Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Story of my Life
(I wrote this in March 2001, a memory of something I had forgotten about years and years ago....)
When I was in the sixth grade, our Math teacher, Miss McCormack, called Mark Wheeler (another boy in our class) and me aside and read Plato with us a couple hours a week. This immediately became my favorite part of school, something I could really bite into (American schools are not challenging).

A day before seventh grade started, I happened across a translation of the Analects/論語. I was fascinated. I wanted to learn all about it, but had too little background. What was the big deal about the kingdom of Lu魯? I searched all of the school's encyclopedias, but found nothing. The translation was just that: the words put into English with no explanation or commentary. Delighted though I was, it was too far away for me to grasp. I could find no-one who even remotely cared, so my enthusiasm flagged and eventually went dormant.
(Have I ever mentioned how much I have learned from the Analects since I learned Chinese?)

In the sixth grade, I was working hard on art and writing then, but nothing I did pleased my teacher. I was enthralled by my discovery of noses and lips, and how to draw the face quarter view, but my work received at best tepid response. The only drawing that ever got hung up for display was a self-portrait – all lips and nose – but that was for Open House, and everybody's self-portrait was hung up. I tried especially hard on Composition. The grades I received were not encouraging. We were assigned to write up the Grand Canyon. This time I wrote what the teacher wanted to read, really horrible tripe. I almost gagged. I remember one particularly meretricious sentence about a spider climbing a Canyon wall in the rays of the setting sun. For this composition, I received a very large red A+. My composition was posted at the top of the Honor Board.

I have never really cared very much about good marks since.

maybe that is why I don't have a career... oh well.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A friend gave me a great new pillow, made of a solid log of 肖楠 Taiwan Incense Cedar. It smells fantastic.
My only regret is that I didn't have one of these
when I was a kid;
I would have been the king of all pillow fights!



Saturday, December 27, 2008

從前,我在香港買了一罐祁門紅茶;這種茶在臺灣不常見,我回來就把精緻的鐵罐子擺在茶葉架最上面的正中央。過幾天,一個朋友來,看了一眼,很驚奇地說,「哇,你看,邪門紅茶!」

Friday, December 26, 2008

Told to me by a taxi driver:
Yugan, did you ever hear about the NT$30,000 taxi ride?

No, what was that?

A while back, one of the drivers in our association picked up a drunk. When he stopped at a red light, the drunk gave him a thousand NT note and said, "Driver, let me give you this first, this is my fare, make change for me when we arrive." The driver said Okay and took the bill. note: A local taxi ride usually costs around one hundred NT. A thousand NT is about thirty dollars US.

He hit the next red light, too, and when he stopped, the drunk gave him another thousand NT note and said, "Driver, let me give you this first, this is my fare, make change for me when we arrive." The driver said Okay and took the bill.

When he hit the third light and got a third bill, he knew he was on to something good, so he started timing his pace to hit all the red lights he could. By the time he got the drunk to his destination, he had collected thirty thousand NT (about US$900). He let the drunk out of the taxi and roared out of there before the guy could come to his wits. Then he got on the phone and called all his friends, and they had a big feast on that thirty thousand. They ate and drank it all up, so everybody was happy.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

We got back from class around 11:30 tonight. Yumin and Byajing came rushing down to greet us, as usual. Tlahuy stayed at the top of the stairs and barked for us. When we got to the top of the stairs and were coming in, suddenly Yumin started barking at the side of the path.

"Funny," I told Sabiy, "That's his snake bark. It's a bit cool for a snake." I came in and got a light to go examine, and sure enough, Yumin was barking down the tail of a qimbahu / 龜殼花 / pointed-scaled pit viper / protobothrops mucrosquamatus. Although the qimbahu is poisonous and noted for being aggressive, we get along well with the ones around here – from a distance.

This one seemed to be most interested in finding some warm place to huddle up, away from that barking beagle. I checked the temperature; 11.5C, the coldest temperature I have ever seen a snake at. The previous record was 12C. Still quite cold for a snake.

Happy constitution day, Qimbahu!

If you look carefully, you can see the snake's tail, moving diagonally to the upper right of the photo. Yumin is easy to spot.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

overheard in 新店捷運站 the Taipei Subway

二十幾歲女子:「我不知道到台北車站到底要在哪一站下。」

20 something lady: “I don’t know which stop to get off for Taipei Main Station.”

Hint: Taipei Main Station is – could you guess? – the main station for the subway and trains.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I get all the English as a Second Language teaching material I need from Overheard in New York:
Lesson 427. Repeat and memorize this conversation:

Like Totally Lucky or Just, Like, Lucky?
Blonde #1: Oh my god, how was your date last night?
Blonde #2: Like oh my god, we hooked up!
Blonde #1: Really?
Blonde #2: Like we totally hooked up...well, we didn't like hook up, hook up, but we definitely like hooked up!
Blonde #1 (in awe): Like oh my god, you're so lucky.

--Q17 Bus

Overheard by: My IQ lowered listening to this...
via Overheard in New York, Dec 15, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

今天冬至。不知誰人下午在烏來停車場舉辦聖誕會,遠遠傳出震耳欲聾的搖滾樂。歌手一直尖叫,音樂無創意,只是大聲、浮躁。聖誕會顯然毫無宗教意味;我也很難想像狂吼是慶祝「救世主」誕生的適當方法。若不是教徒,為甚麼要慶祝聖誕?這種表演與莊嚴肅穆的「平安夜」的關係何在?這種聖誕會沒有意義,徒增噪音污染、白損山林安寧。

人生苦短,不想浪費生命作沒有意義的事。

不寫了,喫湯圓去也。

Friday, December 19, 2008

Heel to the Chief
My old friend 803 says, "I am taking up a collection of shoes to send to Iraq. Old shoes, new shoes, and especially construction boots with the steel sole plates. Anyone what to contribute?"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A couple of days ago, I found a nice large "River 7" fruit near some trees not far from here. That's a vine that grows a lot around here, since I planted them 12 years ago. (I have recently figured out the nomenclature: what in an earlier post I called 田七 is more properly 川七 or even 三七). The leaves and fruits are edible, and very good for you. I was a bit surprised to find this fruit, because there was no River 7 growing there, but I brought it back, and sliced it up for lunch today. The texture was firmer than usual, too, and the skin seemed a bit different.

When we sat down to eat our noodles, at my first bite, my tongue felt like it had been pierced by needles, and my throat burned. I told Chao, and she said, "Me too." I told her to spit out her food, and we raced to the sink to wash out our mouths and gargle with salt water. Our tongues, mouths, and throats burned very painfully. Guess what? That strange River 7 fruit was not a River 7 fruit. No wonder it seemed strange. I had picked up something else. Ooops. We were lucky that it hurt immediately, rather than poisoning us after it reached our stomachs. Also, aside from a bit of constricted breathing, we were okay. But that spoiled our lunch.

Yeah, poisoning yourself will spoil your lunch, won't it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our roof needs work, so today we had bamboo scaffolding put up for the protection of the roofers. Three workmen came and very efficiently constructed it.
It's always interesting to watch people doing something they do well.
So interesting, in fact, that Yumin lay down in the doghouse to watch from there.

Monday, December 15, 2008

If there are any people out there who can't reconcile yourselves to the idea of a President whose ancestry does not hail from the British Isles, here is a way to console yourself. Tell yourself that Barack is an alternative pronunciation of Patrick, and that the election was won by an Irishman, Paddy O'Bama.

Then try to join the human race.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Today marked the largest gathering of Serbs ever held in Wulai. Every known person of Serbian blood in Taiwan attended:
both of us.
Hurrah!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Today we preach equality of the sexes. All very well and good, but how far should that go?

Equal pay for equal work is a no-brainer. But something that makes no sense to me is equal toilets. There are always long lines for the women's toilets, and room to spare in the men's. If women need toilets more often than men, larger facilities should be provided for them. I don't understand why men's and women's toilets are always made the same size. Equality need go only so far.

Isn't it wonderful, the things I find to occupy my time thinking about?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sound thinking
"I've left messages," Ebie answered, "but you never called back."

"Probably had nothing to say," said Mrs Vane. "I see no reason for using a telephone just because there's one handy."
~ Dawn Powell, Angels on Toast (1940)

Monday, December 08, 2008

On August 23, 1958, the Communist Chinese opened fire on a small island off 廈門 Hsiamen / Xiamen / Amoy called the Golden Gate 金門 Chinmen / Kinmen / Jinmen / Quemoy in an effort to dislodge the KMT / Nationalist soldiers holding the island. The bombardment continued for 44 days and caused global hysterics. The PRC fired around 450,000 shells at the island, where local blacksmiths industriously picked up the spent shells and set to work making knives. Their kitchen cleavers became famous. My kitchen knife is made of bombshell steel by Maestro Wu, and is an excellent knife, IMHO, better than Japanese or German knives. The folding knife I daily wear clipped to my waist was also made by Wu, also out of bombshell steel. What is more unusual is that I was lucky enough to buy a hatchet he made, the head of bombshell steel attached to a length of rebar. Wu has made only a few of these. This is a very good hatchet, so I use it a lot / frequently / a great deal.

