not really working

I'm sorry I worked late.
On her way home from a day subbing today, Sharaun stopped at Blockbuster to return a movie, and locked her keys in her car. Her keys, and her purse – containing her cellphone. Meanwhile, I stayed late at work, finishing up. I tried to call her several times, but with no way into the house and no cellphone – it wasn’t much use. When I finally decided to come home, around 7pm, she had been locked outside in the heat for over two hours. She spent her time walking around, and sleeping on the bare concrete of the front porch. I felt so sorry for her… I swear I was about to cry. Poor girl… I’ll never let her get a manual-locking car again.

Sitting at home, having gone into work for a couple hours before this appointment with the landscaper. He’s 15 minutes late; I wait, glancing out the window every few minutes expecting to see a truck. Passed the time unpacking from the weekend’s camping trip, making the dirty laundry hamper smell like a campfire. Lately, it seems that Fall is in the air. In the morning, the air is dry and cool, and I can even feel it sometimes in the day… when a cool breeze blows by or there’s a hint of something in the air. It’s coming soon, and I couldn’t be happier. It seems like we had the shortest summer ever this year, it stayed cool late and now I feel like it’s Falling-up early as well. Oh, I’m all for it – let’s not get that confused. The faster that magical season gets here, the happier I’ll be. Fall-thoughts got me thinking about February… when Lil’ Chino will arrive. Not Fall, but still part of the Fall-Winter cold-months… the time of year I love. Landscaper just called, gonna be another 20 minutes late; I’ll wait… work’s already bored me today.

I hate to say that albums “grew on me.” I always feel like I may be fooling myself; like I should trust my initial reaction and not “force” myself to get into something I didn’t like at first blush. To me, having an album “grow” on you is kinda like saying, “I didn’t like this album, but then everyone else did – so I listened to it until it was good.” It reeks of every-half-hour radio playlist mass-hypnotism type “hits.” But… then I thought about it in the context of beer. When I first tried beer, I hated it. Had to drink my first quart of Red Bull (the malt liquor, not the caffeine cough syrup stuff) over a sink, gagging a little with each gulp. But, everyone likes beer. Men drink it; it’s so cool. If you don’t like beer, you’re not right. So, I kept fighting down the beer. And now, years later, I’m gag-free, and often catch myself thinking how good a beer would taste in certain situations. So, likening an album’s “growing” on me to my coming-of-age taste for beer – I’ve somewhat legitimized the fact that the new New Pornographers album I spoke somewhat ill of last week has now become something I’m really enjoying. At times melodic enough to make me smile, it just keeps getting better. Dang… am I brainwashed?

Time to get another R.O.C entry and exit stamp in the passport, I’ll be boarding the plane before I know it. Off to Taiwan for another week of work and play. Work during the day, play at night, sleep when I can. It’s always like that I Taiwan. I have a small base of local friends there now, and I enjoy spending time with then when I can – which is always late-night. Tracy’s doing me a favor and getting me a local Taipei phone number, so I can pickup pre-charged SIM cards and have a local number people can call. That way, I can limit my transcontinental calls to the company calling card on landline phones… and avoid the highway-robbery international roaming rates the cell company charges – but I can still makes calls to local numbers. I think it’ll be a welcomed luxury. I wonder about travel after Lil’ Chino comes… I’ll likely want to do it less, and I’m sure Sharaun would want the same. I guess a week here and there isn’t too bad, but I don’t think I can keep up 2005’s pace. It’s OK really, I think the transition to management probably inherently means less personal travel, as you pass those opportunities onto the team; so, that fits. But I’ll still want to get back to Taiwan every now and again.

Noonish now, landscaper was badly late (is that proper English?). I walked around the backyard with him, pointing out what I saw as the remaining work, asking him to draw up the plan as a series of line-items, so I could pick and choose certain aspects of work if needed. Then I went inside and made a tuna sandwich while he measured and calculated. What surprised me the most, though, was that his plans to finish the yard were exactly what I’d planned to do. Modify the sprinkler heads, pour a border around the stones, bring in soil and add drainage, planter areas, etc. His plans were my plans, down to the last aspect. He also commented that my do-it-yourself work up to this point really wasn’t all that bad. My retaining wall had the proper drainage, was mostly level and true, and was set in the ground to a proper depth. My paver porch, although not 100% level, was properly sloped away from the house and crowned to the center – and would only get better with fill sand and plate compaction. My forethought to make the planter areas drip-ready (adding PVC “through” pipes under the pavers) was correct, and my cutting the downspout and routing it under the pavers was correct. My sprinkler heads to zone ratio was correct, as were my pressure calculations and water coverages per zone.

