Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Cobra Effect


Famous economics smart guys and frequent statistic manglers Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt talk about The Cobra Effect on their Freakonomics podcast.

This, according to them, is a case of financial incentives misfiring. The example is from the British Raj days of India, when the British offered a bounty on dead cobras. Far from reducing the number of cobras, this led to an increase, because people were breeding cobras just to get the bounty.

I think of that a lot in this job.

Basically, I work for a contracting company in a government / military program. We teach English to Middle Easterners for a year, prior to them joining a certain technical training program.

They get a very generous salary for this; somewhere between 3 and 5 thousand dollars a month plus accomodation and airfare and all that.

The problem is that only about 25 percent of them had any desire or intention to pass the technical training program, and most of them didn't care much about the English part of it.

See, rather than choosing the 200 students who came here through some kind of aptitude testing or choosing them based on their achievements or even asking for volunteers, they seemingly just chose them at random. (Although they chose them from a random pool of military people with good driving records, I understand. They are cracking down on crappy driving over there.)

Most of them arrived with practically no English, and not too much desire to learn. We only have 6 or fewer students in our classes, so it's not too much trouble to deal with them, but most of them really could care less whether they pass the tests or not.

And to complicate matters, if they voluntarily drop out of or quit the program, or if they get sent home for discipline reasons, they will have a splotch on their record which will endanger future career prospects, even at the oil companies or other industries. If they fail out, it's no big deal, they just get sent back home.

Basically, the only way to get home and see your family with no problems is to fail. Otherwise you might get stuck here studying for years, or even worse, you could finish the program and end up doing some difficult technical job.

Most students didn't care much one way or the other. Pass the tests? That means you keep getting salary. Fail the tests? You get to go back home, and continue to get salary.

There are a lot of changes going on in the ME now, though, due to the low price of oil, and as 2016 rolled around they started paring the dead wood out of this program.

Oh, how the guys laughed and cheered when they were told they'd failed out and were going home.



This program started out with 200 students towards the end of 2014; currently we have about 40. About 20 or 25 students have graduated and passed into the technical program. About 150 have been sent home. The remainder are now desperately trying to pass the tests before Ramadan, and many have sort of "accidentally" not managed to fail yet. (That's how easy the multiple-choice tests are.)

But as I said, this isn't the worst job I've ever had, though it's far from the best.

Fortunately I seem to have something better lined up for September -- although no contract signed yet -- but I'll keep that a secret for the moment.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Thai Whores are Awesome

I went back to Bangkok last April, and it's one city that never disappoints. It's a big colorful living comic book where any maladjusted Westerners can live out whatever dumb fantasies they might have at very reasonable prices in relative safety. (Relative safety.)


(I do not use only the male pronoun in this case, because plenty of women lose their fucking minds over there, too. I refer you to Patpong Sisters, a book written in the 90s when I was there. by a PhD candidate researching the sex trade. She ends up banging a married Thai pimp without protection. Damn, those 90s chicks, I swear. Hopeless.) 

I did a write up on Khao-San Road then and now -- and never got around to writing about my impression of the other big part of Bangkok: the go-go bar scene.


I strolled around Patpong and Nana Plaza a bit, the prime areas of go-go bars, and again, like Khao-San Road, I was amazed how they'd grown. Patpong used to take up 4 streets, but it goes further up those streets than it used to. Nana Plaza used to be a little cul-de-sac of bars, but the bars have spilled out of the cul-de-sacs and flowed everywhere around the area.

This surprised me a bit; there was always a lot of talk about getting rid of the sex tourists during the "Asian Tigers" days of the 90s, and some strict mayors and unrest periods even saw bars forbidding nudity (only bikinis) and everything closing at 2:00am. Given the recent unrest in Bangkok, I wasn't sure what to expect.

But well, you couldn't tell that now. Like Khao San Road, it all seemed more raging than ever.


One thing that seemed different, there were a lot more bars where you could just sit and drink, and it seemed like a lot more dudes than there used to be, just in general. For example, there used to be one hotel that specialized in Middle-Easterners; there seemed like a whole street full of them, this time.  I remember it being really a buyer's market during the 90s, with a lot of girls battling over customers.

I didn't get that impression this time, but maybe that's just the time of year or whatever. Or maybe that's due to increasing non-mattress opportunities for girls to make a living.

I've written at some length about my fondness for a paticular Thai whore, and a bar I liked back in the day, called the Hollywood.

It's still there, and while it seemed a bit grubbier and dirtier than I remember, the girls were still top-notch, and while I went more in a sociological capacity, of course I ended up taking a girl out.

I mean really!



The price was about $100, versus less than $50 from 20 years ago, and the girls used to be more flexible about price than I experienced this time. (Although of course I'm not nearly so cute as I was when I was 25, I suppose.)



And it was damn well worth $100, I'll tell you! Just a fine, cheerful, skilled, smooth-skinned, firm-bodied, clean, TIGHT and professional little Thai beauty.

$100!

