State of the plant nation

Well, all was going relatively well with my new best friends, my Valentine’s plants for a few days. And then all hell broke loose.

Jeff helped me hang my favorite plant, some kind of fuschia I think, and it looked lovely. Then, a few days later, it suddenly pretty much died. I think this is because it was hanging somewhat over the radiator, and it got fried. I’m still trying to nurse it back to life with frequent waterings, but it seems like it may be time to give up. I’m now trying to decide what the best course of action is. Should I clip all the dead vines off? Leave it be? Water it? Give it coffee?

My mint plant also seems pretty sad, but in slightly better shape. The lower stalks have all gotten black and shriveled, but it’s still growing new leaves on the tops of the taller stalks, so that’s a good sign I think.

Anyway, I feel really guilty about killing my plants — I just feel so irresponsible. I guess I just don’t know much about taking care of sickly little plant-things, so they may not have much chance. It’s weird that I can raise all the animals I want, but I seem to have a knack for killing plants. Suggestions/condolences welcome.

Embarrassing purchases

I have a feeling that all of my non-Chinese readers are currently looking at this picture thinking, “What the heck is that thing?” Those of you who are China-savvy know that this adorable little contraption is a humidifier, or “steam machine,” as I like to call them. They are pretty much mandatory in Chinese households, so I guess I’m just getting more integrated. You can get non-animal shaped ones if you want, but why would you when you can choose from penguins, lions, frogs, foxes, dogs and pandas that blow steam out their mouths/ears?

“But Caitlin, what are you doing with such a useless item in your home?” you ask.

Well, it all started about a year ago when I started going out with Jeff Lee, who is very particular about the condition of his skin. You see, Jeff has different premium lotions for face, hands, cuticles and body, and special chap stick that he carries on his person at all times. Unfortunately for Jeff, Beijing is currently experiencing a drought and is extremely dry.

Hence, the steam machine.

I guess I’ll let you know how the atmosphere of my apartment changes in the next few days. So far, it has made my comforter colder on the side where it sits. I don’t want to complain too much about it though, or Jeff will take it to his apartment. As useless as I suspect it to be, it’s also sort of growing on me.


Like most people, one of my least favorite things is spam. The evolution of spam — more of a devolution, actually —  is quite fascinating, however.

In the 1990s, the most common spam I remember was the “Nigerian Princess” meme. As I’m sure anyone Internet-savvy enough to read this blog knows, this involved an elaborate plea for money to save a Nigerian royal, who would return the favor by adding millions to said spamee’s bank account. Even at twelve, I knew this was a load of crap, but apparently, lots of people fell for it. Currently, many online companies do not accept transactions coming from Nigeria, so I suppose it caused quite a bit of antipathy. While these spam efforts seem flimsy, at the very least their goal is clear. They do use some amount of logic, providing a clear path from their e-mails to a spamee’s pocketbook.

Oddly, in the years since these e-mails were rampant, the logic of spam has inexplicably deteriorated. When I got a Gmail account, the most common kind of spam I got was simply filled with gibberish. I’m not really sure what this was supposed to accomplish. It never seemed to be selling anything, and if it contained a virus, my little Mac was never affected. As useless as these are, they don’t really hurt anything and are pretty tame.

However, most recently, I have come to see how far the brilliant intellectual exercise of spamming has fallen. This brings us to my current blog, which garners a completely new kind of spam — the spam comment. I don’t really understand spam to begin with, but this is really mind-boggling. I think that the point of a spam comment is that it will appear on my site, and visitors will click on the links, creating some kind of revenue for someone. However, since all comments need to be approved, this is quite unproductive, and a huge waste of my time. I’ve found that since being in China, the number of spamments I get per day varies, ranging from two or three to over 20.

These spamments come in four varieties:

1. Run-of-the-mill gibberish. These comments contain links and random numbers and letters. They’re pretty intellectually harmless, and at their most productive could plausibly be made into postmodern poetry.

2. Run-of-the-mill Viagra advertisements. I don’t have a penis, and I certainly don’t need Viagra, but apparently I’m still worth the spambot’s time. I really don’t get this.

