Wednesday, April 21, 2010

apropos of nothing-

I got so many chuckles out of this, I just have to pass it on.  It's not "green" or science or nothin- just a funny commentary on humans.

Got this email just now: 

Subject: Beneficiary
Date: April 21, 2010 1:18:20 PM CDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Anti-Terrorist And Monitory Crime Division.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation.
J.Edgar.Hoover Building Washington Dc
Customers Service Hours / Monday To Saturday
Office Hours Monday To Saturday:

Dear Beneficiary,

Series of meetings have been held over the past 7 months with the secretary general of the United Nations Organization. This ended 3 days ago. It is obvious that you have not received your fund which is to the tune of $11million due to past corrupt Governmental Officials who almost held the fund to themselves for their selfish reason and some individuals who have taken advantage of your fund all in an attempt to swindle your fund which has led to so many losses from your end and unnecessary delay in the receipt of your fund.

The National Central Bureau of Interpol enhanced by the United Nations and Federal Bureau of Investigation have successfully passed a mandate to the current president of Nigeria his Excellency President Umaru Yar'Adua to boost the exercise of clearing all foreign debts owed to you and other individuals and organizations who have been found not to have receive their Contract Sum, Lottery/Gambling, Inheritance and the likes.

Now how would you like to receive your payment? because we have two method of payment which is by Check or by ATM card?

ATM Card: We will be issuing you a custom pin based ATM card which you will use to withdraw up to $3,000 per day from any ATM machine that has the Master Card Logo on it and the card have to be renewed in 4 years time which is 2014. Also with the ATM card you will be able to transfer your funds to your local bank account. The ATM card comes with a handbook or manual to enlighten you about how to use it. Even if you do not have a bank account.

Check: To be deposited in your bank for it to be cleared within three working days.

Your payment would be sent to you via any of your preferred option and would be mailed to you via UPS. Because we have signed a contract with UPS which should expire by the end of may 2010 you will only need to pay $110 instead of $520 saving you $410 So if you pay before March 28 2010 you save $410 Take note that anyone asking you for some kind of money above the usual fee is definitely a fraudsters and you will have to stop communication with every other person if you have been in contact with any. Also remember that all you will ever have to spend is $110.00 nothing more! Nothing less! And we guarantee the receipt of your fund to be successfully delivered to you within the next 24hrs after the receipt of payment has been confirmed.

Below are few list of tracking numbers you can track from UPS website to confirm people like you who have received their payment successfully.

Name : Donna L. Vargas: UPS Tracking Number: 1Z757F991598420403 (
Name : Rovenda Elaine Clayton: UPS Tracking Number:  1Z757F991596606592 (

Note: Everything has been taken care of by the Federal Government of Nigeria, The United Nation and also the FBI and including taxes, custom paper and clearance duty so all you will ever need to pay is $110.

DO NOT SEND MONEY TO ANYONE UNTIL YOU READ THIS: The actual fees for shipping your ATM card is $520 but because UPS have temporarily discontinued the C.O.D which gives you the chance to pay when package is delivered for international shipping We had to sign contract with them for bulk shipping which makes the fees reduce from the actual fee of $520 to $110 nothing more and no hidden fees of any sort!

To effect the release of your fund valued at 11million usd  you are advised to contact our correspondent in Africa the delivery officer MR. MIKE WILLIAMS with the information below,


You are adviced to contact him with the informations as stated below:

Your full Name..
Your Address:..............
Home/Cell Phone:..............
Preferred Payment Method ( ATM / Cashier Check )

Upon receipt of payment the delivery officer will ensure that your package is sent within 24 working hours. Because we are so sure of everything we are giving you a 100% money back guarantee if you do not receive payment/package within the next 24hrs after you have made the payment for shipping.

Yours sincerely,

Miss Donna Story

Note: Do disregard any email you get from any impostors or offices claiming to be in possession of your ATM CARD, you are hereby advice only to be in contact with Mr. Mike Williams of the ATM CARD CENTRE who is the rightful person to deal with in regards to your ATM CARD PAYMENT and forward any emails you get from impostors to this office so we could act upon and commence investigation.

  And, as always- the most amazing thing is- there ARE people who actually fall for stuff this crude- which is why they keep sending it out.

ay, yi yi.

Friday, April 16, 2010


  Hi there!  Remember me?  :-)

I have a perfect illustration of how the last weeks have been.  Today I sat down at the computer to attempt some real work, and turned on my Pandora page.  It was set to Christmas music.

There are about 30 reasons why, which I doubt very much you want to sort through.  I'll just mention the most recent one, which is very typical of the other 29, in terms of debilitating power.

We got hit with a stomach virus; Spice first, then me.  Not, of course, one of the wonderful "3 day stomach flu" bugs; this one is taking around 3 weeks.  Starts with very thorough vomiting, which is likely to go on for 4 days or so, followed by a week or more of "tight stomach", along with half of your normal diet now making you nauseous.  And, what the hay, exhaustion, right along.

I'm in the tail end of mine; you know, where you feel like you weigh 500 lbs and just had a lobotomy?  Ah, joy.

What I usually do to combat the creeping insanity when I'm in that kind of place- almost able to get out of bed and work- but not really; is read.

