Sunday, August 27, 2006

Farewell to Another Friend

Went to a farewell party for Luke last night. He's leaving on Wednesday for Japan, where he'll spend a year teaching English. It's been nice knowing him for the last three months, hope he stays in touch.

The party was held at a restaurant called A Plus, which featured California-style Japanese food. It was exceptionally good, but expensive. The food cost me $14US and the one beer I had (a bottle of Kirin) was $5. I guess for a special occasion I don't mind spending so much, but I wouldn't go there on a regular basis, at least not until I get a real job!

I'm going to be ultra busy this next week, teaching and getting stuff ready for the trip to Singapore on Friday. I've been teaching seven days a week, and although the hours are short, it's still a lot of work, because I also have to prepare for lessons and correct compostions and such. The money is nice, I'll say that! I've made about $700US this month, and that was only about 45 hours in three weeks' time. That's more than some of the Taiwan people make in a whole month of working 40+ hours per week. I'll pick up about another $165 next week. I have six students now, but Aaron is leaving for the UK next month, so I'll be down to five. One gal wants to add another day, for a total of three times a week. Everyone else is only one time per week. That should be fine for me, since once I start classes at Shi Da in December, I'll need time for my own homework.

Here's some fun for you, courtesy of Mary, one of my former co-workers. She keeps me supplied with good stuff to make me laugh.


1. Save the whales. Collect the whole set.
2. A day without sunshine is like, well . . . night.
3. On the other hand, you have different fingers.
4. 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
5. 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
6. Remember, half the people you know are below average.
7. He who laughs last thinks slowest.
8. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
9. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.
10. Support bacteria. They're the only culture some people have.
11. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
12. Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.
13. If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.
14. How many of you believe in psycho-kinesis? Raise my hand.
15. OK, so what's the speed of dark?
16. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
17. Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
18. Every one has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film.
19. How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?
20. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
21. What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
22. I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.
23. Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?
24. Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.
25. Light travels faster than sound. That is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ya Just Gotta Let Some Folks Make Their Own Mistakes

I haven't spent much time with Hiyoshi since April. One reason is that I've been teaching a lot more. Another is that we're not longer in the same Chinese class at the same school. But the main reason is that he's someone else's boyfriend, and I don't think I'd like it if some girl spent a lot of time with my boyfriend.

I do see him once in awhile, but almost always in the company of our other friends. Our days of spending hours alone together are long gone. However, I did meet up with him about a month ago, right before I went to Hong Kong to visit Terry and Cheryl, because I was going over to Taipei 101, and I knew he was in that area teaching Japanese. So, I asked if he wanted to meet me at 101 and go to the bookstore together. He readily agreed.

It was kind of nice to have him all to myself like old times. I knew he'd had some issues with Lisa, because he'd mentioned a couple of things before, so I asked him how things were going, were they getting used to one another's quirks, etc. He then proceeded to tell me his gripes about Lisa, which mostly boiled down to the fact that since she's not Japanese, she doesn't act like a Japanese girl, and Hiyoshi doesn't care much for that.

For example, one thing that was really setting him off was that Lisa would say something, and then about a half an hour later, if Hiyoshi mentioned what she had said, she would deny that she'd said it. Hiyoshi swears that he always clearly understood her and that it's not just a language issue. So, he'd get pissed off when she said she never said that, because if she were a Japanese girl, she'd very politely say, "Oh, you're right, I may have said that." rather than outright denying it. Then he said he was starting to think she was a little nuts because this kept happening over and over, and he couldn't understand how a sane person would not know what she had said.

There was also the issue of her being younger than him but still having the audacity to tell him he was wrong sometimes. Oh my goodness, that just isn't done in Japan! Any younger person would never tell an older person he or she was wrong about something, even if it were true. Add into this the fact that when Lisa and Hiyoshi would get together with Lisa's friends, and they'd all chat in Chinese, Hiyoshi would feel left out because the conversation was too fast for him to follow. He felt this was extremely impolite. And then Lisa always being late to pick him up after work (remember, she's the one with the job, and he's just spending his days drifting aimlessly around Taipei), and then having the nerve to give him a reason why she was late (traffic jam, couldn't get out of the office on time, etc.) instead of just prostrating herself on the ground and apologizing.

