China's Hutong Renovations: Yay or Nay?

You ever get so busy that you forget to update your blog? Ya, happened to me. I leave for Egypt on July 30, so expect lots of photos of me with my hands in the air surrounded by sand.

Here’s an article I just recently wrote for Expat Guides.




Colorful Beijing Sunset

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Yonghegong - Llama Temple

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Dating In China

Since I broke up with my ex in October 2016, I’ve given the dating game in Beijing a shot and it’s been a whirlwind of funny/awkward situations, and moments where I can’t even think of how to respond. Here are some of the more “interesting” things that have happened while on a date

 “Already Ate”

Her: Let’s grab dinner at 6 on Saturday

Me: Sounds good!

In the restaurant on Saturday

Me: I’m starving, you hungry?

Her: No, I ate an hour ago

Me: Umm, I thought we had dinner plans

Her: Ya, but I was hungry an hour ago and didn’t want to wait. It’s ok, I’ll watch you eat

Me: …

 

 “Oh, Actually”

Me: So, drinks on Friday?

Her: Ya, perfect.

At the bar

Me: I think I’ll grab a beer. You?

Her: Oh, actually, I don’t drink, but I am so hungry, I think I’ll get Pho

So I sit there, drinking beer, listening to her slurp up Pho while puffing on a vape every other bite and blowing it right across the table. Before I can even start to wonder how I get myself in these situations, she says:

Her: Do you want to buy a vape? I sell them, it’s my side business

Me: Thanks for the offer, but I’m all set

Her: No worries! Anyway, it’s so nice of you to buy me Pho

Me: Sorry, what gives you the impression that I’m buying your food?

Her: That’s how it works, guys always pay

I’ve gotta start vetting these girls better before agreeing to go out

“So Strong”

Her: Oh my gosh, this mojito is so strong

Me: You can order something else if you want

Her: No, it’s ok, I’m just feeling like so drunk already

Me: Alright, well just don’t throw up on me

So we keep talking, and between stories she keeps commenting just how strong the drink is and how’s she feeling drunk and laughing a lot. This is her first drink, so I’m not concerned, but find it odd that she keeps talking about it. After we finish, we head down to the bar and the bartender says “Table 10, one beer and one non-alcoholic mojito”, at which point I turn to the girl and say “Sorry, what the fuck?”

She looks at me and shrugs: I thought you’d like me better if you thought I was drunk

Me: …

 

“Don’t Do Scooters”

Me: Hey, so we can meet around 8 at the subway station and I can pick you up on my scooter and then ride to the restaurant

Her: Sounds great!

At the subway

Me: Hey hey, ready to go?

Her: Actually, do you know any places close to here? I don’t do scooters

Me: … I already made a reservation, I thought you said riding on a scooter would be fine

Her: Ya, but I don’t do scooters, too scary

Me: …

 

“Height Requirements”

Talking to Chinese girls on Tinder (which you need a VPN for) can be tricky, but there’s one thing for certain - they’ll ask you how tall you are

Her: How tall are you?

Me: 180

Her: Sorry, that’s not enough

Me: What do you prefer?

Her: 190+

Me: Out of curiosity, how tall are you?

Her: 150

Me: If you want to date a giraffe, go to the zoo

“Couldn’t Wait”

Me: Hey I’m outside of the KFC where we agreed to meet. Where are you?

Her: I’m inside, hold on a second.

Her: Hey sorry, I was hungry so I got a bunch of stuff.

Me: We are literally headed to a restaurant right now

Her: Ya, but I wanted KFC

Me: …

"Laborotics" Published!

Laborotics published by Degen Hill
 
Zealot Script - Emerging Worlds

My short story “Laborotics” has been published on Zealot Script - Emerging Worlds! You can read it there, or download a PDF copy for free here. You can follow their Twitter @ZealotScriptUK


Literary Submissions

Writing is the easy part. The submission process, on the other hand, is an entirely different ball game. Whether you're submitting to literary agents, a publishing house, a literary magazine, or an online journal, they're each going to have a different process and want things formatted just the way they like it.

Here's the process:

Let's say I want to submit a short story for submission. First, I need to find who publishes short stories and in what medium (some are only print, only online, or both). Then, I'll need to go through the list and first check if they are interested in publishing stories in the genre I've written. If yes, I'll find "Submissions" on their website, and the first thing I do is look at the top of the screen to check for this:

"There are currently no open calls for submissions at this time."

