Saturday, January 31, 2009

Yesterday I attempted to post a documentary of Yumin's amazing obedience to verbal commands, but some browsers don't make the connection. For your viewing pleasure, I have placed it on YouTube or here

Friday, January 30, 2009

Beagle Obedience
Originally uploaded by Yugan Dali
In this amazing documentary, you see the ironclad discipline of the beagle mind as Yumin leaps to obey my command to come: 來 lai in Mandarin. Straight to you from Wulai, you see before your very eyes definitive proof that beagles do obey! ~ when the mood takes them, that is.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

As a taxpayer in the ROC (Taiwan), I have a small per centage of my pay deducted every month for national insurance, which gives me cheap, convenient health coverage. For example, a few years back I was out hacking through part of the jungle and got a piece of wood lodged into my right index finger without my noticing it (stop snickering, you!). By the time I realized, flesh had grown over it. I took my National Health Insurance card to a hospital (a clean, airy, well maintained hospital), saw a doctor, arranged for minor surgery, came back a week later, and had the piece of wood removed very pleasantly and very efficiently, with little waiting, no pain, and no after-effects. Total cost, excluding bus fare, was something like NT$200, which is a bit less than six dollars US.

Lucky me! Americans, do you know that forty five million of your fellow citizens do not have health insurance? The Republicans have taken their revenge on LBJ for dreaming of the Great Society, with Medicare and good health for all. Privatization has made health care something 45,000,000 Americans can’t afford.

Go to this page and watch the video.

About one out of every eight citizens in a country that calls itself a superpower cannot afford to see a doctor. What distresses me is that the US could be providing excellent health care for all, at a fraction of the cost of the war in Iraq. Not could be, should be!

If you are still not sure you should have voted for Obama instead of McCain, watch this documentary very carefully.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

恭喜發財 紅包拿來



Monday, January 26, 2009

We all wish everybody a happy new year!

When we had the roof repaired, the carpenters also put a new roof on the doghouse. I have decorated it appropriately for the new year.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

游錫堃當行政院長的時候,在立法院質詢,被問到英文問題,答不出,勉強湊一句:My English is bad。馬上引起批評,學者教授說他講錯了,應該說,My English is poor才對。

第三,誰說My English is bad不對?誰規定要用poor才對?我個人認為用bad比poor好,因為poor通常當「窮」用。兩者,不如用lousy。
第四,bad也好、poor也好、lousy也好,都是中文式的英文:我的英文不好。這句的英文應該是I don’t know English very well 或I don’t speak English very well.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This morning I saw a sight I had never seen before.

Happening to wake just after five, I noticed that, contrary to the weather report, the sky was spangled with stars. A crescent moon was just rising in the trees to the south. I went out to admire the view, when a pale green meteor shot horizontally across the sky from west to east, a palm and three fingers above the moon. What was remarkable was that it had a tail, like the contrail of a jet. The tail appeared about as long as my hand, in my view field, and lingered for about ten seconds, the bright, pale green gradually fading, as the plume curved upwards into a smile. 吉兆吧。

The time was 5:05.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Actions speak louder than words. The US could spend years on diplomacy, publicity, and spin doctoring, but the world would remain skeptical. With the election of our first African American president, the world has to reconsider the American people’s standpoints and intents, not through their preconceptions, but by what we have done. Yes, racism still exists in the US, but how can you call the US a racist, fascist country with a black man taking the oath for the highest office in the land?

And not just any African American! What a speaker Obama is! If you haven’t seen his inauguration address, take twenty minutes to watch it here and here. 尤其要練英文聽力的人該仔細聽。因為這是一篇極為正式演講,所以他咬字特別清晰,應該比較容易聽懂。請注意:new念[nu]不是[nju]!!....我是英文老師嘛,三句不離本行。I was impressed by his emphasis on the skill and virtue of the American people. If anybody can revive the spirit of the American people, it’s President Obama. He reminds me of JFK.
If I were Osama bin Laden or his ilk, I would be worried!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Alleluia, today ends the era of Bush, and a new president takes office. In the words of Roger Cohen of the NY Times, "An American leader able to improvise a grammatical, even a moving, English sentence is no bad thing."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Memory plays fascinating tricks on us. This morning I was chopping some overgrown bamboo when a long-forgotten delight popped into mind, totally unbidden. I lived in Saigon for a spell when I was a teenager, and loved a sweet they make. It is wrapped in bamboo leaves, thick 糯米rice colored black (how, I forget) encasing 綠豆沙 green bean paste, a sweet, sticky, fragrant concoction that I used to love. I seem to remember it is called banh gai.

