Shake It Down South, Baby

Last night, while vegging in front of the TV, I experienced a few shake-ups, and then a few more. TV news reported a few earthquakes in the southern Taiwan province of PinDong, and we were feeling the rumbles of that. In total, 7 last night (and wee hours of the morning), and 3 more this morning (which I completely missed).

Living on the Pacific Ring of Fire is great fun.


Like many people, I'm allergic to wool. That is, when my skin comes in contact with wool, it itches like mad. No hives or anything, just crazy itching and general unmerriment. One particular statement came out of a discussion with my brother about this.

People who are allergic to wool ... can't do sheep.

Yeah, go think on that while enjoying your Boxing Day.

Gift Exchange

Merry Christmas to you all!

So, another Christmas comes and I hold my second Christmas party in Taiwan, with a good turnout of close friends. And, again for the second time, we have a little gift exchange.

I think everyone pretty much follows the white elephant gift exchange rules, but somehow, everyone has little variances. I set the price limit to $200NT ($6US), and everyone had to wrap it in plain white paper -- like the backside of office paper, or whatever -- to avoid clues based on wrapping paper patterns.

I remember back in Vancouver, we'd have a gift exchange and over the years, it grew to some 20+ people. Tons of fun! The price limit was something like $10/$15CAD, plus tax. But the first 15 minutes was always arguing about the rules of the game:

How many times can a gift be stolen in a round? In total?
When do you open the gifts: as you choose it, or all at the end?

And there was always one or two people who would want to add another exciting dimension to the game, hoping to liven it up a bit, by introducing some kind of rule that pretty much required everyone present to have a masters degree in mathematics.

So you. What rules do you generally follow when you do a gift exchange? Or do you just do a Secret Santa kind of thing?

Pee and Poo

Merry Christmas! Three questions we should all have immediate answers to.

1. If you just started showering, and suddenly had to pee, what do you do?
a. Just pee. (Specify any particular techniques or methods.)
b. Hold it.
c. Stand in the shower, but aim for the toilet.

2. If you're on the toilet, and all done your doodies, which way do you wipe?
a. Hand outside around the back ("wallet from your backpocket" route).
b. Hand down between legs to the back (a la "Marilyn Monroe in the gust of wind").
c. I don't wipe; that's the job of my thong underwear.

3. If you're in a public toilet stall spitting logs, and someone comes in just as you're about to drop another deuce, do you ...
a. Pause, and hold it mid-drop.
b. Drop it anyway; who cares, it's a bathroom.
c. Drop it, but let out a loud cough to mask the splash sound.

What, I'm just asking how you do it; not asking for a demonstration! So thank you for your time and candidness in answering, after you get over the initial disgust.

PS: I've filled in a bunch of entries between 12/10 and 12/15, in case you missed those.

Seeking More Friends

Yeah, I'm pretty hooked on Heroes, but it's pretty dark as a show. And though I've always been into Las Vegas, Monk, and Mythbusters, I'm now into Psych and Weeds.

But, there's still a genre of show missing: sitcoms.

Now that Friends and Frasier and Will&Grace are done, I'm looking for my next fix! I downloaded a few episodes of The Class (same writers as Friends), but it's pretty weak in the first few.

What sitcoms are popular now? What are you hooked on?

Sounds of Silence

Okay, here's something I've noticed since I was a little kid: when I'm in a dead silent room -- and I mean absolute plain silence -- I can still hear some kind of frequency in my head.

It's like ringing in my ears, but at a crazy-low level, sort of like sometimes when you can hear the TV whine in the right conditions. More importantly, the environment has to be completely silent to hear it; my room in Vancouver in the dead of night, for example.

I always thought it was kind of the "frequency" of nature, or the world just going along its quiet things. Kind of like how there's all that infrared (heat) energy that's basically everywhere. Or maybe it's just the frequency/sound of all the electric stuff that we use in today's society. I dunno.

Am I the only one who gets this??

Move Out the Way, B!tch

In Taipei, things happen, and some of them are bad so an ambulance comes down the street, sirens blaring. But here, the traffic is just not as considerate as other places I've lived; some people just don't seem to care about the emergencies of others.

They don't move out of the way, they don't even really slow down much. Heck, some even take the opportunity to drive faster as other vehicles clear the streets. And they try to make a run of it in front of the ambulance! WTF? Why would they want to hinder the rescue vehicle's path to potentially save an injured life??

Those people.

I hope one day they have to take a ride in an ambulance -- some crazy emergency -- and someone else blocks their way.

Holiday Weight

Bali is, for most tourists seeking tropical climates, all about spoiling the body.

Everyday has been buffet breakfasts, long car rides, sightseeing (which, let's face it, isn't really strenuous and doesn't burn much calories), more eating meals until we're stuffed, still interwoven with more riding in cars. This happens all the way until 9pm, after which we reward ourselves for such a testing day by soaking in the pool or jacuzzi and retiring early to bed.

I highly recommend this kind of itinerary if you want to put on 1.5 pounds of jiggly fat within 5 days. My body is so spoiled, it's practically rotten.

Spa ... uh ... for Men

5 days in Bali. 3 spas. 2 of them with body scrubs and rose petal baths. A total of 290 minutes of spoiling the body.

I suppose I could be metro.

But for the benefit of those of you who may not have had a spa before -- mostly guys, I'm guessing -- I'll give a rundown on these spa experiences. Actually, I'll recount them as a combination of all three together. And hopefully, it will save you the whatever-it-would-normally-cost-for-such-services.
- You walk in to a dimly lit, serene area. They serve you a quick refreshment: water, ginger tea, mixed fruit drink, something. Then you get something to change into: disposable underwear or some kind of loose spa-wear.
- You're asked to sit, and then you get some kind of scented foot soak while the masseuse scrubs your feet.
- I think in most places, you get to choose the oils / scents you like for later.
- Depending on your spa / massage package, you might get some kind of jacuzzi / steam room / sauna time.
- Then you lie face-down on the massage table, and they do a foot / shoulder / back massage. Usually, there's some kind of massage oil or lotion involved (or else you'd get chafed pretty fast.)
- After the massage (which is better if it's deep-tissue), you might get a scrub / exfoliation -- I got one that was lulur (Indonesian specialty), and one of avocado (ground avocado pits with coconut bits). Front and back.
- Then you shower all that stuff off.
- And you then get to soak in a rose petal bath for 20 minutes or so, and rinse.

So then you come out. Your muscles are loose. You feel relaxed. Your skin is really soft and smooth. You smell great. You're in a dreamy state, floating through the air.

And you know what you've become? A mosquito delicacy.

Deep in the Heart of the Amazon ...

Another long day.

Early wake-up, waited for the driver to pick us up at 8am.

First off, whitewater rafting in a completely different kind of expensive. That is ...
... in a boat that's been patched up more times than Jackie Chan's body,
... with lifejackets and helmets that don't fit quite properly,
... in a river that has the kind of turbulence of a large washing machine,
... and about as wide as the boat (meaning the raft rubs really often).

After that was lunch and then the obligatory waste-of-time trips through "artist galleries" which are nothing more than the tour's attempt to get kickbacks from tourist shopping purchases.

Finally, a two-hour Lulur spa in Kuta with lulur scrub and bath and all that stuff.

For now, I'm tired. Bye.

Ultimate Island

Tropical climate -- 30C+ in the dead of December. Beautiful beaches of smooth sands lending themselves to gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. Active volcanoes and fertile soils. Lush forests populating the rolling hills and rivers. They say Bali is the "ultimate island", and it really is.

My first trip ever south of the equator, and I have to say that it's a lovely little paradise, and cost of living isn't too high (for locals).

But much as Bali is a fantastic vacation destination, it's seriously lacking something: its own sustaining economy. This Indonesian island relies almost competely upon tourism -- selling admissions, trinkets and arts & crafts, hotel services, and related driver services and touristy needs. To me, it's a real shame, because I can see that over the next few decades, Bali's rich Hindu traditions and culture will probably be preserved only to the extent that money can be made from it (via tourists).

I think it's terrible for a locale to not have an ability to maintain its own lifestyle without an external influx of money to keep it going. They will always be subject to the "culture" and whims of vacationing tourists, and must in most ways cater to it. How can they keep their identity and traditions strong without letting it steep in the stench of holiday dollars?