So, after listening to all of this, I asked Hiyoshi, "Do you love Lisa?" He said he didn't know. I proceeded to give him my advice, which was as follows: 1) Talk to her. Tell her that what she's doing is upsetting you and why. If you don't tell her, she won't know, and she'll keep doing it (and she may not change, but at least give her the option). It's important to talk with the person you're with and not just (in the Japanese way) expect that person to read your mind and know what you want and feel without you having to open your mouth. 2) Realize that she is NOT Japanese, and she never WILL be Japanese, and learn to live with it. If you think you can't accept her the way she is, go find yourself a Japanese woman who already behaves the way you want, and stop trying to make Lisa fit into that mold. 3) Learn what compromise means. Try to meet each other half way. Try to change your way of thinking. Don't expect her to give up her independent personality just to please you. 4) If you don't love her, and you're just hanging out with her because it gives you a place to stay in Taipei and her parents feed you, you're being a total shit and not fair to her, because she's looking for marriage and a family.

Now, I left this conversation thinking there was no hope for this relationship, because I don't see Hiyoshi as a flexible sort of person. I figured he'd continue to spend time with Lisa and then eventually return to Japan and take over his father's job, just as he's been trained, since he has no other skills and no way to get a job in Taiwan and stay here. I figured Lisa would get tired of trying to push him to actually work and would realize it just wasn't going to happen. Imagine my surprise when Hiyoshi told me this week that they're getting married on November 11. OK. Sure. Great idea.

Hiyoshi leaves for Japan on September 8. Lisa will quit the good job she has here, and she will move to Japan, where it is unlikely she will find a good job, because she does not speak Japanese. The happy couple will live with Hiyoshi's family, and Hiyoshi will try to find some sort of part-time job he can do while he's doing the church stuff. Lisa will be plunked down in a culture radically different from Taiwanese culture and will be expected to act like a perfect Japanese wife. Since they won't have any money, they won't be able to afford to have children right away, which is a good thing, because Hiyoshi doesn't really like them all that much. I obviously have misgivings about this. So, once again I asked Hiyoshi, "Do you love her?" And once again he said, "I don't know." I asked him, "Have you ever told her you love her?" And he said, "No." What the hell? And just why does this girl want to marry a guy who has never said he loves her, even if he'd be lying when he said it?

Not many months ago, when Lisa and I discussed the fact that Hiyoshi has a snowball's chance in Hell of ever earning a decent living, she said she felt a handsome face and a kind heart were enough. Hello? Wake-up call, dearie. That ain't gonna put food on the table. I'm all for true love, and if the two of them were so head-over-heels in love with each other they couldn't see straight, I'd wish them the best and encourage them to have a go at it, and I'd keep my doubts to myself. But it seems to me that only one person is in love, and that person is making the mistake so many women make: she thinks she can transform a no-ambition guy into some sort of gung-ho breadwinner who will be the best hubby in the world. I'm not even going to try to talk her out of it, because I know she won't listen. Hiyoshi will be fine, because all he wants is a woman who will take care of him, and if love doesn't enter the picture, so what? I mean, after all, men don't need to be in love to have a nice sexual experience, right? All that's required is warm and willing, and they're good to go.

I told Hiyoshi they'd be smarter to live together for awhile, giving Lisa a chance to experience life in Japan to see if she could handle it. He says they want to "shi shi kan" which is Chinese for "try and see." He said Lisa is the one who has continued to chase him, and he's so laid back that he just agrees to anything she says. She says "Let's get hitched," and he says "OK, sure, why not?"

They're both nuts.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Funny Videos
Anorexic Barbie

Gosh darn, she's so purty.

Click the link for more hilarious stuff. But wait until you have a couple of hours to spare surfing around the site.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Slight Rant, With Apologies to Will

To diet, or not to diet: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The rolls and jiggles of outrageous poundage,
Or to take arms against a sea of hunger pangs,
And by opposing end them?