I hadn’t thought about this sweet for decades, to be sure, but this morning it popped into mind very tangibly; the smell, the taste, the feel of peeling the sticky confection from the leaf, everything came back with such startling clarity that my mouth watered. But I have not the faintest idea why this memory came back.

I just wish I had a dozen to eat.

PS: My memory is better than I thought. The name is bánh gai, and I found an article on Wikipedia tieng Viet. Hurrah for the Internet!
photo from Wikipedia, slurp slurp drooooool

Friday, January 16, 2009





Thursday, January 15, 2009

Since the house is over twelve years old, maintenance work is a matter of course. Our new roof is finally finished. Most of the work went smoothly, apart from the rain holding up progress, and the time I slid off the roof.

Fortunately, it was only the roof on the back porch. There's not much sunshine or wind there, so I was on my hands and knees, head down, cleaning off accumulated gunk when I hit a slippery wet spot and started sliding. At least I got turned around head side up, aimed for a tree, and came down behind first, unharmed but for a cut on my right thumb. Chao and the roofers were more scared than I was. I told them, better that I fall of the porch roof than they fall off the house roof!

The other day I reported on the dogs' anxiety when they saw their doghouse roof being taken off
Yumin oversaw the carpenters carefully as they went about their work.

Now the dogs have a wonderful new roof, and the whole doghouse has been refurbished. This has got to be the finest doghouse in Taiwan! So what do the doggies do? Curl up and sleep in the discarded tarp outside.

Wouldn't you know it!

Monday, January 12, 2009

We were waiting for the bus home from New Store when Abus, driving his son home in his taxi, spotted us and pulled over. We piled in. He has redecorated his taxi very tastefully; all the figurines on the dashboard jiggle together whenever the car vibrates. If anybody but an aborigine did something like that, it would be disgusting and obscene, but Abus, with Abus it's just exuberance. I hope his female passengers understand that.

"Yugan, you know, I am a good man, but my mouth is bad. That's my problem, my mouth is bad. I spent the last three or four days drinking. My mouth doesn't obey me, it just keeps drinking. What can I do? My mouth keeps drinking. I can't sew it shut, because I have to eat, you can't go without food, can you? But what can I do, my mouth keeps drinking.

“Look at society today! People stealing and robbing! That's terrible! We aborigines don't steal or rob, look at the news, it's never aborigines who steal or rob. We just drink ourselves to death.”

I asked, "Abus, I've told Sabiy about your beautiful Taiwan Mountain Dogs. How are they coming along?" Abus sighed, "Aw, Yugan, now I am raising frogs." "You mean in that little pond of yours?" "Yes, Yugan, I have frogs in my pond. They croak and croak every morning very early, so they are my alarm clock. They are always on time. They are better than an alarm clock." "But what about your dogs?" "Hai, Yugan, I gave them away." "Gave them away? What for?" "I was drunk and someone asked for them, and I said, 'If you like them you can have them.' When I sobered up, I regretted that, but I had given my word, so now I raise frogs."

"Yugan, 你知道嘛,我嘴巴不好。我人很好,就是嘴巴不好,這就是問題,嘴巴不好。所以我上礼拜喝酒,一喝就三四天,我嘴巴不聽話,一直喝一直喝。我能怎麼辦?我嘴巴一直喝酒。我不能虹【縫】起來,因為我還是要吃幻【飯】,不吃幻不行,對不對?可是怎麼辦,我嘴巴一直喝酒。


我問,「Abus,我跟Sabiy說過你養的土狗很漂亮。現在hozin su怎麼樣?」Abus嘆氣說,「嗷,Yugan,我現在養青蛙。」「在ngasan su sulu的水池嗎?」「嗷,Yugan,我水池裏養青蛙。天天一大早瓜瓜瓜,是我的鬧鐘。牠們一定準時叫,比鬧鐘好。」「可是你的狗呢?」「嗨,Yugan,我送給別人啦。」「送給別人?Mswa bi?」「Busuq ku la,有人跟我要,我說『喜歡的話就拿去囉。』等我醉醒,很後悔,可是話已經講出去了,所以現在我養青蛙。」

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A great day for Taiwan
Cancer has been an increasing threat to the health of Free China ever since the running dog of tobacco imperialism, Ronald Reagan, forced Taiwan to import American cigarets and liquor. :::click here:::

Today, a new, far-reaching law goes into effect, curtailing public smoking indoors throughout Taiwan. Smoking is banned in any workplace with three people or more. Even outdoors, smoking is not permitted under any roof or near schools. Advertising is restricted, and all workplaces are required to post signs warning against smoking by minors or inciting a pregnant lady to smoke.

