Wednesday, December 20, 2006

moved! blurbed! not yet wedded!

It's been a crazy week/weekend. Friday night Neil and I finally moved to our new place. The weekend was spent unpacking and shopping for some furniture as well as other new household necessities like trash bins and hooks. He's been an absolute sweetheart with taking care of a lot of the unpacking, furniture deliveries, setting up of cable Internet, etc.

Sunday we shopped and moved some more, I interviewed a prospective applicant to MIT, and reviewed ceremony text with Jen. Monday was sort of a blur, but I did pick up the last of our engagement pictures (Photoshopped to perfection). I spent all day Tuesday working on our engagement picture book using Blurb. More about Blurb in a future post.

Up next: more unpacking and sorting in advance of my parents' and Galen's arrival next Friday, and then marrying in 2.5 weeks.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Even simpler photo collection

My Maid of Honor Zofia wrote to tell me a great way to collect photos at weddings in this age of digital cameras:

Another cool idea is to get a multi-format card reader and a laptop and download people's digital pix off their memory cards as they're leaving. This does require someone relatively computer savvy to man the computer downloading, but it's definitely a possibility for getting more pics from the wedding.

How easy is that?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

DIY Photobooth

This is a *great* idea for those who love photobooths but can't afford to have them at their wedding (and are also technically inclined) - a DIY photobooth! I admit my eyes glazed over at the "Construction: Electrical" part, but I know many of my former schoolmates would be up to the task. Too bad WiFi-enabled cameras aren't readily available - I think it would be more efficient and reliable than the disposable-camera-at-every-table and polaroid guestbook concepts. Angela did the polaroid guestbook at her wedding, and Neil said it was a pain manning the table since the pictures take awhile to develop (long lines of guests waiting) and the picture quality wasn't that great (brownish).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Committment and cake blues

I've been depressed lately, I think because the weather turned cold and dreary, Neil's been gone, I'm still in temporary housing, and lastly, wedding planning is sometimes a very solitary process. Saturday I rode the bus for an hour to visit a bakery, only to arrive and find out the owner was out (even though I had called the day before). And, when I saw photos of past work, it was of the awful-80s-white-plastic-pillars variety. Thankfully, the owner did phone me later that day and was very nice, but was unsure if they could do what I wanted, and definitely not within my budget. It got me into a funk: I love cake, but it looks like getting what I love will be extremely difficult and out-of-budget...should I even bother? It's positively depressing having to stay late at work every night just so I have an Internet connection to get wedding planning done.

I started a feeling a bit better yesterday when I went over to Eric's for a great belated Thanksgiving dinner. A lot of turkey put me in a good mood. And I also went to concert of Gordon Shi-Wen Chin's music, sponsored by the Chilin Foundation. The piece I enjoyed the most was actually the encore, one he wrote for his wife on their 10th wedding anniversary. I swear he said (but I may have misunderstood the Chinese, and Jen wasn't paying attention) that love does not come down from the heavens, but is a choice. Anyways, the piece and the presence of the foundation's founders, Mr. & Mrs. I-Shiung & Su-Ming Lin, got me thinking. Particularly Mrs. Lin.

When you get married, you vow to be together, through sickness and health, through the good times and bad times. when you marry, it's a public affirmation that you believe in your spouse and what they stand for. But no one ever imagines that their husband will become a political prisoner of a authoritarian government, and that they will come home one day to find their twin daughters and mother-in-law stabbed to death by the same authoritarian government, and another daughter clinging to life. How do you carry on without your spouse physically present? How do you raise and help heal a daughter when you have your own grieving to do?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Photo shoot photos

Here are some photo collages I made from the photo shoot earlier this week:

I love this photo on the right 'cause I look skinny.

Neil getting ready and us hanging out before the shoot started.

Our lovely helpers, who were our makeup artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists, photojournalists, and more! To see larger pictures, right click (in Firefox) to view the actual image size.

Notes on makeup: I was really unused to wearing such quantities of makeup and was afraid I wouldn't look natural. Mei did a great job because everyone tells me I do look natural on film. Still, for the wedding I won't wear false eyelashes because I found them uncomfortable. I can probably achieve a similar look (at least, good enough for me!) with mascara. And for the wedding itself, I want a lip color that has more berry tones than peach.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Engagement Photos!

