French Neighbours

I got home about 30 minutes ago, and found an envelope taped to my door, with "EN URGENT" handwritten on it. I opened it up and saw a letter:

Je suis Fabienne Xxx, votre voisine "en dessous". Ce matin at 6h30, j'ai trouve une fuite au dessous de l'evier. Le symdec est prevenu et le plombier m'a signale que la fuite, en partie, venait de chez vous. Auriez-vous l'amabilite de me telephoner au 01xx62xx34 pour prevoir une visite du plombier et eviter que les degats ne persistent. D'avance, je vous en remercie.

Had to get Google to translate it for me (after I deciphered some of the words because the penmanship is just horrible):
I'm Fabienne Xxx, your neighbor "below". This morning at 6:30 am, I found a leak below the sink. The [symdec] is accused and the plumber has said that the leak, in part, came from your place. Would you please call me at 01xx62xx34 to predict a visit by the plumber and avoid the damage that can persist. Thank you in advance."

I left her a message on the answering machine and left my number, and on Monday I'll get the rental service people to handle it.



It's been a while since I've blogged about anything. And it's not for lack of anything to write about. Rather, it's a lack of motivation to write about that stuff.

It's not you, it's me.

I'll get around to blogging again, when I finally sort out everything in my head. In the meantime, know that I do still keep up with yours.


I'm in Hong Kong right now.
See that furry white ball there?
That's a typhoon, Typhoon Nuri.
It has decided to park its ass directly on HK.

My head is in the windy wet ass of a typhoon.

Up in the Air

Travel plans all amuck.

I'm applying for a Chinese entry visa (again), so that means my passport and everything is sitting in some visa processing office. ETA is tomorrow afternoon, so then I can hop on my flight tomorrow night and go home for the weekend (before hitting Shanghai on Monday morning).

The Hong Kong weather folks have issued a T1 signal because of Typhoon Nuri. According to Hong Kong's Tropical Cyclone warning signals, a T1 signal apparently means that it can still be sunny outside and completely devoid of any resemblance to a breeze. But it also means everyone should be on standby for a real doozy of a typhoon.

It also means that, if the typhoon gets really bad tomorrow, I can't get my visa (and passport) back by tomorrow -- it would then be processed by Monday instead. And that means I can't go anywhere for the weekend: if I get my visa after the weekend, I have to stay in HK this weekend and fly straight out to Shanghai again on Monday.

This is not good.
I want to go home!


I still tear up when I think about how my mom missed my wedding, and how much she was really looking forward to it before her life ended abruptly.

In the middle of watching The Mummy 3, there was a medium-sappy moment between Brendan Fraser's character and his son. I thought about my mom, my dad, and how much I miss them (in different ways). And I lost it: I started crying quietly to myself in the middle of the theatre.

I find that my emotions are bubbling just beneath my surface, waiting to fill my eyes with more tears. There's still a lot of hurt inside me that needs to be released. I just hope the trigger isn't at an inopportune time.

No Thanks a Mint

Imagine that you're on a trip, and you stay at a hotel. At the end of the day, you wash up, done brushing your teeth and all that, ready for bed. You walk over to it, and ... there's a chocolate sitting on your pillow.

What exactly were they thinking when they came up with that? Why would I want a chocolate (or a mint) as I'm about to sleep? Who's the clever one who came up with that idea?

The only origin I can think of is maybe some twisted play on "sweet dreams".


I know: I haven't blogged for a long, long time.

It's just that, every time I think of something to blog, it's usually a fleeting thought of a subject. And it's usually when I'm not near a computer (or don't have time to cozy up to the keyboard because I'm in a rush to leave). So by the time I'm actually at the Mac again, I forgot what it was I wanted to say.

That's the gist of it.

Though I will say that I'm thinking about buying a Time Capsule (still undecided on the 500GB vs 1TB) and an Airport Express pair. For home, and for travel, respectively. Advice?

Getting into China

Things are a-changin'. My status in Taiwan is currently in flux: my resident visa to stay in Taiwan is about to expire (since I've quit), and my new one isn't ready/active yet. And somehow, amidst all of this, I'm supposed to get a business visa to do my training in China, and soon.

End of Days

After having filled out three different forms and visited no fewer than five separate departments for signatures, I got all the "approvals" I needed for the requisite paperwork.

So I sent this yesterday.

Subject: My Days Are Numbered / 後天是我最後一天

"Hello, my esteemed colleagues!

It is with mixed feelings that I inform you (by an impersonal email such as this) I have decided to leave This Company. This Thursday (June 12, 2008) will be my last day in the office.

It has no doubt been a fruitful experience to have worked at this firm with all the different types of people in the company. I only regret not having met more of you outside of the office environment. To say the least, these past 14 months have given me much experience (and about 5lb of body fat) which I will bring with me into my future endeavours.

I plan to remain in Taiwan with my next gainful employment for a few more years, so I'll still be around (though suffering painfully longer working hours). Please don't hesitate to contact me by my personal email below. Other contact methods available after you email me first: mobile phone, IM, facebook, Flickr, shoe size, you name it! I would, of course, also appreciate you passing me your private contact information as well so that we can keep in touch.

With that note, I bid you farewell, and hope we'll meet again soon. Take care!

I also provided a brief translation in Chinese.

時間到了, 我得離開這家公司了! 這個星期四(2008年6月12日)是我在這家公司的最後一天. 在這家公司過了十四個酸甜苦辣的月, 我在這裡成長了很多也學習了很多. 我相信這些經念對我的未來會有很大的幫助. 以下是我的聯絡資料, 請大家保持聯絡! 希望各位都好好保重, 再見囉!"

Now I wait my time out in anticipation of a few weeks' break. In the meantime, I'll clean out this computer: clean the cache, delete the cookies and bookmarks, uninstall unapproved software, and generally erase my existence.

Black Rain

Continuing the recap ...

Because we slept late, we woke up late -- typical of our weekends, of course. I'd researched a number of walking tours for Macau (澳門), and we set out around noon (after navigating our way out of the casino labyrinth).

Huddling under our umbrellas, we made our way up San Ma Lo (新馬路), through Leal Senado Square (議事亭前地), stopping for food only at the milk pudding joint (義順燉奶). We're up at the famous stone facade ruins of St. Paul Church (大三巴聖保羅教堂), and head into the Museum of Macao to hide from the rain.