I actually thought this might happen; the landscaper coming and telling me how much money it would take to complete the work would stoke the fire within me to get it done myself. I don’t know though, it just seems like so much work. He did give me one more option for the paver border, which I hadn’t thought of yet. He suggested a cheaper alternative to the concrete border may be running a 3″ thick “plastic” bender board around the entire porch, and using a sledge to butt the pavers in tight before staking it every foot-and-a-half with steel stakes driven into the earth. This was interesting to me… as I have lots of steel stakes that I figured would sit unused after I was done with the yard. The stakes would be driven in to just below the level of the bender, and then left in the ground permanently with topsoil and turf hiding them in the finished version. That got me thinking… I could likely do that pretty easily – and I’m sure my cost for the 3″ bender would be a heck of a lot cheaper than theirs. I’d still have to reposition the sprinklers, add some drainage, till in topsoil, grade, and bring in sod. It’s a lot of work, and the guy said I could pick and choose any of his line items if I wanted some help getting the thing to a state where I’d once again feel confident taking over. That’s good, because, if I chose to go with his entire package, I’d be looking at a >$10,000 bottom line. Ouch.


everybody’s lootering

I love this picture.
Wednesday already, and I’ve got a short week. Doing a half-day on Thursday and taking all of Friday off to attend Kristi & Erik’s wedding down south. I can’t wait… it’s almost like my mini-Friday right now. I’m already zoning out just thinking about it. Before my thoughts turn exclusively to camping and drinking and socializing… I better write something.

It’s amazing how far stealing music has come since the days when I was first introduced to it. I can remember when a buddy of mine mentioned Napster to me on campus one day. I went home, downloaded and installed it, and was blown away. I was late to the game, so the network was already populated with millions and millions of traders hosting everything, and I do mean everything, a body could want. The only problem for me: I was still on dialup at the time. I can remember my formula: on a good day with a good connection, you planned for 10-15min per song. I can remember the day that the Pumpkins’ new album, Machina, leaked – long prior to it’s street-date. I was actually online as the songs started getting propagated. I would refresh my search every few minutes and the next track on the album would show up, I’d add it to my download queue and wait for the next one to come online. That night I stayed up all night long. Literally started downloading at 10pm and didn’t finish until near 4am. To fill the time while songs downloaded, I’d listen to what I already had. Think about that, an entire evening spent online stealing songs bit-by-painfully-slow-bit.

Today, things are so much better. While the P2P situation is no longer as easy, and much more risky – alternate looting-locales are flourishing in the high-speed age. These days, I wouldn’t use a P2P app to download tunes even if you paid me. Sure the odds are low, but I don’t want to be the unlucky one who’s the target of some RIAA lawsuit. I don’t even like using BitTorrent for legit downloading. But, despite the grim P2P landscape – music is easier to get than ever. And, it’s so much faster. Nowadays, I can download and entire album in just a couple minutes. In fact, the situation is such that you can simply download entire albums just to “check them out.” What a luxury! I would’ve killed for that kind of speed back in college. And believe it or not, even without P2P – everything you could ever want is still out there somewhere. Yes, I do believe that one day my conscience will get to me and I’ll start paying to download music (actually, I do pay now – but I pay for the ability to grab stuff illegally, not the music itself). I don’t think I’ll mind paying for music, I’ve always been willing to pay for it considering how much enjoyment I derive from it. But for now, while my conscious is still undecided, I’m building up my collection as best I can.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but my next trip to beautiful Taipei is looming not far in the distance. I’ll be gone the 2nd week of September – doing the same conference I’ve done several times before. As I’ve said several times before, I love Taiwan, and always look forward to going. I guess that’s all I had to say about that.

