Good to the Last Drop

How do you get the most out of your toothpaste?
How far do you go to get every last bit out before you start a new tube?
Or do you bother?

Man of the House

Earlier this week, my usually morning sluggishness and lethargic attitude about getting ready for work was hindered even more than usual. I stumbled my half-asleep downstairs, squinting from the sudden sunlight and not having my glasses on yet. Flipped on CNN, and then noticed an unexpected houseguest scurry by: cockroach #3 in my apartment.

Now, I have tolerance for a lot of things in my place: clothes all over the place, unwashed dishes, hair and dust showing themselves obviously on the tile flooring, water rings on the table, even minor tiny ants in the kitchen. But cockroaches? No. Nuh-uh. Noooooo. And especially not the big fat juicy kinds in Taiwan. No, thank you.

I'm sorry, but I just don't like scary bugs.

But, I'm a brave grown man, so instead of screaming and running back upstairs into the safety of my bed and calling in sick, I composed myself. I watched him crawl around, under the table, across the living room, all without much notice of me. Bastard bug, at least show me some respect -- be a bit worried, ran away faster, act scared, or something -- I'm the man of the house, after all! Nothing. He didn't care, and that was unacceptable.

I armed myself with my laundry hook-pole-thing. (I'm so brave, I didn't even put oven mitts on first ... but mainly because I didn't have any.) Prodded in his general direction with the pole, and he made a dash for it to hide around the Christmas tinsel. I shook him out of there -- Christmas spirit would not save this one -- and he ran across to the stools. I knocked him around a bit, just for sport -- because hey, who doesn't like to mess around with them a while before killing them, really? He tried to climb up the side of the stool, which I banged with the pole.

And then, the most curious thing happened.

He fell. He fell the whole two inches onto the tile. On his back, legs pointed up, doing 6-pedal bicycle pedalling in the air like crazy. He couldn't flip himself over. Yeah, that's what I mean. He'd fallen, and couldn't get up. He just lay there, as if hoping his legs would eventually catch onto something that would give him the leverage to flip over again.

"Ha! Can't get up? Not so tough now, are you, you damned bug? Are you?? Damned cockroach!"

I took this chance to grab my other tools for the closing: my GAP slippers, and a paper bag. I attached the right slipper to the pole, fashioning a long leg wearing a slipper. With incredible force for so early in the morning, I brought the Great Blue (right) Slipper with Orange Stripes upon him. And to be extra sure, I threw down the left one on top of it.

The death blow: my double-slipper whammy.

With an aire of triumphant glory, I collected him onto the paper bag, dumped him into the toilet. I had re-asserted control over my domain, and headed out to conquer the fun that work had in store.

Man of the house. That's me.

Recommendation Schmecommendation

Recommendations abound in this world, suggestions on how we should take care of our stuff, what stuff we should even have and not have, and more or less on how we ought to run our lives. (Like I don't already have parents for that.)

But for today, let's just tackle the first part. We have recommended care instructions, recommended cleaning procedures, recommended maintenance schedules, recommended replacement schedules, and probably recommendations on which of those to even read first (compiled into a quick start guide). Heck, you may not even know the recommended care and maintenance stuff, because it's written in the manual, which I know most of you don't read anyhow.

So, for you: what instructions do you take as "must do" and what do you just consider recommendations induced by a company trying to make more money off of you? For instance, my dad does regular oil changes on his car, but no regular tune-ups. In fact, I think some of our cars had gone years and years without anything more than a tune-up (and changing brakes and such). They still work fine, which is enough proof to him that his approach is acceptable.

What about the recommendation that you change your toothbrush every 3 months? I had only in recent years heard that, and have cast that to the wind as a toothbrush marketing ploy. Heck, they even design bristles that change colour so that you have a nagging feeling you should be doing something about it, like that "maintenance required" indicator in your dashboards now. Sort of like how in the toothpaste commercials they always squeeze out a toothbrush-full's worth of toothpaste. I mean, what is that, like 32 tablespoons of minty fresh for you, one for each tooth??

So what's good housekeeping and what's good marketing?

Jim A-Ticket

While we're on the topic of gyms and the etiquette (lacking) in them, here are a few other things I don't appreciate. People who ...

