Loot Report

So ... what'd you get for Christmas?

I didn't get very much this year. To be fair, though, I didn't want anything. Plenty of people asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I simply replied,


Honest. I mean, sure, I'd like a new laptop, some more dress shirts for work, more cufflinks, etc. But those are not suitable to receive as gifts, and I don't really need them right now: I'll get them as I really need them.

So really, there's nothing I want or need at this point in my life. It's a nice feeling, and as I told my fiancee, I'm materially content. She quickly informed me,
"I'm not."

Huh. So anyway, what'd you get for Christmas?

Santa, Baby

Well, just got back from upstairs, where our office hosted a little Christmas party for the employees with a gift exchange and snacks/refreshments. Here's a rundown of how things went for me:

15:00 - Leave my Dilbert cubicle, head upstairs to Ground Zero.
15:05 - Lady at the table with all the gifts says we should start raffling for which gift we get, so I reach my hand in and pull out a number (14).
15:06 - Director (of another group) tells us to hold off until he can give a speech.
15:10 - Speech, and announcement of Christmas Decoration winners.
15:15 - Gift exchange and refreshments: gift exchangers (participating people) go to get their gifts and open them, everyone else head towards the food table.
15:20 - Gift is opened, and it's not disappointing because I've already lowered my expectations appropriately. Head outside to the food table.
15:25 - It's empty. Cleaned out like Costco samples on Sunday morning.
15:26 - Have a milk tea instead.

So if you participated in the gift exchange, you were basically punished by being distracted getting a gift that usually was not what you wanted in a million years (and likely deemed worthless by the whole of humanity). I say distracted, because while you were spending your time pretending to be all pleasantly surprised with your gift, everyone else was spending theirs pretending to be a pack of hyenas attacking the prey food table. So by the time I got out of the gift exchange, the displayed trays of cakes and snacks were mysteriously replaced with stacked trays of crumbs. It's no wonder gift exchange participation has reportedly been rather sparse in recent years. (At least there was enough milk tea left for me to fill a Dixie cup and retreat back to my cubicle again. For that, I'm thankful.)

This is by far the least Christmasy of all Christmases I've ever spent. But here's hoping that yours is going better than mine: Merry Christmas!

A Friendly Tip

Okay, I realize that the timing of this post is going to make it sound a little bah-humbug-ish, but it still needs to be said. I have a personal rule about tipping: if you don't provide the service, you don't get the tips.

No, no, I mean, I'll leave a tip regardless (of service), but the question is how much. And I definitely don't tip 15% as a "just because" standard: I tip 10%, and it can go either way from there based on the experience of the event.

I can hear a lot of you (certainly if you've had a job before in a service industry) who are screaming bloody murder, going,

"Waiters/waitresses/service people rely on tips to survive, since their wages are low."

Well, guess what? I don't give a sh!t if the wages suck -- they took the job and they knew how much they were going to be paid, and they knew very well that part of they livelihood relied on that tip income. So, logically, instead of just expecting a fat tip at the end, isn't really just all the more reason for them to do a good job at whatever it is they're doing??
Consider it a performance bonus: you perform (or exceed expectations*) and you get a nice bonus; if you don't, you'll know that you deserved it.

I've been in a position like that before, and no tipping was allowed, but we still did a good job.

Look, I don't mind tipping handsomely if I'm pleased with the experience, but they need something to show for it. I once spotted a cab driver an extra $20 for racing me to the airport because I was late for a flight. I've paid extra when I found service staff extremely attentive, elevating the experience of our stay at a hotel or all those kinds of things. I think that's fair.

In Taiwan, there's no tip. And taxes are included in the price: it's WYSIWYG. One might expect service in Taiwan to be fairly crappy, but the culture has been educated to a point where the service is courteous and polite (albeit it sometimes difficult to get a point across). That said, some restaurants are getting into the (horrible) habit of tacking on a 10% "service charge" for basically no reason -- the service staff don't see any of it, and the restaurant pretty much uses it to cover their basic wages instead.

Alright, let the flaming begin.
* Don't forget that the quality of service is directly measured against the customer/client expectations.

Apathy, then Acceptance

In my business, clients are far less educated on our services (and how things work in general) than they should be. I know, you're saying that's true of just about any industry, but I've noticed it far more in this one than anywhere else. And yet, that doesn't seem to be stop them from making specific demands and requests that are directly sabotaging to their project outcomes, even though I've warned them countless times.

But alas, as they say, "The customer is always right."

Except that the customer is actually wrong most of the time, but my current company's culture -- I even dare say that it's a mandate directly from the CEO -- is one of:

"Do whatever the customer wants, even if it's detrimental to their position. And even if it means somewhat giving up our integrity."

Part of the motivation is the way our pricing structure works: much like a law firm, we charge for every paperwork/documentation action that we undergo on behalf of the client. So if the present submission is imperfect, prompting a kickback from the authorities, then that requires additional work on our part ... and that requires additional funds from the customer for us to do this work.

In essence, submitting something that is almost guaranteed to come back again actually adds to our bottom lines (and, indirectly, to our individual paycheques). In all truth, 95% of the projects we handle would come back anyway, whether we did it to our most exacting standards or to the customers' ignoramus ones. But following client wishes is what turns a two-action project into a five-action ordeal. Funny thing is, even the customers are happy to pay us for every document action we process.

From the above, one would expect that most employees just keep their mouths shut and trudge along with the company culture, because everybody wins, right?

But, see, I operate differently here. I question ideas and processes, scoff at things that don't make sense, and for all this boat-rocking, I'm not so loved. In fact, I'll bet that my division in the company (where we all kind of rebel against this status quo) is somewhat frowned upon by others.

[shrug] Sooner or later, the fight in me will subside, the sparkle fade from my eyes, and I will become a drone in the machine that is this firm. But hopefully, I'll be able to save myself from this drowning before that happens.

Just For Me

A quick four-day trip to Hong Kong, and now I'm back in Taipei again. We had a wedding to attend there, and decided to extend it by a few days (using up some vacation days leftover from 2007) for some shopping and meals with friends!

Within hours of landing in HKG, we dropped our stuff off in the hotel and visited a recommended tailor in Admiralty. I walked into the little shop, was greeted by the storekeeper, and glanced across some of the fabrics on display. When he was done with the other customer, I inquired.

"Hi, how long does it take to tailor a suit?"
"Usually about four working days."
"Oh. Hmm, okay, that's too bad: I'm leaving on Sunday morning."
"Okay, we can do that!"

Wow, talk about an easy discussion. I was quite taken aback.
"Oh, uh ... really??"
"Sure, you order now, we measure you. Tomorrow, we do the first fitting. You can pick it up on Saturday."

M and I exchanged glances, she gave me her nod of approval, and I decided to go for it. At $4000HKD ($512CAD/USD), it's easily the most expensive suit I've ever purchased, but still $100CAD/USD lower than a famed tailor in Taipei.

He asked me all sorts of questions, made recommendations, gave me tons of options (most of which I had no idea how to answer and never given much thought to).

Two days later, I picked up my first tailored article of clothing ever (plus a tailored dress shirt). I'm told this is a slippery slope -- I'm told I'll never be able to go back to buying off-the-rack again -- but I don't know if my wallet can take many more of these dents.

But this suit: this suit was made just for me, and nobody else. I do like the thought of that.

A Long Time

Goodness, I haven't blogged in a while, huh.
Well, then, there we go. All fixed.

Their Own Medicine

I've always wondered, do smokers (when they're not smoking) also not like the smokey smell? Like, does it bother them as much as it does non-smokers? Or does it trigger instead the thoughts of smoking?

The Power of Words

Two nights ago, I was re-organizing all my cards -- I have a ton of credit cards and membership cards to this and that in various countries -- when I came across some stuff in one of my old wallets.

There was a laminated photo of me and my family on vacation in Mexico during Christmas one year (this was many, many moons ago). I took it out to put in another card holder, and flipped it over as I did. On the other side, I had forgotten that my mom had put a photo studio portrait of herself.

Under the picture, she wrote (in Chinese):

"Ben, Mom will forever love you."

Even though it's something I've always known and I'll always know, it's amazing what the power of words can incite in your emotions, even years later. Tears welled up in my eyes as I sat there on the couch.

I'll always love you too, Mom.


Another great American holiday is come and gone, and in its wake has kickstarted the holiday shopping frenzy, which the United States badly needs to get some kind of money flowing around again, as the world starts to turn its back on their dollar.

We had pumpkin pie (from Costco) on Thursday afternoon as a small tribute to the festivities, and then (in true American fashion) proceeded to stuff myself on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night dinners.

And I mean, stuffed myself.
As if it were going out of style.
As if I'd been starved for a month.
As if I were 8 months pregnant. With quintuplets.

Basically, I just keep eating until my stomach was stretching to the brink of exploding half-digested foods all over the walls. (M suggested I wear a garbage bag in case it did happen, to ease the clean-up. I didn't, because if I did blow up, cleaning up wouldn't be my problem.) I keep eating until the food is gone, without any kind of normal signal from stomach to brain signifying that it's starting to hurt.

I basically eat like a goldfish.

Down to 3, Then Back Up Again

Yesterday, I filed away and/or reply to older unanswered emails. The result was, I managed to reduce my personal inbox down to just 3 emails, as opposed to the normal over-20 figure.