Or rather, used it a lot. Some time back it inexplicably disappeared. I searched high and low, but couldn't find my bombshell hatchet. Until last week when, taking advantage of good weather, I went out to trim some trees, and found the hatchet lodged in a tree where I had forgotten it when I was working out there earlier this year. The hatchet has been outdoors for the better part of a year in our rainy climate, and withstood all the typhoons the season brought, but although it is a bit rusty, it is still sharp.

Every cloud has a silver lining, or maybe you could say, even some good can come of a bombardment.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


This building, located in downtown Taipei 徐州路靠近中山南路, now houses the National Taiwan University Medical Center’s School of Nursing. Previously it was the Language Center: 語言中心,今語言訓練測驗中心; I worked in this building for five years, beginning in 1976.

In those days, before the hospital had been expanded, there was a pleasant lawn in back of the building, with trees and walkways. On the roof was a restaurant of appalling hygiene, even for the standards of the day. In your soup you might find a cockroach neatly cut in half. Hamburgers were guaranteed to cause heartburn in anyone who dared to try one. Ah, the memories!

What makes this building noteworthy is, it is one of the last buildings still standing in Taipei that was put up by USAID美援. If I remember correctly, it was built in the 1960s.

During the regime of President Chen, apparently efforts were made to erase evidence of USAID, perhaps because Taiwan was able to develop in large part because of the assistance given by USAID, and the credit for securing that help lies mostly with Madame Chiang Kai Shek.

It is good to see that although the rest of the hospital has been expanded and rebuilt beyond recognition, this building is still standing and in daily use.



Friday, December 05, 2008

臺北小市民生活歷史綴筆,水果篇

舊臺北火車站與省博物館正居一直線,就是館前路。車站與忠孝西路中間有圓噴水池,沿忠孝西路等公車的路邊有很多人賣東西,幾乎都是吃的:現榨甘蔗汁、柳丁汁、OK糕(略音,不知怎寫:炸芋頭糕)、鳳爪、雞腿、山東大餅、花生;我想大概很不衛生,可是很好吃。還有些農婦打扮的太太,腳踏車靠欄柵,叫賣水果。若買水果,她們一定問,要不要禮盒?如果讓她們裝禮盒送人的話,到時候一定發現被掉包;打開來可能看不出來,可是每一顆水果削皮,每一顆是爛的。

被騙了幾次,跟同學抱怨,反被同學笑:只有傻瓜才跟車站前的太太買水果,她們一定掉包,眾所周知。哈哈哈。

Monday, December 01, 2008

somebody up there likes us
When Chao and I came out of the 臺大醫院subway station,
we saw that the heavens were smiling down on us.



Sunday, November 30, 2008

中正紀念堂前一小撮人聽演講,演講人聽起來敷衍了事。旁邊很多標語寫大字:PEACE,也有英文標語Blast violenceFight for rights,還有「修改遊行法」。很奇怪,又說反對暴力,可是用詞:blast, fight,充滿著暴力,而一旁又說PEACE
演講人坐著,姿態散漫,演講內容也不緊湊,重複一個重點:「民主要法制,要守法。」一旁標語說要修改遊行法。換言之,別人必須守法,臺上大爺不喜歡的法律,怎還不快快修改呢?臺上大爺說peace,意思是你們要和平,可是自身內心的不平衡,必須發洩。

除了那幾個人,場外沒人理他們;其實,這樣就對了。

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Here is a story told me years ago by Teacher Lu 國語啟蒙老師,路國棟老師. I'm not sure if this will come across, but let me give it a try.

Once a village was being terrorized by a demon. Crops withered, animals died, children had nightmares, old people got sick. Finally, the villagers sent a delegation to a Buddhist temple for help. The abbot smiled and said, "No problem, I'll send someone to take care of it later today." The villagers went home in great anticipation, expecting a spectacular battle between the demon and a detail of monks with bells and gongs and other dharma instruments. To their surprise, at dusk, a lone monk appeared, and he was only about 8 years old. He carried nothing but a bag slung over his shoulder, but he seemed confident and unafraid. He told the villagers to stand aside, and walked with a firm step to the village shrine, which had been taken over by the demon. He pushed open the door and entered. Moments later, such a piercing, unearthly shriek was heard that everybody's hair stood on end. The demon rushed out of the shrine and raced away from the village as fast as he could go. The little monk came out with a small smile on his face. The villagers surrounded him. "Little Dharma Master, how did you chase away the demon?" "Simple," he said, "I just reached into my bag and got out my Donations book."

從前一個村子鬧鬼,非常嚴重。五穀欠登、畜牲病死、孩提夜夜夢魘、老人害病。村民到佛寺求救。方丈笑笑說,「請施主放心,我就派人去處理。」村民回去,認為一定要天兵天將大打一番,一定會派一群高僧帶著木魚引罄金鋼杵來除夭。沒想到,黃昏來了一個驅烏小沙彌,才八歲而已,手上也沒法器,只背個裲襠。可是小沙彌一點也不畏懼,叫村民站一邊,信步走到厲鬼霸佔的宗祠,把門推開了,走了進去。不到幾何功夫,宗祠傳出一聲令人毛骨悚然的尖叫,只看厲鬼荒張往村外跑,一溜煙,不見了。小沙彌出來,臉帶微笑。村民問,「請問小法師用甚麼高招妙法降魔呢?」小沙彌說,「易耳,我從裲襠拿出化緣簿來了。」

Monday, November 24, 2008


Those who wish to write about the weather in Wulai are well advised to write quickly. Bright sun yesterday morning, followed by a rainy afternoon, a starry night, and steady rain this morning. Whee. That's Taiwan, and especially, that's Wulai.

Friday, November 21, 2008

This blog is temporarily running behind schedule as I race to crank out teaching material for a new course I'm teaching, 聽力無礙.

Since you have so much extra time that you don't have to spend on this blog, I would like to introduce you to a wonderful site (thanks, Abe, for telling me about this): Free Rice. For every English vocabulary word you get right, sponsors donate 20 grains of rice to needy people. You can choose your level of vocabulary, or answer questions in math, geography, or other topics.

Tomorrow reserve a moment to remember JFK, who was assassinated on this day in 1962.

I expect to get my head above water by next Thursday. In the meantime, go play with free rice. And please remember to click on The Hunger Site every day!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Here's a true story that my father loved to tell.

It seems that in the 1930s, ads appeared in many national publications for a guaranteed bug killer. The device was not cheap, but the ad proclaimed that if applied properly, a 100% success rate was guaranteed. Times were tough, but a lot of people shelled out their hard-earned cash and mailed off for this amazing device. (I vaguely recall that the price was $5, no mean sum in those days.)

What they got was two wooden blocks and an instruction sheet.
One block said BLOCK A and the other said BLOCK B. The instructions said, "Place bug on BLOCK A. Hit with BLOCK B."

The suckers sued, but the courts decided that no laws had been broken. The ad said that the device had to be applied properly, and if you couldn't get the bug to sit on Block A long enough to hit it with Block B, well sorry that was your own problem.

The inventor laughed all the way to the bank.

Friday, November 14, 2008


從前,土城承天禪寺某甲比丘跟廣欽老和尚說,「我的我執太重。請師父幫我消我執。」廣老應允了。

不料過幾天後在大殿上,老和尚大發雷霆,說比丘某甲上山這麼久都沒有進益,吃十方也需要用功,而比丘某甲卻尸位素餐,怎對得起諸佛菩薩、龍天護法?老和尚罵了一頓,大眾愕然,比丘某甲愣住了。

過了一回,比丘某甲行囊裹好了到方丈室情辭,沒想到,老和尚很和藹問,「你為甚麼要下山?」

比丘某甲回,「師父在大殿上罵人,我沒面子見大眾。」

老和尚問,「你不是要我幫你消我執嗎?」

Thursday, November 13, 2008

If you haven't been eating your veggies, consider this: President George HW Bush, the father, is a junk food junky. He eats chocolate bars with breakfast, and is addicted to pork rinds. One policy he always stood firm on was broccoli. He banned if from Air Force One, because he claimed, "It tastes like medicine." This did not go over very well with broccoli growers, who unloaded ten tons of broccoli on the White House steps. Bush's response: "Wait till the country hears how I feel about cauliflower!" He also announced that he hates carrots, calling them "orange broccoli."

If that's not a good reason to swear off junk food and become a vegetarian, please give me a better one. Just think what your son might be like!


Important link: click here::
Yes, I eat broccoli. I don't eat it every day,
but once a week is ok."
- Governor Jesse Ventura

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Overseas readers may have noticed the news that ex president Chen was led off in handcuffs yesterday, crying out that he is a political prisoner. Reasonable readers (the only kind this blog has, I trust) will observe the difference between political persecution and being charged for corruption, which has been a cloud over Chen since he was Mayor of Taipei.

