Friday, December 31, 2004

Ending 2004 with fire n' ice

Okay, there's no fire, but I do plan to spend tonight hanging with old friends who have returned to town, as well as newer ones. Nothing like having your buds around to keep warm - especially when the temperatures are down to the mid-forties (7 degrees Centigrade)! Visions of cashmere, fleece, and hot water bottles are dancing in my head...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

It's cold!

Okay, okay, I know my friends in the States would scoff at this complaint of how cold it is - but when the outside temperature is 55F, the temperature in my room is not much different. AND, the temperature fell by 17 degrees in a day, so that's a pretty drastic change. Last night I pulled out all the stops when I went to bed: I put my fleece blanket over my already thick wool comforter. I put a heating pad under the comforter to warm things up. And then I wore a turtleneck, thermal shirt, long pants, socks, and a fleece hat to bed. But I still managed to wake up with a headache from the cold.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Certified!

I'm now a PADI-certified Open Water Diver - weee! I even saw a sea turtle, and have determined that in a previous life, I must have been some sort of water animal (as I am very comfortable in the water) but definitely not something that would venture on shore (like a crab) because I had undeniable problems entering and exiting the water from the shore. I'm not too smooth on land to begin with (as evidenced by my tripping as I walked away from the van towards my equipment), and even less so when I am stepping among tide pools and rocks with waves surging against my legs, an oxygen tank strapped to my back, and a mask on my face.

Despite the 10-15 minutes of concerted effort each entry and exit took, I decided to go swim at lunch today because as Wayne points out, SCUBA diving is a leisure activity, not a sport. Managed to do an easy 1km swim, with 5x100m on the 2:00. Not spectacular, but I wasn't pushing very hard and getting about 20 seconds rest.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Into the waters at Kending

I'm going to Kending this weekend to complete my four open water dives so that I can finally get my PADI Open Water Diver certification. Trying to be upbeat about the weekend, and approach it as a much-needed break with Eve, instead of a rushed trip squeezed in to get the darn course over with so that we can move on. I'd rather not be on such a tight schedule, and pay all this extra money, but this will be my first time to Kending so should be exciting. At least we are staying at a decent hotel Saturday night so maybe I can relax, paint my toenails, put cucumber slices on my eyes...ha ha.

My face has been irritated (dry and flaky) and I've been reacting to the elastics in my stockings. Neil says that this is probably due to an internal inbalance - perhaps in reaction to stress - instead of merely a change in weather. This is altogether a very Asian viewpoint instead of a Western one, and I have to agree. The Western way is to merely treat the topical symptoms, while the Asian approach is to try to balance the inside. Let's see what the waters at Kending do for me.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

People who boast about their I.Q. are losers

...a great quote from Stephen Hawking that appeared in the New York Times. Actually, the whole article is hilarious. Thanks to Matt for pointing it out.

Friday, December 10, 2004

TGIF

Another weekend upon me - I'm late for a holiday party and still have a few things to tie up here. Trying to battle a cold that is trying to creep its way onto me, and wanting desperately to rest, but again trying to juggle a full social schedule and a long to-do list of errands.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Is it still a duck if you don't call it a duck?

If a bird looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and swims like a duck, but you don't call it a duck, what is it?

Disavowing reality?

Does it matter?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Is there balance in zooming?

Over one of our marathon catch-up gabfests with my darling cousin Pei (who has been back in Taipei for a few days), we noted how difficult balancing our lives can be, especially with our careers. True, we have more tools at our disposal - email, cell phones, instant messages - but the demands are higher, too.

We want to do our work well, we want to take care of our health, we want to honor our community involvements, we want to pursue our interests, we want to relax, we want to have fun. We also have what I call the business of living - clothing to launder, groceries to buy, bills to pay, homes to clean. And then of course there are our loved ones - and we do not want to have to chose between any of our friends. All too often, however, connections are like branches in rapids, to meet up briefly before being separated again.

Do our personal lives suffer? I have friends I haven't seen in awhile - we play phone tag and text message, but I am either too tired to go out when they are out, or vice versa.

Pei told me how a few co-workers tried to set her up on a blind date. But after several failed attempts to schedule a date (he was on a business trip, she was on a business trip, etc.), he suggested giving up as there wasn't enough yuan fen to even met up, let alone to imagine something sparking from there. How does one date nowadays? If you see someone only on the weekends, does it mean they are not really interested, or is this just the reality of balancing schedules?

How do we squeeze everything beyond our careers - our interests, our friends, our lives - into the 48 hours of a weekend?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

A new prima donna begins to take the stage

An interesting article in today's New York Times on China's rising influence in Asia (at the expense of the U.S.). Amazing how the little things - cultural exchanges, language programs, encouraging students to study abroad - can make such a difference in the perception of one's country. China's influence is growing as the U.S.'s wanes, in part also due to the U.S. drawing its wagons close and turning inward. Cutting back Voice of America's funding, making studying abroad in the States difficult...do people forget that the source of America's strength comes from the continual flow of foreign brains? Let's think about one of the hottest IPOs this year, which has as co-founder a foreign student. My own parents are themselves an example of America's reliance on foreign students to supply the demand for scientists and engineers. Condi, you reading?

Actually, I didn't mean to rant on about just the U.S. Taiwan is just as guilty - the government cut funding that supports Chinese language study here years ago, and that will really hurt Taiwan as it tries to carve a place for itself in the future. In general, you can tell where China scholars and policy makers learned their Chinese because of their views on the Taiwan-China situation. Gotta start influencing people while they're young...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Every aisle a checkout aisle

There's a hilarious article in the Wall Street Journal about how Wal-mart in Germany has found hosting singles shopping events a great way to boost sales. Apparently, Wal-mart employees now vie for the Friday night shifts when the events are held. Says one satisfied customer, Andreas Semprich, "I first tried out discotheques, but that did not work. First of all, when you see some of the women again in daylight, I sometimes almost fainted. No, this here is much better. It is a natural, relaxed atmosphere. And besides, I can also save money. The milk is cheaper than in any other store."

There's nothing like the bright flourescent lights of a discount shopping center and the cheapest milk this side of the Rhine to ensure avoiding the beer goggle trap.

In other worlds, feeling rather sleepy despite having gone to bed early last night...perhaps because of the changing seasons. Last week I enjoyed an Indian summer in Taipei, but now winter definitely feels like it is here to stay.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Election result maps

Very nice election result maps at the University of Michigan. These maps adjust the size of states due to population, and show a different view of the U.S. than those that where posted on news outlets. Credit goes to Simon Garfinkel at Technology Review, who pointed out the work.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A nail-biting afternoon

Thank goodness for the time difference, otherwise I'd be up all night watching the pundits on TV instead of refreshing a webpage every few minutes to track the election results. I really hope I don't get another four years of Bush, but the situation doesn't look so promising now.