Of course, today, it's immediately bounced back up to 10+ again. No wonder I never feel like I make any headway on that.

Freaking Birthday

I'll tell you something: at my age, it's easy to forget your age. On the day of this past birthday of mine, M told me I was turning a year older than I was actually turning.

And I freaked.
A little bit.

Just a little bit, but I still freaked, and it counts. But after that initial shock, my healthy skepticism kicked in, and I gave her a slanty look while I tried to do the age-math in my head.

Let's see, I was born in that year, and now it's this year, subtract one from the other, and ... holy crap. I really was that old!

I freaked again.

Just a little bit, but more than the first time. And then she gave in and told me she was kidding. But wait! I just did the math in my head, and I got that number! How the hell ...??

Well, turns out I'd been doing some planning for next year, and used 2008 as "this year", so I had also mistakenly advanced my age by a year.

So ... let me tell you two things:
(1) At my age, it's easy to forget your age.
(2) At my age, your math skills are pretty easy to forget too.

The Air Out There

It's pleasantly sunny today, which is a fantastic change from the weather of late. Is it just me, or does the air smell different on a sunny day than it does on a cloudy day? And if it does to you too, why?


Do you think the air in hospitals is cleaner or dirtier (meaning bacteria and viruses) than the air outside?


Dammit, I hate it when I make rushed decisions, because more often than not, they turn out to be rash decisions.

Remember how I said I really should research more before making a purchase? Well, I walked in to the Bellevue Square Apple Store a few weeks ago, all set on getting the iPod nano (as a birthday gift from my girl). The next day, I returned it and upgraded to an iPod Touch.

And now I regret it, and wish I would have bought the iPhone instead, because it really isn't much more, but comes with so much more out of the box.

Plus, I'm finding that I'm carrying the iPod Touch and my regular mobile phone with me everywhere, so why didn't I just submit with the extra $100 and converge them into a single unit??

Dammit. Ugh.


Sorry for the silence: haven't felt like blogging recently.

Been jetlagged.
Been sick.
Been on a lot of drugs (due to above).
Been catching up on sleep (due to all of the above).
Been wet and miserable in the rain.

And worse yet, I'm getting another year older pretty soon.

Fourteen Hours

In 14 hours, I'll be at the airport, wrapping up a two-week whirlwind blast through Vancouver.

I didn't get to see some of the people I wanted to, and didn't get to see the people I did see as much as I wanted to. And while I didn't get absolutely everything rolling that I needed to, it was overall a productive trip with positive results to show for it. And aside from a quick drop into Seattle and a whip through Whistler, it hasn't felt like a vacation at all. Hopefully, things will ease off a bit after mid next year, and we can breathe a little easier.

And I'm still coughing like an old geezer who's smoked for most of his life.

All Quiet Except For The Coughing

I'm getting better at typing ok the iPod Touch virtual keyboard, now that I've had a few days to play with this new toy of mine. Otherwise, not a whole lot to report, except that I am sick as a dog. I'm waking up every two hours or so, in a mad coughing fit, and it takes a while before I can calm back down and fall asleep again. Hope the rest of you guys are doing well.

Suddenly Up

It's weird.
I'm suddenly very awake in the middle of the night.
I feel like I've had a full and restful sleep,
even though it's been only 2 hours of sleep.
I guess my jetlag this time is really affecting me?
Old age? Or just too much on my mind?
Having mixed feelings about different things, really.
Anxiety, excitement, sorrow, fear, and nostalgia.
Wedding planning is really a handful.
Maybe another shot of the cough syrup and back to bed.

Home for the Holidays

Okay, so I'm not really going home for the holidays -- at least, not the Christmas holidays. I'm heading back to Vancouver for a few weeks to gel all the plans for 2008 and see my family and friends and such. A couple of side trips, a couple of important tasks to accomplish, and hopefully a lot of good food.

Been (more than) a little depressed these past ... five days. Something I want really bad is slipping through my fingers and I have no recourse. If the universe is busy kickin' Taj's ass, then I might be able to obtain this goal while it's pre-occupied. Otherwise, I'm hooped.

And if I don't blog more in the next few days, it's because I didn't blog more.


As I somehow feared, and as has always been a thorn in the dark recesses of my mind, something in my past has come back to haunt me. I must fix it this time.


I'm rather nervous this morning.

Haven't been this nervous since ... my Grade 9 piano exam for the RCoM. The night before that, I dreamt that my eyes went almost blind and I couldn't see, and then my fingers were paralyzed and I couldn't play anything, despite wanting to. The next morning, it was pretty much like that too.

Wish me luck.

The Art of Farting

If you're going to cough really loud to mask the sound of your fart, you definitely need to get the timing right.

Because if you mis-time it, then what's the point, really?
Then you've just coughed and farted into a room of people whose thoughts about you you obviously care about.
And it will be obvious that your fake cough was for covering up your butt burp.
In the future, if you ever cough in front of these people again, they'll wonder if you farted as well and tried to cover it up.
Plus, a cough doesn't cover up the stink of your gas burrito. You know that, right?
Even if you do the cough cover-up right, it never really masks the sound 100%; people can tell, you know, and your best bet is probably just to leave the room before letting your ass do its methane broadcast.

I'm just saying.

Monet ... Don't Punch Back

There are stupid people, gutsy stupid people, and then there are people who just have no sense of ... well, anything. I mean, why would you break into a museum and then punch a hole in a priceless painting? You guys are losers.

1 + 1 Ain't 2

I walked up to the counter beside all the hanging meats dripping with the fatty aroma of roasted flavour. In the distance, behind the back wall, I could hear the frantic stirfrying and deepfrying of several orders at once.

"I'd like a chicken chowmein [雞絲炒麵]."

The crabby lady looked at me like I was ordering a pizza at Burger King.
"We don't have that."
"You don't have chicken chowmein?"
"No. See? It's not on the menu."

I knew it wasn't on the menu, but I wanted chicken chowmein [雞絲炒麵]. I scanned the menu to see they had chicken on various other menu items, but (as she rightfully pointed out) not on chowmein (fried noodles).

Now, I know a little about cooking, but I guess it was just silly of me to assume that stirfrying chicken and frying noodles could be combined in a way to create "chicken and fried noodles".

Still, I attempted to reason with her instead of following the strict letter of the menu. I tried to break it down for her, into little bitesize brain morsels as I had with the plastic knife incident.
"... but you serve chowmein?"
"We have pork chowmein [肉絲炒麵]."
"So, you have chowmein." It was obvious, but I wanted to hear her say it.
"Yes." She was starting to lose interest in this conversation.
"And you have chicken, right?"

There was a long pause as she stared blankly at me with a that's-a-moronic-question look. A second later, something clicked and she caught on to my point. With an aire of a Noodle Nazi, she cut off the argument.
"We don't have chicken chowmein."

I had a mapo tofu over rice [麻婆豆腐飯].

Daily Caption

It's Friday here, so here's a little Friday-type post for ya.

I've added the DailyCaption to my list of "coffee cup" sites -- sites I visit every day or every morning. Basically, the guy searches for a random (or not-so-random) tag on flickr, grabs a photo each day, and posts it on this site (with credits to the photographer). Then we all submit a caption for it, and vote on the ones we like (+1pt) and don't like (-1pt).

Some of them are damned hilarious!

Fresh TV, Getting Fresh with You

[Warning: this post is dirty and contains content sexual in nature. Some of it is even really really gross. And it's definitely sooo out of the character of my normal posts.]

First, get your mind deep, deep in the gutter. Then behold the following video and see how many sexual references you can catch.

I missed most of these allusions, and had to look them up on the Urban Dictionary for advice from minds more corrupted than mine. There are even a ton that I never noticed on the first watching, and some that I know must refer to something dirty, but have no idea what.

Here's what I found (except for the obvious ones), roughly in chronological order:

The choking the chicken, dirt bike, helmet, bell end, dirt track, dog bath, donkey punch / slap ass, spit roast, cream pie, tradesman's entrance, painting the walls, spiderman, the Map Of Tassie, teabagging, hand shandy, pork sword, docking or space docking, beef curtains, sinking the brown, corner pocket, dirty sanchez, sandwich, rusty trombone, and the tissue at the end.

But there's one scene that I couldn't figure out, of him looking at his arm where there's a tanline or something of his watch. What the heck does that mean??

Ya learn something new every day, huh. Don't ever tell me this blog never teaches you anything!

Thinking Ahead

Hmm ... I just thought of something: what do I want for my birthday? People ask me what I want for my birthday (when that time of the year approaches), and I usually don't really know. Stuff I normally want is only stuff I should buy for myself because (1) it's an expensive toy, and/or (2) it's something I'd want to actually pick out myself (because I'm picky and anal-retentive like that).

What should I buy for myself as a reward for aging so gracefully as I have? I'm heading home for the last half of October, and my birthday's mid-November-ish.

Weird Office Rules

Sometimes, because of one event or another, and then rules that apply to everyone get made up to "protect" the rest of us. And sometimes, the rules are kind or weird or strange when seen in themselves.

Okay, I'll admit, a lot of the guidelines (like what you can and can't charge on your corporate card) make good sense.

But some really don't. Like these:

No wearing "loud" highheels at work (men or women), because we have hard floors and that makes their footsteps loud.

