Heading Home

I'm in Singapore still, waiting at the Changi Airport gate. Heading home soon! Blogging will resume shortly. Thank you for your patience.

Going to Singapore

Taking the rest of the week off, and fleeing to the safety of a badly-needed vacation in Singapore. This work week -- though only two fully-packed days of customer meetings, interviews for an open position, taking care of customers visiting from out of town, and regular emails and requests -- has me burnt already. So I'm escaping. See ya.

To The Power of 3

I've loved aquariums ever since I was a wee boy, but I never had one of my own. Then I bought a small 6-gallon set before (the Eclipse System Six) for my girlfriend, many many years ago, and we set it up with live plants and everything.

Somehow, everytime I moved, I've considered getting one but always found some excuse (mainly the maintenance needed) to thwart the pride of fish ownership. But recently, I came upon this design, and oh man, I really want one now! (Of course, I'll never do that, because I need more room than that, and I don't want a betta fish.)

The Price Is Wrong

They say you can't put a price on safety, but apparently, in Taiwan you can. From my casual observations, it's:

- $199NT ($6USD). That will buy you one of those RT MART (like WALMART) scooter helmets that provides excellent crash protection if you happen to hit something directly on the top of your head, and nowhere else. Side bonus: comes in a variety of trendy colours and styles with no regard to its structural integrity.

- the cost of a small bamboo chair for placing your child in the footwell part of your scooter. In the event of an accident, you will not be reimbursed for the major dental work needed on your kid from steering column impact.

- free. You can ride 4-up (2 parents, 2 kids) or just 3-up (2 parents, one baby held in the mother's arms) on the scooter at no additional cost. Even riding in front of police officers doesn't get any reaction from them.

Not New, but Maybe New to You (II)

I didn't get all of them last time, so here's some more:

I keep taking the safe road in life.

I've used the same passwords (or derivatives of them) for over a decade now. And they're probably easier to guess than they should be.

I always smile when I see hints of my mother's character coming from my aunts; the resemblance and mannerisms is uncanny.

I can watch episodes of Friends until the end of eternity.

It drives me nuts when people put extra spaces at the end of a line of a Word document. (I always have "show all symbols" turned on when I'm editing.)

Now, when I smell matches in the bathroom, I automatically smell the poo.

My all-time favourite channel is the Food Network. And they don't have that in Taiwan.

Now you.

Not New, but New to Microsoft

This is just too funny. Well, at least, it's funny to Mac fans like me.

It's basically a Microsoft demo of Windows Vista that someone ripped the audio from, and paired with a video of those same features in Mac OS X! Us Mac users have had these "new features" for, what, over half a year now??


I'm tired. Exhausted.

I'm more tired from my weekends than from my workdays. But I'm way more frustrated from my workdays than my weekends. So I think I'm still happier on the weekends.

But that doesn't change the fact that I'm still tired right now.

Not New, but Maybe New to You (I)

Some things you may or may not know about me.

A lot of my monthly spending goes into food.

I usually eat apples without first washing them; I am loyal to the cleaning-them-on-your-jeans tradition.

If I'm famished and finally get some food, after I swallow my first bite, I get a tiny bit dizzy and light-headed. But it only lasts until the second mouthful.

I'm a digital packrat.

I sometimes fear that I'll never be happy/satisfied with what I have, and will only really appreciate what I had.

I see myself shaping into some traits of my father, be it good or bad.

I make excuses for myself. And most of the time, I believe them.

I look young. This is sometimes a liability, especially given my position in the company, in this work culture.

My personal paperwork (records of bills, receipts, etc) is a huge mess.

The only coffees I drink are froo-froo ones with enough added stuff/flavour until it barely resembles coffee at all. (Thankfully, these are readily available at Starbucks.)

More to come.

Under Where?

Question. How long do your underwears last? When do you replace them, and why?

Just trying to figure out how long such under garments wear, really. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say my tighty non-whities have a lifespan of two years. (I'd also like to add that it's a very happy two years of cupping my goodies and cradling my betelnuts. A full and satisfying life indeed.)

