Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolutions for 2008

I just spent the last hour writing an entry describing the defining moments of my year. Then I deleted it. There really is only one thing that defined my year, and there is no point going into it. Those who know me already know about it, and those who don't know me wouldn't care.

Instead, I'm making my New Year's resolution:

There is one thing that I know I have to do in order to move on with my life, and to make life better not only for me, but for the other people in my life. I need to learn how to forgive. Until I forgive the people who hurt me, I will always have something eating away at me.

The problem with this resolution is that it is really hard to do. It is hard to forgive those who hurt you, even when they apologize and show remorse. To me it seems impossible to forgive someone who hurt you on purpose, and then showed no remorse at all, which is what happened to me.

I've heard that the right thing to do, and the hardest thing to do, are often the same thing. I'm going to try to do the right thing.

I'm also going to try to eat more pie. Not chocolate or cream-type pie, but fruit pie. I think I can do that, so even if I can't learn to forgive, I'll still be batting 500 on my resolutions.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Crunch Time

Frequent visitors to this blog may have noticed that I haven't posted much lately. The reason for this is that I've been really busy with school work. I guess another reason is that I haven't been very inspired to write anything, but that is secondary.

Since I'm living in Taiwan, I don't get a winter holiday, at least not for a couple more weeks when Chinese New Year is celebrated. Christmas is not a holiday here, though they do get into the decorations, music, and some of the more material aspects of it. In fact, I have two classes on Christmas day.

Still, most of the foreigners I know have Christmas activities in the works. There is a big formal party this Saturday, and I'm sure there is a lot of tree trimming and gift giving going on. Unfortunately (or not), I haven't had a very joyful year, so I'm not much in the spirit. On top of that there is the pressure of doing all my final projects and studying for final exams.

I seem to remember it was the same kind of situation in the States. Just when you have the least time for shopping and other festive holiday activities, Christmas comes along and complicates things.

Since most evidence shows that Jesus was actually born in the spring, I wonder why we can't move the holiday to another time of year, perhaps sometime when not much else is going on. Summer seems like it would be good (for those of us north of the equator). There's no school, and few other holidays. The weather is pretty good, too.

I don't mean to be a Scrooge or a Grinch, although I've done so in the past. I just wish I could have a Christmas that doesn't drive me to the brink of a nervous breakdown.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Where Did All the Ashtrays Go?


A question just occurred to me: Now that smoking has been banned in many bars and restaurants around the world, what happened to all the ashtrays these establishments used to have? Were they sold to places like Taiwan and other countries that still allow (or at least turn a blind eye to) smoking in most public places?

I know it has been a while since many of these bans went into place, but sometimes it takes a while for such important questions to come to my mind.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ming-Wu Mixed Martial Arts Club


My boxing team has recently been absorbed into a new entity called the Ming-Wu Mixed Martial Arts Club. You can follow that link to the Facebook page for the club.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Bleak House

I finally finished this book. It took me about a year to read it.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Anne and I


This is a picture of me and my friend Anne at a Thai restaurant called Siam in Hsinchu. Anne made a surprise two-day visit to Taiwan a week ago. We didn't have much time to hang out, but we were lucky enough that another friend of mine had a birthday party while Anne was here, so we got to meet up with a bunch of people and have a good time.

Thanks for Farina for having the good timing to have been born on that date, and thanks to Sophia for taking the picture!

Movie Night


Last night I had my first movie night. Some friends came over and we had snacks and drinks and watched movies. I've got a pretty big collection of DVDs and VCDs, many of which I've never watched, so hopefully this can turn into a regular thing. Since I work on Saturday mornings, it is a good alternative to going out on Friday nights.

By the way, last night we watched a VCD of Pulp Fiction (despite the fact that I've seen it many times, it was quite entertaining). It was a little weird because some scenes were missing and the picture quality wasn't so good. We also watched The Fifth Element (which has also been on TV a lot lately), but I kept falling asleep so eventually everyone left.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Does this count as irony?