You can bank hours by working overtime later than your normal working hours, but not earlier. As in, you can bank an hour of time by staying an hour later on a day, but you can't come in an hour earlier to do that.

You must turn off your computer when you leave for the day. (If you don't, MIS sends you an email the next day, hand-slapping you for it.)

If another department brings a project case binder to the engineer, he must sign for it. If he's done with it and needs to bring it back, he just drops it in a box: nobody signs for it, or even vouches for its existence.

When going to the bathroom, you need to bring the toilet paper package with you for your use, and then bring it back when you're done.

You are limited to using 3 squares of toilet paper ... regardless of #1 or #2.

I mean, does this (silly rule-making) ever happen in your office or place of work?

Music to My Years

You ever notice that sometimes a particular album or track takes your mind back to a certain year or time in your life, or reminds you of an event? Or maybe it just shows that I still listen to old music. (Though with some of the garbage coming out these days, who can blame me?)

Playing Using My Left Hand

Some three and a half years ago, I made an effort to move my mouse to the left hand and then gave up and moved it back after just one or two days. Even so, this article I just came across has me wondering if I should give it another try. Maybe it's worth a shot.

Skill-Testing Question

I have this innate ability to confuse the young people of Taiwan.

For breakfast this morning, I walked into the 7-11 and paid for my microwaveable dumplings. As he heats them up for me, I ask in what I consider to be perfectly and easily understandable Mandarin,

"Do you have any plastic knives?"

That seemed to be all it took to hijack his cognitive abilities. He stared at me for a while as his brain ground back to life from the apparent short circuit, and as his three neurons woke up, they got to working on solving the enormous problem at hand. First, he clarified and defined the problem:
"Plastic knife?"
"Yes, plastic knife."

I was patient, and I truly wanted to help him beat this one. Plus, I figured I'd humour him. He was getting there, albeit it slower than I would have preferred.

At this point, I thought, we have to move faster than this. Maybe I shouldn't have given him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I should clarify it for him to move it along.
"Knife. A knife," I confirmed, while showing both my hand as a knife, and then showing a cutting action as if I were holding a knife.

He still didn't get it. Maybe he just needed some context because he was more questioning where my question came from. Perhaps another hint would clue him in.
"I see you have some disposable chopsticks and straws, and plastic forks. Do you have any plastic knives?"

His dazed gaze lowered from me over to the containers of disposable utensils by the till. In a stupendous display of the kind of stupidity that would make him second only to a certain current American president, he reached over and fondled a plastic fork (in its individual packaging). It took several seconds, but eventually, the three overclocked neurons conjured up some additional speech.
"No, we just have plastic forks."

That, of course, wasn't true -- I had just noted to him that they also had chopsticks and such -- but it was enough of an answer that I just accepted it and moved on.

That is by far not the first time I've ever confused the youth of Taiwan (in service positions) with simple questions. Once, at a "Japanese" restaurant around the corner from work, while trying to decipher the disorganized lunch menu, I inquired about their lunch offerings:
"What noodle soups do you have?"

The boy drew his finger down the menu, and his answer was swift and confident ...

... but missed the point, and wrong anyway. There were 4.
"No no, what kind of noodle soups do you have?"

But I quickly stopped and decided to give up on it. I picked a noodle soup item that I saw out of the menu.
"What's in the '[undescriptive name] noodle soup'?"

And that did it: I crashed the boy's brain. He stood there, rebooting his head, and mustered a small response.
"I don't know."

A rather long pause followed. I suppose he was expecting me to take that non-answer and run with it. I didn't. He waited, pencil poised to take my order, ready for me to run with that non-answer. I still didn't. He waited a bit more, and then I won out:
"I'll ... uh ... go ask."

And there it was, the next logical step in providing service. But I had had enough fun for the day, and stopped him as he was about to walk off and ask. I just ordered that dish. And when it came, I wished I hadn't (a) stopped him, and (b) ordered the dish.

These are not, unfortunately, isolated incidents. The young people of Taiwan are dropped IQ points like deuces, and they've long lost the ability to even realize they are.

Should iPod?

Should I get an iPod nano? Those new ones are pretty sexy and slim.

On another note, I had a dream last night: I was in my (apparently) rented penthouse in a 10-storey building with tons of my friends.

This takes place in Taiwan, but a lot of my friends from Vancouver and SF were there (sometimes they make cameo appearances in my dreams). An earthquake shook and (though my dream skipped right over the violent shaking of the quake) my building collapsed. At least, parts of the rest of the building collapsed; my apartment seemed to be still in one piece more or less. Some of the middle floors actually collapsed, and my whole apartment fell several storeys lower and our top fragment of the building was now at a tilt, leaning against a neighbouring highrise. Pandemonium and general paranoia sets in, and all my friends jet out of the building and down to the ground (perhaps by some miraculously still-working elevator? I dunno).

And what am I doing?

I'm upstairs all by my lonesome, disconnecting my Mac mini and LaCie harddrive from all the cables, packing them with my Powerbook slowly and carefully into my backpack, and contemplating whether I should pack the power cords and cables as well, and which accessories to bring with me ...

Ahoy, Me Hearty!

Guess what? I just learned that today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Turns out it's every September 19, and I'm gonna try to join in.

But after the standard few phrases I know:

"Arrrr ..."
"Ahoy, me hearty!"
"Shiver me timbers!"
"Avast, ya matey."
"Land ahoy!" (not applicable in normal chat)
"Yo ho ho and a bottl'a rum."

I found myself rather lacking in pirate vocab. So I cheated by looking at the TLAPD pirate phrases page and others like it. That should make for some interesting lunchtime conversation today, eh?

Shy Guy

I was counting the other day, and I've MC'd (or co-MC'd) some 4 weddings to date. That in itself is quite a feat for me, considering the extremely humble public speaking beginnings I had.

There are two probably most major changes that I underwent in terms of speaking publicly.

The first was in grade 7, when each of the students was asked to select a short passage from our reading book and then take the mic and podium and do a reading to the class. Apart from being unfamiliar with the microphone in general, I was rather surprised that I took to it rather well. Of course, it helped that I actually enjoyed reading the passage I picked.

The second was in the summer of that same year, when I enrolled in a public speaking summer school class where the whole course was about how to enunciate, how to handle speaking in front of groups, and how not to lose it when you're doing that. (More precisely, I was enrolled in this class by my father who had wisdom to see this was good for me.)

But this post is about neither of those experiences.
It's about before I was able to speak up in class.
It's about before I would even dare to raise my hand.

There was a time -- very early on in elementary school, like grade 1 or 2 -- where I was so shy, I was afraid of the attention I would get just from raising my hand. I feared those eyes upon me when I raised my fingers towards the ceiling. I feared the teacher judging me for interrupting her lesson. And I was deathly afraid of having all the classmates' attention on me when the teacher would ask what I wanted ...

... and all I wanted was to go to the bathroom.

Added to that, I would be waiting for some kind of lull in her lesson, like a pause where she was going to start a new idea or something. But I guess she was good at what she did, never leaving enough time so that kids would get bored, restless, or otherwise lose their attention span and turn to other things. And all this time, I'd be holding my pee waiting for this fabled golden opportunity to request a bathroom break.

Dammit, there was never a lull. There just never seemed to be a good time where I could raise my hand without interrupting the teacher and suddenly having the spotlight on me.

Those were days I was so fearful, so shy, so low-key, that I would rather have just gone in my pants than to bring that attention onto me.

And some days, I did.

I've come a long ways from then.

Sunday Afternoons

Ah, weekends.

Weekend afternoons are the perfect time to scope out a new cafe in the city, warm our bodies with a pastry and a pot of fragrant tea, and heat a seat as we dig our noses into novels or books. This is particularly helped by M's recent taking to Sophie Kinsella's bestselling series of Shopaholic books, and my recent infatuation with business cases and solutions.

The only thing that threw a little lugnut in our enjoyable afternoon was my experience in ordering a pastry at our selected bakery of the weekend, 15eme. Eyeing a layered pastry cake of sorts with vanilla within:

"Is this crispy?" I inquired of the server behind the counter.

And with a kind of expression and tone that I couldn't quite read, he looked at me and responded:
"Would you figure it's crispy or soft?"

There's one thing you should know about M, and it's that she will jump on any given opportunity to give a sub-par server a piece of her mind; she has high standards for customer service. (Most on this another day.)

Anyway, this was one of those opportunities. With a clarifying voice, M explained what shouldn't need to be clarified:
"We aren't sure. That's why we're asking."
"It's crispy," he answered while mentally snapping to attention.

Minutes after we were seated and served my apple pastry (I decided against the crispy layered pastry after all), we found him courteously approaching our table with a need to explain his previous conduct.
"About your question, I was just responding in an alternative fashion, because some customers have had soft pastries, and I was ... uh ... interested to see which of the two you thought it was."

Obviously, someone behind the mirrored window saw or heard our dialogue and suggested he come and make nice. Psshhht. Whatever. Out of my face, boy.

Leave me back to enjoy my tea.
And my crispy apple pastry.

Ancient Chinese Secret

I remember when my grandmother was living with us, she used to collect orange peels after we had oranges/tangerines. She would keep them, carefully wrap them in tissue paper, and dry them out in her room. Then, weeks or even months later, she would use them to make some kind of dark, sludgy and pungent herbal remedy. (All ancient Chinese remedies seem to be dark and sludgy and pungent, don't they?)

