Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The lower the barometer, the stronger the typhoon (or hurricane). The one that swept by a couple weeks ago was 980. Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, was 940. Talim, which we are now enjoying, is 925. So why aren't you being flooded with disaster reports from Taiwan?

Mostly because we get several typhoons every year, so anything that can be blown away, got blown away years ago. Typhoons are nature's way of keeping the land clean.

Poor Louisiana. They are doomed by generations of levees and decades of work by the Army Corps of Engineer. About six months ago I read a magazine article ~ Natural History, I think ~ that predicted exactly what has happened to New Orleans. It seems the entire state of Louisiana is disappearing beneath the waves, thanks to upstream flood control. Maybe we should use some of the money we are spending to buy enemies in Iraq to rebuild New Orleans on higher ground.

Doesn't it ever rain in New Orleans? I saw videos online of the wind and rain there, which look pretty much like a regular typhoon, and people were just walking through it as if they did not know how to deal with rain. Don't they have raincoats or umbrellas? If they need umbrellas, let me know, because I could probably arrange to ship half a million within two weeks.

Sure is a lot of news from the Gulf Coast. As cousin Steve said, 200,000 can drown in Bangladesh, and everybody shrugs. What's newsworthy about that? The bridge panic in Baghdad created a stir because the good ol’ U S of A has spent billions of dollars to grant those people the freedom to trample each other; otherwise, who would care? A biting scene in Karel Capek's War with the Newts (1936) describes an international conference on the flooding engulfing Germany and China, the Chinese delegate rises to plead for help, as millions of Chinese have already drowned. The other delegates all ignore him. All attention is focused on Germany, because people are used to disasters happening in places such as China, so they are not noteworthy.

In the meantime, the wind blows, the rain rains, and I drink tea, because my class this evening was postponed, ha ha!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Despite living most of her life in San Marino, Mildred considered the place barbaric.
--Jonathan Kellerman, Bily Straight

Monday, August 29, 2005

子曰,參乎,吾道一以貫之。曾子曰,唯。門人問曰,何謂也? 曾子曰,夫子之道,忠恕而已矣。
斯章多曲說。貫,阮元曰,「行也、事也…. 此言孔子之道,皆于行事見之,非徒以文學為教…. 猶言壹是皆以行事為教。」貫或訛訓串,失之。貫者,為也、習也。

Sunday, August 28, 2005

陶匠依印尼華僑陶匠術語回,"這是白泥。" 殊不知,毒梟黑話中,"白泥" 指的是海洛因….

Friday, August 26, 2005

Rebellion is fashionable. There is a difference between being rebellious and being obnoxious. Many who pride themselves on the former are merely the latter.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Suddenly, I love my job.

Reports of a large reptile, probably an alligator, have drawn crowds to a lake in the LA area. The LA Times (August 17) ran a photo of Mr Jay Young, an employee of an alligator farm, who has been hired to catch the alligator. He said, “At most, I can lose a couple of fingers.”

No matter how dreadful some classes are, I have never had to slog shoulder-deep through water concealing a large carnivore. (and I have never had to wear a cowboy hat, either.)

No matter how atrocious some classes are, I have never had to worry about losing "a couple of fingers."

Teaching English is great!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

有人問我怎麼不入中華民國籍。 我來臺大半輩子,但是在美國生的,留個根吧。何況,色目高鼻在眾人眼中,永遠是外國人:陌生、疎誕。反正,我有外僑居留證,與國民身分證一樣好用,不同的只是,不當兵、不投票,如此而已。也罷。問我是甚麼人,真不知如何回答,也不放在心上。Yugan, 山地人也,talah nunux qloxyu nguhux na Tayal, nanaq la:syaqan。十八歲來華學中文,對臺北有一種特殊情感在,因為我覺得我跟臺北市一起長大。這是我的經驗。



Monday, August 22, 2005
















Sunday, August 21, 2005

Ling went back to her hometown, Rohan(羅漢門、內門 in Kaohsiung), also home of bananas, litchis, and lungan (龍眼dragon eyes, rong ngan). She sent me a crate of lungan from her uncle's trees. Delicious, sweet, I am turning into a big dragon eye. The refrigerator is full and there are still some left. I took some to yaba, Dali Watan. This morning I took another bunch to Fu. He was sitting in his favorite seat, in the corner of his living room, with windows behind him and to his right.

Standing outside his dogs' protective zone, I called out to him through the window, "Wuuuuuuaaaay, Fu, I need your help!"

"What's up?"

I held up the lungan. "Ling sent me a crate of lungan, and I need you to help me eat some."

"Thank you, thank you! Come in and sit down. You've got long legs, Yugan, because the water just boiled and I am making tea."

I have zero resistance to freshly made tea, so I slipped in the door, shutting Tlahuy and Yumin outside. We drank the tea and discussed the merits of various teas. A ruckus outside disturbed us: Tlahuy trying to get in the door. "Good boy," I called, cup in hand, "I'll be out before long."