Before you get overcome with sympathy for Chen, note that a poll of over ten thousand people in Taiwan showed 98% "happy" that he is incarcerated. While he was handcuffed, Chen suddenly collapsed and accused the police of beating him. Commentators point out that at the time of the alleged beating, he was surrounded by reporters and onlookers, being filmed by dozens of cameras; not one showed the least sign of any maltreatment, and nobody on the scene saw anything untoward. Maybe Chen thinks that since he supposes everybody believed his ludicrous assassination attempt, they should believe that the police beat him without touching him.

For all his squawking about democracy, Chen fails to realize two points. First, his party has been thoroughly trounced in recent elections; the people's voice is the voice of democracy, not his. Second, the simple fact that an ex-president is in handcuffs, standing at the top of a long list of accusations which will be dealt with by the courts according to legal process, is proof that democracy based on the rule of law is working.

To give an idea of the mood: last month the tycoon 王永慶 Y C Wang died at the age of 91. A shopkeeper in 大稻埕 the most conservative part of northern Taiwan, typically a die-hard bastion of Chen's DPP and hard core Taiwan Independence, was overheard bitterly lamenting, "The wrong person died! Look how much Y C Wang did for Taiwan! Sure he made a fortune, but he helped us all, and now he's dead. We put Chen Shuibian in office and all he did was steal our money. Why couldn't he have died instead of Wang?"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama's election promises a new day for the United States. However, now is not the time to be complacent. Danger still lurks, and vigilance is necessary. In his last days in office, Bush is working hard to destroy the ecosystem. He is trying to allow power plants to operate near national parks, to remove wolves from the Endangered Species List, to loosen regulations for factory farm waste, and to make mountaintop coal-mining operations easier to set up. He wants these regulations put into effect before he leaves office on January 20, in which case they will be hard for President Obama to undo.

I have a friend who swears that Bush is the Manchurian Candidate. Could be. It certainly seems that he has done his utmost to undermine the strength of the US. Good bye, sir, don't call us, we'll call youuuuuuu.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I am reading an exceptionally good thriller, The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva. Israeli intelligence works to thwart an extremist Muslim plot to overthrow the United States.

You may have heard the expression, Be careful what you wish for. Extremist Muslims plot to overthrow the United States; if you ask me, they are out of their minds. Nature abhors a vacuum; humanity abhors a power vacuum. In the highly unlikely event that anybody did manage to overthrow the United States, China would be the world's superpower. Speaking as an inveterate Sinophile, I have to say that if the Arabs displeased the Chinese enough to bring Chinese brawn and methods to deal with them, any surviving Muslim extremists would carry photos of George Dubya Bush in their wallets, to gaze at fondly and kiss lovingly. Riling Uncle Sam is not the same as riling Dragon Hua.

Be that as it may, the extremists probably do not really want the overthrow of the US or Israel, because, as Silva points out, the US and Israel provide wonderful scapegoats and whipping boys. If the US and Israel disappeared tomorrow, fundamentalists might have to face themselves and deal with their own shortcomings; far easier to blow yourself up with explosives!

And the fundamentalists need not bother trying to overthrow the US. The US will overthrow its own might through the offices of fast food, tobacco, guns, liquor, and dope.

Friday, November 07, 2008

我以前認識一對夫妻很奇怪,天天吵架,吵的很凶,常鬧到附近的景美派出所,兩個女兒恨不得早一點離開父母的戰場,草草嫁人去了。我不懂他們為甚麼不乾脆離婚了事?兩個都已經退休了,幾十年來不好好過生活,卻在忿怒中過日子。對誰都沒有好處。不懂,他們這是甚麼型態的愛?

後來我想,他們的關係一絲一毫的「愛」也沒有,純粹是「佔有慾」:這個東西我不珍惜,可是因為是我的,所以我寧可糟蹋它、寧可糟蹋我自己,可是我就是不放手,因為我佔有它。就如一些心理不健全的人,與對象關係不好,因為心裡沒有愛所以不能祝福她、希望他另找個美好歸宿,反而潑硫酸,寧可毀掉她,不容許他過快樂的生活。這,不能說是健康的情緒,更何況,連「愛」的邊緣也談不上。

最近有人說「愛臺灣」,我覺得他們只有佔有慾,心裡沒有愛;寧可局限臺灣的發展、甚至寧可斷送臺灣的繁榮,可是不能祝福臺灣快樂自在。

如果說愛一個地方,照理應該疼惜這個地方養育的人;可是有人說是為了「悍衛臺灣」所以要打臺灣的警察;難道臺灣的警察不是吃著臺灣的米、喝著臺灣的水長大的嗎?難道臺灣的警察沒有父母嗎?

這群人,IMHO,思想已經錯亂。為了「愛」臺灣打我們的警察、擾亂社會的秩序、窒礙市民的交通,到底受苦的是誰?還不是臺灣的人民!看倌或許沒看到現場,剛好我在臺北,「抗議」人群平均年齡大概六、七十,都是從中南部免費坐遊覽車來玩,送便當吃、還有T shirt、帽子可以領;只有一小群人鬧事,場外民眾盡量不理他們;少數一群人,發洩心中無法平衡的矛盾,我們納稅人要為他們埋單,我看不出他們對臺灣有甚麼好處。說反共,很好,那麼反共義士頭一號大英雄不是蔣中正是誰?說悍衛臺灣,很好,那麼悍衛臺灣頭一號大英雄不是蔣中正是誰?搖國旗的是他們、升五星旗的也是他們。一波又一波自打嘴巴聲響起。

我個人認為,民主的基礎是法制;國民有義務守法,法律之下,每一個人平等,沒有特權。可是聽說一位臺獨立委說,如果「圍陳」有事,他負責。這種說法完全藐視民主法制、徹底違反民主精神。

臺灣民主不能進步,「圍陳」的人數雖然很少,可是要負很大的責任。我剛收到一個右派美國朋友的email,他說,「我們落選了。好了,事情過去了,現在大家要全力支持我們的新總統。」街頭鬧事的人沒有這種民主素養。

陳雲林為甚麼要來臺灣?還不是因為陳水扁執政八年,沒有確立臺灣獨立的基礎,反而讓鄰近國家看不起;如果陳總統八年誠心努力為臺灣好,團結、外交、教育、經濟不要說進步,若能維持原有的水平,臺灣的立場就堅定,說話很大聲。現在只有街頭亂吼的那少數幾個人大聲,可是這個聲音,在世界上,實在太薄弱。二十多年前,民進黨本來就以「暴力團體」聞名,所以當時很多人叫他們「氓進黨」。但其實,說「悍衛臺灣」,大概隨便說說算了,因為他們聽警察局長泣求和平,知道警察應該不會還手。如果臺灣被他們搞亂了,人民解放軍來了,他們大概跑的比誰都快。不要說解放軍,遇上美國警察的話也鐵定不敢這樣鬧;可是臺灣警察比較文明,所以才敢這樣撒野:我們愛臺灣所以要打臺灣人!加上,聽說陳雲林要簽的四項協議,民進黨也贊成,那麼何必鬧?簡直是思想錯亂。

如果真的愛臺灣,應該付諸行動:增強臺灣的團結、復興臺灣的教育、確保人民的健康、促進生態的完善、恢復經濟的強勢。這樣作,若心有餘力,也不妨請陳總統把公帑還給人民也不錯。總勝在街頭打人。

Thursday, November 06, 2008

classic
Angry suit: When is this flight going to take off? I have a very important meeting to get to!
Flight attendant: The incoming plane is delayed, sir, there's nothing we can do at the moment.
Angry suit: Well, are you going to make arrangements for me to get on another flight? This is urgent! Do you know who I am?
Flight attendant (over loudspeaker): Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, there is a gentleman at the desk who does not know who he is. If anyone has any information about his identity, please come forward.
Overheard in Midway Airport, Chicago
From Overheard Everywhere, Nov 2, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A glorious day for the United States! The country has finally managed to get past gullibly ignorance and fear, and move towards hope and ideals. Again we have a president we can look up to and admire.

IMHO, I found nothing admirable about Dubya. Nothing. Clinton was a good president, but he was not admirable. Father Bush, cipher. Reagan, the tobacco industry’s actor (see endorsement in Monday’s post). Carter the peanut farmer. Nix on Nixon, nobody admires Nixon, not even the “new” Nixon. LBJ was a good president. He inherited a war he probably didn’t want and did as best he could. More important, he worked for civil rights and against poverty. Kennedy was a president to admire. Over 40 years.

But even forty years, we are lucky. I never thought I would live to see an African-American President.