If that isn't on the screen, read through the criteria. Often, word count is the biggest hindrance. Also, I’ve noticed that almost every site seems to be looking for “LGBQT writers/content”. Just an observation. If you manage to meet their requirements, you then start reading how they want the story submitted. Generally, they'll want an e-mail, have an online form, or some type of submission account like Submittable.

Formatting is the biggest pain, especially when trying to find a literary agent because each agent wants a specific amount of pages in a certain format, either as an attachment or pasted into an e-mail. Short stories are easier since you're sending an entire piece of work and most follow the Shunn formatting guide. However, there are often weird requirements where you'll have to go in your document and change things. For example, some want no personal information on your work while others want everything, including an address. Some will only accept a .doc format while others want a .pdf or .rtf. Some want a single - and others want double --. Once you've managed to fiddle with your original piece according to the specifications, you can move on to the cover letter.

The cover letter is generally the body of the e-mail you send to those you're submitting to. It should include your name, title of your work, word count, genre, and previous publications. Some magazines/agents/journals want a short bio written in 3rd person, while others don't. Some want your nationality, others don't. Once you've finished with that, and attached the perfectly formatted file, recheck their site to make sure you type the e-mail subject line exactly how they want.

Once you've finally completed all of this and press send, you'll immediately be sent an automatic reply that goes something like this:

"Thanks for your submission! Due to the number of submissions we receive, we don't have time to respond to every e-mail. If you don't hear from us within 2-6 months, please consider submitting your work elsewhere."

Cheers, thanks…

Then you do this again, and again, and again. There are a lot of free submissions out there, but there are also lots that charge a “$3 reading fee” and writing contests that charge an entry fee. Sometimes, you'll get lucky and people will want to publish your work, and other times, they won't. In any case, it's worth going through such a tedious process because it gives you the possibility to share your work with a larger audience and at the end of the day, isn't that what we're all trying to do? It’s a hassle, and I’d suggest making a sheet in Excel to keep track of everything, but ultimately, it’s better than not going for it.

Here Then Gone - a short story

Here Then Gone - A Short Story

Just finished my first short story, “Here Then Gone”, about a microchip in the future that automatically ends a person’s life when they turn 75 years old. You can download it for free here

2019 Spring Festival

Travel in Southeast Asia for 2019

Just got back from a three week trip with my Canadian friend and here’s how we did it.

Fly from Beijing to Hanoi. Drink beer from kegs on the street. Bus to Halong Bay. Stay the night on the boat. Laugh hysterically as a Korean sings Gangnam Style on KTV. Bus back to Hanoi. Eat Pho and Banh Mi. Sleeper train to Hue. Hostel party. Bus to Hoi An. Get Bronchitis, but see the Old Town anyway. Sleeper train to Ho Chi Minh. Check out Walking Street and talk to a German Michelin Chef. Fly to Siem Reap (now in Cambodia). See Angkor Wat. Bus down to Phnom Penh. See Killing Fields. Bus to Sihanoukville. Wonder why everything is in Chinese. Boat to Koh Rong. Enjoy the beach. Boat back to Sihanoukville. Bus to Koh Kong (border city). There’s no seats so we sit on a step-stool in the aisle. Tuk Tuk to the border. Walk across the border (now in Thailand). Taxi to Pattaya. Enjoy the beach and fight off ladyboys. Taxi to Bangkok. Fly back to Beijing. Complain about the cold.

All three countries, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand are all unique, and I liked each one for a different reason - but all three had great food. It’s easy for a tourist to say they liked the country they visited because they’re there for a short amount of time and often, the people you interact with are in the tourism industry and are being polite so you’ll spend your money. With that being said, I really enjoyed traveling to all three countries.

This year, I traveled without my computer, which was a choice I’m glad I made. I could still handle e-mails and flight stuff on my phone and saw no real reason to bring my laptop with me. It was a liberating feeling, mainly since I use my computer daily when I’m in Beijing, and before my trip I thought, “how am I going to go three weeks without a keyboard?” Overall, I’m happy I didn’t bring it with me, and I think having a travel buddy made it easier since there was always someone to be with, taking away the need to ‘kill time’ by surfing around on a laptop.

The more I travel, the more I realize there’s so much to see in this world, and no matter how much I enjoy the stability of my routine and daily life, I like bouncing around, staying in different places, and experiencing new things. I also really liked that the weather in Southeast Asia was around 30 degrees while Beijing was still -4. There’s something about sweating in a tank top that’s preferable to being bundled up in a jacket and scarf.

