A Truly Discounted Black Friday

Wal-Mart’s advertising slogan of “Save Money, Live Better” took an ironic twist amid the frantic Black Friday shopping in Long Island, New York, when one of its temporary employees was trampled to death by a rushing mob of frenzied shoppers. This lynching mob of early vultures seemed to take the adage of “shop ‘til you drop” too seriously and, as a result, did not just leave meatless turkey carcass as Thanksgiving leftover.

I learned that this horrific incident happened last Friday morning when a long line of eager shoppers, some of them had been waiting in line from the night before, stormed into the store as soon as the door was opened. Ostensibly, they knew what lay in store for them: shelves of highly discounted MP3 players, electronic gadgets and toys up for grabs. Sadly, this did not hold true for the unfortunate employee who was obviously oblivious of what stood outside the store for him. God bless his soul.

This is truly a sad story. What is even heart-wrenching was the story that the poor guy was trampled underfoot for minutes(!) before he could get any help from his colleagues. And did the shoppers stop to help? Of course not, they came for a bargain, and sometimes even a bargain required a collateral. They were there for the loss leaders and doorbusters! Well, it looked more like loss of life and bonebusters to me. A truly discounted Black Friday.


Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas

Coming to a city with alluring labels like “the Entertainment Capital of the World”, “the Ultimate Sin City”, or “the Brightest City on Earth”, would inevitably evoke a feeling of great anticipation, and this was exactly how I felt as I stepped out of the plane and treaded the terra firma of Las Vegas.

The short flight from Monterey was surprisingly smooth and the guide of Vegas provided on the plane only added to the anticipation. Well, the first thing to do would be securing a place to stay. I had already made a booking in Circus Circus, a circus-themed (surprise surprise) hotel located on the famous Las Vegas Strip which boasted 3,774 rooms and 9,833 m2 of casino area. It was not fancy, but it is one of the largest hotels in the world with more slot machines than you could ever need or want.

Okay, I have to say one thing about the slot machines: I think they’re all a scam, and exclusively built to rip you off! From what I read somewhere, slot machines are typically programmed to yield a “theoretical payout percentage”, which basically represents the amount of money you win back from your overall wager. The minimum number of percentage varies as typically established by law or regulation, and is 75% for the state of Nevada.

So let’s do the math then: I wagered my money that gave me 120 credits. That number would give me 120 one-credit chances of pulling the lever and trying to be richer. Well, I pulled and I pulled until my arm ached, but only ended up with 120 consecutive occasions of mismatched symbols. Statistically, is it even possible that a man like me (decent, hard-working, and good-looking) could be so down on his luck? Oh, well, at least I realized it on time and successfully refrain myself from chipping in another 120 credits.

Having squandered my government salary on gambling machines, I then proceeded to watch a topless, vampire-themed revue in the Stratosphere. The show was not spectacular, but I enjoyed it (4 out of 5), and it fittingly offered me a first bite of nocturnal Vegas. Afterwards, I thought, what’s the point of visiting THE Sin City if you don’t, well, sin? I always strive to keep up with the Joneses like a good Roman should. Hence, I checked out some of the vice-indulging activities Vegas had to offer, and settled on paying a visit to Sapphire, the so-called world’s largest nightclub. Well, I couldn’t care less about its size or practically much of anything else as soon as I stepped into the joint, though. The place was swarmed with beautiful people and the ambience was all girls, girls, girls. Details will be spared to protect the guilty. After all, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.


Oxymoron of the Day

"It was all about the consent of the majority."

-A Russian professor, recounting on how Russia assumed the role of sole successor to the Soviet Union. Realizing the oxymoron, he laughed so hard and woke the whole class-


Home is where the rice is

Ah, Monterey at last. A taxi ride, two long-haul flights, and a shuttle journey were what it took to get to this city on the northern side of the Monterey Peninsula. As soon as I set my feet upon terra firma, I was without ado whisked away to my new dwelling: a two-bedroom apartment near Downtown Monterey.

I crash-landed on my bed as soon as I saw it, and passed out for Heaven knows how long. I lost my sense of time, and had a headache of a mother when I woke up. My flight from Jakarta was not the longest flight I had ever taken, but somehow it was the most tiring.

My new apartment mate advised me to fight the grogginess by going out to enjoy the sun. I obliged and strolled around the neighborhood, taking in the local scene and getting my bearing. The native were sure to welcome the newest member of the community, as an overeager pigeon unloaded its dump on my shaven head. Talking about Californian charm!

At first glance, Monterey was a small city with warm weather and pleasant ambiance. Due to the number of educational institutions in the city, there were many young students hovering around. Despite the size, it boasted itself as "The Language Capital of the World”, a statement that I’d be sure to verify during my sojourn here.

As my headache receded, my stomach growled and I realized that I had not eaten properly for hours. I went to do my grocery shopping and – being a compulsive shopper as always – ended up buying ingredients I didn’t really know how to concoct. Cooking was never really my talent, and I always managed to stay out of the kitchen.

Fortunately, people back at home had already foreseen this and had thus packed a box of truly Indonesian delight in my suitcase:

Now, it strongly occurred to me that there were one or two vital ingredients lacking on the box. I rummaged through the kitchen set of my apartment and voila! It’s Christmas on September:

A majestic, heaven-sent rice cooker! Hook it up with a sack of good old rice from the local grocery, and there you have it: the true and staple meaning of self-sustainment – Indonesian style! It felt like home already.


A Quarter of Non-Proliferation

Well…how is THIS for a getaway?

Monterey, a city with a population of 30,000 people or so in California, will be my stomping ground for the next three months.

Hmm, it does seem like a perfect place for someone who plans to spend his one-week holiday watching whales and dolphins. But me, I am sent here to rack my brain and hone my skills in non-proliferation issues. That's right Rambo, move aside. I'm taking over your place as an expert in weapons of mass

Actually, come to think of it, the term ‘a quarter of non-proliferation’ does not exactly exude excitement or a spirit of adventure. Quite the opposite, it somehow insinuates a bleak period of confinement and abstinence. Doesn't it? Or is it just my dirty mind?

At any rate, I always strive for the silver lining. So I’ll be sure to pack my suitcase with a healthy dose of curiosity, a tube of sun-block, and an extra key for my chastity belt. Hey, you never know.