Monday, April 30, 2012

The Scales Of Business Stuff

Balanced or unbalanced by your thoughts.

Balance Sheet: A compensation system based on a home-country base salary.

Using that as a start, cost equalizers like various differentials, allowances, and other additions and deductions are applied.

The point is to ensure that "purchasing power" on assignment is equivalent to that at home.

Balance Sheet: Personal calculation about whether it's better to get away from the crimps and spungs and feebs in the home office (and, let's face it - in your entire country of origin) and take a chance on seeing (and possibly becoming) something different. Or not.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Vulture Crapitalist

I wish to beat you affectionately.

Vulture Crapitalist: This is a person, sometimes retired, sometimes formerly successful in running a small business, sometimes not, who sets up shop in another country.

Expecting that his pale skin and innate cultural superiority will intimidate the natives into working for him, he attempts to set up the business empire he has always dreamed of but couldn't quite pull off in the more "hostile" and "oppressive" and "over-regulated" environment back home, where actual laws are applied.

This individual is driven is to be a petty tyrant, but he is often conflicted about which kind to be.

One option is to lounge on a beach attended by servants, in a hammock, cold drinks at the ready, while letting the lazy days roll by one after another.

The other is to become rich as master of hordes of simple-minded natives who, although shifty and unreliable, will nevertheless benefit greatly from his application of The Work Ethic onto them while earning six cents an hour. If they will only submit and let him do what they really need to have done to them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Am Speak The Words

Learning Spanish a bit at a time.

I've been planning on moving to a country where they speak Spanish, so I've been studying it for about a year. It's going pretty well.

I think I've made good progress considering that all languages are just random sounds until you "catch on". In radio terms, It's like moving from empty static to squeaks, crackles, and pops, and then to commercials for Viagra.

I've run a few sample conversations from my Spanish through an online translator as a way of checking my progress.

Here's how it goes. My original English is in italic, like this.

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood.
I come to the houses which fill me with day lust.

A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Always I want a beautiful man like you to be near.

Would you be mine. Could you be mine.
How much you cost? I wish to purchase your corpse at this moment.

It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood.
Of friendly trees we have the many. I am kiss at them frequently.

A neighborly day for a beauty.
You have loveliness, sir. I wish to embrace you.

Would you be mine. Could you be mine.
I dearly wish the purchase of your limbs. Are many on sale this week, hopefully.

I've always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
Please to come astride my house it would please me I am crazy with desiring for it.

I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
My wife I abandon to ship freight at your feet instantly. We must this thing do.

So, let's make the most of this beautiful day.
Now is good time. We do it vigorously.

Since we're together we might as well say, would you be mine, could you be mine.
We for each other meant to be sticky together like the glue. Come to me readily and many times.

Won't you be my neighbor. Won't you please, won't you please.
Give it at me with immediacy in multiples. I desire to live on you.

Please won't you be my neighbor.
I am wish to eat you with great satisfaction.

So, I'm getting a lot better. What do you think? This may work out after all.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Of Ironing The Socks, Sir?

Why can't anyone grovel properly anymore?

Servantitude: The attitude, that everyone "here" needs at least a little attitude adjustment. And some need a lot, before they become proper servants and are really worth the four dollars a day that they are paid. Plus, they should be happy to receive less, considering that every hour on the job they get free language lessons.

Say your language is English, and your hypothetical body-servant's isn't.

Something is always lost in translation, even if you bother trying.

This might be what each of you would hear...

For to dressing him self of mornings is like this.

You: Make haste, lighted the fire and dress-me. Give me my shirt.

Servant: There is it sir.

You: Is it no hot, it is too cold yet.

Servant: If you like, I will hot it.

You: No, no, bring me my wooll stocking's.

Servant: Its are make holes.

You: Then make its a point, or make to mend them. Comb me, take another comb. Give me my handkarchief.

Servant: There is a clean, sir. What coat dress you to day?

You: Those that I had yesterday.

Servant: The tailor do owe to bring soon that of cloth, sir.

You: Have you wexed my shoes?

Servant: I go wex its now, sir.

You: It must that I may wash my hands, the mouth and my face.

Servant: Like I care, sir.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cranky Old Farts

But only because I deserve it!

Whine-O-Raptor: A tough-headed, no-nonsense, generally Libertarian sort that moves away from home because things are rapidly going down hill there, because he can't afford to live there any more, can't afforded healthcare or prescription medication, and because no one agrees with him, and never has.

When he gets to his new home in his new country, where public transportation is cheap, medical care is government-subsidized, and due to his monthly $800 Social Security check, he is considered wealthy, he joins a bunch of online forums.

Then he spends 12 or more hours a day tapping out arguments, all in caps, on his keyboard, about how lazy and inefficient everyone is, and how he could whip them right into shape if he had a mind to, except that they refuse to take orders from him, which is why he May Just Go Home ANY DAY NOW IF THEY DON'T SHAPE UP!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Faustino Barrientos

Our man in Chile.