That's all fine until we leave the museum to see that the lightning storm had gotten orders of magnitude worse! The lightning cracks and the sky fills with a brighter grey for a split second.

"One mississippi,
two mississip--"

The thunder follows almost immediately after: we're pretty close to wherever the lightning is hitting, and my guess is it's at Guia Hill (松山公園).

Running from tree to tree, our umbrellas serving as feeble rain protection, we retreat hastily down the hill.

Every one of the Church's steps is overflowing with a river of water some inches deep. Every one of my steps rewards me with a squelching noise and water flowing in and around my toes ... inside of my sneakers.

Completely soaked.

We duck into a Quiksilver store where I buy my souvenir for the trip: a pair of Quiksilver flip flops. (Alongside us are 20 other couples doing the same thing.) We decide to call it a day and head home: we spend the rest of the day wandering through the resort and mall stores, and then eat eat eat.

Afterwards, we head back to the room.
"Okay, let's shower, rest for a bit, then head downstairs and hit the tables."

Not an hour later, we fell asleep in front of the TV.

I, Macau

Quick recap.

Picked up the wife on the way to the airport on Friday evening: a weekend getaway to Macau (Macao)! She says she read on the internet that the Macao Airport is closed due to inclement weather, but called the airline and they said it's business as usual for our 8:20pm flight.

We get to the airport, and get this at the check-in counter:

"The Macau airport is closed right now due to bad weather, so we are unable to check you in. We don't have more information at this time, sorry. Here are some vouchers for Burger King, so please go have a bite to eat, and check with us again at 7:10."

That sucks. We cram into BK with the other 200-300 people who have flights bound for Macau.

7:10pm rolls around, we go back and they have no definite news. One lady (leading a tour group) is livid, gathers up a lynch mob, arguing loudly, demanding all sorts of compensation. A group of uneducated people who don't understand how customer service works (nor the concept of disempowerment) start complaining loudly too, yelling at the top of their lungs at the messenger.

I watch and take pictures from a distance. We call the travel agent and the Venetian in Macau to explore alternatives: maybe take the trip later, or have part of the pre-paid fees refunded if things don't go our way, to no avail. The angry mob subsides, and about 30 minutes later, police and security arrive to a calmed crowd lining up in orderly fashion.

We get on the earlier of two re-routed flights, taking off at 11:30pm. Free shuttle busses to/from the Venetian ended at 11:30pm, so we take a cab to the hotel.

We're in the hotel by 2am, where they tell us they have no more suites with king beds and are upgrading us for free to a two-bed suite. Turns out, "upgrade" in this instance means "trade your single king bed for two queen beds which are in no way better (though not worse either).

Shower, and sleep by 3am. Weather forecasts rain for the next day too. Lovely.

On another note, these love handles are getting out of hand. I'm a cow. The crash diet starts today.

No Calls

I woke up this morning and I wondered why my mom hasn't called recently to ask me why I haven't called recently.


Now that my scooter is rounding out its third year of ownership, I get a postcard in the mail that says I need to get a smog test for it. I take it to the Yamaha Service Plaza store I normally get the oil changed at.

I ride in, show them my little smog test summons card, and he motions for me to pull in. He takes a stand and a pipe and hooks up the sensor to my exhaust pipe, and then runs some software on the nearby computer, explaining that these test results are stored immediately using government (standard) software, and then uploaded to the DMV databases later on. I'm impressed at how efficient they've made it!

He looks at the stats for my scooter -- not that old, in pretty good condition, despite my accidents and thrashing it around -- and starts it up, running the diagnostic software. The numbers start going up in each of the three categories: CO, HC, and CO2. Neat.

But he freaks out.

"Whoa, why is it so high?? This is twice the limit!"

He starts rapping frantically at the "Cancel" button, preventing the test from completing and uploading to the government database.

Then he hooks up the sensor to a different computer -- the shop's private machine, not connected to the official one -- and starts tweaking some settings in the engine with a screwdriver, playing around with two different dials until the CO and HC pollution was way, way below the legal limits.

Once he was happy with the results, he hooks it back up to the government system and runs it.
"Oh, I hope it's not too low [that it's not believable]. You can't ride it like this, because it will stall on you all the time."

Well, wouldn't you know it, the scooter passes now with flying colours!

A printout taps out of the printer, my paper evidence in case the government wants to see it.

He hooks the scooter back to the private machine, tweaks all the settings back to the original levels (slightly optimizing while he's at it), and sends me back on my way.
"There you go. Now you may continue polluting the air."

(Yeah, he actually said that, but in a good-humoured manner.)

Clearly, this is not his first time, nor is it beyond his own moral limits. I'll probably have the scooter actually looked at during my next oil change, since it does bother me that my scooter isn't running as smoothly as it should.

Taxes and Salary

It was the end of May, and in Taiwan, that's tax time. Whee. Fortunately, doing taxes in Taiwan is orders of magnitude easier than the crazy tax forms in Canada or the USA. Still, I'd rather be grating my knuckles like cheese over a snail pizza.

This year, I almost got investigated at NTAT (the National Tax Authority, Taipei region) when they looked at my tax history.

"Is anyone at this company giving you money in Canada or the USA?"

Essentially, they were asking me if this company (which has the words "North American" in its name) was paying me separately outside the country. I didn't really understand why they were suspicious and asking (in a roundabout way) if I had any foreign/external sources of income that weren't reported on the tax form ... until they pulled up my 2006 income tax records and compared the incomes for me to see. Then they started asking why the discrepancy in income, and questioned my choice of employment.
"But ... you went from this salary to this salary?? It's so much less! Why would you do that??"

I simply told them that was about to change again.

The last time I was questioned for choice of company to work for was when I told my buddy how much I was making after moving to California. (Of course, my decision then involved other factors not pertaining to my current case at all.)

Especially When They're Green

I have a question for you to pick your brain on:

What is the main goal for traffic lights?

Sounds like a stupid question, right? But as this random pondering fluttered across my idle brain this morning -- while I was waiting at a red light, no less -- I started to realize the possible breadth of answers.

