Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Two things today:
First, I don't know what happened with the template, because it's back to the original one, along with the changes I made. So, I'm hoping it will stay this way. Lucky me, I guess, unless the template change commands show up later and one day this whole thing looks different.

Second, I got an e-mail from one of my student's parents. It concerns a kid named Bob, who drew a picture with shit on it and the word, "poo" several times and gave it to a girl. I confiscated it, and put it in the book I send home weekly with comments to the parents. I wrote a little note explaining that it was inappropriate, because everyone picks on the poor girl. Anyway, here's the e-mail I received in response:

Hello Jason :
good night!
I am Bob's mommy, thank you for you tell me about Bob at school action ,
but that picture is lose, because Bob take-away picture.
Though I have no see picture, Bob have talk about what's happen.
he make a promise not do it again.
But I am care about he take-away picture, that is wrong doing,
I remind that he must let me knowing, the behavior that he is at school.
Ignore right or wrong, I will tell he what is right.

The thing is, I understand it perfectly.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003


I made some changes to the template, and they must have cancelled each other out, because everything totally disappeared. I couldn't even view the stupid thing.

So, I've picked a new template, but I can't be bothered with the customization stuff right now. No comments, etc...

In the meantime, I updated my web page instead. And if all goes well, I'll be on vacation soon, so I won't feel the need to mess with this thing...


Saturday, May 24, 2003

I work for a school in Taiwan with a nonsense English name. It's not silly, like "Jackson Five Language School," which I've seen in the city, but it's just an almost-name, that doesn't really exist in the real world.

The school's name is MacBilung Kindergarten. I have no idea how they created this name, because a Google search turns up no matches, other than the links to my school. It's kind of funny, but weird at the same time. It sounds like a real word, but no. And they've got this weird picture up in the lobby of some kind of 19th century Scotsman with huge whiskers. That also defies explanation.

Anyway, my boss is a web-geek, and if you want to see me at work, look here. There are Chinese characters, but they're not important for the pictures.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Given the choice between these two options, which would you choose?
1. Fly to the Philippines on Air Philippines, pay 10,900 NT, and probably get there after a leisurely delay for the pilot's siesta
2. Fly there on China Airlines, which has a recent history of crashing spectacularly, but pay only 9,200 NT
*(US 1$=34.5 NT...I can't do the math)
I am cheap, and I also have the "lightning won't strike three times" karma going for me, but still...

At any rate, I'll tell everyone my flight numbers when I get them, so you can check the papers next week.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Today was a bad traffic day. There were two accidents that blocked the road with ambulances, and the expressway was closed for some reason, so everyone was on my road instead.

I hate to bitch about drivers, so instead I'll tell you about the ones I respect. The old men who smoke cigarettes hands-free while they ride their motorcycles at 30 kph. And you pass them again and again because they don't stop at the red lights. It's like they don't even exist. Although to be fair, I think that's the kind of person I saw getting hoisted into an ambulance this morning. I'm sure he wasn't doing anything wrong, it's just that the people with the green light weren't looking out for him.

These days I wait at red lights. The time is ending when you can get stopped by a Taiwanese traffic cop and he waves you away because he's embarrased about his English.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Back in the states, when I wanted something, I got in the car, drove to the store, and bought it. Have you ever been in a big North American city on foot, and you wander in to the central business district on a weekend, and you can't even find a vending machine?

No problem in Taiwan. You are almost never more than a block from a store. There are over 3000 7-11s in Taiwan, a country smaller than the state of Maryland. There are also thousands of Family Marts, a Japanese chain, Circle K, and a smaller number of local chains. One of my favorites is called "3Q". The Chinese word for "3" is "san" so when you say it, it's pretty much how they say "Thank you."

There are even a few places where I have seen two 7-11s directly across the street from one another. No joke.

