November 2002

astronomy picture of the day. the moon is made of cheese. this picture is of the moon io. every day a new picture is added with an explanation by an astronomer. very cool. like a space blog with real pictures.


yesterday i went to the sogo here in taipei in search of more of those skeleton glow in the dark toys. well, i found the rest and bought them. but when i got home i discovered one of the boxes was empty! someone had taken the toy out of the bottom and taped it shut so it looked like the toy was still in it. peter called sogo when i showed him, and after the store closed one of their employees came to our house and brought me a replacement for the toy that was missing. i was expecting i’d have to go back and return it, if they would believe me at all. but to deliver the replacement to my door? wow. of course sogo is a japanese company which means the service is better, if it’d been your typical taiwanese department store i’d probably of been out of luck.

one of my students was just telling me how he’d been cheated when he bought something at guan hua computer market, so after that he mainly shops at fnac. he said fnac lets you return things within 7 days and this kind of service is new to taiwan. so he felt it was his duty to support such service. he said the membership card you can buy lasts for three years. i’m planning to find out if it’s really true, because it’d be worth it for me to get one if it is true.

move over dali there’s a new king of the tarot, and it’s playmobil. yeup, a set of playschool tarot cards, found this via bragadocchio. you can even have an on line reading done using the cards.

one of my co-workers is leaving taiwan, so i stopped by his house yesterday to see if he had any books i’d want to take off his hands. i came away with the following:

mr. wroe’s virgins by jane rogers

waiting by ha jin

memoirs of a shy pornographer by kenneth patchen

confessions of zeno by italo svevo

the women’s decameron by julia voznesenskaya

tales from firozsha baag by rohinton mistry

the end of the affair by graham greene

memoirs of a geisha by arthur golden

the vintage book of the devil edited by francis spufford

last night on the ride home on the mrt, i pulled out a book randomly and decided to start that book. the vintage book of the devil. i haven’t even finsihed reading the forward but i think i’ll enjoy it a lot.

if i ever agree to go on one of these organized tour group trips, will someone just shoot me? as stated before the trip was less than stellar. it had a few nice moments, but it could of been so much better if the tour guide had lightened up a little more and let us just do what we wanted, instead of trying to tell us what to do when it wasn’t neccesary. urgh. some highlights from the trip:

  • karaoke bus from hell. we hadn’t been on the road for long when they decided to sing karaoke. well, our seats were at the very back of the bus, and what was just above our heads, yes, you guessed it. a speaker. the volume was set way too loud, so loud that i could not listen to my md player because the off key singing of peter’s co-workers was so loud that i simply couldn’t hear my music. i thought i was going to go deaf not only from the volume but from the off-key singing.
  • winding roads up in the mountains in puli. passed by a car that had been all smashed up, and just past it a bus smashed up. looked like it was a head on collision. somehow i suspect it was the cars fault.
  • first real stop. a sheep farm up in the mountains. we are late and get there to hear them say “that’s it”. so we missed the show(not that i really care, as my family had sheep when i was in high school, but why come all this way for just about nothing?). so we spent an hour or longer watching hordes of taiwanese tourists torturing the sheep. sitting on them, riding them, pulling on their legs, etc. well, so much for animal rights. the farm itself was not so great.
  • on the road again to the hotel. the road still hasn’t been fixed since the 9-21 earthquake(now i understand why people are constantly protesting the lack of action by the government on this matter). so basically one big traffic jam. no movie while we waited in the traffic jam. just endless boredom. i comforted myself by listening to music since there was no bad karaoke to drown it out(music for the trip: momus, the smiths, the colourfield, built to spill, and noise addict).
  • arrive at the hotel. we were told we were staying in nice places. it was a lie. this place looked like it was made to be apartments, and then when they couldn’t sell the apartments converted it into a hotel but not very well. the dinner was bbq, which was not very good and not worth the money it cost. the only good thing about the hotel was it had cable, so we didn’t miss six feet under. breakfast was pretty terrible as well.
  • next morning peter and i took a walk down by the lake before we left for the day. the lake was nice, and we took a few pictures. i wish we could of stayed longer just there, as it was very beautiful and serene. but the tour guide had other plans.
  • on the way to the amusement park we were to spend the day at, we stopped at some alcohol factory. basically various alcohol brands hawked their wares and people bought them. neither peter nor i drink, so we found it boring. we went for a short walk around the area. and stumbled across a vcd shop not yet open, that promised viagara with the purchase of japanese adult vcds. we didn’t see any horny(or soon to be horny) taiwanese businessmen lining up for their daily dose of viagara and japanese porn though.
  • formosan aboriginal culture village. this is an amusement park with an aborigine theme. this was the highlight of the trip. the morning we had free to do what we wanted. so we rode most of the rides. i finally got to ride one of those rollercoasters where you hang below it and your feet dangle. it was pretty fun, but not scary at all.
  • after lunch, the tour guide took us to the part of the park that was all about aborigine culture. replicas of traditional houses and artifacts by various tribes. we also went to a show of aborigine rituals and dances. we missed the beginning because of our disorganized tour guide. the show was pretty cool. young men in loin clothes and young women doing some sort of “hair dance”. pretty interesting, the music was good to when it hadn’t been updated with synthesizers and the such. i bought a cd at the show which unfortunately has that synthesizer on it when i was hoping for something more traditional. it was weird to be at a theme park devoted to aborigine culture. i mean, is this a good thing? on one hand it was sort of like a museum, but on the other hand is it really right to have these traditional dances and rituals presented on stage like this? i’m not sure, but it made me want to know more about the aborigine people here, so i guess that is a good thing. after the show she(the tour guide) demanded that we follow her around so she could give us a spiel about different things. we didn’t need her spiel, we are not children after all. i would of liked to have seen the show of aborigine singing, but i was stuck following around the bimbo tour guide. i did manage to snap some pictures of aborigines doing traditional arts though.
  • the hotel we stayed at this night was a bit better. the rooms were nicer, if a little too dark. but the tv had no remote! you had a switch by the bed to flip channels. it was very awkward too. and the people who had set up the tv, had set up the tv for regular tv but ran cable tv through it so half the channels had severe interference. this hotel was at an amusement park in miaoli. it was rather small(not many rides), the breakfast at the hotel was terrible. they didn’t even have eggs! we went on a few rides, one i nearly fell off of and i’m still sore from the way it bounced me around. the park was pretty empty, except for tour groups of senior citizens. we dubbed the park lao ren gong yuan(old people park). the lunch included some typical hakka dishes. some of peter’s co-workers discovered i can speak some chinese so we had some small conversations. before the trip they had grilled him about me, but most of them said nada to me the whole trip.
  • on the way home we stopped by hsin chu as some people felt we would arrive too early. this is where peter and i found the skeleton toys at sogo. then back on the bus, what happens, but they start with the karaoke again, with no concern for us at all. they found it more amusing that we were upset and covering the speakers with tape. i was getting very angry and said to peter “we should of taken a train home!”. he jumped out of his seat, ran to the tour guide and then back to me and said “we’re going!” as we walked off the train all i could mutter was fuck fuck fuck…(and to think there was a time i didn’t swear at all, oh how the mighty have fallen.) the tour guide looked at us and said sweetly “bye!” i just looked at her and muttered something in chinese which was not nearly as bad as what i wanted to say. i’m not sure if i have explained this karaoke deal well. you might be thinking, karaoke, what’s the big deal? imagine having someone singing in your ear loudly and out of tune for several hours. it quickly goes from being slightly annoying to a formal form of torture. and worst of all, you are paying for this torture. we then walked 1.5 kilometers to the train station and took a train home.

so that was the trip. the worst part about this, is it could of been a very enjoyable trip if the tour guide had been on top of things and peter’s co-workers hadn’t turned into satan incarnate. after this experience i really wanted to be around nice taiwanese again so that i wouldn’t start feeling like all taiwanese are this way. it’s sad, but if the same thing had happened in the states, i would of just thought “evil stupid people”, but being in a more homogenous culture, i can see how easy it is to start to think all people are like this. when i got home, i was surrounded by nice taiwanese as all my roomates were home and as peter had gone to hsintien to get his scooter, i told my roomates (in chinese) how bad the trip was to the best of my knowledge. sympathy is a good thing.

well, i’m back. i’m really tired and unfortunately the trip was less than stellar. a full report i’ll blog tomorrow.

one good thing though, when we were in hsin-chu we went to sogo and i picked up some glow in the dark skeleton toys. i’ll have to check the sogo here in taipei to see if they have these same toys or not.

tomorrow peter and i are going on his company trip. in taiwan, most companies usually treat their employees to some sort of trip once a year(the employees can invite their friends as well, but the friends have to pay for the trip, while the employees get to go for free). usually it’s somewhere local, but sometimes they’ll pay for you to go out of the country to hk, thailand, japan,..that sort of thing. we won’t be going outside the country, but we will be going places i haven’t been to in taiwan before. i’m a bit nervous as i’m the only foreigner going and no one peter works with knows that we are a couple, or even gay for that matter. so we’ll see what happens. i’m bringing my md player and a book so i can find a way to ignore people on the bus if i get inundated with questions. anyway, unless we stumble upon an internet cafe somewhere, there will be no blogging until we get back on monday night.

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