Friday, February 29, 2008

Today two botany graduate students from NTU were out by the path looking for a very rare plant, called 赤箭, a kind of gastrodia. Don’t worry, I had never heard of these before today either. In the words of Dr Subhuti Dharmananda* > < “Gastrodia (tianma) is a very unusual plant. It contains no chlorophyll and has no green color in it. Lacking chlorophyll, it cannot produce its nutrients from sunlight as do most plants. Moreover, it has no roots; in the ground is a rhizome (tuber) that appears sealed shut from the soil environment.”

~~*須菩提‧達摩阿難達 ~~ 這名字棒極了!!

Apparently, a botanist had discovered this plant nearby some time in the early 1990s, flowering on February 25, but his description of the location was rather vague: “near the path up Silogan in a patch of cinnamon bamboo.” Well, that sounds like this area, so they were out searching for it for the third year in a row, without success. The plant flowers for a few days and disappears until the next year, and the color is not eye-catching, so you have to be pretty lucky to find one, especially since they are so rare.

After a while, they found its close relative, a 冬赤箭. I went out to take a look and some photos. A few days ago I had seen something very similar, but had not paid it too much attention. I could not say if it was the same or not, only similar, and pointed out the general area I saw it.

We admired their find and examined it closely. The botanists cleared some space around it so we could take photos and see it clearly. They told me it was an unusually large specimen. Wonderful! I felt very proud of Wulai. Just then Byajing came barging through and snapped the precious rarity off at the stem. I was horrified! The botanists took what was left of the plant back to their university for further study. “Don’t worry,” they told me, “It will flower again next year.”

So much for our contribution to botany.

If you want something technical on the subject,

Anyway, Happy leap day.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Headline: Ben & Jerry’s founders back Obama with new ice cream flavor.

BURLINGTON, Vt. - The founders of Ben & Jerry's endorsed Barack Obama on Monday, and lent his Vermont campaign two "ObamaMobiles" that will tour the state and give away scoops of "Cherries for Change" ice cream.

When I first saw the headline, that Ben & Jerry’s had created a new flavor in honor of Obama, I thought, It had better not be a chocolate and vanilla mix!

Fortunately, it’s cherry, which may or may not have anything to do with the DC Tidal Basin cherry blossoms? It’s beyond me.

But think about it. When I was a boy, Obama would not have been allowed to sit next to me on a bus, and now he is running for President. Isn’t that wonderful? I don’t care if you support him or not, simply the fact that an African American has a good shot at the Presidency is something to celebrate.

Look at American Presidents of the last century, from McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, to Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton: a bunch of white guys, mostly from the British Isles. Not very good for a nation that takes such pride in its diversity. McCain (Scottish name) may be very good, but hey, people, let’s not elect another white guy this time, ok?

Even if you don’t agree with everything he says, you have to admit that electing Obama would be a powerful statement, both to the US and to the world. (of course I say this because he’s a Democrat.)

I never hoped to see this in my lifetime. From the back of the bus to the ballot: now that is progress!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Taiwan now and then

年輕人可能比較不了解臺灣的潛力與實力。臺灣十年來沒有進步,所以一個二十五歲的人很難了解從前的風光。我還記得二三十年前臺灣的朝氣。我來的時候敦化北路都是稻田與數間破敗的農舍,幾年內冒出幾十棟媲美國際的大樓;區區一個臺灣小島成為全世界第十三大經濟;日據時代的文化沙漠突然藝術成就卓越;光復前化外之民,下一代子女在各方面的學術 理工文醫等 讓全世界咋舌;六十年前落後骯髒的臺灣忽然變成國際舞台上的佼佼者。現在的臺灣人民同三十年前的臺灣人民:三十年前的十大建設、臺灣奇蹟,現在那股氣息到哪裡去了?十年來,繳白卷。二十五歲的人,記憶中可能只有爭權、分化、立委打架、大官故獻醜態,不了解臺灣的實力。


我宣佈承認 科索伏沒理會



Tuesday, February 26, 2008







執政黨崇洋,他們可能愛的是英文不是中文吧。那麼,哪一句最適合呢?我知道:POWER CORRUPTS.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Musical Chairs




Sunday, February 24, 2008

… what happens when you have guests over….