Eat, Sleep, Tour

A long day. Woke up at 6:30am, breakfast buffet (with fresh waffles and everything), and our driver for the day picked us up at 8am. Itinerary and highlights/lowlights:

- Monkey Sanctuary (near Ubud). A park with free-roaming monkeys, where I was nearly raped by several monkeys for my bunch of bananas ... within two minutes of walking in.
- Goa Gajah, Elephant Cave. A site where Hindus and Buddhists both set up temples for meditation.
- Gunung Kawi, Royal Tomb. Rock carvings in the side of a mountain, and you have to sprinkle "holy water" (stagnant water in an open pot) before entering.
- Tirta Empul, Holy Spring Water Temple.
- Tegalalang. Gorgeous cascading rice terraces on the sides of mountains and valleys. Basically: stop the car, walk out, look around, snap photos, back in the car.
- Lunch at Ibu Oka, famed restaurant for their Babi Guling (spit-roasted pork). Now that's BBQing, baby! And at 15,000 rupiah ($2US) for the dish, totally awesome value.
- Tanah Lot, sea temple. The is the most photographed sea temple in Bali, and mainly because the sun sets directly behind most of the vantage points for some amazing photos.
- Dinner at Jimbaran Bay. Fresh seafood packed in ice: you pick it, they cook it. Dinner on the beach, though this was well after the sun had set.
- Jacuzzi at the Ritz. It closes at 11pm, but we have never seen anyone ever use it, so it's pretty much our private jacuzzi.

Pooped. Time to hit the sack for another early morning.

Livin' at the Ritz

Wow. The Ritz is nice.

We got picked up at the airport and driven to the resort, where a lady welcomed us with leis around our necks. Haha, it was so damned cliche. And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed it. (I think that deep down inside me, maybe I really want to be one of those loud-Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, huge-ass-camera-toting, red-faced-sunburned fat tourists.)

We're seated at a table with two cups of sweet nectar -- nectar of the gods, I dare say it was -- and soaked in the beauty of the resort as they processed the check-in, before leading us personally to the room.

Swim shorts.
Ocean Pool.

Their new Ocean Pool is amazing. It's a pool filled with seawater -- filtered, some salt content removed (to make it more bearable), and warmed -- overlooking the ocean. And it's one of those infinity edge pools too, so from inside the pool, it looks like you're practically swimming in the ocean. (Of course, it's halfway up the cliff face, so you can actually see down to the cabanas and the beach and the restaurant.) We spent that evening in the pool, taking photos with the sunset as our background.

That is a great way to spend an evening.

Get this: the other swimming pool is open 24 hours for those wee-hours-swimming cravings that we all get (though towels are only provided until 7pm, you can keep them for the night if you like). This resort has everything in it; you could easily stay on the resort and never leave to visit the real Bali.

And I think they almost hope you don't: a taxi ride into Kuta (the nearest city) is about 60,000 rupiah ($7US). Round trip makes it 120,000. And the Ritz knows that, because they price their meals just so that you'd spend that difference in their restaurant, but save you the time and trouble ... which is why we ended up having Thai food at the Ritz on the first night.

One last comment: service is impeccable, and heads and shoulders above just about every other place on the island. Every employee greets you as you walk by, morning noon or night. Every employee: waiters, hostesses, cleaning staff, gardeners, everyone.

Watch the Time

So I've been in the market for a new watch recently ... and I've been scouring a few different brands and styles. Mainly, I've been drawn to a round black face, steel or titanium link band, and a little bold flare to it.

But that's not the important part of today's post for you to ponder. Instead, it's this: go and search for some professional product photos of watches. And so far, I've noticed something.

Over 98% of the watches show the time as 10:08.

Go on, try it with any brand. Neat, huh? So why is that?? I suppose my first thought is that the hands of the clock make kind of a nice checkmark, which is probably a positive psychological shape and would somehow convince you that's the right watch to buy. I dunno. What do you think?

Ponder that. I'll be back in a few days to collect your papers.

One out of Three Dentists Approves

So I did my first dentist check-up in Taiwan last night. (Yes, my first one since I moved here. And yes, I have been here since May 2005. Now leave me alone to tell you what I want to tell you, so I can go to sleep already.)

I picked this particular dentist because two of my good friends here -- who have schooled in North America and therefore have some experience with North American dentists -- recommended them, and because both of the dentists have degrees from Northwestern University so at least they have some command of English in case I need to draw on that.

I had a great dentist while in California who was always courteous and patient with me, despite my less-than-stellar brushing technique and routine. I'm an old dog, and have been mostly sticking with my old habits, so it was with a little hesitation that I came this new guy.

After all, you don't want to get on the bad side of a man who's got a drill in your mouth.

Anyway, I'm in for the cleaning, and I tell him my dental history, and he takes a look-see. He tells me that I brush very well and there isn't even a lot of plaque for him to clean up. But he does say that I brush too hard and my gums are taking the brunt of it, so I should lighten up. That's interesting; my first glowing report from a DDS. And then he says that my flossing really needs work. I'm in complete agreement with him, since ... well, I barely ever floss.

Like, ever.

Anyway, I don't know whether I should be trusting this guy. I'm not sure whether he's telling me the truth, or if (in the ten years he's practiced in Taiwan) he's just gotten used to the average Taiwanese dental situation.

Under Watch

I had a strange dream last night. (Wait, just stay with me on this one.)

I was somehow framed and placed in a "maximum security prison" ... except this was a maximum security prison of a different sort: not so maximum-security.

I mean, it wasn't quite the dank concrete structure with heinous barbed wires that one might imagine. It was more like a ... large complex, almost like a resort, with alleyways and streets, and even trees and stuff. Though, it was still enclosed and guarded, so I suppose that counts for something.

Another strange thing was that we weren't so much tracked by direct monitoring, but our whole personal records were printed into this huge book -- kind of like an employee handbook -- that was about an inch thick. And they gave it to you to hold onto. Of course, they logged details into their own system (handwritten, in those old ledger books). I happened to glance at my record while in their office and noticed that I had some demerits listed: for two attempted escapes! Funny, I could only remember one, but they claimed they found my record book in one of the air ducts.

Someone was trying to frame me!

All the same, I certainly hope the Ritz-Carlton treats me better than that.

Colours in the Mind

Okay, so let's play a little game that I've been thinking of bringing up. Here's how I figure it will work: I list a few colours (or colour combinations). You tell me what companies / signs / brands / products pop in your head. Let's begin (in no particular):

1. red & white
2. black
3. red & green & blue
4. brown
5. yellow & purple
6. blue
7. orange
8. bright/neon green
9. pink
10. white & silver
11. blue & yellow

Fun for the whole family!

Pent Up

One day, someone (with their scooter) is going to piss me off so much that I'm going to wait until they park it, leave, and then I'm going to secure my disc brake lock on their bike and leave it there.

Not-So-Black Friday

Well, Thanksgiving came and went. Quietly. (Well, as quietly as Taipei can be normally.)

No parade being broadcast on every single TV channel. No turkey carving at the family table; not even a little turkey sandwich with cranberry jam. No festivities, no sitting around saying what we're thankful for.

And there's no Black Friday crazy-shopping day for us here. I kind of miss that, even though I know a lot of you (in North America) dread the hordes of bargain hunters scouring the malls and outlets, and would rather stay in the security of your own home while watching ... I dunno, morning cartoons.

See, Americans, this is your version of the Canadian Boxing Day (December 26): shopping until you literally drop of exhaustion, or have your innards squeezed out of you in the line-ups outside popular stores. This is your greatest chance to clear up your Christmas shopping in one go of great deals galore, and then sit back and watch the rest of the Christmas shoppers go nuts on December 23. (Of course, you won't get all your shopping done today, because most of what you buy will be for yourself. I know how it is; I been there.)

Here in Taiwan, we don't get that.

Instead, our crazy shopping days are usually on weekday non-holidays, sometimes during this year-end shopping season, and they usually put up flyers and ads about some limited-stock item that prompts old ladies to line up outside the store for hours. After all, the rest of the population has to work, and can't be there to queue up for a semi-good discount on a completely frivilous product.

Yeah, it's not really the same. But tonight, I will be on a quest to have some turkey anyhow -- someone must serve it around here. Happy Thanksgiving!


How do you wash your backpack? Or do you?

(Learning About) Family Time

Have had substantial facetime with the parentals recently, and most recently, have had the rare opportunity to have the whole family together as well. Most notable was learning that little bit more about what drives my relatives in their own different ways, and beginning to understand the real depths of how that has translated into the effects of my upbringing. Very interesting navel-gazing times, and ne'er a moment too soon.

More Than Ever

What with my parents visiting, and my siblings coming up, my little studio apartment is now teeming with people. And people's things. And constant chatter. And I only have one queen bed and one sofa, which inevitably means that when we awake in the morning and look about us, none of us are necessarily well-rested, and we look like we're a group of refugees taking temporary shelter in an apartment.

My Day

Funny. I don't feel another year wiser.

What'd I Say?

So I was chilling at home mid-day (because I can), and my mobile phone rings. Caller ID says the phone number calling is "1". Huh, that's interesting. Having piqued my curiosity, I answered. A very scripted voice on the other end sprung into life (in Chinese).

"Hello, we want to introduce you to [BlahBlah Inc., I can't remember the name]. [blah blah blah ... she read really fast, and I kind of tuned out at this point as I let her finish her two or three paragraphs.] We'd like to send you a brochure. What address shall I send it to?

I wanted to answer her, but first, I needed to get some answers of my own. I politely inquired,
"Hi, how did you get my number?"

I think she was taken aback by this question, but she had a (prepared) answer.
"Oh, we have our call list from Taiwan Mobile, so those are the numbers we call."

