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Archive for the ‘America’ Category

You wouldn’t think it to look at him, but on some level Jake is afraid of this man. Who is he? The owner of Gorgeous George’s Mediterranean Restaurant in Greenwood. We had heard good things about this restaurant, and so had planned to go sometime in that way where you say to yourself “we should really try that place sometime.”

Then I read a reader review on some restaurant rating site that said “George doesn’t just cook for you. He sings and dances and comes to your table.” This information I relayed to Jake who was completely horrified. When we passed the restaurant one day on an evening stroll we peeked in and saw George with his signature hat out in the dining room talking to guests. “We are never ever going there,” Jake said.

Dare I make a cultural observation here? Feel free to offer your thoughts too. Is it that Americans really like the gimmick of the stranger who is your best friend? Do we know no boundaries between strangers and ourselves? Are the British just uptight? Why can they not enjoy the company of a dancing and singing chef?

In America, there is always the pretense of extreme friendliness even if that friendliness is so obviously false. Ever been asked by a salesperson how your day was and then you told them something other than it’s going well? Usually, their faces change as if to say “oh how interesting” in a I’m-not-really-interested sort of way. I was once in that same predicament. I was at my service job and I asked a customer how she was. Not so good, she said, I had two toes removed yesterday. I didn’t really know what to do with that information.

In Britain, everyone is extremely polite. I like how when making a request either as provider or consumer, you always end your phrase with please. I’ll have a pint of Guinness please. There you are, two quid please. Yet, and perhaps I’m wrong but I seem to recall, that you are never asked how you are if the person doesn’t really want to know the answer. Is it rude? Well, it’s honest, isn’t it? But I digress.

Here are some more scary tidbits from Gorgeous George’s. And Jake, feel free to weigh in here and tell me if I’m misinterpreting your discomfort.

You’re the only chef I know who sits at customer’s tables. Do you have a fetish for watching people eat your food?

No, it’s just nice. I try to sit at the tables so everyone will feel at home here. But I don’t come out to sit when I’m in a bad mood. I can’t fake my face, I can’t be two-faced. If I’m nervous or mad, I’ll just stay in the back and cook.

What do you learn about people from watching them eat?

Sometimes people just need to put the food in their mouths. Like the baklava can go straight into your mouth, no forks needed. It’s not cake. Sometimes people don’t know what they just ordered. It’s Mediterranean food, with spices from the Holy Land. I say Holy Land, not Israel or Palestine, because I want both Jews and Palestinians to feel comfortable eating here.

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Via the slog.

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Although historical reenactments are by no means exclusive to the United States (for example, the Earl of Eglinton in Scotland sponsored a large tournament as early as 1839)[4], the Renaissance Fair is, arguably, a uniquely American variation on the theme, having as much the flavor of an amusement park combined with a shopping mall as of a historical reenactment. European historical fairs, on the other hand, seem more on the living history museum model, where an actual historic site is peopled by re-enactors whose job it is to explain historical life to modern visitors.[5] American Renaissance fair patrons may be as interested in drinking, eating, shopping, and watching farce as they are in an educational experience. Since the mid-1990s, American-style Renaissance fairs have been spreading into Canada.

The first American fair, The Renaissance Pleasure Faire (Agoura, CA) was originally designed by the Living History Center to resemble an actual spring market fair of the period.[6] Many of the original booths were no-charge reenactments of historical activities such as printing presses, and blacksmiths. The first commercial vendors were mostly artisans and food merchants and were required to demonstrate historical accuracy or plausibility for their wares. Whole groups of volunteers were organized into “guilds” to focus on specific reenactment duties (musicians, military, celtic clans, peasants, etc). Both actors and vendors were required to successfully complete workshops in period language/accents, costuming and culture and to stay “in character” while working. Fairs that copied the original frequently did not attempt such historical accuracy and in 1995 new management and economic pressures negatively altered the original fair’s historical quality as well.

More at Wikipedia.

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This is pretty impressive stuff from our Secretary of State. I can’t help but wonder if the right-wing establishment is going to criticize her for admitting American culpability as they do with any reasonable discussion on what reasons terrorists have for harming America. In their world view, America’s enemies have no motivation because America is infallible.

Speaking upon arrival in Mexico, Mrs Clinton said: “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.

“Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.

“I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility.”

The BBC’s Stephen Gibbs in Mexico says these points have been repeatedly made by Mexico, which sometimes sees itself as the setting for an American financed and armed war.