And, I guess that’s all I had to say period. Goodnight.

killing spree

Moving and and getting comfy before certain death.
Wednesday night already, week’s going fast. Gonna be a short entry tonight, not much to write about and not much time left to write it. Fell asleep on the couch right after dinner, 8pm-ish, and didn’t wake up until around 11pm. Did the dishes, took the trash to the curb, and logged on to do one late-night work e-mail check and finish up the blog.

I’ve got another trip to Taiwan coming up in early September, and I’m super-bummed because I can’t stay at the Sherwood. For those who’ve never read my Taiwan posts before, the Sherwood is a posh hotel that’s practically across the street from where I work in Taipei – and it’s my favorite hotel ever. Turns out there are several conferences in town the week I’m there, and the hotel isn’t offering their “extra low” company price that week. Since their regular rate is more than twice the discount rate – I just conscience spending that much more when there are cheaper hotels in town. You don’t understand how much this disappoints me, half the reason I look forward to going to Taiwan is staying at the Sherwood. I love the hotel, and I love the hotel bar – where I’m good friends with the staff. I have friends there, I’m comfortable there, and it’s familiar. I don’t want to stay at some other hotel. I even went so far as to have a buddy try and work a deal with the front desk to get me the cheap rate hookup. While he was able to score the company rate for a few of the nights, the hotel wouldn’t give me the whole stay – so it looks like I’ll be staying across town. Great. Now I’ve got to pay for a cab to and from the Sherwood bar to the hotel where I’m staying each night.

The other day I popped my head out the garage sidedoor to throw a bag of trash into the dumpster. For some reason, I stepped outside to survey my bleak and barren backyard landscape. Looking closer at my fence, I noticed a large colony of wasps had setup shop under one of the cross members in the fence. Moving in for a better look, I noticed two smaller hives in the same section of fence. Immediately, I was excited. I love spraying wasps with that long-range wasp spray. For them, a poisony death from the sky; for me, a chance to play God, annihilating an entire city – wasp-Sodom. Standing back a good 10ft, I hit them with the foamy asphyxiator and listened for the “plop” of their flightless bodies hitting the ground as they dropped dead. Wasps that were away begin returning, only to find their under-construction neighborhood is now a dripping mass of death, and fly around in confusion.

Guess I’m going to bed now. Two paragraphs is better than none I suppose. Goodnight.

not old enough

The best babysitter.
Even though work is, for me, probably more busy now than it’s been in… well… in forever, I’m taking today and Friday off. My sister-in-law and her husband are in town and we’ll be doing the standard Northern California tourist jaunt. Today is San Francisco, this weekend is Tahoe. Tromping around the state is a sure-fire way to not get my work done… and although I have some level of guilt, I’m gonna do it anyway. But before that, I wanted to try and at least get an entry done.

There’s a certain CD that plays every single night in Henry’s Bar, Taipei. It’s a solo piano album; nice, quiet, uppity-sounding background music for an up-scale bar. I know this CD by heart. I can whistle every refrain of every track. I’ve heard the songs so many times, drinking Taiwan Beer while talking to the staff, drinking Taiwan Beer while talking to friends, and sometimes just drinking Taiwan Beer. Today, I was making travel reservations for my upcoming trip to Denver, and a very similar sounding piano number came on as the on-hold music. My brain was immediately taken back to Henry’s Bar. I got that familiar lonely-cold feeling in my gut, knowing I’m a world away from home but somewhat comfortable in a place I’m very familiar with. I could almost feel the just-a-little-too-cold air conditioning on my skin, and here the glasses clinking over shouts of “Hello! Good evening!” in stilted English. I even missed my wife and felt a little homesick. It’s amazing what music can conjure up in terms of vivid memories. I’ve heard that smell is the number one memory-associated sense, but hearing must be a close second.

When my family first moved to Florida, I was in the 6th grade and my brother was in the 3rd. During that first summer vacation, I guess our folks didn’t feel we were quite old enough to fend for ourselves all day while they were at work. So, we had a babysitter. Every day, we had a babysitter. Over the summer I think we went through two: both in their 20s. The first one was short with red hair cropped to her head like a boy’s, and I can’t remember exactly what the other on looked like, other than she very much not boyish. Me being in the 6th grade, it wasn’t very long before I had developed a crush on the second. She would lay out in the backyard in a tiny swimsuit, and I would sit safely behind our tinted sliding-glass doors and watch. She used to tote along her stuff in a largish beach-bag, and she’d leave her changed-out-of clothes in it when she went outside. I can remember ever so carefully peeling apart the top of that bag to glimpse the stringy white underwear inside.