It’s tough to spend such a long time traveling and eating good food and being in a place you want to be, and then returning to the cold and the mundane and settling back into a routine. That’s life though, and I imagine if I lived in Bangkok, I’d have similar thoughts about having to return to the noise and the heat. “The grass is always greener” is something I’m always dealing with by acknowledging that nowhere is perfect and that instead, perhaps the grass is green where you water it.

2019 Goals

As with each passing year, it’s customary, at least in the US, to make goals/resolutions. So, as is tradition, here are mine for 2019:

  • $5,000 to retirement

  • Sign new contract at Xinhua

  • Visit 3 new countries

  • Write another short story (sub 15,000 words) - Current short story “Here Then Gone” is with editor

  • Benchpress 125kg 5 times - Currently around 115kg maybe 2-3 times

  • Read at least 12 books - I’ve started writing a 10-word ‘thing’ for each book I’ve read since last summer, which can be found under my About me section. So far this year, I’ve read “Fatherland” and “The Chrysalids”

  • No fast-food

Words for 2018

Here are some words I liked from 2018:

  • Capricious - Determined by chance it whim rather than by necessity

  • Rube - A person who is not very intelligent or interested in culture

  • Copacetic - Completely satisfactory

  • Louche - Disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way.

  • Cogent  - Clear, logical, convincing (of an argument / case)

  • Remonstrate - To make a forcefully reproachful protest

  • Indefatigable - Persisting tirelessly

  • Persiflage - Light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter

  • Inimical - Tending to obstruct or harm

  • Viviparous - Bringing forth live young that have developed inside the body of the parent

  • Pernicious - Having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way

  • Bumptious - Self-assertive or proud to an irritating degree

  • Recalcitrant - Having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline

  • Incipient - In an initial stage; beginning to happen or develop

Xinhua Special: Xi's Speech at CIIE

Taiwan Thoughts

Taiwan was great. The food, the people, the weather, the public transportation - everything was just so nice. Maybe I’m easy to win over having come from Beijing where things are loud, noisy, and not so clean, but having spent a week in Taipei, I was really impressed with the city

As everyone kept telling me, the food was amazing. The city has a large Japanese and southeast Asian influence, especially on the food. There were a ton of Japanese restaurants, as well as curry places, fried chicken, and tons of street vendors selling an assortment of both sweet and salty snacks.

In addition to Taipei, I also took a day trip to Jiufen, a small village situated in the green hills of Northern Taiwan, overlooking the ocean. It’s especially popular with tourists as it resembles the village from the anime Spirited Away. There are lanterns, tall staircases, and shops packed together selling tasty treats to the throngs of tourists. It was windy, beautiful, and somewhat serene when imagining where exactly I was.

Whatever preconceived notion I had about Taiwan before I went there was shattered as soon as I landed. When walking through the streets, I imagined my life living there and of all the places I’ve traveled in Asia, I could see myself starting a life there. Lots of people speak English, there is a good mix of cultures, there’s no need for a VPN, and it’s an island, which ticks off my “close to the ocean” box for potential places to settle down

As expected, the controversy or “sensitivity” concerning China and Taiwan is alive and well. Both Taiwanese and Chinese have opinions about the island, as do I. However, since I work for Xinhua and was told to keep my blog “appropriate” and refrain from controversial opinions, I’ll keep it to myself. Regardless of the political nature concerning Taiwan, I can’t recommend it enough. I spent a week doing the sightseeing thing and there was plenty to do, including memorials, temples, night markets, and food/bars.

Now I understand that Taiwan is unique, but here’s how I would describe it: a cleaner Hong Kong, a less busy Tokyo, a more fun Singapore, and a more polite mainland. There are less people than the aforementioned places, which obviously makes things easier, but the combination of culture, unique architecture, and the people make Taiwan a must-see travel destination.

Review of Contraception

Murder, Mayhem & More recently reviewed my novel, Contraception. Check out the review here

Gym

7.25

  • Squat - 115 - 2 reps

7.28

  • Squat - 120 - 3 reps
  • Deadlift - 130 - 4 reps

8.01

  • Squat - 120 - 2.5 reps
  • Deadlift - 110 - 5 reps
  • Deadlift - 130 - 4 reps
  • Deadlift - 135 - 2 reps

1,000 Pound Club

I'm at a bit of a stalemate with my gym. I haven't set any solid gym goals recently, so by the end of December, I'm aiming to get into the 1,000-pound club - my squat, deadlift, and benchpress should cumulatively be 1,000 pounds. 

