Friday, March 31, 2006

I feel very fortunate to live in Wulai where I can enjoy the beautiful scenery. But it goes beyond that. I have time to get out and ramble; I don't have to worry about bombs, landmines, or bandits; I have the stamina to romp over hill and stream.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

This afternoon I walked up Silogan and down the other side, coming back from Rahaw.

I can show you the view, but you can't hear the eagles above, the birds in the trees, the waterfall, or the stream, and you can't smell the blossoms, trees, soil, or grass.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Written March 29, 1971, in Saigon:
Two Koreans were driving by in a pickup as we got home. I heard a terrific whine, and turned around in time to see the driver stall it in the middle of Ng. M. Chieu (the street we lived on, Nguyen Minh Chieu in Phu Nhuan, Saigon). In the front of the facing column was a truck of MPs. The K started to rev it up, but he killed it. He got out of the car and started complaining in English about "You say, 'Korean go home.'...." The other Korean melted away. This man locked his car. The MP stopped him. MP took him to the side, K started crying dry, stagger, MP walks to jeep. K calls MP out. MP outweighs K by 125#, guns, and clubs. K walks away, leaving locked car in the middle of the street with parking lights on. We (soldiers and I) push car back out of way, lifting to get around lamppost. Saigon Police and QC come. K comes back, more sober. Where's my car? Over there. How'd it get there? We carried it over. Demolition team comes. No bomb. Korean gets in. Everybody scatters for cover. K peals down the street, narrowly missing lampposts and pedestrians.

Early this morning a water buffalo charged down Ng. M. Chieu pursued by a jeep. Soldiers in BEQ (a US military post on the street) ducked inside their gate for cover, locking comrade out.

The ARVN Defense Institute tour of Indonesia, five VN delegates stayed on in Indonesia for another two days, but neglected to see 3 star General and twenty other officers off at the Indonesian airport. *** General was so mad he couldn't eat. When the late five returned to Saigon, the *** ordered that the whole staff of the Defense Institute go to Tan Son Nhut airport to welcome them. A girl clerk was to present them with a bouquet of flowers. So this morning, thirty jeeps and bus roar up Cach Mang street to TSN to welcome the late officers.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yesterday I posted a photo of some marvelous creature racing across my living room. Firefly/黃麗螢 was the first to identify it as 蚰蜒 Scutigeromorpha, a house centipede:
you can read more about it here:
Hey, it eats cockroaches! Fortunately, I am far enough removed from other residences that I don't have those. But it's nice to know I've got a bodyguard just in case.

The little critter was making very good time across the floor. In The Variety of Life, Colin Tudge says, "a cheetah with the same ratio of speed to body length would break the sound barrier." Go gobble up those roaches, little buddy!

Thanks to Firefly, Tim, Angela, and Elliot for identification. And thanks to Francy for the suggestion that it is the offspring of a cockroach and a centipede.
PS: 蚰蜒,一ㄡ一ㄢboth二聲,又名蠼螋ㄐㄩㄝ二ㄙㄡ一,俗名錢龍、錢串子。Nice to meet you.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Most Americans probably know the children's joke:
A: What's red and black and has 14 pairs of legs?
B: I don't know, what?
A: I don't know either, but there's one crawling down your back.

I have no idea what this is, but it was crawling across my living room. It's red and black, has 14 pairs of legs, and measures about ten centimeters from front to back.

Can anyone identify it?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Abdul Rahman of Afghanistan is being prosecuted for converting to Christianity 16 years ago. He was arrested last month after his family, including his former wife and two teenage daughters, reported him to the police, who discovered him with a Bible.

Islamic comments are bizarre. "The Prophet Muhammad has said several times that those who convert from Islam should be killed if they refuse to come back," says Ansarullah Mawlafizada, the trial judge. "Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, kindness, and integrity." This could go in the dictionary as a definition of doublethink.

Here's a runner-up: "We will not let anyone interfere with our religious practices," declared cleric Inayatullah at Kabul's Pulakasthy mosque, one of the city's largest. "What Rahman has done is wrong and he must be punished." If it is not permissible to interfere with religious practices, why are they interfering with his religious practices? It is permissible to convert to Islam, but not permissible to convert from Islam. The Aljazeera website carried a convoluted explanation that it is not permissible to convert from Islam because Islam is right and everybody else is wrong. That's the gist of it. I practically strained my brain reading that one.

