Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Google Me This

Good Morning, Fellow Drifters.

Just wanted to point out that you're all behind the times. 2008 is SO last year. Get with it and hurry up over to the New, the Now... the Nine.

I'm taking a day to myself here. Much needed, much deserved. (If I do say so.)
Catching up on some emails and blog posts, thinking about buying a movie off iTunes to enjoy. It's much too cold and windy to sit out to read like I normally do. (Did anyone see 24:Redemption? Is it worth 12bucks?)

So... thanks to some fun tools, I can monitor the traffic to my page. I mentioned it when I reported being cited on another Taiwan blog. But sometimes, the traffic doesn't come from Blogspot or Facebook... but from Google.

It's quite amusing to find out who happens to my blog through the Search-Engine-turned-Lifestyle. The tool not only tells me where ( but what. In just the last two days:

  • Someone in Singapore is reading blogs on "Taiwan"
  • Someone in St. Louis, Missouri just realized the New Year is underway and is scrambling to learn how to "Form Habit"
  • A bloke from Strasbourg, Alsace used to search a "Louis Armstrong Happy New Year" (To those of you who have read my previous blog, my theory is that Monster Melancholy visited Strasbourg and he was hit with the same realization that Mr. Armstrong is no longer with us.) (just a theory...)
  • And Best of all: The Men of Houston, Texas are finally admitting they are jealous of "Asian Mole Hair"

God Bless Google.

Happy New Year -- from Monster Melancholy to Redemption

Happy New Year.

2009 is here, and at the risk of sounding pessimistic, things look dark.

Half-emptiness isn't my intent, though. Things really do look dark here... it's nearly 1AM.

Yes, you read that right. It's not even an hour past Midnight, and I'm already in my bed blogging away. Celebrations were limited for me tonight. I didn't make it anywhere too enthralling like the NYC-style, over-crowded Taipei 101, and the bar-parties aren't exactly my scene. Oh well. The New Year welcomes itself with or without Celebration. I had a great dinner with my Taiwanese Family, and spent the first few minutes of the New Year holding a four-year old on my shoulders so she could see the fireworks through the buildings obscuring our viewing spot on the Porch at the top of our 5-story condo/home.

Another reason I didn't go out? It was a bit moist tonight. I heard Taipei was rained out. It showered lightly, on and off throughout today, here in Taichung.

The New Year's Reflections always seem to bring out this Introspective Aspiration Monster that reeks with the stench of Melancholy. That's how you know it. You can smell the Melancholy for days.

Bally and 24hr Fitness love this Monster. Jenny Craig and Anthony Robbins prey on it.

No matter how many times its struck down, it seems to come back. Year in. Year out.

This Monster takes different forms for different people, but it's there nonetheless. Monster Melancholy hit me twice today. Once when I was listening to Louis Armstrong. It was just a small blip of a thought, but I felt as though my mind turned around to take a second look. "He's gone. He's not on earth anymore." I've been lucky enough to have never been intimately acquainted with Death thus far, so I have no idea why the thought of Louis Armstrong's death -- 30+ years postmortem, mind you -- hit me hard enough to stop my racing mind in its tracks. "He's gone. He's not coming back. He'll never contribute anything new to the world of music. Never give contemporary commentary on this Wonderful World." I still don't know where the strength of that thought came from and can only cite it as proof of the existence of Monster Melancholy.

Its second attack was through the weather. Particularly sub-par weather evokes Monster Melancholy like a rain dance brings the rain. But a subdued New Year's Celebration on a day of sub-par weather are elements that converge and formed that Perfect Storm of Introspective Aspiration; leaving your very clothing soaked in that stench no parka could save you from.

But there's something special about that Perfect Storm. Something Redemptive in New Year's Eve. Something Forgiving. There's a phrase in a song that uses the metaphor "Grace like Rain." My thoughts tuned to this song all throughout today as the droplets struck my beanie and scarf and jacket-clad shoulders. There's beauty in a hard rain that can wash the grime and filth from your shirt and shoes (and shoulders and scarves and beanies...).