宣佈Obama當選,他馬上讚美McCain,說他是民族英雄;McCain宣佈落選,馬上讚美Obama,說大家要一心一意效忠新總統,是大家的總統。相比之下,臺灣要民主,還有很長的一段路要走。不要講甚麼民主的火炬、不要說甚麼影子政府(然後跑去推銷證券)。應該學習尊重選民的決擇;換句話說,不要喊空洞的口號謀自己的利益,要學習民主。

Roger Cohen put it very succinctly: Beyond Iraq, beyond the economy, beyond health care, there was something even more fundamental at stake in this U.S. election won by Barack Obama: the self-respect of the American people.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

如果我是藍色系的人,陳雲林來臺,我會希望臺獨派人好好鬧:如此可以向中共說,看吧,我們中華民國有這些人在,我們的立場必須額外謹慎,你們該讓讓步吧。

如果我是中共的人,陳雲林來臺,我會希望臺獨派人好好鬧:如此可以向世界說,看吧,這些人不講理、不尊重使節,臺灣很亂,能不用重典嗎?

在朋友家看到電視新聞報導一位臺獨派人想闖進圓山大飯店,被警察抓住;我不免想一想,如果在美國、歐洲示威民眾這樣突闖,早已被警察打成肉醬。臺灣還是很文明。
臺獨派人若誠想為臺灣好,大不如花那時間捐血去吧。

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tomorrow is the big day, the day that if enough American voters have sense, the US will elect its first African-American president, a vote for toleration and hope conquering racism.

An interesting site is
www.iftheworldcouldvote.com providing a place for people around the world to express their preference for US president. Obama is getting about 85% of the international vote, which seems a bit low, if anything.
Environmental history professor: Look at some of the items on this menu from a hotel of Chicago Thanksgiving dinner from 1872: loin of buffalo, antelope steak in mushroom sauce, ham of bear, black tail deer, leg of mountain sheep, buffalo tongue... Miss Palin, your table is ready.--

Classroom, Fordham UniversityOverheard by: Martin Van Nostrand
From overheard in new york

Saturday, November 01, 2008

My good friend Qalux is going to be a grandfather in a few months, so to formalize things, his son Qoyaw (the forthcoming grandchild's father) married said forthcoming grandchild's mother this evening. As luck would have it, I had class all day, and missed the wedding feast. Qalux is well liked and widely respected, so most of Wulai must have been at the feast. By the time Sabiy and I returned to Wulai near midnight, the wedding was long over, but as we passed Qalux's home, we saw a considerable number of revelers continuing the celebration. As I have known Qoyaw, the groom, since he was about eight, I was very happy to stop in to offer our congratulations. A large number of Tayal from the Tribe where there, who immediately began to slander me most mercilessly to Sabiy. There was also a contingent of Lukai / 魯凱, as Naluwan, Qalux's wife and Qoyaw’s mother, is from the Lukai tribe.
In this photo you see me with a young Tayal from the Tribe, Qoyaw's little brother Qosun, and on the left Alu, an old chief. Traditionally, Tayal chiefs do not occupy a hereditary position. Rather, the situation is somewhat like that described by Francis Parkman in The Oregon Trail concerning the Dakotas and Sioux in the 1840s: "Each village has a chief, who is honored and obeyed only so far as his personal qualities may command respect and fear. Sometimes he is a mere nominal chief; sometimes his authority is little short of absolute, and his fame and influence reach beyond his own village, so that the whole band to which he belongs is ready to acknowledge him as their head." A Tayal (Sateq) example of the latter would be the great Mona Luto 莫那魯道 who lead an uprising against Japanese imperialists in the 1930s.

Such a situation indicates a society which has not yet developed political institutions. 或許堯舜禹湯相禪,非不家天下,而上古華夏為王為帝,制度未凝。

Be that as it may, tomorrow morning most of Wulai is sure to be hung over.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nominally I went to Pasadena High, but actually I spent all my time and energy studying 武 Kenpo under Mr Ed Parker. Pasadena was his home studio, so a lot of the best martial artists of the time would stop in. Whenever I could, I sparred with them. I can say truthfully that I have been beaten by some of the finest martial artists of the twentieth century; it was very instructive and I learned a lot. Talk about the school of hard knocks!

One of Mr Parker's black belts was a man with hands like lightning, Mr Steve Sanders (I understand that he has changed his name to Mr Steve Muhammad, but that was after I left the States). He had his own studio in Inglewood, but he would stop in from time to time, and I would drag him out on the mats, where he would proceed to tear me to pieces until I tired him out. I don't think I ever hit him, but he would patiently thrash me until finally he would smile and say, "That's enough for today! You've worn me out!" I've always had good stamina.

BTW: I suspect one reason I get so impatient with basketball players who strut and swagger is that I spent my teens with men who could kill someone barehanded in a moment, and every one of them was humble and mild.

One move Kenpo fighters love is the back-knuckle 反拳, but a lot of people from the less subtle styles (Japanese, Okinawan) don't think it has any power. Mr Sanders won tournament after tournament, but in one tournament, when he threw a perfect back-knuckle at his opponent’s head, the referee shook his head and said, "No power."

About a week later, when I was, as usual, at the studio, Mr Parker came out of his office roaring with laughter. He told us that Mr Sanders had come out of a supermarket with a bag full of groceries in his left arm when he was accosted by two muggers. He threw a back-knuckle at the first and he dropped like a damp towel. The other was about to run off when Mr Sanders picked a soda pop bottle out of his grocery bag, flipped it at the back of his head, and dropped him too. Then he ran to a payphone and called Mr Parker: "Ed, Ed, do you remember that referee who said my back-knuckle didn't have any power? Well, it does, it works!"

When Mr Parker had heard the circumstances, he asked, "Very good, Steve, but have you phoned the police?"

"Oh…. Yeah, how about that? I guess I should…."

Reading back, I realize I have called him Mr Sanders through sheer force of habit. Okay, change all those to Mr Muhhamad. For Mr Muhammad’s site, please go here:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From time to time in the stream or on the beach you can find bricks worn down to pebbles. A brick had been fired and hard enough to build towering structures, but a few decades in the water is enough to wear it down to a shapeless rock.

Slippery sloppy mud flows and gathers and settles. Sometimes when you poke and probe, you can find a compacted center. In a million years that compacted center will be solid adamantine rock.

Time plays tricks on us all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Today is my mother’s 90th birthday. Although her memory is not so great, she is in good health, walks a lot, and has better teeth than I do. Long may she wave!
This photo of her was taken when she was eight and a half months old. She looks a bit different now.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

澂到西藏時,路上一位藏人跟他說,「先生,能不能幫我一個忙?我家裏幾個小孩沒東西吃,實在沒辦法,我只好把我祖先留下來的寶拿出來轉賣,先生,我算你很便宜,可是我真的需要錢,能不能幫我這個忙?」

澂看他可憐,就說,「甚麼寶?能不能讓我看看?」 藏人便從衣服裏摸出一個小布袋,打開來,拿出一顆天珠,給澂看。

澂看看天珠,沒甚麼氣,問藏人說,「這是從哪裡來的?」

沒想到,藏人回答:「臺灣。」

澂問,「臺灣?你不是說是你祖先留下來的嗎?」

藏人回答,「是呀,商人教我這樣說…」

各位請想一想,天珠是從天上掉下來的,是大修行的特殊感應,能有幾顆?商店裏滿筐大簍的「天珠」,怎麼可能是真的?

我遇過真天珠,兩三顆,那個氣是無法假冒的~~話又說回來,倘使有那麼好的氣,管它「真」「假」!

可是店裏展示的昂貴「天珠」,我個人尚未見過真的~~有好氣的。修出來的好氣不是商品,由不得你買賣營利。天珠有靈,你需要的話會自己送上門,犯不著花冤枉錢肥了商家。

聽業者說,日本的「天珠」原件在日本製造,送到臺灣來加工,然後再運回日本賣;是從船上運來的,不是從天上化出來的!

我的想法,天然水晶氣很定,卻需要挖’礦取出,商人該賺的合理利潤,該讓他賺。可是所謂天珠生意,不必鼓勵。

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Today the DPP, the right-wing Taiwan Independence party, held a march to remind people that they are still around after the drubbing they took in the last couple of elections. Typical DPP staging: the march of the old folks, grandpappy and grandmaw bussed up from central and southern Taiwan for a day marching through the city waving banners until they get fed. I would estimate the average age of the marchers to be well over 60.

This was not a Taipei event; DPP events never are. Afterwards, in the cram-packed Taipei subway station, only a handful of DPP supporters and flag-carriers were to be seen among the thousands of people streaming by ignoring them. Wulai taxi drivers are looking forward to making a lot of money tomorrow. In the words of one, "They always bring the old folks out for a day in the mountains after they have finished their march. Otherwise, why would anybody want to join a DPP demonstration?" This may be a version of the trickle-down effect.

Precious little money is left to trickle down after President Chen's rapacious tenure in office. With help from some friends, I have been trying to figure out how much public money he is accused of putting into his own pockets: something over a billion dollars US. You can see what kept him busy for his eight years in office.

His actions have split his own party, so they were all sort of hoping that he would be arrested before the big event. President Chen was hoping for the chance to play the great martyr; he has been delivering farewells, saying that he is going to be a political prisoner. Arrest for corruption does not count as being a political prisoner. The opposing factions of his party wanted him out of the way so he wouldn't embarrass them.