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Like Carhenge for instance in Alliance Nebraska.

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Layoffs

This week several people were laid off at my work. I was spared. While I would like to think that it is because I am a good skilled worker and that my company would be unable to do without me, I know that that is not entirely true. There was to be certain an element of getting rid of low performers; however, not everyone who was eliminated fit that category. For instance, my closest colleague to be laid off was not a low performer at all.

My father says that he feels for my generation being thrust into the worst job market in decades, but I disagree. In the immediate aftermath the youth, and when I say that I mean under 40, are much better equipped to deal with the situation at hand. Who I worry about are my colleagues that were eliminated that gave 20 plus years to my company. The people whose skills are now almost entirely comprised of institutional knowledge that will do them little good elsewhere. What happens to them if they are too young (as many of them are) to retire? Where do they go? How do they begin again?

H1B Visas

And yet I do worry about the youth. This week I read Andrew Sullivan, a journalist who I suspect has never worked in the corporate world that so many of us are familiar with, talk about how the H1B Visa that allows foreign skilled workers to get green cards to work in the United States should be given out more generously rather than the Obama administration’s slight reduction. He further said that every foreign student who graduates from a American university should automatically be given permission to work in the U.S. Excuse me for saying this, but what an idiot. Here he quotes the Economist.

Chinese and Indian immigrants founded more than half of all high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Immigrants co-founded Google, Intel, eBay and Yahoo. Immigrants contributed to more than a quarter of US global patent applications. Immigrant-founded companies employed 450,000 workers in 2006 and generated $52 billion in revenue.

Instead of trying to restrict the supply of H1B visas, why not increase it massively, starting by giving any foreigner who graduates from an American university the right to a visa. That might be exactly the long-term stimulus that the economy needs.

This is a rather rose colored view of what is happening. I suspect that these people have never had their jobs in danger of being taken by a foreign worker. If a green card was guaranteed by attendance at an American university I believe we would see a sharp increase in foreign student slots in our universities and foreign workers in our workforce.

The so-called “undesirable” jobs

When George W. Bush brought up immigration reform his speeches were colored with talk of immigrants accepting jobs that Americans did not want. I am sure there are many jobs that a typical American does not want, but I am sure a large element of why the jobs are not desirable is the amount of pay that a corporation is willing to offer. Given the expense of living in the U.S. and purchasing your own health insurance which these “undesirable” jobs no doubt require you to do, it is no wonder that many Americans do not want these jobs.

But while he touted the undesirable jobs, the real meat of his proposal was increasing the skilled H1B visas. These are jobs that Americans do want. These are jobs that a Computer Science college graduate would kill for. These are the jobs that are instead going to foreign workers while our college graduates become baristas at the nearest Starbucks.

I think the H1B visa is largely about keeping wages low. The H1B visa requires that any foreign worker make the same amount as their American citizen counterparts. Yet when you increase your job pool by two-fold the wages are not going to be as high.

The desirability of the foreign tech worker

There is no doubt that foreign workers are highly desirable for a reason. Let’s take the educational system in India and China (the largest recipients of H1B visas). These countries are churning out skilled tech industry workers who are ready to begin on day one. I presume (and I could be wrong) that their education is more practical and less theoretical than an American education in computer science. I once met a computer science major here who didn’t even know that the file extension of the code I was writing was significant.

America should be modeling our educational system on the education found in India and China, at least in technology, so that we can guarantee our youth also will be able to be part of the American dream. That they can become skilled laborers too and share the wealth.

Should we eliminate the H1B visas entirely? I think we all know that the H1B visa workers contribute amazingly to this country. Any mass elimination would be highly detrimental. And yet, I think that reducing the number of skilled foreign workers – especially in a time of mass unemployment – is the right move to make. I think an investment in our educational systems and a focus on boosting the skills of the American worker has to be our priority over increasing limits on H1B visas.

I welcome any respectful opposing arguments to the above. Feel free to tell me your story.

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My previous Homeland Security post was a hit, so why not post this.

A Canadian who asked a U.S. border inspector to say please got a face full of pepper spray instead.

The 54-year-old resident of Coquitlam, British Columbia, Desiderio Fortunato, says he thought the guard who told him to turn off his engine was rude and asked him to say please.

Fortunato told The Bellingham Herald he was stunned and blinded Monday as he was sprayed, pulled out of the car and handcuffed. He was detained about 3 hours.

THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.

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