On another note, I met the cutest girl today at the gym. I accidentally bumped into her as I stepped away from my locker. She could not be more than four years old. As I apologized, she just widened her eyes and continued to follow her mom around the corner...but not before turning around to wave at me.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Musically moved

Lately I've felt the need to continually listen to music...it's what has kept me going at work. Grooving right now to Maroon5.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Like a kid in a candy shop

There's simply too much that I have and want to do! Earnings season is wrapping up, which translates into even longer hours at work, and a few friends have or will come to Taipei in the next few days (Eric, Joaquin, and Mate), a friend is leaving Taiwan Sunday (Mike), a friend just celebrated a birthday (Ming), not to mention all the others that must be kept up with (because its fun). I'd like to go to dance class tonight, but I think I'll skip that in favor of climbing, which I haven't done this week (getting off of work at 11pm on Tuesday put a damper on my climbing plans that day). Plus, I dearly want to go surfing, if only for a little bit, this weekend. Oh yes, I also have my SCUBA homework to do. Oh my.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Over the hump already but still feels like Tuesday

I love typhoon days. Well, I do feel bad for the people who have suffered in the latest round of storms. And to President Bush, how can you claim that there's no proof of global warming when weather around the world has been so funky this year? Typhoons and hurricanes just beating down Florida, Taiwan, and Japan.

Anyways, I digress. A typhoon day when there is no work and my greatest worry is a little water seeping in through the windows is my kind of day. And in my home, that means sleeping in. And then making breakfast when Angela asked if I would make my famous, so yummy whole-wheat pancakes, which I served with warmed bananas topped with a little cinnamon and sugar.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The best brother ever

I'm so lucky to have as funny and wonderful brother as I have. Ever patient with my neuroses, he always knows how to bring me back from the edge of reason with humor and kindness. He always makes me laugh!

Monday, October 11, 2004

Three for four

A wave comes crashing over me and I fall off the board. In the churn of the water, the force of the wave shoots the board towards the beach. My leg, tethered to the board, yanks me in a complete underwater backflip.

Except for the first time I went out to surf, I've managed to injure myself every time since:

#1 Cut foot, sprained left pointer finger, rash/board burn on palms and thighs from the board.
#2 Sprained gluteous minimus, assorted bruises on my shins, and a few scratches on my knees.
#3 Very bruised and swollen right middle finger.

It's fun though. The brief moment of standing on a board and feeling the water alive beneath me and the breeze above me keeps me going for another.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Paddling out

Dusk approaches, and I'm out paddling in the water. My body undulates with the board as I go over swells, the wind gently breezes by, and I see a fish flip into the air before diving down into the warmth and safety of the ocean. For a brief moment, I'm a little bit scared as a large wave looms and I realize it's just me and the sea. But as I lift my upper body a bit and crest smoothly over, I relax enjoying the stillness, completely at peace.

Monday, September 27, 2004

If the rain won't go away, get out of the rain

I woke up yesterday morning absolutely certain that I wanted to leave Taipei, weather notwithstanding. So we all met up at New York New York and made our way to the northeast coast. A good thing, too, because it wasn't raining there! Like proper Taiwanese residents, we arrived at Fulong beach and got out of caravan to determine that we were hungry, and promptly got back into our cars to go to Aodi for a seafood lunch. Then we returned to Fulong. Unfortunately, the typhoons have swept a lot of debris onto the beach, and the sea was none to clean, either. So we just stood ankle deep in the water for a bit, and then headed off to Jin Gua Shi, this old mining town that is being restored as a historical tourist spot. Here are Abi's photos to keep you all entertained until I upload my own.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Life at work...life in general

This post is actually a draft that I started in May. Since then, I no longer deal with brilliant people who are unreliable, but must instead deal with personalities who are always at the center of their attentions.

But the real reason I decided to blog today was an article in today's Asian Wall Street Journal about how junior officers are the ones taking charge in Iraq. The subject of the article, Captain Ayers, says about how to best prepare young solders for the experiences he's had:


"I guess I'd drop soldiers in a foriegn high school and give them two days to figure out all the cliques. Who are the cool kids? Who are the geeks? ...there would also have to be people in the high school trying to kill the soldiers."


Life is all about learning how to deal with the situation at hand. Someone wrote in iVillage the hardest part about having adult responsibilities in your 20s is that you don't have the experience to evaluate decisions. They advised cultivating a longer-term perspective, and asking one's self, "in 5, 10, 20 years, will this decision bring me closer to the life I want, or farther from it?"

Sunday, September 19, 2004

strength and form

I've been back in Taiwan for less than a week, but already my trip to the States seems so long ago. I spent four days in Boston and four days in L.A. My brother is the best: he flew up to Boston one weekend to be with me, and to L.A. the following weekend (he's currently on a short-term assignment in Buffalo). Even more impressive is when three of my girlfriends and I picked him up at the airport in Rhode Island and then promptly went outlet shopping for 8 hours straight. A lot of my trip was spent shopping, not just for myself but also for the items that friends and co-workers in Taiwan requested (I was so proud of myself when I was able to get Eve's now-discontinued Bath & Bodyworks Country Apple scent lotion, as well as Angie's dried white sage to burn for home fragrance--the latter obtained in an alternative-Tibetan-bookstore in Santa Monica). My cousin, Evelyn, laughed as she saw me pack--I looked like I was going to Africa, not Taiwan, she said. But there are things you cannot get here, or the markup is incredibly expensive, so I brought back steel-cut oats, dried blueberries, almond butter, an acceptable substitute for my favorite Great Harvest Bread Company honey whole-wheat bread, and organic linens.

I had a list of restaurants that I wanted to eat at while in the States, but after two days I felt so full. Still, I got my $3 falafel from the food trucks outside of MIT, Indian food, and great Korean BBQ. I marveled at all the changes on campus, how young the students seemed to be, the comforting familiarity of administrators and professors--good friends--that were still there. Zofia was a fantastic host, and so good to see her after two and a half years. The amazing thing was, with email and instant messaging, we really only needed to catch up on two days worth of going-ons.

I was really struck by fashions in the States this time around. American woman have a casual, earthy sexiness. I noticed a change in footwear--flip flops were almost ubiquitous. Tank tops, jeans. Very casual. American women are bigger (larger portion sizes play a part, I'm sure), but also strong. They work out. They walk with pride. In contrast, young Taiwanese women are in general thin flaccidness encased in fashions that are not flattering: a mish-mash of ruffles and clashing patterns, in flats with pointy, witch-like upturned toes. And the shuffle across the street. Completely unattractive. Last night at Mint, I met a beautiful Taiwanese girl. Absolutely lovely face, but below the neck, I just didn't get her outfit.

Of course, there are Taiwanese women who do dress very well. And certainly some very strong women as well. Today I saw the incomparable Cloudgate dance company perform. My favorite piece was "The Road To The Mountain," which was very Taiwanese in its themes, referring to village life in Taiwan and its history. As usual, their athleticism was so powerful. I'm especially impressed because after an hour of Angie's dance class last Friday, I could only muster up enough energy to flail to the music, never mind the turns.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

back in Taiwan

Arrived in Taiwan at 5:30 a.m. Monday morning and was in the office by 7:22 a.m. Managed to pull a +13-hour workday that day, and another 12-hour one yesterday. But feeling pretty good today after going to bed last night at 8:30 and sleeping until 6 a.m. this morning - no coffee! Will write more...soon.

Friday, September 03, 2004

missed my flight

Sometimes you need a vaction just from preparing for a vacation. Oh well. At least I got to sleep in today and take a Body Balance class; the idea being to be centered and calm by the time I board my (re-scheduled) flight. Which means that I should stop blogging and get final things tied up so I don't lose my centeredness.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

oooh, eow, ouch!

I went surfing again today, this time with my co-worker, Walsh. Today was a lot more frustrating, with many an ignominious moment out on the water: the waves weren't as forgiving, but I can now tell the difference between a 12' long board and a 9' one, and I am bruised, cut, and scraped up all over. I hate doing anything poorly, though, so I will go out again and master this. When I complained to Walsh that today felt off, he told me to get used to it and that surfing is a lot like golf, only more fun.