The best part is, I'm never far from cigarettes.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

A totally non-sars related complaint:

When I was a kid, HBO was new. It was cool. They showed R-rated movies. They cussed. They took off their clothes.
Here in Taiwan, HBO is on our cable service. It's not the same one as the states. Not only do they show lots of bad movies, but they're edited. They take out all the drug references, all the nudity, all the homosexuality, and most of the foul language. It's like watching network TV, but without the commercials. Also, all the shows that are making HBO so famous at home; i.e. The Sopranos, Oz, Six Feet Under, aren't even played here. They played the first season of Six Feet Under, but of course, since all they do in that show is get high, curse, and agonize about homosexual relationships, it wasn't very good. No wonder they didn't bring back the second season.

So, my question is, if I am a subscriber to HBO, and they are delivering a substandard product, am I justified in stealing the real thing from file-swappers?

And also, another ethical question, since my complaint is finished, am I justified in getting songs that I owned on cassettes? What about songs I've heard on the radio 100 times?

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

First: Thanks, J.R. for pimping me out.

Second: A description:
In Taiwan, you cannot set your trash out by the curb. You have to wait for the garbage truck to come by, which it does once a day in the city. So you know it's coming, it plays a little electronic ditty like an ice cream truck. Following behind it is a truck that picks up recyclables, which plays an unpleasant digital version of "Fur Elise" You all know the piece, if not the name.
Every morning at about 8:25, these two trucks come by my window. Two different high-pitched electronic noises. Which, of course, sets the dogs in the neighborhood to howling. It is an amazing sound. Add an ambulance and a speaker-truck (trucks that drive through neighborhoods at 3 mph blaring advertisements), and you have a wonderful wake up call.

Third: A rhetorical question, posed by some comedian or other:
Why do the 24 hour convenience stores have locks on their doors?

Fourth: Wish me luck. Every morning I buy a paper and see what the latest SARS disaster is in Taiwan. When they start quarantining people in Taichung, then I'll know there's trouble.

Fifth: Question: What kind of beer is available in Taiwan
Answer: Taiwan Beer, Yankee Beer (Taiwan)
Asahi, Sapporo, Bar Beer (Japan)
Qingdao, Yanjing (China)
Busch, Old Milwaukee, Budweiser (!)
That's about it. The occasional Carlsberg.

It's been a long time since I've written anything. No matter. I'm the only one that reads it. And maybe JR, and fragrantlotus, who bless her heart, also writes comments. Also, there's nothing going on. I'm just dealing with work the way I always do: weekend binge drinking. Then sit around on Sunday and marvel about how different the house looks at 3:00 in the afternoon, a time when I'm almost never here.

Taiwan seems to be losing control of their SARS containment measures. I heard someone seriously suggest that they just shut the whole country down for 10 days. No flights, no work...I don't get it. Because if that happened, all the habitual lawbreakers would just be out running red lights like they always do. They'd never do that, though...I don't think. I don't think I'd complain, but then maybe I'd hear from all my friends.

"Are you okay?" they'd ask.
"Yeah, but me and Tim ran out of beer 2 days ago and the 7-11's locked up tight. It's getting rough."

Thursday, May 08, 2003

For just a split second today, I thought someone was going to kill me.

SARS has freaked out Taiwan. They take my temperature every day when I get to work, and also check all the students. They take my temperature twice in the hotel where I go to the gym. Once in the lobby, and once at the gym desk on the 15th floor. Everyone who works there is wearing a mask now.

The device they use to take temperature at the gym looks like a big Star Trek gun. Today, the gym lady whipped it out so fast, I thought for just a second that I was going to die, or at least have to give up my wallet. At any rate, it was good for a laugh in a country where no one's laughing much these days.

The WHO has told everyone to stay away. Not that they were coming in droves, anyway, but I hope it doesn't interfere with my planned vacation to the Philippines next month. I want to sit on a beach and get high for 7 days, and then maybe I'll deal better with Taiwan when I get back. Unless I get quarantined.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

So, across the street from my apartment, there's a parking lot. Most of the time, there's not much going on. But there are a couple of decrepit buildings on the lot, too. At first they were deserted, but then, the dirty shirtless guys who run the lot started covering up the windows with plywood and opaque glass. And they also built walls to hide the passageway between the two buildings. Then they started putting up cameras all over the lot. Now they're putting up some more. They also seem to have bought the house that touches the lot, because now the cameras cover that, too. The house faces my street, the parking lot faces the main road.

