dinner with the family

Outbound once again.
So… the night before last was pretty awesome. I got a call from Sharaun on the way home from work, and in pretty short order we both agreed that we didn’t feel like doing dinner at home. We ended up having an awesome dinner for two at a local Indian joint. Sometimes, even though we’re together most every night – we don’t seem to get enough time to talk about random things. And that one-on-one dinner really hit the spot. We talked about work, about not-work, about summer plans, about all sorts of stuff. Then we made a joint trip to Wal Mart so I could pick up some socks. Afterward, I helped teach her the basics of non-linear equations so she can tutor a former student of hers. Man, I really enjoy algebra. Especially explaining it to other people. I think I could easily be a math teacher, really. I was talking slope-intercept form like it was taught to me yesterday. Anyway, it was a really enjoyable evening with my wife… we need to do that more often.

I mentioned that new Radiohead track yesterday. Hearing it just got me all Radiohead’d up… and I started listening to Kid A tonight. Man, that album is so outstanding. I can remember getting it like it was yesterday, in fact – I think I even wrote about it way back then. August 28th, 2000: The real new album I am waiting for is Kid A, Radiohead’s 4th – coming in early October. I know it’s going to be awesome. I am hoping to download [it] before it’s released – the promos should start showing up on Napster soon hopefully. September 11th, 2000: Listening to Radiohead’s new one, Kid A. It’s not out for a month yet – Napster. Awww yeah… that album made a huge impression on me. I can remember being the new kid on the block at work. I sat two floors up from the team they put me on. No one even knew I existed. I got no e-mails, no calls, no nothing. For the 1st six months I’d come in at nine and go home at three. I can remember feeling guilty for taking a paycheck for sitting around, listening to music, reading webpages, and writing. Kid A just worked so well with that lonely, out-of-my-element thing that was the first few months of my employment.

Made reservations for my happening-way-too-soon trip to Taiwan tonight. I actually realized that I’m departing US soil in a mere week’s time, and had yet to book flights and hotel. Not wanting to pay the dreaded less than one week booking premium, Wayne and I called the “emergency” travel number late last night and booked our trips. Two weeks people. The notion is seriously dreadful to me right now, leaving a week from today to go to Taiwan again. If it was only a week trip, I think I’d be fine… but two whole weeks. The only other time I was there for two weeks, I started getting seriously antsy for home near the end. And I know I’ve said it a million times, but I always get like this right before I go. Once I’m there, I’m usually OK. I just wish there was some way Sharaun could join me, I think she’d get a big kick out of Taiwan. Ahh… Taiwan… I come to your island shores once more.

And now it’s 11:30pm on Thursday. The trash is at the curb, the dishes are done, and the countertop is clean. And that, my friends, means it’s time to hit the sack. Goodnight.

the bonecrusher

Two days of wearing shorts, and the miniskirt fields over near the high school are in full bloom – summer is coming y’all. I’m done with this entry early, because the words just came. It’s hard to believe I wanted to write one story. One story; and out comes 10 paragraphs. It’s kinda good though, now I can concentrate on other things. Enjoy.

I realized I forgot to mention my massage experience from my last trip to Taiwan. Let’s set the scene: In Taiwan, massages are cheap. You can get an hour-long full body massage for $15. Every time I go, nearly everyone I’m with gets a massage. Not me, however. I’ve never been one for massages. I just don’t enjoy them. Mostly because I’m self-conscious of my neanderthal-reminiscent body hair, but also because being cursed with that very hair makes massages physically painful. Lemme try and break it down for the follicly challenged: you ever wear dress socks all day, and when you pull them off at night your leg hair is sore, painful to the touch? That’s what a massage feels like to me, with all the rubbing and pulling… you can have it. So, when everyone I’m with decides it’s massage time, I always sit it out. This time, however, Wayne somehow managed to convince me to go with him.