In any case, the northeast coast of Taiwan was gorgeous today. We went north of Wanli, just past Jinshan.

I definitely need to work out more, though. These past few weeks I've either been too busy or too lazy. I haven't climbed as often as I usually do, my trainer has been busy opening up Alexander's new branch, and instead of going to the gym on Wednesday, Angela and I stayed home to cook up a storm (and eat it all, too!). We also stripped and re-affixed a telephone line ourselves to fix my telephone line and our ADSL connection that had gotten damaged by flooding owing to the typhoon. There's nothing like figuring things out ourselves--instead of relying on a guy--that inspires confidence.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Aere is here

Great news today! Well, not great news for all, but great news for my short-term selfish goals: a typhoon day! I've never had a typhoon day since I started working here, and let me tell you, today is a much needed break. I had such a frustrating day at work yesterday, juggling a multitude of projects at once and not having a moment to breathe. Anyways, got to sleep in this morning, do yoga, and I'll get to putter about the house and read later.

Had an interesting, overall mellow weekend. Not quite sure what to make of it, but I did get to catch up on some sleep and chill. One more weekend in Taipei and then I'm off for a much needed vacation to the States to see family and friends that I haven't seen in ages!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Surf's up!

I went surfing for the first time this past weekend, out in Ilan. Apparently I was quite a natural, as I stood up several times, and twice for a good length of time. I should hope so as I am a) already a strong swimmer, b) have been working on my core strength and balance with my trainer for over half a year, and c) have strong upper-body strength. Anyways, the weather was absolutely gorgeous with clear, sunny skies. Thanks to Wayne and Dave for being my surfing enablers!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Oh my...

Today is Thursday, and I've already worked over 60 hours this week. HOWEVER. I am leaving the office right after this post. Yup, in just a few moments, I am leaving. I was actually quite perky yesterday, after aching all day Tuesday (both head and body). Tuesday night I hoofed it home, turned off my cell, took a multivitamin, extra vitamin C, and some ibuprofen and was in bed before 11:30. Unfortunately, I was in the office until past midnight yesterday. I took a cab home, only to realize I had forgotten my wallet back in the office. The driver was extremely understanding, and I ended up reserving him for my commute today since I didn't even have NT$20 on me to take the subway in the morning. So I got into the office a bit earlier than usual (6:45am) and rushed right up to grab my wallet and pay the poor cabbie.

My highlight of the week is the jazz dance class I took with Angela on Monday. Although I have the strength, I must have the world's worst flexibility, and I'm sure I must have looked pretty ridiculous compared to the other students. But it felt so good to move my body in non-linear directions. Cheers to Angie for introducing us to the dance studio!

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Back again

I haven't posted in awhile as I've been caught up in earnings season. My record was a 19-hour workday. Thankfully, I do find what I do incredibly interesting, and rarely notice the long hours. Last Thursday I fully intended to leave work early and perhaps go climbing, but I became so interested in a particular file that by the time I noticed the time, it was already past 10pm.

Just so I don't forget, in the past two weeks we had an ORIENTED Happy Hour at Luxy, I attend an MIT alumni event at an art galery, tried out the new branch of NY Bagel (good ideas, poor execution) with Angie, Jen, Angela, and Felix, had dinner with the girls Friday night, lounged poolside with Eve and Juan yesterday morning, and had dinner last night in honor of both Patty's and Felicia's visits to Taipei. Anyways, I should be off to run some more errands...

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

A can-do attitude, please?

I was really annoyed today at lunch when I tried to get a side order of multi-grain rice from this organic veggie food stall at the food court. The worker told me sorry, but they only sold full meals. I wasn't interested in a meal; and they lost a sale. That's the problem with service in Taiwan: people haven't quite grasped the concept that the customer is why they are there, and they just don't have a can-do attitude when it comes to service.

Anways, I took my nephew Jason (who is in Taipei for the summer studying Chinese) and his friend Jeff out for dinner Sunday night, then treated them to mango shaved ice, and then took them rock climbing. When it was time to leave, they were running late to make their curfew and so asked me for cab fare...my gosh, am I just a sugar mama to them?!?

These kids - all they had in their pockets was their school ID and CD player - no wallet. Sheesh, such change from the (relatively) older men I usually hang out with (who are able to pay for themselves, and sometimes even generously treat me, not the other way around). And the statement to top it all off, "gosh, thanks, [rock climbing] was really awesome. I had no idea you were so...crazy." (Great, obviously they thought I was a boring old fart before.) I haven't seen Jason in ~3 years -- I can still remember when he was a baby and I changed his diapers!

Honestly, I really did enjoy taking them out, however much it reminds me that I am getting older. As the employed, responsible adult, now is my turn to treat the young nieces and nephews. I already had my turn (and plenty of them, too) to be treated when I was kid.

Of course I would never take money from these kids. I'm just highly amused by the whole incident, as I realize how much my perspective has changed. Just knowing that these youngsters find me "cool" is worth it all. :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

sleepy haze

Fighting through a fog of sleepiness to get through the day. I actually went to bed relatively early last night, but it was not enough to make up for the previous two nights. Hopefully tonight will be better.

At least my room is getting settled in. Yesterday I was able to turn on my floor lamp for the first time, now that I have the correct light bulb. The warmer light of a compact flourescent bulb is so much better than the harsh glare of an ordinary flourescent one. Did a lot more moving this past weekend; I am mostly unpacked. Also put in a good 8+ hours total at work over the weekend; I haven't been as productive this week so far so hopefully I'll make more progress today. Saturday caught up with Joaquin (who was in town for the week), and George, Maria, and Max. Babies grow up so quickly and now Max is feeling bashful - he shied away when I tried to give him a peck on his cheek.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

U.S. INS officials terrorize foreign journalists

I'm sure many of you have heard of this already, but clearly some officials need to stop being bullies. Of course, the responsibility lies not with just the officials on the ground who "greet" these visitors, but also the Bush administration for not clarifying policies, and the American public for allowing these outrages to occur. Sometimes I am just amazed by how insular Americans make themselves; a fact which is obvious when one travels abroad. If you do happen to be an American citizen, remember to vote in the November election.

Friday, July 09, 2004

in a snow globe

So apparently Wednesday was the hottest day in Taipei for the year so far, at 36.4 degrees Celsius (97.5 degrees Farenheit), the 5th highest ever. This was news to me...lately I seem to be ensconced in my own little world, the snow globe that is the air conditioned environment of my work.

A quick re-cap of this past week's events: Friday caught up with Jen (hadn't seen her in nearly a month); Saturday caught up with Mike and enjoyed my birthday present of a pedicure from the Regent's spa, and then later enjoyed a quiet moment by the Xindian riverside with Eve, Jonathan, and company; on Sunday I hosted a brunch.

On the menu was field greens with walnut-encrusted goat cheese and cranberries, scrambled eggs with fresh veggies and ham, a bread basket (with Ellie's red bean toast!), freshly squeezed orange juice, seasonal fresh fruit, and tiramisu for dessert. My favorite cafe did an excellent job preparing and serving the brunch. This year's brunch was a lot easier than last year's, as I've gotten smarter by making only one dish (the salad) and outsourcing the rest.