Being born and raised in a western world, I always took those recipes with a grain of salt, a dose of skepticism, and a dash of "science didn't prove it so i find it doubtful" attitude. But it turns out, as it always does, that our grandmothers were right: tangerine peels have healing powers.

It's nice to see that western science is finally starting to catch up to thousands of years of Asian medicinal knowledge.

Not Just Me

So ... wait, did I tell you about my hard drive crashing woes from two months ago? I can't remember now. Anyway, my hard drive crashed, and it was my backup drive ... which I was storing actual single-copy data on. I know, I know, I shouldn't have done that, but I did, and then I lost a lot of stuff. Data recovery service in Taiwan couldn't get anything back, saying the drive head had dug itself too deep into the platter. In short, I lost an undeterminable amount of data, mostly in the form of some pictures about 40GB of music (most of which I can get back by reimporting the CDs) and other such media.

I've since bought myself a new 320GB drive in its stead, and will be buying another 500GB drive to be my real backup (ie. only backing up what I already have on other drives). I have this fear that another drive of mine is going to lose it soon, so I hope I get the new drive quick.

Anyway, the main point of today's blabber is that I seem not to be the only one: read this story about a guy who lost everything. And then, run outside and play.

Screaming Fast

Our IT department just did me a huge favour: they boosted me into the realms of the supercomputer with this fine piece of high-tech machinery that graces the top of my desk. This morning, the IT dude came by and asked if I could shut down for a few minutes while he upgraded the beast. He tore into her innards and installed ...

Extra RAM.
He doubled it!

And now, I am soaring through the internet at breakneck speeds. Typing response is so fast that the characters come out before I even press the keys; typing is now just a confirmation of what it knows I'm going to type. And the graphics, oh, the incredible graphics that come out of this machine make HDTV look like TV from the 1960's. Even the harddrive has stopped crunching all the time, long enough for me to scroll half a page before it starts up again with its cache!

I'm telling you, this machine is awesome.

It's like having the hottest person ever be totally in love with you and you're having sex while you're on some kind of wicked-awesome drug, and you're all rich and powerful and the world is completely your oyster. Oh, and you're immortal. And you have one of the new iPods (of your choice and colour).

Yeah, that good. It's orgasmic.
Wait, no, it's better: it's multi-orgasmic.

And I get to use this machine every weekday right on my desk in front of all my other jealous coworkers. So now, me and my trusty Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz with its fresh 512MB worth of RAM are going places. Heck, we're even glad she doesn't have a CD/DVD drive, or even a floppy, or even actual functioning USB ports -- who needs that dead weight, right?? We're totally going to kick ass in this world, and my pretty little Acer has a new zest for silicon life!

Hello, world!

Generation Gap

I'm thirty-two years of age right now.
When my father was my age, I was five.
And he had already purchased a home.

Shouldn't each generation progress over the previous?
What happened here?
Where did I go wrong?


Monday morning, I'm at work (ugh), and I'm starving.
When you're this hungry, what do you normally crave?
Sadly, my craving is most often for burgers or pasta.
Perhaps it's time to make some homemade lasagna again.

Gag Order

I was thinking about my blog, and why I don't seem to blog as much as I used to. It's not that I necessarily am so busy that I can't take 15 minutes out of every other day to jot some thoughts down, or to relay something that happened to me so I could share it with you. It's not that at all. But even so, somehow, my blog has turned ... well ...

My blog turned boring.

It's been wicked of all fun things, and replaced with discontinuous thoughts and the entries are just no fun anymore. Now, I know I said this before, but I promise to try harder.

And for the record, some funny things do happen in my life. M says tons of stuff that just cracks me up (often at her expense). But I'm not allowed to write about them.

I think I may have already said too much.

Sleep Deprived

For the past three weeks, I've been getting fairly regular sleep and certainly have been getting at least the 7 hours I'm accustomed to. But for some reason, I still wake up and feel like I used to feel after getting just 5 hours of sleep. What gives?

Well, this morning, I read this article which might explain part of the reason for my constant exhaustion upon waking.

The other part might be the extra healing and recuping time I need after hitting the gym (which I've been trying to get back into).

G Block

So a day or two ago, I noticed that Gtalk wasn't connecting from my work computer. Our IT Dept is always messing something up -- or un-optimizing something that was only so-so before, so that it runs just a little bit slower/worse now -- so I chalked it up to one of their experiments.

But it's been two days now, and I am now pretty certain they've gone and G-blocked us. MSN was always blocked, as was YIM, and Gtalk is their newest addition. Skype, for some reason, has been left wide open, and that's what most of my coworkers have resorted to for IM chatting; IT "justified" it by saying it's VOIP, so it could be used for work purposes. (Never mind that Skype basically floods the network with other people's traffic, which slows us down.) So the long and short of it is that I am without a messaging client at work now. [sigh] It's like I'm in prison (minus the sodomy).

You can find me in G Block.
And visiting hours are over.


Every workday morning, I ride a bridge over a semi-polluted river. And on the sunny days, I flip up my helmet visor to take a few good whiffs for those precious minutes. Because on my commute, that's about the freshest air I'm gonna get.

Gee Whiz, a G9!

Okay, now I got something to say: those bastards updated my camera series! My G7's only 3 months old, and they just released the Canon G9! Dammit.

I tell you, technology moves too fast for my peanut brain to keep up with.

The only main improvements are that the G9 has 12.1 MP (over my 10MP, which I never use all of anyhow) and an updated 1/1.7" sensor (which I would have liked, but probably minimal difference from my 1/1.8"), and now it comes with RAW mode (which would have been a very nice addition to my cam). Oh, and now it has a huge 3.0" PureColor LCD II instead of my 2.5" LCD, though not higher resolution.

Other than that, there's not a lot of difference; just a few minor tweaks here and there. But as a package, it certainly makes the Canon G9 a compelling product -- if I were making my camera purchase decision today, it would easily be the G9 over every other, hands-down.

Sepat Sounds like Some Kind of College Exam

I haven't blogged much recently, partially because I feel like I'm pretty busy doing stuff (other than blogging), and partially because there isn't much going on in my life to blog about, really.

Oh yeah. There was that super-strength typhoon Sepat that came barrelling in on the Friday and dumped water all over Taipei. But it wasn't really that bad, and (as usual) the east coast took the brunt of it all. On Saturday, we went out for a quick lunch. On our street, we counted 3 scooters and 1 bicycle lying on their sides from being blown over ... though in all fairness, they looked like they could just as easily have fallen over from rust or old age. And there were 2 medium-sized trees planted around office buildings that were uprooted and gently placed on their sides.

Yeah, see? That's the extent of my excitement these days: wind and rain.

Abide by the Code

I never knew there was an official man code, but having read this, we have no recourse by to comply. And I think there's a distinct opportunity here to create these rules into an illustrated or photobook.


Over the past 5+ years, I've noticed that my life has somehow become logistically too complicated. It's not that I'm necessarily achieving any more than anyone else (sometimes it feels like just the opposite), but rather, there seem to be way too many steps and procedures that I need to do in my own pragmatic little way.

And the result is, I'm busy with life.

Busy just trying to maintain it, instead of move forward with it. But how can I help fix this problem? I imagine that eventually, it will indirectly cause health problems for me.

So I've started on a recent quest to simplify things, to give up control of exactly-how-i-like-it to close-enough-but-at-least-greatly-automated. And thus, I share with you some of my recent findings.

Mainly, I enjoy RSS feeds from lifehacker and zen habits, many articles of which are targeted to simplifying life. Some are good articles, some are pure garbage or (for me) exceedingly unrealistic, and some really hit home for victims of digital packrattery like me.

Hope that helps you too.

The New White

Some 7 years ago, Apple made white the new black, and we loved it. We called it revolutionary in the aesthetics of computing design, and we proudly displayed our white computers.

And now, Apple's making black the new white. And even though it's just the old black, we'll call it revolutionary in the aesthetics of computing design.

Now, I'm not saying I don't like the new look -- I do, though with reservations -- but I am saying that it's not the amazing transformation that I'm sure a lot of Apple fanboys are going to be saying it is.

It's just the old black, folks, but back again. Like disco.


I have watched military and SWAT and covert spy team movies and seen them give each other quiet hand signals while strategizing how best to infiltrate the enemy grounds. I've seen how they all seem to understand this particular form of sign language, but I'm not real privy on the exact meanings -- I just guess. So if you're like me, you'll appreciate having this handy little guide on military hand signals. Enjoy!

Picture New York

Those of you who know me and/or my Flickr account know that I love to take pictures. (It's a disease, really.)

So you'll understand that when I came across this photo by lorenzodom, it struck me as rather awful that a city like New York would try to impose such a silly law (official PDF). I can't imagine what reasonable justification they must have for imposing this.

Anyway, there's an online petition at PictureNY, and as a reward (in addition to the warm and fuzzies of being able to take pictures in NY), you can watch this hilarious rap video they made.

Dog Days

It's days like this -- sun bearing down on a hot summer's day -- that I most miss having an outdoor pool just to swim around in.

But things like a pirates-vs-ninja presentation cheer me up considerably.

