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.