Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Welcome, Jess

Apparently she's been blogging for a while now, but I've just stumbled upon my friend Jess's Yantai blog.

Welcome to the Yantai blogosphere, Jess!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kinda wish they had told me that before...

Well, I've inadvertently eaten the world's most dangerous food, and I didn't even know it.

Earlier this week I went out to dinner at a really fancy seafood restaurant with the boss's brother, his law firm partner, and the head judge of Yantai. Considering the company, it was no surprise when some of the most expensive dishes on the menu were brought out... after all, there is a lot of face to be gained when you are pampering a judge.

The mean started out with abalone the size of a small fist. Easily 200RMB ($25) each, everyone at the table was served one. The night went on with some delicious food, and far to much baijiu (just typing that word makes me cringe).

Cut to Friday evening when I am out to dinner again with the boss and his brother.

Boss's Brother: "Ni ke (Nick), did you like the food earlier this week?"
Nick: "Yes, it was delicious, thank you."
Boss's Brother: "Did you know it had poison?"
Nick: "Umm... what?"
Boss's Brother: "Two of the dishes that were served were a poison fish."
Nick: "Umm... really?"
Boss's Brother: "Yes, remember the sushi we had, and then the other cooked fish? Those were both the Japanese poison fish. If they make it wrong, you die."
Nick: "Gee... I wish someone had told me that before I ate it."
Boss's Brother: "Very expensive fish. Very delicious."
Nick: "(Resisting urge to give lecture on how you should not take other people's lives into your own hands without at least informing them first.) It was delicious, but I don't know if I'll eat that again. Remind me never to eat at that restaurant with you again. (spoken intentionally fast so he won't understand)"
Boss's Brother: "What was that you said?"
Nick: "Don't worry about it."

Yup... I apparently ate Fugu fish, which if not prepared properly will kill you in about 20 seconds. Sushi chefs in Japan need special licenses to make it... I sincerely doubt that in China they have such a licensing system, and even if they did there would probably be a black market for fake fugu fish licenses.

I am glad I am alive.


...more waiting. I now have to wait until June 27th to find out. Better than a ding I suppose, but I was really starting to think I'd be admitted this round, mainly because I am one of the only people on the BW forums I have spoken to that has received an invite for the June 2-3 admits weekend.

Last night I found myself obsessively refreshing my email inbox about once every 20 seconds. After an hour of doing that, I decided it would be best if I went out to the bar, danced the night away, and find the decision when I came home at 7am.

Turns out that was a good decision, since the email didn't come until about 4am. What time do those AdComs stay at work until (4am - 7 hours = 9pm GMT).

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sec ret

Can you figure it out?


Monday, May 21, 2007

Backwards legal system

I know this guy who lives in a foreign country in Africa (can't remember the name... begins with a "C" I think. Cameroon, perhaps? Chad? I thought it ended with an "a", but I can't be sure) who has a local lawyer as a friend. The lawyer tells him all about the country's legal system and how screwy it is. Once in a while when my friend and I get together for a drink, he tells me all of these crazy stories about the courts.

It seems that judges in said country only make about $250 per month. There are no laws or restriction preventing contact between an judge and the lawyers as there are in the US, so the opportunity for bribery abounds. In fact, it would seem that in a civil case, bribery is not only expected, but rather demanded. My friend says he has been present when judges have called his lawyer friend who sits before them and asked them to pay their bills, apartment rent, restaurant tabs, etc.

Apparently each side in a civil case takes part in a illegal bidding war for the judges decision before the case has even been heard in open court. When the trial begins, the verdict is often predetermined before a single argument is made. At various levels of court, the bribes get more expensive. A typical Supreme Court case will net a judge around $40,000, and they can sit multiple cases per week.

There is no separation of powers as there in the US. The legal system is entirely controlled by the government political party. Technically, the prosecutor's office has the ability to police the judges and they are able to bring them up on corruption charges if they deem fit, but they must get the government's permission first. Unless the judge has done something to make enemies in the government, then the prosecutor is probably committing career suicide by actually trying to do this.

In civil court cases, the decision is made by money. In criminal court cases, it seems you are pretty much guilty until... well, you're just guilty. Being a judge or a defense lawyer in a criminal case is not the best gig in the world. If a defense lawyer defends his client and it turns out later that the client is guilty, the defense lawyer himself can be tried and put in prison. The judge doesn't have it much better. If a judge deems a defendant innocent and he later is proven to be guilty, the prosecutor's office can have the judge arrested and tried as well.

It seems that in this particular country's legal system, many lawyers and judges are quite disenchanted. Many leave the profession after a few years of practice because of personal risk from the anti-corruption office or ethical issues. Many judges leave because the only way they can make money is to do so illegally. Most go on to become businessmen and women, starting a company, or running a restaurant.

Hearing these stories about such an unfair, backwards legal system makes me happy that I am a citizen of a country like the United States, who's governmental powers are kept in balance by each other.

Remembered my login

Finally, after a week or so of trying, I have been able to login to blogger. A while ago I switched from the old version to the new google accounts version, and since then I have not been able to post. I finally stumbled upon the right combination of email address and password.

Not a whole lot to report, really. I had a really nice weekend that has put me in a great mood. My German friend Dani had some friends visiting for the weekend, so the group of us went to the bar each night. Drinking, dancing, 2am street BBQ, and staying out until the sun came up was good for the soul.