Yesterday Neil and I were very productive—we went to the Taipei District Court to make an appointment for the actual legal ceremony. After a lot of form filling, photocopying, walking back and forth from one office to the next to get things certified and paid, we finally got our auspicious court date.

Then, we went to Sight Reaction Photo Studio for an engagement picture session with Ivan. Neil's friends Mei and Carol were our stylists, doing hair, makeup, and outfit selection. Sandra came over to document the event. I wore false eyelashes for the first time (surprisingly heavy on the lids) which thankfully looked pretty natural on film.

It was pouring rain outside, so everything was done in the studio and in relatively record time: we were done in four hours. Here's a teaser:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Getting married in Taiwan as a Foreigner 101

I haven't posted in (gasp!) over a week as I've been busy moving (a subject deserving of its own post). Anyways, after checking several resources I now have all the steps:

  1. Get proof that you are single from your local embassy-equivalent (AIT has a comprehensive page on obtaining a "Affidavit Regarding Marital Status" for American citizens). The cost was NT$1980 total for us at current exchange rates when we went.

    At AIT, you must make an online appointment for notary services in order to get it done. The link to the online appointment system is hard to find on their website, but the actual process itself is very quick - about 15 minutes.
  2. Take the notarized affidavits (a.k.a. single certificate) to Consular Affairs Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get it authenticated. After you get off the escalators at their Taipei Office, you turn 180° and get a number for counter 28. Each person wanting their affidavit authenticated must also bring:
    • their ARC,
    • a copy of both sides of their ARC.
    Both people must be present if you want it to be done in one trip, or you can take the form, sign it, and return it on another trip. The cost is NT$400 per affidavit.

    Then, after the forms are filled and money owed is paid at the cashier, you're given the option of either paying extra for delivery or to come again another day (I opted for receiving the forms by post, an extra NT$98).
  3. The authenticated forms take about 2 business days to process. Then, take those forms, along with both people's passports, and a photocopy of both sides of two witnesses' IDs (should be Taiwanese citizens over 20 years of age), and go to the district court to schedule an appointment.

    The district court in Taipei that handles marriages is located in Hsin-tian (xin-dian):
    Taipei District Court
    248 Chung-hsing Road, Section 1
    Hsin tien, Taipei County
    8:30am-5:00pm, Monday-Friday

    Bring to the court:
    • both authenticated copies of the singles certificates
    • each persons' passport
    • photocopies of both sides of the two witnesses' IDs (should be Taiwanese citizens over 20 years of age)

    Apparently both parties do not need to be present to make an appointment. You must make the appointment at least 1 week in advance of the date you want to marry. Apparently auspicious dates (it's a superstitious country) get booked weeks in advance. Ceremonies on weekdays cost NT$1,000, and weekend ceremonies cost NT$1,500.
  4. Return for the actual ceremony on the scheduled date, this time bringing your witnesses. Apparently marriages at the District Court get Chinese certificates with an official English translation - the Chinese one being legally recognized in Taiwan, and the official English one required for recognition in the U.S. The U.S. recognizes legally conducted marriages conducted abroad.
The process may be slightly different if you are a national of a different country (regarding the single certificate part). The British Trade and Cultural Office has it's own page on marriage in Taiwan.

Friday, November 10, 2006


I finally finished packing and moving Wednesday night. Neil and I were pretty efficient—we got everything moved in one round. As we pulled up to where my belongings will be temporarily stored with Dan's van absolutely stuffed, I was holding back a box from falling onto our heads. Thursday at noon Angela and I met up with the landlord to return our keys and get our deposit back. It truly is the end of an era. Sort of (but not quite) like Sex and the City, when Miranda moves to the Bronx.

Now, it's time to focus on the wedding, which is 8 weeks (gasp!) away. Oh, and moving Neil out of his place next Wednesday. And eventually moving from our temporary temporary place to our more long-term temporary place in early December. Sorta makes me feel like this:

Just kidding; I don't really feel that way. I think it's a cute picture. The great thing about having to juggle so much is that now I can't obsess over wedding minutae, like making sure the napkins and tablecloths and flowers and bridesmaids' dresses match to the exact shade. Too much to do keeps you on your toes and focusing on the priorities!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Even more eco-concious jewelry options

And in case you want to read more discussion, the wedding blog Manolo for the Brides has a post called "What's Love Worth?" - does how much one spend on a ring represent one's love? There's also an interesting discussion on diamond engagement rings at the Vegan Represent Forum.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


While in the States, I shopped for my wedding shoes. I wanted strappy sandals (I have wide feet, so the pointy toe has just never been comfortable) that I could wear again for another dressy occasion. Plus, I figured my high school reunion would be the perfect occasion to test out shoes.

