Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ignorance or Arrogance

The rude behavior I experience here on a daily basis is mind-boggling.

The main areas of contention:

*people refusing to walk on one side or another of the sidewalk and slamming into me.
*getting whacked in the head by umbrellas.
*being stampeded when trying to exit a train.
*folks passing gas in a crowded train.
*the every-man-for-himself attitude when getting on a train, an elevator, etc....constant cutting in lines.
*walking incredibly slow three-wide on a sidewalk.
*talking with a mouthful of food.
*talking so loud it's almost deafening.
*having to jump out of the way to avoid getting hit my a motorcycle on the SIDEWALK.
*sheer madness when in elevators...much the same as the train insanity, just in a much smaller space. Taiwanese people are obsessed with the "close door" button. They all dive at the button once they get in the elevator. I don't even want to discuss how many times I have had to push people away that were rushing to get in when exiting.

I don't know whether folks here are just plain rude, or if they have never been taught proper manners in public? I find it hard to believe they think the above behavior is acceptable. As skeptical as I am, I pray that it's ignorance.

This post may seem like I am taking on a "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" attitude, but you actually get used to dealing with this stuff. I have to admit that I have, on more than one occasion, exacted revenge on a person guilty of one of the above

Earthquakes part 2

The quakes the other day have wreaked some serious havoc in Asia.

Apparently, the quakes damaged some underwater communication lines that have crippled much of Asia's cell phone and internet access. According to the news, several countries have limited or no internet and cell phone functions are choppy. It could take weeks to fix the lines. This is crazy stuff.

It's incredible how much damage these things can do.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


WOW! That was crazy. Two earthquakes within 10 minutes of each other. 6.7 & 7.2 on the Richter scale...not minor quakes.

One person died in the southern part of the island. Lots of fires and down power lines. No damage in Taipei, the northern tip of the country.

I was teaching my Superwriters class when they hit. I knew the first one was big because the kids were a bit skittish. We get quakes here all the time, just not of this magnitude. When the second one came, the kids were all laughing nervously. These were not your run-of-the-mill tremors.

Fun, fun, fun.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

18 Days To Big Trip

Just 18 days until I head back to the US of A for a visit. I can't wait to see everyone. It seems like eons since I've been home. Just got an email from Perry saying they found a great Italian restaurant in Vegas. All of you back in Ohio know that Cleveland has some seriously good Italian joints...Perry said this place reminds him of Little Italy, Cleveland style...yummy! As great as that sounds, I am more excited about just hanging out with him and his boss, errr wife.

Also, I think Shelley and her brood are going to be visiting when I am at my mom's place. It'll be cool to see her and the kids. Perhaps Davette will come too? It would be awesome to have all of the sisters together.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Definition of Cool

I'm addicted to

I stumbled on a few extraordinary videos recently. I think they are worthy of a spot in my video link section.

The first needs no intro, it's J.B. doing his thing. I would give my right arm to have a tenth of the groove he's got.

Next up is none other than The Ohio Players. WOW! How freaking cool were these cats??? Check out the threads! This is the stuff I remember from my childhood. I can see my dad with his freaky afro and my sisters clad in pastel colors groovin to this one.

The last one is Big Joe Turner. So cool. Ya can't help but dig this song. The early black artists set the standard for modern music, great stuff.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

16 for 16

As I mentioned a few posts ago, my PTA was successful. I managed to convince all the parents of my students in that particular class to re-up for another session, pay for the another year of classes.

I was pleased to hear that. Apparently, this is a much bigger feat than I thought. I mentioned to my boss tonight that all 16 kids are continuing and she beamed at me and explained that this was the first time in nearly 10 years that a foreign teacher has achieved this mark.

Foreign teachers take over classes from the Chinese teachers when the students get to the higher levels. Most of the students are nearing or are in junior high. When they get to this age, their schedules get very hectic. Many of them find taking English classes too big of a time-killer and drop out. The parents, mistakenly, think their kid's English skills are sufficient. It takes a good teacher and effective classroom techniques to keep the kids in the seats.

I guess I have been doing something right. I sense a renegotiation of my contract/pay in my near


It wasn't computer crashed!

Woke up Sunday morning. Nothing out of the ordinary, did the usual stuff. Put on a pot of coffee, turned on the computer, headed to the shower while the computer fired up. I came out of the bathroom to discover an ugly sight..."no operating system found".

I spent the next few hours trying to get the computer to function, no response. I feared this day was coming. When I bought this notebook the guy at the store loaded an unregistered copy of Windows XP in English in it for me. Remember, I am in a Chinese speaking country and computers are sold here with Chinese as the primary language. As part of the sale, he agreed to load up an English operating system for me. The problem is the copy he had was illegal. This means that I wasn't able to update my system and it made me very vulnerable to all kinds of bugs and glitches. After running this bootleg version for about a year, it went kaput.

I thought I figured out what to do Sunday afternoon. I headed out to Guangwha market, the greatest electronics market on Earth, and bought a legal version of Windows XP. Came home and loaded it response. I just spent about $120 for nothing!...dern it.