Against my better judgment, I walked into the massage place with Wayne. We both asked for hour massages. They escorted us back to a room with three chairs, and left little shrink-wrapped packets of clothes for us to change into. The pajama-like outfits are supposed to be loose-fitting and comfortable, and they even have a pair of slippers so you can take off your shoes. However, what is loose-fitting and comfortable to Joe Taiwan is Chinese-finger-trap tight and ridiculous looking on me. Already discouraged, I asked for a “bigger” set of jammies, and reluctantly disrobed. The slippers barely encompassed my big toe, so I just went barefoot. Sufficiently pre-humiliated, I was ready for my massage. About then, two women entered the room with some hot tea. Wayne’s masseuse was young and attractive, mine was (of course) old and not-attractive. With everything having gone so swimmingly thus far, I was ready.

My masseuse instructed me to lay down on my stomach on this reclined chair. I removed my shirt when she motioned, and listened as she and Wayne’s young masseuse exchanged some words in Mandarin (too bad I don’t know the Chinese word for “hair,” because I’m sure that was the topic of discussion). After I removed my shirt, my masseuse proceeded to roll down my little pajama pants, high-school cheerleader style, until I could feel the breeze waft across the top inch or so of my buttcrack. She then started layering hot towels on top of me. Not just one, not just two, she fully covered my entire body in steaming hot towels – until it was literally four or five stacked towels deep. Now, if you know me – you know I have a heat problem to begin with. I hate hot. I hate it so bad. So here I am, sweating like I’m in a sauna, what must be 30lbs of hot, wet towels heaped on my back… for me, it was the Taiwanese massage equivalent of the Medieval torture where they stack stones on a man’s chest until he suffocates. To make it worse, when I glanced over at Wayne his nubile young masseuse was busy giving his towel-less neck and shoulders what looked like a killer workout.

After 10 or so minutes of sweating under the steaming mass of terry, during which my masseuse completely left the room, I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever actually get a massage at all. Soon enough though, my lady came back, removed the towels, and started digging her elbows into my back in a most painful manner. I just kept sitting there thinking, “Why the hell am I paying for this?” After removing the towels, she started in on my arms and legs. I think my lady may have studied medicine at some point, because she seemed to have a great knack at locating my tendons – and then grinding at them with her vice-grip hands. I swear she could crush rocks with those hams. Every minute of the experience was torture, at several points I was seconds away from crying out “uncle!” and being done with the entire thing. When I could catch a glimpse of Wayne, meanwhile, it looked as if he were about to doze off to pleasant dreams.

Just as my patience was waning, my masseuse eased up a bit. Little did I know, she was just switching gears. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, I now realize that she was simply entering the 3rd and final phase of her sadistic plan to break me. Phase 1 was the hot-towel iron maiden, cunningly designed to attack my temperature weakness and strong aversion to perspiration. Phase 2 was the targeted stimulation of every pain-generating pressure point on my arms and legs. Phase 3, as I was about to learn, involved several NGEs (near-genitalia experiences) and an unwanted cavity penetration. Her bonecrushing force somewhat lessened, my lady now started greasing me up with lotion and doing a gentle rub down. For a normal person, I’m sure this might actually feel good. For the manly (read: hair-covered), it’s akin to combing your quaff with bubblegum. However, as innocent as the rub down seemed… it was soon about to get a little iffy.

First, a pertinent aside: In Taiwan… you have to be careful just which massage place you go into. If you are really just looking for a massage, it’s best to ask the locals where a “legit” massage place is. Although, I sometimes get the impression that a place is “legit” only until sufficient money is on the table. Anyway, Wayne and I had made sure we were patronizing a “legit” massage place – just to have that level of comfort in knowing what lay ahead. Having been advised the place was on the up-and-up, I didn’t really have any problems when my lady’s hands started reaching higher and higher into my inner thigh with each rub. “All part of the job,” I thought, “Nothing out of the ordinary here.” So it tickles a bit, that skin is sensitive in there! Soon, I started to doubt my assurances… but I refused to flinch – even as her finger quickly brushed my nut as if to test my resolve. I would maintain. I would not give her the satisfaction of reacting. And before I knew it, I was left bewildered, but not necessarily uneasy; and the inner-thigh portion of the massage was over.

But the ass portion… the ass portion had yet to begin.

