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.


There's a document envelope sitting on my colleague's seat (across from mine), delivered by DHL to his home, but then redirected by his ex-girlfriend (because he recently moved out) to the office.

He's on vacation in Europe right now.

The sealed DHL envelope is just sitting there, quietly waiting for his return. And I'm patiently waiting for him to get it, so I can watch him open it and see what happens.

Because I already know what's inside, waiting for him.

An Alternate System

I work with a fair number of foreigners in my office on a day-to-day basis, all of whom have moved to Taiwan in the past year or two. Some are more open-minded and have accustomed themselves to the lifestyle in Taiwan, while others have been less successful at it.

You can see the effects on the latter group by how they are constantly complaining about Taiwan. (Usually their complaints are only quantified by "stupid" or "makes no sense" without a real understanding on the problem.) They talk about how fvcked up Taiwan is, and Taiwanese people are, but the truth is that they're just too closed-minded to see the system that works here.

Sure, Taiwanese people have ways that don't make sense to outsiders, but that's even more reason to try to see why it is. I mean, you don't actually think a whole society does stuff just because that's how they do it, do you? There's some rhyme or reason to it. If you're smart enough, you'll begin to notice why.

I've tried the explanation (education) approach to these people, but after a while, I realize I'm fighting an uphill battle: they're too snobby about how superior they are (even if they don't admit it), and won't really take the chance to understand that this is just a (very) different system.

I want to smack those people.

Because you know what? Nobody is forcing you to stay. Just move away, then, if you don't like it. We'll all be happier that way.

Writer's Block / Blogger's Right

I have something to tell you, but I can't tell you yet, because it's not really something I'm supposed to release yet. In due time, I shall reveal (albeit backdated) the underground workings that will culminate in grounds for my over-working.

But since I can't talk about that, I won't.

I have other things to blog about, topics that have been on my mind in draft mode for some weeks now, but they require quite a bit of planning and writing (and thinking about how to present the topics).

And I'm a bit busy to be doing that right now, so I won't.

Instead, I think I'm going to call on my right as a blogger to say that I just have writer's block and then post something utterly useless. And if you've read up until here, then I have to say that I'm sorry, but there's no way I can give you the past two minutes of your life back. Now go outside and play.

More Unrest

I think something is happening with the lab manager: he told me he's leaving our firm. Not sure yet what the real deal is, whether he's leaving on his own accord, or whether he's leaving because he's been asked to. He just mentioned it to me while washing hands in the bathroom.

And he didn't use any soap.

He hasn't really been at his desk all day; only a few minutes at a time, and then off to hide in the lab. Anyway, I'll have to find some time to sit with him and see what's up.

(And yes, it was a little bit hard to hide my excitement.)

Living Room

So I'm all moved over to the new apartment -- not unpacked, so it looks like a U-STOR storage locker gone to hell, but at least all my crap is in a new place now. Anyway, my search for the new studio got me to thinking about living space and how my conceptions for it have changed in the past year.

And now, faithful readers of 901 posts, I share this with you.

See, in my last apartment, there wasn't any real reason I needed the 12坪 (431sqft) I had, except to put all my things in it. I mean, dammit, 12坪 is pretty damned big for just me. It's not like I actually used the space during living; I just need a good place to chill and watch TV and surf until I go to sleep. The rest of the time, I'm at work, at the gym, or out eating.

And now, I've moved into another 12坪 place, and it's a little bit bigger, because there's another 2坪 on a second half-height level (like a loft).

Right now, most of you North Americans are gasping at the closet I call an apartment.

If you weren't shocked enough, I'll say that I would have been okay even with something like 8坪 (285sqft), if it were a loft with a partial second level (for the bed, e.g.).

See, 431sqft is "big" here, because they design things to be compact and efficient (though sometimes, it's just cramped). In North America, 431sqft is "small" because they make the hallways a little wider, the rooms a little bigger, etc. That takes up room.

But understand that the designs are different: it's all about layout and design. I've seen some places where the design is just awesome (like my friend's place). In 14坪 (500sqft), they have a living room, tiny den, open kitchen, and a bedroom (open loft style) with a walk-in closet under it. It kind of feels spacious, with tons of storage space built into the walls and in every nook and cranny. With sufficient storage and a decent design, it's actually quite a lot of room for a single person, even a couple.

Strike at the Root

This weekend, I got eaten alive by mosquitos. I guess it's that season again.

I read somewhere that mosquitos have a lifespan of only a few days, like two or something. So to me, it's kind of stupid that the bites they give actually last longer than their short little lifespans. It should be that when they die, the bites they left behind should automatically stop itching and die away too. Like instantly. so if the mosquito gets you, and you smack it and kill it, you shouldn't have to suffer the pain and itch of the bite.

