Thursday, June 29, 2006

Photos and Videos of Trip Around Taiwan

All the photos we took on our trip around Taiwan can be seen at My Yahoo Photos. You can also look at all my other pictures there if you so desire.

Most of the videos (all of them soon) are on You Tube.

Note: since I made this post, Yahoo Photos shut down. I moved my photos to Flickr, but haven't figured out how to link them to the blog yet. In any case, the woman who was my girlfriend at the time left me, so I don't really care to update any posts related to her.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Howard Hotel in Kenting, Taiwan

Jessica and I planned (as far as we planned anything for this trip--which is not very far) to do some camping at some point while scooting around Taiwan. I brought a tent, two sleeping bags, two sleeping pads, a couple of tarps, and various other camping gear. It was all loaded in my big back pack, which Jessica ended up wearing for most of the trip, as she rode "bitch".

At this point I should clarify something. She had to ride bitch only because I have various paranoid fears, one of which has to do with riding on the back of a motorcycle or scooter. Basically, I cannot handle it. I've tried closing my eyes, hanging on extremely tightly to the driver, looking at scenery, and praying. The only thing that seems to help is for me to get drastically intoxicated, and in that case the safety factor is negatively impacted, as I could easily fall off the back (especially if carrying a huge backpack). The fact is that because of my fears, I was the real bitch, despite my riding in the non-bitch position.

As a disclaimer, I'd like to say that I don't mean "bitch" in a derogatory way, but only as a way to describe the position of riding on the back of a motorbike. I realize that the word has negative connotations, and for that I am sorry, but I believe that it is an accurate use of motorcycle parlance.

But I digress...

In the end, we didn't camp out at all, but stayed with Jessica's relatives or in a hotel. The Howard Hotel in Kenting, to be specific.

The Howard is a four or five star resort hotel with all the goodies that you'd expect to go along with such a rating. Our stay there, however, left me unimpressed. My rule of thumb with hotels is to avoid one star hotels, as they are usually dirty and have few amenities. Two star hotels are also to be avoided as they are usually the same as one star hotels but more expensive. Three star hotels are my favorite, as they are usually inexpensive and they have most of the things one needs to spend a comfortable night or two. Four star hotels are usually basically three star hotels for a higher price. Five stars are right out due to the cost, besides which most of the extras they provide are totally unnecessary and go unused.

Such was the case with the Howard.

Now, the purpose of this entry is not to rail against a hotel, but I thought that since Jessica and I decided to write down all the problems with the place, I might as well type it out for future generations to see.

The trouble began when we first arrived at the hotel. The clerk at the desk told us that the only room they had was a huge room with two double beds and a loft, which was obviously too much for two people. I find it difficult to believe that they didn't have any other rooms available, as the place wasn't that busy and it was a Monday, but there wasn't much we could do about it at that point, as it was too late to shop around, and we were both exhausted.

Here is our list of other grievances:

1. The first clerk we spoke to said that the quoted price ($5100 NT) included breakfast AND dinner. Once we agreed to take the room, however, the next clerk said that dinner was not included.

2. After we checked in, no one offered to help us with our luggage. Granted all we had was a plastic bag and a large backpack, but there were at least four hotel employees standing around the concierge desk, and for five grand per night those guys should have carried us to our room.

3. The HBO channel didn't work on our enormous, flat-panel TV. Jessica called the front desk to inquire about it, and they basically said, "Wow. A lot of people have complained about that. We'll check to see what's wrong." It never got fixed. One reason that bugs me is that they had a big cardboard advertisement propped up on the TV stand crowing about how all their rooms feature HBO.

4. The bathroom sink was clogged. I was eventually able to get the clog cleared (it was disgusing--hair, and goop, and who knows what else), but by then I was pretty grossed out. We almost called to complain about that, but we'd already called about the HBO.