"What is wrong with Islam that he should want to convert?" asks an agitated Abdul Zahid Payman. "The courts should punish him and he should be put to death." A model of clarity and logic. Not to speak of compassion.

"Regardless of the court decision [whether or not he is hanged], there is unanimous agreement by all religious scholars from the north to the south, the east to the west of Afghanistan, that Abdul Rahman should be executed," Engineer Ahmad Shah Ahmad Zai told Asia Times Online on telephone from Kabul.

"We will not allow God to be humiliated," Abdul Raoulf, a member of the Ulama Council, Afghanistan's main clerical organization, told Associated Press. "We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left." IMHO, a god who is not humiliated by followers calling for the death of converts is not worthy of being called a god.

Days like this make me especially happy to be Buddhist. Amitabha!


不過也有精彩文句。第一篇「學而」怎麼翻?Hoe Urh. 很特別吧。我家附近有時候可以聽到野豬的叫聲,我現在才明白,原來它們在朗誦2004年最新翻譯的論語篇名:Hoe urh, hoe urh, hoe urh!

Saturday, March 25, 2006




逛了一個小時,只覺得疲勞眼花。誠品大概要跟101的Page One打對臺。坦白說,我認為Page One只是大、貴,以地點取勝。


Friday, March 24, 2006

I will now present you with scientific proof of the infallibility of democratic elections; that the election process winnows out the inept and selects the best and the brightest.

On the stock market, a fund manager who can beat the market by 3% is considered a star. However, on the average, US Senators beat the market by 12%. Remember that professional fund managers dedicate all their time and energies to the markets, and Senators have little time to spend on the market. This proves their superior powers.

This is a genuinely authentic scientific conclusion, reached by Georgia State University researchers. Makes you proud, doesn't it?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

This is something I wrote when I was 17, about a month after I had arrived in Viet Nam. My duty was to help deliver pizzas to US bases around the Viet Nam war zone. I'll explain that some other day. I should explain that driving through the rubber plantations was an eerie sensation, because they were so black within the rows, and because everybody knew the North Viet Namese Army regulars were in there. Here is what I wrote:
Yesterday I went out to Phuoc Vinh, a couple hours drive out of Saigon. It was kind of weird driving. You'd get into the country, and it'd be like you were on the lip of a huge saucer. It'd be flat to the horizon in all directions. Most of the time there wouldn't be a car in sight. Just shrubs on the horizon. These shrubs would eventually turn into villages, full of people (not crowds, really, but after the plains they seemed to be masses) then you’d hit the end of the village and suddenly you're on the lip of another saucer, and so on. We were riding along and I noticed a truck, US Army, on the edge of the road, looking rather sad, and a tank full of GIs over there by the road. Hi boys. Then some 15 minutes later, I saw that the lane about a kilometer in front of us had some barrels in it. By now, we were getting into the rubber plantation area – off a ways from the road, huge groves of rubber trees. As we neared the hole, it showed to be about 12 or 15 feet across, and circular. There were only a couple of feet on the side of undamaged road. We slipped by. The asphalt was all broken.
What's that? I asked the driver.
O really.
Yes. American (motion of cutting throat)
When was it?
Khi nao?
O, long time ago – before, beaucoup VC – long time.
How long before VC go blooey there?
So the driver meticulously inscribes on his palm: 10-3-71.
Great, two weeks ago. Not a car in sight. Nothing but the rubber trees, the road, and the hole.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006






Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Today Wulai was swallowed by thick fog that seemed to hold innumerable secrets. The birds and bugs were all silent, Tlahuy and Yumin spent the day sleeping in the doghouse, and wonder of wonders, the spa (泰雅達利) refrained from polluting the atmosphere with their vile junk music.

::the fog turned to rain at sundown, then the sky cleared to show a thousand bright stars. Then it rained again. I just love island weather!

