the luxuries i’m afforded

If someone ever tells you that the food in Taiwan is no good, I want you to punch them flat on the mouth for me, OK? Because, honestly folks, the food in Taiwan is freakin’ awesome. Take your hand, form it into a fist, pull back your arm, and clock ’em on the jaw while saying, “I strongly disagree with you.”

Before I go any further, sometimes you just have to share a song. This is one of those songs. I can think of at least three short films set to this amazingly trippy number. That fast crossfading on the b-b-b-bah course… oh man.

I’m pretty sure I crashed the hotel’s wireless router for my floor on Saturday night. I was simultaneously trying to download the latest O.C. and “preview” some new music – and the link just went down. It was acting flaky for about an hour after that, and I couldn’t get a solid connection again until Sunday morning. This is the first time I’ve brought my normal “bandwidth habits” on the road with me, so to speak. I usually just hold off on my downloading while away – but this trip was long, and Ben suggested I just bring GrabIt! with me and be able to enjoy new tunes as if I were at home. I thought it was a brilliant idea. I then also went one step further and started BTing some US TV shows… so I’m confident I’ll be giving the hotel a nice consistent bandwidth spike for these 11 days.

One of my worst I’m-in-Taiwan fears has come true – I’ve come down with a cold while here. Now, it’s nothing horrendous, more of the annoying head-clod type. But it’s enough give me reason to sleep for all but 6 hours of my Saturday. I don’t think, as I did earlier, that this is just a reaction to my cigarette binge; I rather think that this bug was waiting in the wings… being suppressed by my normally indomitable immune system, which it caught weakened and sleeping after the cigarettes. So I walked over to the local drugstore (I found one that sells Western medicine) and picked up some Panadol. Now, my Latin’s a little rusty, but I know that pana means “all” or maybe “every,” and I think dol means “pain” or maybe “sickness.” So, using my SAT root-word reasoning skills, I decided this was the medicine for me. Turns out I was right, there’s an insert in the package that has some English – and the pills are an all-cure cold/flu type thing with some vitamin C to boot. I started taking them, maybe that’s what made me so sleepy yesterday. I’m hoping they can knock this thing out over the weekend (of which there remains only today, but I’m still optimistic).

I’ll tell you something about me, I like to whistle. You can ask me wife, I whistle all the time. Whereas most people sing along to songs while they drive, I whistle along. Apparently, Chinese legend says that whistling after midnight (or maybe just at night, I could have misunderstood) is perceived to be “calling ghosts.” So, every time one of my local buddies catches me whistling happily after the sun’s gone down – they shush me and say, “ghosts!” I just thought that was cool, so I’d mention it… it doesn’t really round out a paragraph well, but what can I do?

Another cool thing that’s happened to me on this trip? OK: somehow, I befriended the night-shift housekeeping manager at the hotel. He’s a round man in this mid-thirties, and looks consistently beat down. Whenever I see him, he’s always dressed for work, which, being cleaning, means a scrubby tucked-in t-shirt, grungy pants, and some thick-soled work shoes. His hair is always damp from sweat and disheveled, and he has always, and I mean always, got a fat mushy mouthful of chewed up betel nut, his teeth and tongue stained dark red. He often stops by the bar after a couple hours on shift, always chewing betel nut, and orders two tall mugs of orange juice while he enjoys a cigarette.

One night, I was sitting at the bar as he made his usual appearance, and he started talking to Tracy and she introduced me to him. The bar staff call him, and all the other maintenance workers, A-Pe, a word in Chinese which means eldest uncle on your father’s side, but they use it without the actual blood-relation (I think we all have an “uncle” or “aunt” that’s really just a parents’ friend, right?) Anyway, he pulled out his little bag of betel nut to refresh the spent wad, and jokingly offered me one. Tracy then mentioned to him, in Taiwanese, that I had in fact tried betel nut on one of my visits here. This made A-Pe perk up in disbelief, and then he really pushed the betel nut on me, I suppose thinking, “I’ll see if this white boy is what he says he is.” So, reluctantly, and because I was the center of attention, I took the nut, asked for a cup to spit in, bit off the nut’s “cap” and spit it into the cup, and tossed the whole leaf-wrapped thing into my mouth with a loud crunch.