Much of Tayal culture and society is admirable. However, when I look at some of these pleasant teenage boys I have watched grow, I remark that a couple generations ago, at this age they would have been going on their first headhunting expeditions. Actually, they were not after the whole head, it was the skull they wanted, to put on a rack by the village to ensure the fertility of the fields. The head was hacked off, peeled, and the brains and whatnot were removed. Yuck. Half the allure of headhunting was getting bloody up to your elbows, and making a triumphant return with your trophy to enjoy your new prestige. Maybe not what you visualize when you meditate on the Noble Savage, and how all would be peace and happiness if we could just slough off the encumbering restraints of civilization and let our humanity shine through. Imagine all the people…

Recently I have been reading Napoleon Chagnon’s work on the Yanomamo, a tribe living in remote jungles of Venezuela. Chagnon has been criticized for overemphasizing and even exaggerating the violent facet of Yanomamo life. Be that as it may, watch this clip of interaction between hosts and guests at a Yanomamo village; I would be astonished to find that the Indians were peaceful types stirred by the conniving anthropologist to performing for the camera. The Tayal don’t hunt heads anymore, but this clip rings true to me by extrapolation of what I know of Tayal life.

Notice the behavior of the ‘gentler sex,’ the women who feminists say will save the world from aggression and violence.

(you can download a twelve minute clip from the film)

Apparently in fighting of this sort, they whack each other with the flat of the ax or machete; not fatal, but noticeable, definitely noticeable.

In a similar vein,

so much for ‘civilization.’

Sometimes it’s hard to be proud to be a Serb. Or even human.

Friday, February 22, 2008

a historic moment + one second

The shudder responded just a bit too slowly. The historic moment I was trying to record for prosperity was 2/22, 2:22.22.






用英文念,倒像火車:two/two two, two: two two. two two.

You sound like a train coming into the station.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Once an American asked me, “Who’s this lady everybody’s talking about?”

“Lady? What lady?”

“I don’t know, but everybody keeps telling me this lady is coming. Who is she?”

He had me stumped. “They say some lady is coming?”

“Yeah, they keep telling me this lady is coming and ask me if I’m looking forward to it. Why should I care?”

I really couldn’t figure out what was up. He continued, “That’s it, they told me her name is Miss Yuan. People tell me Miss Yuan is coming, and ask if I have any plans. I mean, what’s that got to do with me?”

I couldn’t make any sense out of that, so I asked, “Where they speaking English or Chinese?”


His Chinese was not extremely proficient, so I asked him, “Tell me what they said in Chinese.” Very carefully, he recited, “元宵節要來了。


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Somerset Maugham defined Respectability as “the cloak under which fools conceal their stupidity.”

If they really are stupid fools, better that they cloak their shortcomings in respectability. How much do we benefit now that they Let It All Hang Out? At least with respectability comes some dignity.

Actually, if you come right down to it, I would rather be foolish, stupid, and respectable than be Somerset Maugham.

Monday, February 18, 2008




可是我看他們三個,顯然都市人;穿的是都市的衣服,女生帶一個時髦皮包;我走過去站在他們五步之外,他們完全沒查覺到旁邊有人。(rasal ku laraw; sraran ga mgaga bi, ngasan ku bzuq ciwan obeja ke!) 分明是都市人,不是山上的人。




Sunday, February 17, 2008




Friday, February 15, 2008



Thursday, February 14, 2008

The good news for Valentine’s Day is that a real sweetheart has come through. For the first time ever, at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club show at Madison Square Garden, the judges finally got their act together and chose, for Best in Show, a dog long deserving but long denied top honors: a beagle.

Uno, a beagle belonging to Eddie Dziuk of Columbia, Mo, won the top prize, and “celebrated by chewing on the microphones of reporters who tried to interview his winning crew.” His presence in the show was marked by continuous baying and barking. Yup, sounds like a beagle; and note that this is a highly trained professional beagle. A show-dog beagle. Beagles are cuter than all get-out, but before you take one home, I strongly suggest you spend a day with one. (IMHO, permed poodles are disgusting. It’s good to see a wholesome dog win.)

But let’s be frank: Yes, Uno gets points for cuteness, but come on, people, be honest, can he compete with Yumin? No way. I am giving this as a honest, impartial, disinterested judgment. Yumin’s got him way beat for cuteness, could pin Uno’s ears back in five seconds or less, and plus, as Steph points out, although Uno may have a melodious baying, Yumin bays in harmony (with Tlahuy and Byajing).