And usually, the reason I throw them out is ... well, it depends, actually. Sometimes, the elastics get looser as I fill out (the bad way). Sometimes, I just decide I don't like them anymore. And sometimes, I don't know why, they start to turn yellow-ish brown -- I imagine it's the effects of exposure to sunlight and UV. (Haha, just kidding.)

Now you share.

Temporary Shock

Dear diary,

Last Thursday, I had the most terrible scare after I'd gotten to work. I was going through my regular morning routine at my desk when one of the most important steps failed me: BlogSpot wasn't returning any of my requests for the blog entries I regularly read.

It just wasn't responding. I didn't know what to do! I just sat there, frustrated that my oh-so-carefully-coordinated routine was abruptly interrupted, and sad that I had to start being productive prematurely early. And I was grossly under-equipped to handle the situation. The whole train of my sequence of events had ground to a halt because one plank on the railroad was stopping me.

I mean, I guess it didn't understand that I actually needed to get to Blogspot. I wasn't just another visitor to the website perusing around, I had important blog entries to read, friends' lives to catch up on! How dare it deny me of that basic human right! (I'd have to check, but I'm pretty sure it's not only in the constitution, but also a very close runner-up 11th-place in the commandments list. Yeah, THE list of commandments.)

So my first scare was that BlogSpot was down.
My second scare was that BlogSpot wasn't down!

What if my IT guy had, in his unhappiness with how stringent I've been in upholding our HR policies, checked my access patterns, found that I visited BlogSpot, and blocked access to it?? Worse yet, what if this was just the first step towards blocking all the fun sites, web mail, instant messaging??

Thoughts began to race through my head. Thoughts of how to approach him, thoughts of how to request the site be allowed again, thoughts of how to justify it all in the name of research or something, thoughts of quitting the company.

That is, except for the short while that I was searching for online services that could bypass such a domain block, it was an annoyingly productive day. And at the end of it, I was pleasantly surprised with BlogSpot responding again. All was well, and life was good again. The end.

The Hunt

So I've spent two weekend days touring various neighbourhoods in Taipei now, looking for a new abode to inhabit at a not-so-exorbant monthly due. I have to say that I think my requirements are too stringent because I quickly get disappointed at what kind of places I see. I don't know why some owners don't even bother to clean their places to make them mildly presentable!

Today, I found a few promising buildings, but as I approach them on my scooter, I see that the lobbies aren't even complete yet ... which means the building's not yet done ... which means it's still some months out from being inhabitable by me or anyone. ugh.

My backup is still this one unit that is 10 floors straight up from me, also a loft-style, but comes with no furniture at all. That means (along with $500NT more in rent per month) I'll have to fork out cash to buy my own bed, TV, sofa, and fridge. Not so keen on buying the big stuff because of the relatively unease of moving it to a new place if I need to again.

Tomorrow, I'm going to scoot around Neihu some more and see if I've missed anything in the area (maybe closer to Costco). I'm starting to think that buying a place in the city is not such a bad idea, really, if I think about the monthly rent vs mortgage payments.

Apt NOT For Rent

I asked the landlord to check with the new owner whether their intention will be to rent (and if there will be an adjustment), so I know what their plan is. She called me back earlier this week to confirm: the new owner wants to live in here. And that means I can't. So though I was planning to take this chance to look for a new place anyhow, now there's the actual pressure of "you can't live here anymore" behind it. Mentally, feels different, because I just lost a backup alternative!

Anyway, my existing lease agreement is until the end of May; this weekend, I'll meet with the old and new landlords to re-sign the lease with the new landlord (until the end of the May still). I can move out pretty much at any time before that, though, so I've started looking for places.

The lowdown is this: my ideal place (if one even exists) will likely mean a 40% increase in rent. Basically, I've learned that I need (want) to live in a place that:

- is a studio apt, about 450sqft (some places are like dorms, or are multiple bdrms),
- is under 10 years old (rare in the areas I want),
- has a lot of closet space (rare),
- is well maintained or newly remodelled (also rare), and
- includes furniture already (very rare)!

I'm warming up a little bit to that last one, because I can just find some cheap IKEA furniture, but I don't really want to buy a bed or sofa or any of the heavy (ie. not easily movable) stuff. As a new backup, there are some units in this building for rent, and I'll be checking them out this weekend as well.