5. The ice machine on our floor was out of order.

6. The hotel is very large, and there are a lot of direction signs showing where things are. One amenity that the hotel boasts of having is a sauna, and there are signs all over that say, "sauna," with arrows pointing in various directions. We searched the hotel for about an hour and couldn't find it, but we did notice that some signs said it was on one floor, some said it was on another. Finally we asked someone and she said it was closed. I guess we were better off than the guy we saw wandering around looking for the parking garage. Long after we gave up the sauna quest, I saw him stumbling around in a confused daze. Apparently he never found it.

7. When we went to check out (we had already paid cash up front), I had to stand in line for about fifteen minutes behind some woman who was going through her bill line by line. All I wanted to do was drop my key off, but I figured I should go through all the formalities. Finally I got tired of standing there and just laid my key on the counter. Granted, this was not really the fault of the hotel--unless they really had messed up that lady's bill--but they could have put her aside with the concierge or something and dealt with the customers who didn't have problems.

In the Howard's defense, it was a comfortable room with a nice view, and they have a nice swimming pool, but it was definitely not worth the price. Next time I'll plan ahead and make reservations at a reasonably-priced place.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Lunch With the In-laws in Taidong

On my recent trip around Taiwan, my girlfriend and I spent some time in a place called Taidong (sometimes spelled Taitung) where some of her family on her mother's side live. They were very hospitable. Her uncle and aunt let us spend the night in their home, and the next day her cousin and her husband, who cater weddings and things like that, made us a huge lunch. It was delicious.

The menu was as follows:

*Pig knuckles


*Seafood soup (scallops, shrimp, fish, other marine life, and vegetables)

*Miso soup full of tiny little fish from a nearby stream

*Fried shrimp with garlic and red peppers (eaten shell and all with the head on)

*Sweet and sour fish (served whole--head included--and quite delicious)

*Sashimi with soy sauce and wasabi

*Smoked duck


And of course, plenty of beer.

After the meal we hit the road, heading south for Kenting.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Don't Forget to Bring an Umbrella

On my recent trip around Taiwan, I got caught in a huge thunderstorm. My girlfriend and I rode twenty or thirty kilometers through the storm, which may be one of the stupidest things I've ever done. The rain was so heavy that it was more like being sprayed in the face with a hose. Anyway, it reminded me of a time about a year ago when I was riding my bike to my Chinese class in Hsinchu. I got caught in a thunderstorm then, too, and the experience impressed me so much that I sent the following email message to all my friends who live in Hsinchu as well. I sent the original on May 11, 2005.

Attention Hsinchu Dwellers:

The end is near.

Today I rode my bicycle from the HRA office to my Mandarin class. It had been raining rather hard for over an hour when I left. About a block from the office, I found myself pedaling through six inches of water (that's about fifteen centimeters to most of you) (I mean centimetres).

I was amazed. I couldn't believe it. The alley was like a little river. Pedaling was getting difficult, but I pressed on.

Along Tian Sin Lane (the road with the canal, where the Salloway Cafe is), there was no standing water on the road, but the canal was full to the top and raging.

It was still raining hard.

I turned left onto Minquan Road and found myself up to the hubs of my wheels in rapidly moving water. It was white water adventure time and me with no life jacket.

Now I was barely able to get my bike to move, but I was almost to class and there was very little traffic. So I kept going. The only other vehicle nearby was a taxi standing in the middle of the street with water up to the doors.

I finally got to the alley where my class is and turned into it only to find that the water was now almost to the top of my tires. There were three girls in raincoats standing in water almost up to their waists kicking at something and screaming. I think they saw a rat swimming around.

When I got to the door of the class (which was luckily on slightly higher ground) I got off my bike. The door was closed and locked, so I waited a while. It was
raining ridiculously, and there was lightening and thunder. Finally I decided that class was cancelled for the day, but not until I saw giant cockroaches and
centipedes swimming around my ankles.

I was going to call my teacher to cancel, but I realized I had forgotten my phone. This was a big mistake, as you will see.