This is one great step for beaglekind (beagledom? beaglehood?) but, Uno, don’t worry, I do not plan to enter Yumin into formal competition. That requires the dog stand at attention for several minutes. Yumin stand still?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see what Yumin is howling at now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I don’t know if this is true or not, but family legend has it that my father was instrumental in the fence being built around the White House.

My father, Pete Talovich, was born and raised in Donora, Pennsylvania, later of Gas Chamber fame. In those days, Eastern Europeans were regarded with suspicion and contempt, as not quite worthy of associating with real human beings.

Dad figured that he had to get out of Donora somehow, so he worked hard in high school. When he graduated, full of high spirits, a group of four of them decided to drive down to take a look at Washington, DC, and even take a look at the White House: quite daring stuff for a bunch of Slavic high school boys from Western Pennsylvania.

I forget whose car they drove, cars, good roads, and decent lodging all being hard to come by in those days. It took a lot longer to drive down then, and when they finally reached the Capital, they were all so tired they were blurry-eyed.

Tired and blurry-eyed, but full of enthusiasm nonetheless, so even though the car was showing signs of getting ready to break down, the boys wanted to see the sights, so they drove straight up to the White House.

Now, I understand that the White House did not have a fence around it in those days, and if you were so inclined, you could drive right up, so drive right up my father and his friends did. Just as they pulled up at the back door, the radiator chose that moment to explode. It gushed hot water all over. Before the fountain had even got into top form, our heroes found themselves looking into a dozen gun barrels, as Secret Service agents swarmed all over the car.

They were closely questioned: Why are you here? What are you doing? Why are you Slavic? Are you communists? but very quickly it became apparent that they were simply harmless boys out sightseeing with a faulty radiator.

The Secret Service told them in no uncertain terms that their radiator geyser was not welcome, have a nice trip home, don’t let us see your car around here again, and you better not be communists if you know what’s good for you, and released them to enjoy the rest of their visit to Our Nation’s Capital so long as they went back to Pennsylvania immediately if not sooner.

Shortly after that a fence was put up around the White House, and our family version of the event was that it was placed there to keep out certain Serbs from Donora. True or false, I cannot say, but that’s our family’s story.

Monday, February 11, 2008




極案 : 不可向人說者,忌燿功;若與同修說,以鑑次第,宜說;于師,更宜說。

Sunday, February 10, 2008

When I was in high school, my mother gave me a copy of Samuel Eliot Morison’s Oxford History of the American People. I left it in the States when I left, and in college brought a pirate, which I still have. I have read the book several times; you can learn from a book without agreeing with the author. For that matter, what fun would reading be if you always agreed with everything you read?

Last year, reading a John Connolly book, I found out there is a statue to the historian in Boston. Sabiy and I made two pilgrimages to the statue on Commonwealth Mall, the first time arriving after dark, too late to really see the statue or the mall. I am pleased to report that the statue is not placed on a typically boring column, and that Connolly has described it perfectly.

“Close by, pigeons and sparrows fed before paying their respects to the statue of the sailor-historian Samuel Eliot Morison, who sat on his plinth with the vaguely troubled look of a man who has forgotten where he parked his car. “ John Connolly

PS: isn’t English a strange language?

I left the book when I left.

Everybody’s left, so nobody’s left.

Poor students.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

highly recommended reading: two posts by Chao / Sabiy:

Friday, February 08, 2008



Today is somebody’s birthday. Five years old. Five years of mischief.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Blaq kwara kawas na qoli!



Happy new year, rats!



說文竷為上聲感韻; Word音ㄎㄢˋ,四聲,依廣韻苦暗切,擊也;不妥。當念三聲。


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Reference URL:

I read an article about someone drinking a bottle of vodka he was trying to take through Customs. Actually, I know someone who did something similar.

This was back in the late 70s, when the Cultural Revolution had just ended, and the US and USSR were waiting for the other guy to draw or to blink. No products from any communist country were allowed in the Republic of China, which Don H knew very well when he picked up a bottle of Soviet vodka in Hong Kong and tried to smuggle it in through the 松山機場Sungshan Airport, which was Taiwan’s international airport then(interesting that both my story and the one online involve vodka.) Customs officials quickly discovered his vodka. The customs official was about to break the bottle in the special bin, when Don asked, “Do you have to do that?” He pointed out that he paid good money for that vodka, but the customs official was adamant: no communist produced products in Free China.