Very well, then. I didn't like the answer, but she wasn't the right person to unleash my anti-telemarketer fury upon anyhow. And anyway, she didn't give me much time to consider her response, because she jumped right back into her script ... and repeated pretty much verbatim one of her previously-read paragraphs. I cut her off, because she was talking too fast.
"Sorry, what did you say [BlahBlah Inc.] was?"
"It's a shopping mall, which is similar to Sogo and ShinKong Mitsukoshi. Where can we send you the brochure?"

I get a lot of junk mail already, and in the interest of not getting more -- as well as letting them save their brochures for people who might be more interested -- I gave her my response.
"Oh, that's okay. You don't need to send me one."

Well, that's neat. My reply probably wasn't on her list of possible answers, and she stammered,
"Um, what?"
"It's okay, please don't send me one."

I mean, I think I was being pretty nice about it. And you know, she probably never came across someone like me. Because ... she really wasn't equipped to handle it, which led to her final response.
"Er ... ahhhhh, 幹你娘 [you motherfvcker]!"
[hang up]

Maybe I should have just accepted the brochure.

Lording instead of Serfing

If I had a hundred grand (USD) to invest for four years, I know I could probably be well on my way to being a wealthy career landowner. But alas, the lack of initial capital makes it difficult for us regular folk to get up that slope.

Like Sand

Wow, it's easy to let the days slip by, being all busy just doing odds and ends that you never got around to doing before. It's easy to suddenly look back and find that two weeks of great weather -- my favourite time of the year, in fact -- have ellipsed without much "real" progress. It's time to hanker down and try to be productive again.

One thing I've learned is that it's lonely when you have all day free ... and none of your friends do.

Another thing is, I guess I still do tie my "worth in society" to having a regular job function ... which right now is ... nothing.


We got creamed today at darts. So I stuck around for an hour of rapid-fire practice until I felt more consistent in my accuracy. It's been a while since I've felt that passionate about excelling at something, and it's kind of refreshing, really.


Can't help it, but here's a (definitely non-exhaustive) list of things I'd like to see at the expense of people I don't know:

- Some kid walking down the street so engrossed in playing his DS lite or Gameboy or PSP that he smacks into a telephone pole or post sign. Or heck, even a building pillar -- I'm not picky.

- Some guy or girl talking on his/her mobile phone while riding the scooter -- and holding the phone in his hand too -- get into an accident. Not fatal, just face-marring, and possibly injuring their hearing in that phone ear.

- People who play underhanded office politics get dealt some of their own medicine.

- Parents who don't watch their kids, lose them in a crowded place for a few frightful minutes, and then find them later (because hey, I'm not that mean).

- Dangerous scooters (usually on pimped out rides with neon/blue lights and loud exhausts) lose control of their bike and total them. One or two broken limbs (which I do sincerely hope will heal in the future) also appreciated.

- People in service roles (bank tellers, kiosk girls, salespeople) who don't know their own services well enough, get all the tough customers and deep questions and force them to study what they're selling ... or decide that's not the line of work for them.

Okay, you chime in with some of your own while I go run some errands. Weather's great!

Free Time, NIN

I noticed some things:

I clip my fingernails differently when using my right hand (to clip my left hand nails) and my left hand (on the right hand nails).

I usually clip my fingernails, then clip my toenails, and then file my fingernails with the nailfile / emeryboard. But I don't file my toenails.

The Lag

I can't sleep.

What A Diff'rence A Day Makes

I got back into Taipei last night after 13.5 + 1.5 hours in the air. The Taiwanese government had announced that tomorrow (October 9) would be a holiday so that everyone could have a five-day weekend, in exchange for working next Saturday instead, but our company would have to show up to work because the director was flying in from Germany.

So I get all decked out in my suit for the 9am (sharp) meeting, and I'm there at 8:35am to sync emails and get all settled in. And what do I get?

Let go.


I'm pretty tired from this vacation. Will blog more (and backdate) when I'm all done flying around the continent.


What is a wedding really about? That is, what is the day of the ceremony, banquet, and all that really mean, and who is it for? What would you consider most important during that event?


My camera dropped on the second day here, and now the zoom toggle is broken. I borrowed my mom's camera for a while, only to find that hers has the mode dial broken. What's with these Canons??

Now I have to rush to buy one while in North America. And none of the cameras on the market really wow me so far. Dammit.

Vancouver circa 2006

... is kind of the same as Vancouver circa 2005, or circa 2001, with just a few minor changes. Seems like whenever I come back and ask what's new, it's usually nothing. Well, nothing huge that I don't already know about. Still, it's nice to be home, even if not having a mobile phone sucks ass.


We all know the lame old jokes and quips that have been around since dirt. What we can't seem to figure out, however, is why people keep using them. And I think you know the kind of ancient half-humour I'm talking about:

"Give me a second."
"Okay: one. Second's up."

Classic jokes, these are not; they have just been around for a long time, and not because they were particularly good. No, nobody finds them funny anymore. Plus, I mean, if you're on the receiving end of one of these blasts from the past, what do you say to something in response? Can you combat fire with fire?
"Oh, you're so funny, I forgot to laugh."

Then suddenly, you've just responded in kind. Now don't you feel cool. Loser.

Turn, Turn, Turn

Funny that right around this time, so many of my blogger friends are commenting on the change in weather where they live. So, same here!

Weather's been cooling down in Taiwan as well, particularly in the past week (after the typhoon). What used to be constant 30C+ weather is now a much more manageable 28C highs and 22C lows.

Instead of crazy desert sun bearing down on us poor folk, we are now treated to a gentle sun wafting in through the windows, and a nice breeze. The breeze is actually cool air now, as opposed to before, when it was just "wind that's less hot than no-wind".

My south-facing office now has a direct injection of sunlight each day, and I have to adjust the blinds a little, but it's a welcome dose of natural light.

This is my favourite time of the year in Taipei, and I think it's because after the humid heat of the summer, the slight nippiness is welcome. Reminds me a bit of home.

Two Layers

I went to the eye doctor today. First, an aside:

That I went to an eye doctor in itself is probably a rather novel comment for a Taiwanese resident, since most people simply go to where they want to buy glasses and then the optical store will do a quick and easy eye exam for them, included.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have a thing against "mall doctors" -- those physicians who are somehow very closely related to retail establishments -- I like the idea that my optometrist is a separate entity from the eyecare professional who will be fitting my glasses for me. I like to know that each of them is not distracted by ulterior motives, such as performing a sub-par eye exam as long as they can sell me a pair of spectacles.

So I looked around for a hospital/clinic who would do the eye exam for me. And today, I went.

I went into the big hospital, filled in my patient record form (which asks alarmingly little about someone they're about to give medical advice to), and waited for my 11:50am appointment.

There was some big confusion about why I was there, which started with their first pointed question:
"What's wrong with your eyes? Are they uncomfortable?"
"Uh ... no, nothing. I want an eye check-up."
"So what's wrong with them?"
"Nothing, I haven't had an eye exam for some time, and I would like to buy glasses now."
"Oh, okay."

They led me into a series of rooms -- which, if you've ever been in a Taiwanese hospital before, all look like evil experiments could have been conducted in them some decades ago and have been scrubbed clean of evidence -- to do the standard tests. I did the "stare at the picture which they adjust to be clear with a machine" thing, the "puffs of air in your eye until you're visibly crying" check, "keep your eye wide open as we shine blinding light" activity, and the "randomly guess which way the E is pointing "game.

I basically paid $650NT ($20 USD) for them to do things to my eyes, talk to me like I'm an idiot, order me around ("sit and wait", "stand up", "wear this") ... and tell me my prescription strength is pretty much exactly what it was 4.5 years ago. I took my prescription sheet and ran.

On the way back to the office, I caved: I ate a bacon double cheeseburger. I figured my eyes deserved it, but I asked for only one slice of cheese -- you know, because that second slice would just be too many calories.

Apple Play-by-Play

Dammit. Apple is having their special event live coverage, and while is giving a per-minute update on their site, I can't stay up any later because I really should sleep. Plus, I want to actually watch Steve Jobs doin' his thang on-stage. I'll watch the streaming broadcast tomorrow instead, then.

Semi-Random Flashbacks

They've been getting "worse" recently. Every so often -- pretty much once every two days now -- during the most random of times, an image flashes across my mind in the most random of ways.

Sometimes, it's a picture of sunny Castro Street in Mountain View, California. Sometimes, it's an image of spanish Banks with downtown Vancouver, Canada, in the background. Once in a while, it's the view of thick fog rolling quickly over the peninsula mountains around Pacifica, California. At times, I catch a mental glimpse of SFU on Burnaby Mountain. Or even a scene around Sunnyvale's Chipotle and Starbucks.

What's not as random is what is flashing through: always a snapshot view of the more comfortable (more free) lifestyle that I used to have.

Clearly, it's a stronger urge that is trying to tell me how much I miss home. Hopefully, the vacation back to Vancouver and SF and LA will tone that down a bit.