Are traffic lights for ...
- actually controlling traffic (go/stop)?
- providing order to traffic?
- getting commuters to their destinations most efficiently?
- giving pedestrians a chance to cross?
- providing an emergency override avenue?

The main gist is, what is the primary goal that traffic lights strive for? For instance, if we didn't have the stoplights, we'd still have rules (and possibly adjusted rules) to compensate for the kind of chaos one gets when a traffic light suddenly stops working -- that's not the scenario I mean.

Rather, what if traffic lights didn't exist at all, and traffic bylaws accommodated for that lacking instead? Are there any goals/functions of the traffic lights that wouldn't be made up for? Is there something particularly special about traffic lights that can't be replaced?

Wedding Photos Everywhere

If you didn't already know, we're having major issues with our photographer and the fact that he lost key parts of our wedding photos to a corrupted memory card. Basically, we lost pictures of:

- ceremony (vows, exchanging rings, kiss, and the recessional)
- group photos @ staircase
- photos @ church across the street
- group photos in front of hotel (both families)
- photos in garden area behind church

This has been amplified by him formatting and reusing the card (probably out of inexperience with how to deal with data loss), so of those lost photos, he was able to recover only 35. To add pressure to the situation, Jiro remained rather silent and somewhat uncooperative in the aftermath, and didn't even bother to offer some token refund or discount!

Don't even get me started.
I'm livid enough already.

He's come back with justifications and a "let's focus on the positive" which is all fine and dandy, but the long and short of it is that we are missing photographic memory chunks out of important parts of the day from him.

And now, everywhere I look -- photography blogs, photo frame sample images, posters on the street -- I see wedding photos. And they only serve as a stinging reminder of what I don't have from my own day.

At least I got the girl.

Male Pattern

Everyone loses hair.

Men lose hair, and the follicles in very visible parts of their head just give up and quit, leading to male pattern baldness and sometimes slightly affected self-esteem.

Women lose hair, but most of the time, they grow back. And then that lost hair ends up all over the apartment, where it seeds dust bunnies and constantly sticks underfoot. Worse yet, flaunts its existence to the men who have male pattern baldness.

Sometimes, life is unfair that way.

Still Here

I'm still around.
Many things happened.
Update you later.

Cleaning Up

When do you start cleaning up someone's stuff after they've passed on?
Logically, that stuff isn't needed anymore. It's just taking up space.

Some of it's very sentimental, of course, and you should never get rid of it.
Some of it's stuff that really isn't, and eventually, you'll throw it out, but when is the right time to handle that?
Is doing it too soon just considered cold?
Is doing it too late just considered lamenting in the sorrow, and not giving yourself closure?

After the Service

Nah, not crying a lot anymore, but it always feels like it's right under the surface and ready to burst out at any time.

Unfortunate News about March 19, 2008

A lot of you have probably heard this (or figured it out) already, but I have some rather sad news to bear.

With extremely deep regret, I'm very sorry to announce that my mom passed away very suddenly on Wednesday night (March 19, 2008, Pacific time) of a brain aneurism. She was in her peak health: medical and blood tests from a few days prior came back showing near-optimum levels for everything from cholesterol to blood pressure to body alkalinity to everything. But even so, from the first signs of a headache to irreversible brain damage, it was only 30 or 45 minutes. She spent her last moments at home and at Vancouver General Hospital, with my father always by her side, but likely unaware of anything happening around her. It was four hours later when the decision was made to pull the lung support machine, after which it was clear her body was only a body: the spirit had long left on its own.

Thank you all graciously for your support in this emotional time. I can really only muster up two words: too early. The family is obviously very shocked at what's happened -- I was actually at another funeral service in Taiwan when I received the call.

I hope that those of you who have met her and gotten to know her will remember her as the happy, active, loving, and playful person she was. She's a wonderful mother, a loving wife, and a caring friend, a warm person all around who shone positivity wherever she went. At 57, she still had so much love to give, and so much to look forward to with us. It's really just too early. She was very much looking forward to our upcoming events and occasions, and we hope to make her proud by continuing in the spirit of her wishes. (It's strange to refer to her in past tense.)

I didn't really have much to say for days after it happened. All her children returned to Vancouver in early April and will stay through late May, after which further plans will become more definite. There was a service in Vancouver on April 12, and over 300 people came to pay their respects -- we filled up the 220-seat chapel and people had to stand outside to peer in through the open windows.

While still in the shock of this news, I implore you to cherish the relationships with your loved ones. Our time here is short, sometimes much too short. Here's wishing you love and good health.

Sharing and Gratitude

When I think of Mom’s life, it's filled with happy memories, fun times, laughs, and above all, an abundance of love and cheer. I feel sadness in that she has left our world to join another. But it's when I think about the future, about all the things we worked towards that she will miss, that I feel a greater sadness. I feel sorrow for the loved ones in our lives who never had the chance to meet her, for our children, her grandchildren yet unborn, to whom she could have brought her love and happiness.

In good times, she was a cheery friend. In bad times, she was a comforting confidante. And through all, she was a loving wife and mother. She provided the guidance we needed and the advice we sought.

When we were kids, Mom did her grocery shopping in Chinatown, with kids in tow. Our job was to carry the groceries, but we absorbed her shopping habits too. After I moved away, I used to call her whenever I stepped into a Chinese supermarket. Each and every time, I felt like I was growing up all over again. I filled with pride at having purchased the same foods she used to, the same brands she used to.

Just like Mom.

I’m 33 now, and I still feel her with me everytime I shop for groceries.

Mom is often described as always happy, but her happiness was directly tied to that of her family and friends. We are extensions of her: when we were happy, she glowed for us; when we hurt, she felt our pain even more. And she sacrificed so much for us.
In 1973, Mom married Dad and joined him in America. Together, they would boldly forge a new life in a foreign land, barely speaking the language. To help pay the bills, Mom worked tirelessly in a Chinese restaurant waiting tables. Come Christmas that year, a season to be with family, she was incredibly homesick. She put on a brave face in front of everyone, finishing her shift serving a Christmas party, and then hid in a back corner crying to herself.