So my hard drive died, and I thought all my stuff was lost. I'm still working on trying to restore my programs and files, but some stuff is probably gone forever.

I had already copied almost all of my home videos to cds, and was getting ready to do the same with my photos, when disaster struck.

The thing that I think might qualify as ironic is that I had already copied all of the photos that had my ex-girlfriend onto cds. I didn't want those photos on my computer anymore, but I didn't want to just delete them because they contain a lot of my history for the last three years. So the ironic part is that the only photos that didn't get lost when my drive died are the ones I don't even want to look at.

Life is funny sometimes.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dead in the Water

Just a note to say it will probably be a while before I do any posting. My computer hard drive failed, so all my stuff is probably lost. I did a backup, but who knows if it will work.

It is weird being without a computer or internet access for the first time in a few years. Of course I can still use computers at work (like I am now), but that is only once a week, or I can use the library or something at school.

Okay.

Bye.

Friday, November 23, 2007

An Innocent Foot

I had to do it. This is the obligatory mug shot.

Mug Shot.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Little Known Iwo Jima Photo

Most people are familiar with the famous photo of the marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima. Few know, however, of a second shot taken a few moments later.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Secrets of Loch Ness Revealed!

It was a cold gray morning on the shores of Scotland's Loch Ness. I happened to be carrying my antique camera as I walked along the shore, when suddenly something broke the surface of the water. I was unsure of what it was, only knowing that it was of a monstrous size. Terrified, I fumbled with the camera and managed to snap this photo just seconds before the beast disappeared beneath the surface of the loch.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Toey Ramone?

I admit that this one is pretty stupid, but it gave me the chance to practice working with layers.

朋友歌

這些年
一個人
風也過
雨也走

有過淚
有過錯
還記得堅持什麼

真愛過
才會懂
會寂寞
會回首

終有夢
終有你
在心中
朋友
一生一起走
那些日子
不再有

一句話
一輩子
一生情
一杯酒

朋友
不曾孤單過
一聲朋友
你會懂

還有傷
還有痛
還要走
還有我

-周華健

Monday, November 19, 2007

Foot of Darkness

Things haven't been very good for the foot lately, but the more recent problems don't come close to the hell it went through in the sixties.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Monster Mash

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Boxing Team Photos, and a Little Humor

My friend recently opened his own boxing/martial arts gym, which had the effect of consolidating my small boxing team into a larger group. Now we will be learning not only boxing, but we will combine elements of kick-boxing, karate, tai chi, and other disciplines. I'm not sure exactly how that is supposed to work, but as long as I'm getting some exercise, I don't really care.

The following are a couple of group photos of the teachers and students. You can see there are a bunch of different outfits representing different disciplines. We even have one guy who does something like Mexican big time wrestling, with the mask and everything!












--photos by Iutian Tsai (lower left in the group photos)

I Will Have My Revenge!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Toe Head

Sometimes it feels like this damned foot injury has taken over my whole body.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Foot Goes on Vacation

After all it has been through, I decided my foot deserved a vacation.

Foot Progress

In all the excitement over playing with Photoshop, I forgot to post actual shots of my foot's gradual improvement.

Please excuse the oversight.



As the caption says, the swelling is down a lot, even if it is much more colorful and still hurts. One milestone that I passed today is that for the first time since the accident I was able to get a sock on over my foot. I'm hoping by next week I can actually start wearing shoes again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Beautiful Colors

Have you ever seen such colorful toes? They remind me of how my eyes look after a late night at the pub.




Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jesus Heals

My friend, Bernie, sent me this photo. I have to say that I truly appreciate the sentiment. In fact, it reminds me that I used to have a little bottle of holy water from Lourdes. I don't know what happened to it, but I could use it now!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Feet Around The World

Since I've been on the subject of feet for a few days, I thought I should include a link to my friend Jen's pictures. She traveled all over the place and took some great pictures, many of which include her feet. Take a look at Jen's feet.