Afterwards, Eve and I went for a much-needed workout at the gym. My goodness, there was a whole slew of women lined up for some instructor's aerobics class. He's supposed to be cute, but I actually find him rather strange-looking. To each his own, I guess, but waiting for over half an hour to use the shower was not so fun.

Let's see...Monday was climbing, Tuesday was Eve's birthday dinner at Gan Bei, Wednesday I got to see Harry Potter 3 with Jen, courtesy of my credit card company. Hermione is my favorite character: she may not be as gifted as Harry, but she is smart as hell and has her basics down pat. And she's mellowing into quite a cool chick and not as uptight as she was her first year. Perhaps I see a little of myself in her?

Anyways, tomorrow is moving day! I am so looking forward to moving in with Angela; my current situation has been quite untenable. 'twill be nice to have a place I can finally call my own.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

clever commentary

You gotta love the Economist: erudite, and witty as can be. Take for example their article on business education. Writes the Economist, "even if [Harvard Business School] taught students nothing, they would still be buying the finest job marketing imaginable." And on the swing state of Minnesota, "the evangelical influence is still much fainter than in, say, Texas; Minnesota Christians, with their Lutheran cast, devote their energy to social justice in the third world rather than dreaming up new ways to punish the wicket at home.

Monday, July 05, 2004

let's give it up to Google!

First Yahoo, and now Hotmail. You gotta love Google for always pushing the envelope and forcing others to change their ways to keep up. Thank goodness I'll soon be able to send emails to Jen without having half of them bounceback because her inbox is always full.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

out and about

I made up for lost time spent indoors studying by going to Baishawan beach near Tamshui last Saturday to participate in Canada D'eh. I haven't had a grilled hamburger in awhile, so that was quite nice, and nibbled on way too much Costco cake. Spent the following day canyoning in Yangmingshan. Being out in nature away from the city is so restorative. Everything was so lush and green, although not at all pristine. Scrambled about the rocks, did a little bit of swimming, climbed up some rocks, and got many lovely bruises in the process.

This weekend will be a little bit more mellow. I really need to make some headway on packing in preparation for my move next weekend.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

a rainbow!

There's a rainbow right out my window, stretching from the behind the World Trade Center to the Shinkong tower. Unfortunately, I seem to be the only one in my office excited to see the rainbow. Is this a cultural thing, or is everyone else too distracted by work to notice the beauty beside them?

Friday, June 25, 2004

Well-rested

I wasn't able to post at all last week because work was such a whirl as I prepared for my vacation. I flew out Thursday night to Hong Kong and worked from the Hong Kong office on Friday. This was my way of maximizing my vacation time (which started right after work on Friday night) and minimizing my time off from work. Working from HK also had the other benefit of finally meeting in person many of my colleagues who I work with regularly over the phone and Internet.

Hong Kong was lovely -- this was my first vacation since Lunar New Year, and I really needed it! By Friday morning, I'd had only 14 hours of sleep in 3 days. I caught up with my cousin Pei, met up with my friend David over Indian food (yum!), enjoyed the Hong Kong harbor view from the Peninsula's Felix, went hiking on Lamma island, saw a beautiful sunset at the Clearwater Bay Country Club in the New Territories, made a quick trip to Macau where I ate at the famed Fernando's, and had fantastic dim sum (as usual) at Victoria Seafood.

Pictures to go up (hopefully) this weekend!

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Twister

Since I took four and a half days off two weeks ago for the CFA exam, I've been spending the past week catching up on all my work. I think I've made quite a dent into my to do list, after a few very late nights at the office. However, I realized I also managed last week to go rock climbing, have lunch with Jonathan and Angie, have dinner with Eve, have dinner with Mike and Ming, swim once, meet with my trainer twice, and get a therapeutic massage (my post-exam present to myself). Not bad, all in all.

On today's agenda: finish two loads of laundry, move into my temporary housing, buy fruit for the week, and go back into work to finish a few projects. I have a packed schedule these next few weeks: I'll be in Hong Kong next weekend, going canyoning the following weekend, moving to a more permanent place July 10, and kayaking the weekend following that. Whew! And there are still five more exams I want to tackle this year...

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

the simple pleasures cafe

I've spent all day at my favorite cafe, whose name I'm not quite sure how to translate. In Chinese, the cafe's name is Yang-chun Shang-hao. Yang-chun evokes spring's brightness and warmth as summer approaches, and is also used to mean something that is simple and of good value. However, Value Cafe doesn't quite cut it as a translation - sounds rather sketchy, like ValuJet. Any suggestions for an English name?

Anyways, the cafe is great - simply but elegantly decorated, and the staff is great. They proprietors are always giving me treats on the house (although bad for my waistline), directing smokers to sit away from me, refilling my water glass, and they don't mind if I bring in my own food. I'm trying to eat very healthfully, because with all the sitting I do all day, I definitely feel the effects of a poor diet.

Back to the cafe - replay of last Monday's conversation between the proprietors and me:

"I'd like to order dinner."
"Oh, we went out and played yesterday and didn't order any food. So today all we have are french fries."
"Uhhhh..."
"But you can go out and buy some food and bring it back!"
"Really? Oh, well, I'll just order some dessert then. I think I'd like that tart."
"Oh, that tart wasn't made today, so we'll just give it to you."
"Um, can I buy anything from you guys? A cup of coffee?"

Money-grubbing capitalists they are not. Oh, and there's free wireless Internet access, too.

The cafe is at #447-24 Guangfu South Road. If you're going north on Guangfu from Xinyi (i.e. walking towards Renai), make a right at the lane marked by a Family Mart. The cafe is a few doors down, and has a mint green wooden gate that leads to a small courtyard (there's no sign). It's next door to the Carbon Bistro.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Starbucks as a sub-par refuge

Today was my first full day of study leave. Unfortunately, my plans to study at home were thwarted by jack hammers and drills on both sides of the apartment. I guess all my neighbors decided to do some renovations today. Eventually I fled to Starbucks to study, as my favorite cafe is closed on Tuesdays. At Starbucks, the tables are not as big, the staff doesn't refill your water glass (unlike at my favorite cafe), and the girl behind the counter annoyingly kept trying to get me to buy one of their sticky-sweet goo that they call pastries (Starbucks in Taiwan no longer carries the one item I did like, their maple cinammon scones). But at least jackhammers weren't giving a concert there.

Later, I went to Daniel's for lunch and got more studying done. The panini at Daniel's are divine, particularly the Parma ham and Emmental cheese on focaccia panino. Daniel's, by the way, is in Tonglin Plaza next to California gym by adjacent to the Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Super-nerd

I've been studying like mad these past few days. Supposedly I've been on half-day study leave this entire past week, but I realized the other day a "half day" means a 7-hour work day, followed by hours on continous studying.

I never realized how long my working hours were until I was startled by my roommate's return the other day as I was studying at home. She was just in to drop off her things before heading right out to see a movie with her fiance. I was stupefied - off of work before 6pm with plenty of time to see a movie on a weeknight? Practically unfathomable! That, and also that I start work before she gets up in the morning.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Cultural ughs

Last night I was completely burned out from studying by 9pm, so I packed up my books and went swimming instead. I cannot believe how crowded the pool at Alexander was at 10pm a night - and not just adult lap swimmers, mind you, but young kids. What's up with their parents?!? These kids should be in bed!