Monday, March 20, 2006




Sunday, March 19, 2006

The other day I saw a really spiffy hat. It was a Tayal man's hat, tightly coiled rattan, with mountain goat (serow) horns on the front.

Now that is a hat! A hat with style and personality, culture and history. Each one is handmade from scratch, and there are not many who retain the ancient skills. A hat with flair, for sure.

In the city, some parents intentionally put their kiddies' caps on askew in a bumbling attempt at cuteness. Cuteness should be spontaneous, not a meticulously planned do-or-die saccharine overdose.

Personally, I don't care for baseball caps. A forage cap, fine; a baseball cap, ugh. For some reason, in recent days everywhere I go I have come across adolescent boys wearing baseball caps at a carefully adjusted angle. Didn't that sort of thing go out of style in the last century? Perhaps they are attempting to define the uniqueness of their personalities, if they can be said to have such. I wasn't carrying a protractor, but I would bet that each of these youths had his hat at almost exactly the same angle, with the bill centered over the outside edge of the right eyebrow. Blindly conforming to out-of-date styles, they may be hoping to show the world that they are Cool and Being Themselves, sort of the way aging American yuppies ride identical Harley hogs to show that they Did It My Way and do not follow the beaten path.

How can something as common as a baseball cap possibly suggest individuality?
picture from Lpgan Ke' na Tayal. Mhway!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Perhaps the most outrageous event in America of recent years is the protests Christians hold at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. The Christians gather to insult the bereaved family, shouting that they celebrate every time an American is killed in Iraq and that the dead soldiers go straight to hell, because god hates homosexuals. If that is not warped, is that is not sickening, then I do not know what is warped or sickening.

Suppose Christ really died on the cross for others' sins; suppose that these young Americans really died in Iraq for others' sins; that makes them at least as holy as Jesus Christ.

I am waiting for mainstream American churches to voice their outrage at these sick people dragging the bible through filth.

I hear nothing.

Friday, March 17, 2006

When it was discovered that many of the terrorists on September 11 had lived in the US, Americans asked, If they know us, why don't they love us?

For narrow minded bigots, familiarity breeds contempt. Furthermore, in the US, they may have seen the world's richest society frittering life away on television, cars, and malls while much of the world goes hungry; the adoration of drugs, sex, and violence; the mindless materialism in the world's most wasteful society.

Certainly nobody reading this will imagine this is meant to condone terrorism or say that that is all there is to America. But the United States is a society dedicated to the inflation of the ego, and we have to understand that we are not idolized by everybody, and why.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

qabu ru gbubu
Traditionally Tayal men wore hats made out of tightly coiled rattan. The hats leaked, so in October and November, they collected the fruit of the qabu tree (野柿, wild persimmon) before it was fully ripe. They mashed the fruit and let it ferment (rot, if you prefer). After a few weeks, they worked the goo into the hat, waterproofing it and producing a beautiful reddish brown color.

When the men were home, they left their hats on the rack over the cooking fire to smoke. When they went to the plains to deal with the Chinese, buying rice, salt, and other necessities, the hat was their measure.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006



Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Monday, March 13, 2006







Sunday, March 12, 2006



Saturday, March 11, 2006

Raran ga, ciboq ta la, ini baqi mguy, ini baqi mxan~小時候,不知道甚麼是累,不知道甚麼是痛。那時Tali Watan種柳丁,我們趁他不在的時候去偷,二三十個小孩子一起去偷,他知道是誰,可是沒辦法抓,頂多到家來向父母抱怨,只有這個辦法,可是沒用。然後我們到tlahuy sulu ngasan su,你家後面那個坡不是很陡嗎?我們到上面,爬竹子,然後往下跳,抓下一個,再彈去抓下一個。桂竹彈性很好,我們就跳、跳、跳。

Tnaq yabic bi. 你們是不是學飛鼠那樣跳?