When I got back on my bike, the road was even worse, and it was raining harder. I was actually afraid I would ride into a hole or something, because I couldn't see the ground at all. There was driftwood floating by.

Up ahead, a woman got knocked over on her scooter by the two feet of water cascading down from Zhong-hua Road onto Minquan Road. I could barely see in the rain, and I was afraid to stop because I didn't know if I could get going again, but I jumped off my bike and waded over to help her get up and get her scooter out from under the water (it was lying on it's side and was completely submerged).

Just as I got to her a lightning bolt broke right over my head with a simultaneous explosion of thunder.

I almost soiled myself.

Once I got the woman on her way, I waded back to my bike, certain that THE END was nigh.

Up on Zhong-hua Road it was better. There was no standing water until I got to where the scooter tunnel is. I should say, where the scooter tunnel used to be, because it was gone. I mean, from Zhong-hua Road to the train tracks was just level water. If I didn’t know there was an underpass there, I’d never have been able to tell.

The rest of the way home was not too bad. Only six inches… I mean 15 centimetres of water or so on the road. People were getting back to their usual bad driving.

When I got back into my apartment and found my cell phone, there was a message from my teacher telling me that it was raining too hard, so class was cancelled.

It figures.

Now I must shower and burn my clothes, as most of that water on the road was probably coming up from some kind of wastewater system.

Cholera, anyone?

Always carry an umbrella (and scuba gear), but most of all, ALWAYS carry your cell phone.

Circumnavigating Taiwan

I just got back from an unexpected trip all the way around Taiwan. I started in Hsinchu, where I live, and took a bus north to Taipei. From there I took a train to Hualien, where my girlfriend just finished college. Then together we rode scooter to Taidong, about 150 kilometers to the south. The next day, we rode the scooter to Kenting, which is the southernmost part of Taiwan. The day after that we rode to Tainan, which took about ten hours. After that we took a bus back to Hsinchu.

Here is a map of the route. The part marked in yellow was on a 125 cc scooter.

I have a lot more to write about this trip, and videos and pictures (some of which you can see if you click on the following link: photos of the trip around Taiwan). Right now, however, my butt still hurts too bad from riding that damned scooter to sit at my computer for more than a few minutes at a time. Also, half of the pictures and videos are on my girlfriend's camera, and I have to wait for her to send them to me before I can post them.

All in good time. Just stayed tuned to this channel and I'll have some stuff for you to see soon. In the meantime, you can see the videos I do have of the trip by going to my You Tube videos.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My New Books

For my 40th birthday I got a gift certificate for $2500 at Page One bookstore in the Taipei 101 building. That was way back in March, and I finally got up to Taipei and bought some books. It is a fairly random selection, I if I'd had enough money I could easily have bought ten times as many.

Here are the titles I chose:

*The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

*Catch-22, Joseph Heller

*The Portable Emerson, Carl Bode, ed.

*Collected Fictions, Jorge Luis Borges

*Dream of the Red Chamber, Tsao Hsueh-Chin

*The Glass Key, Dashiell Hammett

*101 Kitchens: Stylish Room Solutions, Julie Savill

Maybe a strange combination, but it was very difficult for me to choose. One of my rules was not to buy anything I've already read.

These, in addition to the many books that I have inherited from people who were lightening their loads as they left Taiwan, should keep me busy for a while.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Quitters Never Win, Winners Never Quit

I have had a lot of jobs in my life:

*Seattle Times Paper Boy (just like Ned!)

*Usher/concessions seller/cashier at various movie theaters

*I worked at a mail order photo company where I put rolls of film in boxes (about 5000 per day), wrote up orders (several hundred per day), and stuffed rolls of film into a splicing machine (many many many per day).

*Short-order fry cook at Bimini's (R.I.P.) In addition to hamburgers and fries we made chimichangas. "What's a chimichanga?" you might have asked in the mid 80's. Well, a chimichanga (the way we made them) is like a crispy fried burrito. It's got chicken, jack and cheddar cheese, green chilies, green onions, and green taco sauce, it's wrapped in a flour tortilla, deep friend, and dipped in honey-mustard sauce and it's actually quite good.