3. Run-of-the-mill porn advertisements. Pretty self-explanatory.

4. Really, really sick porn advertisements. Explanation likely not desired by readers, but here‘s a sample if you’re curious.

It’s category four that really gets my goat. As I’ve previously stated, it’s incredibly unlikely that a spamment like this would appear on my blog. But even if it did, it still has to be one of the dumbest attempts at spam in the history of the universe. And it’s the most numerous of all four categories. That’s right. On a given day, I go through up to 60 of these ridiculous comments, deleting tens at a time.

Here’s the thing. If you’re attempting to spam someone out of money, you’re up against pretty big odds. Most Internet users today are pretty aware of spam, and can easily spot the signs of it. Accordingly, to improve their odds, spammers need to reach a huge number of people in hopes that a select few will actually believe that some girl with large breasts really is waiting to chat a stranger up online, or a Nigerian prince truly trusts his future to some housewife in Nebraska. To do so, they often appeal to our human weaknesses of pride, sexual appetite and/or greed.

The Nigerians clearly grasped this concept, in that their offer appeals to pretty much everyone. It offers both the ego-stroking idea that one could be someone else’s savior, and the bait of millions of dollars. Motivation-wise, it’s pretty solid. Run-of-the-mill porn spamments also pass the motivational test, since most people do have libidoes, and certainly some will click out of curiosity.

However, very, very few people are into beastiality and incest — or even more specialized categories within those categories. So what exactly is the logic behind my really sick spamments? They use a method — commenting on a family blog — that is highly unlikely to succeed, and they use bait that few people find attractive. Who exactly thought this scheme up, and who approved it? It just doesn’t make any sense. I know I probably shouldn’t be upset that spammers seem to be getting dumber, but I’m someone who believes in evolution and progress. Is the devolution of spam really a victory for us as a species, or does it speak to an unstoppable slide into complete idiocy?

Apologies if I ruined anyone’s appetite with this post. Now you know what I deal with every day just to keep my blog “family friendly.”

Officially wise

So, yesterday I felt like I had a piece of food stuck on my back gum, and I couldn’t get it off no matter how I tried — kind of like when you get a piece of popcorn kernel suction cupped onto your gum, you know? After obsessing over it for a while, I stuck a finger in to investigate.

Turns out it’s a tooth! I know everyone complains about wisdom teeth, and how they’re a pain and whatnot, but I’m kind of excited. I mean, my body just grew a new part! Isn’t that wicked cool?

I invited Jeff to investigate with his own hands, but I guess my new tooth isn’t as thrilling to him. That, or he doesn’t think sticking his finger in my mouth is worth it.

Last time I went to the dentist, he said there were no signs of wisdom teeth. Then, right after I left for China, I started having awful tooth aches. Well, now we know for sure those little teeth exist, and they’re moving in. I hope this won’t turn out too badly for me. I have over a month until I come back to the land of licensed physicians and safe x-rays. How long does it take for new wisdom teeth to wreck your alignment? Just wondering…

The Best Set Ever.

On Saturday when we were at the mall, Jeff and I experienced the most magical and thrilling rock set I have ever and will ever know.

The band consisted of about four scruffy, hipster Chinese guys, and one apparent chef. We came over to listen to the set because a couple of Chinese guys playing reggae is always an interesting and confusing experience. Partway through the set, we began to realize the genius that was unfolding.

The first song they played was a reggae song about going home to Zion. I’m pretty sure the singer didn’t know anything about Babylon or Zion, and certainly wasn’t aware that he was doing a good job heading a Christian rock band in atheist China. Maybe we don’t have to be so quiet at meeting after all…

After the first song, the apparent chef took over the vocals. He started off with Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” which was pretty amazing in a train wreck kind of way. Some of those R sounds can be a little rough, you know? He also did Tina Turner’s little dance (see 1:50 of the clip). Because of that, Jeff is pretty sure he learned the song off of a Youtube video. Without missing a beat, he segued into “Venus,” currently best known as the song from the Gillette razor commercials. Then in a musical leap unseen in the modern era, he was singing “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston.

So some of the words may have been garbled a little, and not all the notes were on key. But still, pure genius.