Immediately after I got out, I was thinking, well, that was worth maybe $75. But after I jacked off to thinking about it a few times, I was kind of like, damn, you know, it really was worth $100.



So! There you go. I didn't feel cheap or stupid afterwards. It seemed age-appropriate in a way that trying to pick up younger girls at nightclubs does not.

The only big disappointment were the rooms at the Nana Guest House. 20 years ago, you rented a room, and you got a whole ROOM, with TV, bath, big bed, mirrors on the ceiling, etc. Now you get a tiny little cubicle, just a bed.

So I won't rationalize or deal with my feeling about whores / sex trafficking / sex work or game / PUA / sex addiction or any of that in this entry.

 I'll just say I spent a hundred dollars, and it seemed like both of us seemed to feel it was a fair transaction.







Saturday, April 16, 2016

TEFLpocolypse 2016: Yes is the New Maybe



After I got turned down for a job in the UAE last April, I put in applications for some colleges in the Kingdom, including the one I had first worked at. (I had been assured, when I left, that I could return any time.)

I was confronted with a bold new world of application portals, in which I had to upload photocopies of all my documents and references BEFORE the application would be processed. 

And still I heard nothing. 

Than I took this job last August. (All it took was two interviews, a psychological test, an offer that was rescinded at the last minute, a security clearance, and then an offer that was contingent on me starting in a few days.) This job always seemed temporary to me though -- at the moment we have 34 teachers and 57 students, the rest having been sent home -- so I felt I should find something solid for September 2016.

As October and November rolled around, I got requests for interviews from two colleges in the Kingdom.

Both told me that I had passed the interview and they would submit my application for approval. My former boss at my first job was very happy to hear from me, as they had just opened a new building and desperately needed more teachers. 

My papers were submitted to various bureaucratic bodies for approval. 

I breathed a sigh of relief. The three months of paid holiday beckoned.

Since then?  


Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. 

My first boss wanted me for January 2016, although he said knew they probably wouldn't be able to finish everything in that time frame. 

The second manager in the Kingdom wanted me for September 2016, but warned me that it had taken EIGHTEEN months to process the last applicant. 

So here I sit, still with no official job offer for September 2016. In the Kingdom, the job offer is only the beginning; then it takes another couple months to get the contract, and then another couple months to get all your documents verified and get the visa. So Kingdom in September is probably out. 

The terrifying new world of TEFL -- even when you get a job, you don't get a job.

Now of course, it's quite possible, given the low price of oil, that both those colleges had their hiring budgets cut. I'm considering trying China again. Loyal readers will recall new rules about document verification prevented me from verifying my DELTA and taking a job there last year. Any news from readers on that issue?  

Crazy Bob, drowning in debt in the UAE, has an idea for us -- he suggests taking a military contracting job teaching English to local soldiers and ground crew at forward operating bases in Afghanistan.

Now that would be a good book, I bet, right? 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How Far Does $50,000 A Year Go In America?

So how far does $50,000 a year go in America?

Well, the answer of course, is, as with any amount of money: not nearly as far as one might like.

When my mother heard that I'd be making $50,000 a year in this job, she was shocked. "That's the same as some lawyers make!" Referring to my stepsister, who apparently made about that in her entry level position at her firm.

(We live in the cheap Dirty South, obviously, where $150,000 will get you a mini-mansion.)

Well, break it down real quick for you, anyway:


First of all, at least 25 percent is gone for taxes. My take home is about $3000 a month, and that includes my not-especially-generous medical insurance policy (which is like $100 a month.)

(You can dick around with deductions on your tax form, but I'd prefer to pay it a bit at a time than all at once in April.)

Rent is $700 a month; utilities included at this place (cheap South, mild climate), but about $45 a month for cell phone and $55 for internet at home. Say $100 a month for gas for the car, $75 a month for car insurance.

So round off general necessary expenses at $1000 a month.

Food seems to be between $75 - $100 a week. That's for a decent high-protein, fresh veggies, not-too-much-processed stuff diet.

As mentioned, I need to pay between $300 - $500 a month for my father, who moved into an assisted living place and can't quite cover his expenses himself, but I can still save $1000 a month easily enough, and I've got another $1000 a month coming in from e-books.


But of course, America creeps up on you. I've had to pay about $1000 every 4 months for the classes I'm taking towards a master's degree. (There's a chance my company will give me some money for that, and I wrote some of it off on my taxes this year.) Oil changes for the car, a couple of flats fixed. A fucking foot-long Subway sandwich with drink and chips costs $10 now. $100 a month for martial arts lessons.

Basically, it's the median income in America, but I'd really hate to be trying to support a wife and kid on this amount of money.

I take advantage of the various budget hacks -- use "cash back" credit cards to pay for everything, take advantage of the "free trial month" on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon as many times as possible, and otherwise get books, comics, and DVDs from the library.

One nice thing about America is toothpaste and soap and stuff like that is cheap at the dollar stores. (And you know I mean the Dollar Tree, not the Dollar General.)

