Monthly Archives: May 2013

7 Tips to Navigate Nightlife in Tokyo, Japan

If you are in Tokyo for the first time I think it can be a bit overwhelming. It’s crowded, you are basically illiterate, and for the most part you don’t know the “rules”. That shouldn’t stop you from having a good time though. Overall, Tokyo and its people are pretty laid back and ready to have a good time. So here are a few tips that should help you successfully navigate Tokyo’s nightlife.

1. Public Transportation Stops at 11:00pm
If you are relying on public transportation to get around in Tokyo be aware that trains stop running around 11:00pm. That means you have to make a critical decision when you are going out. Do you party all night long or leave at 11:00pm?

I chose to party all night long twice while I was in Japan. Both times I was afraid that by 3am I would be regretting my decision and begging to pay a cab $100 to take me home to my nice warm bed. That didn’t happen though. The energy is so high, the clubs so crowded, and the drinks so delicious that before you know it you will have time traveled to morning.

Pulling an all-nighter is a rite of passage when it comes to nightlife in Tokyo so if you are planning a visit – plan to stay out all night at least once. It’s worth the experience.

2. People speak English
If you don’t speak Japanese, don’t worry. Almost everyone speaks at least some English. Most people are probably fluent.

If you need directions, want to start a conversation, or are just feeling chatting don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. Just be polite.

3. Roppongi
Roppongi is known as the clubbing district around Tokyo. If you are planning to pull that all-nighter this is a great place to do it. Choosing a place to go isn’t hard either, just look for the crowd and go.

4. English Friendly Bars
If you are feeling a little skittish about going to a random bar there are several “English Friendly” pub style bars floating around. The most popular of those bars is probably the HUB.

The HUB is modeled after a British drinking pub. You will find a lot of English speakers from around the world as well as a decent drink selection and bar tenders that are completely fluent in English.

I dropped by and was delighted to find the range of countries represented. There were people from all around Europe and the US hanging out – which was awesome.

5. Avoid Nigerians
There isn’t much crime in Japan, but there are one group of people that like to pray on tourists. Nigerians. They are easy to spot as they will be the only black guys bugging you on the streets of Tokyo. If they try to talk to you just say “no thanks” and walk away.

There are a lot of horror stories about these guys ripping tourists off and stealing from them. I assume these are probably the same Nigerians that spam your email.

6. Smut Culture
Japanese culture is very conservative, but smutty. You will find a wide variety of sex shops, “massage” parlors, and peep shows as you walk through the city. I did not personally partake in any of these activities, but overall most of these establishments, while creepy, seem completely safe. Use your judgement.

7. The Pregame
One thing I had no idea about in Tokyo is that you can drink on the streets. You can go right in a convenient store and grab and alcoholic beverage and enjoy while walking to the next bar.

Since Japan is so expensive we found that having a few drinks before arriving at the bars was a great way to keep our bank accounts happy. If you are wondering what to buy try a Chuahai.

A Chuahai is about 10% alcohol, but tastes a lot like carbonated lemonade. Beware – these things are a lot more powerful than they look/taste.

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Trayvon Martin and Media Bias

I wrote an article about Trayvon Martin a while back. In the article I pointed out that the media was painting a innacurate picture of both Martin and Zimmerman. It was an obvious media bloodbath aimed at demonizing guns and subsequently Zimmerman.

New details have emerged confirming everything I said. Trayvon wasn’t a baby-faced kid. He was a man prone to disciplinary problems, drug use, and perhaps even violence. I’m not saying getting into a little trouble and smoking a little weed makes you evil, but it’s certainly a stark contrast to the innocent 12 year old news outlets showed us immediately following the shooting.

I think the interesting thing about this case is less about if Zimmerman is guilty, gun laws, or even civil rights. The interesting part is the glaring issue of media bias and the media’s ability to drastically affect public opinion. The media painted Zimmerman as a racist murderer, guns as the enemy, and Martin as an innocent boy – all before a shred of evidence had been gathered – most people bought every word without question.

Exploring Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico is quite literally the place of legends. When I told friends and collegues I was planning a trip across the border during my stay in San Diego responses ranged from “You’re going to get your head chopped off” to “They have the best hookers on the planet!”.