A-Pe was dumbfounded. He stared at me in disbelief, red-tainted mouth hanging open. He spoke to Tracy, “He’s like a professional!” Tracy translated, because A-Pe speaks not a word of English, but I laughed out loud as I mashed up the green thing. Now, I’m convinced that, after trying it multiple times, betel nut does absolutely nothing. Yes, it’s true that minutes after biting into it you feel a wave of heat wash over your body, but from my experience it only lasts less than a minute. I have felt none of it’s “keep you awake” properties that the locals tout. Regardless, this simple act of sharing A-Pe’s betel nut has made us fast friends. Now every night A-Pe offers me betel nut. I’ve only taken him up once more after that first time, mostly because I felt bad for always turning him down – but he knows I’ve been feeling sick. He offers me cigarettes, which I’ve also been turning down, and he asks me questions through Tracy. He’s a very, very, nice man… and I have the feeling that a story on his life would be ultimate interesting. He’s very jovial, always smiling and laughing, and very physical, always putting his arm around you or slapping you on the back. I’ve come to really enjoy “talking” to him. His favorite questions for me seem to center around how many Taiwan beers it takes to get me drunk – he has this theory that he can out-drink me.

One night, A-Pe walked with me downstairs as I went to meet someone in the lobby, both of us chewing betel nut from the bag in his pocket. At one point, he turned and pointed to me, saying “you,” then pointing to himself and saying nothing, then pointing to the bar where we’d just come from and saying “Tracy,” then raising an imaginary bottle to his mouth and tilting his head back to gulp down the imaginary beer within it. I got the meaning immediately: A-Pe wanted to take me drinking (and of course bring along Tracy so that we could converse). I gladly accepted, in my terrible Chinese, with “hen hao, mei wenti,” or “very good, no problem.” So, sometime this week, when A-Pe’s got a night off, I’m going to have a drinking contest with him. Don’t think for one moment that I don’t realize the awesome bloggable opportunity this presents. A drinking contest with a working-class Taiwanese man that I can’t communicate with? I plan to take pictures and turn it into a small novella.

It’s opportunities like that which make me realize how lucky I am to have a job that enables me to experience this kind of things. How beautifully unusual, and worthy of fond memories, is a chance like that? Maybe some would feel otherwise, but just being able to have such an otherworldly experience makes me glad to be here. I guess my college debt is good for something.

After watching the last two O.C.s I downloaded, I’m realizing that that dang show is nearly ahead of me. I mean, in the last one, they not only played the new Cribs, but they played a track off the Of Montreal album that I got not four days ago. I so want a job soundtracking that show.

Is this as big a deal as it sounds to me? Guess some folks think so.

Good… afternoon… or some shit… I can’t figure this time zone thing out for the life of me.

three our fathers

I call shenanigans.
I don’t know how I didn’t manage to post on Wednesday, I’ve been writing more than enough for a post-a-day – I’m just royally confused by the timezone thing and set Thursday’s entry up to post that day instead of Wednesday. Whatever.

This morning I woke up feeling incrementally crappier than the past couple post-cigarette-binge days (for a weakling like me, five smokes constitutes a “binge”). My throat was sore and I had so much crap in my head and chest. So, before I hopped a cab into work I stopped in the 7-11 to look for some cold medicine. I was hoping for some Theraflu or Cold-Eze – but it seems they don’t really sell medicines in the convenience stores here. I didn’t even see Tylenol or Rolaids or anything with active ingredients. I did, however, see this:

Smoke all you want, you can just bean-jelly yourself back to health.

It may be hard to see in that small picture, but it’s a yellow box with a lot of Chinese writing. What caught my eye, however, were the little pictures in the bottom-right. The first one shows a man who has his hands up to his face, like he’s tired or maybe even holding his sore throat. The second one actually shows a cigarette. Now, to me, this looked like a Chinese miracle cure for cigarette-sickness. On the bottom of the box they show two little pill capsules containing what looks like a brown powder. The price, 75NT, and the thought of being able to write about the stuff, made me buy it. So, when I got to work, I asked my Mandarin-speaking buddies what I had just bought. They said, “If you are working all day and tired, or weak from smoking, you take this for health.” Bingo! It really is the Chinese miracle cure for cigarettes! I asked if they could tell exactly what the stuff in the pills was, to which they replied, “bean jelly.” Great. The miracle cure for cigarettes is bean jelly. The Taiwanese people love them some beans. So, I think I wasted 75NT on some powdered bean junk that won’t make me feel a lick better. I popped one anyway though, y’know, just in case.