It wasn't until the children had grown up, that she and my father had began to afford themselves the attention and comforts they'd given us all those previous years.
Throughout our childhoods, she taught us Chinese at home, after having worked long hours in the office and coming home to cook for a hungry family. She spent all her free time nurturing our Mandarin. When we entered into Chinese public speaking contests, she practiced with us night in and night out, with the conviction of an Olympic trainer. We always placed in the top three. That we all speak Mandarin fluently and have careers in Asia today is a direct reflection of her work.

In her short 57 years, Mom lived her days to the fullest she knew how. She was full of life, full of love, full of curiosity. She was active, playful, colourful. She really had that zest for life. Though the cause, the sudden timing, and the utter unfairness of her passing has shocked all of us, we should take solace in knowing that she passed peacefully and painlessly.
A week ago, I had a dream. Though most of it was blurred as I awoke, certain parts remain clear. My family was in some kind of darkness or peril, and a gorgeous butterfly appeared and led us to safety, to light, to beauty, to happiness. As she flittered along her merry way in my dream, we realized it was dying. It had sacrificed its own short, short lifespan and spent it instead bringing us to the light.

A man – a counselor of sorts – simply advised us to let her go peacefully, and that though her time was shortlived, it was beautiful, happy, and full. I started weeping uncontrollably, thankful to this act of selfless sacrifice, and I cried as I awoke that morning. It was clear to me: that butterfly symbolized our mom.

Her life was short, much too short, but in it, she did the most meaningful things for others. She cared for those around her and showed us all the beauty of life.

Throughout her life, she basked in the sunlight that shone upon us, instead of cowering in the shadows cast by the fear and uncertainty that we so often are distracted with. She encouraged us to go out into the world, to experience what it had to offer, to provide back what we had to offer it in return.

Mom spent a lot of time worrying too. Worrying for her husband, her children, worrying about the well-being of her siblings and her friends. She really cared for and took care of those around her, and it was very much appreciated.

Mom was someone who appreciated everything she had. Part of her appreciation for life was for those who took care of the people close to her.She was constantly thanking those around us – our classmates, colleagues, friends – for taking care of her loved ones.

And today, she's smiling upon you all for taking the time to pay your respects, and thanking you for supporting us in this time, in our past and in our futures. On her behalf, we give you our deepest, most heartfelt gratitude. Thank you.

Mom will be remembered for the joy she brought us, the love she shared with us, the world she made a brighter, better place. We will no doubt carry on living in her spirit.

I urge you too to remember the positive influences she had on your every day in your life, to remember the bright aura she radiated. I urge you even more to to go forth into the world and pay it forward.

Mom does know best. If we all took Mom's advice, this world would be a wondrous place indeed.

Who are Which

Some people are really good at comforting and consoling you.
Some people feel for you and want to, but don't know how to.
Some people are not compassionate and don't think much of it.

In times like this, you start to learn which of those the people around you really are.
Sometimes you're pleasantly surprised, and sometimes you're sorely disappointed.


The night air in Vancouver is so crisp. I woke up at 5am two nights ago (jetlagged), hobbled upstairs, and stared outside over the hilly landscape of Vancouver. Every tree, every streetlamp, every everything was in full HD resolution. In contrast, in Taipei, we're always looking through the white noise of pollution.


This stress is overwhelming me, and from all sides of life, too. My eyebrows are constantly furrowed into an untrimmed unibrow. My teeth and jaw are sore from being continually clenched tightly these two weeks. I'm getting double-handed b!tchslapped by life right now, and not enjoying it.

Plus, it's raining outside.

Losing It

I really need to start writing sh!t down.

The First of April

Why don't they just call April Fool's Day what it really is? Unreliable News Day.

Golly, I need a vacation. And bad.

Back Me Up

Two days after the shock, we were walking around a popular area (通化街) of Taipei where people routinely walk on the street -- the actual street, not just the sidewalks -- and cars need to be especially wary of pedestrians.

A car came out of an alleyway, with lots of people walking in front of it. As is customary in Taipei, the car edges forward, hoping to create a break in the flow of humans to turn left onto the street.

Just as I was walking by, however, the driver didn't seem to want to come to a full stop for me. I kept my course, and she did too, barely nicking me. It was a close call, and too close for my comfort (and patience at the time).

I was ready.

I turned after just passing the corner of the car, bent down slightly, and slapped the hood with my hand. I stared right into the driver's eyes with a look that probably conveyed that neither she nor her passenger should get out of the car and confront me. Not right now.

And secretly, I was hoping they would. I was ready to get into a scrap. I needed a punchbag, and someone I didn't know, and anyone who had wronged me (even so minorly) would do just fine.

They didn't get out of the car, avoided further eye contact altogether, and we parted ways.

Right behind me, there was my brother backing me up, ready to join in on the fistivities.

That's family, baby.

I Feel Like ...

So I'm back at work for a bit, and my iPhone starts playing this random song*: Ludacris' "Slap" (lyrics here). I so echo that ... perhaps I should make it the theme song for my next little while!

* I have a lot of random songs that I haven't cleaned the ID3 tags for yet, so I'm discovering songs in my own library! My poor memory also helps to create the illusion of constantly having new music in my library, even if I have none.

Going Home

So here's the deal: I'm heading back to Vancouver for 6 weeks or so to take care of a number of arrangements and events. It's bittersweet, really. Stressful. Time will take care of all this sooner or later, but it's the process that's painful.

One day, I'll be less cryptic. (But not today.)

Do It. Do It.

Pick up your mobile phone.
Dial your parents' number(s).
Tell them that you love them.
After that, do whatever you want.
But do that first, y'hear me? G'on.
The internet will still be here after.

Constant Thoughts

It's been like this since Thursday.

When I wake in the morning, it's her. The last thoughts before I sleep are about her. I just can't stop thinking about her.

I have a pounding headache that just won't away. We all do. It's starting to create a permanent furrowed brow on my face.

I walk around with a dark cloud hanging over me. Even when I'm smiling, there's a somber tone to it. I'm almost sure people can see it pretty obviously, but in certain ways, I don't give a sh!t.

I'm more inclined to pick fights and feel justified for it, as if I will be able to redeem everything by making sure someone else suffers too.

And yet, this all pales in comparison when I think about how he must be doing with all of this going on.