Don thought a minute and said, “Can you give me back the bottle for a few minutes?” The official complied, and Don retreated to a bench nearby and swilled down as much as he could. Then he handed the bottle over to be smashed, and lurched out of the airport to get a taxi home to Tienmu.

I understand it took him twenty minutes to fit his key into the lock.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Recently you hear Americans spouting a new dogma: “Question authority.” Oh, great, as if the American ego were not already inflated enough. In practice, what “question authority” says is, “I hereby empower myself to throw any of my cockeyed half-baked preconceptions up as valid objection against anything anybody else says, no matter how much thought or work they have put into their ideas. But get this clear, this is a one-way street: I can question authority, but you are by no means allowed to question my authority. Anything I say is graven in stone; you are permitted to agree with me and to obey, but I will not tolerate any doubt or difference of opinion.”

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I am not aware of the status of these things, but I was under the impression that some African-Americans wanted to stress that they were not really Americans, they are Africans first and Americans second, so to emphasize their independence from English, they refuse to speak standard American English, but delight in Black English, also called African American Vernacular English, or Ebonics, which may or may not have run-on sentences like this.

Again, I do not know the ins and outs, but have heard that some black Americans emphasize their African roots and do not wish to be mainstream American. All well and good, but I have noticed something, and this is probably not going to win me a lot of friends, but the motto of this blog has always been, “Leave no reader unoffended.”

During my stay in Boston and New York, I have noticed that if you see a white, Asian, or brown-skinned person, you have no idea what language they speak before they open their mouths. It could be anything. But if you see a black person, you can be almost sure that they speak English. A few speak Spanish, a small number speak French, and there are a few speaking African languages, but the vast majority of black people in the US speak English; at least this is what I observed. If you want to ask directions on the street without embarrassing anyone who can’t answer you in English, find a black person. Almost all black people speak English.

In a way, you could say African-Americans are quintessential Americans. Vital aspects of American culture since WWII have been shaped by Af-Ams: the music people listen to, the clothes they wear, the way they speak when they are attempting to be cool. What cool-wannabe wants to play basketball like a white player?

Maybe rather than saying the Af-Ams are not real Americans, maybe we should say, only the Af-Ams are really American.

"I am America. I am the part you won't recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky -- my name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me."
Muhammad Ali

Saturday, February 02, 2008

If I were president or king or something, and wanted to do something really far-reaching for the all-round benefit of the people and the earth, the very first thing I would do would be to close down each and every golf course.

Golf is environmentally destructive to the utmost, fosters snobbery, privilege, and pomposity, impedes social justice, leads to unequal ownership and use of land, is bad for the spine, and causes the wearing of really, really ugly clothing. Those pants, shirts, and shoes! I would eat them before I would wear them.

In keeping with my principles, I am proud to announce that I have countenanced the construction of not one single golf course on my property (which is, say, 100 paces long by ten paces wide).

If I had the power, I would close down the golf courses, let most of the land revert to its natural state, and provide tennis courts, basketball courts, tetherball courts, hopscotch courts, vegetable gardens, herb gardens, flower gardens, and so forth so that thousands of people could enjoy the space instead of a few privileged snobs.

Don’t hold your breath. I don’t expect to become Beloved Leader and Saving Star of the People any time soon. But as I mentioned in an earlier post, I value proportion. I just saw a Yahoo headline that a popular PGA tour caddie was killed by a taxi while crossing the street. I am sorry for tragic death of any living being (dying happy is to be celebrated). But at the same time, I wonder: so what? Think of the killing today of thousands and thousands of helpless souls. Think today how many slaves were killed in India; how many wretched poor starved to death in slums around our beautiful blue world; how many homeless Americans froze to death or succumbed to the rigors of life on the streets; how many abject poor died from malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis; people displaced by wars and greed; victims of drug wars in Colombia; people burdened by inept and malevolent leaders; people worked to death in sweatshops; Amazon Indians discarded in land grabs; people murdered by toxic wastes; the list grows to depressing length. I want to hear their voices, rather than a pampered assistant to privilege and inequality.

I don’t have much of a social conscience, but I would rather apply it to the unprivileged than to a very minor character in a rich man’s repulsive game.

happy groundhog's day!

Friday, February 01, 2008