I am unbearably tired, to the point of having a little dull ache somewhere behind my eyes – my mind’s way of telling me to get some rest I guess. I don’t know about other guys, but for some reason when I’m in one of these hopelessly sleepy states, where my eyes are heavy and I’m barely able to focus, I tend to get an erection. Yeah, you heard me – I get my plump on when I’m nodding off. This is particularly unfortunate if I happen to be having a hard time staying awake during a customer meeting – and it’s doubly bad if I’m dozing in the time before I have to get up and speak. It’s like a flashback to the middle-school days of uninvited boners during class and being asked to come do something on the chalkboard (I never actually experienced that, but if TV sitcoms are accurate depictions of pubescent teenage life I’m probably the only one). Once again, though, the internet has come to my rescue by making me feel less a freak than I initially thought. Doing some research, I found this: “A man’s penis becomes erect (“hard”) in response to… deep relaxation….” Well I’ll be damned, I’m normal

I often experience changing emotions when traveling, especially when I’m away from Sharaun for extended periods of time. There’s always that initial excitement from traveling and being somewhere different, with different things to do and see. And while I’ve always got a general “awareness” that I’m away from my wife, I sometimes feel it more acutely at random times while away. Like today, riding in a warm van to one of the customer visits, I just started feeling guilty for being away. Guilty for going out and doing things without her, and guilty for going out and doing those things with girls that aren’t her. That’s the crux of it really… spending time with the girls that I’ve befriended over here. If I do a little role reversal, and imagine her away on business in some foreign country and going out with some guyfriend I’d never met, I think it would indeed get under my skin. Not that there’s a lack of trust, and not that there’s a reason for there to be one, but love and jealousy are funny things. I don’t know quite where I’m going with this. I think I maybe just wanted to put down in writing my realization that one’s consideration for one’s significant other’s feelings should increase proportionally to one’s removal from that significant other’s presence. If you’re far away and free to do what you will, imagination is all that’s left for the one you left behind…

Wow. I did a really poor job trying to say what I was trying to say. But that’s OK, because I’m done with confessional and feel no better for it; I’ll just be glad when my wife gets here.

I’m telling you right now, you will hate this new album that I love. You really will. Oh man, I can just imagine everyone who hears this going, “Dude, what the hell is this?” But I gotta tell you, I really like it. I’ve enjoyed A Silver Mt. Zion’s records before… they put a unique twist on the standard style of music I for some reason call “post apocalyptic.” I really, really, don’t know where that term came from – maybe Ben, maybe Pitchfork, but it fits well for the kind of music. Anyway, this is discord and minimalism at it’s greatest, simply wonderful. Evil sounding at times, and just creepy at others… but also with a softer side. The songs are all just a bit uncomfortably too long, but in a good way. I can’t explain it, but it’s got a grating quality that makes it fun to listen to. Shut up. I know what I’m talking about. Shut up.

Off to enjoy my 1st weekend in Taiwan. Because I’m a day ahead of you. Jealous?

broken sidewalks and exposed pipes

The dinosaur that is the US cellphone martketplace.
Some thoughts on Taiwan:

I like visiting this city. I like the people, the food, the atmosphere and the culture. And yes, I’ve said all that before. I don’t, however, know if I could live here. When I make the mental shift and start thinking about this place as a primary residence rather than a temporary place, little things start popping out in my mind. The city is packed; packed with people, with scooters, with buildings… on and on. All of this stuff crammed into once place is kind of depressing to me. Some of the little things would also depress me I think. The fact that people wear masks over their mouth to protect them from the air pollution. The thin layer of grit and dirt that seems to coat things. I know, most of the things I’m complaining about are just “big city” characteristics. Taipei isn’t really all that dirty, it’s just that my uppity whitebread “planned community” back in California pays a lot more attention to public works. I’m not used to broken sidewalks or exposed pipes, I’m used to having things nice and neat with the ugly guts considerately hidden away from public eyes. These aren’t big deals, mind you, just small little things that, overall, I think tend to bring me down over time. This could be due more to the fact that I’m a “country boy” at heart, and given a choice would live outside city walls every time.