Four hours, beginning to end, is all it took.
I'm shocked, utterly shocked to my core.
Tons of random thoughts and memories running through my head.
None that I want to share with you at this point.
And yet, strangely, a feeling of peace has taken over me.

Personal Computer

Many days, I spend all day at work on the computer, and then I go home and spend all night on the computer. And I do it day after day, week after week. Heck, it's been years now that I've done this.

And only a little while ago, I stepped back and wondered why this was.

What do you need a personal computer for?

That is, what is it that you do on your computer at home that you couldn't really do with any other method: phone, fax, work computer, actual face-to-face?

Other People's Crap

It's T-shirt weather today. The sun is out, there's a slight breeze, and it's nice and warm (23C). What a refreshing change from all the bullsh!t -- other people's bullsh!t, no less -- that I'm having to deal with in recent days. Seriously stressed out.


Look, I don't mind when people are irrational in their thoughts or decisions. I don't care if people want to do things that jeopardize themselves or ruin the way people see them or whatever.

As long as it doesn't affect me.

But now it's having an impact on me and my plans. And that's pissing me off.

Born Every Minute

I'm a regular person; I have strengths and I have weaknesses.

I'm a sucker for Apple stuff. That kind of attention to detail, that consideration for the overall user experience, just makes me want to throw blank cheques at their coffers.

I'm a sucker for a good burger. It reminds me of a sunny afternoon, whether just grilling in the backyard or at the beach, or sitting outside a deli and enjoying the sights of the park.

I'm a sucker for a sweet smile and a kind word. After all, in this world where everyone is getting increasingly grouchy, who isn't? You'd be surprised how far a kind demeanor can really get your these days.

But I'm definitely not a sucker for girls who are trying to be all cutesy/whiney. At this firm, there are tons of girls like that. They plead with you to work faster and meet their deadlines so they can look good in front of the customer. No, sorry, it doesn't work on me, sorry. Plus, those deadlines are usually just fabricated anyhow, so I make sure to check first with the client directly. Never trust a cutesy girl; as one of my ex-bosses warned me, they are trouble!

So, that's me. What are you a sucker for?

Phone Home

In her rush to get to work one morning, M accidentally left her mobile phone at home. This got me to thinking, what is a mobile phone? As in, what does the mobile phone really mean to us these days?

Let's say you accidentally forgot to bring your mobile phone with you one particular workday. And let's say you don't really have any solid plans after work -- like, you want to hit the gym as part of your routine, but it's not like you had a client dinner meeting that you could never ever miss.

What impact would this have on this particular day in your life? What would you (have to) do about it?

For me, it used to be that it just meant I didn't have my phone with me. No biggie. And in the very beginning, I had everyone's phone number memorized anyhow; I was faster punching the number in than finding it in the StarTAC's phone memory.

Then in SF, my routine was solid enough that I would still go through with it as usual: work, gym, dinner, home. All the people I needed to talk to at work were accessible in the office. All the people I needed to talk to socially were online on MSN, YIM, or email, so that wasn't really an issue either. Sure, I loved my Nokia 8260, but I could still get through the day without much trouble -- I even memorized a few of my most frequently-used phone numbers.

But all that changed.

After moving to Taipei, I stopped memorizing phone numbers (mostly). I started to put more calendar information into W800i. I still didn't have a landline, so that didn't change, and I could still reach everyone by email/IM. Except, I spent a lot more time away from home (which was somewhat out of the way) meaning I had to do without my phone for a longer period of time without contact. [shrug] I guess that was alright, except that my mobile phone was a major communication device at my previous work: clients and partners would call me and expect me to be instantly reachable. (Yeah, that part sucked.)

Then the iPhone came.

And now that I'm all iPhoned up, this little beast carries all my contact information (even from past companies, whom I would never call on even a rare basis), my calendar schedule, my music (for listening to while at work), and a movie or so (in case I have a long waiting period to endure). It's definitely the digital counterpart to my life: there's a lot more going on now. And I have basically forgotten all mobile phone numbers except my own and a handful of others.

But even today, if I left it at home by accident, I wouldn't make a special trip home just to fetch it again unless it was on the way. With my trial .Mac account, all my basic contacts and calendar info is synced online, so I can still contact people as long as I'm at a computer with a net connection. I just can't be reached by anyone (except again by email or Gchat).

Maybe one day, I'll try leaving the house without my mobile phone. And see how naked I feel, or whether I'll actually enjoy the burdenless feeling of being tech-naked and frolicking in the sun.

That would truly be wireless freedom.

Bubble Boy

Great, yet another sandstorm hailing in from China. It basically means that the already-polluted airs over Taipei will have sand particles thrown into the mix.

I've noticed a rather disturbed downward trend in my health since moving to Taiwan.

When I got really sick last winter (2007), at the lowest point, I could barely walk half a block before my asthma kicked in and I'd have to stop and puff. I started getting allergic reactions to even the slightest foods: a doctor told me to avoid chocolate, seafood, and various types of nuts, while a Chinese doctor give me another whole list of foods to abstain from: beef, certain vegetables, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.

It was also around then that I started developing a mild allergic reaction to certain metals, but only when my health was in bad shape (i.e., when I had a cold). When I get sick now, I have to remove my watch because my left wrist gets itchy after a while.

And after a bad bout of food poisoning early during my residence here, I discovered (in a most unfortunate way) that I'm very allergic to Tiger Balm.

The latest substance that I seem to be allergic to now is ... essential oils. Like the ones you put in the diffuser with water, and then light a tealight underneath to make your place smell habitable. Yes, I know you're not supposed to put it on you, but there was a mosquito in the place that we couldn't confirm if we killed or not, so the next step was to have the smell of lavender on us so it wouldn't come after me as I slept.

And now, I have rashes on my wrists and ankles.

I swear, it's only a matter of time before I should really just confine myself to a little bubble dome just to stay healthy.

On another note (also somewhat related to bubbles), I've recently taken a turn back to enjoying a regular dose of bubble tea. It's really too bad that, at a hefty 500kcal per 500cc cup serving, it's a craving I'll have to curb quickly.

Stretch and Twist

You know you're getting old(er) and (increasingly) out of shape when, after sitting at your desk for half an hour, you lean back in your chair for a nice big stretch and yawn ... and twist out your back under such incredible physical strain.