I’ll need you to remember from above that, somewhere near the beginning of this, the hour that lasted a year, my masseuse had rolled down my knee-length pajama pants at the waist – exposing the neon whiteness that is the top few inches of my buttocks. Right, on we go then. The lower-back massage started with another handful of lotion. Things were OK to begin with, but once again… with each massaging motion this woman’s hands delved deeper and deeper into the albino jungle. And people… this is it; this is the reason I wrote all these paragraphs with all these funny metaphors or similes or whatever they are. For this next sentence, and for it alone. Then, to my utter surprise, my masseuse began massaging the inside of my asscrack. I’m being for real here. She had both hands, karate-chop sideways, inserted fully between my cheeks – and was making some kind of “sawing” motion while pressing outward. I couldn’t believe that this woman was willing to put her bare hands into my ass for a percentage of $15.

As I lay in disbelief, my masseuse began wiping the excess lotion off my body with clean, damp white towels. The same type of towels which, then piping hot, she had previously heaped on me to a gravity-defying height of approximately 4 vertical feet. And lest you think she neglected to towel the lotion leavings from my nether regions, rest assured. She most definitely dragged the towel down the length of my crack, a couple times. The white towel; in my ass. Read back a few sentences. OK, you see what I’m getting at? The same white towels which she stacked on me earlier. I just sat there wondering whose ass my hot towels had been used to clean before they were piled on me. How many asses had this woman’s bare hands been in that day alone? To my credit, I masked all this inner turmoil extremely well. To the casual observer, I must have appeared the practiced massage recipient… taking each increasingly absurd phase in relaxed stride. I was a rock.

Now, maybe it’s just me – but I can’t always guarantee the cleanliness of my ass. Sure, I wipe, I take care of myself, I’m hygienic. But if I know there’s going to be a situation when my ass may be exposed, I’ll put a little extra effort into sprucing it up. Any other time – you’re playing a risky game of Russian Roulette down there. I mean, a brother can only do so much. If he’s been walking around in the city heat all day long with nary a bathroom in which to perform a “sanitary check,” there’s only so much he can promise you. Bottom line: You just don’t go butt-spelunking without giving a man notice… you just don’t.

After we re-dressed, paid, left the building, started walking way, and I’d safely tucked my shame away in the corner of my mind – I got up the nerve to ask Wayne if he’d been similarly violated. “What?!,” he asked, “She massaged your asscrack?” Dang, and I was hoping we could form our own two-person support group and share a tearful shuddering hug in remembrance. Looks like I’ll be all alone back in the hotel room where only the tiny bottle of Jack Daniels from the minibar can hear my sobs. Later on, I did mention to Wayne that I felt a little “looser” than usual, which was the truth – but sweet Lord it wasn’t worth it. This is one thing I shoulda stuck with my gut on – I’m not built for massage.


the heat

Cold bellies get more hugs.
Good evening folks. Yup, I’m using a new recent comments plugin, which gives me a lot more flexibility over how I display the comments in the sidebar. So far I only used it to add a reference to the post a comment was entered on, something which I always thought was missing (all the comments looked like they were from the same article or something). I messed with a bunch of different ways to incorporate the article title, finally landing on the “re:” thing you see now… which I’m still not sure I like. But hey, it does the job.

Two days after I got back from Taiwan, I got a note from a buddy of mine who lives there: Tracy was in the hospital. Tracy’s in the hospital! The word is, she has a low white blood cell count… which I guess can be a symptom of a whole bunch of stuff, and is more common in women. Anyway, I sent her a gift in the hospital and have been checking in with local friends to see how she’s doing. As long as it’s not some rare Asian contagious disease… I guess if I come down with the Bird Flu, I’ll know.

But for real, I was with her nearly all week. We karaoke’d into the wee hours on no less than three nights last week. Despite the fact that we hung out a lot more and were even able to speak much more on this trip out, Tracy and I are still the least close of all my hotel-bar friends. On my last night in town, as we left the all-night restaurant around 5am, I was giving hugs to all the other bar staff and saying goodbye until next time. However, as I moved in to hug her goodbye, she turned her body sideways as if to escape the impending embrace! “Tracy! How cold!” I shouted, eliciting laughs from the others. Then, talking to a buddy today who’s spoken to Tracy since she’s been laid up, I asked him if she said anything about ducking my goodbye hug. “Yeah,” he said, “She said she turned away because of the ‘heat in your stomach.'” I about fell out of my chair laughing. “The heat” in my stomach?! What in the world does that mean? Even the local buddy who talked to her (who speaks Mandarin!) said he didn’t understand, and even talking to her, couldn’t figure out quite what she meant. I told him that next time I’ll need some help icing up my belly. I wonder if “the heat in one’s stomach” is an ancient Chinese way to say “bad breath?”