One thing that I do like about Taiwan is the way these people embrace their technology. If something is cool and people will use it, they build or implement it and sell it in the open market. The whole invention-to-market seems much less restrictive than US. All the cellphones have every possible feature enabled, are completely unlocked to any one service provider, and you can buy SIM cards everywhere. It’s much more intuitive, and it just works. If there’s a demand for some computer gadget of questionable legality, for instance something that could be used to circumvent copyright law, producers don’t blink while rushing said gadget to market for the public to decide. From my perspective, this willingness to meet consumers’ needs acts to speed up the whole iterative process of technology advancement. Not being hindered by overly restrictive terms and conditions or attempts to cash in on current offerings by holding back new and useful items or services really lets the people judge what’s good and what they will ultimately decide to pay for. This way, things that people actually perceive they want or need are naturally promoted over technology or services that people just plain don’t give a crap about. Sure, maybe this model does give some more “working room” to those rogue users who plan to do illegal things with good and services, but I think the added usability and convenience it gives to your honest customer base is worth it.

I’ll give you an example, when I bought my new Nokia phone in the US, it’s locked to the Cingular network, and is feature-limited. No authorized Cingular stores sell any accessories for the phone, despite the fact it’s been out in the states for quite some time now. You can’t get cases, covers, headphones, etc. In Taiwan, the same Nokia phone can be bought at any of the millions of cellphone outlets, with no contract, completely unlocked, and with all the features originally built-in by Nokia turned on by default. Not only that, but there are any number of places, from streetside cart-vendors at the night market to more “official” feeling cellular retail outlets, where you can get all kinds of cool accessories for it. Your choices aren’t limited to Nokia or Cingular branded expensive accessories, there are a myriad of Taiwan-made accessories which in many cases are not only cheaper but more fashionable or practical. I wish the US would start to handle technology like this, because when you compare the producer-consumer models, Taiwan is rabid for new stuff. In the states, I think we are less excited about new technology because it’s often poorly supported, marketed, and overly restricted in the interest of the big corporate players. I think some Taiwan-style decentralization would be good for the US. I think people would eat up the idea of being able walk into any 7-11 and pick up a new SIM card for their mobile phone without signing a two year contract.

And that’s it for now. I got up at 4am to call into an important meeting in the states, and I wanted wrap up this entry before going back to bed. I was able to download some of the US TV shows I’m missing while in Taiweezy, so I can keep up with what’s going on with Ryan and Marissa (I know, I’m pathetic, but I still think it’s cool that I can have an HDTV rip of a US show hours after it’s broadcast). Also, I’m able to keep up with the latest in pirated MP3 goodness as well – so I’m not as entertainment-removed as I usually am (I made the right preparations since I knew this would be a longer trip). OK OK, I’m outta here. Back to sleep for a few hours before it’s into the office.

i’m just here

Taiweezy streezy.
When it comes to travel, I am a machine. I swoop down on airports like I own the places. I know which security line is usually the fastest, and I have my laptop out and pockets emptied as I saunter up. I have my passport out when they’re gonna ask for it, I know which side of the plane seat 8H is on. I know where you can buy some chapstick if you’re near gate 37 in the Tokyo airport. I know where the airline lounges are in each airport, and even got a familiar nod from the lady that run the international shuttle in San Fran. I think, when airport staff recognize you from your last trip – you’ve officially made earned the “seasoned” tag. When I fly business class, I now understand all the buttons and knobs on the seats. Which one scoots out my footrest, which one pops out the TV screen, where the blasted hidden tray table is, everything. I tuck my napkin in the neck of my shirt to eat my prosciutto and scallops. When I’m traveling, you can’t fade me; you just can’t fade me. And I guess that’s a good thing, since I seem to be traveling a lot this year.

Anyway, if you hadn’t guessed by the exposition – I’m again in Taiwan. I got in Sunday night in the middle of a rainstorm that made for a bumpy landing. I didn’t sleep well my first night, had problems nodding off – which is unusual for me. Maybe my body will actually fight the time change this time, instead of sucking it up like it usually does. But anyway, it’s the morning here and I’m feeling beat. I think I’m going to cut out of the office early to go catch up on some Zs. For the first week I’m here, I’m actually staying at my buddy Eric’s apartment instead of the usual hotel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still at the hotel bar every night. It’s just that I struck an agreement with work to where if I save the cost of Sharaun’s plane ticket out in hotel stay (which adds up to one week), they’ll pick up the cost of her flight. Since Eric was out of town, he and Suzy graciously offered me the keys to their place for that week. It’s a little different than staying in the hotel, but it’s still close to work and is definitely homey.