Aw, 就是這樣在竹子頂端跳。小孩子可以,大人太重。Ini usu liquy。



Aw, Yulaw, snhyun gu isu! Raran ga, 大概二十幾年前,musa ku rgyax 中部 mosay, tring Musya 進去那條路,baq su ga?我聽到很多小孩在笑,好像玩得很興奮。結果,我看到有一棵樹長在山坡上,那棵特別高。它最外面的樹枝上有wasin或爬藤,我看不清楚,七八個小孩抓著爬藤盪出去,好像盪鞦韆一樣~~那個坡很陡,他們盪到最高的地方,離地少說有一百公尺,萬一爬藤斷,他們再往外甩,也有兩百公尺的高度。我看了傻眼。光看到會怕。


Friday, March 10, 2006

bullcacky… make that, bushcacky
At the National Newspaper Association, Bush just said, "Democracies don't war." That's so nice to know. Now will someone explain to me what is going on in Afghanistan and Iraq?
The other day I received a catalog from a book seller in England. The catalog was printed in Italy and mailed from Sweden to this American bookaholic in Taiwan. Last year I bought a book from them; the credit card company (wherever they are) debited my Taiwan dollar account for so many euros, and the book was shipped to me from a warehouse in Belgium. Now I would like to ask, where do the concepts of state and sovereignty fit into our modern world?

On September 11, terrorists from several nations proved that you don't need a state to wage war, leading Bush to frantically rush about seeking somebody to attack. He chose Iraq, because it's a family tradition to invade Iraq for oil, but he could just as well have chosen Yemen or Botswana. I personally still think he should have invaded Canada; they had as much to do with 9/11 as Iraq, they're a lot closer and more convenient, and it would be easy to train our troops to speak Canadian ("All right, everybody, repeat after me: 'eh?'") The only obstacle being that attack Canada doesn't rhyme as well as attack Iraq.

The modern state is simply that: it is modern in a post-modern world, and it is a state, not an immutable entity ordained by god. I believe that the concept of the modern state no longer fits the realities of a world in which many companies have larger budgets than many countries; when cell phones, faxes, and the internet stride across borders; when everybody's environment is peppered with people bearing a spectrum of passports; when – I'm not going to give any more examples, just look at the world today and tell me how hidebound concepts of statehood benefit anybody. This is especially important for Taiwan. A serious problem here, which is becoming a threat to Taiwan's status quo, is that political leaders have never updated their thinking past about 1955. All references are to a mythical society in never-never land; political strategies are designed for conditions which they imagine existed in about 1920, and 1920 looks better and better with every passing year. Much time and energy are wasted hashing over conditions that may or may not have existed generations ago. If the Taiwan business community's heads were filled with as much bilge as the administration's, most of the population would still be plodding barefoot through rice paddies, staring at a water buffalo's tail. If the leaders here don't open their eyes and look at the 21st century, they are in for a very rude awakening.

Sometimes you have to shut your mouth before you can open your eyes.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Wednesday, March 08, 2006




很多老百姓儍愣愣的,完全不懂世局:幾年前中共為了甚麼事情(我忘了)火大了,看似解放軍快要出動收臺灣,局面非常緊張。臺灣的老百姓如何處置此千鈞一髮的危機?…大家都在排隊買Hello Kitty最新商品,沒有意識到刀口已經在脖子上。

那次僥倖沒死。現在還有人以為美國永遠會來救。以前是看在蔣公、民主、文革的分上;現在美國如果再出軍,不是把軍隊陷到伊朗,便是去救蘇丹。但事實上,軍隊黏著于伊拉克泥淖裡,無力往它處發威,Bush再想黷武,也不敢卯上解放軍。尤其在,Bush總統已經公開說陳水扁是son of a b|||ch{王(2x4)蛋}。





Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Monday, March 06, 2006




Sunday, March 05, 2006

Who says Republicans are dumb?

One Republican Vice president was a lawyer named Quayle. Today's Republican Vice President shoots a lawyer instead of a quail.

Okay, now I'll try to stop the Cheney jokes. but it's difficult.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Different Strokes for Different Folks
Women must be smarter than men: you rarely see women fishing. Women rarely spend fistfuls of bills for expensive equipment and spend hours and hours to try to outwit a fish you could buy for a couple coins – a fish! This may come as a surprise to you, but fish are not high up on the intelligence ladder. Higher than snails, granted, but hardly challenging when matching wits.