There surely is such a thing as computer-addiction. I know because I am completely and utterly stricken by it. It really doesn’t bother me that much, to be honest with you. I would argue that most people living in modern, mechanized, industrialized nations are actually “addicted” to one form of media or another. But for some reason, non-PC people think of those who choose the PC as their primary source of entertainment and leisure-time-wasting in a negative light. However, the far more common breed who chose to watch TV from the moment they get home until the moment they drift off to sleep are not. What about a voracious reader, one who spends every free moment poring over books, are they “addicted,” or simply studious? I prefer the computer to the TV… I’ve mentioned that before. Who cares. Shut up and leave me alone, I’m busy at the computer.

In the waste-of-time department: Ever since I saw this linked on fazed the other day, I got sucked in. It’s one of those progressive image puzzles where you look at a picture/puzzle for some kind of hidden or contextual or coded message, and then modify the URL with the solution to get to the next picture/puzzle. Some of them are incredibly complex and nearly impossible. Before I knew it, I found myself starting at this thing until 1am last night before calling it quits. Some of the answers are easily obtained, some require complicated decoding and math, and some even require digital manipulation of the images. Even though I cheated a few times along the way out of desperation, I went back tonight and solved most all of the puzzles I skipped out of frustration. I don’t know why I get hooked on these things, but I do. In fact, I decided to take a crack at the dreaded #34 (the one I was stuck on last night until 1am) today during my lunch break… and before I knew it it was 4:30pm and I was on #38. Have at it, but beware – it will melt your brain.

I bid you… adieu.

pantaloon problems

They don't look so bad... do they?
Today’s entry is mostly about pants. That may seem strange, or even boring, but I think it worked out pretty nicely. I mean, even I chuckled reading back over it. So, as I reach around to pat myself on the back… you can make your own judgments. Enjoy.

Wayne asked me today when I have time to write all the crap I write. I dunno… I write all the time. I write one or two sentences at a time; one paragraph one hour, another the next. When I can’t get to a keyboard, I use the voice-memo feature of my cellphone to record short thoughts for later. Like now, I’m writing right now, in the Taipei office. I didn’t really have to come in today, I planned this day as a free day… figuring I could catch up on some work on the flight tomorrow. But… I’ve got enough to keep me busy while here, and the meeting I missed at 1am last night got rescheduled for 1pm today. So, coming in for a few hours seemed like the right thing to do. Oh, I’ll be outta here after the meeting. Gonna buy some Cubans (the cigars, not the actual people) and make the final run to the tailor to pick up my pants. Which reminds me…

When I was getting measured for the pants, the tailor asked me a litany of questions about what exactly I wanted. That little fold-over flap button or just a plain zipper; straight pockets or angled; one or two pockets in the back; buttons on both of those or just one; cuffs at the bottom; and finally, pleats. I think I got most of them right, but walking out of the store I was unsure about my decision on the “pleats” bit. When he asked me if I wanted them, I vaguely remembered Sharaun either hating pants with pleats, or hating pants without pleats. I asked the Chinese tailor, and he said pleats can look “more formal,” and be “a little more comfort.” The part about “a little more comfort” spoke right to my heart – so I ordered pleats. Now, when I got back to the bar after the final fitting (got back to the bar, like it’s home-base or something), I mentioned to another coworker where I’d been – and that I’d ordered some custom slacks… he asked “flat front?” Uh-oh. This was my 1st indication that I may have committed a major fashion faux paus.