The New Year is like that. A few lights, some cheers, and we embrace a new age. We get another 'round the sun. 2008 is gone in all its glory and grime, and it's not coming back. Washed away. Sealed in history, never to contribute any more to our life-story.

But we get a New Year; a new Chapter in our life-story. Another chance.

"The Sun rises for the good and the evil ... and the rain falls on the just and unjust." The New Year comes for the rich and the poor; the ones who celebrate lavishly, and those who don't know any better. The field of Grace is level. There are no buildings to peer around or over. You don't have to steal a glance. It's there if you want it.

The Story of Redemption is all around us. Everyday, a secret in front of our face. I'm learning to look for it and truly value it more than all else. Maybe this means less failures, and less grime... but then again, maybe in a way, embracing Redemption means admitting you're dirtier than you thought.

But that's the beauty of Grace. Its Shower persists long after the stench of Introspective Melancholy is washed out. All that remains: unadulterated Aspiration for that new beginning.

I am now well into the first hours of this New Year, and though it's still dark, the feeling of Grace 2009 has ushered in just seems a little brighter than I've known for awhile...

Happy New Year, Friends.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

State of the Nation - The View from a Beggar's Seat

As a first-year student at my school here in Taiwan, I was required to complete a Health Examination. Today, I received the standard Physical once-over, along with a Chest X-ray and a blood test (results will be in after the new year on those two).

The whole thing cost me about $25 US.

I was astonished at the low price, really. $700NT, I think. I'm pretty sure a visit to the physician, Stateside, would cost that in our Nation's currency. I don't have insurance - here or home - but that did not matter, nor did it affect the price. I walked in, let them have their way with me and the tests, and I was out the door. listed a few lesser known facts about this island-Country. It's striking how, in some ways, they are much further along - developmentally speaking - than even the States. We would do well to take note. (Hat tip: Alex)

Taiwan has the worlds highest recycling rate in the world, and is the first country to implement plastic recycling as a nation-wide program. Meanwhile China is well known for its rampant pollution.

Taiwan has the most Ph.D,’s per capita, and the most college graduates in the world, both domestically and internationally.

The gender wealth equality in Taiwan is 43%, the highest in Asia and near the top of the world. Women in Taiwan generally get paid just as much as their male counterparts. Plus unlike the U.S.A. and Japan, women generally don’t use the spousal last name or a Mrs. title in any professional or business environment. As a result many Taiwanese students don’t even know the marital status of their female teachers, let alone the last name of their spouse.

Lowest Poverty Rate in the World: Taiwan has the lowest poverty rate in the world, only 0.95%. The United States has 12.6% of the population below the poverty line, and Japan at 10%. China has 8% but their poverty line is so low that one must make less than $150 USD a year to qualify.

This last item really struck a chord with me. Lowest Poverty Rate in the World?? That's truly remarkable. I wonder if "Affordable Healthcare" was somewhere in the philosophy that lead the Nation to earn this title.

My new photo was taken during a class field trip to a Taoist Temple. I was sitting on a fixated stool perched at the exit of the Temple. It was called the Beggar's Seat. In older times (the Temple was at least 100 years old), homeless and fringe society would rest at the Tiger's Exit and pan penance from those who had just left their prayers.

No one was sitting there, that day. The Beggar's Seat was empty.

Someday, there will be no Beggar's Seat in the Land I will call my Home. It, too, will be empty. Society's most destitute will be tended to. It will be a time where it's not only Affordable to care for the Least of These, but Essential.

This will not happen overnight. And by no means am I holding my breath. I am, however, no less a proponent in that essential change.

Seeing this Change come about in our day-to-day world goes much beyond the realm of Politics.

No matter who you are: Doctor, Patient; Teacher, Student; slumped in the Beggar's Seat, or leaving the Temple Grounds... I encourage and invite you to join me and seek out this Essential Change in the reality of your day-to-day.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Nothing But Nets

As I write this, I'm sitting on my bed and under a Mosquito Net.

I've spent most of this evening waving an electric-wire tennis racket at anything that buzzed near my ear.