33 is a Prime Number

I used to be gym regular back in college, but I hadn't yet learned how to work out properly, so there was a lot of wasted effort. It wasn't until about 2002 or 2003 that I started really doing it right, eating properly, beefing up a bit, all that crap. Man, I can't believe how far (backwards) I've come since those lofty fitness goals!

But now that I'm in Taiwan, and all that has gone out the window! If it's not one thing, it's another: it's frustrating that I can't get to the gym nowadays. That, plus all the cold weather fueling my craving for carbs and sweets and those hot, stick-to-your-ribs foods. That's bad news.

That said, this is a good age to be.
This is the primetime, baby!

I think men in their 30's start to have a clue of what's what. Before that, in their early- to mid-20's, they're still young, full of energy, but without the necessary guidance or direction. And almost definitely without really knowing what they want. (I'd argue that although being firmly planted in my thirties, I still don't truly know what I want, but I'm getting closer to having all the pieces of that puzzle.)

So really, I don't actually miss being younger.

What I miss about being younger is the carefree days of not giving a sh!t about anything with boundless energy! That, and being able to go clubbing all night without feeling bedridden the whole next day.

Bad Habits

Right now, my left knee is recovering since the week-and-a-half-ago, and it's starting to itch like crazy (which I'm told is a telltale sign that it's healing). I'm even able to walk without a visible limp again -- rejoice!

But this scab!

Okay, I'll admit something (again). I have a really bad habit, something I just never seemed to grow out of since childhood, which drives M nuts: I like to pick at my healing wounds.

I'm sorry, okay?
I just can't help it.
I just have to pick at it.

I like to feel like some very visible healing progress is being made -- and we already know how I like to stare at progress bars. And these scabs are nearly falling off on their own already, so what's wrong with offering a little helping hand, right?
Right. So there.
Just you try to stop me.

(At least putting this silicone scar bandage is preventing me from having direct access to it. That helps.)

Snowy City Zen

Vancouver seems to have gotten its fair share of snowfall this winter, and it's a pity I missed out on it.

It used to be, all the snow meant hours shoveling the driveway, dangerous driving conditions, miserable cold, all that stuff. I remember when my dad would see the snowfall forecast and immediately start preparing for it with the salts, the shovel, just to make sure we could get to work/school the next morning.

I called him about a month ago, and I brought up all the snow and how much of a hassle it must be.

Only, he didn't agree with me. He told me that he likes the snow and how nice it is. He likes how much snow there is, blanketing the city. And it really is pretty, Vancouver in white.

My dad is becoming more zen. Good for him.


I caught a glimpse of a crazy-sexy music video by Shayne Ward's song No U Hang Up (from his Breathless album). The next morning, I had the album in my iTunes. And this morning, while at work, I'm boppin' along to his album when I come across this gem: Damaged.

It's amazing how a simple song can throw me back seven years to a previous life.

How it can immediately put me back in the living room of the Emeryville apartment, having just uprooted my life in Vancouver and moved myself to the United States for a poor-paying job to ensure that I was closer to my girlfriend of seven years.

Images flash back in rapid succession from the moment I walked in the apartment that day after flying down, to the "it's not working" conversation.

Then there's the grainy mental film of me, curled up in the blanket on that sofa bed that chilly October morning, crying uncontrollably to myself and wondering how someone could do that to me (or to anyone, for that matter).

That's how I spent my first weekend as a resident of the USA: feeling damaged and cast aside.

But anyway, that was a previous life. Damaged, but now fixed, and all shiny and renewed. Here's to growth and to moving on!


I had another scooter accident: that pushes my running total of scooter incidents up to five now. It's okay, it was just an itty bitty one, really.

This time, it was just with myself.

I was on my way to work, annoyed at this rider who kept coming up on my right, so my attention was on him from the corner of my eye. When I turned my attention back to the front, the originally smooth-going traffic had stopped.

I emergency braked, and my front (disc) brake locked, and the scooter veered, leaned, and slid. Me too. Picked myself up, dusted off as cars detoured around me, and pulled over to the side for a breather as people waiting for the bus peered on half-interested.

All body parts still accounted for, I resumed my commute, punched in at the office, and went to a local drugstore for medical supplies. Back at the office, I emptied my little shopping bag onto my desk -- iodine, antibiotics, cotton swabs, bandages, and tape -- and proceeded to nurse my new wounds in my cubicle. I kind of felt like Mark Wahlberg in Shooter (after he was framed and had to make that getaway), except that his was scripted and all fake: this was the real deal, baby.

Anyway, the wounded include:

- me, in the way of a scraped left forearm and scuffed left knee and a rather bruised ego
- my puffy jacket, which is now losing feathers even faster through the gaping 1-inch hole (yeah, a whole patch of shell missing, not just a slit)
- my new Adidas shoes, where the left toe cap is scraped up
- parts of the left side of my scooter (which now match the right)

What's more, now my new jeans are scraped and torn at the knee as well! Thank goodness for the distressed look, so in a way, the scooter fall actually made my clothing more fashionable.

Money Back Guarantee

So I sent in a request to get a waiver/refund on some charges I had before, and after two weeks, I noticed that there wasn't an updated credit to my account. I emailed and asked about it, and this is the super helpful response I got:

Thanks for your email. Due to the volume of submissions we are unable to confirm receipt of each one. If you wish to receive a confirmation, please print one from the fax machine that you sent your fax from or complete the online opt out form. All who have submitted complete opt out/waiver forms will have the fees reversed to their account by the end of February.

Sorry? So my confirmation that you got my request form is my fax machine's little fax report? How did you leap that chasm of logic, may I ask??

I'm just going to take it to mean that as long as I sent a request form, they are basically guaranteeing that the credit will be applied, and that they have no excuses because they're that confident. Fine. I eagerly await my money back.

Rain Filter

I'm riding to work today, and it's pissing rain, but I live up the visor on my helmet anyhow ... and I take a big whiff. It's about the freshest air I've smelled recently (except for a quick weekend trip to Hualien/花蓮).

The rain here acts as a filter for the air, extracting dust and dirt particles (and whatever impurities and terrible free radicals that provoke women to buy those expensive skin care products) out of the air as they fall. It's kind of like the water in a bong, really, which filters out the harsh heat and smoke so it doesn't get to you.