Faustino Barrientos lives in Patagonia, in Chile. He has lived alone since 1965, on the shores Lake O'Higgins in a house built from a shipwreck.

Barrientos makes do with what he can get from his livestock, and from the land.

His nearest neighbors are 25 miles (40 km) away, and if he wants to visit, it's a two-day trip on horseback.

Every few years he's made a trip into town to sell some cattle, but that may not be possible too much longer. He is now 81.

See a four-part video series from Vice:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Or watch all 35 minutes at once.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Leaving: Not Just For Trees Anymore

Find your way back and see if you're at home.

Home Leave: A period of vacation granted an expatriate to return to the home country in order to renew social, professional, corporate, and family contacts.

Also, a time to be re-indoctrinated into the One True Way.

Have a seat, please, while we insert the electrodes. Won't hurt a bit, and after we're done you'll feel all normal again, just like us.

Nice, isn't it?

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's All In The Plan

My career, my life, everything -- all neatly penciled out.

Career Management: A formal career-planning process in which employees of a multi-national corporation, working with their manager or managers or other advisers, select career goals and plan developmental activities related to their foreign postings.

First, you find out who you are, if anyone.

Second, you decide where and/or who you want to be (if that is not already taken).

Third, you develop a Powerpoint presentation with lots of checkmarks and arrows and stars on it.

Fourth, you just let it rip. Can't fail. Have a nap and wake up when your new reality is ready to go.

Never fails.

But if it did you could use the skills you develop living abroad to just wander around and have a real life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Multivariate Drainage

Make mine contra-indicated

You know how the water is supposed to swirl down the drain in one direction or another depending on which hemisphere you live in?

Well, it's not true. Water swirls the way it was going when you filled the pot or tub or toilet. And if it has settled for hours and become quiet, it goes this way or that depending on how you disturb it when you open the drain.

In other words, it goes with the flow according to the nature of things. Which doesn't allow water to know where it is in relation to the equator, what day of the week it is, or who is watching. It simply happens. Pull the plug and water goes whatever way it has to, which is down. Always down.

That is the important thing.

The rest is what happens later. Many things do, but they are much harder than falling through a hole in the bottom of a sink. Harder and more subtle, and they take longer. And there are no shortcuts.

Just as pure, clean, cool water, when dumped may take weeks or months or years to get back to that state, human affairs do to.

I've been thinking about how smart we aren't. Here.

You hear a lot of platitudes and self-congratulation. City on a hill. Best country in the world. Exceptional in its exceptionalism.

You don't hear about going down the drain. Not even after it's happened.

We're soft and stupid and lazy. And doomed. In the short run.

I'm still fascinated every time I hear about it, when a huge company that has been around forever goes bust, after years of decline. Take Eastman Kodak, the latest really big company to do so. Inventor of the digital camera. Holder of more electronic imaging patents than any other company in the world. Foof. Gone. Won't be back.

Ricardo Lagos Escobar wrote "The Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future". It's a book. About Chile's recent history. Ostensibly.

That was his purpose, but that is not what I got out of it. That is not only what I got out of it.

During the years of the Pinochet dictatorship the country of Chile followed a neoliberal policy. Here "neoliberal" means, in effect, every man for himself and the devil takes the hindmost. It was a success. In dismantling Chile's government, economy, and much of its social structure.

After Pinochet was gently pushed out of the way, Lagos and many others began rebuilding the country in 1990, a process still very much incomplete. Government and society were so weakened that there were almost no resources left to be used in rebuilding. A small step here, a tweak there, plus a lot of hope and intelligence were all the country's leaders and people had.

But they also had one great advantage: no empire.

There was no huge weight of history or belief in their own importance. The people of Chile knew that they had a small country out on the edge of the world, and they made the best of things.

Unlike us. Unlike U.S.

This country, the United States, has a long way to go. A long way down to go, before we even realize that things are wrong enough to do something serious about them. We are blinded by the certainty that "We're Number One!" and that nothing can touch us.

Like Britain, and its Empire. Remember them? Biggest empire the world has ever seen. Gone. Who looks up to the United Kingdom these days? Anyone?

Relax, reduce, and remove regulations. Let the rich take all. Destroy factories. Close schools. Feed on the dead. Yep. That'll do 'er.

Things are very likely to get much, much worse than they have been lately before they get even worse.

We think we're out of the "recession" but we aren't. It hasn't started yet. We're running on inertia. Enough of our society and economy have not yet been destroyed, but when that point comes, so will the collapse. The only reason the "recession" we're coming out of was a "recession" and not a depression is that, now, unlike in the 1930s, we have a Social Security system, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment compensation. None of which existed before. All of which the neoliberals want to do away with.

