Need Sleep

I need sleep. I need sleep, like right now. I'm so tired.

And yet, I'm not the only one. So many people I talk to -- friends, relatives, coworkers -- all seem to be perpetually tired. We all need to sleep more.

Why is that? Is it a problem with society, and from what in society? How we are living in it, or how much we feel we have to do in it? (I'm inclined to blame society, because I refuse to believe it's my fault that I'm always sleep-deprived.)

Okay? Okay.

There's "awesome", there's "great", even "good". And then, there's the old standby: "okay". In English -- and by that, I mean American/Canadian English -- "okay" means just that: okay. It's very neutral, not showing much favouring towards the good nor bad sides, sitting happily on the fence, and leaving the rest to be explained later.

Everybody uses it. But there seems to be some discrepancy on what this familiar word really means, around the world. I've heard it used in various nationalities, except that they often gift it with a modifier in front of it. Germans (when speaking English) often use the phrase, "quite okay" and the Taiwanese have their "很OK" (very okay).

And it dawns on me that "okay" in other languages (or "origins") conveys a more positive meaning than "okay" in North American English. Maybe in the other "accents", it's derived from "AOK", which to me sounds as a higher degree of agreeability than plain old vanilla "okay". In their English, "okay" is really almost a "good" -- and ours isn't because, well, it's just "okay".

Just thought I'd share. (Now that I've typed "okay" so much, the word looks weird to me.)

New Fave

In the Bay Area, my living space was practically an IKEA showcase, almost like it came right out of the catalog. In Taiwan, my place already has the major furniture included with the apartment, so all I can do is change some of the accents and accessories -- interior decorating instead of real design.

Anyway, I found a new favourite place recently -- WORKING HOUSE -- which has IKEA-esque doodads, photo albums, coasters, glasses, pillows/cushions, etc. And the best part? There's a huge new store right beside the Costco and B&Q (Home Depot wanna-be) and RT-Mart (WALmart equivalent), not too far from my place. That general area is my new favourite spot for homespace shopping. :-)

Of course, there's always still MUJI, but their shadings are neutral/black/white rather than the vibrant colours and shapes at WORKING HOUSE.

First Down

... and then they took away my MSN at work. It just stopped working on Friday afternoon, after I came back from doing a grocery run -- for the company, mostly because I didn't feel like doing work, so I made an excuse to be out of the office. But now my MSN is broken, and Trillian no workie. Maybe it's time to quit.


Are you happy? Why (not)?


I must be getting more gutsy: I'm weaving in and out of traffic more with my scooter now. I run yellows and reds (after someone else has done it). Heck, last night on the way back from the gym, I even had my iPod in one ear while riding home. (At a certain speed, though, the wind completely turns the sound into noise.) Maybe one day, I'll even be brave enough to try for my license test again.


Clowns, all of them. At least, the ones who were transferred from other locations of my company to come work in Taiwan.

Whining all the time, taking little responsibility and nary a care of the real success of this location, it's like this new venture is a well-paid vacation for them with nothing to lose. Maybe it's because I have more of an interest in seeing this place work out, to see that it's profitable, to see that our company can compete in the Asian market.

The odds are stacked against us, so there's lots of external pressure hoping we will fail miserably. But with all this negativity and pessimistic attitude from inside, sometimes it feel like the enemy is really within.

I'm trying to stay positive, trying to stay the course, but I don't know how long I can withstand the pressure of fighting everyone, inside and out. Here's to thick-skinnedness, and persisting against the odds.

But I do have the blessing of being the only one here with wide-open communications between me and upper management in Europe; one director seems particularly pleased with me, and that's a positive sign. Let's leave it on that up-note.

Heart and Seoul

I extended my trip another day, and I had an ingenious plan: I would check out of the hotel in the morning, leave my luggage there, and head out on the town until the wee hours of Sunday morning. Then I could come back for my luggage, freshen up, and head to the airport by shuttle, thereby saving myself the hotel cost for a night (where I would only have been there for a few hours and might run the risk of missing my flight again).

So I hit up Dongdaemun again to finish off my shopping and buy some new clothes (since I'd originally only packed for two days, and two days of business wear at that). 11am to 4pm is a long time of shopping ... in return for a new pair of jeans and a T shirt. (Total damage: $60 USD.)

Then I wandered through the northern Bukchon area with two coworkers (who are from the Korean offices) -- Finnish dude JH and Korean girl JY. She found us a quaint old-fashioned restaurant that served semi-Korean / semi-Japanese fare and we chatted the afternoon away on the contrasts of Korean dating/marriage/work culture against our own, over Cass beer.

