(no subject)

I keep quite a few things in this journal private - it is a journal after all - usually copies of emails or websites I want to save. This post is one of those but left public. It's an advice column I stumbled across that reflects much of what is going on around here inside my head. And no, I am not the advisee.
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(no subject)

As a popular topic here in the states this weekend seems to be the high cost of petrol, I feel implored to vent a bit of my perspective on this dead horse topic. Petrol in America is cheap. In fact, it is TOO cheap.

In Europe, petrol costs much more than the US. This is not due to some market difference or a disparity between America's and European nations' buying power. It is also not due to America corporations dominating the oil industry as two of the biggest players - Shell and BP Amoco - are Dutch and British concerns respectively. So what does a gallon of gas cost in these places? From this relatively recent price comparison the cost of petrol (converted for imperial measure) is just over $6.50 a gallon in the UK and about $6.75 in the Netherlands. That's 2.5 times what it is here. Two-and-a-half times more!

How can this be? My belief is that the American prices don't reflect the true cost to produce that gallon of gas. The difference most likely lies in that the price of a litre of petrol in Europe isn't offset by the massive subsidies an American gallon is. A European litre of petrol carries much more tax at purchase time. That means the American gallon carries the same tax burden elsewhere. Do you know any Americans that get a tax break for NOT driving a car? I don't rely upon a car and neither do most of my friends. Yes, we benefit from infrastructure for things like ambulances and cheap interstate commerce but we also ride bicycles and take public transportation. Should everyone pay the same taxes regardless of their relative benefit of this massive investment? The money to support the cheap petrol is coming from the larger tax pool - the income tax and property taxes. And let's not overlook the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any action toward "political stability in the Middle East" takes the American socio-political interest in global oil price control for granted. So factor in the American military budget - the largest business in the world - too.

This encourages me to see high oil prices as healthy and to hope they go much higher. Progress environmentally and politically in our world is hindered by a myopic view of high prices at the pump. Let's suffer this financial pain to motivate us to choose leaders that will detangle the inter-relationship of the American economy from the short-lived era of uber-cheap oil. Let's take the tepid improvements made to CAFE standards last week and bring them even closer to what's realistic for the 21st century.

Our current oil-centric economic system is so brittle it's begun to require terribly inhuman and unpopular wars to sustain itself. It will inevitably fail. Just ask the Dutch and the Brits about what happened to their former empires.

(no subject)

duets of frustration from this day in my life:

just because we're all getting older
doesn't mean we're all becoming adults

something about succeeding in the 'real world'
diminishes the ability to recognize what's real


trading everyday happiness for security in the future
only secures a future of days with no happiness to spend

I miss traveling like a crack whore misses payday

(no subject)

In an uncommon respite from my rather morbid social life of recent weeks, I spent Saturday evening in the company of several people that also swim in the deep end of the pool. It's become something to cherish when one meets another open-eyed dweller of these fly-over states. Oh, the joy of having conversation avoid my inability to discuss local real-estate prospects or the multitudinous ways a Jetta bests a Camry.

The topic: life in the States versus Europe. The contestants: myself and former residents of Denmark and Germany. The verdict: a draw. While I've often been misconstrued by the readers of this journal (both of you) as some sort of unbalanced, anti-american american; the truth is that I'm rather balanced on the matter. While I do prefer the way of life in Europe writ-large over the American one, I have often extolled the relative virtues in reverse to other travelers. You decide why when I travel I meet so few Americans and so many Europeans. Anyway, the discussion pretty much concluded this: America is both great and lamentable for its openness and disregard for culture. European cultures are both great and lamentable for their introverted perspective and cloistered attitude. My two cents: the American way will ultimately prevail as the EU systematically trades culture for the open-market globalisation mania that defines our age. And that just plain sucks.

This state of mind implores me to share a duet of nonsense. The first is this article from the UK paper The Times (the paper without Page Three girls). The gist: IQ tests across Europe indicate Germans and Dutch are the smartest. The perspective taken by the English: "At least we're smarter than the French and beat the Germans in WWII". What is it with the French anyway? Why does EVERYONE have a problem with the French? While I'm no Francophone Francophile France-geek the French and their ways rank very well on some of my personal lists. Very Imporant Lists like the one titled "Wine, Women and Song." Hey France, it's official: we're all jealous. The topic of endless vilifying Germany over WWII is a topic for another time.