And by this, Dear Readers, you may see that I still fight the Battle of the Bulge. Or, more truthfully, have been waving the white flag of surrender, having long since given up any hope of winning against these impossible odds. I am daily assaulted on all sides by tasty morsels, cheaply priced and conveniently placed directly in my path as I walk the streets of Taipei. Who can withstand such pressure?!

Seriously, I'm fat. I've gained 10kg since I arrived here in March 2005. That's a lot. I eat too much of the wrong food (even though I don't think I eat too much as in quantity of food), and I don't get nearly enough exercise. And let's face it, I'm not a youngster anymore, someone who can shed five pounds without any effort at all. Nope, if I want that five pounds to vacate my ass, I have to mount an attack with all my forces.

And, as Hamlet noted, ay, there's the rub. What's the point of living life if we don't enjoy the life we live? If I have to spend every day in a battle, depriving myself of food and drink that tastes good and eating food that does nothing more than nourish my body, where's the fun in that? Sure, I like vegetables - if they're covered with butter. And salad? Bring it on, if it's drenched with bleu cheese dressing. What? I can't have butter and dressing? Bleah.

And then I have to examine the reasons I want to be thinner. Sadly, the number one reason is not for my health's sake, as it should be, but because being fat has a stigma attached to it. Thin is in, fat is ugly and gross. This was not always the case. OK, so everyone knows that the goddess Venus is supposed to represent love and sex and all that crap, right, ergo she must be beautiful. Well, check out this painting by the Dutch painter, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), titled "The Toilet of Venus" (no, that's not toilet like you find in the bathroom, dudes). This was considered hot and sexy in Rubens' day. I swear, that could be my backside you're looking at!
So, what happened to appreciation for a fully rounded female form, soft and cuddly, the Mother figure that was so revered by peoples of the past? I'll tell you what happened - Twiggy. "'She had the body of a starvation victim and the face of an angel' is a very accurate statement for 1960's model Twiggy. The petite model began her career at 14, weighing a meager 91 pounds with no breasts and bony shoulders." EWWWW! I mean, come on, who seriously thinks that's attractive? Check this interesting website for Twiggy vs Sophie Dahl, an interesting comparison between the scrawny waif who started this ridiculous fad and the current model who hopefully will help change this image.

So I guess I'm holding out for that miracle to happen, when guys will wake up and realize that there's something just a little wrong if they're attracted to women who have the bodies of boys and they'll go back to wanting women who look like women.

Then again.....all this extra weight does make it a bit difficult to get my ass up the many, many stairs throughout this city, so I suppose I'd best quit whining and making excuses and at least get rid of that extra 10kg ;)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Table for Four, Please

Before I left for Hong Kong on 7/31, Dino had called me to say that he was going to be working at a restaurant (English name is roughly "Chrysanthemum") in San Zhi for about 10 days in August, and he wanted to make sure we'd come have dinner there while he was cooking. His fiancee, Carrie, works at this restaurant, and she and Dino have become friends of the owners, a Taiwanese gentleman with a Japanese wife (or vice versa, I can't recall). Dino had cooked some of his Italian specialities for them, and they liked it so much they asked him to run the restaurant while they were on holiday in Japan.

The announcement sign basically says that from 8/1 through 8/12 the restaurant would be under the control of China Blue's Italian drummer, Dino, who would be cooking Italian food and not to pass up the opportunity to eat it!

Dino started cooking while I was in Hong Kong. Among the first guests to partake of the wonders of Chef Dino were Wu Bai, Da Mao, and Xiao Zhu. Dino reports that they were suitably impressed with the fare. He said Wu Bai was so cute, first looking at the English side of the menu, then flipping it to the Chinese side. He jokingly ordered three of everything on the Chinese side, flipped back to the English, and began to order three of everything from that side. Then Dino had to tell him both sides were the same. ;-) Natari, Charlene, Betty, Xiao Niu, Shun, and PJ also made a trip there (and it takes over an hour from Taipei, you know!). I had, of course, whined about being left out, and Nat had promised we'd go when I got back from Hong Kong. And Tuesday night, we went.