But there are benefits to fishing – not for the fish, but who cares about them? Fishing provides busy city people with much needed relaxation, and generally entails getting out of the city, walking to the stream, seeing some trees, and breathing some fresh air while you smoke. Of course birding provides all those benefits, plus you have to use your eyes and your brain, and you don't pollute streams with lost lead sinkers. Or kill anybody.

All the benefits and challenges of fishing evaporate at those square cement fishing ponds. What can be the joy of sitting by an ugly cement pond where you know there are fish waiting to be caught? I used to think that that was the ultimate in a futile waste of time. Then one day I passed one of those hideous ponds and saw spectators outside! There were actually people who could find nothing better to do with their lives than stand by the road watching somebody fishing in an esthetically disastrous cement pond.

My mind boggled. Something had to be done! I steeled my will! I resolved to go to a pond and WATCH THOSE PEOPLE WATCHING the people fishing at an ugly cement fish pond.

Before I could put my dramatic plan into action, Balahu bested me. She said that when I go to watch those people watching people fishing at an ugly cement fish pond she will come to watch me watching them watching them fishing. I am floored in utter admiration: genius!

But then I discovered that we lag behind the United States. In the United States, they have entire television channels that show nothing but programs of people fishing. You can sit in your own living room, on your own sofa, and watch somebody standing by a stream proving that he is smarter than a fish. See how advanced they are there? No wonder the US won the Cold War! How could the Soviets compete with a country that televises a man standing practically motionless with a fishing pole in one hand and a can of beer in the other?

Of course, people have different ideas about what's fun. I think sparring is great fun, but I understand it scares some people. Even I don't go as far as my old friend Ruben. His idea of having a good time on Saturday night was squaring off with a buddy and taking turns kicking each other in the stomach. ("It's good for you! And it doesn't hurt too much, the first twenty or thirty kicks! Especially if you take off your shoes!") Given a choice between watching a professional basketball game and spending the same amount of time playing mahjong, I believe I would drink rat poison, but some people seem to enjoy them (the games, not the poison). In my opinion, one of the greatest joys of life is working out a difficult composition by Bach or Telemann on the recorder, but I know this is not for everybody.

Fun is subjective. So is beauty: pigs think pigs are beautiful. Not everyone may agree with me when I say that Taiwan is one of the earth's most beautiful places (at least, the parts that aren't covered with tombs, developments, or factories, or the government hasn't built roads across or tried to improve the scenery), and that Wulai is one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan. But this is what I believe.

Come visit these beautiful mountains before more useless roads are built to destroy the ecosystem, and before the local authorities beautify the environment further. People from all over the world are astonished at the ugliness of the statues and sculptures with which the authorities degrade the esthetic environment of Wulai.

I have lived here for nine years now, and every day I marvel at the never ending play of sunlight, cloud, and wind on mountain, jungle, sky, and stream.

From time to time as afternoon fades into dusk, a flock of about a hundred egrets flies up and down the valley. I don't know why they do this. The flight is one of the most beautiful sights to be seen. The flock stretches out, closes up, extends into a line, wheels, groups, spins, races south, races north, rushes straight up, whirls, and flies off towards the waterfall. Depending on their height and angle, the white flock may suddenly disappear against the cloudy sky; turning this way makes them appear larger, rolling that way changes them into dots. I have no idea why they do this or how they coordinate their movements. It is worth dropping everything to watch.

One beautiful afternoon I stood enraptured as the flock engaged in its airobics (pun protected by copyright). The beauty of the scene was marred by the muffled sound of some cretin sightseer closeted in the conference room at the spa downhill, singing vulgar karaoke noise at the top of his lungs. Maybe he even had one of those karaoke televisions where you can look at scenery on the screen as you pollute your surroundings. God forbid that he stop that wretched caterwauling, look outside, and see the beauty of the world. It might make him human again.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Thursday, March 02, 2006

我說,「But if you were my son, you'd be able to speak English, wouldn't you?」
我說,「You mean you've forgotten how to speak English?」
我說,「Yes, that's a good idea, I think I will. A nice hot shower on a cold day sounds great. Thanks for the suggestion.」

Wednesday, March 01, 2006