I walked into Nordstrom with about 30 minutes to spare on morning on my way to meet up with Sophie, and the sales guy directed me to Stuart Weitzman's Quando. Very sexy, leather heel, Swarovski crystals.

The only problem? The shoes were $385. I told him to hold it for me. I know Stuart Weitzman has other sandals that are much less, so I thought about it all night. Should I drive across L.A. to the Stuart Weitzman boutique in Beverly Hills or another Nordstrom with more selection? I had only another day before my reunion, I didn't really want to schlep around town, but that pair would cost almost as much as my dress! Plus, I've never had shoes with that much bling, and it was seriously pushing my comfort zone.

The next day I went back and I told him that honestly it wasn't in my budget. We had looked at a few other styles the day before, and even though none of them were as nice, I thought I should look at them again. Thankfully, they had gotten a shipment of new shoes that morning, and voila! I found the pair!

Rica by A. Marinelli. I thought they were even nicer than the Quando—not as in-your-face as the Quandos, but still sparkly. They're really comfortable and they were a bargain at only $95!

I hadn't heard of A. Marinelli shoes until then, but I'll definitely look at their shoes again in the future.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Like bread

Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time since...well, I haven't been to the gym since before my trip to the States, so about a month ao. My trainer said that my muscles have softened to a bread-like consistency. I'm imagining soft Hawaiian sweet bread or dinner rolls, not a crusty baguette. Alas, the wedding is two months away!

Sheng-Hong's plan: increase my gym attendance from 1x/week to 2x/week at minimum. He recommends doing both cardio and strength at least twice a week, and said that if I went straight to the gym after work to do cardio for 30 minutes, it shouldn't take that much time.

As for diet, the Taiwanese have what they call a 5-3-2 philosophy: eat a substantial and balanced breakfast, have 3/5 (60%) of the breakfast amount at lunch, and 2/5 (40%) of the breakfast amount for dinner. Try to avoid starchy foods like rice and bread. A serving of meat is okay for lunch, but at dinner, meat should be a flavoring, not a main course. Many Asian dishes follow this concept - rarely is meat a stand-alone dish like steak in Western cuisines. Instead, it's mixed with vegetables or tofu (like ground pork in dry stir-fried green beans).

Oh, and try not to snack in the evening—eat dinner as early as possible so that everything is well-digested before bed. This is sensible advice for anyone, not just a bride whose hoping to be more toned for her wedding.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Conflict-free diamond jewelry

I'm really surprised by both the number and the type of responses I get for my desire for an ecologically- and socially-responsible ring. They've ranged from "that's so cool!" to "this is your insurance from your husband! You should get something that you can always sell if you need money!"

I mean, wedding rings are a personal decision, so I was surprised to hear so many people weighing in. I'm still doing research on platinum, but it looks like metals mining is a messy business. Among the controversies out there are a Canadian mining firm that's trying to displace farmers in Nigeria to mine platinum. Thankfully, more and more organizations are springing up to ensure that metals for jewelry come from recycled sources, or are mined with sensitivity to the local community, including rehabilitating the environment afterwards.

So, if it is diamonds that you must have, here's another resource:
Brilliant Earth - fair trade comes to jewelry.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

World Explorers

I found this cool website, World66. You can create a map that shows all the places you've been!

Ok, to be honest, my real visited map isn't that exciting. But between Neil and me (mostly Neil), we've visited 47 countries! (21% of the world.)

Here's my real map:

create your own visited country map

Only 13 countries. But I hope to add two more to the list after our honeymoon. We're hoping to visit New Zealand and Fiji.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

It never rains, it pours

I was felled Tuesday by something funky I ate Monday night. Then, lots of meetings Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. And upcoming: besides work, there's wedding planning and moving (several times) before the wedding. Ai ya!

