Sunday, February 27, 2011


His Holiness the 17th Karmapa said, People's greatest suffering is that our hearts are too chaotic, and we cannot settle our minds, so even though we want happiness, we can never get it. To make ourselves happy, we may buy a car, or buy a fancy house, or find a spouse to get married and raise a family. But you will see that some people have all of these, but they have never been truly happy.

(this is my translation from the Chinese to English. I am not sure if there is a translation from Tibetan to English. This will have to do.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011



A friend phoned to tell me, "I just saw on the television news, they had a scrolling text that said there was a terrible earthquake in New York, and a lot of people died!"

New York, New Zealand, who can keep all these foreign names straight?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A prolonged dry spell in Wulai ended today. Starting Monday (February 21) at dark, Wulai endured almost 70 hours with no rainfall, except for a shower last night. This afternoon's rain restored everything to normal. Mosquitoes throughout the jungle are joining leeches in quiet celebrations and ceremonies of thanksgiving.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011



Monday, February 21, 2011



where the world is headed:: click here::

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Yesterday I mentioned how quickly technology changes. Fifteen years ago, a sure bet would have been to open a photo shop, selling film and developing pictures. Now you have to remind people what 'film' is. Do you remember how to load a camera? Or do you take pictures with your phone?

When I got my first digital camera, in 2000, people used to ask me why I didn't hold my camera up to my eye to shoot. Mine was the first digital camera many people had seen. The little screen on the back, and the instant replay, probably influenced many people to get rid of their film cameras.

Now the small point and shoot is on the way out, replaced by cell phones. Ten years ago, if you had said, "I'll take a photo on my phone," people would have thought you were crazy.

I wonder what we will take for granted in 2020 that we consider totally ridiculous now.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

On my browser, there are white splotches on today's main post. Don't ask me why. They aren't there for emphasis or anything. I can't get rid of them, that's all I know.

Technology molds the economy, when the economists and politicians leave it alone. Technology is changing so fast that it probably doesn't make sense any more for kids to write compositions on What I Want to Do When I Grow Up, because important careers in the future haven't been invented yet, and many good paying jobs today will be obsolete.

Twenty years ago, who would have imagined that you could do good business selling telephones? Fifteen years ago, who would have imagined that opening a shop to develop photos and sell film was not a solid investment?

On Yahoo I found an interesting article (here) about jobs that will not be back once the economy recovers. Some are predictable: you won't need anyone to answer your phone, file clerks will be unemployed, mail sorters will be redundant.

Of course it has been proved many times that the experts are not infallible. But still, I was sad to see stage performers on the list of endangered jobs. "According to jobs researcher Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., live performances have fallen out of fashion and have been almost entirely replaced with movies and home entertainment technologies." Okay, I have never hired a juggler or magician, but YouTube just isn't the same as watching a real person perform.

Carpenters are another occupation that may disappear, with more and more prefabricated houses (yuck) and mass produced chairs from Ikea. Holistic healing may become a luxury service, if it isn't already.

This article is based on the US economy, and different jobs will come and go in different economies, but it is a good over-all indicator of trends.

The good news is that telemarketers and door to door salesmen are dying out, replaced by internet and tv advertising. I don't watch tv anyway, and on the internet, I have a wonderful ability to ignore ads: I simply don't see them. That's a lot easier than ignoring a ringing telephone, so good-bye and good riddance! There are not many telemarketers in Taiwan, but enough to be a nuisance. Instead we have, or had, teleswindlers, but people have wised up enough now that that occupation too is pretty much defunct. Good bye and good riddance!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Forty years ago today, February 13, 1971, I staggered off the plane in Saigon after a trip that lasted over 20 hours, from SF to Honolulu to Guam to Manila to Saigon. Mom picked me up at Ton Son Nhut airport in Saigon and took me to breakfast at the Blue Diamond on Tu Do, which was wonderful, because all across the Pacific, flying just ahead of the rising sun, the stewardesses had been serving breakfast. The breakfast Mom took me to was my fifth in a row.

The war was going on, so the Saigon streets were a busy mix of motor scooters, taxis, jeeps, bicycles, pedestrians, and tanks, all sharing a total disregard for traffic laws. Most men were in uniform and carrying pistols and M16s. Women who were not doing physical labor were dressed in the ao dai, white top with black pants. The sun was strong. The smell of the country was unfamiliar, but enticing. Sounds and sights were different from anything I was familiar with. Barbed wire was everywhere. Military patrols and checkpoints dotted the city.