However, I don't have to live in the reasonable fear of Malaria. Some do.

It took me awhile to get used to sleeping under a mosquito net. It's disorienting at first. But after the first few days, the red bumps on my face began to clear up - and I knew it had nothing to do with my new face wash. I was being eaten throughout the night, and I didn't even notice!

But, that was it. The itchy, unsightly red bumps went away.

A bite from an infected insect does not disappear. Malaria induces fever, vomiting, convulsions and brain damage. Coma, and even death, are likely outcomes for untreated patients.

Worse still, Malaria is the cause of poverty in some third world societies. The spread of the disease is a fetter to all socio-economic growth.

Malaria is not a disease that can be cured, but it is a disease that can be guarded against.

Pills can be taken on a regular basis to reduce the chance of infection. Ointments and repellents can ward off insects, when applied. And get this: Mosquito Nets. Draped over a bed or a Child's play pen, a Mosquito Net can serve as a defense against the defenseless.

The United Nations Foundation is helping you be a defender of the defenseless in this battle against this awful disease. For only $10us you can purchase a Mosquito Net for someone living in this threat.

Christmas is over, but maybe you can find use for that sweater or b-rate dvd you plan on returning today for $9.99. You will never know the difference you may have made.

Post Script: The more time I spent thinking about this organization, the more I realized I couldn't not do anything. This is a group that bridges international waters, yet still strikes close to home for me. I've set a goal.

I want to change 10 lives.

10 lives


Will you help me?

Digesting (Slowly but Surely)

It's December 26th. Some consider it "Boxing Day"
Christmas is over. Amazing.

Thanks to some Blogspot tools, I found my name floating around in the Blogosphere.
Michael Turton cited my bus blog on his page. He does a great job covering all things Taiwan.
I was honored he'd take the time to mention my corner of the World[Wide Web2.0].

Another article he posted is about a Priest from the Congo.
He leads at a Catholic Church I was actually going to attend this Christmas (with my Taiwanese family), but couldn't because of class. According to my family here, he's very well versed in the Taiwan culture, and speaks the languages like a Native. He also speaks English like a Native. He also speaks French. . .

(Someday. Chinese first... then we'll keep going from there...Slowly but Surely.)

Anyways, here's the blog "On Being Black in Taiwan"

Don made a great statement: "Holy-days are nice, every-day is better"
A needed reminder this time of year.

Thank you all, again, for joining me this far in my Journey.

Taking it day by day,

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Reasons I Miss the States - Christmas Morning [Merry Christmas!]

Well the clock just struck 2am (12/26).

I've spent the last four hours under the mosquito net draping my bed and in front of my laptop. Enjoying Christmas via Skype, I opened the gifts my Family had sent, and watched them open theirs.

Traditions, huh?

Not quite what I'm used to, not quite what I want to get used to... but this is a special, memorable Christmas nonetheless.

I certainly didn't miss out this time like I did during Thanksgiving. Christmas Eve was spent with my Taiwan Family. We enjoyed a full Turkey dinner: stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, fish... The works. It was great. And I think we were the only ones on the block celebrating! (Though the church down the way was still playing Kenny G on their outdoor speaker...)

It was decided, without my vote, that the American should be the one to carve the turkey. There's something about wielding a weapon of mass destruction in the palm of your hand that makes your voice drop a few octaves. It's a defining moment for every man.

"Wow! You're slicing so well! Have you done this before?"
"Where'd you learn how?"
"Watched my dad do it a few years in a row..."

Larry was delicious.*
(*Family joke. I meant the turkey. Don't worry about it...)

Not many people remembered it was Christmas today, though I did receive an individually-wrapped mint from a Santa-hat-clad Bus Driver on my way home from school today. I guess that was enough to forgive him for being 30 minutes late.

It's time for me to sleep. I'm surrounded in gifts and wrapping paper, and I don't care. My alarm is going off in less than 5 hours, and I have to make it to the bus so that I'm not late to my Chinese Class Field Trip to the Buddhist Temple

I hope you are all right where you want to be. And if you're not, I hope you're moving in that direction with purpose.