Part of me is sad to move, because even though my apartment is old and showing its age, I've lived here for over two years. It's been cozy living with Angela, and she's always said that my room (her previous room) must have good feng shui, because we both met our respective husband/fiance while living there. And of course, I'll miss being a five minute walk from my office. But, I've also heard that it's important to create your own space as a couple, and by moving, we will do just that...unless, of course, you are J. Lo and you hire one of the Fab Five to redo Marc Anthony's bachelor mansion.

Friday, October 20, 2006

What's Up in Taiwan

Continuing the podcast theme, if you want to know what's up in Taiwan, check out this aptly titled podcast: What's Up in Taiwan.

The latest podcast is on the multi-talented husband-and-wife team Tomer and Jun Feldman, and their newly created Sababa Pita Bar. Neil and I are going to their grand opening pitas...

Ritmo Latino

I must mention how much I love this podcast. All of the podcasts except one have been winners, in my opinion, and they are the only podcasts I save on my iPod Mini after I've listened to them, which says a lot. There's a nice mix of anything that's Latin, from salsa to electronic to bossa nova and more!

Plus, reading the show's history made me laugh. Like Neil Hohmann before he started the show, I have only a few CDs and don't really know artists' names, so listening to this show gives me an opportunity to broaden my horizons. You can also check out the Ritmo Latino MySpace page, which is the cleanest one I've seen. All the other ones confuse me and give me a headache. I guess it's a sign that I'm aging. I'm just not hip anymore.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

With this ring, I thee wed

According to The Knot, I should be well on my way looking for wedding bands. And, what is a traditional Western wedding ceremony without the wedding bands? However, after reading in the National Resources Defence Council's June 2005 issue of This Green Life about dirty gold, I couldn't consciouly want a traditional wedding band. According to the No Dirty Gold website:

Gold mining is a dirty industry: it can displace communities, contaminate drinking water, hurt workers, and destroy pristine environments.

It seems like the problems with gold apply to other metal mining operations as well, so that also rules out platinum. What to do? The NRDC and other green wedding planning sites recommend:

  • buying vintage
  • have existing jewelry that you have and no longer wear refashioned
  • buying recycled gold from online retailer Green Karat or Sumiche Jewelry. Dear Abi recently sent me a link to another online retailer, Cred Jewelry (this one is in the UK).

  • Of course, these ecologically- and socially-responsible rings look just as beautiful as conventional rings. According to the New York Times, buying from Chicago-based Leber Jeweler's Earthwise line is another option. And most of Tiffany's gold is mined without using cyanide.

    And then, there are...wooden rings! I immediately fell in love with these rings from Touchwood Rings:

    A simple search on for "wooden wedding rings" on Google will yield lots of options, including:

    I also love the rings at Tropical Grains, but I need to do research to see if titanium is okay.

    There's also this directory from the International Commitment Ceremonies Registrar. It's nice to know there are so many choices for ethical rings.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Billion Dollar Brows

    So I've spent the past week in L.A. visiting my parents and attending my high school's 10-year reunion (gasp!). Before the trip, I thought to myself that I would have plenty of time to get to all those items on my to-do list, including ones for the wedding, because I'm on vacation. Not! Between jet lag and driving all over L.A. finding things to meeting friends and family, I haven't gotten much sleep at all. At least I've managed to catch up on listening to a bunch of podcasts while driving—can you believe over 8 hours of driving programming over the course of 2 days?

    Anyways, I digress. I was so lucky to find in my inbox Tuesday morning a Daily Candy feature on Billion Dollar Brows. I find it helpful to go to a professional once in awhile, since sometimes one loses perspective when going the DIY route...and you end up with no brows.:(

    It just so happens that the salon is within walking distance of Rodeo Drive, where my good friends Kuo and Melissa took me to so that I could gawk in appropriately touristy fashion. I was a bit disconcerted to hear BDB was in their first full day of business (could I have been their only customer?), but the service was great. After some waxing and tweezing action, I had defined, natural-looking eyebrows. They say your eyes are the windows to your soul, and now I have great window treatments to go with them. :D

    For all the ladies in L.A. (and guys with unibrows, for that matter), you can now have browsy goodness.