Monday morning I went back to the place I bought the computer and explained my predicament. The tech guy was very cool. He gave me taxi fare and pointed me in the direction of the repair shop. I got to the repair shop and waited for about 20 minutes to talk to a technician. The were very accommodating and told me it would be fixed that afternoon and I could pick it up the next day free of charge. They were going to give me a new, legal version of XP and a new hard drive. This is great except I lost everything I had saved...about 20 gigs worth of stuff! I had saved most of my work files and pictures to CD, thank god. Still, this is a serious bummer.

The repair shop was true to their word. I picked up the computer early Tuesday afternoon. It's running like a well-oiled machine, minus all my files.

One issue I am less-than-thrilled about is the fact that my virus software and my copy of Microsoft Office are no longer valid because they were exclusive to that hard drive/operating system. Two expensive pieces of software rendered useless by the crash.

I guess I should be glad to have this machine back in working order. I can resume wasting countless hours on the

Sunday, December 17, 2006


This morning was great. The PTA went very well. The kids and parents were exceptional.

We started a little late because it was a Saturday morning, raining cats & dogs, and it's not easy getting 35 people all in the same place. The kids were great. For the past few weeks I've been asking many of the other teachers how they put together their PTA's. Most of them said they give the best 3 or 4 students a bunch of things to perform and have the slower ones contribute just a line or two. That method doesn't jive with me. I knew the parents of the slower kids would be more critical of me. Therefore, I decided to give all the students an equal share of the load. This would give them all an opportunity to shine. All of them did a great job. The silliest moment came when Milton, perhaps the hardest working student in the class, forgot his lines. I gave him the line and he finished fine. The performances by the kids lasted for about 45 minutes and they seemed to have a good time.

I sent the kids to another classroom so I could spend some time selling myself and my methods to the parents. I was kinda nervous. In the middle of the group was a couple mothers that I have met before. They have previously thanked me and seemed satisfied with my work. I just kept thinking about them and it alleviated a lot of the butterflies. After a few minutes, I got into a nice groove. I hadn't really laid out a talking plan, planned to let the parents dictate the direction. It went pretty smoothly. Much of the time was spent discussing methods in the classroom and future plans. I started to feel very comfortable and made a classic American-style comment...I told the parents that I was the best teacher at Gram and I intend to continue to work to mold their kids into great English speakers. This is not something you'd ever hear from a Taiwanese person. I don't care. I have never been shy about the way I feel and I think confidence is important if you want to succeed. Much to my surprise, the parents started clapping after I said it...good stuff!

Other than a few minor issues, the parents seemed satisfied. One mother thought I should get an MSN account so the kids could contact me via chat. Not sure about that idea. I did tell her I was considering using email to help those who miss classes. One mom would like her kid to sit in the front row, not a problem.

Perhaps the best moment came when Johnny's mom told me that before I became his teacher Johnny rarely used English at he uses it a ton and has been buying English-only CD's. That's a nice endorsement.

The truest sign that I am succeeding came after the PTA. My boss told me that all 16 students have paid for the next term. Many of these kids have hectic schedules and the drop-out rate at this level is pretty high. Not for my class!

Mission accomplished.

Friday, December 15, 2006

PTA Tomorrow

The big day for my 1093 class is tomorrow. My chance to show off my skills in front of the student's parents. Needless to say, I'm nervous. I am confident that the kids will do fine. They are an incredible group. The bond that develops between a teacher and his/her students is very special. I regard these kids as an extension of myself in many ways. They are going to excel as long as I stay sharp. Their success is a matter of pride for me.

This group is awesome. All sixteen of them are unique and an important part of the group. Each one of them brings something special to the classroom. Sandra's intensity, Milton's desire to learn, and Sherry's silliness are priceless. Tomorrow's session is a milestone for the class and it's gonna be fun, I hope. The competitiveness within the group is intense. We just finished the 9th level. There was a total of 4800 total possible points. The top 4 students in the class were separated by just 13 points. It's great to see them comparing their test grades and trying to one-up each other, the excitement is cool.

Many thanks again to Shelley for the Reese's Cups. They have provided me with the extra boost I needed to get through the mountains of paperwork for the PTA.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Hallinans Rule!

I got a delivery yesterday. A nice box from the US of A. Didn't see it coming, a pleasant surprise. It is from my sister Shelley and her clan, the Hallinans. She heard my rather pathetic pleas for Reese's Cups, and came through strong! Sorry Shell, you know me, there was no way I was gonna wait until X-mas to open up the box. Without you, Mom, or one of the other sisters here to stop me, the box had little chance of survival!

Along with the chocolate goodness, she included a cool little movie book. She knows me all too well. That book is right up my alley. Yet another way to feed my compulsion to list/order

The pic of the kids blew me away. Can't believe how quickly they are growing up. Next time I visit, I expect Rachel to be a licensed driver...crazy. Good looking kids. The thought of Shelley having two teenagers running around her house is mind-boggling. I think back to your graduation from Queens College. Doesn't seem like it was that long ago...

Thanks Shelley. You know nothing I do can equal your efforts. Taking the time to send this great stuff is way cool and I am forever in your debt.

I'll be home in about a month. Can't wait to see you and the rest of the fam!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Chinese New Year

I just found out that we are getting nine days off for Chinese New Years this year. The dates are February 17th through the 25th. A nice long break from work.