Or Similar

So I went online and booked a rental car for my trip to San Francisco / Los Angeles in October. I think I got a pretty good deal -- under $100 USD for 5.1 days, plus taxes and fees. First common question:

"What kind of car did you get? You should rent a [insert impractically expensive type of rental vehicle here, like an SUV, convertible, dump truck, etc.]

No no, it's really just a simple mode of transportation so that I don't have to wait for the bus or Caltrain or whatever. And for the joy of driving, which I thoroughly love. Here's what I got.
Compact: Dodge Neon (or similar)

You see, it's that last part that worries me a bit. Because I wish they would just list out the possible cars they have. They're a car rental company, and they buy fleets of cars; I think they should have a really clear idea on exactly which cars they have. Shouldn't they?? Can't they just say it would be one of ... "Dodge Neon, Ford Focus, or Toyota Corolla"? Then at least I can know it's not some other car they consider "similar" but I wouldn't.

A little info, that's all I ask.

I Hate Mondays

I hate Mondays. With a passion.

I thought I would like today's a little more because today is the glorious last day that some of our HQ coworkers are in town -- they fly out tonight, one of them isn't coming back, and the other will be gone for almost two weeks. But it turns out that that little bit of joyous news isn't enough to overcome the dark Mondayness of Monday bearing down on my week.

It feels like it's the Monday of Mondays. The Monday of all mothers of all Mondays. And if you really think about it, that's a lot of Mondays of which this cream of the crop Monday has risen to the top. It's like the Fifth Element for Mondays, the ultimate Monday.

Well, at least it's not raining, even if it is scorching. And tonight, another darts match. Yes, the justification of my existence is now reduced to throwing little pointy things at a plastic board.

Forced Entry, Forced Exit

Not in much of a blogging mood lately, but have been trying to force myself to write something anyway. You know, just to keep my blog routine continuous (instead of some people who just disappear for weeks on end). This is exactly one of those entries.

After yesterday's spicy hotpot -- which, by the way, was absolutely delicious and was not too spicy after all and didn't cause any immediate stomach disagreements -- this morning I felt it. At first, nothing wanted to come out, but I forced a few chunks out while playing Bomber (pun not intended but serendipitously accepted). And every exit was a scorcher.

Thought you'd like to know that as I head into the weekend. Hurray for Fridays!

Hotpot Plan Shot

Some coworkers from HQ (the nice ones) had some spicy beef noodles the other day, and somehow had the idea and newfound confidence that they can handle spicy foods now. So they asked me what the "next level" is: tonight, we're going to a spicy hotpot (麻辣火鍋) place. What's more, one of the (backstabbing) coworkers invited herself and the other evil colleague ... and a friend as well. Wish I knew a nice way of saying,

"Actually, I don't want you there. Or your friend. Get away from me, you ... you ... you nasty name-dropping, office-politics-playing witch who's trying to take over my location."

Dammit. I'm already not looking forward to the burn, let alone their presence.

Darting Around

I've been frequenting a darts pub/bar lately. Yeah, you heard right. It's a bar that has some 6 electronic (soft-tip) dartboards in it, and you go there for food (which I heard ain't bad) or drinks (Boddington's on tap) or just to shoot darts. It's called Duckbill, and now all the employees there know us by name.

So anyway, it really caught on amongst a bunch of us guys, and some weeks later, we all bought our own darts instead of playing with the "public" plastic ones, and now we're all in a team competition against other semi-beginners. We're one step short of having team shirts made and creating a secret handshake to give us the illusion (to ourselves) that we're cool. Although, to my dismay, we did quite by accident develop the most stupid-looking hat trick celebration dance.

Well, I wouldn't call it a dance so much as a goofy wobble on a drunken horse.

Dishing It

Okay, so I'm somehow strangely interested in cleaning order. But humour me anyway: what order do you do the dishes in?

Big Brother Notice

About a week ago, a little sign appeared in my apartment building elevator, almost exactly at eye-level, above the buttons, in a colour that contrasted starkly from the dark wood-panel of the wall. In large letters, it broadcasted something to the tune of:

"Monitored by security camera. Mgmt."

I can only begin to imagine what kind of events must have been witnessed on the security cameras -- which I'm sure have been there since forever -- to warrant a clear notice like that.

What do you think happened?

The Day After

Something I noticed earlier this week: the day after an interview is always blah, because of the contrast between the excitement of a new company, new possibilities, and new changes versus the old drab of the same old crap and internal struggles.

Guess Where?

So yeah, I haven't uploaded photos for a long time now -- I'm bad like that. But the other day, I was goofing around Flickr, through the Explore pages and all that.

Anyway, I came across this group called guess where vancouver, where people take photos of buildings or scenes in Vancouver and people guess (in the comments) where it is. Fun! That is, it's a lot of fun if you happen to know Vancouver somewhat well, and completely not fun if you don't know the city nearly at all.

And somewhere in between is where I am, where I can't guess any of the photos right and can barely even picture the spot after someone's guessed right. It's almost like I never really lived there!

AC. Eh, See?

Just had a guy come over and look at my air conditioning, which was leaking water onto my couch. Turns out (duh) that a water drain pipe was getting clogged so the moisture would periodically overflow the internal tray. So he cleared that up while I wiped down the casing. And since he was already up there on the ladder, I gave him some disinfectant sprays and some AC cleaning foam stuff to clean out all the insides too. That should do for a while. Hopefully, that will help reduce the mysterious smell in my apartment, because I still suspect the AC unit.

On the bright side, now I'm at home early and can go play darts.

The Squeeze

Ever since I came back from my (personal) Shanghai trip, things at work have been going awry. Big political games are going on, and the power struggles ensuing reach all the way to the top of the international network (one or two levels up from me). I should be clear right now about one thing:

I hate politics.

With a passion. I hate the kind in offices, and the kind in government. I simply have no interest in the subject and most of the time, I find it just gets in the way of real work to be done, or real life to be enjoyed. To understate it, I seek to avoid it as much as possible.

But it seems that politics has instead sought me out to play. And I don't wanna.

I have a feeling that our visiting colleagues from HQ have decided they would like to take over this office. I have a feeling that they are masterminding some information flow and different stories to create a little confusion in their favour. I have a feeling that -- because I'm really tired of playing in this stupidity -- they will eventually win this battle.


Sometimes my head wonders about silly little things.

Like, if I had been wearing a backpack that evening, then I wouldn't have tumbled the way I had. I would have instead been stopped from rolling by my backpack, and it would have forced me to slide down the tunnel pavement. I probably would have scraped one side of my arm and body to the bone.

Yeah, little things like that.

Waste of Money

Rack your brains for a bit. What have you bought, and then only used a few times? Little things, big things, name them all. I know you have some; I'm pretty sure everyone does.

Here are some of mine.

Golf clubs. I bought them before I moved to California in 2001, and I've only used them a handful of times in Vancouver, another handful at driving ranges in the Bay Area, and a few games. I really should play more, but golfing in Taiwan is too pricey.

Bluetooth headset. Okay, this was a gift, but still. I thought I would use it a lot more -- and for the first while, I used it a lot -- but trying to keep it properly paired with my computer (for Skype) and sometimes with my phone (as a handsfree) proved to be too difficult for the little thing to remember. So as a result, it's now a permanent fixture on my bedside stand.

Spice magnets. They're these little things are small metal canisters with glass tops, designed to hold your spices while also being fridge magnets. Very cool. And on sale at half the regular price, I had to get them, dammit! But two problems that I hadn't thought of: the magnet and the metal are somewhat flexible, but the glue used to bond them isn't. So any time you happen to smack it by accident -- it's on the fridge after all -- not only does the canister fall, but the magnet part comes off. Incredibly frustrating, and none of them have ever held any spices in my home.

Various clothes. I like to buy clothes when I can envision wearing them in the future; I don't have to immediately go home and then model it, pairing it with whatever else in my closet it would go with. Sometimes it means I'll buy it without a particular wearing event in mind, and even have it still in the packaging. Weeks or months later, I'll come across it again, and find I have something "new" to wear! It's like Christmas, I tell you, and it makes me happy. What.


These stupid typhoons, what a flop.

Three typhoons formed and organized themselves in as many days -- Maria, Saomai, and Baopha -- all headed towards us on the east coast of Asia. And while Maria was headed earlier and more towards Japan, weather reports warned that the other two could join forces into a Voltron of twin typhoons to batter us. And they were coming in quick.

Again, with our fingers and toes crossed, we watched after work as the rains poured harder and harder. Then, one by one, the news channel weather tickers announced that we'd all have to show up for work today. Now that we're at work, rains are coming down hard, but only in waves.

Look, typhoons, get your acts together: either rain super hard so we get a typhoon holiday, or don't rain at all. Especially on weekends, don't rain at all.

Get a Grip

I have a big client meeting tomorrow, and half of it will be on the golf course. I haven't picked up a golf club since I left my set in California some 2 years ago. So naturally, yesterday, I figured I better hit up the driving range in search of my lost natural swing.