    Billion Dollar Brows, 9453 Charleville Boulevard, South Beverly Hills (310-270-4650). $35 for the first visit; $30 thereafter.

    Saturday, September 30, 2006

    A good weekend

    It's been a good weekend so far. I actually left work early Friday because I was afraid of missing the train. I took the train out to the beach house to meet someone who was interested in buying my board. Big Dave kindly picked me up at the station and the timing was perfect—he pulled up as I walked out of the station. Since I was tired and sick with a cold, I just went straight to Neil's room with my new cabinet shelf from Ikea and rearranged the cupboard. Yes, that Martha Stewart-side of me enjoys and finds relaxing organizing cupboards so that the snacks, dishes, and glasses are placed for maximum efficiency. I was in bed by midnight (good girl) and slept in. I meant to do yoga this morning, but when you're sick, it's more important to sleep in, right? ;) The potential buyer came, liked my board, and bought it - yay! Relaxed some more, folded laundry, and caught the afternoon train back to Taipei. On the train I finally updated some spreadsheets on my laptop. This afternoon I did another load of laundry, folded the clean laundry that's been sitting around my room, and was surfing the Internet when the place where I get facials called to say that a space had opened up (I was on the wait list). So now I've actually crossed many things off my to-do list, and I'd probably could cross more if I'd stop surfing the 'net...hmm...time to get off...

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    Anthropologist in the Kitchen

    Today I found out a friend, Tzu-i, has started her own blog chronicling her cooking school adventures. It's in Chinese, so it will be good practice to read...when I have the time to sit down with a dictionary. :P

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    The tallest building in the world

    Thanks to all who sent kind words about my vent on Monday. Today I went inside the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101. I've been to the attached mall several times, but today was my first into the offices section. When you enter the building, the security guards direct you to these computerized kiosks, where you can look up you destination location by company name or floor. Originally I found the system difficult to use since I managed to overlook the "English" button, but I eventually managed in Chinese. After you select the office, the kiosk rings the office, and if the receptionist gives clearance, the kiosk spits out the access card. Then, you go to the turnstiles (just like in subways), and feed your card into the reader, and then are finally directed to the elevators. The elevators are very swish, and I was up at the 24th floor faster than the hokey elevator in my office building goes to the 6th floor. Unfortunately, stepping out of the elevator, you're in a corridor that looks a lot like a mausoleum since the other elevator shafts are clad in granite. But now I can say been there, done that.

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Monday morning blues

    I hate my job. I truly do. Every Monday, I have a hard time getting out of bed. Not necessarily because I'm tired, but because I don't want to go to work. So of course, I'm often late on Monday - two to three minutes late. But, to add insult to injury, if we're late we have to pay a fine into the employee entertainment fund. I think I've contributed to about 30% of the fund. But if the kids are happy, fine. Whatever.

    I still hate my job. The pressure, the work. I'm always torn because right now I'm getting managerial experience in an entrepreneurial environment which should be good for my career development. But sometimes I could give a damn about the product and our customers. I just want some time for me and to plan my wedding. It's sucking the life out of me, and the worst is that I can't quit because I have a wedding and a future to pay for. To further pile on the suckiness, this morning while rushing to work I slipped on a puddle and now my knee and toe are bruised. Wah! >_<

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    Happy (belated) birthday to me!

    (and Neil, too!)

    Eve just sent me this picture from my birthday that I love, love, love. Neil got a wonderful chocolate cake from Ellie Bakery, and I almost couldn't bear to cut it's sleek chocolatey squareness.

    And then, a couple of weeks later, under the guise of going to the gym, I instead went and baked puffs and made chocolate sauce for profiteroles, my birthday surprise for Neil. Mike generously lent me his kitchen; the poor guy—I was up past two in the morning making puffs.

    Look! We have a bun in the oven! (just kidding)

    Making chocolate sauce. Chocolate sauce recipe from David Lebovitz—mine came out a little watery.

    Profiterole glamour shot.

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Gourmet, organic American baby food

    There's an article in today's New York Times about gourmet baby food that is often organic and features unusual flavor combinations. Says the Times, "The new baby foods appeal to parents from countries where the division between adult and baby food is not as distinct as it is in the United States."