Over her time babysitting us (which was considerably less than the time the redhead did), she began to talk to me more and more. Alas, when summer ended, she was gone. Then, one evening, maybe a week after I’d last seen her – the phone rang and I answered it. It was the babysitter, calling to talk to me. She wanted to tell me that she’d been in Miami the night before, and caught a 2 Live Crew concert (a band we’d talked about together before). I remember her calling me by my name: “David, blah blah 2 Live Crew blah blah…” How odd… a 20-something babysitter calling a 12-something kid to talk about 2 Live Crew. The conversation lasted less than a minute, but at the time, was a huge deal to me. All that, and I don’t even remember her name.

Not much, but I think what there is is OK.


Cheek, tongue.  Tongue, cheek.
Say, can I have some of your Taiwanese food?
Yes I’ve been eating it, two or three weeks now, haven’t got sick once,
That should keep us both alive.

This green island has become a fantasy-world to me, my life here being decidedly surreal.

So tomorrow morning it is. Packing the bags tonight for the journey home. Sharaun really digs Taipei, and I couldn’t be happier. I was a little worried that maybe she wouldn’t like the food, but she jumped right in and ate duck stomach and sea snail right along with me. We had a great time doing some sightseeing and hanging out with the bar staff. She experienced nearly all my usual Taiwan experiences: KTV, binge-eating, betel nut trying, Taipei 101, life at the bar, royal hotel treatment, and hot-as-balls sauna weather. She took to the city instantly, and is in fact right now out with a new friend of hers getting a manicure. Incredible. I guess the only thing she didn’t really get to experience was the multiple-hooker trapeze orgies… but then again I don’t think that’s really her cup of tea. But hey, she did surprise me with the betel nut and duck stomach…

Travel travel travel. It’s all I do. I will step off a plane, enter the vagina that is your country or state as a proud, erect, conquering penis. I will repeatedly pound you for all you’re worth, and then limp flaccidly back to my plane where I will get just enough rejuvenating rest before being whisked off to my next distant triumph. I may notch my bedpost for you if you are memorable enough, but I wouldn’t get too excited if I were you. Now get out of my bed, and leave your number on the table… I might want to call you in a couple hours if I’m bored. Beat it. Oh, and Shanghai, Denver, Austin, and Taipei – you’re in the queue that way, so hop to them Kegels and be good and limber upon my touchdown. Ahh… that felt good to get out of my system.

If you know me, you know my penchant for “non-commercial” music. I’m not one for the latest Top 40 and often couldn’t ID a chartopper if they shared a cab with me. But, I like to think I’m not entirely closed-minded, and I do indulge in the occasional prefab pop nugget. Usually, I end up liking these songs because I hear them at a key moment – and in the moment they sound perfect. That’s the case with this radio-tune I really enjoy right now, “One Thing,” by some chick called Amerie. Sharaun tells me that the super-slick production is the work of some hotshot guy right now, makes sense… programming managers must have been tripping over themselves to get this into rotation. No telling if this link will still work even tomorrow, but you can listen to the entire track here. It’s just so summery-fun sounding to me, it kicks the music snob in the ass and makes him listen. The stuttery pounding background instrumentation and cloppy beat remind me of vintage Utah Saints or Dewdrops era Deee-Lite.

Well folks. I think that’s it. I’m giving myself a day off from posting tomorrow, unless I come up with something on the plane. But… even then we’ll be in the air for close to 24hrs, so there may not be an opportune time to publish. I think I’ll join the regular crew down in Henly’s Ball for one more night of Taiwan.

Radio silence, 24hrs.

colloquially confusing

Think dumpling and soy sauce.
Sharaun made it safe to Taiwan… and she seems to have adjusted to the time zone with no effort at all. Slept through her fist night fine and was up and out last night after a small nap. We tackled one of the local pubs near the hotel with a couple buddies of mine who work at the hotel bar (somehow, my life in Taiwan revolves around being at bars, people who work at bars, just… bars…). We had some drinks, some food, and some good broken-English talking. I took her out to a semi-touristy dumpling place for lunch, and she seemed to dig on the grub… although she is sorely lacking in the chopstick kung-fu department. Her first dumpling slipped from her weak grip at about six inches off the table – splashing down into a plateful of vinegar and soy sauce, the impact sending liquid to all four corners of the table and her shirt. But you gotta admire the effort.