Nat made reservations, because she said Dino found it difficult to handle a big crowd and wanted to limit the number of diners in order to better serve them. It was totally cool - we got there a little after 8:00 p.m., and we were the only ones in the restaurant! Dino greeted us with his customary kiss on the cheek and led us inside.

The restaurant is quite charming, with a balcony facing the ocean (but since it was typhoon weather, we ate inside). One of Dino and Carrie's neighbors was playing waitress that evening, while Dino and Carrie handled the kitchen.

There were only four dishes on the menu - Spaghetti and Meatballs (which had been handmade by Dino that very day), Pumpkin Pasta with Pesca (a type of fish), Dino's Famous Eggplant Parmesan, and Meatball Sub. Dino said he also had two other dishes, one of pork fillets rolled around onions and spices and then pan sauteed, and a spicy-sauce pasta dish. The meal included garlic bread, salad, and choice of beverage, and for dessert - Dinomisu! OK, so it doesn't resemble tiramisu, but it was really tasty, and I'm going to try to talk Dino out of the recipe (he owes me, as you will see below). I'd baked a Kahlua cake on Saturday, and I brought along pieces for Dino, Carrie, Charlene, and Xiu Chun. Nat has to wait for hers, because I didn't know Xiu Chun was coming along, and I hadn't brought enough.

Xiu Chun and I went for the spaghetti and meatballs, Nat ordered the pumpkin pasta but requested meatballs in place of the fish, and Charlene decided to try the pork with a side of spaghetti sans meatballs. Dino kindly gave us a couple of the pork rolls to try, free of charge. I was tickled when Carrie told me Dino was using my recipe for the garlic bread. I still laugh when I remember him calling me to ask me how I made it - it's so simple! Soften a couple cubes of real butter, use a garlic press to squish up a whole bunch of fresh garlic, mix it all together, slather it on the French bread, sprinkle the top with some Parmesan (fresh grated is best, but Kraft will do), and stick it in the oven until it's hot.

Let me say a little about Dino's spaghetti sauce. He learned how to cook from watching his grandmother when he was a child. Dino is, as he told us, FBI - full-blooded Italian. Me, I'm only one-quarter Italian, and although I consider that I make my sauce from scratch, I can't come close to Dino's masterpiece. Why? Because he really makes it from scratch! I use canned tomatoes and cook it all day, because that's how Mom taught me, but Dino actually starts with fresh tomatoes. He said he used four kinds in this sauce, cooking them up with garlic, onions, and green pepper before adding the tomato paste and tomato sauce near the end to thicken it up. And the meatballs, painstakingly rolled by hand, were the perfect complement.

The salad (thankfully) came with Italian dressing and not the ever-present Thousand Island that the Taiwanese love so much. It had chunks of what I think was pumpkin and also some jelly-like cubes that Nat said came from a plant. And lettuce, Chinese cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes, naturally!

After everyone was served, Dino and Carrie joined us around the table, chatting and joking. Dino said the new CD is going to be just fabulous, so we're all anxious for it to be released. They've been doing some recording, and the word is a September release, but I think it might take longer. This CD will be in Mandarin, no Taiwanese songs.

Dino is such a funny, entertaining guy, and he was dancing around the restaurant singing along with the music that was playing, making us all laugh, even getting Carrie to join him briefly. I wish we had more opportunities to just hang around with him, because we always have so much fun when he's around. I like Xiao Zhu and Da Mao, too, but they're a little more reserved than Dino and not so much at ease being friends with the fans. And although Dino has told us that Wu Bai is really a fun guy, I just can't imagine him being as silly as Dino. But, maybe he is - not that I'll ever find out!

It was around 10:00 p.m. when we finally left for the hour-long ride home (well, shorter for me, because I live so close to San Zhi). It was raining but still quite warm, the incoming typhoon having done nothing to relieve the heat. Nat dropped Xiu Chun off at Zhuwei station so she could get the bus back to Lu Zhou, and I got car-to-door drop-off service, which I appreciated because of the rain.

So, I guess if Dino ever gets tired of being a big rock and roll star, he can quit and open a restaurant. I'm sure he'll have good business if he does. Truly though, I'm hoping that day is far, far in the future, because I can't imagine not having him on stage, wailing on those drums.