There are two issues that might make doing something fun a little difficult. One, I return from my trip the States at the end of January, my cash flow is liable to be pretty low. Also, most of Asia travels over the holiday and airfare is sky-high.

I am considering a trip to Bali or a return to Thailand.

Bali is a little island in Indonesia. The resorts are amazing, you can climb a volcano or spend the day in a park inhabited by thousands of monkeys. It's a very relaxing place. Brent, who used to work with me here, went there a few times and said it was amazing. The food and activities are second to none. Deals for very nice hotels are easy to get because of the bombing there a few years back. Some guys decided it would be a good idea to blow up a nightclub there...nasty stuff, but good for the price of a stay at one of the resorts. Since the incident, vacations to Bali have been quite a bit cheaper. I don't let that kind of thing deter me from doing what I want, life's too short.

If not Bali, then perhaps a return to Thailand is an option? If I go back there, I will venture outside of the city. Maybe head north where I can do the elephant safari thing. One thing is for sure, I will be hitting up the markets in Bangkok.

Not sure which direction I am going to go, but I have to decide soon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Jerry & The Toilet

My porcelain throne sprang a leak. Had to call Jerry, the landlord, to come a take care of it. Part of the doohickey in the back went bad. As usual, Jerry was out in a flash. He is a great guy, very kind and goes beyond the call of duty for a landlord. He fixed the problem in about 10 minutes. You know, I am not totally clueless about this stuff, but I was afraid if I started messing with it, it might get messy.

Bathrooms here are different from back home. Due to space issues, most bathrooms don't have a shower stall. When you shower, the entire bathroom gets wet. It's not a big problem because everything is tiled and dries pretty quickly. Jerry, being insanely polite and afraid to dirty anything up in the apartment, took of his shoes before entering the bathroom. This would've been Okay except I had just finished taking a shower and the floor was wet. Poor guy had sopping wet socks by the time he was I told him he could keep his shoes on, he wouldn't do it.

After he finished fixing the commode, we came to an agreement about English lessons. He has been bugging me for months about wanting to learn English, I finally capitulated. I'm gonna teach him for an hour a week. Every Thursday morning we will have a go at it. We haven't discussed how much it's gonna cost him, but I think about NT$600/hour sounds good. That's about $20 American an hour.

If I could find 5 or 6 more tutoring students like Jerry, I'd be sound as a pound.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Ever have a song that just seems to haunt you? I do. It's No Surprises by Radiohead. It came out about 10 years ago on their OK Computer album. One of many incredible songs on, what I believe to be, one of the greatest albums ever made. I have been listening to this song for years and it still gets me every time I hear's gut-wrenching.

I've added it to the collection of great videos on the right-hand side of this page, check it out. The emotion that Thom Yorke puts into his performance is chilling. Love how they incorporate the glockenspiel into their music.

Click play on the top video. Make sure you have the sound turned up on your speakers, it's good stuff.

Friday, December 01, 2006

High Speed Rail

The long-awaited bullet train is scheduled to begin service this month. State-of-the-art stuff. It connects the northern cities to the far south. Train travel is huge in Taiwan. According to what I've read, it will take you from Taipei to Kaohsiung, the biggest city in the south, in about 90 minutes. The trip on a traditional train takes about 5 hours. The new train tops out at about 200 miles/hour. It's not the cheapest form of travel. A ride on the fast train is about 60% of the cost of a plane ticket.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


About a week ago, I had a tough lesson to teach to a group I wasn't very familiar with. The target was to get them to comprehend a story that revolved around boats, a topic that these kids were clueless about. I spent a good bit of time struggling with my plan. Finally, I just decided to get silly, a method that seems to work well for me.

I marched into the class and had a bunch of the kids stand up and clear the desks out of the center of the room. Next, I grabbed four of them to be my subjects. The four kids were about to my boat mates. I had to explain to the class the differences between a canoe, a rowboat, and a speedboat. Also, what the heck is water skiing? In the next five minutes or so, I had the students grabbing imaginary oars and rowing the boats, steering the speedboat, and bouncing off the waves while holding on for dear life. The action was furious and the kids had a blast! For some reason, they love it when I make a fool of myself as I make silly sound effects and jump around like a monkey...

I related this goofy story to you all because yesterday, Josephine, the classes full-time teacher, told me that the class is still talking about that crazy lesson. Several of the kids in the class have asked her when Teacher David is coming back! Mission accomplished...

Those kids will remember that lesson. As a teacher, you have to be willing to throw humility/ego out the door to get the job done.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Good Luck Malinda

As you may have noticed, the pictures below are of Malinda on her last day at Gram. She has decided to try something else. I knew this day was coming, just didn't think it would be so soon. Her & I have spoken many times about her desire to do something different with her life. She hasn't been thrilled with her job in quite some time. Teaching is just not her thing.

She is a great woman who is trying to figure out her future, a tough spot to be in. She has a strong spirit and works really hard. Wherever she ends up, she will shine.