Some of what I like being over here so much for is the fact that there are so many people interested in just talking to you to improve their English. I love being the “tutor” in a situation where someone is honestly asking a question about your native language. Lately, I’ve been chatting via MSN with a girl I know who lives outside Taipei – and she IM’d me an English question that I thought was kinda cool. Seems her English teacher and her were making plans over IM to go get some dinner and see a movie, and at one point she asked him if he would “buy dinner.” He replied that, yes, he would “buy dinner” if she would “get it.” The confusion came from the usage of “buy” and “get” when combined with dinner. She assumed he meant he’d pick up dinner and he assumed she’d do the same, and no one ended up bringing the cheeseburgers. So, she asked me – where did she go wrong? The intent was for her to actually bring the dinner, and that he would pay her back when she got there – but the sentence “I will buy it if you get it,” messed it all up. Really, that sentence is kinda confusing, and IMO could’ve been better worded as, “I will pay for the dinner if you bring it.”

Anyway, as I was trying to explain this to her, I was running through the scenario in my head with me in her place and another native-English speaker in his. That’s when I realized that this could potentially be a confusing situation to even a native speaker – and, when I also saw the chance to teach her a little unconventional English that I could see myself using in the same situation. If someone told me, “I will get dinner,” a possible response from me might be, “Pay-get or get-get?” Now, to someone learning English that may make no sense whatsoever, but I think most native speakers would get the idea that I’m trying to clarify the intended usage of the word “get.” I thought it was an interesting situational example of some unconventional phraseology. And while perhaps a bit unrefined or improper, I think the “pay-get or get-get” question is definitely valid English for today’s generation. And that’s the kind of English they seem to be most interested in, young-peoples’ speaking-English.

Written for yesterday, never posted:

I am a walking zombie. I’m beginning to think it’s not the timezone thing that beats me down, it’s my Taiwan sleep patterns. Back to the hotel for three of four hours sleep, up again for a meeting scheduled on US time, into the office, nap when you can. It’s less of a sleeping-waking pattern and more of a deprivation experiment, which I suppose could also account for my susceptibility to this bug that I’ve caught. That, and the fact that my swearing-off cigarettes lasted a whole two days before I was kidnapped, tied up, and forced to smoke a couple while drinking beer with the guys the other night. But I maintain folks, I maintain and I will continue to maintain.

Two weeks in Taiwan will do wonders for your Chinese. I daresay I can understand every 10th word spoken in about 80% of the sentences I hear (I’m pretty sure that having to qualify “every 10th word” with “about 80%” of the time means I actually understand less than every 10th word, but it’s the only way I could get at what I mean). In some instances, I can follow a conversation surprisingly well. The problem is, my ear can’t tell the difference between true Mandarin and the local Taiwanese dialect – so I’m sure there are times where I’m populating my mental cross-reference database with a mixture of words. If I were to speculate, I think living in Taiwan for 6mos might be enough to me to have a passing hold on the language. I really wish I could learn it, I think it would be so cool to say I speak Chinese. It would be even cooler if, when I say I can speak Chinese, I really can speak Chinese.

Although I disagree with it, Tiny Minx Tapes’ review of the new Nine Inch Nails album is flippin’ hilarious – check it out.

Peace out.

good people are everywhere

I did a GIS for "big hands" and this came up, look at those dang hands!
Man. Nothing like a trip across the world to breathe some life back into these near-dead typing fingers. I’ve been working on a blog surplus this entire week, constantly shifting content from one entry to a buffered rough of the next day’s because they are too long. It’s good for me because it gives me some confidence in my writing again, and I guess it’s good for anyone (there are people, right?) who reads this because you have more junk to waste your time on.