Peace Restored

So almost 30 minutes after I wrote the previous entry, they called me back. This is roughly how the conversation went.


"Hi! I'm calling you because we have an exciting promotion from Mercury News that you might be interested in." [I stopped listening at this point, but she was going through the cost per day of a newspaper, blahblahblah.]

"I don't read the Mercury News, or any newspaper, for that matter."

"But you could have the Mercury News delivered to you for just $29.99 a month!"

I smiled. This was where it was going to get fun.

"Oh, where will they deliver it?"

"They'll deliver it to your home everyday!"

"Really? To Taiwan?"

[pause] "Huh?"

"I'm in Taiwan. I don't think you deliver this far, do you?"

[pause] "I'm calling Taiwan right now?"

"Yes." (This isn't completely true, since it's a VOIP number that has a 408 area code, but whatever.) "Oh, so while I have you on the phone, could you please take me off your call list--"

[sudden click]

I guess the girl thought she was incurring long distance charges, particularly to talk to a guy who was not interested in their special promotions, and she was probably afraid she'd get dinged by her boss on why these calls were being made. Ha. Serves her right.

Sleep Interrupted

I was going to start off my blog today with

To the morons at 1-604-484-8064 who keep calling me at 6am Taiwan time day after day and don't leave a voicemail, CUT IT OUT. You're interrupting my sleep.

But instead, I called them back directly and got this poor-quality recording.
You've reached RSVP Customer Care. We're a call center doing telemarketing for companies across north america. You have been contacted with regards to a special promotion in your area. Thank you and have a great day.
[long pause]
If you want to have your phone number removed from our calling list, please clearly leave your phone number including area code after the tone."

Immediately after, the local phone company's voicemail service announced,
"This subscriber cannot receive messages at this time."

Lovely. I can't even get a real person to chew out from that telemarketing company. So I Google for the phone number and found that RSVP was named in one of those telemarketer scam cases (HTML version) down in South Carolina, October 2004. Here's an interesting excerpt which was highlighted in my search:
October 28, 2004 - 1:57 p.m. An RSVP telemarketer from Vancouver B.C. called from 604-484-8064. [-RSVP Customer Care, 201-1265 Howe Street, Vancouver B.C., Canada V6Z 1R3.] The telemarketer said that a company called Sparks had taken over Epicus. She needed to verify Michelle's information. She had Michelle's name and phone number and requested Michelle's address. Michelle responded, "Why would you need my address if you have all my information?"

A quick Google for "rsvp customer care vancouver" found RSVP Customer Care. Can someone please drop by 201-1265 Howe Street and kick their asses for me?? Better yet, maybe Leslie Marshall, VP of Sales & Marketing (604.484.4179, leslie@rsvpcare.com) would appreciate a piece of my mind?

[Update Dec 2009 - Seems like that contact page link no longer works, but I found this front and center on their main page:
"To no longer receive calls from RSVP Customer Care Centre, please enter a phone number in the box on the right or email dnc@rsvpcare.com. *Expect a delay of up to 2 business days for removal

So I did that, and got the immediate response:
"The phone number 408XXXXXXX has been put in the DNC queue."

I find it funny (and totally believable) that there's a queue of people trying to get off their annoying list.]

Funny Figures

My soon-to-be-ex landlord and I communicate only via our mobile phones, with the occasional bill passed between us via the mailbox (where she still gets her mail, and I rarely get any). Her mobile number is

09__ 135 838

and as above, I've separated them the way most Taiwanese parse the number: groups of 3. But whenever I dial her number (if I'm too lazy to find it in my addressbook), the way I remember it is slightly different:
09__ 13 58 38

And the reason is really simple (and kind of mean):

1-3 sounds like "one life" or "the entire life"
5-8 sounds like "won't prosper"
3-8 is kind of a slang for "naive and silly", bordering on stupid

If that were my number I would have asked to change it immediately; I don't want to have a mobile phone number that insults my character and future all at once! It's funny that she's kept it for so long.

But anyway, she's really cool. The best landlord one could ask for, really. She's been extremely flexible on my potential move-out, she leaves me alone except for once a month when we need to sync up the latest bills (because she pays for most of the bills automatically), and she's respectful of my privacy.