Merry Christmas. Enjoy your day.
PS Though it's not the most celebrated Holiday...Taiwan did receive a Christmas Present. And from China, no less!

Here are some pictures that were snapped on Skype that are likely not supposed to see the light of day:

The Family around the Tree.

She sure does treat me nice.

Rock'n'Around the Tree

Christmas Eve Fish

Christmas Morning

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Adventures in the Back of the Bus

This is where I recount the adventures of riding the Taichung Public Transit System to School.

At the Bus Stop
Day ONE:
  • I arrived @ 7:59
  • Bus arrived @ 8:15

Day TWO:
  • I arrived @ 8:03
  • Bus arrived @ 8:11

  • I arrived @ 8:07
  • Bus arrived @ 8:06

It's okay, I still made it to school on time. Thanks for asking.

Today, on my return trip, there was a crazy lady that sat at the seat across the aisle from me. She had purple socks, purple shoes, purple pants and far too much red lipstick. Her bag overturned and the contents wound up rolling around on the bus floor. I leaned over to help retrieve the multiple packs of tissue.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Thank you, Thank you!!" She said, far too loudly.
Luckily, I had just learned the Chinese words for "You're welcome" and "Don't worry about it."

Mandarin lessons are paying off!

At the next light, she moved forward on the bus, as we were nearing her stop.
The driver forced the door open to let in the next passenger - a young man, who moved very slowly as he climbed the stairs and scanned his card. As the driver accelerated through the light, and then tapped the breaks when the car in front of him didn't do the same, the young man tumbled and rolled backwards in slow motion, his feet high in the air.

The crazy lady loudly squawked at the man in Chinese as he fumbled to his seat.

Before I could tune her out and return to my book, the bus driver laid into his horn at the car in front of us. Ten seconds I counted. Still honking. I glanced out the window and realized, as we swerved back to the right, that the bus driver had considered passing the slow moving car in the face of oncoming traffic.

A truck whizzed past us.

To end my trip, I dropped the two $50 coins from my front pocket into the coin slot between the driver and the door. It was the shimmer of gold sliding into the bucket that made me catch my mistake. As the bus doors closed behind me, I reached into that 5th half-pocket in my jeans, and found the two, silver $10 coins I intended to leave. $80 overpay, and the driver won't even consider it a tip.

I guess it's true. You can't put a price on a good adventure.

ㄋ一ˇ   ㄏ凹ˇ

A weekend recap is coming, but I am purposefully waiting until I have obtained the necessary photographs.
  • The recap will include (but not be limited to):
  • White on White Paisley and Sequence
  • Chris O'Donnell's Three Musketeer getup (or close enough)
  • A photographer
  • And a Turkey/Ham Lunch potluck

Stay tuned.

But for now, I thought I would let you all know that I am officially a Student of Chinese!
Class started Monday Morning at a brisk 9 am. It's for 3 months, 3 hours a day, 5 days a week.

I am in a class with 4 other students (unless the other 6 show up):
An Australian, who is a Taiwan Citizen-by-Marriage
An Exchange Student from Thailand
Another Student from Vietnam
and a Young Wife who recently relocated with her husband, also from Vietnam.

I personally feel that the Vietnamese students, and maybe the Thai-guy have an unfair advantage, seeing as their native tongue is also a tonal one.

Nonetheless, the 5 of us are in it together. Starting at square one: The Mandarin equivalent to the ABCs (BoPo MoFo). I am excited to learn. I love the idea of being on my way to fluency by the time I head back home to the States. Certainly will impress my friends at Panda Express, right?

The University I'm attending has a beautiful campus. My bus ride (which is about a buck-fifty US round trip) drops me off 20-30 minutes early, and the lake - and surrounding trail, tables, and observation deck - have already tap-tapped the extra time.

I'll admit, it's strange being back in the classroom again. I found the Library first chance I had, and grew giddy as I purused the 6th floor - "Western Bookstacks" - promising Miller and Marx and Socrates I would visit them again soon.

I just hope homework will allow.