I have a longstanding interest in and affection for China; I've been twice, and growing up I learned that my parents had a personal connection to General Vinegar Joe Stilwell;  I read his diary when I was 14 or so.  That was an eye-opener.  Simultaneously I learned what a real general is like, and how difficult it is to be intelligent, moral, conscientious, and still function.  And that China was an excellent model for Hell on Earth from about 1880 to 1950.  And not comic-book hell; the real thing.

Consequently, whenever I've tripped over a novel or diary coming out of China from somewhere in that timeframe, I've always picked them up, added them to my pile.

So during my current convalescence (as opposed to the 8 others since January 1) I picked up the nearest book I hadn't read for several years, and it was Heaven Below, by E.H. Clayton; Prentice Hall, 1944.  I tried to find a link to it- but nothing useful, and one site for rare books.  Some libraries should still have it.

About halfway through it, I realized what I was holding in my hand.  A manual for survival in the midst of cultural and political chaos.  Something a lot of folks have been wishing for.  Then it also occurred to me that many of the other books I have read about China in those years also contain many insights along the same lines; The Joy Luck Club, for instance, something a bit easier to find.

Clayton was a schoolmaster in Hangchow for 30 some years, starting in 1912; and the book was written before the end of WWII.  Hangchow has been called the Venice of China, which is not a terrible comparison; canals, ancient, wealthy, and sophisticated.  In Chinese literature, calling it Heaven on Earth, was a common metaphor.

The book is extremely readable, and Clayton has an acute eye for human nature, and an unusually good grasp of how the world works.  And a sense of humor, mordant at times.

He lived through, and documents, including the details of daily life, the early rise of Chinese Nationalism, the advent of communism, the Generalissimo, and invasion and occupation by Japan.  Plenty of chaos and conflict to go around.  And he can see through his own eyes and culture, and the eyes of his Chinese teacher colleagues, and his Chinese students (boys), in an unusually balanced way.

An example from his early years, when ancient China was still predominant:

Several hundred years ago, a philanthropic Chinese gentleman had left his fortune to provide, in perpetuity, a free ferry across the river, which at Hangchow is a mile and a half wide.  For three hundred years, sails and oars were the motive power, or long poling bamboos stuck in the mud and pressed against the naked bellies of sweating, chanty-singing coolies who leaned against them until they seemed almost on all fours as they forced the heavy junks through the water.  The ferryboat was never started till every last inch of vacant space had been occupied by countrymen with loaded carrying-poles bringing produce to the city market - bamboo shoots, yams, peas, beans, chestnuts, water chestnuts, water nuts, the edible bulrush, and chickens - or returning carrying the precious two-bucket uncovered load of night-soil, which is the chief fertilizer on all Chinese farms.

I can see, and smell that, quite vividly - what a huge amount of information he has packed in.  One of the most significant bits, to me, is the fact that traditional Chinese culture was so stable that a bequest like that could still be working after 300 years- longer than the USA has existed.

He lived there to see the complete collapse of traditional China, both culturally and politically, lived through constant sequential occupations by warlords, then the Japanese- a different phenomenon altogether.  And, he saw the people survive (some of them), and develop a fierce determination among them to make China a modern state.  They developed a sense of community.

One of the scariest things facing us is that we're looking at an unknown future; we can no longer predict or see what will happen next year, and after.  One of the very ominous and real possibilities is the end of any practical rule of law- can we survive that?  How?

Grab a book on China, 1910 to 1960, and you'll start to see what is possible.  In 1938 or so, China's population stood at a mere 400,000,000 - close to the current population of the US of 300M plus.

A huge amount of it is grim beyond the comprehension of white-picket fence small town life here.

I think it can help to know that others have come through such hell, and out the other side to once again live lives they consider worthwhile.

I think it is also a good idea to learn what hell can bring, and prepare for it as much as you can.  A good smack-upside the head with the 2x4 of Chinese history might help wake us up.

Much of what Clayton has to tell is heart-wrenching; reading the book is no picnic if you have an ounce of compassion.  After the Japanese occupation:

A rice kitchen was maintained for adults who could show evidence of complete destitution.   Eight hundred people were given tickets admitting them to a daily noon meal that was almost sufficient to keep them alive.  These people were not all originally poor.  One man had been the proprietor of a shop with a half million dollars worth of business a year.  Several school teachers were in the group.  Twenty years ago the military governor of Chekiang province had given the school a gymnasium, and now his second wife was eating in our rice kitchen, which used the gymnasium as a dining room. 

One day I gave a ticket to a man whom I met on the street.  It was a ticket for a month's dinners; but he misunderstood and thought it entitled him to just one meal.  When he came in he was placed at a table with seven other men.  He ate much more than a man in his condition should eat, then waited until the others had left and cleaned off with his tongue the entire surface of the table. So far as he knew, it might be the last meal he would ever have.

In spite of our work among children, we had many requests for rice-kitchen tickets for young people, and during the last few months we decided that, since the numbers could not be increased, we should try to save the young rather than the old.  This decision forced upon me a responsibility that was very difficult to bear.  Day after day it was necessary for me to say, time and again, to sweet-faced old grandmothers, or to kindly-faced old gentlemen, "No, we cannot help you."  This meant, "Go and starve," and that is what they did.

A horrifingly difficult thing to do.  Slightly easier for him perhaps because his boundaries and necessities were so clearly delineated.  Just so much rice.   5,000 refugees inside his school walls, a school designed for 200 boys- and millions- literally- outside.

Could you do it?    I have to think that coping with whatever comes may be a little easier if we think about it ahead of time.  It may be, literally, a matter of life or death.