    Reading food articles and catering menus, lately I've been more aware of constant mentions of "kid-friendly" meals. The general assumption in the U.S. is that kids just like to eat chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, and jello. Here in Taiwan, I realize kids just eat whatever their parents eat: all manner of seafood, litchi, chicken feet, everything. Obviously some things I've never developed a taste for, but when I have kids, I definitely want them to be accustomed to flavors from around the world.

    So my parents were right after all...

    Thursday, July 27, 2006

    Creamy, healthier ice cream with cloned fish protein

    Today's New York Times has an article on new industrial processes that enable creamy, lower-fat ice cream. But how healthy can a lower-fat ice really be, when it includes the cloned protein from the blood of an artic fish, something that humans definitely did not eat? I'm all for using technology to develop new processes - after all, making ice cream the old-fashioned way is a process in itself. But time and time again, research proves that processed foods just aren't good for you.

    Even more disturbing is that the U.S. doesn't require disclosure of genetically modified food. You think you aren't eating GMO food, but it's there in your Fritos and Breyers. That's not giving consumers much choice.

    Thursday, June 29, 2006

    Long Dong Climbing

    We went climbing in LongDong (龍洞) last Saturday. As usual, the place was beautiful.

    Summer really has begun, with sunny hot weather and clear azure skies. There were lots of SCUBA divers out as well. Neil tackled a 5.9+ climb, very challenging for a beginning climber.

    A member of our climbing party had a near-death experience. Mike was demonstrating how to take a lead climbing fall when the carabiner in his quickdraw broke, leading to a really big fall. Thankfully, his head smacked into his belayer Adam's shoulder instead of the wall. Lessons learned: (1) always be more conservative. Thankfully Mike had taken a planned, not-to-high fall, and had warned Adam ahead of time; (2) Wear a helmet when climbing outdoors; and (3) keep up with climbing community news. His Metolius carabiner may have come from the batch the company recalled a couple of years ago.

    (clockwise from top left: Adam lead climbing an overhang, Tina doing a climb, the broken 'biner, the day's last site, Mike's (thankfully) only injury, Mike)

    Aside from that freakish accident, climbing the remainder of the day was fun. My last climb was much smoother than when I attempted the same route a few months ago. Hiking to and from the site was itself quite a workout—at least 30 minutes. There are some portions where you have to hug the wall (it looks more impressive and scary than it actually is). Lots of fun, and eased any guilt of not making it to the gym last week. ;o)

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    The lovely bride

    A photo of the lovely bride (flanked by Neil and me).

    Sunday, June 18, 2006

    June wedding

    Yesterday was my roommate Angela's wedding. It was beautiful, fun AND funny. We had a great surprise slideshow and touching speeches. Everything went smoothly with no major mishaps—a relief for me, not only as a friend, but in my role as wedding coordinator for the day. I was decked out with a walkie talkie and Bluetooth headset connected to my mobile, but no camera. I'm sure friends will soon be forwarding pictures, so I'll try to post some of Angela's big day.

    Anyways, a great party. To Angela & Felix: mazel tov!

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    beach house party

    Escaping the rain in Taipei, this past weekend we had a party at the beach house. Lots and LOTS of food: chicken, steak, burgers, hot dogs, salad, fruit, guacamole...just like that episode of "Apprentice," never let only guys go shopping at Costco if you're on a tight budget. ;o) Anyways, everyone had a great time.

    Tuesday, May 30, 2006

    beach days, plum rains

    You know you've had a good day at the beach when five days later you're still digging sand out of your years. Two weekends ago was absolutely lovely: clear sunny skies, great waves (for a beginner), not too hot. Alas, we've had the "plum rains" since then. Drippy, drippy drops and sometimes shots of rain. I think the idea with the plum rains are that the plum trees are supposed to blossom afterwards, but I don't even know if there are any plum trees in Taipei. At least Wednesday is a holiday - Dragonboat Festival, along with what Grace Young called "savory rice tamales." Well, that's one way to call 粽子 (sticky rice wrapped often in bamboo leaves). This is one food (along with ravioli and dumplings) that always reminds me of commonalities across the world. Besides tamales, I've also had variations in Thailand and Cambodia, i.e. take some meat or sweet filling, surround it with a starch, and then wrap the whole thing in a leaf to make a filling and yummy on-the-go meal.