Chen made it to the march and tried to stir up feelings against anybody trying to settle down tensions across the Taiwan Straits. He said that if Taiwan's chairman to the talks showed up, "Anybody can grab him." As inured as we are to Chen's irresponsible, self-serving ploys, this was, IMHO, going too far, stepping beyond the bounds of legality.

In a throwback to KMT slogans, the DPP is also calling the people to arms against the "communist bandits." This is a dangerous path to follow, now that the KMT is calming tensions with the PRC. If PRC tourists were to be attacked in Taiwan, that would give the PRC a legitimate excuse to 'liberate' Taiwan by force. But then, years ago there was speculation that the DPP might be a communist puppet.

Many people are highly amused by the DPP's virulent anti-communist marching, since the DPP's creed is, Everything is the KMT's fault, the KMT never did anything right. But if anti-communism is proper, certainly they should recognize that the greatest anti-communist ever was none other than Chiang Kai Shek!

Oh well. The DPP is not noted for being capable of calm contemplation. Or irony or humor.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

聽說陳總統最喜歡的地名就是我們「烏來」。

因為他的錢是「烏」來的。

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

前天寫到匪貨毛筆闖關的故事。我大學時,家住越南。升大三的暑假從西貢經曼谷、香港回來。在香港當然買了一大把毛筆回來給同學,藏在行李。我刻意穿師大的卡其制服,表示我不是毒梟,我是正當的人,學生耶!

到了松山國際機場,抽號排隊驗行李(不得挑選你要的海關檢查員,抽號指定),偏偏我抽到的似是最凶的一個。我前面一對五六十歲的美國夫妻,看起來老實善良,可是不幸被發現行李箱裡有一顆柳丁。海關抓出來看,橫眉豎目吼,"You cannot bring fruit into the Republic of China!!"逕把柳丁往地上摜;栁丁「虧~」一聲在地上粉身碎骨,老夫妻臉色蒼白,後面闖關的我只差沒叫一聲「救命~~~!」我想,我的學業、我的前途,完了。

可是我還是要過關。我鼓起勇氣走上去,把行李放在臺子上,還來不及開,海關看著我的制服問,「咦?你念師大嗎?」

「是。」

「我們中華民國的師範大學嗎?」

「是。」

「你念哪一系?」

「國文。」

「外國人念國文,我是頭一次遇到的。你會背唐詩嗎?」

「會背幾首,可是我比較喜歡先秦諸子。」

「你最喜歡哪一家?」

「墨子。」

「很好,很好,可是不要忘記多讀儒經,因為孔子的儒學是中國的核心精神。…好了,箱子不用開了~」他在我箱子上畫押,揮揮手叫我出關,「好好讀書吧!」

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When the communists conquered the Republic of Viet Nam, my mother left Saigon for her health. A close friend of ours, a TCN we will call SJ, came to Taiwan. A TCN was a Third Country National, not a national of the host country RVN (South Viet Nam), and not a national of the US: a TCN. SJ planned to go on to the US to employ his industry once he could secure a visa.

For a visa he went to the US consulate in Taipei, then housed in a modest complex on 南京東路 Nanjing Road. This was in the days when the US recognized that that the Republic of China, now confined to Taiwan and a scattering of other small islands, was the legitimate successor of Dr Sun Yat Sen's revolution which ended the Ching Dynasty, so we had a US Embassy (near North Gate, since torn down and replaced with the tax building), an American ambassador (who lived in the Official Residence on 中山北路 Chungshan N Road, now a movie theater), and the consulate just mentioned. Inside the consulate they even had real live consuls, including one we will call Mr Lesley Persons. Mr Persons was a wiry, fiery carrot-top, trained in the best traditions of the US Foreign Service, who took every visa application as a personal affront, made sure that the applicant knew how important Mr Persons was, how much of his valuable time your petty application was wasting, and how unworthy you were of his attention. As I said, a man who embodied the spirit and soul of the US Foreign Service.

When our poor TCN, SJ, who although not exactly a huddled mass was nonetheless ravaged by war and defeat and seeking a new life in the US, submitted his application for a visa to the US, Mr Persons attacked the case with his usual acidic vigor. He scrutinized every jot and tittle and demanded more documents, more proof, more signatures, more, more!

Nothing we did satisfied him. Our agony dragged on for weeks. Nothing was happening on SJ's visa when my mother wrote to ask why SJ was not yet in the Uncle Sam Land, so I wrote back explaining the situation.

We made a few more fruitless trips to the consulate during the next week, humbling ourselves before His Majesty Lord Lesley Persons' sneers and arrogance. Then one day when I was at home recuperating from the previous day's encounter, the phone rang, and a sweet voice asked gently in English if he could speak to Mr Talovich.

"Speaking," I said, "Who’s calling, please?"

"This is Consul Persons from the US Consulate, we have processed your friend SJ's visa already and it is ready for you whenever you can find to do us the honor of stopping by."

I almost said, "Hey man, I don't do dope so this can't be me hallucinating, what on earth have you been shooting?" but restrained myself. I thought it might be a prank call, but consulting SJ, we decided to gird ourselves for mockery and go see what was happening at the Consulate.

As soon as we announced ourselves, Consul Persons rushed to the counter and in most polite tones and attitude requested our presence, if it so pleased us. SJ and I looked at each other, but after all, an ogre that wishes to learn civility is to be encouraged. Within minutes, Consul Persons was stamping SJ's visa in his passport and fondly telling us what a pleasure it had been to serve us and he certainly hoped there were no misunderstandings concerning the stringent requirements placed by his superiors in Washington and that he was just following orders and sincerely wished us joy and happiness and ….. in his pile of documents I noticed a telegram with a red border. While Consul Persons was going for his best pen to sign the visa, I nudged the telegram a bit and read

INSTRUCT CONSUL L PERSONS TO EXPLAIN TO ME IMMEDIATELY WHY SJ HAS NOT YET BEEN ISSUED HIS VISA STOP NO FURTHER DELAYS WILL BE TOLERATED STOP ACTION REQUIRED IMMEDIATELY STOP NO EXCUSES WILL BE ACCEPTED STOP SIGNED HENRY KISSINGER SECRETARY OF STATE

Mind boggling, I left the Consulate with SJ and his spanking new visa. Once out in the sunlight, we looked at each other and said, "Did that really happen? Are we awake? Was that actually Consul Persons?" I told SJ about the telegram. "Kiss? A telegram from Kiss himself?" For sure. We looked again. The visa was good, and satisfied the US Immigration officer in Honolulu when SJ landed there a week later.

I asked Mom how she did it. She smiled and said, "Oh you know, I know people, we just pulled a couple strings." That’s the only explanation she ever gave me.

Monday, October 20, 2008

我念師大的時候,我們國文系所規定所有作文都要用毛筆寫。臺灣製的毛筆尚可,可是大家最喜歡的是大陸作的寫意牌毛筆。當年一般人都不容易出國,師大生本來就窮,我們學校師生中,只有僑生坐過飛機。因此念國文的都巴結港生,拜託拜託在香港國貨館幫我買一支寫意毛筆!

問題是,當時文化大革命仍熾烈,兩岸情勢緊張,寶島臺灣嚴禁一切匪貨,若被查獲,很麻煩,會牽涉到警備總部。可是還想要好毛筆,所以系上的港生放完假回來時,行李一定暗藏大大的一把十幾二三十支毛筆,闖關吧。

當年機場還不用X光驗行李,不論到哪一國,進關要把行李攤開,讓海關把衣服等翻、窺、擰、搓、聞、拋、揉、戳、捻、扯,等他滿意,用粉筆在行李箱上畫押,然後在後面排隊的人不耐煩注視下把衣服等塞回行李箱、用盡全身力量把箱子合上、趕快出關,很是狼狽,可是出國就是要把行李的隱私曝給海關看個過癮。無奈。全世界都一樣。最恐怖的是舊金山機場的海關;翻箱時比較像海盜。

我一個僑生學長放完假從香港回中華民國,在松山國際機場下降過海關,海關員問他,「念哪一個學校?」

「師大。」

「哪一系?」

「國文。」

不料,海關員湊近身子低聲問,「毛筆藏在哪裡?」

學長迸出一身汗:被發現了!被抓到!完蛋,一定被學校開除!可是被捉個正著,沒辦法賴,用虛軟發抖的手指出襯衫裏密裹的一包。

海關輕輕地摸了一下,竟沒把襯衫撩開,卻把行李合起來畫了押,笑笑的跟學長說,「歡迎回國!希望你在師大好好念書!」

Thursday, October 16, 2008

video

上高巖之峭岸兮
處雌蜺之標顛
據青冥而筡虹兮
遂焂忽而捫天

屈原 九章 悲回風

按:筡,非本字,本字从手慮聲,舒也;丑居切,魚韻徹紐,與筡同音(ㄊㄨˊ),電腦無斯字,以同音字代耳。

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wulai's first cherry blossoms of the season are out.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Red China was closed off to the world during the Cultural Revolution, with the doors locked and barred against the United States. Considering the historical background, I have never been able to figure that out. If anybody, China’s greatest grievances were against British imperialism, treachery, and inhumanity. However, by the time Mao established the People’s Republic, breaking away from the Republic of China (now Taiwan), the sun had set on the British empire, while America stood strong.