Sharaun left the US this morning, and last night before she left she was IMing me at work every 10 seconds to ask a question about what she should bring. Yes, Sharaun, they have shampoo in Taiwan, and it’s not even made out of nuts or berries. And yes, they have shaving cream, the island is not overrun with unshorn sasquatches (sasquai?). Oh, and yes, they have irons here – I mean it’s true that, up until last year, they would simply make a weekly pilgrimage to the dragon’s cave and leave their clothes overnight so his fiery breath would smooth out all the wrinkles (which, incidentally, are caused by small evil clothes-wrinkling spirits and can be warded off with a concoction of mud, grass, and dung applied to the scrotum each evening). After this discussion had tailspun out of control, I decided to spice it up a bit:

Sharaun says:
I don’t need a bathing suit do I?
Double-D in Taiweezy says:
not unless you wanna swim.
Double-D in Taiweezy says:
oh, and bring a space suit if you wanna go into space.

Good one, right?

Last night I met some guy in the bar. He was from New York, and he spoke fluent, and excellent, Mandarin. I was impressed at the way he conversed with the bar staff. He was a large, Andre-the-Giant-ish looking man, with a goofy face and out-of-place looking black moustache that matched his curly and tousled black hair. He had a deep voice which I pegged as tobacco-induced. He was talking to Tracy and she was all smiles, but when she turned her back to him she screwed up her face in disgust as a signal to me that she wasn’t that pleased with Mr. New York-can-speak-Mandarin. Later on the topic turned, as if often does here for some reason, to that of “fun” in Taipei. Of course, being like 90% of the Westerners here, Mr. NYCSM treats this city as his own sexual playground. He actually said to me, without so much as a flinch or hint of hesitation, that he considers these Taiwanese women to be, “… nothing but shit, but great for a fuck.” Yeah.

If you know me, you know I can take just about anything with a smile… staying polite above all, while keeping my opinions to myself. I’m generally agreeable, and would rather listen to your crap and politely excuse myself in hopes of never seeing you again than invite drama and uncomfortable situations by openly disagreeing or challenging you. It’s much easier for me to write you off as a buffoon who I’ll never have the displeasure of meeting again than try and engage you with how my views differ from yours. But… all I could do in reaction to that was sit there stone-faced and say, “Damn, Mr. NYCSM. That’s a little rough.” He laughed. Having already noticed his wedding ring, shamelessly displayed, I got a bit confrontational (for me) and said, “So, you got a family back home in New York?” Mr. NYCSM replied, “Who knows. I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to call my wife and wish her a happy Mother’s Day.” Now, I guess that could mean a lot of things, but I took it to mean that he’s forsaken his family to the point where he doesn’t know if they’ll be there when he gets back, or perhaps their relationship is bad enough that saying they’re “waiting for him” is just an unknown.

Ten minutes of conversation and I hated this man. He’s been coming to Asia for twenty-five years and “… knows where to find trouble in every city you can think of.” I could almost see the slime oozing from his skin, smell the foul scent of rotten. The guy was so deplorable to me, I nearly left. But in the end, I held my own and stayed at the bar. Mr. NYCSM seemed extremely jealous of the way I seemed to be friends with the bar staff, and talked about going out with them later on during the week. I mean, here he is, he can speak Chinese, he can talk to them, he’s been coming here for a quarter-century, and this fat be-sideburned young whippersnapper is having better luck making friends with the staff than he is. It was my small victory over his disgustingness.

As he finished his last flute of champagne (no kidding), he stood up and walked over to me. “What are you doing tonight,” he asked. “Oh, tonight? I actually have plans with some friends.” “I hope they’re good plans,” he said, insinuating. “Yeah, yeah they are,” I replied. He went on, “I was thinking you and I could go find some trouble tonight.” “Sorry, can’t make it,” I said, trying to sound as uninterested as possible. “Later this week then,” he continued, “We’ll do something special; go halvsies.” “I’ll let you know,” I say, “What room are you in? I’ll try and give you a call,” anything to get him to just leave. Mr. NYCSM slips me his room number, and leaves me with a meaty handshake from his huge paw. As soon as he leaves, Tracy comes to me and says, “He is your friend?” “No,” I reply, “I hate him.” “Good,” she says, “He is very dirty.” And so, we agree.

Good people are everywhere I suppose, and so are bad people… it just helps to have an eye for the good ones. I couldn’t live like that… it’s just not me. I’m just a big pussy through and through.

Time’s up. See ya.