I will miss her and I hope we have a chance to get together outside of work.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pics! (Malinda)

Some good shots of Malinda on her last day. Not a fun day in the office. She will be missed.I really like the next two. She always yelled at me for taking spontaneous shots like this, but I think they turned out great! They were taken while I was sitting at my desk. She put up with my silliness more than she ever should

Saturday, November 25, 2006

New Class & Superwriters Disaster

Megan, one of the Chinese teachers at work, quit her job. She is going to move home and pursue a life in the business world. Her last day is next month. She asked me to take over one of her classes and I accepted. She is an excellent teacher and the class is pretty sharp. Lucky for me, they are about 2 units behind one of my other classes, so I can simply use the existing lesson plans for this new group...a big time saver.

The class meets from 5:00 to 7:00 on Tuesdays & Fridays, which is good except that means that it buts up against my two-and-a-half hour Superwriters class on Tuesdays. From here on in, Tuesdays are gonna be rough.

Speaking of Superwriters, what a mess. I am adrift in that class. The expectations from my boss are at odds with the classes abilities. It's been difficult to get this group to write at the level that is expected by the school's leadership. Force-feeding them complex writing assignments is not a winning strategy. They simply don't have the ability to work at the prescribed pace. I realised this a few months back and scaled down the lesson plans to accommodate their shortcomings. I had a meeting with my boss about a week ago and she is less than pleased with their progress. I explained to her that I had to alter my approach so that everyone could keep up. This doesn't compute with the boss because slowing things down means less money per class period. The parents pay according to the progress in the texts. I am taking about 6 weeks longer to finish the text than she thinks is acceptable. I am doing my best to buckle down and make it more cost-effective. I am worried it comes at the expense of the kids and their chance to become excellent writers.

We'll see. I think there is going to be some substantial changes in the Superwriters class in the near future.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Ok, these are the two cutest kids on the planet! The first one is Kevin, an adorable little guy who was pretty adept at avoiding my camera, until I snuck up behind him and got him with this shot. Just below is Angel, she is a silly little one who runs around the office with a smile that lights up the room. I was shocked she stood still long enough for me to snap this one. Ya gotta click on the pics to get the full effect, they are priceless!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Postal Heaven

I got a nice care package from home yesterday. It's great getting stuff that I can't normally get here, including Reese's Cups!! There is a place that carries Reese's here, but they want about $1.50 American for a pack!...not gonna happen.

Included in the package was some good deodorant, pics from home, a letter from mom, and of course, the new Black Keys's fantastic!

The requisite pics of my crazy cats are great. Also, a lovely pic of Gracie, my adorable niece. She is a little ballerina. Mom on the back of a motorcycle was a bit of a shock. My Aunt Dorothy & Uncle Charles are nearly 100 years old, excellent to see them together in the picture. If I had a scanner, I would've posted these great shots on here, sorry.

Had one of the Reese's Cups for dessert at work last night. Everyone in the office couldn't figure out why I was drooling and nearly brought to tears...simply scrumptious!

P.S. I know my sister Jayne was the one who made the effort to get the CD, you're the greatest. Also, thanks for taking the time to read this your comments.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Another silly sign I found. This one can be found above most urinals here in Taiwan. Not sure what a "snipe" is? It's important to be discreet and clean! of the little cuties I have so much fun teaching...she was practicing for an upcoming competition. I had to get a pic of her, she is a little angel. With her is Megan, one of the many very pretty teachers I have the pleasure of working with.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Return to Bangkok?

As most of you know by now, I am heading home for a visit in mid-January. Well, I just found a killer trip deal for Bangkok over the Chinese New Year, in mid-February. Ugh, I dig Bangkok, big time. This is tough. If I do this it will seriously cut into my budget for the trip home. NT$8000 for a round-trip flight to BKK is a steal over the holiday. I have 4 or 5 days off, sure would like to spend them running wild in Thailand. I know that I have to go back again before I move back to the States. Time to crunch some numbers...

My itinery for the trip home is locked in, bought the last of the tickets yesterday. Flying into LAX on Jan 12th, catching another flight that evening to Vegas. Staying with Perry & Andrea for a few days before leaving for CLE on the evening of the 14th. Hanging with the fam until the 23rd. Flying back to Vegas on the evening of the 23rd. Gotta another day or so in Sin City before scooting back to LAX to catch return flight to Taipei...what a trip.

The whole shootin match cost me about $1050 American, not too shabby.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fair Play?

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I am coaching one of my students for an upcoming speech competition. The contests are a big deal here. Sandra, my student, wrote a very nice speech about a crazy vacation she took a few years ago. It's a fun composition with a fair amount of grammar mistakes. This is to be expected considering she is in the process of learning the language. I have been giving her tips and prompting her to keep working hard to make it a great speech. A few days ago, my boss asked me how it was going. I told her that Sandra was rewriting it and figuring out how long the speech is, it has to be between two and two-and-a-half minutes. My boss looked at me with a frown. She asked me why I wasn't writing the speech for her. I told her that it was Sandra's speech, not mine. She proceeded to tell me that the teacher usually writes the speech to ensure that it includes a good amount of the grammar the student is currently learning. I couldn't help but laugh when she told me this. I calmly told her that I don't work that way. This is Sandra's speech, not mine. She wasn't thrilled to hear that. Apparently, the only thing that matters is winning. This is a multi-school contest and a trophy gives a school some serious bragging rights. That being said, I am not gonna cheat. I have already spoken to Sandra about this and explained to her that I am not worried about her performance...she is awesome and this is about having fun. If she loses, it won't be because she sucks. It'll be because she is one of the few kids that actually utilized her skills. I know this is gonna get me in trouble with my boss. Screw it, I am not going play the game. All that matters is that Sandra knows she did the right thing.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My Next Opportunity?