In 1971, a US ping pong team was in Japan for a world championship when they were invited to visit China. The visit was arranged, cracking open the door enough for President Tricky Dick Nixon, the commie baiter and commie hater, to make a glorious progression to mainland China. This was the opening of China, and is called ping pong diplomacy.

Now a minor difficulty for the PRC, and a huge predicament for the ROC, is how to deal with each other. Mao, Chiang Kai Shek, Ike, Kennedy, Nixon, and everybody else agreed that there could not be two Chinas. The ROC is the legitimate successor of sovereignty, but the PRC has the land, the people, and the power, so who cares about legitimacy? Taiwan is dependent on the PRC in many ways; talks of Taiwan independence are pipe dreams, mostly from the far right who pine for the Japanese warlords. Be realistic: Taiwan cannot break away from the PRC. But how can rapprochement be realized?

I suggest that the endgame has already begun, starting with something close to the heart of Taiwan: tea. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Min dialect speakers have always been the most dedicated tea connoisseurs. During the Cultural Revolution, tea was considered decadent and many tea farmers in Fujian were forced to stop growing tea. At the same time, the economy of Taiwan was taking off; if there’s one thing all Chinese love, it’s eating, so with more money and leisure, cuisine in Taiwan developed rapidly. Over the past thirty years, tea making has been advanced, refined, and improved. Very truthfully I say that the world’s best tea is in Taiwan.

Since the thaw between the PRC and the ROC, Taiwan tea farmers, technicians, merchants, and investors have been working in the PRC to improve their skill, raise their standards, and in many cases to teach them techniques they either lost during Mao’s reign or never knew.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Western journalists don’t delve very deeply into Asian affairs. Last year a bubble burst that, as far as I know, was totally ignored in the West: the Puer bubble.

普洱 Puer (puerh, boli) is a tea grown in Yunnan (southwestern China), pressed into disks, and aged, the longer the better. Poorly prepared, Puer tastes like moldy kangaroo tail soup, but properly aged and brewed, the complexity and delicacy of the tea is unparalleled. Years ago, the market for Puer was not strong. Perhaps the main outlet was Hong Kong, where the disks were stored for decades in warehouses. Facing an uncertain future with the return of HK to the PRC, in 1997 tea merchants there sold their stock in bulk to tea-loving Taiwan, where the climate is ideal for aging Puer.

With the economy of the PRC on the rise, Chinese there have taken up tea drinking in earnest again, and a lot of the tea in Taiwan is sold there at very good prices. Good prices: when I started drinking Puer, in about 1980, a four-ounce disk aged thirty years might have sold for about US$25; now a thirty year old disk can go for US$3,000, or more. In the last several years, speculators realized that there are profits to be made by stowing away a pile of Puer and sitting on it.

In 2006 and 2007, the market for new tea went crazy; new tea usually sold for low prices, but with speculators moving into the market, prices would treble and quadruple within weeks. Fortunately the bubble burst. (But did anybody in the West hear it?)

However, it is interesting to note that tea magazines (yes, there are magazines dealing entirely with tea, particularly puer) carry ads from the PRC and the ROC; articles are written about and by tea experts on both sides of the Strait, with no notice taken of political barriers. (Malaysia is also a strong new contender, tea there being promoted by the many Malaysian Chinese who were educated in Taiwan. Note: many Malaysian Chinese speak Min dialects, too.) As far as the tea world cares, there is no important fissure between the shores of the Taiwan Straits; how could politics possibly be more important than tea?

This bears watching. A political stalemate might well be ended by tea diplomacy. After all, how could politics possibly be more important than tea?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finally some people in the West are learning to make tea properly. Making tea properly means Chinese style, assuming, that is, that you want to drink tea, not entangle yourself in interminable Japanese ceremony for the purpose of downing a tepid cup of unpalatable liquid. Chinese style tea means southern style; tea has always been made best by 閩 Min dialect speakers, in other words the people of Fujien province and Taiwan, as well as parts of northern Guangdung / Canton. For the last generation, the best tea has indubitably been in Taiwan. As a dedicated tea freak, I feel a few words are in order concerning tea pots.

A good pot is essential for making good tea. The best pottery teapots come from 宜興 Yihsing / Yixing with some good pots from 汕頭Shantou Swatow; for porcelain, of course 景德鎮 Chingteh / Jingde, the home of porcelain, and 龍泉 Lungchuan is also good. The Hsiaofang Kiln 蔡曉芳曉芳窯 in Taipei makes some of the best porcelain of the last thousand years. But overall, especially for Puer, what the tea freak wants is Yihsing. This is what I discuss now.

A good pot can be used for centuries, but care must be taken to nurture it. Okay, let’s start with your basics: never drop your pot. Duh. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me explain that one reason Yihsing pots are so good is the clay; other pots you have to prepare for the first brew, but an Yihsing pot is good from the first time you put leaves in it. Of course it gets better and better with use, but here are some tips to make your Yihsing pot even better.

First and foremost (after never dropping it), keep your pot away from all oil, grease, detergent, and soap. Usually when I am finished making tea, I let the pot cool off entirely before emptying it. Even if I am dumping the tea leaves hot, I shake the pot upside down and probe with my fingers ~ you’d be surprised how inured your fingers can get to hot temperatures ~ but I personally do not like those pointy stabbers and hooks you can get for cleaning out your pot. They may scar the inside of the pot. Scalded skin grows back; enough said.

If you let your pot cool off before emptying it, don’t wait too long. Here in Taiwan, with high humidity (usually over 70% where I live, ideal for nurturing Puer), in the summer the leaves can mold the second day, and you never want tea leaves moldering in your pot!

Usually I turn a drying pot upside down so you don’t get residue of water or anything on the bottom of the pot. Pay attention to ventilation, especially in more humid climates.

When I get a new pot, I often have a pretty good idea of what kind of tea it will do best with. I may use the new pot to make a variety of teas, until I find the one tea that it excels in. Then I use that pot for no other kind of tea.

Yihsing pots get better with use because the pores in the clay absorb the essence of the tea. This also produces a delightful sheen on the outside of the pot. To encourage this sheen, when the pot is hot (full or empty) burnish it lightly with a wet cotton cloth or towel. No synthetics here, please; the exception being a pot that has accumulated years of gunk. You can wipe that gunk right off with a wet Mr Clean Magic Eraser, or a melamine sponge, which do not damage the surface of the pot.

When you have used the pot a couple dozen times, the wet cotton cloth will bring out a nice sheen. If that is still not enough, apply a dry horsehair brush. Pig bristle brushes are okay, but synthetic brushes should be avoided. Waxing a pot is beneath contempt.

Under normal conditions, you never scrub the inside of a pot. I have a dentist’s pick, tweezers, and mirror for cleaning the spout from the inside, especially a 蜂巢 web, when necessary. Use delicately.

A properly maintained pot will last much longer than you or me. My oldest pot was made in about 1650; I use it regularly. However, closely examine the clay of an older pot, because some pots over about a hundred years old get persnickety. For example, I have a 汕頭 Swatow pot about 120+ years old; because of the condition of the clay, if I haven’t used it for a while, I first pour warm water in to let it ‘wake up,’ rather than shocking it right off with boiling water.

Happy tea!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

There are musicians who define instruments: Casals the cello, Brain the French horn, Segovia the guitar, and for the recorder, my favorite instrument of all, Michala Petri.

All good things come to he who waits. I have been listening to Petri’s CDs for years, figuring that sooner or later she would turn up in Taiwan. At long last, this evening she performed in the National Concert Hall, her first performance in Taiwan in 22 years. Okay, I was busy last time she came. Her performance left nothing to be desired; even though my taste runs solely to Baroque, even her other pieces were really more than one could ask of a mere mortal. A memorable evening. I figure that if I practice hard enough, maybe in about seven hundred years I can play like that too.