*I worked for my parents company several different times. I did everything from typing up reports to driving a delivery truck. I swept the dock (it was a company that serviced fishing vessels), sat fire watch, painted, scraped rust, cut scrap metal, drove a fork lift, and much more.

*I worked at UPS for about seven years. I started unloading trucks, then moved to loading trucks, then to sorting packages, then to sorting letters. I was a Teamster and damned proud of it!

*My sleaziest job: I worked as a night receptionist and help desk operator for a porno web site.

*For one year I worked as an assistant to the assistant producer on a public radio talk show (this was the best job I've ever had).

*For a couple years I worked at the same radio station as a receptionist.

*For a year and a half I worked at the University of Washington Library Cashier, which was probably the most emotionally difficult and spiritually crushing job I've ever suffered through.

*I worked as a host/waiter for about a year or two at a truly fine restaurant called Calypso.

*In addition to all of the above, I've done all kinds of odd jobs in order to make a little extra cash.

*For the last three years I've been teaching English in Taiwan. Some teaching jobs have been good, some have been bad.

No matter how much I've hated a job, I've always found it really difficult to quit. This is probably because I usually get along well with my co-workers and bosses, and even if I don't like my boss, I have a compulsive desire to be liked by and approved of by others. Quitting could make my co-workers think I think I'm better than them, and it could also make my bosses feel disappointed in me.

The funny thing about bosses is that no matter how trivial and low paying a job might be, they always act like their employees should dedicate their entire existence to it. Well, I'm just the kind of guy who falls for that, and I've let myself be trapped in truly hellish jobs for years when the best thing I could have done for myself as well as for the job would have been to quit. Even when I have quit a job, I've always given ample notice and did the best I could to leave on good terms.

Now, teaching is not something I ever really thought I'd do for a living--at least not teaching young children. When I came to Taiwan I thought I'd be here about six months. I was just looking for something to change my life, to shake things up a little. Almost four years later I'm still here, and I have to admit that dealing with hordes of spoiled, neglected, over stimulated, under challenged, children of former spoiled, neglected, over stimulated, under challenged children (who are now overworked and stressed out parents) has been enough to drive me to the edge of a nervous breakdown.

Until about two weeks ago I was working at the worst school I've ever "taught" at. I could go on and on about what was wrong with the school, and all of the reasons I could list would be factors that contributed to my quitting, but the real reason I quit was because the students were horrible human beings. I know that sounds like a harsh thing to say about children, but you know all those really horrible adults you run into in life? The selfish, greedy, inconsiderate, rude, arrogant people who make the rest of us suffer? Well, those people were children once. It just so happens that my former school had a disproportionate number of these monsters.

I knew in the first week that I was going to hate the job. The kids weren't just rowdy, they were downright nasty. Some adjectives that could be used to describe them are insolent, rude, loud, disruptive, violent, sneaky, insubordinate, cocky, dishonest, mean-spirited, hostile, and offensive. Long story short, I tried my best to ignore the behavior and just ride out the job. I was supposed to stay until the end of July, but, as I didn't have a contract, I decided to quit at the end of May. I gave no notice. I just waited until my pay for May had been deposited into my bank account, transferred it all to another bank, then I sent the head teacher and the owner a text message: "Sorry for short notice. I quit. Kids' behavior intollerable."

They were pissed off at me, but there was nothing they could really do, and it is their fault anyway for letting their school suck so much.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Shorty Method

In 1978 I joined a junior high school bowling league at the Lake City Bowl. I'd never bowled before, and my only memories of bowling alleys at that time were from my early childhood when my parents occasionally rolled a few. I never actually saw them on the lanes, but I remember being locked up in the “day care center” at the alley they chose. I distinctly remember being struck in the forehead by a Fisher-Price school bus that some kid was swinging by a string. Now that I’ve spent some time in bowling alleys as an adult, I can’t imagine ever leaving my kids in the care of anyone who would be working at such a place. For that matter, I find it hard to believe that people would bring their kids to a place where smoking and drinking are only by a narrow margin secondary to the main activity. Times were different then, of course. I mean, mom’s forearm served as an airbag/safety belt, and kids even rode bikes without helmets.