Brains about Braun

So I happened across a promotion for Father's Day (they celebrate it on August 8 here in Taiwan), and it was for Braun shavers. I picked up a pamphlet and waded through all their different series and models. And their website shows all sorts of neat things like a stand that cleans and disinfects your shaver every time you put it back in its cradle, like having some ultrasound vibrations and heated blades/screens, etc. Here's the question:

Do all those funky features that go into the expensive models really work to give you a closer shave?

And after all that, are they worth the money? Some of these beasts are selling for over $300 (US)! Feel free to answer whether you're a man who shaves or a woman who enjoys the man who shaves.

You can Talk the Walk, but can you Walk the Talk?

Gleaned from the Bride, this is a great little site that links into Google Maps and a bunch of other points to bring you a walkability score for whichever address you give it.

Neat to see that it gave my previous Mountain View home a decent score. But also distressing to see how lazy I was, as I never really considered many of those places nearby to be walkable. :-(

In Season

Was just sitting here, staring at the crazy summer heat outside, wishing I had some pineapple to savour, when I recalled a conversation from a few months ago.

The spring air was getting warmer and I was looking forward to mango ice in the summertime, but felt like we had somehow missed the pineapple season ... and yet, I couldn't be exactly sure, because I had no idea when they were supposed to be in season anyhow.

Turning to M, I asked,

"Say, when are pineapples in season?"

She was quiet for a second, presumably pondering the answer and formulating it in small and simple words so that I could understand it. And then, matter-of-factly, forth came her response:
"When they have lots of them for cheap at the supermarket."

I sometimes wonder why I bother.

Tonight's Menu

It's been a while since I've tried my hand in the kitchen, but here goes nothin'.

The menu for tonight* will be a chef's coupling of seared sea scallops with tropical salsa and with lime butter, paired with asparagus tips.

(I might consider a third or fourth style to make a scallop trio. Better yet, I think I need one that's a little stronger in flavour, like a red pepper sauce if I can find it pre-made somewhere.)

Dessert will be pan-roasted caramelized peaches or with blueberries too, depending on how adventurous I feel.

And I haven't decided what kind of appetizer to serve yet.

* It's been two years thus far. The ironic part is that, for the record, she insisted that we choose a specific date as an anniversary, and yet, she's completely forgotten ... and, when I mentioned it to her, even wondered if today was the date.

Who Knows Noses?

I have a question: does a healing wound smell? And I don't mean an infected wound.

Okay, now I'll explain. See, it started a while ago: when I picked up a can of Coke Light to drink, for a split second, I would smell something bad. Like, just for a whiff, one of those whiffs that you can't seem to smell again afterwards, no matter how you try. And if I picked it up again immediately after to drink again, I would smell nothing. I thought for a while that maybe my breath was an issue, but it isn't.

So I tried experimenting and all this, and here's what I found: if I breathe with my nose, I smell nothing out of the ordinary. I can sniff little or sniff with big intakes -- nothing. But if I stretch my face downwards (kind of like before people rub their noses, how they make their faces long), I smell it.

And it's not pleasant.
It smells, ... well, it stinks.
It smells like poo.

And yet, if I just keep my face normally, I get only normal smells. Weird, huh?? Perhaps normally, the air doesn't really rush by that area in my nostril, and only does when I stretch my face down. Oh, also happens if I press the tip of my nose down, like flatten it down. Can you imagine that?

And the only thing I can think of is that I once had a gash in my right nostril, but that was years ago (and no, I don't know how it happened). Maybe that wound reopened (though it doesn't hurt) and I'm smelling the healing process ... which begs the question I had before, whether healing wounds smell funny.

But a later shocking discovery: the smell comes through my left nostril, but not the right! And it must be just in the front inch or so, because a change in my nose shape changes the symptoms, and that's all that I can imagine being affected by my facial expression.

So ... I'm kind of ... well, concerned.

I mean, nothing is bleeding and nothing is swelling up, and it doesn't seem to be a life-threatening situation. But it's annoying and concerning.

The only time I don't get it is immediately after a shower, and when I've just woken up in the morning. I wonder if it's some kind of combination of pollution outside or the hotter weather giving my nostril sweat?

Wait, do our nostrils even sweat?

Dammit, this is really perplexing! I might have to see the doctor about his. Help!

Not a Repeat Customer

Yesterday, I managed to hit all the green lights on the way to work, and found myself with some 10 minutes before I had to punch in -- and yes, I have to punch in at my current work. So I decided to treat myself (as a serendipitous reward for riding recklessly fast) to some soy milk at one of the few local joints I could find that served it.

I order a hot soy milk, and a girl behind the counter gets right on it.
I order a baked biscuit/pancake with egg, and a big burly man cracks the egg onto the frying surface and re-toasts the biscuit. I see that he has big forearms (matching an even bigger stomach), and decide I'll have a rice ball to round off such a hearty breakfast of (grease) champions.

Pause for a second while I explain the cognitive process.

These rice balls (飯團) are actually semi-sticky rice which are wrapped around Chinese fried donuts (油條) and pickled veggies and fried&dried pork (肉鬆) and other things I can't identify (and, knowing Chinese food, possibly wouldn't want to). They spread the rice over a damp cloth, lay the fillings on top, and then wrap the cloth up and compact everything into a tight and cohesive rice meal. Because of the compacting action, you need a guy who has big forearms for that rice-crushing power.

It's tasty. (You don't get to keep the cloth.)

So ... I order a rice ball. The burly man starts to move, and then calls someone to make a rice ball for me. Enter stage right, an old lady of about 70 years, who probably weighs about as much as my left leg, preparing a damp cloth in her hand.

Please understand that as a general preference,
I don't want my rice balls handled by elderly Asian women.

The resulting thing was a bag of practically loose rice with an old fried donut (the kind they couldn't serve alone without disguising it somehow) and some mysterious fishy meat product from a jar (into which I absolutely swear I saw her put bits of stuff from the table as she was wiping it earlier).

And the soy milk wasn't any better.
I'm definitely not going back there again.

Ground to a Halt

So on Friday, my external hard drive went down. No, that's not some kind of metaphor for a sad sex life: my LaCie mini hard drive really failed. Just up (down) and died. And because of it, everything else is grinding to a halt.

I can't caption and upload more photos because I have no more room on my Powerbook drive. I can't free up more space on the pb drive because I need to move stuff onto my LaCie mini drive. I can't move anything over there until I've restored it and reformatted it. I can't do that until I have another drive to copy the restored files onto. Everything's stopped for now.

I'm no stranger to harddrive failures, so this time I'm going to buy a brand new drive just for backups. I mean, this was a big scare, because I nearly lost -- well, maybe I shouldn't speak yet, since I haven't gotten my files back off the drive yet -- all my iTunes music. And this drive was my backup!

I'm Santa

I didn't realize this, but ... well, I'm Santa. Consider the following clauses (see what I did there?) in the popular song, "Santa Clause is Coming to Town" and how I fit in:

I'm making a [guest]list,
and checking it [at least] twice.

I'm gonna find out who's naughty or nice [from all your blogs].

I see when you are sleeping [on IM],
I see when you're awake [on IM].

I know when you've been bad or good [on Facebook].

Maybe this is just a roundabout way of telling you to be nice to me.

It's Come to This

It's come to this: I no longer have any need for belts.
All my loose pants now stay on without needing belts.
My gym membership card now has a thin layer of dust on it.
Similarly, my waist now has a thick layer of fat around it.
This just won't do. Drastic times call for drastic measures.
I blame Taiwan, but we all know the blame lies squarely on me.


Apparently, this past weekend for Apple meant roughly $275 million USD in sales of their 500,000 iPhones sold! I wonder if anyone I know is actually one of those half a million iPhone purchases ...?

Lab Rat of Life

Ever have those days where you wonder if your whole day is one big sociological or psychological experiment to see where your thresholds are?

How to Break the Law

This is hilarious (found it on Wired.com). You hold a seminar on how to circumvent American employment visa laws, and it gets put on YouTube. Guess who's going to be in big trouble?

I mean, it's not like tons of us have known about this method for years, but you have to be an extraordinary idiot to hold a big seminar for it (instead of private consultations) and then video tape it and put it on the vast expanses of the Internet.

Losing Touch

Over the course of our lives, we meet people, we make friends (and/or enemies), and we continue. That's an oversimplification, of course, since we don't just go on accumulating all the friends we've amassed into a huge Friendster/facebook population. A lot of the time, we grow distant or lose touch. But that got me to thinking,

Exactly how does losing touch happen?

It's not like one day you're all chummy and "best friends forever" and then the next, you don't even really know where to start to talk to them again. There's not an "international date line" where when you cross, magical things happen and friends become strangers.

I figure losing touch takes time, and takes a passive approach on your part. (Yes, in a way, I'm saying it's your fault.) Each time you suddenly think of that person, but deem yourself too busy or too lazy to call them and say hi, or send an email, or whatever. Even if you remember, but forget later. Or even when you shrug it off as something less important than whatever you're doing at the moment.

Or say, you see their name on the latest faddish social networking site of your choice, or on your IM contacts list, and you don't say hi. (And I mean, how hard is it nowadays, really??)

That accumulates too. And after a while, it becomes A Long Time(c) since you've made any contact with them and it just seems to be out of the blue if you message them. So to avoid that awkwardness, you follow that slippery slope down into Lost-Touch-Land, and then your connection is gone.