As we were discussing the water supply, a perennial topic in Wulai, another ruckus disturbed us: Tlahuy managed to slip in through the door. I shooed him, but he wouldn't budge. I lifted him into my arms and deposited him outside the door. "Good boy, I'll be out before long."

Fu's grandson attempted to pick up a teapot. We quickly disarmed him. "Oh, how big he's grown!" Fu told me how much his grandparents spoil him. Ms Fu went out to clip me some yam leaves. Tlahuy slipped in. I went to pick him up, but the Fus said, "Tlahuy is such a loyal dog, let him in, because he will just sit quietly beside you. He just wants to be with you." So Tlahuy sat beside me as Fu changed the tea. "Good boy, I'll be finished before long."

Tlahuy sat quietly. We laughed and said, "What a loyal dog he is! Not like Yumin the beagle! Yumin just runs around and makes mischief all day long! He runs all over, not like loyal Tlahuy."

Ms Fu brought me a pumpkin she grew herself. "Don't waste it," I said. "Keep it and cook it yourself, because if it can't be eaten raw, stir-fried, or scalded, I don't know how to cook it.” Tlahuy sat faithfully by my side. Heaven only knows where Yumin was, probably out doing something naughty: beagles!

Fu is rightfully proud of his bananas, growing on the slope behind his seat. He has twenty trees bending under heavy bunches of bananas. I made a mental note to be especially nice to the Fus, in the hopes of getting a bunch of those bananas. There are not many bananas in Wulai: a little bit farther north or higher on the mountain and they wouldn't grow. The bananas grown here that I have eaten are so sweet, so succulent, firm but yielding, you would remember them on your deathbed, and be reluctant to leave the cruel world behind.

Just then a head appeared in the window behind Fu: Yumin, tongue out, ears flying. Somehow he had managed to climb the wall, and was attempting to come in through the window. He slipped down the wall. My expression caused Fu to turn around, just in time to see Yumin make another effort, eyes wild, mouth wide open, like something out of Jaws, only with big floppy ears. The third time he made it to the sill and was attempting to clamber in through the window, determination blazing in his eyes: "I want to be with Pa."

I felt like the stereotypical Irishman of the short stories who pawned the alarm clock and now his wife's shawl and is trying to concentrate on drinking down the proceeds, while his children huddle outside the public house, piteously whimpering, "Pappy, Pappy, won't you please come home?"

Friday, August 19, 2005

He's a Buddhist. 他學佛。
I'm a vegetarian. 我吃素。
He's an air conditioner repairman. 他幫人修理冷氣。
She is a careful driver. 她開車很小心。
She's a good actress. 她很會演戲。
He's a good cook. 他很會煮菜。
His wife is a lousy singer. 他太太唱歌很難聽。
從前幫學生看他的翻譯,一句 He's a good swimmer 翻 "他是很個好的游泳選手。"
學生拿起筆,改成 "他是很個好的游泳者。"

Thursday, August 18, 2005





Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Chengkung bridges falling down, falling down

I am losing count. The latest replacement replacement replacement bridge at Chengkung got wiped out again last weekend. How many is that now?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I may be mistaken, but I was under the impression that Pakistan was a Muslim nation, and that Muslims don't eat pork.

If that is the case, I wish somebody would explain to me why the Pakistani embassy in Washington DC is built to look like a mosque surmounted by a humongous rind of pork.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

西瓜消夏炎 快樂勝神仙




Friday, August 12, 2005

a somewhat meaningless story

Once when I visited Mom when she lived in Honolulu near the beach, with jet lag, I woke up early in the morning and went to Waikiki, which was almost deserted. I love lolling around in the ocean or a stream. I was floating around when I heard a woman speaking loudly in German. She was a middle aged tourist, walking alongside her husband, who nodded, ja mine darlink, ja ja ja. Nonstop; she barely stopped for breath. Not fast or hysterical, just steady. She kept it up as they arranged their hamper neatly on the beach, and waded into the water. I figured she would shut up soon, but I was mistaken! She kept her head out of the water and talked nonstop as she swam. Her husband swam alongside, ja mine darlink, ja ja ja. I was sitting on a diving platform then, open mouthed. They were coming closer! As they swam towards the diving platform, I couldn't stand it any longer, and dove into the water. I practiced underwater swimming for the rest of my stay in the ocean.

Sticking your head in the water shuts off sound pretty effectively. Her husband should have given it a try.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Tuesday, August 09, 2005



Monday, August 08, 2005

I never tire of the view. Wulai 烏來大桶山, August 7.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

難道納利颱風的教訓還不夠明顯嗎? 從烏來到新店二十幾處坍方,其中只有一處可說是天然、與道路較無關的,其餘全屬人為,因為開路造成土石流。


Last night when I came home after class, halfway through my shower the water pressure dropped. I quickly rinsed myself off. Sometimes typhoons knock apart pipes, and it may take a day or so for the water tower to empty. (In Wulai, you find your own water. Our pipes go from the water tower up to a cement tank by the road above. That's a concrete tank 蓄水池 about three meters cubed. From there up our pipes go half a kilometer to a spring.)