Tijuana Border

The same information was presented on the internet. There were two extremes – brave travelers singing the praises of wild Tijuana or conservative vacationers giving dire warnings of entering the third world. So – if you are considering a trip to Tijuana here are a few pieces of advice I learned during my stay.

1. Getting From San Diego to Tijuana

The good news is getting from San Diego to Tijuana is simple and inexpensive. For around $5 you can easily get from the airport to the border. Simply take the 992 (bus) to America Plaza Station. At America Plaza take the Blue line (Trolley) to the border. The last stop is San Ysidro transit station. You can walk across the border from there – just follow the Mexicans across the border. (Airport to Border = 1 hour commute)

Getting across the border is as easy as walking across. There is no one there checking paperwork or so much as guarding the entrance. However; to get back across you will need your US passport. (We’ll talk more about that later.)

2. You’re in Tijuana. Now What?

Once you’re in Tijuana you can find almost anything in this world that your heart desires. That’s both good and bad. You can purchase a women for the night, gorge yourself on cheap tacos and $2 beers, or simply enjoy the Mexican culture and buy a few trinkets from the local shops. Depending on the kind of entertainment you’re looking for – the night is yours.

Negotiating: Please buy my Shit!

No matter what you want to do plan on people soliciting you at every turn. Remember – you are a gringo. You are they kind of person that comes across the border and buys stuff. You buy trinkets, you buy food, you buy alcohol, and you have US dollars in your pocket. These shop owners and local business people will hound you relentlessly in effort to part you from your all-mighty dollar. This isn’t a bad thing just know how to deal with it.

One trick of the trade is be sure to negotiate prices. It doesn’t matter if you are buying a trinket in a shop or haggling entrance prices at a club. I found that if you are at a shop aim for 60% their asking price. Be prepared to walk away and negotiations will almost always be in your favor.

Water and Air Quality

Do not drink the water unless you want to shit yourself for the next few days. Any water that goes in your mouth should be from a bottle – this includes brushing your teeth, washing your food, and ice. When in doubt don’t eat or drink anything suspect.

Also, the air quality is horrible. For some reason the people of Central and South America refuse to keep a car with a cadalytic converter. Mexicans seem to remove this part like it’s cancer. For this reason people with asthma or allergies might want to pack an inhaler.

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Women, Drugs, and Nightlife

Everything you’ve heard about Tijuana is true. Hookers are cheap, strippers are cheaper, and the beer is almost free. My advice – stick to the beer.

However, since you aren’t going to use my advice here’s some information. The strippers in Tijuana are much more forward than those in America. $5 is likely to get you more than you expected and touching seems to be encouraged. If you go to a strip club expect to be continuously solicited, groped, and harassed by naked Latin women.

Beer should cost you about $2 a piece and Tequilla around $3. If you are paying more than that find another place. Settle on prices for EVERYTHING in advance – this will help you avoid the Gringo tax. If you can, try to pay for each drink as you go or do a really good job of keeping up with your tab. A common scheme is to over charge drunken Gringos at the end of the night.

Avoid hookers and drugs. Nothing good can come from that. Most stories of murder and robberies involve some combination of these two things.

Getting Around

Pretty much everything you want to do in Tijuana is within walking distance. If you must take a cab do not use the guys immediately across the border. Use a random cab in the city (which are everywhere) – they are substantially cheaper. As with everything settle on a price beforehand. Almost everyone speaks English, but this isn’t guaranteed. Learn a few words of Spanish before you go. 

3. Getting Back to the U.S.

Now that you are sufficiently hung over and undoubtedly filthy from a night of legend-making you probably want to come home. What you probably don’t realize is that the U.S./Tijuana border is the busiest border on the planet. Hundreds of thousands of people cross DAILY! Wait times can range from 1 – 3 hours so plan accordingly. (Mornings are usually busiest)

To get back in the country you will need a U.S. passport. Border control will ask you a few questions, check your identification and you’re home free.

Hint: If the line is really long there are guys offering to expedite your trip to the front of the line for $5. They will lead you to a van and take you to the front. Mexican border authorities, who are apparently in on the scheme, will move you to the express lane. I used this option one morning when the line was unmanageable and it took about 30 minutes to cross the border (instead of 3 hours). Please use this option with caution and always be mindful who you are getting in a van with.