I was on the toilet the other day (that other day being Thursday), and when I was done my business, I proceeded to wipe up (as usual). But on this particular day (the Thursday), I had a thought.

I wondered if there's another way to wipe my butt.
Does everyone wipe the same way?
I mean, how would I know?
Wait, how would anyone know?

Because the way I see it, buttwiping is really almost like genetics. We seem to be taught to wipe our asses by our parents and/or caretakers, and that's pretty much our only source of instruction for this task. We don't learn at school (or perhaps I missed that day in class). What it comes down to is that there's no real information sharing when it comes to wiping our own asses.

So, what if there's one way that seems obvious and 95% of us do it that way, but what if there's a vastly superior technique that the remaining 5% use? What if that's one of those things where, once you learn it, you think, "Of course! Why didn't we think of that before??" And maybe that's the reason the 5% never thought to bring it up!

So, being the humanitarian I am (because this really could be beneficial for 95% of humankind), I propose a solution: let's share our ass-wiping techniques.

You first.

PS: There's no hidden meaning here. I mean it literally: wiping our bums. And I had a nice long weekend, thanks for asking.

Don't Wake the Dragon

If someone needs to be brought out of their happy little dream state of sleep, I would postulate that there are right ways and wrong ways to do so.*

My dad is an expert in the latter; he used to have a number of tactics for waking me up for school in the mornings. He would yell at the top of his lungs in the general direction of my bedroom. He would burst into my room and talk at outside voice levels. He would sit quietly at the side of the bed, lift the covers off my feet, and patiently tickle the soles of my feet.

Any of these methods was sure to basically irritate me until I got out of bed. And all of them put me in a crappy mood for at least an hour or two afterwards.

I beg of you guys, when you have kids, don't do that to them.
Happy Father's Day in advance.

* I don't mean, for example, being woken up if you've fallen asleep at the wheel or while piloting a plane or something like that. In those cases, a slap in the head and a big scream is about as appropriate as any method.

Eyes Wide Out

Here's something I've noticed recently. I actually share a trait with Marcia Cross: my eyes are kind of far apart.

You'd think that I'd have noticed it much earlier on in life, but for most of my childhood, I didn't care about such things. And then in adolescence, I was more concerned about the zits that were invading my face than the placement of the actual facial components. And so now it springs forth as an issue, and an issue that I really can't do anything about.

But it's definitely there. And what's worse, the more I notice it, the more I notice how wide apart they are. It's weird. It's like they're slowly shifting outwards in a freak of nature.

I have face-plate tectonics.

I fear that one day, they'll be on the sides of my head the way birds and lizards have their eyes. Maybe one day, I'll have a face shaped like a hammerhead shark ... and probably as much hair.

Wowee Maui

So ... I'm back in Taiwan again, after a week in Maui and two days in Waikiki. Sucks to be back, except that at least the food is more reasonably priced here.

What a trip. I think I took on a few pounds from the continuous eat-drink-play fest that was this past week. Met pretty much the whole family and got to know them pretty well. Lahaina and Kapalua (on Maui) were fantastic, and on hindisght, we probably should have just skipped the Honolulu part and stayed the extra time on Maui instead. (Admittedly, the stop in Honolulu was to do a little shopping for things we can't get in Taiwan -- and admittedly, I did buy a lot -- but I'd rather get the most out of whatever Neighbour Islands instead.)

On the flight back, we sat in economy class but in the section where they put business class seating -- everything's economy, but we get the larger seats -- and that was a welcome treat. Being a Gold member does come in useful sometimes! Chatted with a guy on the plane who's a kite-surfing designer on Maui, but has to travel to Taiwan and China (Hainan) pretty often to test them on the waters after they're prototyped. Sweet gig.

Well, next time, if we ever head back to Hawaii, we'll have to check out the Big Island and Kau'ai. But in the meantime, I'll get my fill of tropical paradises in southeast Asia instead: all the fun, half the cost (and flight time). And now, back to my jetlag.


In 12 hours, I begin a journey and it's goodbye Taipei, hello Maui! Yeah! I know!
I can't sleep, I can barely contain my excitement (or the numerous cups of tea I drank)!
I hope to squeeze in a little fun, since a lot of my time is tied down to obligations.
Sadly, it's only for a week, and then reality comes back to get me. See y'alls soon.

Bigger and Smaller

Flipping through photos of just two years ago, I was a lot bigger back when I was still adamant about my 3-4 gym visits a week, and forcing a semi-strict high-protein diet and adhering to my low-fat and low-carb regimen. Clearly, that kind of discipline has been left by the wayside as I've started to adopt a Taiwanese lifestyle ... and 12 pounds of muscle lighter, I'm a shadow of my former self.

Perusing pictures of even years before that (when I found my elementary school class photos on Facebook), I saw that I was clearly a lot smaller than my classmates. M came across them and said it was easy to find me in the pictures: just look for the tiniest kid in class. I wonder if that would still hold true if we were all to meet again in this day.

Empty Threats

The past two weeks, the CWB (Central Weather Bureau) has used its forecasts to threaten us with rain, and lots of it. And so far, aside from one day of pretty hard rain lasting about 3 hours, the most we've had is light rains and mere drizzles that have lasted at most an hour. Seems like the air will get uncomfortably hot and humid, making our clothes stick to our skin the moment we step foot outside, but the skies just won't open up.

Ah, who cares. I hope it rains between June 4 and 8 -- when I'm far away in Hawaii -- and gets it all out of the way.

Wedding Overload

I guess it's that time, both of the year and of our lives. These few days are wedding-rich: Thursday wedding, Saturday phone meeting about MCing an upcoming wedding, Saturday wedding, and then Sunday wedding photo consultation.

I already have a slight hangover from the first one (last night) which, as you can imagine, will make this afternoon's work orientation for new employees (coming over a month after I've started working here) extra extra fun.

Tonight, I rest up for tomorrow night's wedding (and afterparty) and hope my tummy recovers better than it's (not) doing now.

The Awakening

On a workday, I can be completely deprived of sleep and still hobble to the office in the morning. Then I sit at my desk and desperately fight off the desire to nod off while reading interesting patent applications (not). Sometimes it gets better as the morning progresses, sometimes it doesn't.

Most times, it doesn't.

But one thing stays constant: I have this ability to suddenly awaken, and my energy level lifts back to normal, as lunchtime approaches. I'm like one of those lazy farm animals that lies around and does nothing until feeding time.


I skipped lunch with the coworkers today to get my oil change ($500NT), and while I was at the (reputable) Yamaha shop, I asked about renewing my scooter registration and whatever. She tells me there's the mandatory insurance ($1400NT) and some owner's registration ($1050), and both the locations for doing this are easily half an hour away by scooter and only open during regular business hours. So I fork over the $200NT handling fee to get them to do it for me.

And during this discussion, I found out that I've been driving with an expired scooter license for the past year.


Turns out, they put the expiry date the same as my previous ARC, which I've since renewed for much longer. I guess I have to head out tomorrow morning to the Motor Vehicles Office (which is out in the opposite direction from work) to renew my license quickly, before I get pulled over for whatever and then fined a subsequent $6000NT.

A Whole 'Nother Set

I had a strange dream last night. (Actually, I probably had several, but upon waking up, I could only remember this one little snippet of them.)

I remember thinking that I should "correct" my habit of only brushing my teeth with my right hand holding the toothbrush, because there are probably parts of my teeth that I just can't reach well from the different angle. So I switched hands and used my left hand to hold the toothbrush and then put the toothbrush on the left upper teeth (the side that touches the inside of my cheek). And in my dream, I was right; the outside surfaces of those upper left teeth were plaque-covered and utterly filthy.

But in real life, they're not. I can get all my teeth with my toothbrush held in either hand.

Cold, Cruel World

Yesterday morning, while getting my routine morning sandwich for breakfast outside my office building, I noticed something rather un-routine.

A car was stopped in the alley just before merging onto the main road. Two people -- a man and a woman, though it doesn't matter -- were standing in front of it. Slightly obscured from my view was a little bicycle propped on its kickstand directly parked in front of the stopped car. And the two people, whom I presume were previously seated in the car, were staring down at the wailing elderly lady.

"Oh, it hurts so much! You have to take me to the hospital now. Call an ambulance! I must have broken something. I need you to take me to the hospital."

Now, understanding how disobedient people are to the traffic rules -- and this trend is increasingly so as you move further away from the capital city, and as your vehicle size gets smaller -- is it bad of me that I automatically assumed that this elderly lady (whom I'm sure is the nice grandmother of some cute little children) was simply blindly disregarding the traffic laws and haphazardly rode her bike oblivious to the fact that the road does not belong to her?
And is it doubly worse that I had no sympathy for her and actually felt that she deserved it? Even without having seen the actual accident to see whose fault it was?

Well, I don't care. Let that be a lesson to all of you on bicycles that ride all wobbly while trying to mingle in with the scooters, cars, trucks, and busses.

And for the record, she did not really appear to be injured. And none of the 10+ rubberneckers seemed to be particularly concerned for her wellbeing either. So I think she was just trying to milk it for all it was worth, possibly to buy something nice for her nice grandkids.

Long Hiatus

Whoa. I haven't blogged for 11 days now. That's a pretty long time.