As I mentioned earlier, I am taking a trip home in January. Part of my journey involves a stop off to visit my favorite couple of crazies, Perry & Andrea. I'm gonna be spending a few days with them in Las Vegas, their home. Anyhow, Perry & I Have been discussing the possibility of yours truly becoming a teacher in Vegas. It's the hottest market in the country for teachers, they are paying very well and the demand is sky-high. The school district there has many options as far as alternative licensing is concerned. I am confident I could do it. As far as I can tell, it's about an 18 month program. From everything Perry has told me, it looks like I won't have any problems getting a full-time teaching gig once I get the license.

I love my job here, but I have to seriously consider the long-term picture. I have had nothing but good things here and I think I need to see if I can parlay my good fortune into something more concrete in the States. I don't believe I'll ever have an easier set-up then I do now but it is just not something you do for 20+ years. I am well aware that teaching in the U.S. is a very different experience then over here, I think I can handle it.

The thought of leaving my kids here is heart-wrenching. I know it's a cliche', but many of the children I teach are MY kids...the attachment runs deep. If this Vegas teaching opportunity happens, it's gonna be a tough transition. I have had plenty of shifts in my life, but most of them came as a result of dissatisfaction with what I was doing at the time. This one won't be quite that simple. I am very happy with just about every aspect of my life here. This move will be driven by my need to shore things up in the distant future.

I've got lots to think about in the coming months.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Perry sent me this link. Click on the title of this post "Perspective" to activate the link. It's pretty telling. When you scale down things, the problems we are facing are much more disturbing. It's got lots of graphics, so it may take a minute or so to load.

I particularly like the advice at the bottom of the page.

"Tell the truth and you don't have to remember anything."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Grass Is Always Greener...

Yesterday, I was preparing for my classes when I jokingly told Malinda, one of the Chinese teachers, that I wanted her to come with me to the U.S. on my visit home. Yes, she spells her name with an "a", not an "e". I told her she would have a blast, that's it's a pretty crazy place, especially Vegas. She just stared down at her work and said something to the effect that she wished she could because her life is so boring. She, like countless other Taiwanese people, see the U.S. as a place of unending excitement and possibility. I, unintentionally, brought about a very emotion response from her. Her eyes began to well up with tears...ugh, I felt like an idiot. She is a sweet girl. I was a bit taken back by her response. I told her that we have a saying in English that goes something like the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Nobody has a perfect life and other folks always seem to have it better, when they, in fact, are probably just as miserable as everyone else. She agreed and explained as much as she would love to travel and live somewhere else, she couldn't imagine living very far from her family. She thinks I am a crazy person for living so far away from my family. I told her that I love my family as much as anyone else, I just choose to live a life that is a bit disconnected from the comforts of a close, insular family unit. This is not to say it's the right way to live, just the way I have chosen. The vast majority of the world never move more than a few miles from the rest of their family and that's fine. I know that, if necessary, I can always return home and my family will support me 100%. As it stands, my family knows that I am pursuing my dreams and they all thinks it's pretty groovy. Malinda is at a point where I have been in the past. She is facing some tough issues in her life. A few years back, I wrestled with the same's not easy. She wants what she thinks would be a more substantive life, but can't fathom making a drastic change. Family life here is much more valued. Extended families living under the same roof is the norm. I think she is the kind of person that could really kick some butt if she would take the chance and do something bold. However, I doubt she will, pressure from her family will probably keep her from doing anything too adventurous. She is a dynamic young woman that has great potential, let's hope she has a chance to utilize it.

Monday, October 30, 2006


The view from the train I take to work every day. Space is at a premium here. This type of apartment is common here. Folks don't put much time into making the exterior of their housing attractive, most of them are probably very nice inside. Being so close to the train is not a good location. This is Shulin, not one of the most sought after places to live in the Taipei area.

Same train ride, a minute or two later. Have to cross this river in order to get into the city. Taipei is in the background. I wouldn't drink this water if it was the last liquid on the

This is just bizarre. Taken at Taipei Main Train Station. I couldn't believe it when I saw it. It's OK to fart, pick your nose, and step over your grandma to get on a train, but god forbid you breastfeed in public.

Here is class 1093, the coolest group of kids you'll ever meet. This was taken shortly after our recent ice cream excursion. I'm the dorky looking white guy in the

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Getting "Lost"

On my recent trip to Bangkok, I managed to pick up the first two seasons of "Lost". I started watching them not too long ago and I can't stop! This is some freaking great TV. The storylines are compelling and the actors are well-suited for this type of adventure. I never had a chance to see it when it was on in the States. It's nice to have the DVD's because I've never been good at remembering to tune in on a certain night to catch a TV program.

Call me a freak, but I think it would be a blast to be part of a group that survives an actual plane crash on a deserted the idea of testing my survival abilities. I think I am well-prepared for such an ordeal after the insanity I went through in Honduras. Perhaps I will have an opportunity on my upcoming trip

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ice Cream!