Friday, October 10, 2008

馬英九個性溫和,這是大家早知道的事。十年前就說他太nice,不合當總統,因為當元首需要狠一點、需要魄力,怕他不願意得罪人;在我印象中,他還沒當臺北市長之前,已經有這種評估。

可是現在馬當了總統,彷彿發現他很nice如大新聞一樣。大家驚訝甚麼呢?這早已看準了。

可是一方面,馬總統很nice未必表示他不能辦事:他態度中立、溫和,或許看遠景,攷慮深遠。另一方面,臺灣十年來沒有進步,希望強人一呼,萬般放出奇葩,不太切實吧。好比病人躺了十年,一旦痊瘥,中午叫他參加鐵人三項。病縱癒,尚需養蘊。

或許臺灣過去進步太快,社會步伐舛啎。民國三十五年的臺灣,屬于落後、封閉的農業社會;短短的五十年,到八十五年,臺灣在國際上很強勢、很先進。也許社會乏了,需要休養休養。

真好玩。以前罵蔣中正太霸道的人,現在罵馬太軟弱。

Thursday, October 09, 2008

科技日新月異,社會步伐跟不上,亂了;很多事情不知如何處置的話,順其自然。看自然應該如何,依斯為繩墨,以此作參攷。

我們是人,我們人的「自然」如何?我們屬于哺乳類;哺乳動物生下沒有牙齒,所以喝母奶,牙齒長出來就斷奶。這是哺乳動物不變的模式。沒有任何一個哺乳動物長了牙齒以後喝母奶。

而且很妙,每一種哺乳動物的奶水適合那種動物,甚至各別母親為子微調奶的成份,非常複雜,連現進科技作不出的配方:孩子生于甚麼季節、環境、狀況,母奶自然補充新生兒所需。對人而言,母奶還會輸入非常非常豐富的母愛。

最近大陸貨奶粉出了問題,成為所謂的「毒奶粉」,殊不知,所有奶粉都是毒奶粉。首要,人是人、牛是牛,牛不適合喝人奶,人也不適合喝牛奶:試問,如果只要是奶水就可以喝,你願意喝豬奶嗎?如果牛奶可以喝,為甚麼不喝猴奶、狐狸奶、狗奶?覺得喝狗奶噁心,那麼請問牛奶好到哪裡?人有一個胃,牛有四個胃,牛奶根本不適合人喝。

喝牛奶造成的惡果很多,最嚴重的可能是osteoporosis骨質疏鬆症;賣牛奶發財的人傳播謊言說牛奶對人體有益,因為有利可圖。牛奶可以補充鈣嗎?人體要吸收鈣,需要配磷;因為鈣磷比例高,喝茶的話,身體吸收的鈣遠比牛奶多。喝牛奶、吃鈣片,反而讓血液失去平衡、流失鈣。

在茲不細論,只提出一個問題:喝牛奶或奶粉的小孩,長大以後牙齒比較容易壞。自然很妙;嬰兒喝母奶的時候,嘴巴吸呀吮的,肌肉與骨頭充分運動;如果喝奶瓶的奶,下巴比較不圓,牙齒長進去以後比較不健康。
至于其它相關的問題,請click here:::


所有奶粉都是毒奶粉。大陸不良商賣不純的奶粉,全世界很多地方都買到了,成了很大的問題,可是請看看人家的反應。有沒有就事論事?有沒有設法馬上處理問題,或探討問題的根源?有沒有想了解事實、提出具體方案來解決?或者很情緒化的漫罵一頓而已?

我上網瀏覽一番,只有臺灣把這個事情變成政治問題,費了很多口舌很激動地講了一堆于事無補的話。

難道我們只能如此而已嗎?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


“It is written all over the sky that nothing is permanent.”


Dawn Powell

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Now you know the difference between the candidates.

Hobo on street corner: Vote for McCain. Get nuclear rockets shot up your ass and eat moose burgers all day!

--W 3rd & MacDougal St
Overheard by: Matt
On www.overheardinnewyork.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

People listen to what they want to hear. For decades, study after study has proved that eating meat is bad for your health, that eating meat causes cancer, heart disease, and all sorts of other diseases. Eating meat is ecologically disastrous; if you want to do something to help combat global warming, don’t eat meat. In one ear and out the other.

In the late 1980s, French researchers (apparently funded by French wine producers) attributed the lower incidence of heart disease among French people to consumption of large amounts of red wine. When this was announced in the US under the guise of a scientific finding in November 1991, sales of red wine immediately increased 45%.

忠言逆耳. Don’t tell me what I need to hear, tell me what I want to hear.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

overheard in downtown Taipei
大約十四歲的小妹妹:「我弟弟找不到他的老花眼鏡。」

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

In August 1971, my friend Do Quy Toan 杜貴璇先生 was going to DaLat and invited me to join him. Of course I jumped at the chance. Da Lat is a very beautiful place in the central highlands of south Viet Nam, with a beneficent climate and relaxing climate of soft mountains, pines, lakes, and waterfalls. The French had built many villas there, but since the French were gone, the villas had been taken over by Viet Namese of all persuasions. It was said that high-ranking communists liked to vacation in Da Lat, too, so there was not supposed to be fighting in the town, unless they really had to. It was a Viet Namese show, so the American armed forces were banned.

I flew up to Da Lat on Air Nuoc Mam, and stayed for several days. Aside from almost getting kidnapped by the Viet Cong, I had a great time. I wandered as far as my feet could take me, and that’s pretty far. I walked out to the waterfalls, and past the torched French churches (communists aren’t fond of religious imperialism). I loved to walk around the lakes.

It was while walking around a lake one day that I saw something near a helipad that surprised me: a couple American soldiers. There weren’t supposed to be any there, so I went over to investigate.

If I was surprised to see them, they were more surprised to see me. I explained that I was on a vacation from delivering pizzas for my uncle have you tried any of our pizzas famous Tri 9 pizzas the best in the whole war would you like to order a couple hundred for your firebase? and asked them how they happened to be in Da Lat. They too knew they weren’t supposed to be there, but under certain circumstances some soldiers were allowed to change choppers there, for transfer into more remote parts of the country. They weren’t allowed to go into the city; they weren’t even allowed to leave the helipad.

I noticed something startling: both men had gold bracelets. Now, everybody knew that the Montangard (aborigine) soldiers were absolutely insanely brave, so usually everybody let them fight by themselves. On very rare occasions, an extremely brave American soldier might be placed with a Montangard troop. If such an American wished to throw away his life or something, he might even walk point. For such extreme bravery, the Montangard awarded any American who walked point with a handmade gold bracelet.

Both of these soldiers had not just one, but several such bracelets. I knew I was in the presence of some very, very brave men. I chatted with them until their chopper was ready to take them out of peaceful Da Lat and dump them into the war. Before they left, I asked if I could take their photograph, and wished them good luck.

I never knew their names, but I still wish them good luck, wherever they may or may not be
.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I wrote this in November 1998, almost two years after I moved to Wulai, before I got dogs of my own. Sinkang got two dogs and kept them up at his hut, but since he is busy driving his bus, he didn't have much time to spend with them. They were so lonely they would come down to play with me.

"I had a big pile of old wood to burn, remnants of an old fence, so I piled it up a safe distance from the house and set fire to it. It burned all afternoon, and by evening it was still smoldering. At about 8PM, I went out to make sure everything was okay. As I was coming back, I found my path barred by a qimpahu\龜殼花 'turtle-pattern snake' about a meter long. The qimpahu is poisonous, and noted for its aggressive temper and lightning fast movements.

"I asked it to move on, which it didn't, so I stamped my foot, indicating, I'm coming through. It ignored me. Just then Sinkang's dogs came by. I thought, great, they'll bark and chase the snake away so I can go back up. The black and white one came trotting up. Boy, talk about an alert dog protecting us faithfully. Not only did he fail to notice the snake barring my way, but on his way up the path he even stepped on it!! I was amazed: dumb dog meets dumb snake… The snake just kind of ignored him and glared at me. I clambered up another way.

Since I wrote that, I have become much more familiar with my footless neighbors, because there are a lot of them here in Wulai, and I have become used to that sort of behavior. I probably have more experience with snakes than most people, but I have never seen a snake slither over to attack somebody like they do in the movies. In my bare feet or flipflops I have stepped on poisonous snakes and even kicked a couple by accident, but I always apologize. Keep your distance from snakes, because they are dangerous, have no doubts about that. But there's no need to get all panicky, and if you're all panicky, you can't see how beautiful they are. Certainly snakes are among the most beautiful creatures on earth! Just say hello, admire their beauty, and go your own way.

The photo is a qaxa, 雨傘節 banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus multicinctus), in my front yard. I have to admit that here I was not taking my own advice, but I wanted to get close for a photo, and the qaxa didn't mind. But still, it's always safer to keep your distance from a snake. Just step back and admire.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

當老師,任重道遠,真如師大校歌:教育,國之本 (我只記得這一句)。可是我觀察認真教書的老師,我覺得有兩種心態。

第一種,是要當英雄讓學生崇拜。我們在師大學的,教材要適合學生的能力、需要、興趣;但這類老師目的不在于傳道、授業、解惑,要的是當學生的偶像,所以盡量講些冷闢玄邃的事,讓學生眼花撩亂。舉例:以前看過一位老師教一般程度的英文字彙,既不教發音又不講用法,專門講字根,寫的滿黑板都是只有他一個人看懂的梵文豆莢字(寫對寫錯也無人知曉)。第一,英文與梵文是遠親沒錯,可是沒有直系關係;第二,學生花時間花錢的目的是要增強英文能力,不是看你表演寫梵文。可是這位在乎的不是學生的實力,而是學生的崇拜。教學認真沒錯,可是無益。
第二位就像仲尼,希望每一個學生的程度、成就,可以遠遠超越自己:恨鐵不成鋼、盼青出于藍。把學生當樹苗,自己當作澆水施肥的人,想著,兩三百年後,我的墓塚隤圮時,這棵已經長成巨樹,造福後人。

教師節不放假,不把教育當國之本。哀。

父母欲教育子女,花很多心血讓小孩上學、補習、升學,但是子女不管念了多少書,要聽父母,以父母的意見為意見。不希望他越出自己思想的疇域的話,給他念偌多書為的是甚麼?