The World Through My Eyes

Yeah, yeah.
I have double standards.
So what?
I like it.

Just One More

We all know it, even if some of us won't admit it: sometimes you just need a second flush. Sometimes the toilet flush power isn't enough, or the capacity doesn't suffice to rid its bowl of last night's beans-n-fiber bonanza.

And I know about the whole being energy efficient and natural resource conscious and all that. But if you're going to process the bowl for the next guy, it's worth that extra flick of the handle to eliminate those pesky lingering brown sediments.


Yes, mysterious coworker on the fourth floor, that means you. Don't make me do your dirty work, buster. I'll be looking out for you.


Let's say you stepped into the shower, and you're about done half your shower routine already. Suddenly, you need to pee. So tell me, do you pee in the shower?

Yeah, me too.


After searching around the market for a replacement to my dearly departed Canon S400 camera, I've become bitter with the current offerings.

Tons of users on the DPReview forums like to chime in about their resentment against the current "megapixel race" -- where consumer cameras are cramming more and more megapixels into smaller and smaller cameras -- with complete disregard to the physics of light. What this ultimately results in is a substantial decrease in low-light picture-taking performance: photos indoors, at clubs, even just in mid-bright lighting.

So I finally decided on a model that would give me a picture that starts to rival the performance of my 3-year-old camera: the Canon Powershot G7. The problem is, this kind of image quality used to be available on a $400 average-rated consumer camera, and now to get the same thing I've had to fork out $500 for what's considered a pro-sumer model!

Basically, the next step up is a DSLR!
This beast is huge. I'm mean, it's really huge.
And it's hefty. It's practically 3/4lb!

It has so many manual settings and functions on it that on my first day out with it, it's taught me that I know absolutely nothing about photography. I guess it has a lot of room for me to grow into, in the sort of way that you could buy a toddler an adult's full 3-piece suit to grow into.

I wonder if this is going to ironically turn me away from wanting a DSLR, and send me back into the small consumer pocket cameras that I despise so much at the moment.

Renew Now! At 10x Your Previous Contract Rate!

It continues: I called California Fitness head office to complain and the lady there (who handles membership transfers) told me that for me to continue, the cost should "only" be $6999NT/year ($200US). I guess that's better than $57000NT ($1700US). But I'm going to call her back and complain again because my original should be $20US ($700NT) per year instead!

I told them that nobody informed me my $20/year would be erased! So she is checking now. They said they would contact 24 Hour Fitness (US headquarters) overnight and then get a response for me yesterday or today. Otherwise, $6999 is still acceptable to me, I guess -- it's the cheapest option I have at the moment -- but it's still 10 times what I "should" be paying. I'd much rather pay $699NT instead.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

What a day.

This afternoon, I downed a Redbull in anticipation of a great workout and headed to California Fitness. Then the guy checking my card says my membership ends today; do I want to continue?? Interesting that they wouldn't warn me over the past two weeks I've been going regularly, or even bother to call me about it. (In any case, I was watching it, but I thought it expired in May.)

So instead of working out, I spend an hour reviewing their stupid "promotions", none of which are nearly as good as I had before. (Back in 24 Hour Fitness in 2003, I pre-over-paid $949 for three years, which granted me the right to $20US per year thereafter.)

Gym membershps here are twice what they cost in North America: they're roughly $1600-2000NT/mo ($45-60US), unless you prepay for 5 years ($57000NT, $1700US) to lower that monthly average to around $1000NT/mo ($30US/mo). There are various other confusing-as-mobile-phone-plans schemes, but that's the gist of it.

And I find out that my $20-per-year-thereafter got cancelled when they transferred my membership to Taiwan, and they never even mentioned to me that this would be a consequence. (The contracts are in English and also no mention of this; I checked.)

Hmm. So when they signed me over, they basically just cost me another $30,000NT ($1000US) without telling me it would. Well, that sucks. And I was still high on the Redbull, which just made me super-aggressive and pissed off while they told me the "good deals" for memberships.

So I go to the competing chain to talk about memberships (which are really no better), and come back out to find my scooter towed. Towed way out to the boonies. I had to take the MRT and then walk another 20 minutes to get to the tow lot to get my bike back. That's another $30US in fines, and more wasted time.

As I peeled out of that area, I took a wrong turn ... and noticed after 15 minutes' riding that I was headed in the wrong direction (east)! Get this: I actually left Taipei City and headed into the next county over! Took me another 50 minutes to ride back to the darts bar, where I got my ass kicked in the competition (while still in my sweaty gym clothes).

I'm about ready to go postal. The gym is giving me 3 days leeway to figure out whether I want to continue or cancel my membership with them and tomorrow, I get to argue with their head office on the phone.
Great, more fun.

There's a mosquito in here, but I can't find it to kill it. I really need to; that will make me feel better about the sh!t I went through today.

Another Perspective

Travelling the same city streets using a different mode of transportation can give you a completely new perspective on how people move around the city, and indeed around each other. Last Thursday, I went for a 90-minute inline-skate tour through Taipei, 60 minutes of which were navigating the city streets and trying to stay on the major roads that had nice, smooth, wide sidewalks ... and no construction.

Here are some observations from that day:

- Inline skates are like foreigners in Taipei -- they are constantly gawked at.
- Because they're so alien, most motorists -- especially pedestrians, cyclists, and scooterists -- don't really know how to react to or plan for them. This makes encounters sometimes nerve-racking, for both sides.
- The city-planned bicycle routes are great for bikes, but still sometimes too rough for the small wheels of rollerblades.
- Children are fascinated by them, and I hope they are enamoured enough to try it out, encouraging the city to put more resources towards rollerblade-friendly paths.

Go Big or Go Home

This camera decision is really bothering me. I've played with ...

- Canon SD800IS in Vietnam (12 days, 1900 shots)
- Canon SD900 in Thailand (5 days, 900 shots)
- Panasonic DMC-FX07 for all the times in between

And I have to say that I am utterly unimpressed with any of these cameras' low-light and noise performances. My old S400 -- rest in peace -- kicked these cameras' asses! Of course, the new ones have a ton more features and the new movie modes are awesome, but they've forgotten about the essence of light and physics; they need to go back to the basics.

Anyway, it seems that I might be closer to my anticipated future big-honking-DSLR purchase than I expected. Dammit, I take that back, I take that back! I don't want a DSLR just yet. I think I just rather go with a bigger camera size than the slip-in-your-pocket types, like the Canon G7 or the Canon S3IS.

So that's a long-winded explanation to my questions:
What models?
And why?


I can't believe it. How it happened has left such a bad taste in my mouth, such a dark memory of that time, that -- even six months later -- I get recurring dreams of bumping into those people again. And in my dreams, I confront them the way I should have half a year ago but didn't. When will I be free of this??

I'm BaKK Now

So yeah, I'm back from a long weekend in Bangkok. I didn't have any expectations before I went -- and I had barely done any reading into the history of the country and its cultures -- except for the obvious reputation for its prostitution industry and horrible traffic (and trafficking).

I have to say that I'm really impressed with the city and its peoples. Bangkok is actually very modern, and still retains the deep traditions that are instilled via religion and customs. Respect for the royal family is incredibly visible -- at any one point, you can find 10% of the people on the street wearing the symbolic yellow shirts, so much so that it looks like the official national uniform!

Despite its dense population, I've noticed that people are generally respectful of your private space, and surprisingly polite. I dare say they're more courteous than the Taiwanese are. When a Thai girl bumped into my table at the food court, she actually stopped, turned around, and looked me in the eye when she apologized. In contrast, on the flight back, we were docked at the gate and getting ready to de-plane ... and a Taiwanese lady squeezed her way through 5 of us to get to the back with nary a word of "excuse me".

Huh. That's a nice "welcome home".

PS: I also bought a new pair of shoes and threw out my raggedy old ones, which had travelled with me through USA, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali.

Grin from ...

One uses soap (or body wash or shower gel) on one's body.
One uses facial soap (or cleanser or whatever) on one's face, and possibly the front part of the neck.
But which of those two products do you use on your ears?

What's in a Name?

I was watching a film with Chevy Chase in it, and happened to look up his bio on IMDb when I came across his real name: Cornelius Crane Chase. Yeah. No wonder he changed it.

And that discovery got me to wondering ...

What first names could you name your kids that would set them up for a childhood (in North America) of taunting and misery, just because of it?

I suppose a few examples could be:
Billy Bob (m)
Bertha (f)
Amadeus (m)
Gretchen (f)

Now you contribute.

...And Thanks for All the Fish

Okay. Does anyone not enjoy watching National Geographic or Discovery programs about dolphins?

Search, Research, and Research Again

I guess I'm a research buff. Particularly in the preparation and selection of an upcoming purchase, I invariably feel compelled to examine every last design detail, and anal-retentively nitpick at the features or flaws that I believe will irritate me in the future. (Sometimes it's just even knowing that there's a flaw in it -- even if I'd never notice it as a user -- that would eat at me.)

Example 1: before getting my GTI back in 2001, I visited 4 different VW dealerships in two countries (where I happened to be anyhow), and scoured the VWvortex forums daily for six months before I signed at the dealership.

Example 2: I studied the workings of several "perpetual motion" watch technologies and browsed watches online for weeks on end, before finally setting my sights on the Seiko that I got.