I’m sitting here listening to this new album by The National, a group I downloaded and mentioned last week – but really only first “listened” to on the plane out. For some reason, walking down the moving sidewalks in the Tokyo airport with this album in the background made it sound perfect, awesome, and now I’m totally hooked on it. The songs are deceptively quiet and subdued, but are all really emotional and in some cases haunting. Anyway, it’s a spectacular-awesome album, really. I don’t know why I didn’t take to it more immediately… but I’m just glad I had the trip over to really sit through it and appreciate it. I’ve been listening to it non-stop since somewhere over the Atlantic… and am nearly ready to call it the hallmark album for this trip. It’s good for that too, kinda has a “Lost in Translation” feel to it. Luckily, you don’t have to take my word for it and can listen to the whole album online at this site. If you only plan to listen to one track, make it “Abel.” If you listen to two, check out “Lit Up.” But don’t be fooled by me throwing you a couple up-tempo numbers… listen to “Karen” for a dose of the lighter (and more poignantly perverse) side of the album.

I don’t know about you guys, but when I have to do a #2 in a public restroom – I use those little tissue-paper seat covers. I don’t know how effective they really are, and by that I mean that I’m not entirely sure what sort of “diseases” can absorb through the hairy skin of my butt and infect my bloodstream. I mean, I can understand catching some kinda skin fungus or something… but it’s not like my actual anus is touching the nasty seat, it’s the relatively thick and protective skin on my butt. Anyway, I use the paper things, even though I’d bet that microscopic “bad guys” that can penetrate my butt-skin could also likely penetrate this thin paper shield. Well anyway, I didn’t start writing this to talk about why I use the things; I wrote this to talk about a problem I have using the things. Here’s my complaint: I go into the stall, pull (first up, then down) one of the papers off the wall above the toilet, carefully punch out the perforated center section, and finally place the cover over the seat with great attention to coverage maximization. Then, I turn around to undo the pants and assume the position – and the damn automatic-flush toilet senses my movement as someone having finished their business. The toilet flushes, and sucks my tissue-paper cover down with it. So I always find myself trying to turn in such a way that the bulk of my body stays in front of the little sensor eye. I turn really fast, turn really slow, even try to hold my hand in front of the sensor… but sometimes you just can’t escape it. Automation is great, except when it automates away my germ-protection.

This cobbled-together thing is getting posted now, just so I can clear the buffer and start with a clean slate.

war memorial

Cute, and yummy!
Stupid United Express terminal… always smells like hot dogs, and everything’s always delayed. At least I got here today in time for the first flight – so I can actually be the one that starts the domino delay for the poor travelers later today. Anyway, if it wasn’t made clear already – I back. Taiwan was, Taiwan. I had a good time as always, but missed home as always.

I felt much more “local” on this visit. The “acquaintances” I’d met on my previous trips have started to turn into full-fledge friends, and where I used to need a local intermediary to schedule outings with them – now we just get together directly and do things. I had a good time with the usual crowd from the hotel bar, and managed to spend some time with Eric and Suzy as well, who are staying in Taiweezy for 6mos. Towards the end of the week, I really started burning the candle at both ends tho… wandering the streets of Taipei as the sun came up, and somehow managing to make it into work. It’s OK though, because all I needed to catch up was my flight over here – which I slept through solidly, I might add. I guess 48hrs of waking-time doesn’t match too well with ~4hrs of sleeping-time. And, the MP3 player on my phone (you’ll read about it below) faithfully served up tunes for the entire ~10hr flight, without a single bar reduction in battery – I was impressed.

And, because I’m lazy and I did the work anyway… I wrote the following paragraphs sometime this week, but never posted them… so here’s the dump.