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    bug origami

    Amazing portfolio of origami. The best ones are the bugs, since they're naturally angular.

    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Past hump day

    I'm always thrilled as Friday approaches: relaxing weekends, sleeping in, having fun. A few weeks ago I went to The Top, a Balinese-themed restaurant on Yang Ming Mountain that overlooks the city. A pity the service was terrible and the food so-so. Proof that decor does not cover all. Our party actually talked about what a shame the owners had obviously spent so much money on decor, but then cheaped out by hiring un-trained young kids instead of professional waitstaff. If they had better service and food, and more parking, the place would actually be perfect for a party.

    The week after that I saw Cloudgate's latest performance. I admit that I prefer Lin Hwai-Ming's other works (Bamboo Dream), but there were definitely some very cool sections in "White x 3".

    Sunday, April 16, 2006

    to Hong Kong Sevens and back

    These last few weeks have been a cyclone:

    Got sick.

    Got better just in time to go to the Hong Kong Sevens for a weekend of craziness:

    Came back to crazy work deadlines and got sick again.

    The worst of the deadlines have passed and now feeling better after two relaxing weekends at the beach house:

    Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Until the violence stops

    Two weekends ago I watched both the Chinese and English performances of the Vagina Monologues. The first time I had heard about the productions, I thought to myself, "what kind of production is this?" Would there be sections that would make me blush? Would there be moaning and the speaking of words not usually spoken in public? Well, yes...but there were also portions that would move me, enlighten me. The most moving part of the performance was the focus of this year's Spotlight Campaign: Justice to Comfort Women. These so-called "comfort women" were civilians that were forced by the Japanese military to become sex slaves during World War II. I vaguely remembered hearing briefly about it during high school, but hadn't paid the issue much attention. Four of these surviving women—now in their 80s and 90s—bravely took the stage. Their stories are shocking, harrowing, tragic…and I am grateful that these women have gone public with their stories to demand the apologies owed to them so that my daughters, sisters, mothers, and I will not face that terror.

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    Chew on these numbers

    The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that "the richest 1 percent of Americans now get about 15 percent of total US income, close to the 18 percent the same small group had in 1913."

    An article in the same paper reports the next day on the economic strides Australia has made in recent years. Despite these gains, Australians reportedly think that the country has "become a meaner place over the past 10 years" and have some misgivings about the growth. Income inequality has increased: "in 1995, the richest 1 percent garnered 5 percent of the national income; now it's 9 percent."

    So, Australians are disturbed that the richest 1 percent of the population has 9 percent of the national income; in constrast, the richest 1 percent in the U.S. has 15 percent of the national income, up from the all-time low of 8 percent in 1963. Where's the discussion in the U.S.?

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    The little things

    This is an interesting article about the power of small changes. What small change will I make today?

    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    Grey socks

    I think I will forever be able to distinguish the socks I brought to India: the grey ones versus the white ones.

    Sunday, January 29, 2006

    Taj Mahal & the City of Lakes

    Our fourth day of India. We've now seen the Taj Mahal, the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri, ate at a dhaba (traditional roadside restaurant) in New Delhi, and today arrived in Udaipur, the city of lakes.

    It's been fun imagining oneself living as royalty back in the glamour days of Fatehpur Sikri (Neil and I agreed that being the king there was probably more fun than being the emperor of China and stuck in the Forbidden City) or as a queen in the Garden of the Maidens in Udaipur. The garden was built for just the queen and her ladies-in-waiting back in the 19th century, but of course the king and his buddies would sneak in. Men.

    We also hiked to a Hindi temple to the goddess of the mountain perched on top of a hill for a fantastic view of Udaipur. Lakes with white homes nestled in the plain, ringed by brown hills and mountains. We had a delicious vegetarian thali (Indian set meal) on the rooftop of a 180+ year-old haveli (royal residential home), enjoying the view of the Lake Palace and other structures along the shores of Lake Pichola.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2006

    universal vs. luxurious health care

    Mid-journey to my vacation in India, and taking in the advantages of the Thai Airways lounge as part of my ~5-hr layover in Bangkok.