Later on, I spoke to Sharaun. With caution, I broached the subject of my custom slacks… and causally mentioned that the tailor had asked me if I wanted pleats. Her reaction cinched it: pleats = bad. “You didn’t get pleats, did you?!” she asked. “Ummm… yeah, the guy told me they look more formal and are more comfortable” I replied. “You’re in China, David, their fashion is from, like, 1982. Pleats are terrible, everyone will laugh at you.” My heart sank, all the pride and happiness I’d been feeling in finally getting some pants that fit, all the good I’d thought I’d done in taking action and picking nice material… all my hopes and dreams for pants with “a little more comfort” were dashed against the rocks. “Everyone knows pleats are stupid, don’t you know that?” Man, I’m really getting laid into here… “How much did you pay for the pants?” she asked – a baited question, since paying more than $5 for these detestable pieces of pleated filth would be sheer idiocy. “I dunno,” I lie, “I don’t know the price until I pick them up.” Whew, dodged that one, she may have divorced me if I’d admitted they were $70 a pair. “You’re stupid because you got pants with pleats; you wasted your money; you know you don’t like pleats, did you forget?”

Anyway… women can be evil… just when you think you’ve done so well. I will wear my pleated pants, with pride mind you. I will rock the pleats, perhaps even hang small bells from them that jingle and announce to the world that I am not ashamed of my pleats. Hell, I may even usher in a new age of pleats; I will re-cool pleats… I’ll be the cutting edge of custom dress-slacks with “a little more comfort.” And as for my wife, she’ll come around and realize that the Chinese people aren’t behind the fashion curve at all – they’re actually ahead of the next retro revival. Anyway, I make her sound meaner than she really is… but it’s all for comedy’s sake. Too bad they shoot homos here, I could’ve really used the Queer Eye guys. (Note to all my homo readers, I ain’t hatin’, the word “homo” is just too funny to pass up. Keep up the butt-love, you’re alright with Dave). So now I’ve got three pair of $70 custom slacks which all always feel pleat-conscious in… great. Clothes: I can’t win. Pleats discussion over.

The plan tonight is for one all-out karaoke blitz. No sleep. Karaoke until 4am, then hit the all-night dumpling house for some bleary-eyed shark-fin-stuffed dough-balls. Then, a quick return to the hotel room – where the bags will be packed and waiting. A quick shower to wash off the stench of beer, smoke, and Taiwanese women. The limo’s due out front at 7:30am. Airport; plane; airborne and asleep. Another fine trip to Taiwan has come to a close. Thanks to you, dear readers, for participating. That time you were with me when I chewed the betel nut; and the time when I was lamenting about customers; listening patiently as a shared my post-presentation nerves; sitting with me in the dark of Henry’s bar; laughing along at my bloody mary laptop collision. Even the times you weren’t with me: when my butt got sore and raw because of the poor quality toilet paper here; when I succumbed to my social smoking vice and had a few cigarettes in shame; when I got embarrassed because the tailor could see my lint-filled belly-button as he pinned my pants closed for fitting; tequila shots at the Thai place… wish you’d’ve been there.

Now, where was I… ahh… that’s right… bye.

topic taboo

Something about overtime, I dunno.
If you’ve been reading me for a while, or… even if you haven’t, you may (or may not) know that I usually don’t talk much about work. Sometimes though, especially while traveling for work, I don’t have much else to talk about and work tends to dominate a run of entries. So, most of today’s entry is work-based… although I still stay away from specifics as much as possible – so as to avoid a sound doocing. Well then, with hopes that it’s not over-dry, to it…

Being in a country where you can smoke anywhere you want really makes you appreciate living in Liberalville, CA, USA. I’d forgotten what it was like to go out for an evening in Florida and come home reeking of smoke; having to chalk the night’s accoutrements up to a loss in terms of multiple-wearings, and waking up throughout the night to smell the nastiness that is your own hair and skin. When we walked into the karaoke room last night, the smoke was still thick from the last revelers to use the facilities. Every bar, every restaurant, even some of the conference rooms at the customer sites… nasty.

Well, I guess it was only a matter of time. I fear my laptop is beginning to protest the bloody mary bath I unintentionally gave it the other day. Yesterday, I couldn’t get anything but BSODs for a full two hours of rebooting. Today, I seem to get it randomly… but increasingly more frequent. Only when your laptop is acting up do you realize how crippling it is to be without it, especially on a business trip. I use it to take notes, to call up sorted and stored information when answering questions, and to do completely non-work activities like writing this paragraph. I’m just hoping she makes it through the week, so I can get a new one when I get back home.