I know this is just my own cultural values clashing with another's. Another moment: today I briefly attended an event, and I hate to say this, but I got a lot more out of the talk when the Western panelists spoke. They were direct and efficient about distilling useful information. Unfortunately, Taiwanese people tend to pat themselves too much on the back. I don't need to hear how many graduate programs you attended or how many degrees you have. Just say what needs to be said!

Not to say that there aren't windbags in the States, but man oh man, every time I attend an event with Taiwanese people, inevitably someone stands up and starts off with, "well, I went to [prestigious school] and found that...and let me quote Confucius/prominent business leader/politician..."

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Yumm...

An absolutely gorgeous day today: the sun was shining, the weather was warm but not too hot, and there was a breeze that was just enough to gently caress my legs as I went out and about.

I just had the best dinner - I rolled some goat cheese in ground walnuts, and put them on top of some spring mix along with dried cranberries. Yummy. Unfortunately, just about everything in my dinner was imported, which isn't particularly environmentally-friendly, although it was lacto vegetarian. On the other hand (and this is my CFA studying kicking in), I doubt that Taiwan has any comparative advantage to producing its own goat cheese, spring mix, and cranberries. I suppose the proper solution would be to eat only Taiwanese/Chinese food, but I'd get tired of that very quickly, as I'm someone who has been spoiled by the variety afforded by trade.

Anyways, I've had the best weekend - plenty of rest, lots of studying accomplished, exercise, good food, and great weather.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

A beautiful day!

It's amazing how wonderful the world is when you're fully rested. I remember how surprised I was when Jeannine first told me, "I knew today was going to be a crappy day last night [because I went to sleep late]." At the time, I thought that was such a negative attitude - one should wake up every morning hoping for a fabulous day. But she's absolutely right. If you know you're going to be sleep-deprived the next day, chances are, the day is not going to be as fabulous as it could have been.

Anyways, I finally caught up on some much needed sleep. It might have even been pouring this morning. But I'm not sure, because I was sleeping. And now, the sun is out. And I am enjoying the view from the window in my office. Where I am studying. I'm such a dork. But at least I'm not a sleepy dork.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Inauguration Day

Today President Chen Shui-bian will be inaugurated for his second term as President of Taiwan. I was reminded of the inuaguration yesterday as I stumbled to work half asleep at 6:45 a.m. by the flurry of activity outside the Hyatt hotel in preparation for the foreign dignitaries who were to arrive. Thank goodness for the little observations that cut through the haze of my week. I really need more sleep.

A non-sequitor to my readers, I'm sure - I may move soon but alas, will not be able to take my bed with me because of certain Chinese customs. I really like my bed, particularly my mattress. I really wish I spent more time in it. Sleeping.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Technology's Too-Small Sisterhood

An interesting article in Business Week about the scarcity of women executives at tech firms. This was cetainly true at my alma mater -- biology was a more popular major choice than computer science or electrical engineering. A quick scan of girlfriends from school that I still keep in touch with yields a biology PhD student, two computer programmers, and a math teacher -- hmm, not too shabby! Oh, and there's me - in the financial services industry covering tech.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Springing for a new look

On Sunday, Blogger launched its new look. Hey, the weather's getting warmer, the weather finally feels like spring, and I haven't updated this blog's look in awhile - time for a change? I might as well!

(By the way, the old template still lives on in the archives, along with the comments. I need to figure out how to save those pages for posterity.)

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Ai-ya! I meant to post more frequently this week. Alas. Well, since I'm sure you're all quite tired of hearing about my work right now, I'll write upon a different topic. I have to admit I feel so silly about being such an ignoramus of my own neighborhood for so long. A year passed before I realized there is a traditional Taiwanese market (including a wet market) in lanes and alleys adjacent to mine. I've since then walked through the market a number of times, but usually I'm in a rush to get somewhere and don't have time to stop and poke around, although the different produce, dry goods, and prepared foods stands always seem so fascinating and full of goodies.

This morning I decided to venture into the enclosed wet market that had always seemed so forbidding. Yes, the tiled floors were mucky and wet. Yes, stalls with prepared food were next to stalls featuring fresh fish on ice. But I found a nice produce stand where a number of items are organic, and I could chat with the proprietors about which items were locally grown and which were imported. Especially since I am functionally illiterate, this is a great way to make sure I get what I want.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

My gosh, time just flies by. I feel like I've been working non-stop since 7:15pm this morning, and that was on top of yesterday's 14-hour day. I've been feeling pretty good, all things considered, because of all the healthy food I cooked up Sunday, while transferring all of my phone numbers from my mobile into my PDA. Yup, that yogurt did do something. Saturday night my phone decided that while it would receive calls, the speaker wouldn't work. And what's the point of answering calls if you can't hear the person on the other end?

I brought the phone in to be fixed and suffered intense (momentary) separation anxiety as I was mobile-less for about five minutes. Thank goodness Jen was home and able to lend me her old Motorola. The operating system sucks, but at least I can receive calls.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Zao-gao! This morning was already packed, with a lot of company earnings and a last-minute note to edit, when I found that the cover had come loose on my plastic container holding my breakfast and yogurt had spilled over everything in my purse. Out came my gym clothes, calculator, wallet, card case, and phone (yogurt dripping out of the contact holes for charger--thank God it still works). Lots of mopping up in between feverish editing and assembling. I was in quite a tizzy when I wanted my boss to review my product before sending it to Hong Kong and couldn't find him in his office, and so dialed his cell.

"Yes, I'm in the office," said Don. "I'm in the restroom, is that okay?"

Oh. Um. Why yes. Never let it be said that I keep my boss from going about his personal business.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Miserable weather today -- rain is just hurtling down to the ground. I put my vanity aside this morning and just wore my Tevas on my walk into work, and then changed into sandals that (obviously) better coordinate with my chic black dress. I love this dress -- I just pull it on over my head, like a dress, and it doesn't wrinkle and always flatter. Perfect for those days when I was in the office until 1am the night before (or would you say "day of"?) and when I feel like alien forces have taken over my body. I'm not sure if it's my job or the test, but my digestive and endocrine system have really been out-of-whack these past few months. I'm now super-sensitive to my diet -- I can't have just one unhealthy indulgence. On the plus side, this should mean I'll respond really well to good habits, so I'm going to be extra healthy in these weeks leading up to the exam. I'll see what abstaining from cakes, cookies, and other baked desserts does for my body.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

My gosh, time just whizzes by. Last week I was never sure if the day was Tuesday or Thursday, as a Wednesday felt like it was Friday, and a Thursday like a Wednesday...that is, really long hours trying to coordinate a lot of things and get them done. I think I'm making definite progress in my "to do" list, although, of course, the list always grow.

But then, this is the same situation that everyone has, right?

I actually have a number of things I want to blog about -- too bad I couldn't just transmit my mental blogs onto the web. A technology that will be realized in the future, I'm sure...although that would be very dangerous in itself...a tangled hop scotch of Berta's thoughts unedited on the web, gah!

Okay, I'm going to make an effort to leave the office early. Earnings season is just getting under way, and I have my CFA class again this weekend, so ta ta for now!

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Drats. It was raining again this morning. Moving on, last night on my way to pick up some items that Karen had brought back from the States to me, I was appropriately horrified last night to find a bus full of pre-teens at 10:30pm. At least, I thought they were pre-teens (my Lord! I just realized I've been out of high school for eight years!). Well, whether they were pre-teens or teenagers, they should've been already at home, not on the bus going home from cram school. This is a culture that puts too much focus on cramming and rote memorization.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Spring finally seems to have arrived in Taipei, albeit unusually late this year. The sun is shining, there's a light breeze, and I hope I can finally put away my sweaters. I've been taking them to the dry cleaners, only to have a cold front rapidly and stealthily move so that I have to take them out again.