This is wonderful on two fronts. First, this will improve health and reduce suffering. Second, it is great to see the government engaged in progressive, positive, far-sighted activity designed to benefit Taiwan and its people. After eight years of corrupt incompetence and divisiveness under President Chen Shuibian, this is highly welcome.

I hope the US sees similar progress once Bush & Cheney, Inc. are gone.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Finally we've got a break in the weather, so Hsieh and the roofers came back to work today under a sunny sky. Well, okay, no rain, then. The temperature was 6C, which is cold for Taiwan. Cold clear days are rare in northern Taiwan, especially in the mountains.

All went smoothly until they ran out of the bolts they need to hold the new roof in place. That was at about 3, so they decided to work on the doghouse, which also needs a new roof. When they set to work, Tlahuy and Yumin displayed great distress. I realized I had forgotten to tell them that they were getting a new roof too. Yumin glared at the workmen and was very upset, until I explained the situation to him. He felt better, and went off to frolic with Byajing. (Byajing doesn't get much chance to sleep in there, anyway, because the Big Brothers usually stake out the territory.)
notice Tlahuy sitting on the tarp
watching apprehensively
Tlahuy had watched Hsieh build the doghouse in the first place, eight years ago. He showed strong anxiety as the shingles were taken up. I comforted him, but he was still morose. I took him over to the doghouse, and during a lull, he walked inside, turned around a few times, sniffed here and there, and felt a bit better.

Who said animals don't have feelings?

September 2000,
Hsieh building the doghouse

Thursday, January 08, 2009

For political reasons, after 1949 exports from the PRC (People's Republic of China) were strictly limited. PRC products were banned from the US and most of western Europe, as well as other places. Most of the 普洱 Puerh tea was exported to Hong Kong, Britain's last gasp of imperialism in the Far East. The tea merchants in HK aged their Puerh before selling it, and consumers took it for granted that the Puerh they bought from tea merchants had been properly aged. Nobody bothered to investigate too closely how the tea had been stored, or for how long.

The climate of HK is hot and humid, which is ideal for aging Puerh. However, when 1997 rolled around, HK tea merchants, uncertain about their future, sold massive amounts of Puerh to Taiwan. Historically, really fervent tea drinkers have been speakers of 閩 Min dialects, such as the main dialect spoken by Chinese in Taiwan, 閩南語; Taiwan has an ideal climate for growing tea, and tea is an essential part of life in Taiwan. Taiwan is probably the best place in the world for superior tea, so the HK merchants had no trouble unloading their supplies. Finicky tea drinkers in Taiwan started paying more attention to the age and provenance of their Puerh.

In the last six or seven years, as the economy of the PRC has taken off, the demand for Puerh there has taken off, driving up prices; there is also strong demand in South Korea and Malaysia. For this reason, the price of aged Puerh has gone into orbit, bringing with it several consequences.

First, people started drinking fresh Puerh. In the last several years, I have drunk Puerh months from the farm; this would have been inconceivable twenty years ago.

Second, people are buying Puerh in quantity and aging it themselves. I used to buy Puerh cake by cake. Now I buy it by the 筒bucket (7 cakes) or 件 piece (12 buckets).

Third, people are paying more attention to how Puerh is stored. This is good and bad. The good side is that improper storage can almost ruin fine tea, although a skillful tea maker can salvage even moldering Puerh, to some extent. The bad side is that some tea merchants seem to have made storage a mysterious, forbidding topic, while blowing out smoke and fog to confuse people, for their own profit.

Lately there has been much talk ~~ too much talk, some say ~~ about 乾倉 and 濕倉. First, a word or two on nomenclature. The first could clearly be translated dry storage. Translating the second as 'wet storage' is Chinglish, a very inept rendering of the Chinese into English. Damp storage or humid storage would be more appropriate. 說文:溼,幽溼也。从一,覆也,覆土而有水,故溼也。段注:凡溼之所从生,多生于上有覆而氣不渫,故从一土水,會意。廣韻:溼,失入切,水霑也。

However, novices should be aware that these are not necessarily descriptions of the warehouse in which tea was stored, but rather are often used to describe the condition of a particular cake of tea. The condition of the tea depends on a variety of factors, including mainly the skill and care of the warehouse personnel and the place in which this particular cake was stored. One cake may be described as乾倉 'stored dry' while another cake, stored only a meter away, at the bottom of the heap down in a musty corner, would be described as濕倉 'stored damp.'