Before the Lake City Bowl would allow us amateurs to even pick up a ball, the manager, Shorty, gave us lessons on everything we needed to know to be responsible and accurate bowlers. Shorty was, well, short. He was wearing, of all things, a dark blue bowling shirt that was devoid of any markings. It didn’t even say “Shorty” over the left breast. Still, it was unavoidably a bowling shirt, and as such, it served to give emphasis to the fact that Shorty had a protuberant stomach and fairly spindly arms (his right being slightly less spindly than his left). He also sported a flat top haircut and Buddy Holly glasses. He could have been the nerdy guy in “American Graffiti”. These days he would be called “retro”, but back then he was just one of those old guys who was not hip to “Saturday Night Fever” and its impact on the world of fashion (even in Lake City, which was decidedly an anti-Bee Gees neighborhood, favoring Lynard Skynard, Led Zepplin, and the like).

Shorty started out with the basics: no food, drinks, or chewing gum in the bowling area. This included anywhere beyond the carpeted area of the lobby before one descended to where the actual bowling took place. Of course we noticed that the adult bowlers were drinking beers, eating plates of fries, and smoking right there at their score keeping tables, but what could we do by way of protest? After all, this was twenty years before famous teen bowlers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold caused all of that nasty business in Colorado. Besides, there was Shorty’s backup, a slightly hunchbacked woman with a huge country music pile of white hair. She seemed to not only hate us, but to have a preternatural ability to anticipate any breech of the “Law of Shorty” that we might be in the act of considering.

This is not to say that Shorty or his rules were unreasonable. Everything was explained to us in simple terms as to how adherence to the Shorty code was beneficial to everyone. Food, gum, and drinks could be spilled on the approach, thus causing a bowler’s shoes to stick and ruining his delivery.

We all knew that most of these kinds of rules were intended to keep Shorty and his staff from having to clean up after us, but the way he explained things made so much sense that no one ever seemed to have broken the rules.

The first lessons that Shorty taught us were the ones that had to do with bowling courtesy.

The first rule was to pay attention and know when it was your turn to bowl. No one should have to wait for you because you are eating nachos or taking a pee or talking to your buddies.

Next, do not step up onto the approach when someone else is about to bowl as this could distract him or her during delivery. Wait until the other bowler has released the ball before picking up your ball and taking starting position (also known as a bowler’s “address”).

another rule had to do with picking up the ball—never pick up a bowling ball by the finger holes. Doing so can lead to injury. Your fingers should never support the weight of the ball. Instead, pick the ball up with both hands, then cradle it in the crook of your left arm while you insert the fingers of your right hand into the holes (if you are right handed).

Then Shorty taught us the four step approach, the following description of which I copied from an article by Robert (Bob) Strickland on Complete BowlingIndex .

The FOUR-STEP DELIVERY is the SIMPLEST and the easiest to TROUBLESHOOT. The reason is that the ball is pushed out right along with the first step. The ball is neither carried for a step as in the five-step delivery, nor moved before the first step, as in the three-step delivery. During the four-step delivery, there is something for the upper body to do in coordination with each step taken.

SETUP - Take your setup with your feet three to four inches apart and neither foot leading. Point your feet in the direction of your target. Do not lean forward; be generally upright, with your legs straight, your knees not bent, but not locked either. To help you relax your bowling hand and arm, hold the major portion of your ball's weight in your BALANCE HAND -- the hand opposite your bowling hand.