Complete set of photos can be found here: Dino Does Dinner

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Halcyon Days?

That's what I didn't get in Hong Kong. Instead, I got Typhoon Prapiroon. At least that also meant cooler weather.

When I got to Chiang Kai Shek Airport on Monday, 7/31, I noticed a rather large amount of young people there, some sitting on the floor in the entry hallway, up against the wall. I thought perhaps it was some sort of tour group, but it turned out there was a Japanese star leaving Taiwan about the same time I was, and the fans had come to see him/her off. I still don't know who it was, but I heard the screaming start as I was going in to the security checkpoint area. Didn't recognize anyone, though.

I arrived at Terry & Cheryl's place late in the evening, around 10:00 p.m. We spent some time chatting before I whipped out my Rocky Horror Picture Show DVD, introducing Terry to the wonders of The Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite. His eyes were appropriately bugged out the entire time we watched, and I'm sure he was firmly convinced that his girlfriend and her friend were completely insane for liking such a bizarre movie. This was my revenge for having to watch multiple episodes of Little Britain, a British TV show, the last time I was there (it has since grown on me, and I happily watched even more episodes this time).

Poor Terry had to work all week, but Cheryl is still on summer break from her teaching job, so we piddled around, mostly doing nothing. On Tuesday we wandered over the The Wishing Tree to have lunch at a little local restaurant where the workers convene for their noontime munchies. The menu was entirely in Chinese, which was OK, since I could read it, but the waitress had a panic attack when two foreigners walked up to her to ask if they could please order now. Despite the fact that I spoke Chinese to her, she just maintained the deer-in-the-headlights looks for a few seconds before running out back to ask three lunching police officers for help dealing with the gwai lo who had invaded her space. They asked in English if they could assist, I answered in Chinese, pointing to what we wanted, and the waitress exclaimed, "You speak Chinese!" Yes....that's what I was speaking a minute ago. She was all smiles after that, and after a few minutes of discussing our order (I hadn't quite picked up on the fact that we could choose three of the main courses for one meal), she toddled off to the kitchen. Cheryl and I were each served a massive mound of rice covered with barbecued pork and kong xin cai (a green, leafy vegetable), and, in my case, a pork chop, along with overly sweetened iced tea. Had we known how large the portions were, we'd have shared a plate!

We went to the cinema and saw Dragon Tiger Gate, the new movie with Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, and Shawn Yu. It's based on a comic book, and it has a very surrealistic feel in parts. I can't say it was an excellent film, but I did enjoy it, largely in part because I was watching some pretty fine looking guys running around kicking ass. Donnie Yen has never appealed much to me, but in this movie he was looking especially yummy, and he's always a joy to watch in action. Nic always looks good, and he must have been doing some body building over the last few years, because his arms have bulked up a bit. Shawn

I'd also brought my DVD of A Christmas Story with me, since Cheryl said she'd never seen it. To my surprise, she didn't like it much, but Terry was fascinated to the point that he just had to make a copy and then watch it again the next evening. Who would have thought? It remains one of my favorite films, no matter how many times I watch it.

Spent quite a bit of time just kicking back at Cheryl's place, checking out fun stuff on the Internet (like the End of Ze World video: and watching Sex and the City, which I had never seen before. I liked it much more than I ever expected, and now I understand why it's so popular here in Taiwan. I was also treated to some of the funniest moments in Bollywood film, and I can't wait to get the DVD Terry is going to make for me, putting all of those in one place.