哈哈哈好天真,讀書不為它,賺錢發財,不然看那麼多書有甚麼用?

Today is Confucius’s birthday, which used to be celebrated as a national holiday, Teachers’ Day, before President Bean got into office and decided education was not worth a holiday.

Let’s all sing together:
Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Confucius, Happy birthday to you!

When you were a kid, did your family sing the following verse?
How old are you, How old are you, How old are you dear Confucius, How old are you?

Boy, that’s a tough one to answer:
Today I am two thousand five hundred fifty nine, Today I am two thousand five hundred fifty nine, Today is my birthday, Today I am two thousand five hundred fifty nine!

Today I hope you take a minute to think gratefully of your teachers and how much you have learned from them.

大家愛臺灣,真好,可是颱風可不可以不要那麼愛臺灣?趕快走呀!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A point well made:
While Bush is unpopular at home, hostility to the outgoing president appears to be much deeper among expatriate donors than the general population in the United States. Obama's many backers in Europe say they are motivated by a yearning for America to once again be viewed with respect by the rest of the world.

Not only in Europe!

Friday, September 26, 2008

後漢書方術列傳:華陀曰,「人體欲得勞動,但不當使極耳。動搖則穀氣得銷,血脉流通,病不得生。譬猶戶樞,終不朽也。是以古之仙者為導引之事,熊經鴟顧,引挽腰體,動諸關節,以求難老。吾有一術,名五禽之戲:一曰虎、二曰鹿、三曰熊、四曰猨、五曰鳥。亦以除疾,兼利蹏足,以當導引。體有不快,起作一擒之戲,怡而汗出,因以著粉,身體輕便而欲食。」

或以斯快、怡字,後人或以戲為遊戲,失之;若如戲劇,近之,猶不的。說文戈部:賊戎戰戲,戲,三軍之偏也;一曰兵也,从戈/虍豆/聲。

漢書竇田灌韓傳:十餘騎入吳軍,至戲下,所殺傷數十人。
顏師古曰,戲,大將之麾也,讀與麾同,又音許宜反。

戲者,角力也。晉語:少師室周為趙簡子右,聞牛談有力,請與之戲。韋注:戲,角力也。

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Overheard in the Jungle at 12 midnight
女:怎麼這麼暗?
男:這叫做「晚上」…..

She: Why is it so dark?
He: This is called “nighttime.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mosquitoes must exult in the way we slap ourselves on their behalf.

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They say Wulai means hot spring in Tayal, but I think actually it means Mosquito Paradise. Many years ago, a prophet arose among the myriad mosquitoes of Wulai. She called all the mosquitoes together and preached The Coming of the Feast. "Oh, you millions of mosquitoes, hear my words and doubt you not! I foresee the coming of a great feast, and his name shall be called Yugan Dali."

+

You people who live in cold climates, envy us our privilege of feeding mosquitoes year round.

Slap!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Can you believe it? This is post #1500 for this blog. Amazing what sort of drivel they'll allow on the internet.

Today I am going to offer a quote that is worth reflecting on. J B Priestley said: "Refuse with scorn the great dope-dreams of the economic emperors and their sorcerers and Hollywood sirens. Don't allow them to inject you with Glamour, Sport, Sensational News, and all the Deluxe nonsense, as if they were filling you with an anesthetic."

This was written right after WWII, but it rings true today.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Today the Wulai village traditional aborigine games were held on the basketball court behind the church. The events were: chicken catching, wood sawing, spear throwing, and rice pounding. I would like the UN to investigate why none of these are Olympic events: a case of blatant discrimination! You just explain to me why beach volleyball is an Olympic sport but rice pounding isn’t. Sheesh!
Well, the Olympics missed all the fun, so we had it (although the chickens did not have such a great time.) The wood sawing event required each of five contestants on a team to saw off a length of a fir log, taking turns. They wanted five teams, to keep things rounded out, and quickly got four teams of strong young men. For the fifth, so they called out Sawye (our village headman), the minister, another local Tayal, and two Yugans, including me. Our team was obviously much older than the other four. The judges assured us it didn’t matter who won, it was all just for fun, don’t worry.

Guess what? All five members of our team finished sawing up our log before the first contestant of any other team had sawed through their log. We had already taken a whole set of victory photos before the team in second place finally finished. All of which just goes to prove the Chinese saying, 薑還是老的辣, old ginger kicks the hardest.

I didn’t throw any spears because a, I can shoot anything but when I throw I can’t hit the side of a barn, and b, I am waiting for the Archery event in the Wulai Township Tribal Games. If the organizing committee remembers to include Archery.


notice in the lower right the cheerleaders for another team, still sawing away ha ha ha.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


其實,那天對曹操有點不好意思,因為理所當然把他當鐵石心腸(click here)。事實到底如何,很難辨認。傳說,曹操避董卓之亂,路過呂伯奢家:「伯奢出行,五子皆在,備賓主禮。太祖自以背卓命,疑其圖己,手劍夜殺八人而去。孫盛雜記曰: 太祖聞其食器聲,以為圖己,遂夜殺之。既而悽愴曰:『寧我負人,毋人負我!』遂行。」

但此語出孫盛雜記,「寧我負人,毋人負我 」彷彿不見正史。正史反而說,曹操「逃歸鄉里。從數騎過故人成皋呂伯奢;伯奢不在,其子與賓客共劫太祖,取馬及物,太祖手刃擊殺數人。」

三國歷史,我不在行,孰是孰非,我不知,但知曹操是奇人:武略、詩樂,均為曠世異才,不應貿然依小說家的故事定論。
陶操曰,寧我負麥當勞,毋麥當勞負我!

Friday, September 19, 2008

aaaarrrgh!! Mateys, do you know that today is TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY? Then let's hear it LOUD AND CLEAR, with a WILL me boys and no grousing from you lubbers! and don't forget, you heard in WORLD FIRST right here.

click here: ARGH MATEY!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

At the risk of stating the obvious, eating is natural. Under normal circumstances, nobody needs to be reminded to eat. Right?

Since eating is so natural, why does anybody need to be prompted to eat something by advertising? This should give good reason to suspect that if a food product is advertised, you're probably better off if you don't eat it.

Talovich's dietary guidelines:
Eat close to nature. Eat food as it grows; eat as little processed food as possible; eat food as little processed as possible; eat food that either sprouts or rots quickly if it falls on fertile soil (watch this). Very little of what I eat comes wrapped in plastic. If you wish to be healthy and enjoy life, do not place in your mouth, chew, eat, ingest, imbibe, swallow, or take in any of the following: rat poison, eggs of any kind, lead paint, broken glass, flesh of any animal corpse, thumbtacks, razor blades, turpentine, milk, battery acid, tobacco, antifreeze, soda pop, hemlock, strychnine, heroin, and Mickey D fries.
I prefer to be healthy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


People today want Hello Kitty, not Picasso, because Hello Kitty is comforting and does not challenge. Picasso requires you to think; even if you can’t stand him, you have to think about why he irks you.


我覺得現在臺北人失去了一股鬥志。從前的臺北人,不怕共匪、不怕窮、不怕苦,反而越難辦棘手越起勁。現在不面對問題、不思索癥結,只有罵、抱怨、逃避。都是別人的錯。

Monday, September 15, 2008


Consider the lowly leech. It has no brains and it has no spine; it lives by sucking blood. Once it has attached itself to a spot where blood can be sucked, it is very difficult to dislodge, until it has bloated itself.


Sounds like a sure formula for success in corporate management.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

All right, it's finally here, my favorite holiday of the year:: 中秋節!! the Moon Festival! Let's go out and make tea and enjoy the moon aaarrghhh let's not go out, it's pouring. A typhoon has come and won't go away. Not a horrific typhoon, although wind has gone up to 16 on the east coast. Problem is it won't leave. In Wulai village we've been getting over 300mm of rain a day for the last three days (for you savages who don't understand metric yet, that’s about 12 inches), which doesn't give you a lot of chance to look at the moon as is due and proper on the Moon Festival.

No big deal, we get lots of typhoons every year. But it may bear noting that Hurricane Ike on the Gulf Coast, which has been in the news so much, dropped about six inches of rain, with winds at gauge 11. The average annual rainfall for Los Angeles is 380mm a year, which is about what we got today, but they sing It Never Rains in Southern California. It sure does rain in Taiwan. Down south over the last three days they've gotten about 1400mm of rain, and of that, 970mm fell today. Wet, you know?

So what to do on a rainy Moon Festival? Find substitutes.

Maybe a reflection in a glass door can stand in for the moon.

Or maybe not.

It may not be a bad idea to just find a place to lay your head and doze until the rain stops.