Friday, May 30, 2003

If you are locked into a clash-of-civilizations mentality, you rarely contemplate the patterns of behavior that cut across religion, ethnicity, nationality, and "deep history" itself to shape our present-day world. In this case, these would include cultures of power, violence, terror, and indoctrination--shared cultures, to our shame, of indifference to the suffering of others. Of course there are differences, including cultural differences in the more traditional sense. But these are not, in and of themselves, determinative.

-John Dower, "Rethinking culture," Soundings, Spring 2003.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

It's my last day in the Bay Area. The weather has been really beautiful while I've been here: sunny, but not too hot. I took a leisurely walk around Berkeley yesterday morning and marvelled at all the different storefronts and the variety of foods available in the grocery stores. Quite frankly, I never get that excited in Taiwan's supermarkets. There's just so much more variety in U.S. markets, especially since my tastes run towards environmentally-friendly products and organic foods. There's all manner of prepared foods and baked items. Perhaps living in Taiwan is very good for my waistline...

While in Taiwan, though, I do want to become more familiar with the wet markets. There's a lively outdoor one in my neighborhood, and I've been trying to stop by in the morning on my walk to work to pick up some fresh fruit.

Back to Berkeley, my brother took the family on a tour of the campus today. We viewed the Wailing Wall, so named because it's where my brother (and other students) have a good cry as they view their grades. We also saw the pool where he swims at, and viewed the San Francisco Bay from the Campanile. We ate at Top Dog, where you can choose from a selection of sausages that range from bockwurst to lemon chicken and are served by Libertarians. I eat at Top Dog everytime I come to Berkeley.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Well now it's a beautiful morning in San Francisco. Yep, I flew in last night, not to escape SARS, but to watch my brother as he participates in Berkeley's commencement. I did find out on the flight over that wearing a mask actually makes travel more comfortable because the mask kept my breath close to my face, so breathing passages were not as dried out as they usually become in the dry airplane air. Although with the N95 mask and eye shade on, and earplugs in, I'm sure I was quite a sight.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Of all the silly ways people are reacting to SARS, the Taipei City Government's response has got to be the silliest. On Sunday, Bonnie and I went swimming at the Taipei City Zhongshan Fitness Center. We showered before entering the pool area (as responsible pool patrons) and were stopped by a lifeguard. Apparently, the powers that be have declared that all patrons must first sit in the sauna for a minimum of three minutes before entering the pool.

Now, I doubt that sitting in a sauna actually does anything to kill the virus. I mean, if you're infected, the virus is already living happily inside your body, and any changes to surface body temperature won't have any effect. Further, sitting in a sauna (or hot tub or steam room, for that matter) just raises your blood pressure, which depending on your health, would raise the possibility of passing out during subsequent exercise--not a good thing when you're in the water. So the lifeguards were really just setting themselves up for the increased likelihood of having to make rescues.

Demand has also increased for antibacterial soaps. Folks, SARS is a virus, not a bacteria. Antibacterial soaps aren't effective, and just encourages the development of antibacterial-resistant bacteria.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Happy May Day! I took well advantage of this labor day holiday--celebrated around the world excepting the U.S.--by sleeping in. Since starting my new job at Lehman Brothers, I have been working twelve hour days. However, so I really enjoy my new job. I'm having much less trouble than I expected arriving at 7:30 a.m. in the morning and the time just flies by.

Monday, my first day on the job, was quite hectic also because it was the first day Lehman had moved into its new offices at the Cathay Financial Building in the Xinyi District. The offices are quite nice, and I have a view from my desk of the Shinkong Mitsukoshi Department Store across the street. I have to admit, I spent about half an hour adjusting my Aeron chair, ergonomic keyboard rest, and flat screen monitor so that everything feels right. Those Aeron chairs really work--I think I spend more time sitting in front of the computer at this new job, but my butt is not as sore!

The only thing I miss is being able to access instant messaging and web-based mail services. We're blocked from doing so. I can't really complain, since I am ostensibly at work to work. But I do miss connecting in real time with friends and family around the world and in Taipei.