On the first day, we learned a Tongue Twister. Can I share it with you? Oh great, thanks friend, here goes:
Mama qi ma. Ma man mama ma ma.

Translation, please?
Mother is riding the Horse. The Horse is Slow so Mother scolds the Horse.

Ai iou.

This is not going to be easy.

PS If I fragmented my homework and the chinese alphabet on my keyboard correctly - which I likely didn't - the Characters in the Title box spell out "Hello"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You English Speak Not Well.

I alluded to it here.

I spelled it out plainly here (See #1).

But you didn't believe me. Thought I was making it up.

This is the random Skype message I received tonight from a young lady somewhere in Taiwan:

Can we be friends?
I need someone practice english with me. I hope you can help.

See what I mean? Befriend a "Foreigner," and free English all around.
I don't know who this person is. I don't know how they found me on Skype.
But... heck, free English lessons?! Why not! (Should I feel bad that I didn't respond?)

(Oh, btw... Batman on Film just confirmed that Shia and Eddie won't be in the next Batman movie. Disappointed? I'm not.
... however, Rachel Weisz - of Mummy Returns and the excellent under-the-radar film "Blueberry Nights" - very well could land the roll of Selina Kyle/Catwoman... to which I would not complain.
If Catwoman is introduced for Nolan's third chapter, it would make for a great story line... but I don't know if a "sexier Bruce Wayne" is a strong way to end the series. Maybe a fourth to follow?! Wouldn't complain about that either. We'll see.

Just doing my part to keep you all updated. ;) I'll let you know when there's more.)

I just spent $355 on a half gallon of Eggnog, Ctd.

Eggnog Blog Update

So, believe it or not, they liked it. The only complaint I received (which kept most of them from asking for a second pixie-cup helping) was that it tasted too sweet.

I'll give it to them. It's a sweet drink.

Being in Taiwan makes me realize how over-addicted to sugar we are in the States. Everything is saturated with artificial sweeteners and neon-florescent colors.

You know what's considered ingredients for a good dessert here in Taiwan?
Red Beans
and Fresh Fruit.

I'm learning to take that over any artificial concoction offered to me back home.
(that said, I should make a note that I just snuck half a bag of Peach Rings out of the Christmas package my family sent me . . . hey! I said I'm learning!!)

Anyways, their less-than-enthusiastic reaction left me plenty in the carton to get my eggnog fix for the Season. (Yeah, that means I drank more than my fair share, and regretted it an hour later)

Being detached from familiarity - especially this time of year - has given me ample time to observe life-as-I-knew-it from the outside. Watching America's financial crisis spread throughout the World; Seeing a global perspective on politics; Unhinging eyes from any glamor in Hollywood or any hold in "trends," I have a unique chance to observe the culture I'd been unable to separate myself from - or really, know anything different.
One thing I am now sure of: The Hamster Wheel of "9-5, repeat" has no appeal to me.
(Nor does the "5-9" of retail, but that's a given. I weathered that battle already.)

While discussing "Stage Musicals" with Jimmy, I searched Cirque Du Soliel clips on YouTube. I found this Allegoric gem...

What are your thoughts?

BTW... completely unrelated, but since this is an update blog, I figured I'd let you all know my favorite tracks from the new BG record are now:
The title track, "I'll be Home for Christmas" (it's only fitting), and
The Jazzy, down-tempo "What Child is This" (what can I say... I'm a sucker for a good Jazz tune, and I didn't know the girls had it in them.)
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Christmas Music

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Merry Christmas!

BTW... if you enjoy good Christmas Music, check out BarlowGirl. They came out with a Top Notch Holiday Album this season. I personally favor their take on "Carol of the Bells" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

At any rate... if you get a chance, check out what I'm humming through my holidays: Home for Christmas by BarlowGirl.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I just spent $355 on a half gallon of Eggnog

Tomorrow... I will be drinking Eggnog.

[Taken from]

I am incredibly excited. So excited that I thought it worth telling all of you about how excited I am.
(And to prove wrong my prediction about an eggnog-less Christmas)

Costco is the only place in Taiwan that carries this wonderful holiday treat. For that I'm certain. However, I did have to shell out $355nt for the carton. Supply and Demand, I guess. (fyi: $355= about $11us.)

