Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Also In The News... The Case Of The Twice-Sold Baby.

It’s been a while since I posted something from the headlines. However, I recently came across a story that filled me with an overwhelming feeling of “WTF?” and I thought I’d share it with you all. If you had any faith left in humanity be prepared to lose it.

Our tale - which I read here - comes from China, where a couple in the Guangdong Province has been arrested for selling their young son... TWICE!

In jail are 20-year-old sperm donor, A-hui and his girlfriend the 19-year-old “mother”, A-mei.
After these parents-of-the-year contenders got off the hook in January for selling their 4-day-old son, they turned right around and did it again last month.

Their excuse the first time was that they were neither married nor ready for the responsibilities of parenthood. They decided to sell the child to a trafficker for 20,000 Chinese Yuan (about US$3,225). This would have been the end of the matter, as far as they were concerned, were it not for the child’s grandfather, on the father’s side. When he found out what they had done, he found the trafficker and bought the child back, having to pay the marked-up price of 30,000 Yuan (US$4,836).

Unfortunately, grandpa made the questionable decision of returning the boy to the custody of his parents and they all kept the incident between themselves.

Still, it seemed like things were going okay for a while after that incident. In May, A-hui and A-mei moved to another city, A-hui got a job in a restaurant while A-mei stayed home and took care of baby. A-hui’s income was modest, to say the least (he only brought in 3,000 Yuan (US$484) a month from his job) but they appeared to be managing.

Until daddy’s little obsession reared its ugly head.

Before I go any further let me confess, I play video games. I LOVE video games. I’d dedicate at least one-third of my waking hours playing video games if I could (the other two-thirds would be evenly distributed between watching Japanese anime and blogging, FYI). That being said, I've also spent money on, as well as, in video games. Still, I know where to draw the line. There are some, however, who do not. Once upon a time when I wrote on Sprocket, I shared a story about a promising young Japanese police officer who tried (and failed) to blackmail a woman to fund his gaming addiction. A-hui takes things a step further, though.

Instead of feeding his new family, A-hui spent his modest paycheck in internet cafes where he played online games well into the night, as he used up the family’s only source of income to level up his in-game weapons and armor. Then, in June, when it became clear his salary alone wasn't going to cut it, the couple made the decision to get in touch with the traffickers they sold the child to before so they could put him up for sale the second time.


This time around they only got 16,000 Yuan (US$2,580) for their son. Whether this was because the traffickers knew they were desperate or because they factored in the diminishing value on return babies is unknown.


Again, grandpa found out. This time, however, he was fed up and decided to put the matter into the hands of the police. Both “parents” were arrested and now police are trying to track the baby down.

During her incarceration, A-mei said her baby daddy blatantly declared to her that he did not care what happened to the child. Even when she went so far as to threaten to beat the child up, he remained totally unconcerned and said she could do whatever she wanted.

Yeah, isn't he a piece of... work!

My only hope is that the police are able to find the child and, at the end of all this, he ends up in a good home with parents who place much value on him that the cost of virtual gaming gear. Well... that and for someone to sell A-hui on the black market.

They probably won't get much, though.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Oh! So *You're* Vinny C!

Have you ever felt like you were being watched? Like there are people... talking about you? I think we all feel that way. We wonder if people acknowledge our existence outside of direct interaction or having some specific need of us. In the workplace, I’m always wondering if my name comes up when my office superiors sit in their dimly-lit boardrooms, discussing top-level executive-type things (while someone is stroking a white cat). They probably mention me somewhere between discussing their plans for world domination and divisional budget strategies.

I guess it’s not uncommon for people to think their bosses talk about them. Of course, common sense will dictate that management has more important things to worry about (world domination can be a logistical nightmare after all) than one lowly office drone. It’s just as easy to convince oneself that those in the upper echelons don’t even know your name, much less set aside the time to actually talk about you. Just who do you think you are, anyway?!

Either way, unless you did something – good or bad – to get on their radar, odds are you probably won’t know whether they talk about you or not.

Until you know...

The other day, I was passing a coworker on the stairs. I’ve seen her around but she works in a different division and we’ve almost never spoken to each other before then. As we neared each other, she did the whole “glance at me casually, smile, nod and look away” routine, as is standard office etiquette when encountering a coworker with whom you didn’t have any particular dealings. I greeted her in kind and was prepared to continue on my way when she suddenly stopped.

Coworker: You’re Vinny, right?
Me: Uh... Yeah. Why?
Coworker: Oh, nothing. I just remember hearing some of the managers mentioning you.
Me: Huh?

If you’re anything like me, I'm sorry you probably would have thought the same thing I thought at that moment: “Oh crap! This is bad. Attention from the people on the top floor is never good. They’re on to me. They've figured out I have no idea what I’m doing and they’re discussing what should be done about me.”

It’s at this point I casually try to get some more info out of her...

Me: Not all bad, I hope? *nervous chuckle*

I know! Smooth, right?

Coworker: No-no. Nothing bad at all. (She pauses) I hear you’re very efficient.
Me: Oh... Thanks.

She nodded and the conversation basically tapered off there and we continued about our respective businesses.

You’d think hearing that I found favor with the people in charge would make me comfortable but, oddly enough, I wasn't. Not completely, anyway. I mean, it’s good in that I have a good chance of getting my contract renewed at the end of the year. So there’s that...

Maybe for those types who have ambition and want to climb the corporate ladder, getting positive attention from your employers is a good thing. But I’m not so much the ambitious type. Not anymore, that is. I know what climbing the ladder is like back when I was in banking. It’s work! A lot of work. And what you are you working for? More work! Higher paid positions come with a lot of responsibility... and pressure. Let’s not forget the pressure. It’s not like I don’t want to climb a step or two. But when words like “efficient” start getting thrown around people start getting high expectations and start thinking up other dangerous words like “potential” and “capable” Next thing  you know they’re “expanding your portfolio”.

I don’t know if I can handle that.

It’s okay to suspect you’re on the higher-ups’ radar. At least, then, you can dispel the thought and tell yourself you are being full of yourself. When you know they’re watching you, that’s something else. I did say this was one of my paranoid suspicions. Didn't I? What if they’re watching me? What if they really do have my phone bugged? At any point I could have left my cell unguarded and they could have gotten into it. I've seen Person of Interest! I know how easy it is to clone someone’s phone! Every text, tweet, status update and call I've ever made since I got here could be stored on one of the office servers (right next to the plans for the weather manipulation device). Hell! My last boss, the Big Man, had spyware on my office computer. And he’s a cheapskate! I work for the government now!!!

Aside from that, what if this is all a trick? What if they don’t actually think I’m efficient after all?

- Secret Paranoid Suspicion # 8: People don’t actually approve of me, they just pretend to and say nice things to make me believe there’s something about me they like.

I’m not quite sure what the reason behind this is yet but whatever it is, it can’t be good.

I need to find a way to become anonymous. I have to blend in! I’m normally pretty good at that. What am I doing wrong? Maybe I should start sleeping at my desk like so many of my coworkers. I bet I could blend in if I did like the group in the cube right next to mine and spent more than half the day carrying on loud conversations about every TV show/movie I watched (or book I read... or what I had for dinner... or where I went clubbing) the night before. Did I mention they were loud?

I need to nip this “efficiency” talk in the bud before something bad happens.