FIRST STEP - Move your ball at the same instant as you pick up your foot on the same side as your bowling arm--i.e. your SWINGSIDE FOOT. Push your ball straight ahead -- never down! Think of it as placing your ball on an imaginary table the same height as the ball was held in the setup. As your ball reaches the limit of your reach with both arms, your SWINGSIDE HEEL should just be making contact with the approach.

SECOND STEP - Let your ball simply FALL from the arms-extended into a PENDULUM SWING. Continue to keep your body upright; do not allow your head to follow your ball down into the swing! To help keep your shoulders level and squared with your swing, let your BALANCE ARM move to a position out, down, and back -- approximately 90 degrees to the plane of the swing -- at the same speed as your downswing. Your SLIDING HEEL should make contact with the approach as your ball is at the lowest point in the backswing.

THIRD STEP - Let your ball move up to the top of your backswing by its own force. Get gravity to work for you; do not use the muscles of your upper arm and back to hoist it any higher. If you do hoist your ball, your body will twist, your bowling shoulder will be pulled back, and your ball will become late relative to your footwork. As your ball reaches the top of your backswing, Your SWINGSIDE HEEL should make contact with the approach.

FOURTH STEP - Take your last step very slowly on your SLIDING SOLE, bending your swingside knee very deeply. This will give you a long slide and ample time to achieve a superior body position for your release. Keep your upper body upright and your balance arm in the position it attained during your second step. You will enjoy better leverage, less fatigue, and more consistently placed shots.

The last thing that Shorty taught was to leave the lane in the same or better condition than when you arrive. No trash should be left behind, and all the balls should be returned, as should the grease pencils and scorecard transparencies.

The Shorty Method emphasized personal responsibility and discipline. Not bad things to have.

Almost thirty years after bowling in the junior high league at Lake City Bowl, I found myself in a bowling tournament in Hsinchu City, Taiwan. My team members were Ian and Ben from New Zealand, Patrick and Mike D. from Canada, and me from the States. When we first started bowling, no one really knew how to do it correctly. I was usually the highest scorer. Then I started teaching them the Shorty Method, and soon their scores got better and better. We ended up winning the tournament. It was a long road from the Lake City Bowl to winning that tournament, and I have to thank Shorty--where ever he is--for the lessons he taught me and a lot of others like me.

The below film clip is NOT a good example of the Shorty Method.

Femme Phone

My Friend Bernie ( put up a post that said he has the most uncool phone. Naturally that is not true, as my phone is much uncooler. I had a pretty good basic Nokia phone when I first "went cellular," but I didn't know I could use it in Taiwan so I gave it away when I left Seattle. The company I worked for when I first got to Taiwan gave me a phone to use for two years, but when I stopped working there I had to give it back. I needed to get a new phone, but I am not a very good shopper so I asked my friend, Brigit, if she would go buy one for me and I'd give her the money. I told her, "Just don't buy a chick phone."Well, she was busy and I was busy and so I decided it would be easier if I just went and bought something myself. I thought I wanted a flip phone, so I picked the only flip phone from a brand name I'd heard of. When I got home I showed it to Brigit and my other roommate, and they just stared for a second. Then Brigit said, "I thought you didn't want a chick phone?" Then they laughed and laughed.

Besides being a girl phone, the buttons are too small for my big manly fingers.

Note the partially worn away Snoopy decal with my name. Name decals are very popular in Taiwan.

Communications Technology on the Blink

Alexander Graham Bell may or may not have invented the telephone (there are those that say that Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci was the first to come up with the idea—and those Italians were doing a lot of inventing back then, what with Marconi making that radio thing and what not—so it’s not hard to believe that Bell might have been a close second), but the real question is, should someone have stopped him, as well as others of his ilk, before they had the chance to foist this devilish technology on an unexpecting world? Strangled them in the cradle, perhaps?