Current Stats (7.21) @ 90kg

  • Benchpress - 115kg - 253 pounds - 1 rep
  • Squat - 110kg - 242 pounds - 5 reps
  • Deadlift - 130kg - 286 pounds - 3 reps
  • Total - 355kg - 781 pounds

I know, my legs are weak, but I'm also working to not bulk up too much because I don't want to look ridiculous when I wear pants. Will update every few weeks or so and see what progress has been made.

Current diet - I recently bought a lot of canned salmon, tuna, oysters, and sardines and I try to eat at least one tin per day on top of regular meals. I stay away from sugar, soda, and fast food, but everything else is fair game. I'm working on trying to cut beer out of my diet, but I'm not a UFC athlete, few beers are still ok. Every two weeks, I'll buy a bunch of fruit and vegetables, blend them in a blender with a bit of water, put them in small ice-cube trays, freeze them, then in the morning, I'll dump a handful of them along with a can of coconut milk into a blender and make a smoothie. I use a silicon ice-tray and the process couldn't be easier.

Supplements - I have a protein shake following my workouts along with two servings of amino acids. After lunch, I take fish oil, a vitamin-B supplement, and a green tea extract pill. 

Contraception featured on Murder, Mayhem, and More

Update

  1. My current visa expires in 5 days, and in that time, I need to apply for a new foreign expert's card and a temporary 3-month visa, which will give me enough time to then later apply for a year visa.
  2. Started my new job at Xinhua News Agency which is a completely different atmosphere than the last place I worked. There are a ton of people constantly moving about, TVs are on, and lots of work to be done, but I like being busy. 
  3. Signed another year contract at my apartment in Andingmen. It's still a 20 minute scooter ride to work, and moving is a pain. 
  4. Listening to a lot of Caloncho lately, a talented Mexican musician
  5. World Cup games in China play at 8pm, 11pm, and 2am. So far, I've caught most of the 8 and 11pm games, and stayed up to watch Germany barely beat Sweden. I've got France this year, but I hope Mexico wins. 
  6. I designed and printed out a giant calendar (2x1 meters) that covers the next 16 months. Every time I look at it, I think about what I want to accomplish in that time.
  7. Trying to plan next trip, but can't start figuring things out until I get my new visa
  8. Feeling a bit isolated lately as I think about how long I've been away from family and friends. I've always been independent, but lately I've been thinking of settling down and what I want to do with my life. Currently, I've gotten as far as coloring in countries around the world that I don't want to live and slowly narrowing the list. Sorry China, but you didn't make the cut. 
  9. Thinking about buying the new iPhone in September, but I think Face ID is fucking stupid and unless it has a fingerprint scanner, will most likely stick with my current phone. A life update about my thoughts on a new phone, riveting stuff I know. 
  10. Started watching "Peaky Blinders". So far, so good. I also recommend "The Rain", a Danish Dystopian tv show. After watching it, I fell into a blackhole on Wikipedia about the linguistics and origins of the Danish language. 
  11. Overall, things are going well. A lot of goals were accomplished recently, such as finding a new job, saving money, publishing my book, and getting a new visa. With so many long-term projects finishing at the same time, I sort of feel a bit empty, almost like I have nothing to do. Besides work and gym, I really don't. With that said, I'm working on flushing out an idea for a new book and aiming to finish a short story soon. Once I get my new visa, tangible evidence of stability, I'll work on setting some more long-term goals that I can work on throughout the year. I'm results-oriented, I thrive on achieving things. 

Thanks to everyone who bought my book, talked about it, or liked my post online about it. I never expected to sell a book, it was always about seeing if I could create a physical manifestation of an idea. Now I know I can, which for me, means a lot more than selling 1,000 copies, which would also be cool but let's be real, not likely to happen. 

Chinese FA Cup Quarterfinals (Beijing 2 - Shanghai 1)

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Whiz Buzz

Contraception promoted on Whiz Buzz Books

Last Day

Today was my last day at China Today, after having worked as a reporter and editor for one year. I'm grateful for everything I learned and look forward to starting work at Xinhua News Agency on Monday. So far, the plan is for this to be my last year in China, but at this point, I'm just trying to make the job / visa transition as smooth as possible.