No More Fiesta, and a Little Less Swelling

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mariachi Foot

It looks like my foot is getting better.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Foot

My friend, Bernie, made this for me.

Happy foot.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Foot Shot Number Three

The latest...

...but I don't see any improvement.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Foot, Twenty-four Hours Later

Here's the latest picture of my injured foot. I think that it has shrunk a little bit. I'll try to put a new picture up each day so we can all have fun watching the the healing process. Note the green color of my toes. Lovely.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Injured Foot

Here's how it happened.



Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Souvenir of Turkey

Monday, November 05, 2007

Foggy Sunrise in Seattle

A friend of mine in Seattle sent me this picture. He took it on the way to work the other morning.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

It Had to Happen Eventually


After five years, one week, and one day of driving in Taiwan, I finally got in an accident in which I was injured enough to end up in the hospital. I've actually only had one accident before (a woman who was traveling parallel to me on my right turned left in front of me in an intersection--probably hard for Westerners to visualize), and I did hurt my hand, but not very badly.

This time, I was following a woman who was going very slowly, and was weaving from side to side. I usually feel it is safer to have people like that behind me, so I carefully moved over and waited for her to weave to the right so I could safely pass her. When my opportunity came, I sped up and moved along side her, at which point she weaved right into me, forcing me into the guard rail. I didn't go down, but my leg got pinched between the scooter and rail. She, on the other hand, freaked out and lost control, and ended up dumping her scooter.

I was considering just continuing on and leaving her behind, but I knew I couldn't do that, so I stopped and limped back to where she was. She seemed okay, but she blamed me for going too fast, which is impossible, because until I tried to go around her, I was going the same speed as she was. We argued a little, with me saying that she should not weave back and forth, while she insisted that in Taiwan one must drive slowly because of so many people. I finally just decided that arguing was not going to help, so I just gave her my phone number and left.

After I went to work, I went to a private lesson that I give, but they insisted that I go to the hospital, so I did. There I got x-rays and a cast. Luckily, if you can call something like this lucky in any way, no bones seemed to be broken.

One of the loneliest feelings that I've ever had was in that emergency room. It is right up there with when I had surgery back in the States, and at least there I could talk to the doctors and nurses. When I hobbled into the hospital on Friday night, I had no idea what to do other than to go to the registration counter, which I did. By this time, the pain was getting pretty bad. I'd been stupid enough to "walk" around on my injured foot for over three hours. When I got up to the counter, the woman, who could see that I was in pain, said something to me in Chinese. I couldn't understand. She repeated two or three times, then said very clearly in English, "Are you in pain?" I said I was indeed in pain, and then she said something else and pointed down the hall. Again, I couldn't understand, even though I know all the words she used. I think the pain was making it hard to concentrate. Another receptionist told me, "Go straight," and pointed the same direction. I thanked them and started off to where they were pointing.

About ten or fifteen meters along, I approached another counter, and the nurses (or whatever they are) looked at me as if they were really amused by what they were seeing. At first I was annoyed, but as I passed them, I suddenly felt all of the emotions I'd been holding inside since the crash come flooding up through my chest. I started to shake, so I held onto the wall, and then my eyes and nose filled with liquid and I realized that I was about to start bawling. Just then I heard,
"小等一下." I looked up, and one of the women who I thought were laughing at me was bringing me a wheel chair. I'm sure now that what I thought was their amusement was really just the Chinese way of smiling in an uncomfortable situation.

I ended up being able to keep from crying.

I got in the chair, which was a little too small (when I put my feet on the footrests, my knees were almost up into my nostrils), and was wheeled into the emergency room. There I was treated kindly by everyone, although one nurse crashed a rolling chair into the back of my wheelchair, and a candy striper dropped a bag of ice on my foot from a tremendous height. We all had a good chuckle over my pain from those two incidents, doctors, patients, and nurses alike.