Instead, I managed to get myself all sweaty in the 33C weather, rent a nasty 7-iron and a driver, and work through 55 balls before rubbing off a good chunk of my ring finger skin. And with the current weather conditions, we may not get to play golf tomorrow in the end.

Couples & Monopoly

I have to say, I can relate with this article: I've been guilty of couple surfing before too.

But then, I'm a geek, so I'm excused. Kind of like a get-out-of-jail-free card in Monopoly, which nobody seems to value until you really need it because all the good properties are being bought up while you try to roll doubles.

Speaking of which, does anyone really play Monopoly by the official rules (PDF)? I think most of us skip some rules because that's just how we've always played it.

Have a nice weekend, and happy birthday to HG!

Chicken with its Head Cut Off

Busy with work.
No time to blog.
Yeah, I know.
Me too. But.
I'll be back soon.


It's Monday and I'm feeling extra slow this morning. I mean, slower than I normally am anytime, slower than I normally am in the mornings, and even slower than I am on the particularly slow Monday mornings. I'm so slow this morning that I haven't even been able to coherently string together sentences in Chinese. And these aren't even difficult sentences I'm trying to conjure up, but they just aren't coming out. (But my English seems to be okay still.)

The weekend was mostly R&R.

Slept through Saturday afternoon, hit up Costco, and enjoyed an awesome BBQ at my cousin's place, and then darts at a pub until 2am (while nursing my fruit tea and avoiding all alcohol). (Side note: had to completely deconstruct my darts technique to try to learn it the right way.)

Slept through Sunday noon, watched Superman Returns, and then dinner at a famous Chinese hotpot place. (As with such restaurants, your clothes will bring the aromas back home with you, long after you've lost all desire to smell it any more.) Then vegged at home watching Lucky Number Slevin and crawled into bed.

Oh, you know what, though ...

It could be that I had a 12-hour workday on Friday, followed by a dinner meeting with head-office folks which I thought would actually be a dinner meeting, but instead turned out to be a pre-meditated plot to lure me out for a night of unwanted coworker bonding: basically just heavy drinking at bars I didn't like with people I didn't want to be with. I'm too old to properly recover from a long night of double gin-n-tonics and shots of Belvedere, all after a few bottles of sake and Kirin.

After that, the weekend R&R was all I could do to get my braincells back to life. But apparently, it isn't working.

Told You I Called It

Ha. I knew it.

Apparently, these two folks from HQ were sent to our location not just to help with sales by leveraging their personal connections in the market -- which, by the way, they try to remind us of constantly by naming dropping at every possible opportunity. They also had ulterior motives, like a full evaluation of the staff here (which always starts off with a negative view, doesn't it) and then to perform some "clean up".

And then I found out that me and those two, we each have different "direct reports" in the company -- I don't know how/why that happened. Possibly because there's a rumour about a shake-up all the way up to the Directors' level (in HQ), so everyone has a bunch of their own motives and ... well, after that, it's about spinning things "your way".

And you all know how I feel about politics.

It feels like "Office Space", except I didn't have the pleasure of being hypnotised into calmness. I have to be here directing the professional location photographers for our new brochure until 8pm. And then after that, have dinner and drinks with these conniving colleagues, and try to figure out their game.

I suppose I am at some risk in this bullsh!t, but I don't know how much I really care about that. I think part of it is the pride I'm trying to keep about it. Of course, I had a phone interview two days ago for a different possible position anyhow, but still.

I just want to go home.

Not So Funny

Sometimes when I have bad news to announce -- to clients, friends, whatever -- I try the sitcom approach to breaking it across gently.

"[hesitantly] You know, it's a funny story ...
[chuckle forcedly] You're going to laugh when you hear this ..."

But somehow, when they hear the news, they don't laugh and they never think it's funny.

Also not funny is how I wasn't informed of a last-minute meeting change, and these German taskforce people went and did the off-site client meeting without so much as notifying me. Obviously, I feel disrespected; it was neither a funny story when I heard about it, nor did I laugh.

(I will, however, get the last laugh.)

Twist of Fate

I like typhoons. They're actually pretty fun, and they're not so much dangerous as they are just miserable to be outside in.

When a typhoon comes along and pummels our island, sometimes it becomes "dangerous to be outdoors", so the local government calls a meeting the night before and issues a decision (by 10pm) on whether the following day will be a typhoon holiday. If it is, then you get the day off and are not obligated to come to work, and won't suffer pay deduction for it. (And sometimes, the day will clear anyway, and you can go to KTV or watch a movie or something anyhow.)

We had that opportunity again as Typhoon Kaemi tapproached with a path that would cross straight over Taiwan. It was scheduled to hit over the island with the worst of it falling upon us around 8pm last night, ensuring the government folks would see how bad it was during their decision-making period. And it wasn't a weekend -- last year, most typhoons just managed to ruin our weekends and then clear up the skies for the workweek.

But not this one: this one and perfect timing and path.

I watched with anticipation, even gleeful excitement: I don't know what it is, but I've never wanted a typhoon holiday so badly before. I mean, I really craved this free day off. Two days before, I even hit up Carrefour and bought a jug of water, some non-perishables, and mentally ran through the movies I wanted to watch that day at home.

Monday morning, I took the bus to work instead of scootering in what I expected would be tough rains. As the afternoon approached, sheets of rain would fall, and then stop, then fall again. I checked the Central Weather Bureau website with the same reload-reload-again fury with which I check my blog comments. Evening came, rains came, and I was half-prepared for a day off.

What's the b!tch of a typhoon do?
Changes direction southward.

It passes over Taiwan, alright, but over the southern half of Taiwan, so Taipei had declared it a regular workday even before 7pm had come around! Bastards. Stupid Kaemi. All it did was make it a terribly windy day with light misty rains, and then destroy our crops to hike our produce prices up 30%!

Argh. I hate typhoons.

Out of Nowhere

I have a problem, and I need your help.

Shortly after returning from my China trip, I began to notice something. Everytime I stepped into my apartment, I smelled this smell in my place, basically when I left some clothes undried after washing. And then it basically starts to grow stuff. I liken it to a wet-grass smell, and it's gross.

That's the problem, and my bigger problem is that I can't find the root of that problem: I have no idea where the smell is coming from! For the past few days, I've been sniffing around like a bloodhound in every nook and cranny of my apartment, and I can't find the source.

I've checked all my laundry -- dried and smelling nothing like wet foilage. I've taken my couch apart, and vaccuumed all through and under it. I've sniffed through the bathroom, the kitchen, even upstairs in the closets (in case there was a leak and somehow my clothes got wet). Nothing. I checked under the kitchen sink, around the bedroom, under tables and behind the TV. I opened every umbrella and took a good whiff. I stuck my nose in every shoe I own. Nope.

Where the hell is that smell coming from??

I can't figure it out, and it's driving me nuts. I even went to Carrefour last night to buy cleaning agents for the air conditioning unit, in case it's coming from there, but I doubt it, since I believe the smell to last even after running the AC for some time.

So far, I think I might have localized it to around the couch or fridge (just beside it) or the aircon (directly above the sofa). I just can't seem to get any closer than that, though. Ugh.

Worse yet, each time I come home, I only have a few minutes to do my nasal research before my sense of smell acclimatizes to the scent and filters it out in my head.

So Long, Salons

I don't know what it is. Maybe I don't know what I want, maybe I don't know how to express what I'm looking for, maybe I don't know where to look for whatever it is I want. But whenever I step out of a hair salon, I never get a style that I like. Perhaps it's that I look young for my age, and the damned stylists keep trying to pair me with some teenager's hairstyle.

No more salons for me. I can get the same not-what-I'm-looking-for at half the price, thank you very much.

Conflict of Interest

So. Another crazy week, particularly since this was a work week.

I think we may have just signed on a really highly-intensive project: one that has a strict one-week deadline instead of our normal 3-4 week schedules. Needless to say, we have to find a few more people to do 24-hour runs in our lab, plus enlist subcontracts for other labs to help out. Logistically, this project will be a nightmare; that, besides the fact that we will probably lose money on this project.


But the real kicker is that it coincides almost directly with my planned vacation to Vancouver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. It wouldn't be so bad if it were just any other old trip to North America, but this is a special trip: one of my best friends is getting married. And I'm a groomsman. And the MC for the banquet.

I'm not really sure what to do about this. Will have to sleep on it.

In case you missed it, I put in a bunch of backdated trip blogs: "American Football in Shanghai", "Food, Drink, Music", "Tables Turned", "Shop? Nop.", "Black Rainstorm Warning". Enjoy.


While packing for my trip, it suddenly struck me that I've been using the same travel pack for some 5 years now. And mainly the same stuff in it -- I packed it the first time, and loaded it with some new things each trip, and when I get back, I only remove the stuff I need. Then the pack goes back in the cabinet until my next trip.

In the pack, there's usually your travel necessities: first aid, contact solution, compact versions of your normal toiletries. This includes medicines / ointments / antibiotics that are almost used up, or those little sample size kinds.