Like they did in Chile. Gleefully. To show how good things could be if only greed ran free. Greed and dictatorship.

Which is where the United States may be headed.

And the beauty of an ideologically-based economy is that when things go wrong, it is because you aren't trying hard enough, not because your ideas are crap. So not only does the ship of state sink, but sinks with all hands on deck, partying harder.

So, like Sears and Circuit City and Best Buy and General Motors, the United States is now circling the drain. Whether it is clockwise or counterclockwise makes no difference as long as that deep dark black hole is there and we are going into it.

And though what happened in Chile is a marvelous example of applied intelligence, of doing what you can with what you have, the United States is just too big and rich and powerful to bother paying attention before the situation is irreversible, or after. For a very long while.

Some day, in the future, remember these Kodak Moments. If you still can.

Bon voyage.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Down The Middle, Please

Split my pay once.

Split pay: This the payment of an expatriate's estimated local living costs in local currency and the remainder in home-country currency.

Assuming that someone else is covering the cost. Which is nice. If you can find someone to do that.

It is a method a business may use to pay its employees who are on international assignments.

This reduces the effect of currency fluctuation. It allows an employee to count on a set amount of pay in the home country's currency and a certain amount of pay in the host country's currency. That is, it smoothes things out.

Split pay also lessens the need for changing money from one currency to another and being subject to exchange rates.

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's Good, This Allowance, It Services

Pay me more, or less.

Goods and services allowance: A payment made to reimburse an expatriate for the difference between the costs of goods and services at home versus on assignment.

It is often used for offsetting higher overseas prices of non-housing goods and services.

In U.S. government service, this amounts to around a total of $2 billion every year.

It is designed so employees (a.k.a. "service members") can get the same level of goods and services overseas as they could if they were stationed inside the continental United States (which they call "CONUS"), and fluctuates with the relative difference in the cost of living. So there.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Time To Chile Out?

I've simply had a change of heart.

You may know me me from such jobs as Secretary of Defense, private sector bigwig at Halliburton, Vice President of the United States, and Special Assistant to the Prince of Darkness, but I'm really a regular guy.

Hi. My name is Richard Bruce Cheney, but you can call me Dick. Most people do.

You may also be aware that I have a long history of cardiovascular disease, going way back to 1978, when I was only 37. That was when I had my first heart attack, and since then I've had four more, which is surprising because I was born without any heart whatsoever.

But now I'm in the clear. I'm proud to say that within my chest there is now beating the heart of an "anonymous donor". That's how I like to put it. Anyway, the donor is completely off the records now and I intend to keep it that way.

My doctor says with this new heart it's reasonable for a man like me to live another 10 years. Personally speaking, as long as I have an actual beating heart, regardless of where it came from, I really don't care about the rest.

Things are great thanks to my publicly-funded health care, which I get because of my public pension, which I have because of the generosity of the American people, who could be some of the world's truly great serfs if we can only unleash their potential.

And that's my goal now.

While in the hospital I had lots of time to study the history of Latin America. It's fascinating, especially countries like Chile. Did you know that, beginning in 1973, General Augusto Pinochet took power and wielded it for 17 years? This was a time when neoliberal policies were given a real shot at succeeding.

Now, "neoliberal" sounds all socialist and full of that touchy-feely crap, but what it really means is that everything goes. Total freedom. A market-driven economy able to run unattended, guided only by the loving invisible hand of a military dictatorship.

This is what I will devote the rest of my life to achieving. Right here in the good old U.S. of A.

Because, you see, the experiment in Chile ultimately failed. And what could you expect? Chileans are only Latin Americans. And we are actual Americans. The real ones. We can get this done right.

Now that I have a heart, and human blood pumping through me, I feel more strongly than ever that I can finally kick some real butt around here and whip this country into the kind of shape it should have.

So, are you with me? Or will we have to come for you?

Monday, April 2, 2012

You Live Like This?

My mother brought me up a lady, unlike yours.

Puckermatron: A Puckermatron is possibly a dying breed. A woman (usually) with the soul of a bank teller. Since bank tellers themselves are disappearing as role models, the gradual fading from ladylike puckery isn't surprising.

A Puckermatron is like an aunt you may have had, or a grandmother. One who wore high-top, button-up shoes, and was likely a Protestant of some denomination or other. And took it seriously. In fact, this type of personality takes everything seriously, especially when it does not measure up. And it never does. And no one does.

A Puckermatron is a sourpuss, perennially puckered of the soul.

The main characteristic of this personality is the certain knowledge that there is one and only one way to live, and neither you nor your friends or relatives, nor possibly anyone in your ratty little country is living correctly, and very likely you are all incapable of learning how, since you are part of a debased and degraded mongrel breed unlike the upright upstanding and well-starched citizens at home.

And you have germs.

These people are not comfortable traveling until they return home and can tell everyone how horrible the rest of the world is.