Or, even better, like werewolves or vampires -- maybe we could have mosquitos so that when you take out the original, the rest of them die. Someone should work on that genetic project and then let the rest of the mosquitos propagate it through the species. Yeah.

Nine Hundred

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a rather momentus day, this 20th of May in the year 2006.

Not because it's such a gorgeous sunny Saturday morning at 7:55am and I can't sleep (and instead turn to my blog). Not because I'm taking the first big step in moving to my new apartment (conveniently located closer to the heart of downtown Taipei). Not because I just read an email that has escalated a heated discussion in which my location co-manager is antagonizing our director and basically limiting his career (in our firm) very quickly.


This is my 900th post on Creative Freedom, formerly known as ... damn, what did I used to call my blog? Anyway, this is the 900th entry in this blog. Hurray! Cake and cookies for everyone!

Opening the Box

So I raved about MoodLogic before, and how you tell it the range of music you like. Very cool.

But then I recently came across the Music Genome Project, which attempts to break music down into its "genetics". And by genetics, they mean some crazy 400 aspects for every song: "melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony".

Best of all, they've already broken down most of the popular songs out there, and put it into a Flash player for all to enjoy: Pandora. VERY cool.

You just tell it a song (or artist) you like, and it does the rest to find you more like it. And you can at any time tell it you like/hate the song they played, and it adjusts your playlist on the fly!

Give it a shot. I use this at work now instead of iTunes!

Rent vs Buy

So in my grand search for a place to live, I came across a 12坪 (430 sqft) place in a pretty new building and a decent near-downtown location, except they didn't interior design it the way that place was.

Rent is expensive in Taipei: the apartment rents for $22,000 TWD ($700 US)! For that price, you could make your own mortgage payments for your own apartment! There's another apartment in that building, also 12坪 and quite well-designed with lots of storage and closet space: selling for $5M TWD ($160K USD).

That's the general pattern I'm seeing now: I should be buying a condo instead of trying to rent. And yet, I'm not in the market to buy a place. If I were more willing to take risks, I'd just buy one, and hope it increases in value during the time I'm here. (In Taipei, real estate in decent areas just keeps rising and rising.) But

(1) I don't have enough for a down,
(2) I don't have the credit rating yet in Taiwan, and
(3) if I bought a place, I'd have to wait for it to be re-designed before I could inhabit, and where would I live in the meantime?

For now, I just have to bite the bullet and continue to pay someone else's mortgage for them, to put equity in their net worth instead of in mine.


Lots of stuff happening. There is some instability at work recently, and probably within a few months, major changes or decisions will take place. Can't really say much more about it right now, except that it's causing me a bit of stress.

Change: the only constant in life.

And much as I like the excitement of change, I also like the stability of knowing what's ahead, to use as a springboard to finding other change (that I actually want). And right now, I don't got that to rely on. Ugh.


So, you know the guy that I don't get along with very well? Turns out I'm not the only one; others have mentioned the same issues. So our head honcho spoke with me, and I think he realized what's really going on.

I was very honest and upfront with him, implying that I would normally cover for his lack of productivity and negative (counter-productive) attitude, in order to provide a unified front to the outside. But I'm just really getting tired of doing all the work and then protecting him from it: enough is enough.

Then he asked me how I'd feel if I were the manager here. I told him something like,

"It's a terrible thing to say, but it's like [the PM] is more of a manager than he is. Anyway, between [said PM] and me, I think we're covering most of it already anyway."

Let's see what shuffles happen ahead. Who knows. Maybe.

Not New, but Maybe New to You (III)

Been in a bit of a depressing mood lately, particularly without a clear direction on where I'll be living next month, let alone next year. So here's something to bring you all down with me. Happy Monday.

I fully believe that one day, I'll spring up that killer business idea that could make me rich and comfortable for the rest of my days. I'm also pretty sure that it will be too late by then.

Sometimes I wonder if I'll die alone.

I find South African English (female) accents super-sexy. I don't know why, but I don't care to analyze it either.

I feel fat, but the clothes I wear seem to hide it pretty well. Deep down, I know I'll never rid myself of these love handles.

I have no idea where my career will take me. Or if it will suddenly stop, and I'll have to take post at McDonald's. If they'll take me.

I tend to avoid going to bed until my eyes will barely hold open and I'm starting to nod off.

I once (very recently) dreamt that all through the day, while peeing in the toilet, I just couldn't aim properly and it was getting all over the rim, and I spent a lot of time cleaning it up. And it was a vivid yellow.

Down for the Count

Let's imagine for the moment that you have a loose stack of bills in your hand, and you're asked to count them. How do you do it? How do you flip through the bills? Show me.

Soap in the Shower

So I'm in the shower (where most of my fun blog entries are born) and I'm soaping up with soap (duh).