After a tour of the city, we went to the bakery, where two dozen girls were busy making pizzas for the war effort. They were Viet Namese, with some 華僑 ethnic Chinese, and the managers were Korean. They worked downstairs, Mom and I lived upstairs.

We deposited my luggage and went to Uncle Jim's for dinner, where I planted my face in my plate. Jet lag had caught up with me.

I managed to wake up long enough to finish dinner and go to the bakery, our home. I woke up late at night, maybe 2 AM. Soon a heavily armored jeep with quad-50s drove past. In the distance I could hear artillery fire.

Sleep quickly overtook me again, and I fell dead asleep until first light, when I was awakened by a lady walking down the street with a shoulder pole, calling her wares. My new life had begun.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

We've had so little sun this winter that we have to look for it on the internet::: here

Thursday, February 10, 2011




Tuesday, February 08, 2011

If you are getting all dewy-eyed about the Reagan centennial, be sure to read this::here:::

and let nobody forget that he forced Taiwan to import American cigarettes and liquor, or else be penalized with a trade embargo. Thanks a lot, Ronny, for all the cancer, all the ruined lives.

Obviously Reagan did not light cigarettes for people on the street, but there were huge advertising campaigns, passing out free packs of Marlboros and other American brands to high school kids, and all sorts of promotion. American beer did not sell at first, so the Reagan administration demanded they do something about it. There was a big push, buy one can of Taiwan beeer, get a free can of Pabst or Budweiser. And so forth.

Before that, the ROC government had been pretty protective, and wouldn't allow McDonald's or KFC to open stores here, for health reasons, but when cigarettes came, Mickey D and Colonel Sanders followed. Plus 7/11, leading to the demise of the Mom & Pop stores.

Reagan's purported reason for this was a trade imbalance: everything for sale in the US said MADE IN TAIWAN on it, but few American products were imported. Few people wanted American cars, and they are too big for convenience here. A lot of soybeans and corn were imported, but not enough to offset the trade imbalance.

A main factor in Reagan's hard line was the American tobacco sales were falling, due to the rising awareness that cigarettes kill. Rather than let the tobacco industry lose money, Reagan made Taiwan, South Korea, and a few other staunch allies import cigarettes: better to kill loyal friends than allow some business people lose a couple bucks. The ROC representatives signed the agreement in a lavishly decorated conference room in the US State Department. The million dollar tab for the decoration was picked up by the tobacco industry.

If Reagan had pushed other American products into the Taiwan market, such as pianos, lumber, or aircraft, okay, but liquor and tobacco? We're lucky the NRA didn't climb on the bandwagon.

Before Reagan, tobacco had been a government monopoly, so cigarettes were made very uneconomically ~ I forget the details, but because of the tobacco drying process, Taiwan's smokers had the world's lowest cancer rate. When Reagan rammed American cigarettes into the market, to compete the government monopoly bureau had to abandon the old methods, so now the cancer rate is as high as anyone else's.

Makes you proud to be an American, I tell you!

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Farmers observed that if snakes coiled around rabbits, the harvest would be good, and the more snakes coiling around rabbits, the better the harvest would be. This became a popular motif for Rabbit year decorations.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

How are you spending your New Year holiday?

I was awakened much too early by distant barking that sounded too much like Byajing. She wasn't to be seen, and Yumin was absent too. Not a good sign. I called, but neither responded. The barking continued, far away.

Nothing to be done for it. I strapped on my laraw (番刀, Tayal knife) and set off into the jungle. Half an hour later, I found both dogs prancing frenziedly under a treed kitty cat.

(If you look carefully, in this photo you can see treed kitty and eager dogs.)

If I pulled off Byajing, Yumin would stay there until either he or kitty starved. If I pulled off Yumin, Byajing would come, so Yumin was the key. But I also wanted to get close enough to grab Yumin without frightening the cat into jumping onto my head. From a safe distance, I prodded Yumin with a length of reed until he switched position, and seized him.

I cut a length of vine and put it through his collar, but I was afraid that wouldn't be strong enough to hold him. Along the way, I found a discarded, broken bamboo bow with string wrapped around the handle, so I unwound the string for a makeshift leash, and dragged the culprit home.

So how are you enjoying your holidays? Getting plenty of rest?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Blaq kwara kawas na alis.






Thursday, February 03, 2011






Happy year of the Rabbit to one and all!