So....we heard a typhoon was coming, but Hong Kong was only hoisting signal 3, and 8 is the highest, so how bad could it be, huh? Apparently, Hong Kong Observatory follows certain conventions (namely, the average windspeed as measured inside Victoria Harbor) that have to be studiously followed. Thus, most of the population had no clue that venturing out on Thursday could be detrimental to their health (check out funny short video here: Cheryl and I had plans to go shopping in Mongkok, but by the time we were ready to leave, the rain was sheeting down, and the wind was tossing stuff all over. Rain actually began spurting through the cracks in the closed windows, driven in by the wind. We wisely decided to wait and see if it calmed down. Each time we checked, the weather was worse, but the HK Observatory website still maintained it was nothing much, just a little blow, over soon, hahaha. We had no choice but to leave late in the afternoon, as we were meeting friends for dinner in Kwun Tong. We managed to avoid the Mary Poppins impersonation and got to the bus stop only slightly wet. Dead and dying umbrellas were everywhere outside the KCR station. We got on the KCR, which went only one stop before we were all ushered off the train onto the platform, forced to wait for the next train on the opposite track. No clue why our train was unable to continue, but as news reports state that 559 airline flights were delayed or canceled, 672 trees fell down, and two ships ran aground due to Typhoon Prapiroon, I'm guessing one of those trees might have been the cause of our delay.

No matter, we made it safe and sound to Festival Walk Mall, where I bought a few DVDs and wisely decided against paying the outrageous price of $10US for four pieces of See's Candies, hooked up with Terry, and went on to our dinner with Doris, Twiggy, and Joel in Kwun Tong. Those three had ordered up a marvelous meal which included an appetizer of goose, pork, and lotus root; fried oyster/egg pancake; mushrooms with silky tofu; cabbage; sweet and sour something or other; seafood soup; and the crowning glory, lobster (a whole one, in the shell, but chopped up for easy eating) with noodles. We also had beer and bamboo drink, and it only cost around $14US per person! Dessert was Haagen Dazs ice cream back at Terry & Cheryl's place (it was on sale, only $5.77US per pint - yes, that is the sale price, can you believe it?? Ouch. But, cheaper than the regular price, which is more like $7US per pint.).

Terry and Cheryl dropped me off at the airport bus stop Friday evening at 7:45 so I could catch the 8:00 bus. As soon as they drove off, the sky split open and a million gallons of water poured down for five minutes, soaking me and my suitcase, despite being under the useless bus shelter. Gee, thanks. Eh, no matter, I was dry by the time I got to the airport an hour later.

Checked in at EVA about two hours before my plane was due to take off, and then had to struggle through the crowds at immigration and security. Since so many flights had been canceled the day before, the airport was jammed with travelers trying to get out of Hong Kong. Whatever line I stood in at immigration immediately came to a halt because of some sort of problem with a person's passport. I finally gave up trying to switch to a faster line. It took almost 45 minutes to get from where the bus dropped me to where I was finally in the departure area. My plane was due to board at 10:30 p.m., and I wanted to grab something to eat at the lounge, so I hot-footed it to that part of the airport. Upon arrival, I asked the gal at the lounge desk if a departure gate had been assigned yet, and she gave me the news that my 11:00 flight probably wouldn't be taking off until midnight. What?! Crap. Sent my friend who was picking me up a message telling him I was delayed, and then he called to say he'd checked the website, which said probable departure time was 12:40 a.m. So, I just hung around the lounge being bored. Ate a couple "finger sandwiches" but decided not to order off the menu, because I expected I'd be eating on the plane. I hadn't had dinner, either, just a late lunch with Cheryl in Mongkok. When I went back to ask about boarding time and gate number, I was told now it looked likely they'd begin boarding at 12:10, so I went to the gate to wait. To my delight, I was once more upgraded to business class! I'm thinking that arriving so early at the airport for check-in is a good thing :)

Anyway, it was after 1:00 a.m. when we finally took off, but I got a nice meal and some champagne, so it wasn't all bad. My buddy picked me up, and by the time I got to my house, it was 4:00 a.m. I still wasn't sleepy, which was kinda weird, so I futzed around for an hour unpacking some stuff and playing with DZ, then at 5:00 a.m. I went to bed. Couldn't sleep well, even with the air conditioner, so got up at 11:00 a.m. Spent a spacey day at home yesterday, reading and baking a cake, took a nap in the afternoon, watched a movie last night.

Got up at 6:45 a.m. today because I still hadn't finished preparing for my English class this afternoon. Forgot we'd moved the time from noon to 3:00, shit! I could have slept longer. Grrrrr.

Anyway, that was my week, enjoyed my visit with my friends, but glad to be home again.