So anyway, I noticed that most of the meds in my travel bag are actually expired. And I don't mean expired like,

"Oh, I could have used it last week, but it's the 20th today so I better toss them."

I mean more like,
"Wait, I know it says July, but that year printing is kind of rubbed off. I think it got rubbed off from before I graduated."

Clearly, those have to go in the trash, but some things are more critical than others. To be honest, I still keep headache meds as long as they're not over six months expired, because I figure it's not such a big deal.

Where's your personal threshold for expired meds?

I Call Bullsh!t

Back at work (whee.) and I've discovered that in the past week, my lovely visitors from head office have taken over the location and made all sorts of rash decisions. In 30 minutes, I will have a briefing with them and see what they've done around here, but so far it feels like the company is operating differently, and not all of it is good/bad. I'm going to reserve my opinions until I find out the facts first.

Anyway, I will slowly backdate a few missing blogs about my experiences in Shanghai and Hong Kong. But that will have to wait until this bullsh!t is done first.

Black Rainstorm Warning

Saturday night. After a fantastically delicious Cantonese dinner with some 8 bankers and their partners, we hit up Pi and Volar, two pretty happening nightclubs in the Lan Kwai Fong district. We partied it up with some old faces and new friends, a grand old time. (But note to self: if someone asks if you've ever drank a Flaming Lamborghini, do not reply with, "A flaming what?" because chances are you'll get one.)

Then somewhere around 2:30am, decided to call it a night. And someone commented.

"It's raining outside."

From the basement entry, I looked upwards through the front door. In between the huddling clubgoers, all I saw were crowded vertical lines of water pouring down. There was a sudden silence as we realized how bad it was.

My jaw dropped onto my foot.

But, banking on my experience in tropical climates -- where it rains hard for 30 minutes, washes and cools the city, and then the sky opens up again -- I made a suggestion.
"Let's just wait here until it calms down."
"No, it's going to rain for a long time. If we want to go, we should go now."

So we joined the huddling masses at the door, heads lowered, watching the river flow by. Taxis came one by one, and we couldn't even get close to them before someone jumped in the middle of the street and stole it. S and I, being the gracious men we are, decided we'd head "upstream" around the corner and catch one before everyone else.

It only took a few seconds.

Huge bullets of rain pelted at me, and I was drenched. I stepped off the curb to catch an approaching cab, and found myself completely immersed up to my ankles in Hong Kong rainwater. Worse yet, the cabbie told us he was only picking up people heading into Kowloon -- so we had to get back out.

We finally get one. The two of us are completely soaked to the bone, and we get a call from the girls saying they're already in a cab -- we agree just to meet at home. Of course, it's Good Luck Day, and driving halfway home, Kennedy Road is closed due to flooding. (We had to turn back, drive all the way around to the other side, and ascend Kennedy Road from the opposite end.)

Many minutes later, we're home, showering, and tossing the wet clothes into the dryer for an overnight quick-dry.

The next morning, in our mad rush to pack (and do an early in-city check-in so we can shop more) ... they were still wet. Plastic bags loaded with soppy jeans and shirts, I stuff it into my duffel and haul the heavy load back to Taipei to launder. (Wet clothes, left to fester for roughly 10 hours. Mmmm, what a lovely thought.)

And that's why when Hong Kong gets a black rainstorm warning, you stay out of the rain, dammit.

Shop? Nop.

About a week after we booked our tickets (to PVG via HKG), a commercial started airing on Taiwanese TV, touting the great deals to be had at the Hong Kong Shopping Festival. Score! It coincides with our trip!

Anyway, we're here now, but so far I haven't really been so enthralled in the deals that I've bought anything. There just aren't that many things I want to buy. So then I thought about what I really actually "need" to buy:

- casual walking shoes (like my brother's, but not)
- shell jacket (for when i'm riding and it gets chilly)
- runners for cross-training (for the gym or other)
- another pair of blue jeans (but slightly dressier)

That's pretty much it. That's pretty much all I want out of my Hong Kong stopover. Oh, and to see my friends, of course. And eat tons of delicious Cantonese food -- Taiwan's Cantonese style foods are not much to speak of.

Getting Gritty in the City

Hm. Today is the day where I really get to walk around, get down and dirty with the city and see where the "real" (poor) Shanghainese reside, and explore the French Concessions, where some of Shanghai's first foreign (occupied) history took place.

I've been here for some 2.5 days now, and haven't yet eaten where I really want to eat. I've had enough of the lavish restaurants that only foreigners (and people on expense accounts) can afford, even though it's just $10-$15USD a meal. I want the real stuff: some random gritty little place where the locals gather for really cheap grub at fantastic value. (Try 8 RMB for 10 dumplings at one of the more famous dumpling joints, albeit in an overly-touristy area.)

I'm all ready to get my backpacking on,
as soon as I take care of this mild case of food poisoning.

Tables Turned

Had plans to meet a friend (CBC now living in Shanghai) and his wife (local Shanghainese) for dinner. They picked a restaurant, 1221, and she calls to book a table in her native tongue.

"No, sorry, the restaurant is fully booked."

Maybe she felt like something wasn't quite right, or maybe he figured he'd book it too. Whatever the reason, my friend calls not 10 minutes later to book a table in fluent and unaccented English.
No problem. A table for 4. Available instantly.

Wow. That's reverse discrimination, against the local people! I mean, clearly, 1221 is completely catered to serving foreigners. Even if you were local, and even if -- as possibly one of the fabulously wealthy locals -- you could easily afford dining at this establishment, you weren't welcome to it simply based on the fact that you were local!

Anyway, we still had that table, and as we stepped into the quaint restaurant, it was clear their policy was in place: very few Asian faces in the space, and those we saw were one or two who were likely entertaining visitors/clients. We were probably the only table comprised solely of Asian people.

Huh. Reverse racism, that's quite a saddening sight to see.

But hey, the food is quite good and the atmosphere is not bad, if you overlook their attitude of putting foreigners on a golden pedestal (with diamond credit cards). To me, we still enjoyed the dinner, but I won't support a restaurant that's outright like that.

Food, Drink, Music

So yesterday, after the whole taxi experience, we managed to make our way to famed Shanghainese restaurant 新吉士 (XinJiShi). This is one that even the locals acclaim (if they can afford to eat there), and there's no argument for me about that. The food was fantastic, including some fried prawns and chicken under a thick layer of red chili peppers, special braised pork in brown sauce, salted chicken, and tons of others that I can't remember right now (but took macro pictures of). Cost per person was 200RMB; good food, but ouch on the value.

Anyway, stuffed with great food and lots of beer, we hobbled our way around 新天地 (XinTianDi) in search of some night entertainment. There's actually a lot less choice than they'd have you believe, and we finally decided upon jazz lounge CJW (Cigar-Jazz-Wine) where we watched Joan Cartwright perform live. I didn't think she was that great. (Or, giving her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she wasn't used to the sound system and acoustic setup of the place.)

Somewhere around 11:30pm, I was tired from the long day and started nodding off. In the lounge. It was around then that everyone decided to call it a night.

Sidenote: shortly after we started our meal, 林志穎 (Jimmy) and his crew took the table next to us. I only vaguely remember what he looks like, but some of the others in our group confirmed it.

American Football in Shanghai

In Shanghai, the taxi drivers will always tell you that traffic in the tunnel is too conjested, and that you should save money/time by taking the Metro. They will suggest to drop you off at a Metro station ... but of course the official receipt has already printed, so you'd have to pay the 11 RMB minimum. See, the issue is the tunnel's not as bad as they say -- they're just trying to make away with the 11 RMB for a really short trip, too lazy to cross the tunnel. So obviously, you should just stay in the taxi and insist on the trip across. Still, that was tons better than my Beijing taxi experience.

But this was something I hadn't encountered before.

We hop on the Metro (already victims of the above scam) into People's Square. So there we are:

8 people.
In one of the city centers.
During weekday rush hour.
And then it starts to rain.

Getting a cab was clearly not going to be easy. We stand patiently at the taxi stand at first, but realize there are no taxis: it's full of illegally parked cars. To get one, you have to step out into the street and almost literally stand in front of it.

One cab slows to a stop to let a lady out, and quick as lightning, another lady hops into the front seat, staking her claim. Except ... the first woman hasn't even gotten out of the cab yet -- she's still paying the fare!

Wow. Rough crowd.

Even worse than the day's experience when E and I were trying to hail a taxi, and got "beat out" by old ladies and even schoolgirls. I vied no more of that, even more determined to get aggressive in obtaining a ride for us.

I spotted the next slowing cab, saw the girl inside paying her fare, and made my approach. Out of the corner of my eye, a middle-aged woman came trotting up from my right. I stepped in front of her to clearly signal my intent on this cab. She gave me a pretty clear signal on her intent too: she elbowed me to the side and charged through like a football player to the rear car door to get in! What the--??