This morning, the dreaded call came through my window: Yugan! No water! I was expecting it this time. I had thought we would be tracking off through the jungle to find where the pipes came apart, but this time was different. A mudslide had half-buried the cement tank. The road had been cleared yesterday, but our pipes were thrashed in the slide. Various people from the Tribe were trying to figure out how to get water home. Being barefoot, I got the honor of picking a way across the knee-deep mud to the reservoir. Then I pointed out the best steps for my neighbors. All of our dogs did a magnificent job of getting in the way. I uncovered some of the pipes.

A smaller pipe leading from the tank's main pipe had been snapped off, and sprayed us with water as soon as I uncovered it. "It could be worse," I cheerfully told the neighbors. "ven though the sun is boiling hot, we have nice cool mud and water to work in." Nothing could be done unless we patched that hole, but the pressure from a three inch pipe spurting out a half-inch hole is terrific. Fu went home to find something to stop the hole, and I came back for more plumbers' tape, and to phone Sinkang with the cheerful news that his shack was getting flooded.

An American would rush to the hardware store to buy a plug specially designed for a pipe snapped in a landslide; here people use their ingenuity. Fu came up bearing a Hello Kitty refrigerator magnet, impervious but flexible enough to mate the curve of the pipe. I was afraid it fit a bit too nicely. We passed the tape cordoning the remains of the last mudslide, sort of like police crime scene tape. I cut off a section of that. Fu wrapped the pipe with a layer of tape, placed Hello Kitty over the hole, and wrapped the rest of the yellow tape around the pipe until it was all gone. Then he tied it up with strips cut off an old acrylic sweater; the stretch keeps everything tight, and the acrylic will last forever. When we turned on the water again, not a drop leaked out.

We had a discussion: was the slide caused by the road or by the wanton cutting of trees? Both, I think, and in both cases, the government is the culprit. The mudslides that terrorize Taiwan are man-made, brought to us by courtesy of the government in its haste to spend tax money.

We were lucky. The other head of our pipe had twisted itself out of the mud, so we quickly found it and attached a pipe to lead down to our towers. The whole thing took less than three hours, including shoveling an embankment to keep water from drowning Sinkang's shack and fiddling with connections to our water towers. There I was happy for the thick coating of mud covering my legs and arms, because our water towers, under the shade of trees by the bamboo grove, is Mosquito City.

When I got home and rinsed myself off, I was thinking, there's a certain satisfaction in wrangling your own water pipes. Or is that just rationalization?

Boiling hot sun this morning, pouring rain at 2PM. Good old Taiwan weather.

Friday, August 05, 2005




Thursday, August 04, 2005

For years I have abided by the principle that vigorous writing is concise. In choosing a word, a short word is more vigorous than a long word, so if several words are appropriate, choose the shortest. Remove suffixes: choose use over utilize.

I am rethinking my ideas. Maybe I should bring my writing in closer step with the times. Music characterizes the spirit of the age. Rap is nothing if not pretension and posturing. Therefore, in my writing, I will no longer say:
I used the black pot for this tea.
I will say:
I performed the utilizificationment of the black pot for this tea.

Ya, dooood, you da man!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Are you happy?

Today we emphasize happiness so strongly that it almost becomes a source of stress; look at how many people commit suicide on December 26th. It is worth remembering that the word is related to happen and happenstance, and that originally happiness was considered a situation fortune might at times permit: a happenstance.

Nathaniel Hawthorne: "Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."

You can't buy your way into happiness. But you sure can try. If nothing else, you make the loan companies happy.

Monday, August 01, 2005

An open letter to my 86 year old Mother
Dear Momosaurus,

This has been on my mind for some time, and now is the time to discuss this, because I think you have been neglecting your social duty. Indeed, this is your duty to America, and all it stands for, and you have not been doing your part.

In the interests of society, Mom, I think you ought to go buy a car. You can still ride the bus to work and walk to the supermarket, but when you go to church on Sunday, you ought to drive.

Then, when you've had the car for 3 or 4 years, you can sell it to a used car lot. This is your duty. Otherwise, where are the used car salesmen going to get cars to sell and tell people, "This beauty was owned by a little old lady who only drove it to church on Sunday"?

This is your duty, Mom! What would become of America if all the old ladies relied on public transport? The used car market would totter, and the economic consequences for the nation ~ indeed, for the entire world ~ would be dire.

Verily, what would become of American society if used car salesman could not tell their customers that cars had been driven by little old ladies to church on Sunday? Morals would teeter, and when the market tottered, we'd be in a fine fix!

If you're going to do this properly, you're going to have to get one of those Caddies the size of the Queen Mary, and lower the seat so you can just barely peer over the steering wheel. I know this is asking a lot of you, but as part of the War on Terrorism, sacrifices are called for. Just don't ask a Bush to go fight.