But it's worth it. You see, I asked my class if they've ever heard of Eggnog, and their noses curled upwards.

"Ew! Does it really have eggs in it???"

I said, "Are you kidding me?! You're Taiwanese!! You eat pigs' feet and gall bladder!"

So I ventured down the road to Costco, used my American Costco card to get in, resisted the temptation to buy ice cream and pizza, and fought the insane crowds (see 17i), and found myself staring at the one stack of off-brand half gallon cartons of $355 Eggnog.

I'm banking on the hope that my class will be repulsed at the taste, and I'll get more than a few mugs out of it.
Selfish, I know. But at least I'm giving them a fair shot at an exotic cultural experience.

In other news... the Holiday's are in full swing. There's translated Christmas music on the radio, and plastic tree's in every Starbucks and McDonald's. The Vineyard of Harvest Church on my block was the first to put up lights and start projecting Kenny G's Christmas album onto the sidewalk (I have mixed feelings about that), but the Condo Complex and the bright orange underwear store on the corner have followed suite.

The funny thing is... no one celebrates Christmas. No one gets a day off work, or school. It's just another day. Traditions, huh?

Thinking of you all. Would love to hear from you as to what you're doing this holiday season.
Til then... Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reasons I Miss the States - Breakfast

What I'm used to:

What I eat now:

I rest my case.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thought of the Day...

Don asked...

Any thoughts on the appreciation of the arts, especially music, in the Taiwanese culture?

Amateur sociologist? Recreational philosopher? Social observationist?

so I thought I'd post a quick thought. I may expound on a later date.

Art is very affluent in Taiwanese culture. You see it purposefully throughout their Architecture, their Department Stores, their Restaurants, and their Recreation.

In the center of Taichung is a large Art Museum. The outer grounds are as aesthetically focus as the interior.
Taichung's Mayor has declared it his mandate to make the city a mecca for the arts -- the Jazz Festival was his institution.

But more than any other medium, I would have to say Classical Music is the art of choice.
Orchestra Performances are met by a full house I only dreamed of in theVault's days.
String Quartet and Chamber concerts have traveled to every elementary school, department store, and McDonald's.

And every Taiwanese student I know of is studying at least one or two classical instruments.

Taiwan has very little "Rock-Scene" to be spoken of. And the bulk of what does exist plays covers at bars and lounges where the audience sit at tables and maybe applaud.

But classical music... that's the ticket.

I've thought about why this is. True, there are still pop singers and the likes, but why is the emphasis placed so heavily on orchestra music?

Taiwanese - like Chinese and Japanese cultures - value their place within a group. Finding identity in a whole greater than yourself is considered Virtuous. They stay within their family units and work for large companies.

How does this contrast to the great Spirit of American Independence?

I hope to compare the two in a future entry, but for now, that's my Thought of the Day.

Do you know where those have been?

I was just served pig's feet.

It's my fault, really. I should have picked up on the cues when they said "Are you sure? I don't think you'll like it." In my defense, I was told it was "pork," not "Porky's Toes."

I poked around at the two lumps in my bowl and sipped at the soup, trying not to think about what would secrete when you boil feet. David asked, "So you don't like it?" I tried to feed him an "I'm working on it" line by saying, "Well, I just can't find the meat..."

"No meat," he said, "just skin."
Just then, something bent and snapped. I think I broke Squealer's ankle.

I've never been a huge fan of pork grinds, but at least those are fried and crunchy. You see, I don't enjoy skin. Chicken, pork, turkey... I'll pass. Give me meat, not skin. I've even been known to skin grapes before eating.

But besides that... why feet? Do we really have to consume all of the animal? I mean, A+ for frugality and conservation... but feet? I draw my line after stomach or gall bladder.

This is all to say that Babe, Wilbur and their potbelly friends are safe when stepping onto my plate...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Sound [and Sight] of Music

The family I stay with here in Taiwan heads up the Taichung City Symphony Orchestra. I'm lucky enough to get to tag along to performances and take pictures with my digital point-and-shoot.