Well, being in Taiwan, I managed to pick up a 1GB MMC card for my new Nokia 6230 phone. I’ve seen on the web that there are 2GB cards available in Europe – but I can’t seem to locate them here. So, I settled for 1GB, and now I can hold a pretty decent amount of tunes on the phone’s built-in MP3 player. I tested the functions a little bit, and it seems pretty neat. The stereo headphones I got off Ebay have an integrated track-advance button and microphone, and will automatically pause the music and allow you to use them for incoming calls when needed. My only gripe would be that it’s kinda hard to setup playlists, and you can’t do any folders on the MMC card – so everything gets all jumbled. I did manage to make playlists and get albums playing in their right order, but it’s a little bothersome. Also, the phone doesn’t support any kind of “in flight” mode like some other phones with MP3 players. This means that the radio/antenna is active at all times, which is technically not allowed during flight… but… I’m going to ignore that. Anyway, it’s kinda cool to have a reasonably sized MP3 player built into my phone, handy for long trips when you get a yen for some good tunage.

Today (Wednesday in Taiwan) turned out to be a pretty busy day. Had a lot of work to do so spent most of the day at the office doing e-mail and meetings. Also managed to book my travel for the next trip out here, as well as get Sharaun’s ticket and make sure we had adjoining seats. I hate booking international travel, and trying to coordinate my booked-through-work tickets/seats with her normally booked tickets/seats didn’t make anything easier. But, I did finally manage to square things away, and we’re both set for the upcoming trip. I’m actually looking forward to being here with Sharaun, but not really looking forward to being away from home again so soon. On the plus side, since I had some previous engagements back home in mid-May, what I thought was going to be a three-week stay turned into only two-weeks and change. The bad news though, is that my “previous engagement” was yet another travel-trip, this one to Oregon. So, I’ll get home from Taiwan, get one day back at work, and then hit the air again. And, since Breck and her husband are coming to visit the last week in May, I’ll effectively be out-of-the-office for an entire month – a first for me.

All the times I’ve been to Taiwan, and I’ve always assumed the “dark” tofu was just some variant of the regular tofu. Y’know, different ingredients, different flavor, whatever. Only today did I come to find out that it’s just gelatinous hunks of coagulated duck’s blood. Mmmmm… duck’s blood. It’s funny how something can become unpalatable just because you find out what they really are. I mean, I had no problem eating it when it was tofu – but when it was duck’s blood, I had to really work at chewing and swallowing. Scenes of strung-up ducks spilling out their life’s blood into inch-deep pans filled my mind, and thoughts of just how they form liquid blood into little jello-like cubes… ugh. Anyway, Taiwan never really disappoints when it comes to food experiences. But don’t let my tales of duck’s blood and fish eyes and chicken heads scare you off, the food here is really good – it’s just different.

Until Monday then, welcome home.

the first rule of boondoggle club

Got it?  Good!
Sitting in a beanbag on the showcase floor, it’s Tuesday in Taiwan. And before I begin, I’m going to get right down to it – honest-style. This is probably the most purposeless trip I’ve ever made to this island. I mean, I love Taiwan. I love the people, the food, the work environment – but for real I have no reason to be here this week. It’s not so bad, I’ve been hobnobbing and palm-greasing and breeze-shooting, all of which are quite enjoyable to a closet socialite such as myself. I’ve even been spending my work days on the floor at a large conference, answering questions and smiling to strangers. So, there’s a lot I could write about if I needed to justify this trip – but between you and I, I’m using it more as face-time than anything. But, where is my mind? Afterall, the first rule of boondoggle club is: you do not talk about boondoggle club.

Now then, I didn’t write yesterday because I just didn’t have much to say. Oh, sure, I hung out in the hotel bar, ate great food, and even went karaoke-ing with the standard Taipei crew, but I’ve written about all that before… so when I sat down to write about it again, I thought better of it. The trip out here was nice, got bumped to business class on the Tokyo-to-Taipei leg of the flight, so I got to fly in style for a few hours of the long journey. The only thing bad about being here for only a few days is that there’s not enough time to hang out with the people I want to see. It’s small solace that I’ll be right back here again in a short two weeks… I’ve got the standard mixed feelings about that trip too. I am, however, really excited about bringing Sharaun out… I’m hoping she likes this place as much as I do.