What the hell are they doing in there? The lights are on at all hours of the night. One night there was a whole row of identical black Mercedes parked in the back of the lot. Every month or so, the police cruise through the lot and then leave. Are they making pirated CD's? Moving stolen cars? Drugs? Gambling? Man, the possibilities are endless. With that house facing my street, they've got at least three different ways out of that place. None of this can possibly be legal. There are lots of "gangsters" in Taiwan, and Taichung is famously corrupt among cities. For me, the dead giveaway that this place has mob connections is that there's a betel-nut stand on the lot as well. The dirty bastards who chew that stuff are trouble incarnate.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Here's a way to imagine what Taiwan looks like on a Sunday:
1. Take a copy of the Sunday New York Times, or other equally gigantic newspaper.
2. Cut every bit of paper into dollar-bill sized pieces.
3. Put a table in your front yard, with fruit and incense on it.
4. Burn all the paper "money" in a metal trash can next to the table.
5. Imagine about half of your neighbors doing the same thing.

The paper that they burn as "spirit money" is very, very, extremely low-quality paper. I hope that makes it burn a little bit faster. I do know that it turns in to a pulpy mess when it gets wet. How do I know this? Because truckers also throw great big wads of it (imagine a bank-wrapped pack of 100's) out the windows of their trucks to appease the "road gods." I've run over many a wad of this paper driving in the "scooter lane" (i.e. shoulder). If they're trying to prevent accidents, I say keep your eyes on the road instead, and ask all your friends to stop burning paper because it makes for a pretty hazy day. But what do I know?

And on another note...I've got to sort out this shit with the fonts and the word-wrap and the disappearing archives.

I may live in a crowded city. I may have to inhale bus exhaust while I fend off reckless idiots in their BMWs and Mercedes. I may go weeks without seeing the mountains because of the pollution. I may have to drink my whole week into oblivion with Corona and Heiniken on a Friday night. I may have a whole day where the only English I speak is meant to be understood by 6-year-old Taiwanse kids. I may have time to make a cup of coffee while my computer re-boots--again.


I can still have a barbecue on my own porch on a Saturday afternoon. I can sit by the pool in a 5-star hotel where they open the doors for me and say "Good afternoon, sir." I can shoot fireworks at the idiots who run the parking lot across from my apartment. I can take a 2-hour lunch every day of the week. I can eat french fries whenever I want. And I can sit in front of this stupid box and play Sim City 4 for hours without anyone bothering me.

And thusly, a reasonable balance is maintained.

Friday, May 02, 2003

My neighborhood is made up of many small streets. Traffic
has a hard time getting through. So, the city put up some
"Do-not-enter" signs at one end of some of the streets, to
make things more one-way.

Of course, no one paid any attention to them, and today,
I noticed that someone has covered the new signs with big
black plastic bags. I'm guessing it was not the city, but
just some irate local. I would have done it myself, but driving
a scooter instead of a car, I'm pretty much exempt from all
the traffic laws anyway.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Shit. Sorry. J.R. didn't get the "sah-suh" thing. I guess when you live in a country where English is a novelty rather than a
method of communication, you get used to it. That's how they say "SARS." Chinese doesn't have the final-s sound, so I'm constantly correcting them. Other missing final-consonant sounds are why I have a student named "Bah-buh (Bob)," and the 8th and 12th letters of the alphabet are pronounced "aytch-ee" and "ello," respectively.

On a related English-as-entertainment note, the kids and dirty adults who yell "hello" at you on the streets would never answer a single question in an English classroom.

More news from the SARS front:
1. The staff at my school took all the kids' temperatures
this morning. Of course, it's useless, because the parents
don't ever keep their sick kids out of school. Tim's got
6 kids in one class with the chicken pox, and they're all
at school today. And it's a holiday. (May 1=Labor Day in
non-American countries. Of course, we don't get the day
off work...)
2. It just occured to me today. Don't "Severe" and "Acute"
have basically the same meaning?
3. If I hear another one of my kids say "sah-suh" I'm going
to hit them.