One of the things I genuinely like about the US - and increasingly dislike about the EU - relates to this identity crisis. I recall a moment standing on a summit in the Alps, turning circles to see Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy all at once. Even the memory of the moment makes me smile but while there I overhead the equivalent of "If it weren't for the Italians over there, this view would be perfect." Huh? Get over it. This typifies an attitude that's at the root of Western Europe's current immigration problems. Immigrants - particularly from Turkey and/or Muslim cultures - are largely failing to mesh with the homogeneous local cultures wherein serious conflict tends to result.

I'll return to a point I often try to make about America to other travelers. For all our faults, once one actually arrives in America people tend to treat each other pretty equally. We have the whole multi-culturalism thing figured out better than any other place I've seen in the world. Today do people tell you you're not American because you speak with an accent, or don't share their physical features, or practice a different religion than they? Not often, and it's certainly not institutionalised. Women can vote, drinking fountain technology now serves all colors and churches here are burnt down for sport instead of malice. I'm purposely ignoring the heaping portions of xenophobia and jingoism on America's plate so I can justly claim to have posted one pro-american comment publicly. Play along.

Which brings me to the second feeling I need to share today. Being in Chicago is tough on me. I've learned from my travels I have a need for the outdoors and a love of the ocean. Chicago is an asphalt oasis in the car park of man-made pleasures. There's crap beer in the watering can and cigarette smoke in the hothouse. Nature's law has been replaced with parking laws. Nine out of ten curmudgeons agree:
We just expect to keep running American society exactly the way it has been set up to run -- as a nonstop demolition derby, with hamburgers and fries between laps around the freeway.

And from Robert Crumb:

OK, enough wallowing in my own crapulence. Off for a cleansing run past Walmart, around McMansion Park then finish at Starbucks.


(no subject)

Where's Paul?

I'll tell you. Things aren't going all that well for me at the moment and I just don't turn to this weblog unless I have fun things to report. You see, a weblog really doesn't work that well on the return trip. One can give personal details up for public amusement but cannot expect much more than misunderstanding in return. This famous blogger has elucidated the phenomenon rather well.

So today, 15 March 2006, nothing really good has happened or is expected to happen. My grandiose plans are stagnated, stress has over-flowed, money is gone and dreams are on probation. Did you enjoy reading that? I didn't think so.

(no subject)

Alright, so I officially didn't get the motorcycle job. Consider this post an open invitation to everyone still reading to help me get an IT job in London or Dublin. Hell I'll go anywhere in Europe or Asia or Africa for that matter but these two cities seem to be my best bet at the moment. Any information on costs of living, websites where best to pimp myself, places to crash when I'm in town for interviews, neighborhoods to consider living, etc. will be rewarded with tales from last weekend.

Why last weekend? Well, for one I turned 34 years OLD and for two me and a bunch of my good motorcycle buddies tore down one side of Louisville and burned the other. It's amazing how much fun one can have in America's 26th largest city when that city is home to so much bourbon and so many muffin tops. More on that in a bit.

(no subject)

A few weeks back I got word of a job opening for tour leader at a famous motorcycle adventure company. I'm trying to not get overly excited for fear of jinxing my slim chances of getting this job but suffice it to say it seems really cool and many people - including me - think I make an excellent candidate. On girl_on_a_stick's advice I found a friend-of-a-friend with a camera and editing skills to produce a video c.v. Craig produced in record time and minimal budget a stellar, pimped-out DVD to accompany the written application. The full DVD is unsuitably large for the internet - here is a lower-quality version for the curious:

Wish me luck on that one. Plans B & C aren't nearly as exciting but much more likely. A word of advice from your friend Paul: coming down from the travel-life ain't so easy and may be impossible.

(no subject)

My fascination with China grows steadily. Today it's all about the future city of Dongtan. The plan is to make "the first self-sustaining city environment in the world". The Chinese seem to have a firm grasp on the "image thing" when it comes to their national agenda. I'm just going to have to go there soon and see it for myself!

I suspect it's rather inevitable that China's economy, people and culture are going to dictate much of the coming decades. Chief among their saavy moves is the winner's circle they've secured as we race to erase market boundaries and bargain shop our standard of living steadily downward.