places in Taiwan he's been to.

Trouble is, I'm not really sure what the scam is. The easiest one would be to sell us fake stuff. A more sophisticated version would be to show us real stuff and somehow slip us the fake stuff when it's wrapped in a bag or something. Or, it may involve the ATM, because few people walk around the mall with the kind of cash to to buy an Armani jacket outright, even at half price. (He can't possibly pull out a credit card reader.) Anybody know what this scam is about?

I later realized that Mabel and I must look rich and stupid, or at least greedy. Mabel has a nicer interpretation.