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my friends went to china and all they got me was this punch in the face
singapore sunset
My face looks like someone came at me with a baseball bat.

This has been a rough week at work. They all are. There is a lot of pressure to deliver, but it's tough due to our "technical debt". That is, years of developers doing quick fixes and dirty hacks to get the job done, and now the system is vast and rickety and sticking together with gum and a prayer. It makes working efficiently very difficult, especially as a newbie who doesn't know enough of the history to understand which mess is business-critical and which is just junk.

But clearly i'm doing something right, because after these first three months i was rewarded with a raise from 17k per month to 22k per month. That's a 30% raise, that's crazy! I guess they weren't joking when they said they started me on the bottom rung. But, fuck, it made me feel guilty.

I left the office around 8:30pm and headed to the local bar. It's an American theme bar - all burgers and steaks and country music. I had a few cans of Bud and some barbeque okra and mushrooms and tofu. Then i opened the drinks menu for the first time and got a fine eyeful of Engrish.

Here in China, you definitely see your fair share of butchered English on clothing, on signs, on menus. But to be honest it's usually not something that is worth remarking on. If it's important you can understand what the point was, otherwise it's probably just a meaningless slogan designed to sound buzzy in the first place so i don't see a point in making a joke out of it.

Yeah, but then Friday night i saw "lead a gay ones fing". How can you not order a drink called "lead a gay ones fing"? The Chinese characters are 花天酒地 (huā tiān jiǔ dì) which literally means "flower sky alcohol ground". Or, perhaps more poetically, "flowers in heaven, booze on earth". Turns out it's a phrase that means living a life of debauchery. "Lead a gay ones fing"! Ha!

It tasted pretty much like a mai tai.

That was enough. The floodgates were open. I texted A (one of the expat crew) who was at V's house. I bought a bunch of dumplings as a gift and then headed up there. They were drinking with a couple of digital nomads who were temporarily in Hong Kong and had decided to duck over to the Shenzhen border zone to drink with their mainland-living buddy. Their opinion of mainland was predictably dismissive. Bla bla food is terrible, bla bla Great Firewall, bla bla oppressive regime, bla bla they're all racist, bla bla everything is fake, bla bla. Well, what can you do with those kind of guys other than show them Rich China? If you're too scared to eat anything here besides KFC, you might as well spend your 72 hours of visa-free debauchery visiting the parts of Shenzhen that look exactly like everywhere else in the world.

So we headed out to a whiskey bar. Now, whiskey is definitely not my thing and good whiskey is totally wasted on me. But Rich China likes whiskey. So there we were, sitting in a swanky, candle-lit joint with walls of bottles in the four and five digit range. Glasses of booze came with those ridiculous ice spheres. They had jazz music. Cigars. Fuck yeah, Rich China. I bought the first round. It was something like us$100 for the five of us. Ain't no thing. I got a raise, y'all.

After that bar shut down, we took a cab to one of the more popular nightclub areas, where there are a lot of rooftop bars and patios. We ordered a bottle of vodka and some mixers and the waiters brought us fruit and we listened to EDM and played dice in the glittering lights of downtown Futian.

At some point i woke up with my face in the pavement. It's all a bit of a blur, but i think i decided to leave and refused to take a taxi out of principle and tried to take a bike instead but passed out while i was riding it. I have epic bruises up and down the right side of my body, my cheek is swollen and my chin is busted open. My phone is smashed up too. Good times.

I got home around 6am i guess - i reluctantly hailed a cab when i realized i really was much too drunk to make it on my own.

Yesterday was abysmal. My hangover was spectacular. I ordered in. Yep, yesterday was my first time ordering in Chinese in China. It was... okay. Cost me 3 times what i'd pay in-person and it wasn't as fresh, plus it was clear they had destroyed the greens by boiling them in meat and fish stock. I guess that's what you get when you order from a middle class restaurant. They toss meat and fish in everything, like it's salt and pepper. Gotta show off that bling, right? Can't serve up vegetables that are just plain vegetables, we're not peasants any more!

Whatevs. Today i am feeling better but still hungover and tomorrow i will go to work looking like i got hit by a train. This happened to me a few times in Germany too. Usually my colleagues are too polite to ask, but sometimes they will and then i just say "well, i got drunk". People don't really know how to respond to that. Sorry i don't have any elaborate stories, guys. I left work, i got drunk, the end. Yeah, that's my entire life outside of the office, you want me to feel ashamed?