Walked to the National Folk Museum just in time to see them closing, but JY's charm softened the security guards enough to score us a few pictures of the outside of the museum, which is adjacent to Kyeongbuk Palace.

Then off to Topaz Bar to watch JH's Canadian friend's band do a gig. We were joined by two more colleagues, and then joined further by more beers and laughs.

'Round 10:30pm, we cabbed it to Abgujeong and piled into An, a popular underground joint that serves specialized fruit sujo. Like sujo infused into a carved-out pineapple with its juices, or apples dug out into cups and then refilled with apple juice sujo concoction. Presentation was thrilling, and conversation flowed smoothly (though a little more slurred).

Wee hours saw us lining into NoReBang, a karaoke space, for an hour to wail out pop hits way off key. Get this: they give you tamborines and marracas along with the mics so the non-singers can play along too!

A couple of coffees and iced teas caffeinated us for the next stop: BeerGirls, another basement bar that looks more like a cafe. (Note: there are no beer girls at BeerGirls. You can be sure I will be writing to the Korean Better Business Bureau.) At 3:30am, another pitcher of Cass is not really the first thing on your mind, though it did manage to make its way to our table with a half loaf of bread smothered in cream and honey.

Ignoring my assurance that I was totally sober and awake, and my pleas that everyone not worry about me and just head home for some rest, my new-found Korean friends insisted on staying up with me until the shuttle busses started running at 5am.

A taxi ride to the hotel, some heartfelt goodbyes and sincere words of gratitude, and I was off to the airport (fell asleep the whole way there). Freshened up in the airport bathroom -- shaved, washed my face, brushed my teeth alongside the security guards -- and fell asleep in the seating area until I could check-in for my early afternoon flight.

I'm back in Taipei now, after such a taxing "ingenious plan". And I feel like a part of my Seoul was left there. Will have to visit again soon, or figure out how to move there.

Shopping Dream

There's something about this city that is just enchanting. Perhaps it's all the good things about Asia without being as nasty as Taipei; perhaps it's the atmosphere created and nurtured by Chinese and Japanese influences and then morphed into its own spirit.

Or perhaps it's things like the malls at Dongdaemun -- Hello apM, Doota, Migliore, and one other -- which are open until 5am. At 1am, the place was packed and 6 floors of underground parking were literally full. But once those necessary evils were taken care of, you were in for a real treat: each of the malls was at least 8 floors of densely packed deals.

It was fun just looking for fake goods in Doota, and having them carry out the imitation stuff tucked under their shirts from storage, and show them to you behind their high stands, as if it were a secret that they offer fake LV / Prada / Hermes / whatever. Heck, they have it all in this huge catalog that you can flip through. (And I'm talking about the ones that are really accurate imitations, not the ones like "Louie Vuitton".) A Prada cardholder costs W35,000 ('round $35 USD) and the quality seems pretty good.

I'll have to revisit again tomorrow and spend my obligatory 3-4 hours there to find last-minute souvenirs. The ATMs located next to the elevators at every floor make it impossibly easy to finance this quest.

Body and Seoul

Recovery from last last night was not bad -- turns out you can beat a sujo hangover with more sujo, Korean beer (Cass and Cafri), and conversation until past midnight. We chilled in Agpujeong where we evidently were seated next to some Korean pop star. [shrug]

But today ... my feet took a beating today. Visited Kyongbukkung and Changdeokkung royal palaces, including the Huwon "secret garden". Wandered Insadong (arts and antiques shops) and Dongdaemun (fashion area) so far, and have been largely fruitless in my attempt to spend money. Will try harder because tonight (ie. now) is Itaewon (fake goods and foreigners land) and Hongdae (no idea what's there, but I have a feeling it's hip and girls are aplenty). Tonight's festivities are courtesy of a coworker who, quite frankly, seems more excited to go than I am.

SMRT is my friend. (I'm almost certain they didn't intend to spell "smart".) And I miss my New Balance sneaks -- well, my feet really do.


Missed my flight. Only one more today back to Taipei, and there were already 8 other morons who probably also missed their flight, so I would have been #9 on the waiting list.

Guess I'm going to make a quick little Seoul holiday of it; I just called in, changed my flight to Saturday night. I'm working from the local office today, will take tomorrow off for vacation, and tour Seoul. Plans are to buy a suit, a fake LV wallet (that fits the larger TWD and EURO and my Taiwanese IDs), and I dunno what else. Suggestions?

Kind of serendipitous, really. So far, I love Seoul and I'm glad to have the chance to immerse myself in it more deeply.

The Choice

Which do you prefer: aisle or window?