About 2 weeks ago, I told my class that, on October 28th (today), I needed them to stay an extra hour at school. I didn't tell them why. I made them think they had to do something that isn't fun, like a test.

I love this class. They are an incredible group. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, it came to my attention that Milton had broken his backpack. Milton is a great kid. He joined the class about 2 months ago, so he is new to the group. He had been carrying his books in a plastic grocery bag for a week or so. This is unacceptable. Students at our school earn prize cards when they do well. They can buy stuff from the prize case in the office with the cards, including a nifty new backpack. I knew that the kids in my class had amassed a decent amount of the cards. Milton has a habit of just barely making it in time for the start of class. Most of the kids are there 15 minutes prior to the start time. I brought the backpack problem up to the kids a few minutes before class started this past Wednesday, and they all agreed to chip in some of their prize cards in order to buy Milton a new backpack! It was truly remarkable to see such selflessness in these kids. The cards are something that's really coveted among the students. So, to see them band together and help out a member of the group was truly remarkable. They have become such a tight-knit group. It's cool to know they care enough to help out a nice kid and make him feel like an important part of this amazing environment. Milton was blown away. We managed to get him the really cool one that the older kids like to carry, so he is digging it, big time.

It's reasons like the above that I decided to take them all out for ice cream after class today. For a total of about $6 American, I brought some smiles to their faces and hopefully managed to strengthen the bonds that already exist within the group. They make me so proud, it's the least I can do.

Friday, October 27, 2006

My O.C.D.

My trip to the U.S. is about two-and-a-half months away, and I am already starting to put stuff together for the trip. I suffer from a mild case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). It's not something that keeps me from functioning normally. I just tend to organize things a bit too much. I like to try to work out all of the kinks in things well in advance.

The most obvious indication of my compulsion is when I am working with numbers. Here in Taiwan there is a store receipt lottery that works with an eight digit number. I have spent countless hours aligning the numbers and keeping them ordered. I think if I just threw them in a drawer without putting them in some sort of order, I would go crazy. Thankfully, I have had moderate success winning so the time spent isn't a total

Right now I am frantically trying to put together the flights for my trip home. Thus far I have completed the arrangements for the Taipei to L.A. leg of the trip. This leaves me with the L.A. to Vegas, Vegas to Cleveland roundtrip, and Vegas to L.A. legs. Yes, I am going to be taking 6 flights in total...ugh. I think I have the flights I want picked out, just have to arrange to get the money home so that I can pay for them.

As long as I am not causing undue to harm to others, allow me to feed this compulsion of mine. It's pretty silly, but I've been known to exhibit such behavior on a regular

Blogger Problems

The server has been pretty glitchy lately. For instance, I haven't been able to post my lesson plans on my other blog because the Blogger for Word application is not working. It just isn't there. I normally just open any thing I am working on in Word and the button to publish is there, it's gone. I think the problems are a result of Blogger's new Beta version. I've been resistant to changing because I think it will mess up a bunch of a the add-ons I have on the page. I don't feel like hunting them all down again and re-loading them onto the page.

C'mon Blogger, get this stuff worked out!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's Official, I'm Coming Home!

January 12th, I will be stateside. I just got done booking a flight to L.A., got a great deal. I got a round-trip, non-stop flight from Taipei to L.A. on Singapore Airlines for about $680 American. This is far less than I thought I'd be paying.

Next up, I have to figure how I am gonna get from L.A. to Cleveland. I'm hoping I can make a stop-over for a day or two in Las Vegas and visit Perry & Andrea. I haven't spoken with them yet, so that is not a sure thing. My tentative plan is to make the quick trip from L.A. to Vegas on Friday night and hang out with the Perry & Andrea until Sunday afternoon, when I will jump on a plane to Ohio. It's considerably cheaper to fly out of Vegas than L.A. when headed to CLE. The flight from L.A. to Vegas is well under $100, super cheap.

My return trip to Taipei is scheduled for January 25th, so I am gonna have a nice long stay at home. My agenda is unclear right now. I'm considering taking a few days and driving down to see the contingent of the family living in the Charlotte, NC area. Also, I wouldn't mind heading over to Pennsylvania, weather permitting. The weather will probably be a factor. January in Ohio is not the most pleasant time to be there. It's not unusual to see a foot or so of snow on the ground at that time.

Must-do's include getting all my stuff that's been stored in my mom's basement in order so that it doesn't cause problems when she moves and dealing with the cat situation...don't want to think about that right now, too depressing. I am hoping to catch a performance by The Black Keys while I am in town, doubtful they will be playing then, but who knows?

One thing is certain. I am bringing 3 empty bags with me to the U.S., and returning to Taipei with 3 very full I'm trying to figure out exactly how many packs of Reese's Cups I can fit into a

Sunday, October 22, 2006


A few random shots. Be sure to click on the pics to get the full effect.

This is Olivia (in front) and Sandra. They are truly a joy to teach. Such wonderful kids. They work really hard and enjoy themselves at the same time. Sandra is the girl I have written about many times, she is amazing. Olivia is my pal, she hangs with me at my desk and practices her English.