I'm no Jered Scott, but I like to think I make due with what I have.
(Jered is a good friend, and an even greater guy than his photography is fantastic. Check out his galleries here.)

By no means am I claiming Photographer-status (I'm still only a "picture-taker") but I enjoy it nonetheless, and it gives me something to do other than sitting in a stiff theater chair.

This Sunday, there was a Chamber Concert at a local Jr High Auditorium. I was able to sneak around and snap a few shots.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Reasons I Miss the States - People

This video (by good friends, Gabe and Luke) inspired me to start a new "column" on the Drift.
From time to time, I will be posting "Reasons I Miss the States."

These two people are definitely on that list.

The Person Behind the Voice

I just wanted to spread a little Christmas Cheer as you all are waking up and venturing out to Church in the cold and snow this Advent Morn.

This Song has been somewhat of a Tradition of mine since I first heard it a few years back.
For as long as it's been on the Internet, it's been anonymous... until now.

The good people at Burnside Writer's Collective have interviewed the person behind the voice.

Don't believe me? Read for yourself.

Now hug someone near you and thank them for not singing like that guy.
If you want to hear more voices like that... well, come Karaoke in Taiwan...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Facelifts (without the Plastic Surgery)

So it's been 40 posts. I thought it was time for a blogger-facelift.

I mean, really. What kind of South Orange County Native would I be if I hit the half-century mark without a little Aesthetic Remodeling. We are, in fact, the Real OC.

The first obvious change is the banner up top. I took the picture at a park near my Taiwanese home. The edits were done by my girlfriend, Brittany.

Not that the banner is an amazing feat of Photoshop Glory but... she just won a city-wide contest for designing the big Gasperilla Art Show Poster half way through her first semester in Photoshop. Just thought I'd brag a little.

She lives in Florida. For those of you who did really bad in geography... that's no where near Taiwan.
And for those of you who are going to ask... yeah, I miss her quite a bit.

On to the second update:
If you've noticed below this post, I've added what Blogspot calls "Reactions." That's right. Now you can leave your reaction to my post without the busy work of commenting (though I still covet your comments. it's an addiction really. I'm sure I find some bit of my self worth in how many little blurbs I get to read from all of you wonderful friends. Thank you Web 2.0).

Unfortunately, I didn't have the option of limit-less reactionary possibilities (that's what the comment form is for). So for now, you're stuck with "adrift" "killer tofu" and "foreign to me"

Interpret as you will.

But anyways... thank you to all who have been drifting along in this Journey with me. I thoroughly enjoying sharing my adventures with you. And after hashing them out here, I realize they really are as crazy as they seem.

Thanks again!

A Fellow Drifter on Driving

Just wanted to point you all in the direction of a brilliantly (or should I say frightfully) accurate post about driving in Taiwan. It's written by a fellow foreigner who washed adrift here on the shores of this crazy island just over 3 years ago. Unfortunately, they don't give medals for that sort of thing...

Alex has been one of the sages I've relied on in the adaptation process here in Taichung. Plus, he's great company over Starbucks and Thai Food. After about 10 minutes into our first conversation, we discovered we spent a good portion of our lives within 15 minutes of South Orange County Driving Time from each other.

The only real difference? I'm a native, and he hails from England. At any rate... it's a great post, and as I said: frightfully accurate.

And before you click, here's a daily dose of the road here:

[Edit: These videos are too fantastic. Alex did the leg work to find and link these gems on his page... but I have to post them here. It seems so ridiculous to see this much lunacy in a 2 minute streaming clip... but this is just day-to-day reality.]

And this one has a great sound track:

And this will make you jump up and make a face something like O_O ...or maybe =-O
See for yourself:

This stuff just couldn't be scripted if they tried.
Check Alex's post for the reason behind the madness.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thought of the Day...

I just have to say, I've discovered how soothing the act of erasing a whiteboard can be.

Really though, it's great.