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve written. Maybe because it’s already Tuesday night here, I feel like I’ve missed one more day than I really have. Do you guys know how hard it is to come up with new things to write about? I mean, here I am, writing again about not having things to write about – that should give you some indication. For a while, writing about not writing works OK, but soon you get tired of it. So, rather than follow my drive and make a post every day, regardless of it’s merit – I’ve pretty much adopted a policy of: no substance, no entry. I know, this entry is questionable at best, but there’s some stuff in here that might be worth it.

On the plane over here, I was (for some reason) thinking about money. Nowadays, people never even seen most of the money they have and use. I mean, there is no “hard” money anymore. Our paychecks go into the bank electronically, and I trust some computer to sum up what’s in my account. I never see half the money I spend. I hand someone a piece of plastic and trust some computer to subtract it from my balance. All my money is nothing more than a number on a computer screen. My bills are automatically debited from my account, subtracted right off that phantom total. It’s kind of scary when I think about it. Makes me somewhat understand the stories I’ve heard about old-timers not trusting banks, and keeping lockboxes full of cash under their bed or something.

Well, another day comes to a close here in Taiwan. Goodnight.

i still got it

FM 21-76.
Today I spent $45 on a tank of gas. That’s a lot of money for gas, right?

Four days and I’ll be back in one of those richly outfitted hotel rooms, looking out over the dirty sprawl of downtown Taipei. I sometimes get this crazy fear that Taiwan will just up and declare its independence during one of my trips. I imagine myself sitting in a cubicle while the Red Army swoops down on that tiny island to crush the rebel uprising. The fantasy goes on… usually ending with me riding on top of a tank, policing the streets. One thing about work is… thing can change pretty rapidly. When I wrote that sentence last night, I was preparing for a two-week trip. Today, I learned that, due to some circumstances beyond my control, the nature of the trip had changed. Turns out I’ll only be gone for a week, still leaving this Friday. Then, I’ll come back for two weeks, only to leave for Taiwan again in early May. The May trip will be the longest ever, clocking in at three weeks. However, since Sharaun is off-track in May, she finally gets to accompany me and experience Taipei. To me, there couldn’t have been a better change of plans. I’m hoping my work schedule while there is flexible enough to allow us some decent “exploring.” And, I feel comfortable enough in the city to act as a sort of “tour guide” for her while she’s there. Awesome.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t really break any new ground with respect to my post-frequency this week. Leading off with a no-show doesn’t really set a good precedent. But… I’ve kind of accepted that I’m just in a slump right now. Whatever the reason… maybe I’m just not putting myself out there and hunting up good stuff to write about, I dunno. I mean, last week’s entries don’t amount to much more than the birthday present story fluffed up with a bunch of rambling. Lately, I’ve warmed up a little bit to the notion of “talking” about my writing. Before, I had this unspoken rule that I didn’t like talking about the blog in person. I mean, the blog is self-serving enough, but making it a topic of discussion was too self-indulgent even for me. Lately though, I’ve opened up a bit and don’t shoot people down as quickly when they bring it up. After all, when it comes down to it, I am proud of it. If half the reason I write is for me, the other half is surely so that people will read it. Anyway, talking about my writing doesn’t put me off as much as it used to. Although I still get surprised when I find out, through some twisted grapevine, that there’s someone reading this who I wasn’t aware of. Where was I going with this?

I’ve been having escapist fantasies again lately. Y’know, researching survival techniques online in case I do decide to abandon the modern world for a tent in a national forest or something. Tonight I learned how to dig a latrine. When I was younger, I can remember being fascinated with a secondhand copy of the Army Field Survival manual. I’ve always had a fascination with self-sufficiency… and I like to think I could handle myself on my own. Now, I’m not saying I actually could… but I like to think I could. I read that Field Manual over and over again, the detailed pictures and diagrams of shelters and snares had me in a trance. I can remember trying to commit things to memory: how to make a fishhook out of thorns, how to smoke meat to preserve it, how to build a lean-to. Just like I will never forget learning from a Hardy Boys book that you can escape your bonds if you flex your muscles while being tied up. Stuff like that has always stuck with me. I think it’d be totally fun to do one of those survivalist training “adventure” things… where they take you out into the wilderness and teach you how to live off the land. Right?

With all the pope-inspired news of late, I somehow stumbled across this vintage link from CNN – I’d never seen it before, but man… hilarious. Goodnight.