Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I went through Tokyo’s Narita Airport 東京成田空港 several times when it was new and was distressed by the abysmal design. Five jumbo jets shared the same lounge with the space usually reserved for one, so it was SRO: space to sit on the ground leaning against the wall was hard to find and quickly taken. Squeeze into the miserable little shops and don’t jiggle as you patiently wait your turn for the lavatory. After a couple trips through, I was as eager to transit through Narita as English in
I thought we were coming back from the
When it was only a couple years old, I took a flight on 長榮Eva Air and hobbled for days after, the seats were so tight. No thank you. But coming back, the best transfer from Narita to
From time to time, it’s good to examine the evidence underpinning your judgments and opinions.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Overheard in Little Saigon (
A: Don’t go to
B: Too hot?? Aren’t you Viet Namese?
A: Yes, but ~
B: You’re Viet Namese and you think SAN FRANSISCO is hot??
A: Yes, but I’ve been in
B: Yeah, right,
A: Yes, exactly,
A: The American entertainment industry conquers all before it.
B groans again.
A: When I went to the Immigration office to become a naturalized American, I raised my right hand and solemnly swore, I pledge allegiance to the entertainment center of the
Monday, May 26, 2008
Flying over Philadelphia to transfer to Cleveland from Boston, I saw more baseball diamonds than I had ever seen in one metropolis. Few of those in LA: tracks, swimming pools, and streets lined with beautiful blooming jacaranda trees. Apparently they hadn’t planted these trees when I lived in LA, because I don’t remember seeing any, but now they line streets with purple. Better than cherry trees, if you ask me.
LA: nobody walking, some joggers.
LA: few Dunkin’ Donuts.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The Amish used to be called the Pennsylvania Dutch, but actually, there are more of them in
An hour by car, anyway, probably longer in the horse drawn buggies the Amish drive. We ate in a very good restaurant, Mary Yoder’s Amish kitchen. Vegetarians beware: Amish aren’t, so we attacked the salad bar and ate our fill. I am not quite sure how a website fits in with horse and buggy. We enjoyed the contrast of the traffic outdoors: car, car, horse and buggy, Harley hog, horse and buggy, FedEx delivery truck.
Evidently the restaurant is very authentic, because most of the staff wore Amish plain clothes, and soon after us, an Amish clan started to fill the next. First some adults, then a dozen girls, none yet in their teens, took their places. To our eyes, they looked healthy inside and out; fit, good clear skin, good clear eyes, well bred, demure, shy, but lively and affectionate among themselves. They probably get sick of being gawked at, so we tried not to, but some of the little ones were so cute it was hard. We suspected they may not see many Chinese, because several of the girls gawked at Chao, delighting us both. (Not a lot of ethnic diversity in
Speaking of diversity: American Amish are not the same as the
Some of the young men were in their twenties. I told Joe to look at their physiques; they are obviously very strong, trim, and healthy, but they don’t have the ridiculous clumps of useless, decorative muscles city people pay exorbitant gym fees to develop. I admired their free easy gaits; these are people who walk.
The contrast to the Typical American Family on our left couldn’t have been stronger: junk food obesity, tattoos, grotesque hairstyles, obstreperous children, loud, intrusive voices, vulgar clothing. It was obvious why American consumerism attracts few Amish.
At a general store in a nearby town, I accosted a young brother and sister. Their conversation was cheerful, polite, and intelligent. I asked about taking photos; they said, Some people mind, some don’t, so ask. I did, and they assented.
Horse and buggies don’t pollute like cars, but they don’t smell much better. But jeer while you can. When gas goes up to ten bucks a gallon a few years from now, people will be lining up to learn horseshoeing from Amish blacksmiths.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I was surprised to see a sparrow fly past me as we sat in the departure lounge waiting for our flight out of
“Smart birds,” I said, “They can spend the cold, snowy winter indoors.”
“Right, and they can enjoy the air conditioning in the summer!”
The light, agile sparrows made an amusing contrast to the hulking jet liners outdoors. The jets can fly farther, but they can’t make nests up near the roof!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Ok. We are nothing if not persistent. Today we carefully checked and double-checked the calendar, figured it must be Tuesday, took the water taxi to Charlestown Navy Yard, marched right up to the gate, and actually visited the great ship! Hurrah!
We took a very interesting half hour tour. If you come to Boston, be sure to go! But not on Monday.
Monday, May 19, 2008
The 20th is a great day for Taiwan. President Chen is actually following the basic rules of democracy and turning over the presidency to President Ma; on loosing his immunity, Chen will immediately face prosecution for crimes of corruption and so forth. I think when he steps down, everybody will heave a sigh of relief. For eight years, he has worked to stir up animosity and polarize the people. He has never even tried to be the President of Taiwan; he wanted only to be the president of his followers. A new day has come. President Ma has said, No more talk about party affiliation. We are all in this together, and we will all work together. Hurrah!