The problem lies in that what you're left with after the high of having fresh air is ... well, the bong water. And in the case of Taipei rain, it's a whole city's worth of city-bong water flowing through the sewers in addition to all the warm garbage smells that waft through the sewer grates.

Fresh air today, horrified nostrils tomorrow.

We've Got You Surrounded

Our TV at home is stuck on CSI: CSI (the original set in Las Vegas), CSI Miami, CSI New York.

In these shows (and other cops 'n' robbers movies), they hone in on the criminal (or suspect), and cops come in mass numbers, driving up with their sirens. Let's say that the bad guy is holed up in a motel room, and the cop cars pull up around that motel room door. Usually, they're parked radially, all facing the door like rays from a sun.

Here's the thing: is there some kind of parking formation that real cops are supposed to follow? Like, a parking arrangement which allows them to get in hot pursuit quickly, in case the guy gives chase?

You know what I mean?

Because I can imagine that some methods of parking would cause them to be blocking each other when they all try to leave at the same time. Just wonderin'.

Learn English!

It might seem ironic to you, but I have to admit that since I've moved to Taiwan, I've definitely learned some new English words here. You wouldn't think that a native English speaker and writer would pick up much from a non-English fluent region, but it happens.

The first of two examples for today was a huge banner outside of the Sogo BR4 department store, proudly proclaiming to everyone near that major intersection:

"Have an ebullient summer"

I thought to myself, "Uh, what?" I mean, I didn't know what ebullient meant! Should I be frowning from being insulted by a retail outlet? Or pleased with a pleasant wish from a major corporation? I had to look the word up!

Another came in the form of a notice to all employees.
"Please don't pour the dregs into water dish."

I wasn't sure if someone in one of the more creative departments was trying to dump their narcotics as cops came busting into the premises, or if it was just a simple innocent typo. Turns out, it was neither. I had to turn to the Chinese version of the notice (stating "紫菜紅蘿蔔的殘渣") before I learned what dregs were, and thus, what they were telling us not to flush into the water dish: someone was making instant soup at work, drinking most (but not all of it), and then dumping the rest into the little receptacle dish under the water dispenser faucet, and subsequently plugging up the plumbing in it. The dregs they were pouring were bits of veggies.

Keeps life interesting.

Gmail and Growing

Wow, I just happened to glance down at the bottom of my Gmail page, and it told me this:

You are currently using 1243 MB (19%) of your 6350 MB.

Remember when Gmail just came out, and people were all raving about the 1GB of online storage they gave each account? I know they've been upping it gradually over time, but it's been a while since I looked, and damn, I have 6GB of space there!

Even so, given my rational fear of losing data, I fire up Mac Mail every so often to download my mail, and keep a copy of it on my laptop (and another copy on my backup drive).

How much space are you using on your online email?

Illogical Logic Test

A little backgrounder on that post about the IQ testing. We got to talking about brainteasers and fun problem solving because our company now makes all applicants complete during the interview. The result? It was apparently found that most candidates could be weeded out just by this stage alone! Amazing!

And then, we managed to get our hands on the actual test, read through it, and burst out laughing: the test questions are completely error-ridden -- instructions, grammar, etc. -- prompting you to make assumptions as to what they want to ask. And you can't ask for clarification, because your test administrator has left the room until the time is up!

So here's one of the questions, verbatim:

Halley Comet gets closer to earth every 76 years. “May was born when I am 27 years old, I saw Halley Comet while May was 2 years old.” May’s father says. “I was born when my father was 25 years old, my father saw Halley Comet at 8 years old.”May’s grandfather says. The question is: How old was May’s grandfather while May’s father was born? (Please write your algorithm down)

Yeah, right??

The problem itself isn't difficult, but you need to figure out who said what! And under time constraints and all-round interview nervousness, you're likely to make an (incorrect) assumption just keep trudging through to get the answer.

There are no fewer than 5-6 native English-speaking people on staff here. Would it have killed anyone to run the test by one of us??

Sniffing Out the Problem

Remember how I had that nose issue about half a year ago? Well, very mysteriously, it just went away by itself. Maybe it knew I was posting for advice about it, got freaked, and left.

And then decided to move back in again.
I smelled it again just two days ago.
Yesterday, it seemed to fade a bit.
But it smells like it's back again today.

I have a feeling that it's related to my diet, or is a cryptic symptom of my health in some way. My current hypotheses on this are:

1. Sauce.

Three days ago, I had potstickers from a popular joint just around the corner from my work. I have these pretty often, but this time I had it with chili bean sauce (豆瓣醬) -- I used to have this a lot, but some months ago, traded it in for a garlic soy sauce and/or sweet vinegar instead. Lo and behold, the next day, I guess it worked into my system and the nose thing came back!

2. Health.
I've been sick for a while in November and December -- a really nasty virus has pretty much hit everyone I know in some time or another this winter season -- and even now, we're trying hard to shake that last 5% that just won't go away. I don't remember if I was sick back in July 2007, but maybe it's related to my health at the moment.

3. Diet.
A broader generalization, perhaps it's just my diet. Or, maybe the two are related: food and health. When I'm sick or getting sick, my body has cravings for different types of foods (mainly carb-heavy stuff). So perhaps my current diet has a surplus or a deficiency in something, and that's giving me this "reminder" in my olfactory senses?

I dunno. Any thoughts or hints?

Mom was Right

So yesterday, we got around to talking about brainteasers and skill-testing questions, and I looked online and spent the 13 minutes to do an IQ test. And you know what?

Mom was right: I am a genius!

Dear Ben,

Thank you for your interest in the test at

Your general IQ score is: 143

You may login at ­ at any time to view your score, purchase your Complete Personal Intelligence Profile or The Consciousness Exercises, or edit your account settings.

The Team at

It's no wonder I find that so many people around here are idiots! It's because I'm way ahead of the curve!

PS: No, I'd put my money on the IQ test being pretty inaccurate and unreliable as a measure of one's intelligence, just based on my result! Maybe it's set up so that only the real idiots would believe their own score.

Close One

I've always used an electric shaver. Always, ever since my dad first taught me how to shave (with his Braun). Sometimes the kind with circular blades (like Philips and Norelco make), sometimes with the straight back-n-forth blades (like Braun and Remington did), but always electric.