    While planning, I looked up the CDC's recommendations for travel health in India. Then I decided to find a travel doctor. The folks over at Chung Shan Hospital insisted to Neil that only kids need immunizations, and adults should just take reasonable sanitary precautions. Local Taiwanese scoffed that I, typical American, was being paranoid. I thought I should still try to see a doctor, so while booking an appointment online at my preferred hospital, Taiwan Adventist, I noticed they had a travel medicine clinic. Perfect.

    The morning of my appointment, a nurse called to tell me that travel medicine was outside of the usual services covered under health insurances, and would require a registration charge of NT$700. Eek! A big jump from the usual NT$100-200, but still reasonable at about US$20. It's my health, so I decided to go for it.

    Boy, was I surprised to find that travel medicine is under the Priority Care Center; I'd heard about the Priority Care Center from well-to-do expats who pay a premium to bypass the waiting in line under the normal national health coverage plan. You certainly get what you pay for. In the chic and comfortable waiting area, I saw nurses patiently speaking in Japanese to a sick Japanese child with his worried Mama, and another nurse speaking Taiwanese to an older gentleman.

    I got over half an hour of my doctor's time. She was well prepared with recommendations from both the U.S. and Taiwan CDCs, and discussed with me the potential risks of both disease and side effects from medications. A nurse even went and got my prescription "just in case" travel medicines for me - no standing in line, woo!

    Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a polio booster (recommended by the CDC for all adults) because Taiwan carries only the oral kind (and the risks of infection by immunization are greater than my chances of getting it in India, especially since I was fully immunized as a child) or a typhoid vaccination (none available in the whole of Taiwan). Perhaps there's no stock because the costs of carrying it are too great compared to the endemic risksv relative to the country's public health goals.

    This isn't to say that I'm unsatisfied with Taiwan's health care system - I think it's great. There is a lot of waiting and not much hand-holding, and a strong does of patient advocacy is required (doctors are under pressure to see as many patients as possible), but overall I've felt the care I've received to be competent, and most importantly, affordable. As far as I know, it's universal access to adequate healthcare (unlike the U.S.).

    Again, my experience goes back to my observations of the U.S. as a land of extremes, with the majority obese and a handful of too-thin celebrities held up as models. Of top-notch medical research and techniques, and a huge number of people unable to afford health insurance. As for me, it's still nice to know that it's also possible to receive the kind of time-intensive, thoughtful care I got back at MIT Medical here in Taiwan.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    2005 in review

    A picture is a thousand words, so here are photos from last year:

    View from the mountains of Honeymoon Bay in Daxi, Ilan County.

    Roadside images on the way to Daxi.

    It's a do-it-yourself society here: no lifeguards patrolling about to rescue the foolish or the unlucky.

    Rock climbing in Longdong, north of Daxi, on Taiwan's northeast coast.

    With scenery like this, relaxing is easy in Santa Barbara wine country...

    ...especially with a picnic lunch on a deck overlooking the vineyards at Rusack Winery.

    It's a good life.

    Monday, January 02, 2006

    Blessings for 2006!

    A new year...eek! I still haven't finished developing my resolutions from last year, haven't written nor sent Christmas cards, and now the new year has always begun. At least there's nothing better than a warm bowl of oatmeal to start out a winter day:

    Easy Weekday Morning Steel-cut Oatmeal

    I prefer steel-cut oats, also known as Irish oats. These are the whole oats that have been chopped into pieces, and they have a chewier texture. I find the more common rolled oats (whole oats that are steamed, rolled, and then flaked) to be more gluey and not as toothsome. Although steel-cut oats take more time to cook, I've developed and easy and quick way of getting them done in the morning: using my rice cooker!

    To serve 2 people, take a half-cup measure to scoop out the oats into the rice cooker bowl. You can also add a sprinkle of cinnamon or other spices at this time. I then fill the same measure with water, adding a total of 1 1/2 cups water, and then pop it into the rice cooker and turn it on. I do this first thing in the morning when I'm half awake, since no brain work is required, really. I then pad off to the bathroom and go about my usual morning routine, and by the time I'm dressed and ready to eat (about 20 minutes), my breakfast is done!

    When you open the rice cooker, there will still be a fair amount of water on top. I just take my rice scoop and fold it into the oats and add raisins, dried cranberries, or other fruit. The excess water always gets absorbed, and then it's read to eat with milk and other goodies. Yum.