When she realized she couldn't get in the rear door -- the previous cab passenger hadn't gotten out yet either -- she walked slightly past to wait. That was her mistake this time. I followed her, and then continued to push at her personal space until she backed way past the back door.

Blocking her, I let the lady out of the cab, and quickly motioned for our crew of 4.
"I got a cab!
Hurry, hurry, get in!
I'm holding her back!
Get in, get in, get in!"

See? I can adapt quickly. If I were to live in Shanghai for even a year, I fear I would quickly turn into one of them and lose all my sense of etiquette.

The Future of China

I've been in Shanghai for about 24 hours now, and it's a real mix of opposites. I won't say it's an equilibrium, because I find it's sort of a crazy melange of contradictory properties in all kinds of weird ways.

It's old/traditional and it's new/modern. It's beautifully spacious (Pudong) and it's sardine-crowded (everywhere old). The people are rich (like Mercedes and Shangri-La Hotels), and poor (hanging clothes out to dry in the middle of the alley). It's expensive (high-end restaurants) and it's cheap (those same restaurants with take-out option for the same food).

But one thing doesn't have an opposite: the people are rude. Even in the high-end restaurants and places where you'd expect service, they are. I mean, they give you service alright, but not really with a smile, and not really with the courtesy that we've come to take for granted in Europe, North America, Japan, and even Taiwan.

Shanghai has a long way to go in learning how to grow up, and how to control that growth. But that's just my first impression so far.

Do Not Eat

You know that silica gel stuff that's always in our packs of stuff? Packs of stuff like some dried snacks. You know what I'm talking about? The little (typically) white pouch with (typically) faded blue printing on it.


They look like pop rocks, little white pebbles/crystals gleaming in the light. HowStuffWorks says that "Silica gel is nearly harmless, which is why you find it in food products". Huh, nearly harmless.

So, "do not eat" even though it's nearly harmless. With the curiousity of a young child, how nearly harmless is it? What happens if you eat it? Do you shrivel up like those vampires who have exposed themselves to the sun (by accident)? Or just get really really thirsty? Or feel like puking?

As I prep for my Shanghai trip, you try it. Let me know.

The Great Taste of Lemon-Lime

I'm scooping lime-coated avocado flesh into the blender and whipping it into a guacamole-to-be. I give it a whiff, and it doesn't have that rich, creamy aroma that I love so much -- instead, it's kind of ... sour.

I make a slight face that my guac isn't turning out nicely, and my guests will be here in under an hour. My sister sees me out of the corner of her eye as she continues to dice the jalapenos.

"Something's very not right about this," I comment.
"Did you put in enough lime?"
"I think I put too much, actually."

We followed Alton Brown's suggestion of coating the avocado in a bowl of fresh lime juice and then fishing it out, but this result really doesn't seem right.
"Really? How much is there?"
"A whole lemon's worth."

She stops dicing, and gives me this look: would I like to review the past 10 seconds and conjure up a different statement? I stand there, basking in the bright glow of realizing what just came out of my mouth. She knows she doesn't need to, but she adds the verbal nail to my coffin of stupidity anyway:
"A lemon's worth ... of lime?"

D'oh. I almost felt like I was asking for change.

Just Anecdotes

Over the past months, I've come to notice that you, o loyal readers of my blog, seem to visit only to read the short (under 3 paragraphs) funny stories in my life. Moreover, you seem to prefer the kinds that are at my expense.


I'm not sure if it's maybe the longer or more serious entries still have you interested, but not leaving feedback ... or if you just see how long it is, and get frightened by it. ("If I had a nickel for every time ...")

So let me know what's up, and what your blog reading patterns are like. I won't promise to cater to it, but at least it will be considered.

Weapon of Choice

Fewer mosquito rants this year than last, but it doesn't mean they've just upped and disappeared. I'm still getting the occasional bite while sitting in my underwear at home, and am starting to come to grips with the fact that it's just a part of Taiwanese life. Heck, I might even be healing a little quicker than last year!

For now, I have my little electric tennis racket of death, ready at the kill for them now at home. So let's turn our attention to after the bite.

What remedies do you have for mosquito bites?

I think most of us have heard of soothing calomine lotion to get rid of that itch. My friend even told me about using antiperspirant on it to stop the itch! Of course, it doesn't always work: that's when we try to thwart the definition of scratching that itch by creative means!
What else did you used to do to make mosquito bites more bearable??

You know what I'm talking about; you're probably guilty of it, too. Scratching with one finger on either side of the bite? Yeah, because then you're not actually scratching the bite, just around it. (Like that's better.) Or even resorting to the fingernail-cross, where you dig a nail right across the bite's Ground Zero and then lay another one in the other direction, making a little plus sign of scratching rest.

First and Second of July

What a weekend.

Had a bunch of friends over to celebrate Canada Day / (early) Fourth of July / housewarming. On the menu were as North American as I could cook up in a tiny kitchen and on a budget: nachos, chicken wings, sliders, poutine, apple pie, beers & drinks. Even tried my hand at whipping up pineapple soju (which was moderately successful).

Speaking of whips, I'm rather disappointed that the little plastic hand flew off ours in the midst of a rather entertaining drinking game, but I guess that's what you get for $79NT. At least it didn't snap in half like the $19NT one I bought (within seconds of stepping out of the store)!


Woke up late and spent some time with the siblings and chatted about everything and about nothing until the evening. It was really nice; what with everyone having different schedules, even getting three people together is a rare treat.

Dinner consisted of trying to finish the rest of the 5lb of ground beef in a pasta sauce. Tons of burger patties and other slider ingredients are still patiently waiting in my fridge: the plan is to make them extinct after the gym tonight, which of course will warrant many more trips to the gym!

All in all, a good weekend, plus the sudden realization that I'm off to Shanghai next week. But somehow, the glow from the weekend past still gets overshadowed by the intense depression that is a Monday of work.

Ooh, I just found this blog about tiny hamburgers! And perhaps a new place to visit when I'm in SF again!

The Remaining Few

When the majority of us started blogging -- which happened more or less around the same time in mid-2003, or 2004 for the latecomers -- we were all posting quite regularly. Every morning, I was treated to observations, thoughts, emotions, and stories from so many friends (mostly centered around the West Coast). I felt connected to those friends (both real and online) across the ocean and in distant lands.

But then, suddenly
something happened. And what now?
Everyone stopped.

Now it seems like there's only a handful of us who are still writing with any frequency at all. What happened?

It can't be that nothing's happening in your lives. There's always something happening. And even if there isn't anything significant, there's always some thought or observation that must be interesting -- you can't all be as jaded in life as I am! As for having "no time to blog", it doesn't take but 2 minutes to throw up a few sentences and then be off.

Because now, my morning blog roll consists mainly of opening all the blogs and then closing 75% of them when I see that your 3-month old entry is still the latest one.

Shifting Gears

[ I just remembered that I have tons of drafted blog topics. I mean tons of stuff that I started and was saving for posting at another time. Basically, I could have absolutely nothing new happen in my life for about two years, and still post a new topic or thought every day or two. ]

Here's something I found in my drafts, originally written January 28, 2004. It was when I guess I was wondering what else was out there in the world for me. And I was starting to feel a little depressed with what I had -- or hadn't, given my mindset at that time -- accomplished in my life.

moving to another city.
am i afraid of starting over?
of losing my friends here?
and what of my lifestyle?
we're creatures of habit.

Interesting. And here I am, two and a half years later, living across the ocean in a vastly different world ... and contemplating the

Interesting indeed.

Weekend Past

Social gatherings -- and meeting over meals or drinks (alcoholic or non) -- is now becoming an expensive pasttime.

I'm sorry, but fondue bourguignonne isn't "real fondue" in my book, no matter the authenticity nor deep, rich culture that it may have come from. I mean, we're really just deepfrying our own food. That doesn't really justify the inflated price, does it?

Okay, the souffles -- two: pineapple-vanilla and chocolate -- were pretty delicious, and the chocolate fondue was quite nice as well (even for a non chocolate fan). But the lobster bisque was some kind of mutant version -- either that, or the lobster was not feeling well at time of death. Okay, I know what you're saying.

"Well, duh, no lobsters feel well when they're dying. They're dying."

You know what I mean.

Anyway, I'm sorry, but I'm a fickle consumer. And if you're going to pass yourself off as fine dining, you'll have to serve up more than decent old-fashioned decor. This place didn't rank for me. That meal was not worth $1600NT ($50US) per person, in my silly little opinion, and I felt a bit like Rachel/Joey/Pheobe at Monica's dinner at "somewhere nice".

Or maybe it's just me, because two people at the table were making those extra-animated-so-everyone-is-clear-I'm-really-enjoying-this-food sounds. Maybe it's just me.


It's Friday, it's sunny, and the weekend is really approaching fast. I'm wearing jeans at work with my Nike polo shirt (bright taxi-yellow). I have a matching Nike wrist band, also crazy burn-your-retinas yellow. Coworkers are coming over tonight for some pizza, beers, and chatting.