Monday, April 05, 2004

I had my CFA test prep class again this past weekend. I sit more than is good for me Monday through Friday as it is, so these weekends are really killer. Physically, this past weekend wasn't as bad as usual because I really made sure to eat very lightly Saturday night.

Jen and I went to Hui Liu, this organic vegetarian restaurant. Afterwards, I went to the gym -- I wanted to do a low-intensity but long workout, so I combined my session on the arc trainer with flipping through my flashcards on financial statement analysis. I think I've figured out a way to study and get some exercise! Ha ha, I'm such a nerd; I went through about half the flashcards in 45 minutes. I'll have to start doing this more often. It's certainly better than listening to the same CD play over and over on the loudspeakers.

And yesterday, I went for another tuina acupressure session. My body was really aching after the second day of class, and I felt so much better after all my blocked qi was released, or whatever it is they do. I'll have to do this again at our next class session.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Another well-written article about Taiwan's elections, by John Tkacik, Jr., who is very sharp with his characterizations and quite a character himself.

I'm feeling quite overwhelmed by all the skills I am behooved to develop to improve my capabilities on the job. This year, I hope to pass the CFA Level 1, Series 7, and Taiwan local brokers' license exams...and I need to improve both my spoken and Chinese reading abilities (so that I can read industry papers), Excel skills, and knowledge of Bloomberg. Ohhhh...

Sunday, March 28, 2004

This morning I got up at 5:45am to run the Nike 10K, and beat my goal time by over 12 minutes to finish in 59.37. Yay! The run actually felt pretty good and the weather was perfect -- the rain had let up but the temperatures were still cool, no wind, and overcast skies.

Friday night I went to bed early and woke up on Saturday morning without an alarm clock -- wonderful! Later, I had lunch with Dean Khoury and Assistant Dean Anne-Marie Michael, both of whom were visiting Taiwan from MIT, Jen and Janet. I paid a long-delayed visit to my tuina acupressurist, and felt so much better afterwards. I even got some studying done before heading over to Saloon briefly to wish Felix a happy birthday.

All in all, a restful weekend. Now back to studying...

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

A well-written opionion piece in today's Taipei Times:

Demagogue shows his face

Perhaps Taiwan is not ready for democracy -- half of Taiwan anyway. An election under the Constitution is what everyone started out with. In the end, dissatisfied with the result, a childish and petulant Lien Chan led his supporters on a night of troublemaking. I witnessed a frenzied and somewhat scary and disturbing exhibition of exactly what you never want to see in a democracy -- one side calling for essentially a mob to gather strength and inciting the people to violent emotions. In a mature democracy, the candidates know what is at stake in carrying out the constitutional mandated election procedures (even in a contested election), and they call for calm, not protests at the local DPP office.

What the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) did was to give a good idea of just what a KMT-led government would be capable of. Instead of contesting the election under the law (which he will do in any event), Lien vented his bad feelings in losing the election by chancing civil war or anarchy. He showed us the KMT way is the way of the mob: against reason, against law and against the Constitution.

Of course in a democracy there will be close elections. Of course there will be contested elections, and there will be recounts. Of course one side will be disappointed and the other jubilant. It is the way of a democracy. Of course the KMT is disappointed. If the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost, its supporters would have been disappointed, too. But the good thing about democracy is the peaceful transition of government. Nothing in a democracy could have been accomplished by taking a 10,000-strong crowd, led by the pouting Lien, to the Presidential Office. The recount will not be advanced by a mob. It should not be performed under the pressure or intimidation of a mob. The election is a matter of voting and tabulating. There are emotions, but of course, a sensible party leader will keep his supporters in line, and make sure they do not disturb the Constitution, the law and the democracy. That is the point, isn't it?

Watching the frightening display tonight, which went into the wee hours, with a flowing mob confronting and attacking police, throwing bottles and driving trucks into barricades, it was clear the KMT supporters had been whipped into a frenzy that convinced them they would either succeed to power legally, or seize it by the mob if they didn't like the result. The KMT showed it would be perfectly satisfied with mob rule. I saw tonight that the KMT doesn't really like democracy -- it craves only power.

At the DPP celebration after the election, the 10,000 supporters gathered there were told it was a chance to show the world Taiwan's best face, its democracy in full order, its Constitution working. People were told to behave, and to show the world how a mature democratic people can be. At the KMT rally, Lien refused to concede the election and exhorted his followers in a teary, petulant speech to march to the Presidential Office and demand a recount.

Under the Constitution, all he has to do is ask. It's part of the election process and no mob scenes are required.

Watching Lien tonight sulking and pouting on the podium, it made me realize for the first time how close we have come to a violent overthrow of government. It appeared to me that Lien and many in the KMT believe they are letting the DPP rule at the KMT's pleasure (as if the DPP leased Taiwan from the KMT for four years), and if the KMT doesn't like what happens, they will step in and change it.

They might try the election first, but if that doesn't work....

It would not be a surprise to me to watch Lien and his ilk plan and carry out such a move. It is people such as this that are the tyrants and dictators in many oppressed countries throughout the world. In fact, the more you look at it, the more the KMT looks like the Chinese Communist Party.

How sad for Taiwan. One can only hope the recount doesn't spark a further embarrassing spectacle courtesy of the KMT if the result isn't what they want. It seems the KMT is simply not willing to be denied power for another four years.

Lee Long Hwa
United States


There are a few theories about attempted assassination of Taiwan's President Chen:
1. the KMT hired an assassin to kill Chen;
2. the DPP staged the event to garner sympathy votes;
3. China hired an assassin to kill Chen;
4. A gambler with a big bet on Chen losing did it.

I think the first two are unlikely as both sides lose more from the attempt than they gain. I believe that Friday's events overshadow other aspects of the election; including the failure of the referendum to pass.

I do have more to say, but fatigue has me feeling as if my thoughts must wade through the thick soup of my mind before breaking free into the air.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

What a hectic week, and I was not well-rested to begin with. Our office had two senior vice presidents, two analysts, and clients in town this week. I also had friends and family here for the election, which included my great aunt's birthday on Wednesday. So good to see people, but a bit draining on top of new responsibilities at work. I simply luxuriated in bed this morning, catching up on some much needed sleep.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Last night I saw Bamboo Dream, an amazingly beautiful performance by Taiwan's renowned Cloud Gate Dance Theater. I found the visuals very inspiring, and after the performance, we were lucky enough to take part in a backstage tour and hear a short talk given by the set designer. It's hard to describe the spare beauty of the set, and how the lighting evoked different moods. Oh, and the dancers' bodies were amazing -- they had incredible control and artistry, and the moves were a mixture of ballet, modern, tai chi, and acrobatics. Every time I see a dance performance, I want to get up and move, too.

Unfortunately, this weekend I have my CFA test prep course. I really appreciate the course; I'm definitely an aural learner, and the course schedule helps pace my studying. The one drawback is that I sit for nine hours in a classroom, which just leaves me feeling sluggish and bloated by the end of the day. And tonight, Eve organized a lovely vegetarian buffet dinner, so now I'm feeling especially rotund.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Martha Stewart may now be the tarnished diva of domesticity, but Angela and Felix are virtuosos of fun. Last Monday, the couple threw an Oscars party at Felix's place. Gather about ten hungry women together on Oscar's night with one guy whipping up a fabulous Malaysian feast and you have some pretty satisfied tummies!