I think binge drinking - or just hard partying in general - is my self-loathing coming out. I don't do it very much when i am not working, but when i am working, watch out! I hate the fact that i am earning so much money compared to the average person here. Now i got a raise i hate it even more. I hate that my drinking buddies are snobs who sip whiskey in glasses with giant fucking balls of ice in them. I hate hearing digital nomads compare notes about co-working spaces in Chiang Mai. I hate that my language learning has hit a wall because the office expats barely speak a word of Chinese. I hate that i have to go to work in the first place. I hate that even if i didn't hang out with expats the story would be the same because middle class China is so superficial and consumerist. I hate that profligacy is a lifestyle people all over the world see as aspirational. Yeah i hate the rich, but really what i hate the most is that no matter where i go in the world, thanks to my career, i fucking am one.

Maybe i should just embrace it. Rent an apartment with a balcony and a doorman. Take cabs everywhere. Buy Apple products. Drink cognac. Fly to Dubai. Go to glitzy nightclubs where i can order an entire bottle of liquor and smoke hookah.

Ugh that sounds awful.

I dunno, maybe i need to take a weekend or two for me again. I'll probably still drink too much but at least it'll be on my terms, sitting on a plastic stool in dirty alley or just lazing about in my bedroom NOT surrounded by people who annoy me. I hate the fact i have to work enough without adding to the hate by hanging out with work people.

Maybe this is why i stopped hanging out with people in the first place. Life is much simpler on your own. I know i'm a slave to the drink but i don't need to be a slave to other people's idea of what a good time should be.

maybe it's all wrong
singapore sunset
I mean, perhaps it's the industry. Could it be the industry?

I just read this great interview with Jaron Lanier about how the tech industry fucked everyone. Some parts of that article hit so fucking close to home for me...

"And then when you move out of the tech world, everybody’s struggling. It’s a very strange thing. The numbers show an economy that’s doing well, but the reality is that the way it’s doing well doesn’t give many people a feeling of security or confidence in their futures. It’s like everybody’s working for Uber in one way or another. Everything’s become the gig economy. And we routed it that way, that’s our doing. There’s this strange feeling when you just look outside of the tight circle of Silicon Valley, almost like entering another country, where people are less secure. It’s not a good feeling. I don’t think it’s worth it, I think we’re wrong to want that feeling."

Right?! The tragic part is lots and lots of people in this industry don't even realize it. They're so far up their own asses - either thinking they are still downtrodden nerds, or suffering delusions that they will save the world. There is nothing more insufferable than working with people who are rich and don't recognize that or don't care.

Okay, there are probably a lot more insufferable things. That's my own privilege talking. But still.

It seems that whole series on NYMag might be worth a read. I even got through the one with Richard Stallman without rolling my eyes too many times. Who would've thought that this angry little libertarian who thought RMS was a total windbag in the 90s would find themself agreeing with him on so much 20 years later? I mean, he's still an ideologue, but he's not wrong when he points out that the surveillance state is already here. I feel the same way, but i'm just more cynical about it - we all know it's happening, so why even bother trying to hide any more?

Since i'm on a long read posting spree, here is Yanis Varoufakis on Marx.

Speaking of neoliberalism, and tech... I wish I had a good link for you all to read about what America did to ZTE last week. ZTE is a major Shenzhen-based hardware company. It's a poorly-kept secret that the Trump administration has been strong-arming American retailers into keeping Huawei phones off the shelves in the US, but what the Department of Commerce did to ZTE is some next-level Cold War bullshit. Blocking the purchase of American chips to retaliate for selling to Iran and North Korea will kill their whole business. It makes Xi Jinping sound prescient in his speeches of the past few years saying that China needs to develop its own chip industry. When one country has a monopoly on core tech to the point they can tank foreign companies with tens of thousands of employees on a whim... that's problematic.

Of course a red-blooded American would say well tough shit, they shouldn't put Communist Party backdoors into their phones, or sell to rogue states in the first place. Fair enough. Meanwhile Facebook is transferring 1.5 billion user accounts out of Ireland to the US so that they don't have to comply with new EU privacy laws. And people complained when LiveJournal moved their user accounts to Russia. Pff.

In conclusion, fuck tech companies.