Oh, and my new Adidas kicks are really really comfy and nice and cool, on account of the holes that are all over it, which Adidas has branded as "ClimaCool". Not as cool as I'd like it, but better than nothing.

Anyway, it's a nice day and I'm pretty happy about that.

The Commute

After my move, here are the stats for my weekdaily commute. I used to live about 3.5km from work, taking about 11-15 minutes on my scooter. Now I'm slightly further away (5.5km), and it takes between 15-23 minutes to get there.

Of course, as my luck would have it, my first day going to work from the new apartment was the fastest. All the planets aligned for me, and the traffic lights all turned green like I was Bruce Almighty. Fooled me into thinking my daily commute would only be 15 minutes!

All said and done, the time isn't too bad. But it sure would be a lot better if I were in the safety (and climate controlled environment, with music) of a car for that time. Problem is, if I were in a car, my commuting time would likely double.

Anyway, I gotta get to work now; off to the aforementioned commute!

A Trip Down Haircut Lane

Saturday was a day at the beach. Weather was good, and I'm really pale. For some reason, my pale parts just don't tan.

Yesterday, I went to a hair salon and paid the most I've ever paid for a haircut: $720NT / $22USD. (Okay, that's not really true: I paid $25 for one in Oakland once, but never went back again, because neither the cut nor service were any better than my regular $10 place.)

As a kid, I got my haircut in the back of the garage on a MDF stool seated atop an old pale-green chair, with my dad manning the electric shaver.

It was there, huddled under the single lightbulb illuminating the garage in a dim glow, that all three of us kids got our haircuts, well into high school. (Yeah, even my sister, until Mom wouldn't let Dad cut her hair anymore, and insisted she take Nel to a commercial hairstylist place.) When us three kids were done and off showering, Dad would take the seat, and Mom would give him his haircut.

It was also there that my dad and I had basically 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted father-son time. It was a clean stretch of time where he could impart his thoughts and plans on us, teach us things that don't conveniently come up in conversation, and pass on a generation of knowledge.

Some time in university, I started going to a place on Main Street, and the haircut didn't come with any useful conversation.

I guess some of the best things in life are for free.

Double-Agents and Networking

Recruiters. I have a rather negative view on (job) recruiters, but that's for another day. (Like, not Friday.) Have you (or someone you know) ever gotten a job through a recruiter?

Social networking sites have been the rage over the past two years, but social networking has been around for as long as societies have been. We all know (or have heard of) people getting jobs because they "knew someone". Have you ever gotten a job from a personal network?

Disrobe Now / Shark Bytes

I retracted a previous post, at least until it all blows over. Anyway, to fill the void ...

Have you ever been asked, in preparation for a medical exam, to disrobe quickly? I mean, really quickly? Like in under 10 seconds?

Me neither. But if I were, now I'd know how.

And this is too cool: they have a Roboshark at the National Aquarium in the UK. (Okay, they've had it for a long time, but I only learned of it last month.)

Less-lame posts to come shortly.

Being the Bad Guy

What a morning. It started practically at midnight, when I checked my work email to find a serious email/letter (paraphrased) from management:

The management of [ye olde company] has decided that [manager] can't enter company premises, with immediate effect. You are to restrict his access to the premises and network, and get all the company stuff back from him. Inform the employees.

Okay, maybe a little background is in order here about the recent unrest underground. I won't point specifically to the entries, but I'll tell you the first one was (exactly) mid-May and each one afterwards followed almost exactly every seven days.

So anyway, this morning, I strolled into the office and started the tasks:
- access card disabled (but not deleted)
- email acct password changed, all emails fwd to me
- called him (he didn't answer, SMS'd me back)

And he's still being a prick about it all. Ah, well. I've never done something like this before. What other steps should I be taking? Some advice here, please!

Shoes of Notre Dame

Question. I'm assuming the blame lays with the shoes, but are all women's feet somewhat deformed?

What Do They Do?

Let's try this. Your five closest friends: do you really know what they do in their careers? (Family and spouses/partners excepted.) And I mean in more detail than Friends know their friends*:

Ross: What is Chandler Bing’s job?
Rachel: Oh gosh, it has something to do with numbers.
Monica: And processing.
Rachel: He carries a briefcase.
Monica: It’s umm, it has something to do with transponding.
Rachel: Oh-oh-oh, he’s a transponce—transpondster!
Monica: That’s not even a word!!

I mean, like do you know the industry, company (and company function), and his/her function in that company? One step further, do you know what their a-day-in-the-work-life-of is like?

Because I don't. And frankly, I'm kind of embarrassed by it, because I feel like I should. They are my five closest friends, after all.

* Incidently, some people know the craziest Friends trivia.

Successive Vacations

So you-know-who is back in the country now from his vacation, and was supposed to come in today, but hasn't.

He apparently called one of the other folks and said he's moving to a new apartment so won't be in. (Would have been nice if he had at least mentioned it to me.) He also mentioned -- again, not to me -- he was thinking about going to Kuala Lumpur for another vacation almost immediately, for an unspecified duration.

Back-to-back vacations.
Hmm, that's rather interesting.

It seems he's already opened his package (which a colleague dropped off at his home) and has accepted the terms.

Going Up, Up in the World

I hate when little kids step into an elevator with you, and then proceed to play with all the buttons, meaning that your ride to the 10th floor now includes a scenic tour of every other floor up to it. Sure, it's funny when Will Farrell does it in Elf to make a Christmas tree shape with all the lights, but then I didn't have to endure stopping at all those floors.

So the next time you step into a newer elevator -- let's say, built in the past few years -- try this.

1. Press a floor; it should light up.
2. Double-press it again (like a double-click).

Does the that floor's light go out (turn off)? It does here in Taiwan.

I never knew about this option before when I was living in North America, but it seems to be built into every modern elevator here in Taiwan. I wonder if I just never knew, or if it's some kind of requirement that elevator riders place on their lifts here. Either way, it sure helps for when your finger slips to the wrong floor.

Blow An O Ring

Goshdarnit, I've always wanted to blow my smokey little o-ring. With some coaching from Mike one starry little stag night, he told me the trick was in how you purse your lips and pop your jaw. I managed to get some decent ones coming, but it was still hard. Anyway, that guide will have me blowing like the best of them.


Discomfort Zone

I've slowly begun to realize that my constant strive for trying to push the edge of my world, to expand my horizons, and to step out of my comfort zone are actually becoming counterproductive. Instead, I'm starting to find it's making me uncomfortable with wherever I am, with whatever I'm dealing with, because it's outside my normal comfy little bubble. And that's just leading me to be rather unhappy all the time, particularly with work.

And that's a big problem.

I mean, I don't regret that I've had the chance to live in three different countries extensively and to get to know those areas pretty well and understand how each runs with different societal systems. It sure makes me appreciate the various aspects of the myriad regions. But with each stride into another unknown (to me) territory, I can't help but feel I'm getting further and further away from where I really want to be (and won't admit to myself), like I'm deviating more from what I imagine my life plan should be.

So the question is, do I continue to push this personal envelope until the manilla glue flap bursts? Or do I put a stamp on the corner, hide back in the envelope, and mail myself back to the cozy retreat of a life familiar to me?

Not really sure what the answer is.
And not even really sure how to find it.

Monday, Part 2

Holidays falling on a Wednesday are bittersweet. On the one hand, you get the day off and I mean, hey, that's always welcome. And then you get the Tuesday before it, which becomes almost like a Friday-came-early.

But the problem with having a Wednesday holiday is that your Thursday afterwards -- which used to be like a precursor to the much-appreciated Friday -- now has the heavy shadow of being your second Monday of the week. I mean, two Mondays in the same week? That just plain sucks.

Though I suppose in the end, its graveness is slightly lightened by the thought that the very next day -- which was so close to being the second Tuesday of the week -- is actually a real bonafide Friday. And hell, that's a pretty damned nice feeling.

After all, I can't tell you how many of my Mondays through Thursdays are kept bearable just by the thought of the approaching Fridays.

My Roommate

I told you I moved into a 12坪 apartment, but what I didn't tell you was that I actually have a roommate. And last night, I outfitted her with a connection to the world: a cable TV subscription. You see, my roommate is my TV.

Every night when I get home, I walk in my place and turn on the TV. That's the first thing I do (after turning on the lights), even before I put my bags down and take off my coat. My TV is by far the most used appliance in the place, and all my furniture is somehow aligned towards it. As Joey mentioned in Friends,

"You don't own a TV? What's all your furniture pointed at?"

It's like I need that kind of background sound in the apartment to keep me company, to make me laugh, to feed little bits of useless banter into the air. Even when I hadn't had a cable connection yet, I would play episodes of Friends or Monk or some movie, just to keep my apartment from sounding like a library during Christmas week.

Just thought I'd share. Are you the same way?

Side announcement: my upgrade to iPhoto 6.0.3 seems to have resolved my previously hair-pullingly-annoying corrupt iPhoto library issue. That means I can now play catch-up on the past 4 months' worth of photo cataloging. Lovely.