Felix prepared laksa, a traditional Malaysian-style noodle soup. An aromatic soup full of spices and chili was spooned over rice vermicelli, shrimp, bean sprouts, shredded omlets, and other fresh vegetables. I loved accompanying the noodles with the Malaysian pickles, the peanutty sauce mellowing the spiciness of the pickled cucumbers. Equally good were the chili beef and the chili belachan fish (belachan is a fish paste from Malaysia). The beef was tender, with a warming spiciness. The fish was crisp on the outside, meltingly soft on the inside. I originally though I'd share just one with Bonnie, but began eyeing the second platter of fish Felix brought out after we polished off the first.

On a future visit (Angela and Felix, I hope there is a future invite waiting for me!), I would have just the beef and pickles over white rice. The food reminded me of one of my favorite Korean dishes, bi bim bap, which I love eating in cold weather because of how it is warming and comforting without any hint of heaviness. Comfort food without the hangover.

I'd definitely follow the main entree with a few helpings of Felix's rojak fruit salad. A mixture of tofu, cucumber, guava, and pineapple, seemed strange at first glance, but made sense when drizzled with the rojak sauce, a dark, velvety sauce that was just shy of being too sweet.

For dessert, Felix served squares of white toast spread thickly with kaya coconut jam, with a drizzle of condensed milk on top. The smooth unctuousness of the jam made me want to eat another slice...but there was no longer even a smidgen of room left in my stomach. If you're doing Atkins, South Beach, low-glycemic index, or any sort of diet, beware of the toast with the kaya coconut jam!

Felix had written in the invite that he and Angela sent out that he hoped we would leave his home a few pounds heavier...that was definitely true.

Monday, March 08, 2004

A jury found Martha Stewart guilty of hampering a stock fraud investigation. I hope the company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, survives. I suppose I'm not the ordinary American, who associates the company's brand with the living person. Somehow, I've always had the impression that Martha was not a pleasant woman. And I've always found her presence to be her television show's biggest detractor. But I've always liked her product, and the ideas of the people she assembled at her company. Presentation with style, flair, and not necessarily with a lot of money -- Martha Stewart's ideas preceeded Target's idea that just because something is cheap, it doesn't mean it can't be chic.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Rock climbing two Sunday's ago:



For more pictures, check out my Beitou Rock Climbing photo album on Imagestation.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Today was a glorious day: sunny and warm but not too hot, perfect weather for strolling about outside.

On this day in 1947, aggrieved Taiwanese protested the KMT government for its corruption and failure to govern. In response, the KMT government launched a reign of terror, when between 10,000 and 20,000 people were killed. The '2-28 Incident,' as this event is called today, decimated Taiwan's intellectual elite.

At noon on this day in 1980, masked assailants broke into the home of Lin Yi-hsiung. Lin Yi-hsiung was in jail at the time as a political prisoner for his role in the Kaohsiung Incident. His mother and twin 6-year-old daughters were stabbed to death. His eldest daughter managed to survive 6 stab wounds.

This morning, I attended an annual memorial service for the Lin family murders. It's moments like these that I realize how much some people have lost when they have stood up for what they believed in. I realize how privileged is my life, and how my daily concerns are trivial in comparison.

This afternoon, I joined hands with over a million other people forming an island-long human chain in the '228 Hand-in-Hand Rally', an event that honors the victims of KMT rule and focuses on Taiwan's relationship with China. The event is also expected to increase support for President Chen Shui-bian's re-election. An incredibly exciting, once-in-a-lifetime moment.

A celebration of peace, and of triumph over sorrow, marked by perfect weather. A glorious day, indeed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

A blog entry about a blog entry. Henry Jenkins writes about how media changes cultural identities. Certainly, the internet (can't forget IM!) and cable television (if I'd only remember to turn on the TV when I go home) is a great help in keeping up with American news and culture, such as Carrie's and company's latest antics (well, one season behind), Janet's Super Bowl exposure, and the Dean-Kerry-Edwards excitement. I don't think it's possible, however, to fully live mentally in one culture while living physically in another...I am constantly shifting between multiple worlds, whether I'm spending time with local friends from the climbing gym, fellow Western-educated peers here (and that group is further sub-divided between ethnically Chinese and non-ethnic Chinese), and relatives.

As an expatriate, you're never really fully immersed in whatever culture you're physically present in. I feel removed as well, when I go back to the States.

Anyways, these are deep thoughts that I will have to ruminate on further.

Re-cap of the weekend: busy, but good. After tai qi on Friday, Evelyne and I went to see "Lost in Translation," a movie I quite liked, and coincidentally also about alienation abroad. My takeaway from the movie, however, is that I hope never to take for granted my loved ones.

Saturday night was delicious all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ and dancing at Luxy in celebration of Adella's birthday. At one point, the DJ started playing some really old songs: "Baby Got Back," something from Mariah Carey, a little Duran Duran. I felt like I was reliving my middle school days. Although I also realized how far I've come since then. Now is much more pleasant, without all the bewilderment of adolesence. For one, I'm no longer self-concious about dancing, and just enjoy the music.

Perhaps I enjoyed a little too much, because I didn't have much sleep before getting up early Sunday morning to go rock climbing in Beitou. Still, a very enjoyable session, and I will have to upload photos soon. I always have such a good time outdoors with Karen, Bear, and Bo-ren. Jonathan, Sherwin, a mother and her daugher (both novice climbers), were welcome additions to our very merry party.

Friday, February 20, 2004

I was in much distress last night after a long two weeks and finding that my Zire 21 had hard reset itself...again. I lost a whole month's worth of data. I suppose I should've been more careful. I put my cell phone on top of it without thinking, which according to the online user bulletin boards, may be the cause for this. Still, this is some messed up hardware problem, and I'm not the only one who has it. It's unfortunate, I'd find the Zire 21 just about perfect otherwise.

So yeah, long day, already tired, and then I found out I had to re-build from the backup and try to re-create what I lost. At least today is Friday!

Monday, February 16, 2004

Taipei's cab drivers are holding a rally in the parking lot across the street. People are chanting and air horns are a'blaring...my heart should be warmed by the sight of people practicing their political right, but at this point on a Monday morning, I think I'm going to put on my headphones and turn up the volume...

Saturday, February 14, 2004

A very quick entry while Eve gets ready for her big night on town...not going out tonight, as I have another CFA test prep class session tomorrow. I'm over at her place checking it out; she just moved in, and ironies of ironies, Sherwin is her new roomie.

Anyways, I've had a busy week at work, but I am definitely learning a lot. Today I had my first CFA test prep course, and I was quite pleased with myself as I had done a bit of studying beforehand. Jen said that today I was the kind of student she annoying in college: ahead of the teacher and asking questions about problems before other students. Trust me, though, this is *not* how I was in college, when always felt like I was in a fuzzy haze desperately trying to grasp the subjects. So a nice change of pace.

Saw Bowling for Columbine last Sunday, followed by an excellent brunch animated by intelligent conversation with four other talented and thoughtful women. A party sitting at an adjacent table apparently found our conversation more interesting than his dining companion's conversation.