Anyone can argue the point that the telephone, the telegraph, the Internet, videophones, fax machines, cellular phones, satellites, and all the other communications technology we have at our disposal today have improved our lives. We are now in more or less a constant state of contact with our fellow beings—as long as those beings live in a developed nation and have some kind of paycheck or welfare remittance. If there is an emergency, aid is at our fingertips. If Brad and Angelina have conjoined twins, we will be among the first billion people to know. The information gap is closing rapidly for those of us who are technologically privileged. My question, my argument is, who gives a rat’s ass?

I remember when I was a kid. We had a phone in the kitchen. It hung on the wall. I think it was yellow. It had a dial, so when you had to make a call you always hoped there wouldn’t be many 9’s in the number, as it took a long time for that dial to spin back from a 9 to let you dial the next digit. We did not have an answering machine. People didn't have them in their homes. That would have been silly! If someone tried to call you and you weren’t home, the phone just rang until the caller decided to hang up. If it was important, he would try calling again in a few minutes.

We also did not have call waiting. If someone called while you were talking to someone else, he got a busy signal. You wouldn’t know he called. You could just keep on with your present conversation. With call waiting, however, you have that annoying blip that tells you someone else is calling. You can choose to ignore it, but it still has the effect of someone butting into your conversation. Usually people put the person they are talking to on hold to check who it is. I find that to be rather rude. It’s like saying, “I know I’m talking to you, but you really aren’t that important, so I’m going to put our conversation on the back burner while I see if someone more important is calling.” I’ll admit that sometimes call waiting can help you get out of a boring or annoying phone conversation, but on the other hand it can also end up stick you with talking to someone you don’t want to talk to. In any case, I think call waiting is just another thing that someone who wanted to make a buck dreamed up and convinced everyone that they needed. Kind of like the PC.

What’s my point? Am I trying to convince you that I am a Luddite? No. I’m not a Luddite, but I reject new technologies that serve no real purpose or that cause more annoyance than convenience.

Which brings me to my point. I bought a phone about three years ago. It was the cheapest phone at the RT Mart. It cost about $150 New Taiwan Dollars (about five US dollars). It worked okay for a while, but then one morning I noticed that I could hear some noise coming from it. It turns out that the piece of junk never hung up, even when you placed the hand set in the cradle. I tried to get it to work for a few days, but I finally just threw it on the floor in a drunken rage. Inside I found that it was held together with masking tape.

I decided to replace that piece of junk with something halfway decent. The phone I chose was one of those cordless jobs that are supposed to have a range of 50 meters or so. It cost me about fifty bucks (US) and it was a major brand name. The problem is it never really worked that well. After the first six months the battery didn’t hold a charge for more than five minutes, so every call I had got cut off in the middle. If I walked out of the room where the base was, the call got cut off (probably because I live in a building made of solid concrete). Also, the antennae on the hand set was so long that I could not talk while lying down or even sitting in a high backed chair or sofa. In short, I hated this phone.

As I said before, my building is made of thick concrete walls. As a result, my cell phone does not work unless I go out on the balcony. So, I was trying to talk to my girlfriend on my cordless phone and the battery died. I switched to my cell phone and went out on the balcony to talk. Less than a minute into the conversation my cell phone battery also died. Unfortunately, the balcony doesn’t have an electrical outlet for me to plug my cell phone in. I went inside, plugged the cell phone into the charger, and tried to call my girlfriend, but, being inside the bunker, I couldn’t get a signal.

I think this is when the little spark of rage started building up inside me.

For about six months I was able to cope fairly well, switching back and forth between phones and keeping my cell phone charged. Then I snapped. I don’t really know what set it off, but I finally got sick of that damned cordless phone and I threw it against the wall. Four times. Then I stomped on its remains.

This probably was a childish thing to do, but, aside from the anger management problems I have, I knew that if I didn’t get rid of this phone, I would end up keeping it even thought I hated it and I would complain to all my friends about it and drive everyone—including myself—crazy.

Today I went out and bought a new phone for $89NT. That’s about US $2.75. It probably won’t last very long, but it is very simple so there isn’t much that can go wrong with it. And when I get angry at it and smash it, I’ll only be out $2.75.