Over the years, however, my chin skin's taken a beating. Maybe it's the sun, and all those damaging UV rays. Maybe it's the air: you know, all those free radicals or whatever it is that convinces women to spend hundreds of dollars on a 50mL canister of cream. Maybe it's the exposure to wind since riding on a scooter, or maybe it's just the constant abrasion from having to shave everyday.

Whatever it is, my skin's getting undeniably rougher, and I can't get a really close shave anymore. Like, just an hour after I've shaved in the morning, I can kind of feel some stubble still there.

So I've heard that the traditional shave -- that is, using a razor blade, even a disposable one -- gives a much better end result. I mean, the kind where after you're done shaving, an attractive lady can't help but approach you from behind and run her hand caressingly over your freshly-smoothed face.

Yeah, like in the ads!

So this past week, I bought myself one of those Gillette Mach3 Power blades, and a can of shaving gel. Please note that I have no idea how to properly shave with one of these things, and in the process, I am acutely aware that a very sharp object will be dangerously close to vital arteries. I will be basically armed with only this how-to and my wits.

So here's to hoping I make it through to write about it later.

Schiesser! Too Rich for Mey Blood

We wandered onto the floor of the shopping complex. We've been here before, but never to this floor -- it's men's apparel. And in a little section in the middle of this floor was the men's underwear.

I'm not talking about your Fruit-of-the-Loom stuff; I'm talking the kind with which you can cuddle your butt, and pamper your twig and berries. The nice materials, the good fits (apparently), all that.

We saw one rack of wares with a bold logo: Schiesser. I read it out loud.

"Doesn't that mean 'sh!t' in German?", M asks.
"Yeah, I think so ..."

Probably not the best name for underwear. I know it's spelled differently (by one letter) and sounds different, but it still leaves a lot of room for error. I mean, what if I started a brand of underwear called "Skitmarks Inc." or "Shetbucket"?

They had a promotion going, $1000NT ($30US) for three plain white underwear, probably the cheapest of any of their product lines. I picked up another box and flipped it over. $780NT apiece. That's $25US for one grey underwear.
"This brand is from Germany," the saleswoman volunteered.
"Oh. Uh-huh. Thanks," I replied.

But no thanks, not even if it's from Europe: this butt is perfectly happy in underwear that's easily half that price. We move on.

And then, with a display on a glamourously black column, there they were: Mey. These designer treasure holders came in lots of patterns: checkers, prints, flag colours, you name it. And in designing it, they seemed to have carefully considered the ... aspects of the male anatomy. I give a subtle nod of approval. The dangling white tag next to the pouch caught my attention.
$2480NT [$75US]

I'm sorry, what was that?? Hey, it's nice underwear, but not that nice. For that price, I could probably pay someone to cradle my ass wherever I go!

Who the heck prices these products, anyway?
Wait, who the heck buys them at those prices??

Not Politically Neutral

I've never taken much interest in politics: not in Canada, in the USA, or in Taiwan. I mean, it's been 7 years since I've lived in a place where I could actually vote. And with every successive country I move to, the politics are getting arguably more and more entertaining (and utterly ridiculous).

I just realized over lunch the other day how little I actually know about how voting and elections work in the United States, what with primaries and even which ones are Democrats or Republicans, or what values they stand for. I do know that the major difference for the outcomes of American politics is who gets all the money in the country, and which lobbying groups get the funding, while the rest is all wasted away anyhow. And I know that current guy got in by suing the other guy, and has launched the nation into a bunch of wars, a Patriot Act, and generally made travelling throughout the world that much less comfortable than it already was, in effect wasting hours of every flight of each traveler, every day.


In Taiwan, I pay even less attention to the political situation. I mean, I know there's the whole long-drawn kefuffle about how close of a relationship to maintain with China (such as, whether to allow direct flights between Taiwan and China). But beyond that, far as I can tell, all other "hot topics" are in other countries normally reserved for discussion between bored housewives: whether to rename one of our memorial monuments (and if we do, then what to call it), whether to hold a referendum at the same time in the same booth as the upcoming presidential election. It's laughable, and the media (which is garbage in Taiwan) eats it all up, and dumbs down the nation's intelligence.

And from some of the people I've spoken to, it's actually working.

My question today is, what with all the junk in politics, is it worth paying attention to? Should I be taking more of an interest in politics of the country I live in? Better yet, where do you go for your news to filter out the tabloid reports?

Victor's Secret

So on the first day of the year, I bought 3 items from Private Structure (to provide a structure for holding my privates, naturally). I've now added them to my collection of new underwear from Zara, Calvin Klein, and the other ones I recently bought from Private Structure. (I've been on a shopping binge for undies and socks recently, dunno why. Maybe all mine have reached the end of their lifespans.)

Anyway, since I've always been partial to briefs and boxer briefs, the new ones are also the same. (I only wear loose boxers to bed, so that my boys can sleep comfortably too. In the daytime, I like to have my body parts ... kept in place. But that's neither here nor there.)

Now, these new ones are snug and form fitting. But they (from all the brands except CK) seem to have forgotten one vital feature for such an undergarment: a sufficiently-sized "pouch" to hold my goodies.

No, I'm not bragging or anything.
They're somehow really damned tight!

WTF? I almost feel like when I put them on, my eyes will pop out. And no, I'm not wearing a size too small either. Given that they're different brands and of different design/styling -- European, American, and Asian -- they shouldn't all be like that, right?? Something's really wrong. Either that, or present-day men prefer to have their cashews treated like stress balls.

No, really, I'm not bragging.

What am I doing wrong? My undies didn't come with an instruction manual, but is there some technique to ... uh ... product placement when I put them on? Or is there something else I should be paying attention to??


On a side note, I appreciate Joe Boxers for keeping me warm on such cold days. Thank you, Joe, for cupping me so.


Here's the first post of the year, on the first day, of a year of many firsts for me. Big plans, baby, big plans. I'm not in the habit of making new year's resolutions -- because anything worth doing is worth doing without waiting for an arbitrary start date -- but here's to hoping 2008 holds lots of good stuff for all of us! I think I'll start it with a delicious meal somewhere. See ya!