Example 3: After double-digit visits to different consumer electronics stores, taking some 50+ photos with two different cameras, and even borrowing a model for 1700+ photos over 3 weeks, I'm still in the middle of deciding which digital camera to get.

And so far, for each of these purchases I've made in this method, I've been overly happy with the decision I've taken. I can only hope that in the future, such a lengthy process continues to reward me!

That said, I did buy my Powerbook G4 17" on a whim.
And my SonyEricsson W800i was quick too.
But my hurried purchase of the Panasonic FX07 was a big $300 mistake.

Huh. Interesting.

Guys Night Out

It's been a while since I've actually had any guys'-night-outs -- most of these have been in North America with my buddies from college or from the Canadian crew in the Bay Area, and most of those have been related mainly to clubbing scenes. So the new incarnation of GNO for me has come in the form of the darts bar.

Interesting to me is that I didn't realize how much I missed just hanging out with a bunch of guy friends and shootin' the sh!t. I mean, I don't consider myself -- and a lot of my friends probably would chime in here with more enthusiasm than I would publicly appreciate -- your average macho man's man brimming with testosterone and having to exert my masculinity just to prove I have it.

I do too have it!

But hanging with the guys is good, maybe-not-so-wholesome fun. It's an opportunity to strip away the normal apprehensions of courtesy, to do away with today's strict societal etiquette rules, to connect on a communicate level of grunts, whoops, and primeval gut-trembling laughter. Or, if you prefer the girls' descriptions of a GNO event, it's the chance where guys get to act stupid.

And I'm not arguing against that ... because that's exactly what it is.

All we do is rib each other, make silly high-school-esque comments, intentionally blurt out sexual innuendo and emasculating comments of our peers, trying to outdo each other with how gross we can get. Of course, we don't give each other stupid nicknames that will outlive even the faintest memory of how those names ever came about.

Okay, that's not really true: I'm Uncle Benny.

Because somehow it's always seems there's an Uncle Benny who is the kingpin in the local Chinatown gang, and uses the lavish hidden upstairs of a tackily-decorated Chinese restaurant as his office. And he's old.

And no, no headlocks and nuggies. Though T-Man seems to have a thing about tweaking man-nipples when he's had more than enough alcohol in his veins.

Pop a Vein

Is it true that you can pop a vein if you strain too hard while making a doodie? There are times when I worry about that and wonder why I didn't eat more fibre that day.

Music and Lyrics

Over the weekend, I watched Music and Lyrics in the theatres. I thoroughly enjoyed it; I like romantic comedies. And I like Hugh Grant's roles in those kinds of unrealistic romantic comedies.

I like how his characters are always written with all the snappiest lines and quickest comedic add-ons, and that girls swoon over the cleverness that is his (on-screen) persona. And yes, I do realize that pretty much they're all the same guy: a well-to-do British person who is slightly helpless on his own, but is quick with his words, blahblahblah. In some ways, I wish I were as witty as him.

But to my dismay, I realized that I have something else in common with him: my body.

In recent months, I've whittled down to a pasty-pale, muscle-missing, love-handle-heavy blob of undescribably strange shapes. When the madness of these few weeks settles out, I promise to myself to make this no longer true.

Period-Space, Period-Space-Space

When you're happily typing away, and you finish a sentence, you end it with a period. But after that, do you put a single space, or two spaces before starting the next sentence?

Hello, world. You are cold and cruel.
Hello, world.  You are cold and cruel.

Me, I've always chosen to go with two spaces between, mainly because that's how it used to be done. But more recently, it seems that a single space is now acceptable as well. Still, I stick with double-space, because it provides more visual space between the sentences, and that's conceptually better to me, more readable. You?


We wander about Cho Ben Thanh, winding through the narrow aisles of this bustling local market. It's hot, and we do our best to avoid the masses of vendors watching us like hawks while hawking their clothes and sinking their talons into our arms to get our attention.

"Sir, you want T-shirt?"
"What you looking for?"
"Sir, come here, come here."

After getting our fill of Dri-FIT fabric "Adidas", "Puma", and "Nike" shirts, I saw some shirts screenprinted with cheap-looking Abercrombie logos. Inquiring, I found they had some decent ones in the brushed/sueded cotton fabric, complete with the luxurious, velvety neckline trim, and Abercrombie appliques. The fit worked for me, and after some heated bargaining, I dropped them from 260,000vnd down to 150,000vnd (that's $9.40USD).

So now I'm the proud owner -- after inspecting them more closely upon my return and comparing to my one real Abercrombie shirt -- of the following shirts:
1 Abercrombie & Fitch, authentic (bought in SF)
1 Abercrombie & Fitch, says it's authentic (but isn't)
1 Abercrombie & Fitch, doesn't even try to say it's authentic
1 Abercrombie & Fish, no explanation necessary

In their defense, the material is just like the real thing, and it might actually say "fich" -- it's actually very hard to tell altogether.

Seeking, Seeking

For the past 5 years, I just feel like I've been moving from place to place, job to job, environment to environment, always in search of that better opportunity and better chance. I feel kind of like a cocaine addict, seeking that fabled first high: apparently, all the subsequent ones never feel as good as the first time.

And that "first high" was of course during the surreal dot-com era, in my beloved hometown of Vancouver.

Well, I was just thinking that my life so far as been rather temporary. I need to settle down; I actually want to settle down. And then I'll be able to start feeling like I belong somewhere. At this point, I think ideally I'd like to live in Vancouver, Bay Area, or Seattle: each have the pluses and minuses, and various strengths or weaknesses around economy, quality of life, cost of living.

Settling down will give me that footing, instead of buying IKEA furniture or just making do with whatever is around so I don't have to waste money on "temp living conditions". After all, I've had IKEA furniture most of my life (living on my own). I don't know if that will change a whole lot even if I settle down, because I actually like IKEA stuff. But I would be less prone to picking the cheaper stuff.

And then definitely my mindset will change, and I can start building towards the rest of my life.

Under Construction

Just a quick note that my blog appearance is undergoing some changes while I get it properly converted to the new templates that Google is forcing on me. It should be done within a week, but I'm warning you that it will definitely get worse before it gets better.

Back from Nam

I'm back in Taipei now, after 12 long days in southern Vietnam for vacation. It's been quite the experience, but now -- some 12 days, $1000US, 1550 photos, and numerous mosquito bites later -- it's back to regular life again. I'll post some sparse thoughts and impressions a little later.


Vacations: a chance to set new memories together? Or a rise in opportunities to pick fights of different natures?

Strange Minds

Okay, I can understand the Taiwanese pride with Chien-Ming Wang playing in the MLB. I can therefore understand a lot of Taiwanese brand names wanting to do all sorts of co-marketing products with him, including McDonald's.

So it's no surprise when I see an ad by McDonald's this morning on TV. But it which advertising genius was it to make the thematic phrase, "Give me Wang"?? Seriously, guys: double-check your copy.

Perhaps that's only loosely associated with Valentine's Day. Happy V Day!

Baby Rash

Wow, it seems to be that everyone's having babies like it's going out of style. I can imagine group kids' birthday parties in the years and years to come. And it reminds me that if I can help it at all, I want to avoid making my daughter's birthday too close to Valentine's Day.

On another note, there was some disagreement between me, the gf, and my sis about actual body temperature. I always remembered it being something like 37.6C, but it's actually closer to 37.0C (which meant my temperature of 37.7C was definitely feverish) ... and even then, it seems that normal body temperature might be even lower than that.

Skimp and Splurge

We all have our differences, particularly in where we choose to spend our hard-earned money. I know a guy who ate instant noodles for a long time, and lived way out in the boonies, just to support his new habit: his BMW 540i. I know one who will spend copious amounts on home theatre equipment, but nothing on food. Heck, I even know people who spend everything they make on clothes, and depend on their family money to support things like rent/food.

So. What stuff do you skimp on (or prefer not to spend money on)? And that's so that you can splurge one what stuff?

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

Geez. It just gets worse and worse.

A couple times through the past few nights, I've had such coughing fits that triggered serious asthma. And while all dazed in the darkness, my lungs unable to fill with air, I thought I might die. So it evolved to the point where I was actually afraid to go back to sleep, fearing that if I wasn't consciously breathing -- that is, actively expanding and contracting my lungs -- that it would stop while I slept. And that's an experience you probably want to skip, given the choice.

And as you probably know, I'm back on some major medication now. Western medicine, Chinese traditional medicine, beefed up bronchodialators. I'm like a junkie, taking whatever I can get my hands on.

I'm sick even worse now; at dinner last night, I felt like my fingers and legs were restless -- you know that feeling when no matter how you position them, it always feels uncomfortable and swollen and unrested? I thought it was just being tired from only sleeping 4 hours the night before, but it wasn't.

Now I have a fever. Dagnabbit, I have to kill this off before next weekend. Otherwise, how the hell am I going to survive in Vietnam?? I feel like my body is really deteriorating here, like it's just up and giving up on me. It's just kind of scary.


With a fever, am I supposed to sweat it out or cool it off?

I always feel better after sweating it out at the gym, but someone got mad at me once, saying I was expending all my energy in working out instead of letting my boydy use that energy for healing.

And you know what? I have no idea how to measure body heat by the wrist-on-the-forehead method; everyone feels warm to me this way!