At one point I decided to call the Taiwanese woman who handles my insurance, and she ended up coming to the hospital with one of my Canadian friends. She took care of all the paperwork, and then he took me home and then went out to get me some groceries.

Now I'm stuck at home with a cast on my foot. There is nothing wrong with the rest of me (other than whatever might have been wrong before the accident), so it is a little frustrating that it is so difficult to get around, even in my own apartment.

I've learned some important lessons:

1. Don't drive in Taiwan.

2. If you have to drive, be careful. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security just because you haven't been in an accident "so far."

3. Keep your apartment clean and stocked with basic food and water. You never know when you might suddenly become dependent on others for supplies, or when others might end up coming by for visits.

4. I need to develop a plan for getting out of Taiwan.

Number four is not just because of the accident, but I think the accident has made me realize that the longer I stay here, the greater chance that I will die here. Compared to my home, this is an unhealthy and dangerous environment. Crime might be worse in the States (I've never been a victim), but here in Taiwan, you take your life in your hands every time you walk out of your door. The concept of safety just doesn't exist. Add to that the pollution, the lack of sanitary conditions, and the stress of living in a foreign environment, and it just doesn't make sense for me to stay any longer than necessary to finish my degree.

I don't mean to sound like a candy-ass. I actually really like living here in Taiwan. It's just that, I'm past the age where one believes he will live forever. To be honest, I'm not very excited about life these days, but on the other hand, I'm not in a big hurry for it to be over. There are a lot of ways you can die: you can fall in the shower, a safe can fall out of a plane and land on your head, or you can choke on your own vomit, just to name a few. You can't control everything in your environment, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to at least minimize the most obvious dangers.

Of course all of this could just be the pain pills talking, or the post-traumatic effects of being in an accident. Who knows? A week from now I might be right back out there living on the edge.

I mean, how long do you want to live, anyway?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Flickr Update

A while ago I blogged some whiny stuff about how Yahoo canceled its photo site and forced everyone who used it to choose another photo hosting site (with an emphasis on its own site, Flickr). Part of my gripe was based on the fact that my pictures seemed to have disappeared somewhere in the transition.

Well, now they are on Flickr. I haven't had much time to figure out how Flickr works exactly, but I'll try to mess around with it and see if I think it is worth paying the yearly fee to keep the pro account. I'll also try to figure out how to link up some stuff between Flickr and this here blog.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yahoo Buys Flickr

In 2005, Yahoo acquired Flickr, a photo-sharing website. I didn’t know anything about it at the time, and didn’t actually find out until sometime around the summer of 2007. For about four years I had been uploading my pictures to Yahoo Photos, mostly because I wanted my friends and family back in the U.S. to be able to see what my life in Taiwan is like, but also because I thought it was a good “poor man’s” offsite storage solution in case something happened to my computer. I had uploaded almost four thousand photos by the time I received an email from Yahoo telling me that they were discontinuing their photo service. Their reasoning was that, since they had acquired Flickr, they’d rather put their efforts into supporting that site instead of maintaining their own photo site. I assume they also didn’t want to compete with themselves for the share of the photo website market.

I was surprised and disappointed, as I’d spent many hours uploading photos, tagging them, and arranging them into albums. I’d also sent many emails to friends and family telling them where they could find my photos. Fortunately, Yahoo gave the option of moving my photos to one of several other photo websites, naturally including Flickr. They also gave the option of purchasing CDs containing all of my photos (I tried this several times, but the site declined my credit card. Even after contacting customer service, which wasn’t helpful at all. They basically scratched their heads and said, “Huh. That’s weird”), I was unable to complete the transaction.

At that point I was stuck with switching to a new service. I put off making the change for a long time, because it is really difficult to compare all of the different services that are available without actually using them. In the end I chose Flickr because I assumed it would be the easiest thing to do. That was one month ago. I now have a Flickr account that was automatically created for me, but at this time none of my photos have appeared, despite being told that the wait time would be one to two weeks.