Obviously, some locations are better for aging Puerh than others, but do not believe that Warehouse A is labeled Dry Warehouse and Warehouse X is labeled Humid Warehouse. Again, the skill of the tea maker is vital; I would rather have 30 year old damp stored Puerh than five year old dry stored.

Fortunately – or rather, fortunately for me, at least – my home in Wulai is just about ideal for aging Puerh. I live in mountains in subtropical rainforest, with fresh air and clean breezes, high humidity (usually at least 70%), and no frost. Those who live in dry climates should give some thought to storing their Puerh. I once gave a cake of Puerh to someone in Southern California who had several years experience drinking Puerh before she moved to California. When I saw the cake about a year and a half later, I was astonished: I simply did not recognize it. It had dried out, withered, I would say, and lost its vitality. So Puerh drinkers in such climates should consider either buying only aged Puerh and not attempting to age it, or maybe constructing something like the humidors used to store cigars.

Puerh likes to age in company. If you put one cake down in a fresh room, after ten years it will not be as good as a cake placed in an experienced storeroom with a hundred other cakes. The more Puerh you store in one place, the better, and the longer you store Puerh in that storage, the better resulting cakes will be. This is why some PRC tea merchants have been renting experienced warehouses in Hong Kong to age their tea.

Finally, while I am discussing nomenclature, I would like to mention the translation of 茶廠 as 'tea factory,' another graceless example of Chinglish. 廠 does not necessarily mean factory; it means a room, a chamber, or building, especially a spacious one. 廣韻:廠,昌兩切,屋也。敞,高也。 defines 'factory' as "A building or group of buildings in which goods are manufactured; a plant." Tea plant would be confusing, but to my mind, a factory carries an image of machinery, assembly lines, and putting parts together. I propose "tea workshop"
as not an ideal translation, but a more pleasant image, and closer to the original.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009





Monday, January 05, 2009

I wrote this in March 2003.
I almost got knocked flat the other day…
… I was on my way down to catch the bus to the city to teach on Saturday morning. As I passed the Tribe, I heard some little kids calling out my name. I looked back to wave, and saw Ciana racing towards me. Now, Ciana (pronounced jya-NA!), Sinkang the busdriver's little girl, is my favorite kid in Wulai. She is a second grader with beautiful, intelligent eyes. I think they feed her on bricks. Some of these Aborigine kids are not particularly big, but they are about as light as a sack of bricks. Kids in the Tribe love for me to hoist them up into the sky and juggle them around, and with a couple of them, it's exercise.
So there is Ciana racing towards me, on a level a bit higher than the road I was on. I called out, Jump! and faithful Ciana launched herself at me. I suddenly understood how besiegers of medieval castles felt when the defenders dragged the catapults into action. She caught me straight across the chest, or should I say I caught her across my chest? Anyway, I whirled around a couple times until I found my balance, benchpressed her a couple times, and put her down.
There was no choice in the matter. I simply couldn't end up with that in my obituary: "died of head injuries sustained when knocked flat by a seven year old girl." But you ever do read that, you'll know what happened.

There are worse ways to go.

Sunday, January 04, 2009






Saturday, January 03, 2009


Friday, January 02, 2009

I got a spam letter through YouTube from some crazy Christian, prophesying the apocalypse, as usual. I was just about to delete it when a section caught my eye:

Well, there could be something to that, you know.

Promises, promises. After Judgment Day (there's no e between the g and m in judgment, please. If you can prophesy the future, you should at least be able to spell at a junior high school level, and remember that prophesy is a verb, prophecy is the noun), the polemic continues:
I haven't checked, but I was under the impression that they had water in the Garden of Eden. Australia, the Garden of Eden? That's the least believable part of the whole diatribe.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

師大國文大一,論語是必修課,謝新瑞老師教授。我第一學期活當 ~~聽說現在沒有活當、死當,當時分數五十以上六十以下可以補攷,叫做活當,四十九以下要重修,叫做死當。第一學期活當了,這是預料中之事。





用現代的表達方式說明,夫子不user friendly;你必須自己用腦,「退而省其私」。跟基督教、回教、馬列主義不同的是,夫子不提供標準答案。夫子說甚麼,你自個兒思攷,各以其品,你達到你自己滿意的答案,這就要看你本身的修養。