- do sets to failure, and then drop them on the floor with a big crash
- make huge huffing and puffing and groaning sounds during their set
- think the gym is a meat market
- do a set (30 seconds) and then flex and admire themselves in the mirror (2m30s) and occupy that machine/bench for the whole time
- occupy a machine while they sit on it just to rest or SMS or chat on their phone
- stink, as in didn't-let-my-sweat-gym-clothes-dry-since-last-time stink
- put on tons of make-up just to look pretty while at the gym
- horde four different sets of dumbbells like they're collectibles
- waste your time by talking to you for great lengths
- think they're the sh!t just because they're buffed

I think that's about it for me. Now you go: name yours.

Workout or Getout

I go to the gym to workout.

And when I'm at the gym, I'm often armed with my MP3 player (which currently happens to be my phone as well) packed with good aggressive-sounding tunes -- sometimes it's hardcore gangsta rap or an R&B single with a great beat, sometimes it's energizing house or dance music, but it's always something I'm happy to tune into. It gets me in the mood to workout, but more importantly, tunes me out of the gym environment and what's going on around me; there have been several instances of people I know saying hi to me, waving at me, and I don't even notice for a while!

And that's something I hate: bumping into people I know at the gym. For some reason, the gym is like an oversized, noisy, crowded watercooler for people who don't work together. They just want to chat you up and talk about this and that. Let's please take note here that this and that usually means "nothing of any value or significance". For me, the gym is not the country club-like place that these Taiwanese businesses are trying to push; it is a place to workout, vent out, and then get out (of).

I mean, would you not rather get a good workout, sweat what you need to sweat, and then maybe grab a coffee or something afterwards with that person (if you really want to talk)? Why choose a place like a gym to have a conversation when such dialogue is better held in a more enjoyable locale?

Fine, it's alright if you happen to be working out together; one of you is doing a set while the other is resting/spotting. Then you can carry a conversation over the course of several sets / exercises without slowing down your workout if any. You don't let your heartrate lower, and you don't stand there taking up space that someone else could be using for their exercise. But to be the both of you standing around chatting for precious workout minutes?? Nuh-uh.

Worse yet, sometimes you bump into someone at the gym as you're heading to the workout area; they kind of catch you and detour you from your workout (which you may have been looking forward to all day). And then you haven't even gotten a warmup, and you're already stuck chatting away about this and that.

I've recently turned to being shorter with my responses (though still polite) and giving several conversation enders in my talking while stuffing one earphone back in my ear, or walking a few steps away to grab dumbbells. Sometimes, I even continue talking to them, but not facing them, instead turning my attention to changing weights or stretching out.

So if you're someone I bump into at the gym, sorry if I seem rude, but I have a goal in mind and I want to leave as soon afterwards as possible. You wanna chat? Let's grab a protein shake or something together after. But during my workout, please just stick to yours.

That Socks

Hey. It's Friday! Wanna hear something neat?

Okay, let's start with a scenario first. Let's say you've been on the treadmll for 45 minutes of cardio as part of your workout. Actually, let's say today you were a little bit tired, and you decided to just do 30 minutes. And heck, let's even assume you're doing that split-your-cardio-up thing and you already did 15 minutes at the beginning of your workout, then did some weights/toning, and came back for the last 15 minutes now.

Okay, so you're just cooling down from your second 15 minute set, and you head leisurely back to the locker room while you wipe the sweat from your brow. You're just recovering your breath at the locker, and you take your shoes off before you head to the showers.

Of course, your foot comes up on bench -- doesn't matter if you take your left or right shoe off first, you pick -- and you untie the laces and pull your foot out of the sharound where oe. A sudden breeze of coolness waves over your foot, and you rest that foot on the bench for a second to enjoy it.

When you move your foot again, look: there's a little halo of steam around where your sock used to be! Neat, huh?

Well, it's Friday, but it's Friday the 13th. What'd you expect.

You Like Fruit, Don't You?

Damned that Apple and Steve Jobs' keynote speeches. They keep coming out with purty li'l laptops and apps that make me want to so readily part with my hard-earned cash. And even thank them for taking my money, to boot!