One down, one to go. Lunchtime now, and then the final visit of the week before I’m cut free of all Taiwan-specific responsibility. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to “detach” from my US-work as I’ve been accustomed to for a Taiwan visit. Home-stuff is still demanding and is unfortunately dictating some late-night US-time meeting attendance and e-mail attention. It was 2:30am last night before I shutdown the PC and headed to bed, and I’ve got a 1am meeting lined up for tonight’s fun.

Right now it’s dawning what promises to be a beautiful day in Taipei; it’s been warming up lately – and the rain is less frequent now than it was at the beginning of the week.

I’m sitting in bed with my laptop, having just woke up little over and hour ago and been responding to e-mail until now. It’s my last full day here, I leave mid-morning tomorrow. I came back to the room last night around 12:30am to get ready for my 1am meeting. Then, I woke up around 3am with my laptop and phone in front of me. I don’t know when I dozed off, but I totally missed the meeting. I crawled into bed, and then started off this morning with my “apologies” mail. Owell.

Outta here.

high on betel

Maybe you'd be better suited with elastic, sir; you're very "strong"
Y’know, it sure feels like I’ve been to Taiwan more than 4 times. But, that’s what my passport says: 4 times. So, I guess it really only has been 4 times. I do know, however, that ever since my first visit here, I’ve wanted to try betel nut. Betel nut is actually a seed that the Taiwanese roll in a leaf and chew whole. It’s a green thing to begin with, but once you start chewing it it turns bright red. You see betel nut “shops” all over town, usually near major roadways. Most of them are setup similarly: a large window and with an attractive young woman sitting inside, wearing a short miniskirt and not much up top, rolling up the betel nut for sale. There are usually bright flashing neon tubes hanging above the storefront to help pull your eye. When you ask the locals about the stuff, they mostly just shrug you off – acting like it’s a habit that’s beneath a civilized person. If you press them on why people chew the stuff, they say that it “keeps you awake, helps you concentrate, makes you feel hot and sweaty, and maybe even a little drunk.” It’s always sounded to me like some mild drug, and I’ve always wanted to check it out -but my hosts have always managed to dissuade me from actually purchasing any.

Today, however, when we came out of our last customer’s office – I spotted a betel nut joint just across the road. I mentioned to Wayne how I’d always wanted to try it, and he didn’t put up too much of a protest. So once again, I asked some of the locals I was with about it. This time though, they escorted us right across and bought me a small baggie full. They kinda look like the fat end of a piece of raw asparagus, about a half-inch long and wrapped tight in a leaf. There were about ten of them in the 50NT baggie. Our host explained that you first bite off the “endcap” from the stalk, and then chuck the entire leaf-wrapped thing in your mouth and chew it. Due to some communication confusion, Wayne and I were left confused as to whether or not we were supposed to spit or swallow the resulting blood-red saliva, so we played it safe and spit every 30sec. Only afterward did we learn that it’s only customary to spit the 1st batch of juice out after you start chewing, and then you’re supposed to ingest the rest. Check it:

The betel nut joint.

The merch.

Scored a dime.

Makeshift spittoon.

Anyway, it was a new Taiwan experience for me. I’ve got the remainder of the stash tucked away in my mini-fridge (it’s a plant, I figured it may need to be refrigerated) – and plan to chew one properly this evening, swallowing the spittle and all. The locals reminded Wayne that the emergency number here is 119 and not 911 – just in case.

Right now it’s 3:42pm where my home and wife are. Here it’s 7:42am and I’m getting ready for my final day of “work,” as tomorrow’s a free day. I have to go back to the tailor tonight to do the final fitting on the custom slacks I ordered. Don’t I sound so regal? Right now, perhaps, there is some man sewing a pair of pants made especially to fit my legs. If these things really fit-fit, I’m gonna be elated. I may wear them all the time, just for the crap of it. Last night was another round of karaoke with some of the women from the bar downstairs, we had a good time – and I think, overall, we brought our A-game karaoke to the table last night. You should’ve heard Wayne and I belt out Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated.”