I definitely want to write more about movie and some other deep thoughts on my mind, but that is an exercise that will take some time.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I used to dislike papaya, which had a far too pungent smell that would always make me nauseous. Recently, though, I've developed a fondness for it...actually, while on my trip to Thailand, where it was in the fruit medley one morning. Either the fruit has become milder (it does seem lighter in color now than in the summer) and sweeter, or my taste buds have changed...like the many other parts of me that have changed since moving to Asia...

Monday, February 02, 2004

More water rationing measures were announced in the Taipei Times last Friday. You wouldn't have guessed any measures existed at all, as the sidewalks in front of Warner Village were being hosed down on my walk to work Friday morning.

Thanks to Melissa, who forwarded this gem:
"he who has the most time to play with his toys and the most fun playing with them, wins."

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Thankfully the cold snap has finally broken. Sunshine and temperate temperatures at last!

Unfortunately, I was unable to make tai qi on Friday night because of a last-minute work project. I did manage to take Karen, Adella, and Evelyne (her first time!) to the climbing gym, where my solo climb for the evening was a most pretty and quick go over the overhang. Afterwards, Karen and I met up with Angela, Felix, and Mike to see "Seabiscuit," which was playing as part of a film series at Changchun Theater.

Saturday I got a hair cut, ran some errands, lolled around, had Indian food for dinner, and watched "Frida" (again, part of the same series at Changchun). Today has been more lolling about, errands, catching up on projects, and some studying. I still haven't sent my 2003 year-in-review email...and we're pushing well into the year of the monkey. Oh well.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Very cool word of the day: hebetude, noun: mental dullness or sluggishness.

The office has been so chilly that I've taken to using a space heater. The problem with using the space heater is the heat lulls me into a hebetudinous state. But if I turn off the heater, I become seriously cold.

You just can't win.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Our office's email systems have been downed by the latest computer virus, the timing of which is probably just as well for Taiwan's first day back from the lunar new year holiday. I've not spent so much time away from the office while in Taiwan, spending a luxuriously leisurely holiday puttering about.

In the past week, I've had several good climbing sessions, took a BodyBalance class at my gym, hiked Four Animals Mountains with Karen, had a Lunar New Year's eve dinner with family, and visited the excellent Museum of World Religions in the Taipei suburb of Yonghe.

The weather has been quite cold--the coldest in the past 11 years--and so Saturday night Jonathan took Evelyne and I to a public hot spring in Xin Beitou. Less than a five minute walk from the MRT station, for NT$40 (a little over US$1), I took in the waters and was finally able to feel warm for the first time in days.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Some random notes:

+ Perhaps I'm extra-sensitive from growing up in drought-ridden California, but people in Taipei sure are silly. For the past two years, the country starts worrying about draught in late spring, and restrictions are put in place. Two years ago, they actually shut off the water every five days to conserve water. Not so fun in the middle of the summer, when you're hot and sweaty, and want to get all that grime off.

There's talk again this year about the possibility of a draught, although it's been raining all day. The kicker is, there's a guy outside my office building right now watering the plants and the pavement. Hello! It's raining already!

+ Lunar new year's eve is on Wednesday. I'm very fortunate that the Taiwan markets are closed, so even though the official holiday begins on Wednesday, our department is off this week.

+ I've decided to use this extra time to go on a detox program. The changing weather (warm-cold-warm-cold) makes this an ideal time to do this. So this week, I'm eating only fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans. No meat, no fish, no dairy, and no grains.

I hosted a dinner party Saturday night to kick-off the program. My friends were impressed with how tasty the food could be. On the menu were braised pumpkin, stir-fried greens with tangy miso dressing, and pan-fried tofu. For dessert, we had pears poached in cranberry juice, cinammon, cloves, and a splash of red wine. The poaching liquid was later reduced to make a glaze for the pears.

I've had such the relaxing weekend: just puttering about the house organizing and cleaning (which is what one is supposed to do before the start of the new year) and taking care of myself through diet and plenty of rest. I'm also catching up on my weekend. Sometimes burrowing at home is just what I need.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Oops.

So the contact info I have listed on this here blog goes to the email account associated with my hosting company. Which I check only occasionally. Having a dedicated email account for my blog seemed like a good idea, to keep everything in one place. I also got off the web some encoding software that would enable people to email me easily, but keep the spammers at bay.

Alas.

I finally logged into my virtualberta account today only to find over 600+ messages in my inbox, the vast majority of them spam. (On a side note, I had checked my account not that long ago, and the folders were empty then, and today's check made it seem like I had over half a year's messages in there, so something must be wrong with the email system. Regardless, I shall continue.) I was trying to do some cleanup and accidentally deleted *all* of the messages.

And there is no way to retrieve them.

I very much wanted to respond to all of the very nice personal emails people sent me about my blog, but I can't do that anymore. I feel really bad about it, but in my post tai qi quan-induced calm, in the greater scheme of things, this is not really a big deal. Still, I'd like to thank those who did write.

So, dear reader, if you've ever sent me an email through my virtualberta account, I haven't replied not because I'm trying to be mean, but because I was a technological doofus. Please accept my apologies. And try to write me again -- I've activated forwarding and I will get back to you. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Today's Dictionary.com Word of the Day is tergiversation, noun: the act of practicing evasion or of being deliberately ambiguous, a word that describes something I'm sure everyone has done at one point in their life with their parents.

I can see myself as a parent, "Don't tergiversate me, young man! Did you brush your teeth?"

Monday, January 12, 2004

I was busy running about the house yesterday, getting multiple things done at once: laundry in the washer; uploading, downloading, and syncing on my computer; eating breakfast; straightening up. Anyways, more Yu Lu hike photos are available on Sony Imagestation (or you can click on the animated gif below).

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Amazing how quickly time flies by as I've gotten settled back into my usual routine. One sign of the holidays that still remains, though, are the Christmas decorations. Yes, Taiwan is not a Christian country. Nevertheless, there is a huge Christmas tree, replete with wrapped presents, and poinsettia galore in our office building's lobby. All of which just serves to rub in the commercialism of Christmas here.

The oddest sight I've seen this season, though, as to be at the Angkor temple Banteay Srei. In one of the more remote Angkor temples that was only fairly recently demined, this tourist entered the complex of finely carved pink sandstone carrying what appeared to be a Playskool boombox. Playing hip hop. Now, this I can imagine seeing in Compton. Perhaps on Telegraph in Berkeley. But in Cambodia?!?

Anyways, today I took a break from studying and went hiking through part of Yu Lu trail in Yangming Mountain. Apparently, fisherman used to haul their catch from the sea near Jin Shan Mountain on the north-east coast of Taiwan for about 7-8 hours down the trail through the mountains to sell it at the Shihlin Market near Taipei. I'm impressed by the effort; and mildly concerned about how fresh that seafood must have been after a nearly full-day hike.



My friend Karen and I had a great time getting out of the city, though.



Near the end of the trail, a tree provided a perfect, albeit wet, resting spot.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Happy New Year and a happy belated birthday to both Melissa and TC!

I had the perfect vacation in Thailand and Cambodia...until I got to the airport Sunday night. Lo and behold, the flight was overbooked, and there was no way Thai Airways was letting me on my flight that night. They put me up for a night at the adjacent Amari Airport hotel, and I on my way back to Taipei the next day on the first flight out in the morning, where I got food poisoning...and spent the next two days sleeping and throwing up (thankfully, more sleeping than throwing up). On the bright side, at least I got sick after my vacation and not during, and I had felt like I had eaten too much (pants feeling snug), so not eating for two days sorta felt cleansing.