I use soap in Taiwan, instead of shower gel. I used to use shower/bath gels in Vancouver and in the Bay Area, because I like to use a semi-soft sponge to get the lather thick and foamy, and the sponge acts as a gentle exfoliant/scrub. It just doesn't feel like I'm really showering or cleaning if I don't get a good scrub going. But in Taiwan, I'm more concerned about the sponge not drying quickly in this warm and humid climate, and the thought of scrubbing myself with a bacteria-infested sponge is not one I like to entertain at all.

So I'm in the shower and I'm soaping up with soap. I hold it one hand and pass it over my other arm or chestplate or wherever I'm washing.

Then all of a sudden, it slips out of my hand. It pops upwards, like toast, except it was soap. Mental horrors of bad drop-the-soap jokes flash through my two neurons, and I give a valiant effort to save the slippery Lux from touching the tile floor: both arms are doing the up-facing bicycle, swatting at it like a cat playing with a ball.

And while I'm frantically playing reverse yo-yo without the string, my presence of mind kicks in: I'll never catch it like this. Hell, I'm not even really trying to catch it, because I'm just smacking it up in the air! Maybe I'm hoping someone will swoop in with a net and get it. (And maybe, given my birthday suit situation, that someone could be a hot chick.)

But there's no net. And there I am, still swatting at it, even though we know that the best is to hold your hand out and let it just fall in your hand instead of trying to bring your hand up to meet the thing and (of course) end up slapping it in the air again.

I think this is just a long-winded way of affirming to the blog world that I am indeed a moron, and just passed the Level 3 Exam with flying colours. Also, to point out that when the soap is really just a thin sliver, it looks like a fish that's just caught and flapping around on the deck of the boat.

Monday Morning

I'm at work a bit earlier today. I woke up feeling great (because I did almost nothing yesterday, so I'm well rested). But suddenly, I'm feeling super nauseous. Went to the bathroom and dry heaved for a while. Now the cold sweats. Is this another bout of food poisoning coming on?

Singapore Shopping

I had too much to say last time (golly gee, surprise surprise) so here are a few other points I wanted to note about Singapore. (Part 3.) Mostly about money.

'Til you drop. Some tourist brochure said that shopping is almost a national sport in Singapore. From observing the people on Orchard Road, I'd have to agree. Except ... I don't really understand why. I mean, for the brands and shops that we also have in Taiwan, the prices aren't any better than back home (and brands are expensive in Taiwan).

The only reason we shopped as much as we did was because they have Zara and a few other stores I can't find in Taipei. I also found a new store called Raoul -- part of the FJ Benjamin group, which also owns La Senza and GUESS? -- that carries extremely nice dress shirts at outstandingly high prices. (I still left with two shirts, because I got 15% off. What. I'm into French cuffs now.) But anyway, if I lived in Hong Kong, I wouldn't have bothered to buy anything in Singapore. Oh yeah, and I got a few logowear T-shirts.

Plastic money. To shop, you need money. Cash or plastic? Well, how about both? The new Singapore Dollar bills here are some kind of plastic polymer: $2, $10, $50. Yeah, plastic money. Cool! Even cooler, they have a little plastic transparent window in them, in certain spots! So you can literally hold it up to your eye and see through it, even though I wouldn't recommend it, because it's not like they let you see through clothes or whatever. (Note to self: if I ever run a country, x-ray windows on the money.)

Fine. Singapore is mostly nice and clean, and people conduct themselves in (again mostly) orderly fashion. Because, as the saying goes,

"Singapore is a fine city."

That is, as in, there's a fine for spitting, fine for parking, fine for chewing gum, fine for littering, a fine for eating durians in public, fine for just about anything else you can think of! Your wallet is basically scared into falling into line!

Crabby cabbies. I never appreciated the abundance of taxis in Taipei until we tried to get one in Singapore: there just aren't that many around! And they have a complicated fare structure. Really complicated, and it adds up fast! There's a base fee plus additional fee per distance, for calling (booking) a cab, luggage, tollroads, entering restricted zones (ie. downtown), paying by credit card, blah blah blah. But the kicker is the time: late night rides have surcharges of 10% to 50% over normal rates, and they don't show up on the meter!

So because of the fares and because there aren't that many cabs to make it competitive, you'll often find drivers who ... don't have the customer's interests in mind. There's usually a long line for the taxi stops, but several cabs will sit empty just around the corner (and they refuse to drive you if you walk up and ask) ... until enough people get fed up with the line and book a cab. They punch in that they're in the area, and then drive up to pick you up. Bling! They just pocketed the extra booking fee.

Or you'll get cabbies who refuse to pick you up at 11:25pm because by waiting another 5 more minutes, he can kick in the next bracket of late-night surcharges. Not even if your ride would only take 5 or 10 minutes anyway, and just slightly out of the popular nightspot areas. Bastards.