Old American saying: You can fool some of the people all of the time, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. I believe this is President Chen’s greatest failing. He thought he could fool all of the people all of the time. Sorry, good bye, good riddance. Now Taiwan can finally face the future and move forward. Hurrah!
Sunday, May 18, 2008
The Mayor of Cambridge addressed the exercises, saying 'significant' five times and 'passion' eight times within five minutes. A noted Doctor, receiving his 44th (!) honorary degree, reminded us "how important you and your generation is." Another speaker told about someone who was awarded a degree "post-humorously," and exhorted us to "remember the ordeals of our school." It took me a moment to realize she meant 'ideals.'
I was surprised to learn that, of Americans 25 years or older, only one out of four has a bachelor's degree, and only one out of ten has a Master's. I thought the figures were much higher.
Anyway, congratulations to all members of the class of 2008, whatever school. Remember how important you is, and keep up your passion for the significant ordeals you have learned.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
The West's conception of Ch'an (Zen) has been so sorely malformed by Suzuki that you can be pretty sure that anything which says Zen isn't.
Under the influence of Suzuki, you might think enlightenment is something that comes suddenly and stays, turning you into a buddha in a moment. Far from it. Ch'an stories may tell of the moment of an enlightenment, but as they were originally recorded for Buddhist practitioners, the stories do not need to recount the decades of strict discipline and hard work that preceded the enlightenment, and the years and years of increased dedication that followed. Those are taken for granted.
來果禪師 Master Laikuo, a contemporary of 虛雲老和尚 Master Hsuyun (early 20th century) told that when he was a young monk, one retreat he attended was so harrowing that he thought of running away. The Master in charge of the retreat picked up that thought, and announced, "If any practitioner thinks of running away from this retreat, we'll catch him before he gets over the wall, break his legs, beat him to death, and burn him to ashes before the retreat is over. Sit where you are and keep your mind on your work!”
Ch'an cultivation requires more work and dedication than most people are willing or capable of. It is more than something you write on your products or place in your mouth to raise your value or inflate your ego.
It is ludicrous to suppose that a body fed with meat, clogged by onions and garlic, polluted by cigarettes or liquor, and numbed by the hammering of television shows and popular songs, could approach the tranquility that is the first stepping stone of Ch'an.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Cyclones and earthquakes are great tragedies, brook no dispute on that, but more people suffer from the repercussions of unbridled consumerism than from natural disasters.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Evidently there is an inviolate Massachusetts law that before you even consider having a baby, you have to promise to spend at least a month’s pay on a stroller. Nobody in the Boston area actually carries a kid: dog forbid that you touch your child, it may learn to love you. Rather, you place your progeny in a stroller, the more expensive the better, where it cannot see you, cannot smell you, cannot feel you, probably cannot even hear you, and push your kid forward inexorably into the world unprotected and unaccompanied.
These photos were all taken within a short time within a small area, just a sampling of what rules Boston sidewalks. You can see that some irresponsible parents are risking drastically impairing their children’s futures, because they are in four wheel strollers. Better parents go into hock if necessary to place their babies in three wheel strollers made of nylon, aluminum, titanium, and carbon, with safety belts, pneumatic brakes, and, most important of all, coffee cup holders.
But surely you can see how important strollers are. First, without strollers, parents would have one less item to compete for conspicuous consumption. Even worse, without strollers, parents might have to touch their babies and hold them close. Yikes!
Monday, May 12, 2008
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Japanese esthetics are very good at small, and they can sometimes manage big, but they cannot do grand. Flying may no longer be glamorous, but a line of jets lined up at a terminal, with some gliding to the runways, others taxiing for takeoff, is a grand sight.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
What is this man so happy about?
He was, until today, Vice Premier. Past tense, because he is responsible for the disappearance of US$30 million of public funds. Now, in today’s national budgets, US$30 million is no great shakes; it would fund the American war in
President Chen, leaving office on the 20th of this month, has worked hard at his diplomatic offensive, with startling results.
Chen has thrown wads of money at small countries all over the place. There was a bidding war for recognition from
And so the focus shifted to
People are seeing the safeguards in red tape and bureaucracy; you have a clear path of how much money went where for what. Chen’s regime has always leaped past those safeguards, throwing public funds to friends and associates with as little legal oversee as possible. Chiu, the man you see smiling here, did not do any background check on the middleman; his reason was, “He’s the friend of a friend.” That should be reason enough to entrust somebody with a fortune, no?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is trying to write off the money as ‘lost due to accident,’ but the public, already sick of Chen and his regime, is aroused and will not buy that. After avoiding the issue for days, President Chen finally announced his apology and in the same breath announced that this scandal has nothing to do with him, that he didn’t know anything about it.
Although I think it would be great if Dubya walked through
Chen’s regime has been one corruption scandal after another. If he will not be held responsible for his people, what is he doing in office?