Once you get back across the border you can take the Trolley right back to San Diego. The trip takes about 45 minutes and cost $2.50.

Tijuana

The Danger of Religion

I am not anti-religion, but I think that any organization that utilizes power and authority to control thought is dangerous. Especially dangerous when leaders use the supernatural and fear tactics to indoctrinate  Indoctrination prevents young minds from becoming free thinkers and when people lose the ability to think for themselves they become robots. Religion becomes a cult.

This is a Facebook conversation I saw on my wall today. I went to high-school with this guy and it amazes me that he is so blinded by his convictions that he has become part of a religious cult. His ability to think freely is gone. He sees only through a lens fogged by Christian presuppositions.

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People literally pulling their kids out of school, in fear, to further indoctrinate them with religious teachings. This frightens and saddens me. Just think how their poor children will view the world.

I’m going to be a Dad!

All week my wife complains about having sore breasts. No big deal. Boobs get sore, right? She skips her period. Maybe it’s stress. A lot is going on at work for her – the end of the year for teachers can be rough. I’m not taking this seriously – I’ve heard it all before.

It’s Friday night and the wife walks in wearing a skimpy little number. Provoking me. Like an adolecent teen I jump at the chance for some lovin’. Uh, oh – awesome sex during what is supposed to be “that  time of the month”? Okay, I finally admit, this is getting serious.

I’m traveling for the next week. I have to know. Is there a little parasitic person in her belly soaking up nutrients? I WANT TO KNOW! This leads us to the midnight trip for pregnancy tests.

We read the instructions carefully. Too carefully. So carefully that it starts to seem complicated. We throw the instructions away. Pee on a stick – easy enough. Wait two minutes.

“Holy Shit, is that two pink lines?”

Buy second test – this time digital.

“Holy Shit! Is that a YES?”

Second test confirms pregnancy. Wow. I mean WOW. I’m going to be a Dad!

Game Changer

As you can imagine, I have a whole lot to talk about. Coming soon.

Big Government Part 2: The Thought Police

Nintey percent (90%) of all media we consume is controlled by six corporations. Six. These media outlets have the ability to manipulate the thoughts and opinions of the public, disseminate information, and frame situations and news items to fit their perspective agenda. There is evidence is happening.

The 2012 Election

In 2012 I closely followed media statistics and how they were effecting the presidential race.

One of the best sources of raw data was the Pew Research Center for media. The data was pretty clear and I found a few points worth noting.

1. During the Republican primaries Mitt Romney received debate time than any other candidate (50% more per debate than the 2nd most time, and twice as much as everyone else per debate)
2. During the Republican primaries Mitt Romney received more media coverage than any other candidate.
3. After the Republican primaries Barrack Obama immediately received more coverage than Mitt Romney. (almost twice as much)
4. Media and communication companies donated almost three as much to Obama as Romney.

In the end Obama won the election by a landslide. I wonder how much influence the volume and positive portrayal of Obama in the media had to do with voter’s opinion?

The Media Pushes Agenda

The media pushes an agenda for political purpose. This is no clearer than with the recent events and trial that is taking place surrounding the Benghazi consulate attack. While I will not focus on my personal opinion of what happened there I would like to focus on the media’s treatment of the event.

Conservative media (i.e., Fox News) is in outrage. They point out that orders for military personnel to stand down were given twice. This lead to the death of four Americans. After the event the white house issued a false statement saying that it was a riot inisiated by a YouTube video slamming Islam. It has recently been revealed that those talking points were manufactured and that key officials were ordered not to cooperate with the investigation. All this happening, Conservatives point out, only 2 months prior to Obama’s election.

Left wingers (i.e., MSNBC, ABC) say that this is a non-event that is being amplified by conservatives in a careful ploy to attack the Obama administration and, more specifically, Hilary Clinton.

So why are the two sides so far apart on an issue? The answer is obvious: Each side has their own Political Agenda. So why do we let media outlets get away with it during election time? And is it fair that media presents opinions as fact? I don’t think it is.

Media Interest, Advertising, and Corporate Ties

The problem isn’t with media sharing an opinion though. The problem is that popular media has a direct conflict of interest when it comes to presenting balanced and honest news. Why? Because the worst violators write their paycheck!