Okay, that's enough about Singapore. Back to stupid thoughts of my own life. :-)

Singapore Eats

A few more random thoughts about Singapore from my trip. (Part 2.)

History. We hit up the Images of Singapore museum attraction, which teaches you about the history of Singapore. They gave a lot of detail of the past 100 years, basically starting when the British, Chinese, Malays, and Indians started building up the island into a world trading port. But there is absolutely no mention of the aboriginese who were there before the immigrants. Said one friend when I brought this up, "Before us, there was nothing in Singapore." Huh, interesting attitude.

Munchies. Oh, boy, this is not the place to try to lose weight. Like Taiwanese (probably all Asians), they prioritize eating. It's not just a meal, it's really a pasttime! Apart from having authentic Chinese and Indian dishes that immigrants brought from their homelands, Singaporeans have since developed some local specialties that are sold at tiny stalls: chilli crab, buk kut teh, mee goreng, stingray, popiah, roti prata, satay meats, laksa, char kway teow, Hainanese chicken rice, and rojak.

Talk to me. English is the official language there (no problems for me), but because of the 75% Singaporean Chinese population, Mandarin Chinese is also one. Yet, if you look at the phonetic English translations of Chinese names on signboards and place names and whatever, you can't link them. Instead, we relied on our Taiwanese dialect to draw the parallels -- most of these translations are Hokkien pronunciations, which is very similar to Taiwanese! It was neat to see that this unique combination of English, Mandarin, and Taiwanese meant we could get around the country without any trouble at all.

Okay, I'm done talking (in any language) for now. See ya!

Downloading for when I'm Downloading

I've recently begun loading more software onto my mobile phone (W800i).

Software like eMSN (which is like MSN but without any real work done on making the interface usable or even sorted in some kind of humanly decodable manner) and J2ME Map (like Google Maps, but with no information on Taiwan at all, and thus, while requiring heavy GPRS bandwidth, offers no practical value to me).

And games like Aqualife X (demo only, where you're a fish and you can only eat fish that are smaller than you, and as you eat more you grow more and you can eat larger fish) and Bomber (which is like BomberMan, but on a tiny little screen and with a joystick that I keep blaming when I get blown up by my own bombs).

Anyway, the main reason I've been in this downloading/installing craze is so I can entertain myself while sitting on the crapper. Who knows, maybe I'll MSN you.


So, a quick recap of my 5-day Singaporean adventure. Part 1.

Welcome to Singapore. An early morning flight landed us there around noon, with the sun shining happily over the airport as we deplane. We get our baggage, go through customs, exchange some Sing Dollars, and get to the MRT (their mass rail system). The MRT leaves the station and goes up above ground ... and it's literally pouring buckets outside. WTF??

Well, it turns out Singapore has a predictable (albeit strange) weather pattern in the day: it's sunny until about mid-afternoon, then it gets cloudy from 3pm, and around 6pm (while we were there) the lightning and thunder start. But no real rain until maybe 7pm or 8pm. It's like clockwork. Clockwork that hinted that we should skip the Night Safari.

Not like the Ads. If you're like me, you think that Singaporean women are all just like the hot models they use for Singaporean Airlines ads. Kudos for effective marketing, but scorns for programming false expectations into my head! Don't get me wrong: there are a lot of beautiful women in the island city, similar to Taiwan in a per-capita basis. But, again like in Taiwan, mainly because they know how to do themselves up.

Stay. Staaaay. Good boy. We pretty much went hotel-hopping this trip, because of the different places we wanted to see, and where we could exercise some rewards points. The first night, we stayed at the Albert Court Hotel in a part of town called Little India. It's literally India, and carries with it the fantastic curries, spices, and small shops. And one vegetable vendor who yelled at me angrily for smelling his basil.

Second night was at Shangri-La on the island resort of Sentosa, which sounds great (and is), but the beach is pretty much artificial and even then, not that nice. Yeah, the hotel is nice, the rooms are nice, the pool is nice, but the beach it's on is man-made and not that nice. Still, Sentosa has tons to see and do, all of it tourist-oriented. (And we, as it would have appeared, were tourists.)

Withdrawal Symptoms. I had no symptoms of being disconnected from the world. I checked my email only once (at the Sheraton), but just long enough to get a friend's phone number that somehow didn't sync onto my phone. 2 minutes online, and I didn't want to stay on longer because (a) we wanted to go out, and (b) the business center lady was nice enough not to charge for net time if I was quick.

More tomorrow or something.

Still OOO

Even though this morning I hobbled into the office and was suddenly welcomed by several things needing my immediate attention, I still feel like I'm mentally on vacation; my brain just doesn't want to come back to work.

Well, the "good" thing is that my work permit is back in effect for another three years. Hurray. Three more years of this. It's no wonder my brain is on strike.