Even assuming that my photos eventually appear in my Flickr account, it is possible that the albums and tags I used will not transfer. Also, Yahoo Photos was a free service, whereas a free Flickr account has many limitations (including only being able to view the most recent two hundred photos). In order to have an equivalent level of service, I will have to pay for a “pro” account.

I have to admit that, from a business perspective, Yahoo’s decision to discontinue their photo service in favor of focusing on Flickr makes sense. One positive thing that I noticed about my Yahoo account since this change has happened is that I now have unlimited email storage, which is perhaps the result of Yahoo freeing up all that server space that used to be used to store photos. Also, it may turn out that I really like Flickr, once my photos finally show up. Still, the overall experience was fairly inconvenient, and it has caused me some anxiety regarding the decision to switch, as well as regarding whether my photos will actually ever be transferred. Even if they do transfer, I expect that I will have to spend time re-organizing and labeling my photos.

I know that change is inevitable, especially in the rapidly changing world of the internet, but I would have much rather have kept things as they were.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Answering Machine



Try to breathe some life into a letter
Losing hope, never gonna be together
My courage is at it's peak
You know what I mean
How do say you're O.K. to
An answering machine?
How do you say good night to
An answering machine?

Big town's got its losers
Small town's got its vices
A handful of friends
One needs a match, one needs some ice
Call-waiting phone in another time zone
How do you say I miss you to
An answering machine?
How do say good night to
An answering machine?

I get enough of that

Try to free a slave of ignorance
Try and teach a whore about romance

How do you say I miss you to
An answering machine?
How do you say good night to
An answering machine?
How do you say I'm lonely to
An answering machine?
The message is very plain
Oh, I hate your answering machine
I hate your answering machine
I hate your answering machine...

Replacements, 1984

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Green Lounge - Green Computing


My friend, Ben, has been working for a company called VIA for a while. Part of his job is to create a website called "The Green Lounge." It is all about green computing.

This is from the website:

The Green Lounge brings you all the latest news in the fast-growing area of green computing. If you're a business looking to lessen your organisation's impact upon the environment, or an individual wanting to play your part, we hope to offer you practical tips and up-to-date information you can use.

Click to visit The Green Lounge.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mediaopoly

The Theme of Rubyfruit Jungle

Molly Bolt: True to Herself

The theme of a work of fiction is the intellectual statement made by the author about a story. It is the one irreducible idea out of which the story flows. Though Rubyfruit Jungle is clearly a lesbian story, I believe that the theme is much more universal. It seems to be saying something about the necessity of being true to one's nature in a world that does not value individuality. In the book, Molly Bolt is the superhuman individualist that we all wish we could be and who retains her individuality despite all odds. We see an example of Molly's individualist bent when Leroy comes to her for advice after having a sexual experience with Craig. When he expresses fear that he might be gay, and asks Molly is she thinks he's queer, she replies, "I think you are Leroy Denman. I don't give a flying fuck what you do, you're still Leroy." This seems to sum up the attitude she has towards others and that she would want others to have towards her. Later, after Leroy and Molly decide to have sex, Leroy expresses alarm when Molly takes the initiative and grabs his "thing." "You can't do that," he exclaims, to which Molly responds, "Whaddya mean, I can't do that?" She goes on to scold him for living by other people's rules and says that she can do anything she wants.

Molly's being a bastard is a further symbol of her individualism. I think her being adopted sets her up to be free from any binding family ties and causes her to be more isolated and independent that if she wasn't. It also gives her the chance to thumb her nose at conventional beliefs about family and morality. When she gets in trouble with her friend Brocoli, and her step-mother, Carrie, scolds her and tells her that she is bad because she is a bastard, Molly responds with, "I don't care. It makes no difference where I came from. I'm here, ain't I?" Molly is clearly not like her adoptive family. After another one of her adventures Molly overhears Carl and Carrie arguing about her. Carl makes the statement that, "That kid’s quicker than all of us put together." When Carrie finally kicks Molly out of the house, Molly still refuses to give up saying that she'll die before she puts her tail between her legs. She will not give up her individuality to conform to the family despite the sacrifice of losing that source of belonging.