A fine example of the butchery of English here. Click on this picture and check out the funny wording on this sign. I see it every day, it's at the train station. I love the "For railway crossing passing, no resting on tracks is most intelligent."

Sherry. What can I say about her? She is why I love my job so much. She shines. As I said before, she is not my best student but it is a priviledge to be in a position to teach her. Words fail me when I try to explain what a joy it is to be surrounded by such greatness.

Taiwan is not so removed from the U.S.. Starbucks and Blockbuster on the same corner. I was on my way to pick up my Domino's pizza when I snapped this Thank god for the westernization of this city.

A temple smack in the middle of the busiest market in Taipei. It's currently getting a facelift. The poles and wires aren't normally part of the temple. I love how ornate the roofing is.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Can't Help Myself!

Had to do it. I added another Black Keys video to the sidebar. This is a brand new one from their latest album. The song is Your Touch. These guys are incredible. The video was shot throughout my hometown, not the sexiest place on the What a freaking jam! Even if you don't care for the silly video, listen to the music, it's intense. Two guys making music that just flat out rocks! The new video is the one on the top. The other one is an old performance on David Letterman.

Holiday in the US & Cat Issues

I talked to my mom last night. We discussed the possibility of a visit home. Mom has been prepping the house for sale. We both agreed that it would be a good idea for me to come home before she sells the house. I need to get the stuff I have there organized and ready to be stored. Seeing the family would be great, too.

One reason I need to go home is a very somber one, I have to figure out what to do with T-Bone & Bubba, my cats. Mom can't take the cats with her. I have had T-Bone for about 14 years...he is an old guy. T has been a wonderful little buddy and I think he is just too old to make a major life change. I'm afraid it's time to consider putting him down. He has lived a long, good life. Mom says that he has slowed down considerably these past few months, and the winter is coming. He spends the majority of his time outside. As much as it pains me to do it, it's probably the most compassionate thing to do. He has been a big part of my life for a long time... Bubba is a different story. He is only a few years old and is far too silly to let go. Bubba is one of the most unique animals I've ever seen. I'm gonna have to come up with a way to get someone to tend to him until I can return home for good. So, as you can see, dealing with this issue won't be easy.

Paying for the airfare home is not fun. I've been shopping prices...about $1300 is the norm...yuck. That's a big chunk of cash. I am going to spend the next few weeks doing some serious fare searching. I hope to get home sometime in January or February. Keep thinking it might be better to wait until March or April because the weather will be a bit less harsh. Who knows? Stay tuned for further details.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Headed For Competition

A few days ago my boss asked me if I would coach one of the students in our school for a big speech competition coming up next month. She said I could pick one of my students to represent the school in the city-wide contest. I, of course, chose Sandra. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know all about Sandra. She is a wonderful kid who excels at everything she does. My boss called her mom the other day to ask her if Sandra was able to do it, she is very busy. I am waiting on the return phone call...keeping my fingers crossed.

What makes this situation extra special is my boss told me that she has never asked a foreign teacher to be the coach for this competition before. She was really excited when I accepted. This should be a cool experience. I hope Sandra has the time.

It's a 3 minute speech. The folks that put it together gave us a list of 5 or 6 topics to choose from. As much as I'd like to pick the topic, I'm gonna let Sandra do I am confident that she will do well. As many of you know, during my college years I considered pursuing a career in speech writing...this competition should be fun

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Such Hypocrisy

Once again, we see the republican leadership falling on their own swords.

The Foley page scandal is another feather in the cap of this despicable group. The nerve of these guys running around professing to be the moral compass of America. These idiots had this guy as the chairman of a committee aimed at aiding missing & exploited children!! They knew he had issues years ago, yet allowed him to remain in such a position. Morality? These guys wouldn't know how to take the moral high ground if they were given a map from god.

Today I see Bush spoke at a fund-raiser. He insinuated democrats, if given control of congress in the upcoming election, would raise taxes and spend recklessly...hmmm. All you have to do is look at the budgets of the past few years to see Bush is guilty of spending our money like no other president in modern history. I gotta believe there are zillions of people out there that would be happy to return to the days of Clinton in the Oval Office?? Democrats direct their attention to issues that effect the working-class folks in America. Sometimes it does mean modest increases in your tax bill, but paying for better schools is a far cry easier to digest than paying for an unwinnable war. These war-hawks are destroying all the good-will we have world-wide.

It's time to take back control of this country and get back on the right track. America needs to concentrate on improving education, health care and the environment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Running around before work. My school is just around the corner from this spot. This pic is a fine example of the liberal use of street signage's mind-boggling. Notice the KFC sign perched high above the rest. America's gift to the world, fast food.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mid-Autumn Festival & 10/10 Day

Today is the beginning of a long weekend, thanks to a couple of holidays coming within a few days of each other. Here they celebrate Autumn, not sure why, but they do. As a result, everyone gets a few days off work. I think there is going to be a bunch of parades throughout the city. This Tuesday is Taiwan Independence Day. It is October 10th, hence the name, 10/10 day. Since these two holidays are so close together, the powers that be have decided to make it a five-day weekend...very cool.