Not exactly a huge draw for the lifestyle design crowd, I guess, though, anyway. "Come to America and save dozens of dollars a year on soap and shampoo and toothpaste!"





Friday, April 01, 2016

Happy Fucking April Fool's Day!

Happy April Fool's day!

I tried to think of a funny joke for this year. I really did.



My first idea was to do some kind of fake book presentation about how the manosphere could clear up one of the most glaring contradictions in its identity by going gay.

See, I would humorously argue, this would reconcile the urge for rampant fornication with the urge to stop empowering women to be drunken non-traditional feminist sluts. All you gotta do it bang dudes instead,  like the Spartans, so as to not dilute masculinity at all, see, and let women get back to being broodmares.

But then a little research showed me that widely-read and oft-quoted paleomasculine author of THE WAY OF MEN, Jack Donovan, is gay, although he prefers the term androphile, and has in fact written a book much along those lines.

Click HERE to read about Jack Donovan's book ANDROPHILIA


Then I thought maybe I would do something about how Crazy Bob got killed in some horrible way. Kidnapped by ISIS and staked out in the desert to die, for example. Or maybe his genitals chopped off by an angry husband.

But then I discovered that in fact, one of the guys I knew back in Russia had actually been killed.

It was the guy who was referred to as "The Venezuelan" although that was actually not his nationality. He was an engineer for oil firms, and he apparently got assassinated while working in Mexico in 2010.

Nobody knows exactly why. It was assumably a shakedown of the company by a drug gang, although a jealous husband is not out of the question. It would have been just like him to start fucking the wife or girlfriend of some local sicario.

(Out of respect to his family, including an ex-wife, a Russian widow, and about five kids, I will not link to the news story.)


Then I thought maybe I'd do some kind of scary joke about some new regulations in which the government was going to put a halt to English teaching abroad and digital nomadism by cancelling the passports of people who had student loan debt or were delinquent in filing their taxes from overseas.

But, of course, I discovered that in 2016, that is in fact pretty much going to happen. A tax debt of $50,000 or more can indeed get your passport cancelled as of Jan 1, 2016. Read about it here on CNN.com. 

So, shit! I don't know. Just, you know, have a happy April Fool's Day, okay?

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

My Social Life in America (Or: You Can Run, But You Can't Hide)

Somebody asked about my social life in America. 

I'll just go ahead and let this video of Valentines Day 2016 speak for itself:  


To sum up, my father has been suffering from Parkinson's since around the turn of the Millenium, and now, at age 75, has pretty much lost the ability to walk. He is married to a woman 20 years his junior, but she burned out very quickly with becoming a caregiver, in addition to having a drinking problem, so this led to him being placed in an assisted living facility. 

He moved into the assisted living place last August, right about the time I started this job, and it's sort of like an all-inclusive hotel for old people, rather than a hospital, so he actually kind of likes it.  (The food is actually very good, and he improved notably when taken off the diet of ice cream and bologna sandwiches that his wife was giving him.) 

The activities that they arrange tend to be a bit depressing, though. 

(That video is actually from a different place, a rehab hospital that he was in due to a urinary tract infection, but the general flavor of them is not much different.) 


So I've been making the 9-hour drive to visit him every month, during every 3-day weekend that I had. (You get a lot of those in America, if not much else vacation time.) The other weekends have consisted mainly of hikes in the national parks and trails around here and obsessively writing porn thrillers to get my income up. 

 (Get one FREE here on Amazon for the next couple days. A pretty good little thriller if I do say so myself. With Russian girls!)




The most exciting weekend I've had recently 

 My father gets $2200 a month in Social Security, but otherwise blew all his money; the rent at the assisted living place is $2600 a month and he has various other expenses such as medication which mean my brother and I are paying between $300 - $500 a month each for him.

So basically, here in my birth country, I have less of a social life even than when I was in Saudi. 

Vodakberg? No, this was in the parking lot of my apartment.
I did take a vacation this month, a trip to the Dominican Republic with the Girlfriend. (I have offered to bring her here on a fiance visa, but she is also kind of a full-time caregiver for her mother. More on that later. I also send her $100 a month following the current devastation of the Russian economy.) 


 Let's see, other than that?  I went to a city a couple hours away after Christmas to visit this girl, who I used to know in Vodkaberg. 

But that's about it.

In fact, some of my female colleagues are not unattractive (especially if you don't compare them to teenage Russian girls) and several of them have expressed enough interest in me that I could probably ask them out. But they're all single moms, and I really dread the idea of adding any more stress to my life.

Bars? Clubs? Drinking? Drugs?

Give me a fucking break. A shot of Nyquil before bed at 10:00pm, that's  my jam. 

Every national park needs a good recreation of Golgotha
So that's the more-than-a-little-depressing state of X. You'd think I'd be seriously depressed or angry, or both, but in fact I feel pretty calm and resigned. 

Quite frankly, at age 46, it seems like my Just Desserts. You can run but you can't hide.