Molly’s individuality is even apparent in the New York lesbian scene. This is the very scene that she left home in search of, but she finds that when she gets there, it is almost as restrictive as life in a small town with it’s “kept” women and its narrowly defined roles. Molly ultimately rejects this scene also, despite the fact that doing so means that she will have to work all the harder to accomplish her goals.

These goals themselves are also exemplary of her desire to go her own way and not be influenced by what society considers to be proper roles for women. Against all odds she makes it through film school and actually does so well that she literally leaves her pseudo-progressive classmates speechless.

I found Molly’s need to remain true to her nature despite the sacrifices she has to make to be similar to the character of Sylvia in Jewett’s “A White Heron.” Just as Sylvia decides to give up the dream of ten dollars and her first real human contact for the sake of her oneness with nature, Molly gives up the chance to live the comfortable life of a kept woman in order to maintain her independence and integrity.

On the other hand, I found the character if Ivan Ilych in Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych” to be sort of an antithesis to Molly. While Molly follows her own nature and only plays “the game” when it is the only way to achieve her goals and fulfill her desires, Ivan has become completely immersed in playing the roles necessary to achieve the state of mediocrity that seems to be the goal of his life. In fact, it is this lack of any true goals or desires in Ivan’s life that sets him apart from Molly. With Molly, her need to be independent and to do what she wants is an integral part of her which gives her life meaning. Ivan’s life is meaningless because he has no such purpose.

So, all of this brings me to derive the theme of Rubyfruit Jungle as being something along these lines: Brown uses the character of Molly Bolt to express the idea that in order for one to have a meaningful life, it is necessary to remain true to one’s nature and to pursue one’s desires even if it is necessary to act in ways that contradict what is acceptable in society and that may cause one to be ostracized by friends and family.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Waterfall Swimming

This is a long weekend on account of Moon Festival, so yesterday I decided to ride up to the mountains to meet some friends.

It was a nice sunny day, so we went to a river to go swimming.



You can see more photos on Facebook.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

中秋節 - Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival)

Last year, I spent Mid-Autumn Festival (zhong1 qiu1 jie2) in Penghu with a mostly nice family.

This year I'm spending it alone, and that is not a problem, but it reminds me of a Chinese poem from the Tang Dynasty, around 7 A.D. . . .

靜夜思
李白
牀前明月光,
疑是地上霜.
舉頭朢明月,
低頭思故鄉.

Here it is in pinyin (the number after the word is the tone):

Jing4 Ye4 Si1
Li3 Bai2
Chuang2 qian2 ming2 yue4 guang1,
yi2 shi4 di4 shang4 shuang1.
Ju3 tou2 wang4 ming2 yue4,
di1 tou2 si1 gu4 xiang1.

Roughly translated (by Herbert A. Giles, of the Wade-Giles crew--not to be confused with the J. Giles Band):

Night Thoughts
I wake, and moonbeams play around my bed,
Glittering like hoar-froast to my wandering eyes;
Up towards the glorious moon I raise my head,
Then lay me down- and thoughts of home arise.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

On a sad note...

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week.

Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey" died peacefully at the age of 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin.

They put his left leg in... and then the trouble started.

I don't know who made that up, but I got it in an email from my sister-in-law. I thought it was funny enough to pass on. Maybe because, as a teacher of young children, I had to sing it about a million times.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Logging, Pimping, and Your Pal Laling


I finally got all of my photos from my lumberjack adventure developed. I put them on Facebook with a title I stole from Norman Maclean's short story.

See all the photos at Logging, Pimping, and Your Pal Laling.