Ants on Diets

Hmmm, do you think ants are attracted to low-calorie artifical sweeteners? Like, if you left an open packet of Equal or Splenda out, would they go for it? I dunno, the thought just crossed my mind in the shower one morning.

The World

Some days I just hate the world and what it does to me -- or almost does to me, which, if you think about it, is not nothing because it doesn't happen, but is instead almost as bad as it actually happening because it makes you react to what could have happened and steals precious time out of your life that you'll never get back. Like that sentence, which you will probably have to re-read because you think it's a run-on sentence when it isn't; it's grammatically proper.

Some days, it feels like things are running against me. Today, it almost made me want to call in sick and stay under the covers at home. But instead, I dragged my depressed-Monday ass out of bed, braved my sniffles and shivers and several near-accidents along the way, and stepped into the office at work ... only to recall that, this past weekend, I had brought my laptop home.

And suddenly, I realize that I shouldn't have been brave, and life would have been a lot peachier if I just cowardly (and soothingly) stayed in bed for another few hours, rested up, and then came into the office when I was feeling a little bit better.


So. Tickets are booked for my lunar new year vacation. Destination: Cambodia. And this is where most Taiwanese have looked at us strangely and go,


And they ask it in the kind of way that one would react if one heard that someone had smeared horsesh!t all over the side of a nearby building.

Anyway, we only have 7 days in Cambodia, Friday to Friday. And as far as I can see from my brand spankin' new Lonely Planet book on the country, that's not nearly enough to see what I wanna see!

So in the interest of time, we're trying to travel light, almost backpacking style really. I've never done this kind of trip before, so I ask to you ... any suggestions and tips for traveling light? For backpacking? For traveling in Asia?

(It's hard to rhyme with Cambodia for the title. Heck, it was even hard to find anything that puns with Cambodia. Maybe we need to travel somewhere funnier, or at least funnier-sounding.)

It Takes Two?

I just read this line in a recent post on another blog:

"It takes two to make a relationship and it takes two to break one."

Interesting, but I can't really say that I agree. I think it takes two to make it work (and it is work), but it only takes one to mess it up.

2006 at 101

On New Year's Eve, there are a lot of people hanging around the Taipei 101 area. And I mean, a lot. So it struck me as a funny decision for my friend to arrange his wedding photo shoot that evening in that venue. Still, a few observations came to me.

1. A couple dressed up in wedding garb gives you the ability to squeeze through the crowd more easiliy -- people seem more inclined to let you through.

2. Everyone wants to take photos with the wedding couple, even if they have no idea who they are. Especially little girls, who see them and bug their parents for a photo -- I'll bet Santa doesn't get this attention.

3. Even more people will take pictures of the wedding couple. I'm not sure what fond memories this brings for them, but they seem happy in snapping away anyway.

4. There are a lot of people in Taipei normally, but this population explodes on that night, and they all want to be around the 101 and Hsin-Yi District. Yes, all 400,000 of them. This is not a good place to take your young kids unless you secretly want them squashed and trampled.

5. Tons of people will courteously part for a blaring ambulance. Tons more will take the opportunity to run behind it because of the "wake" of open space it creates.

6. Professional photographers in Taiwan seem to have all schooled at the Asian School of Karaoke Photography and Cinematography. At least, their photo ideas give us this impression.

7. To "capture the moment" for the newly-wedded couple, everyone posing in the photo must relive the countdown no less than twenty times. On the 16th iteration of

"10 ... 9 ... 8 ... 7 ..."

one genius in the bunch will suggest we just start counting from 3 instead.

8. Everyone always blames the person behind them for pushing into the crowd. If this is true, then it's clear that the fault lies with some mythical evil person who is at the very outside and is ramming into somebody, and thus creating a chain reaction of "pushers". We should hit that person.

9. Always trust that some crazy-drunk white guy will make a fool of himself after the crowd has mostly dispersed. Not good for the reputation of drunk white guys (as a general population), but damned good for a few laughs, though.

10. If you are looking for the people you lost (while getting pushed around in the crowd), and you see a flash of light and the fireworks starting from the top of the 101, guess what? You've just missed the countdown.

In other news, it was nice weather on the Sunday, and I had the chance to pull out my brand new, 8-month-old inline skates for a tour around some areas of Taipei. And we only got kicked out once!