Today was a meaty day in class, filled with technical stuff like where to put the period at the end of an MLA-format quotation. Between the audible snores and the origami, there were a few moments that I turned to my scribbled board and wiped away my tension before I turned back to regain control of the classroom from the snoozing and the sidebar conversations in Chinese.

And after class? You better believe I spent a length clearing all the clutter from the board and my mind. It's meditative, really. Maybe if I ever write a book it could be called "Zen and the Art of White Board Erasing."

Just a thought for today...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Photo of the Day

Due to popular demand, I dug out a photo of line #14 mentioned in my previous blog post.
That's a Squid-on-Stick stand in all it's Night Market Glory.

Bon Appetit! Or as we say here, Su Fan!

Neck-Mole Hair is Cool, and 25 [More] Cultural Observations

One of my first posts after arriving here in Taiwan was a list of 25 Cultural Surprises entitled Sponge Bob Square Pants Knows Chinese.

I decided to do a follow-up:

  1. It is assumed that befriending a Foreigner on the street means free English lessons

  2. White-Foreigner Males in their 20s-30s have a bad reputation on the Island, and I can see when I pass a girl, or father, who puts me in that category.

    1. On the other hand, there are times when I pass a girl on the street, she'll stare at me in a way that probably would have gotten me beat up by the boyfriend on her arm if it were to happen in the States. I typically look at him to try to neutralize the situation (and size him up, just in case), but I'm greeted with a wide eyed, smile that rivals his girlfriend's gaze.

  3. There's usually a bout of giggly laughter after I pass by.

  4. It's okay to tell your English teacher he's fat if it's true.

  5. It's okay to tell your English teacher he's fat if you think it's true.

  6. They see being fat as unhealthy, not unfabulous

  7. Girls still starve themselves to be thin, however

  8. The one rule on the road I've seen followed is “No Right Turn on Red”

  9. At bigger intersections, Scooters have to make a two-light right-angled turn instead of simply turning left. This is occasionally broken.

  10. Mothers let toddlers stand between their legs on the floor of their scooter helmetless as they ride through the reckless city.

  11. But the AC and heater are rejected, largely, because it is deemed unhealthy and a waste of unnecessary energy.

  12. The Dryer is seen as a Clothes wrecker, and thus ignored.

  13. Duck and Chicken heads and feet are served as edible additions to your dinner.

  14. Every Night Market must have a Squid-on-a-Stick Stand

  15. Best factory-placed sticker on the side of a scooter: “Strictly for Wind Cutting.”

  16. 7-11 does not sell any Energy Drinks, and their soda list is about 4 beverages long. However, they have three refrigerators full of bottled tea.

  17. McDonald's, KFC, TGI Friday's, and Costco all taste more or less the same, the only difference is the bilingual menus.

    1. Speaking of Costco... it's nothing short of an adventure-outing here. People queue up 15 people thick and wait a good ten minutes all for a nibble of the new chunk of Cheddar cheese.

    2. Oh, and the Pizza in the cafe near the entrance? Tastes the same, except the flavors are Cheese, Hawaiian, and Seafood. I have yet to see Pepperoni anywhere.

  18. The Pamello fruit is a festival delicacy that is typically eaten once a year. It tastes like a white orange.

  19. You sort your recyclable trash at public fast food restaurants and in office buildings

  20. The lady at the DVD rental store has a strange but decent taste in English speaking movies. (American and British)

  21. Even when you know you're full, you're still hungry. Because you obviously didn't eat enough. They don't have a problem telling you this. (for circular reasoning, see numbers 5-6)

  22. Those snack bags with the wasabi-wrapped-wafers, and the stale ginger-flavored communion crackers, and the crunchy flash-fried (whole) minnows... they're actually not half bad. (Just don't think about the minnow part as you're putting it in your mouth)

  23. Jr and Senior High Students study for fun, and practice their instruments on their day off. (Yes, day. As in one.)

  24. Taiwanese try to out-entertain their guests at weddings. C-Rate Magicians always do more harm than good. That simply should be an international policy.

  25. If the only substantial facial hair you can grow is four inches of straggly mess out of a neck mole... by all means, go for it...