On Saturday, my friend Barbara and I went down to the pet/plant/antiques market so I could show her where to buy turtle food for her pet turtles, Panda and Dinosaur. We searched in a local department store and I found an oven for only 300 RMB (I only know two people with ovens in Yantai... this means I can finally bake something). I honestly don't know how the Chinese manage to get through life frying all of their food. The department store also sold a bread machine, complete with English language recipes which I think I will go back and buy in a few days time. I've already found a recipe for cheddar/onion bread which sounds fantastic.

I'm trying to plan my trip home to the States for my friends' Steve and Debbie's wedding, which I am in (June 30th). I still don't know which day I will be coming home, but I am trying to work in a stop in London to see my Grandfather and also attend a reception at LBS for admits/waitlisters. I'm hoping the trip home can coincide with a business trip to Colorado, negating the need for me to pay for the tickets myself... that would be nice (which theoretically, I won't be able to do if I don't get paid soon anyway... but that is another story).

I'm in a much better mood this week. Last week I wasn't sure if I could stay in Yantai much longer, but this week I feel more optimistic. I very well may find myself falling back into my feelings of homesickness and general unhappiness, but I really hope not. On Friday I am supposed to be hearing another decision from LBS, so I may have more reason to be happy later... and if not, at least I will be able to better plan my near future if I know what's going on with that situation.

Reading back some of my posts, I am amazed people read this drivel. I don't really write about anything interesting, just my own daily routine, thoughts, etc. I am constantly jealous when I read well written blogs, such as my friend Fargus's blog or his celebrity gossip blog which he writes with the hilarious Mel.

Anyway, that's about it for me today. Time for bed.

Focker, out.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Another financial Siren beckoning

The video game shops in Yantai just started selling X-Box360 and Wii games for ten kuai each (about $1.25). I could quite literally buy every Wii game yet made for less than the price of buying one Wii game in the US. I fear that once I get paid I may be abandoning my PS2 for a Wii.

One lucky soldier

Here is a picture of an iPod belonging to a US soldier in Iraq. Seems he rounded a corner and took a bullet to the chest. Thankfully, Apple's mp3 player slowed the bullet down enought that it did not pierce his body armor, and he walked away with a severe bruise.

An Apple engineer apparently heard about the story and is working on getting him a replacement iPod.

I'm half tempted...

...but I can't convince myself that spending almost $70 on a Cheesesteak is worth it.

Campos Deli on Market Street in Philly will overnight ship you a cheesteak or hoagie sandwich, complete with TastyKakes, Herrs Chips, Philly soft pretzels, and Goldenberg's Peanut Chews anywhere in the world.

The menu

So tempting... I would kill for a decent hoagie.

Oh, Chrissy...

Dearest, I'd love to speak to you and Aaron on the phone. Can you please email me your phone number in Connecticut so I can call you sometime? Also, I don't have your email so that will let me know what it is.

My email is: Otford15@hotmail.com
My phone (counts as a Philly number for you to call): 610-627-3176

If you try to call me, keep in mind that we have a 12 hour time difference... I'm not quite the night owl I used to be in college.

I have your picture frame of four leaf clovers in my apartment in Yantai... live on the 3rd floor and haven't falled out of a window yet!! ("I flied?", "No, you falled.")

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Rough week...

Yeah, I've had a rough week. I haven't taken my breakup with Louise very well. In fact, it has made me very much feel alone and question what the hell I am doing in China still.

I've been trying to stay out of my apartment this past week. Last Thursday my friends Rob and Chris took me on a pub-crawl of the old Yantai barstreet, Chao Yang Jie. It was strange being in some of these old bars where we used to spend so much time, now only filled with a few Chinese. Colours Bar was the most interesting, being a Chinese gay bar.

If anyone needs proof that being gay is genetic, I believe it must be Colours Bar. In China, being gay isn't just looked down upon, it is downright denied. Gay doesn't exist in China (well, not officially). I cannot imagine any Chinese teenager thinking, "Gee, you know what? My family will disown me, I will never get a job in this country, and quite likely the police will invent a reason to lock me up, but you know... I really feel like being gay. I am making that choice." No, of course not. Anyone gay in China is that way because there is something in their bodies telling them to be. No one in their right mind would "make that choice" as many neo-cons in American would have you believe. Yet, this bar still had patrons who are open about their sexual orientation, in one of the few places outside of Mississippi where it would be harder to do so. Anywho... I digress.

I've played poker 3 times this week. Walked away with 200 RMB of Lee's money tonight, so that made me happy. You sorry son-of-a-criminal.

Tonight I went and treated myself to a sushi dinner at the Air Plaza Hotel. Really nice sushi sampler and bottle of saki for $11. Yum, yum. Saki got me nice a buzzed before I went out to the bar, but its ok because I'm not working tomorrow. May 1-7 is Chinese labor holiday. Legally, every company in China must give their workers 1-3 off, but of course, my company never follows the law, and instead we are only getting May 1st off. Oh well, se la vie.

I'm still not doing ok, but I'm working on it. I've got good friends here who invite me out. I just wish this city weren't so dang small. The entire ex-pat social life here revolves around one bar and the same 30 people. Living somewhere like Shanghai or Hong Kong would really allow you to get lost in the crowd and re-invent yourself if need be. Oh well... as long as I have a decent job keeping me in Yantai, I won't be moving any time soon... but if I suddenly don't have a reason to stay in Yantai, Hong Kong is looking awfully sweet right about now.