This is how it happens: ABC advertiser writes a million dollar check to XYZ media. Three months later XYZ media comes across a story where ABC advertiser was poisoning patients with bad pharmaceutics. ABC advertiser threatens to pull its million dollar advertising contract if XYZ media runs the story. Thus, XYZ media smiles and turns the other way. In fact, if ABC agrees to make that check 2 million dollars they will even put a positive spin on it. So in the end – the media company gets rich and the rest of us are fucked. This happens everyday.

If you don’t believe me ask yourself if you recognize any of these: The Stock Act, Monsanto Protection Act, CISPA, or National Security Letters, just to name a few.

My Point?

Don’t believe everything you see on TV.

Featured image photo credit.

Big Government Part 1: Privacy vs. Security

On September 11, 2001 at 8:46am Flight 11 was rammed into WTC 1 at 446 mph. At that moment everything changed for America. The great nation and we people contemplated our own vulnerability. We were afraid. We were angry. We never wanted something like this to happen again.

Just over a month later on October 26, 2001 the Bush Administration exploited the fear and confusion among the American people to pass the most privacy-intrusive legislation in world history: The Patriot Act of 2001. Which begs a second question: How did they write AND pass such a comprehensive piece of legislation so quickly? (But maybe that’s another discussion.)

Surveillance State

Since 2001 it has become “common sense” that Americans will have to give up a piece of their privacy for the sake of “National Security”. The Government has since then installed at least 30 million surveillance cameras, built the largest spy data center on the planet, purchased a number of aerial surveillance drones, and more.

It is now fact that all of our emails, our voice conversations, and public actions are logged, tracked, and archived.

And in spite of Government surveillance capability tragedies such as the Sandy Hook and Auaura, Colorado shooting and the Boston Marathon Bombing happened. But instead of questioning the effectiveness of privacy related policy most popular media sources have demanded more surveillance.

Safety vs. Big Brother

I am not an advocate of the “Government is out to get you” school of thought, but I do question the appropriateness and effectiveness of the Government’s public safety tactics and installation Orwellian Big Brother style society. And while I do not foresee the Government becoming a Stalinist dictatorship (and least not anytime soon) – I do see a cultural shift of Government reliance – which I think is detrimental and dangerous.

For example, after the Boston Marathon Bombings local and federal authorities used the security cameras and surveillance data to identify and locate Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. In some ways this was proof positive that surveillance brings justice – but did it?

After the initial bombing Boston was shut down for nearly a week. Businesses closed, people were not allowed to leave their homes, and police were searching private homes at will for the suspects. People lived in a police state for days AND it cost the city billions.

So which was worse for Boston – the bombing or what followed? I would argue that the terrorist tactic wasn’t to blow up as many people as possible (the bomb was light for terrorist standards), but to exploit the Government’s security tactics in effort to disrupt society and cost them a lot of money. If so, it work.

I’m honestly happy we caught the terrorists, but when we deal with situations in such a manner the terrorist accomplish their goal – MAYHAM. Hardly anyone wants to discuss this though.

Big Data

Another problem with all of this surveillance is management.

I have worked as an IT security consultant for the last five years and I have experienced first hand the challenges of big data. There are various security and access concerns, storage issues, questions about how to mine, sort, and search data – and it’s all very, very expensive.

The amount of data the Government is allowed to collect is an immediate red flag. Who is accessing my data? What are they doing with it? How do we know China isn’t stealing it? Why are they allowed to have my data? Who is checking up on the Government? And how much is it costing the tax payer? And is it worth it?

Why We Need Privacy

Do you remember when you were a kid and you wanted nothing more than to go in your room and shut the door? Every now and again your Mom would walk in unannounced and you would shout “Knock first!”

What about if you found out your parents were listening in on your phone calls or reading your texts? I cringe just thinking about it.

Were you plotting little terrorist attacks or rubbing paint all over the carpet? Probably not. You probably weren’t doing anything wrong, but the idea of someone eavesdropping on your private life seemed awful.

Similarly, all of America deserves its privacy. We want privacy because there are certain aspects of our personal lives that belong to us. There are certain aspects of being free that include no one knowing about it. It is a fundamental part of humanity. A part of humanity that if ignored will lead to hostility and resentment.

That’s part of the problem with Big, Intrusive, Governments.

Featured Image Photo Credit