Well folks, I don’t have much time before I have to fill my breast pocket with business cards (English on the front, simplified Chinese on the reverse) and head downstairs. I’ve got all the cards I’ve collected on previous visits stowed away in my bag, and I’ll review them on the way to the customer – on the off chance that I’ll be able to recognize someone and greet them by name before we exchange them. This way, I’ll appear as the concerned and genuine businessman… the one who cares enough about you to remember your name. Other than that, today is pretty much full. There’s the pants-fitting, the stopover at the Cuban cigar place, and talk of an evening massage possibly followed by the night market tonight.

Good afternoon; good morning. Dave out.

nervous laughter

Play with this, mouse.
P-Day. Presentation day in Taiwan. Right now it’s early-morning and Wayne and I are doing some last-minute tweaks to our material. Not oh-crap last-minute changes, just aesthetic changes and some acclimation exercises. Our timeslot in this day-long conference is at the very end, which can be good because you’re the taste left in the audience’s mouth as they walk away; and can be bad because attention spans begin to wane near the end of the day and the fidgeting begins to set in. One other plus, we have time to work on the material, do one last rehearsal before showtime, and take in the other presenters as a gauge of our “competition.”

There must be 500 people in here, maybe one day I’ll be presenting to these masses – but our audience today is a mere subset, less than 200 of the total gathered here for the conference. I just did my first speaking gig, a 5min introduction of the day’s discussions and presenters – and it felt good to be in up front. The cute girl who was here last year is here again, and she must remember my stares because she’s looking over at me and chatting to her friend. I see a lot of familiar faces, actually. There’s the one guy who asks all the detailed questions, I’ll avoid contact with him; there’s that one dude who’s always asking impossibly technical questions in what I deem as some vain attempt to appear intelligent, gotta avoid him in the halls. Man, almost presentation time… in fact, I think the next paragraph will be post-presentation; wish me luck.

Our presentation went great. We were relaxed; we got questions; we had note-takers; we got laughs. It’s always hard presenting to non-English-speaking audiences – but I think we did a great job. Overall the day’s events went down just like I’d wanted them to. Now Wednesday and Thursday will be spent doing the Q&A thing for various customers. Y’know, we sit up front in a panel fashion – and they ask whatever’s on their mind. It can make for some interesting discussion, and some outstanding pulled-from-your-ass monologues. Full of assurances like “… we’ve invested many resources to ensure success,” and “… we are committed to product XZY…” But today was good – I had a good time, and so far this trip is a big success – as far as the “work” part goes.

Sometimes I like to sit in this bar and try to imagine what brought everyone here. In a hotel bar in bar in a business city like Taiwan everyone’s here for a reason. Through a haze of smoke and over silver bowls of mixed nuts, deals are struck and partnerships are formed. My role here is less exciting, I’m just sitting in the back working on my presentation for tomorrow. It’s all bar-atmosphere dark in here, so I probably look like some pale ghost in the corner, awash in the glow of my monitor. Stupid computer… stubborn tomato-stuck keys.

One thing that always amazes me about Taiwan is the extent to which most westerners I meet use it as a sexual playground. Meeting ring-wearing men in bars who immediately steer the conversation to where the best “massage” places are, dropping twist-of-speech hints about their true intent. When I get in these conversations, I usually don’t say one way or another whether or not I participate – for fear of being viewed as some limp-dicked sexual leper; more often than not if you don’t say you don’t, it’s assumed you do. The whole “while the cat is away” attitude that men get here is really something else. I guess I’ve never been one to partake in “manly” activities like strip clubs or whatnot. Oh sure, I’m still a functioning male: I’ll watch my share of internet porn or sit on the john and flip lustily through a Maxim magazine. I guess I just draw the line at the “live action” stuff. Maybe I’ve watched one too many Andy Griffiths or something, but I’m just not down with extramarital sexual activity – I’d much rather make a seed offering to the hotel shower drain than some paid-nothing whore a musty Taipei backroom.

Sorry to those who’ve posted recently and seen your comments deferred in their appearance. I’m still getting the hang of WordPress’ new v1.5 comment moderation features. Your posts should be visible now, and I’ve sent those texas holdem bastards where they belong. Oh, and thanks for commenting – it’s part of what makes me enjoy writing every day… to have some validation that people are reading and perhaps even enjoying what the heck I’m on about.

Now, it’s time for breakfast, and a full day of customers. Until sometime tomorrow…