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Monday, May 05, 2008
Don’t repeat your parents’ mistakes
I wrote this refreshing little piece on 1994.12.25.
A sick child’s parents spare no pains to cure it. They can stay up night after night until the child gets well. If the sickness is more serious, they can leave work and hobbies behind to be present at the sickbed or outside the operating room. They are willing to accumulate enormous debts so that their child may, if not be healthy, at least live.
But what about old folks? They’d better not get sick, because if they do, their children are busy with their careers and don’t have time or patience to spare for them. Doctor’s bills are paid grudgingly. If the old father or mother needs attention for more than a week or two, their children have a hundred other more important things to do.
This shows the basic ingratitude of humanity. Parents willingly sacrifice their time, their money, and their talent for their children. But it’s a one-way street.
2008 note: actually, it makes evolutionary sense. But why bother?
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Many are concerned about the Hispanics entering the
Do you foresee a future
“Few of their children in the country learn English…. The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages, and in some places only German…. their own language …[is] allowed in courts, where …there is continual need of interpreters; and I suppose that in a few years they will also be necessary in the Assembly, to tell one half of our legislators what the other half say…. They will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will not be able to preserve our language, and even our government will be precarious.”
By today, over 200 years later, over a third of all Americans have German blood. Please tell me which of your true-blue American friends and neighbors have German blood; tell me how many of them speak a word of German. Yes, German immigrants have influenced American culture; would you throw out the Christmas tree because it was brought by Germans? When I moved to
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Dali Watan, yaba maku, Chief of the Wulai Tayal, former Headman of Wulai Township said, In 1966, when I was Headman of Wulai Township, President Chiang Kai-Shek paid a visit to Wulai. He came to my office. He rode in his car from
When he came to Wulai, I accompanied him for one hour. We went to the waterfall and sat down by that big tree there, and he told all the other people to go away and leave us alone; we talked privately for half an hour. We spoke Mandarin and Japanese. He could speak Japanese, but his Japanese was lousy. He had a very heavy accent. Most people could not understand his Japanese, but I could understand him. He went to a military school in
After President Chiang went back to
I told the reporters that President Chiang Kai-Shek gave me these three directives. Immediately construction units got in touch with me and started improving the roads and infrastructure of Wulai!
Friday, May 02, 2008
A recent headline:
Supreme court to weigh usage of murder victim’s statements
Usage? 名正言順; language is built on the foundation that words have a certain, conventional meaning that we all agree on. There is no objective reason that that thing which flies through the air is called a bird; we all agree that it is a bird, so that is what you call it. Certainly you are within your rights if you call it a giraffe; there are no laws that prohibit this. But don’t expect to be understood if you say, A giraffe just flew up to the window and started singing.
Use, noun and verb; usage means the way a word or sentence is used; utility may mean the merit of use; utilities are water, gas, and electricity; don’t even say ‘utilization’ when I am present, please.
So if we are to insure communication by using language correctly, as Confucius urged, the headline that the Supreme Court is weighing victim’s statement means the Justices are examining the grammar, syntax, and meaning of the statements given by a murder victim. I strongly doubt that the Justices are teaching Freshman Comp. I strongly suggest that whoever wrote that headline go back to Freshman Comp, and take his editor along too.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Of all the reasons I have heard given for homosexuality, the most absurd is, “Homosexuality is biological.” Biology is evolutionary; biology is tuned for having babies to pass on the genes. The only ‘path’ biology treads is to perpetuate the species by sending genes to the next generation. Homosexuals don’t have babies. How could biology possibly herd individuals into a dead end? If you say homosexuality is biological, this is tantamount to saying that for some reason biology ‘wishes’ to eliminate those genes.
If homosexuals are so proud, free, and open, why do they have to claim it is caused by circumstances totally beyond their control or choice? I didn’t mean to do it, but my biology forced me to; I didn’t mean to do it, but society forced me to; I didn’t mean to do it, but I ate a Twinkie; I didn’t mean to do it, but the Devil made me do it!
Even if homosexuality were biological, I do not see that that implies a stamp of approval. Step-mothers maltreating step-children makes far more biological (evolutionary) sense than homosexuality; if homosexuality is to be approved because it is ‘biological,’ then we should condone the maltreatment of step-children by step-mothers. There is a quirk in chromosomes – I forget just what, XYX, something – that has a direct correlation to violence; men with this chromosome fill jails serving time for violent crime. Before homosexuality is approved because it might be ‘biological,’ these men should be freed from prison, and be exempt from further punishment for any injury they do to others, because medical science has proved that the chromosomes they were born with tend them to violence.
IMHO, widespread modern homosexuality probably has nothing to do with biology, and much to do with modern methods of raising meat animals. For economic efficiency, cows, pigs, chickens, and other meat animals are pumped full of hormones to make them grow faster. These are passed almost undiluted into the consumer, because the animal is slaughtered before the chemicals pass out of their systems. I observe that, in