Back for the Weekend

Well, I'm back in Taipei again. (I couldn't update my entries in the past days, but I've put them in now, so go back and read the last few days if you missed them.)

Though only for a short while, it was nice to be in a climate where mosquitoes weren't constantly attacking me, where I didn't feel sticky after immediately exiting the shower, and where I had so much personal space and not constantly crowded by people and buildings and smog.

Ah well. Korea next week.

Got Beef?

Whoa, I ate a bit of raw ground beef at lunch. On purpose. It's supposed to be that way; slightly fatty beef, freshly ground and served immediately. Sounds kind of weird, but actual quite tasty.

Interestingly, that German lunch was purely meat and fat. I had no veggies on my plate -- not because I didn't want vegetables, but because there was literally no vegetable selection to be had at all. How is it that Germans don't suffer from more malnourishment??

Pretty Pleats?

I hate pleated pants. I don't know why so many suits still come with pleated pants. Maybe the suit makers like chuckling at the idea that they can subject people to the sit-down-poofy syndrome, or maybe they still think that baggy pants are in. Or perhaps they are just extending the concept of the loose-fitting boxer right out to the pants.

In any case, I hate pleated pants. I hate the look when I wear them, and I hate even more when I have to iron them. I'm going to try my darndest to avoid buying pleated pants ever; that's my promise.

Over the Arctic Circle

Heading onto the plane soon, for crazy days of meetings in Germany. I wish I were more excited about going to Europe, but it's really just a long time sitting in planes and then a long time sitting in offices, then back again. Wish I could spend more time actually seeing the region, though Essen doesn't have anything fun anyhow.

Aisle, Please

I remember a comment from a friend about a wedding once.

"We were seated at what seemed like a 'random people' table. I automatically assumed that we'd be seated with [our circle of friends] ... but I guess we're not cool enough."

In the world of seating arrangements, particularly at weddings, there are just some things you can't help. I mean, you have to try to please everyone, at the same time, in the same place.

Not every circle of friends sits nicely into 10 people. Not every table gets to be right in front. Not every table will be in the thick of the excitement. Not every seat gets a perfect view; heck, not every seat is even facing the right way for a view.

I mean, really, some seats just plain suck. You could be in that seat that is facing directly away from the stage/show. And there's one of those at every table; sometimes even two. But you could also be the one in that seat, shoved into the corner table in the back, right? Then compound that with facing the back wall, next to the bathroom or kitchen so that you have constant pedestrian traffic and noisy clinking of dishes in the backroom! You know, the one table that's behind the pillar, so you can't see what's going on: that's you. The sound system doesn't travel that far, of course, so you can't hear the speeches! (That might not be a bad thing.) Hell, feels like it's just you 10 people having your own little dinner.

But it gets worse.

It's not just you and 9 friends (or 1 date and 8 friends). It's you, your date, and 8 randomly selected winners. 8 people with whom you will find in the first 20 minutes that you have little or nothing in common with. Or worse yet, that your personalities clash in the worst way.

But as pessimistic as this all is, maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe you won't get invited at all, and you can spend that evening sitting at home in your underwear, chatting online with your other groups of friends.

My Humble Abode

It was a nice morning ... sun brightens my room in the morning, without direct sunlight. Just the way I like it.

And it felt even better this morning than last night, because I knew the bathroom and kitchen had been disinfected (with bleach) by a cleaning crew last night. (They also disinfected my fridge and mopped the floors, and even cleaned my windows -- inside and outside -- but that's all icing.) 2 people for 2 hours: $1000TWD ($32USD/$41CAD).

Now, to get to the next steps:

- replace showerhead (to a non-nasty-looking old one)
- add an extra towel rack (next to the bathroom sink)
- buy a shower curtain (so my bathroom stays dry when I shower)
- create a ledge that keeps water in (like a fenced shower area)
- buy two pillows (memory foam or regular cotton fill?)
- have an internet connection installed (after my biz trips)
- buy microwave oven (so I can buy foods to re-heat later)
- buy hot water dispenser (to make instant noodles possible)
- get gas for the tabletop stove (to make other foods possible)
- get all-new towels for kitchen (instead of using someone else's)
- possibly replace old glass shelf (above the bathroom sink)
- clean the leather sofa (with the leather-cleaning wipes I found)

And then I'll slowly replace all the existing dishware with my own. I'll just feel better about it that way. I figure it will cost me about $12,000TWD to have this all said and done.

Most of these things I couldn't really ask of the landlord because they're my preferences. But I will probably ask her to foot for, say, 25% of the bill (for things that will be left behind). Let's see what happens.