I haven't made any real plans for this time off because I am trying to save money. I will probably do a couple of quickie day trips near the city. Jump on a train and see the countryside. My buddy Scott is moving in to a new apartment, I'll probably help him make the transition. I'm just looking forward to the break from the daily grind.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Teacher's Day was Lucrative

This past Thursday was Teacher's Day here in Taiwan. It's a holiday unique to this region, I think. It's great that they think enough of teachers here to give them a day in their honor.

My Teacher's Day was excellent. Traditionally, students give gifts to their favorite teachers. My kids came through with some seriously neat stuff for me, yes, I've got a few fans out there. I got a bunch of chocolate, some candies, a neat little thing that goes with my cell phone, and best of all, a serenade from my favorite class. Every classtime, we take a 10 minute break after the first hour. I usually spend this time getting a drink and prepping for the second hour. On this day, I came back from the break to find my class all standing at attention. When I came through the door, they began singing a really neat song to me about teachers. After the song, Sandra handed me a card that was signed by all of them. It was a great moment, very heart warming. These kids are priceless. I was speechless.

Is their any doubt that this job is a good gig? I am in hog-heaven. What a great day.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Still the skin on my teeth!

Sorry, I've been derelict in my blogging duties. This past week has been pretty wacky. Today was a much more important day than I thought it would be when I woke up. About 10 minutes after I woke, my boss called me and told me that her husband (Gavin, my co-boss) was comng to my apartment to give me my newly signed contract. She then told me I had to go to the police station today to wrap up all of my residency details and get my work permit for next year. I wasn't too sure why she told me I had to go today, but I did. Thankfully, Gavin had driven his car to my apartment and offered to give me a ride to the police station, I was in no mood to make the long walk.

It's common knowledge here that government offices in Taipei are a nightmare and it's rare to have less than a two-hour wait. Knowing this, I was dreading my pending miserable afternoon. I got there and took a number, it was 207, and the board showed that they were currently helping number 153…not good. After mumbling some less-than lovely words, I noticed that the guy at the information desk wasn't doing anything. I took a chance and showed him what I had and asked him what I should do. He took my paperwork and started processing it. I was shocked! Rex, the information guy that I am considering putting on my Christmas card list, was super cool and spoke great English. Before I knew it, my residency was extended for a year, my address was officially changed, and I had my work permit…what a hoot! I have been putting off changing my address on my residency permit because I didn’t want to kill an afternoon stuck in line. After paying the requisite $1000 Taiwan dollars, I was on my way. I'm legal for another year here.

Here is the silly part of this whole situation. As I was filling out the paperwork, I mentioned to Rex that my boss had insisted that I do this today. I asked him if he knew why. He told me that today was the last day of my legal residency in Taiwan. If I had waited until tomorrow to do this I would have been told that I had to pay a $1000 fine, and make a trip to Hong Kong and get another visitors visa. A very big expense. Also, I would have had to start the residency process all over again…no freaking way! Phew, a disaster averted.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Giving Them What They Want

Adventures in teaching, continued...

Had a class today that went really well. It was especially satisfying because it was Teacher Catherine's class. Catherine is the senior teacher at our school, and tough as nails. She gave me a ton of stuff to do and a limited time to do it. I had to pull out all of the stops and kick some butt. Catherine is very intense and not a big fan of game-playing, a staple in my teaching approach. I wasn't about to abandon my style, but I knew I had to streamline it a bit.

I showed up for the class and realized I had forgotten to bring my "tool box", a little box that contains my markers and other aides to teaching...duh!. Not the kind of thing you want to do when you are performing in front of Catherine. She sits off the right in the class and watches closely. I should say that she is very cool and is not unfair. She simply takes her job very seriously and wants everyone to succeed. Forgetting my box was a silly way to start the class. No worries, I was about to get into my groove. I started the class with a review activity that is about as far from Catherine's way of doing things as At this point, I'm sure she was skeptical about the possible success of the hour. I was in hyper-fast mode because she gave me so much stuff to do and playing a game wasn't one of them. I had to get the kids moving at a furious pace. To make a long story kinda short, I kicked butt. I managed to get everything done that she requested. After the class ended, she approached me and told me "good job". Her written review of my performance was great and she seemed to be more than satisfied with the way I dealt with the stuff she gave me to do.

Once again, I came out of the challenge feeling great. That's what this whole teaching gig is all about, a lot of small victories. Making a difference in these kids lives one hour at a time is good stuff. It ain't brain surgery, but it can be a serious challenge.

I hope that many more experiences like the above are in my near future.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Total Bedlam!

This past Friday I was supposed to have an easy day, supposed to is the key phrase in that sentence. I was scheduled to teach a two-hour class for one of the Chinese teachers, who took a few days off to tend to her sick mom. That's it, just two hours. I was glad because I didn't feel too well that day and thought I'd take it easy.

When I got to work, everything seemed hunky-dory. About 30 minutes later, Sandy, one of the Chinese teachers showed up. She had a PTA that day and wanted to know which foreign teacher was helping her out. A PTA is when the parents of the students in a particular class come to the school to see how their children are progressing. One of the foreign teachers takes the kids in the second half of the PTA so that the teacher can talk to the parents. This is unusual because they are usually little kids and they don't speak much English, tough to teach without the Chinese teacher in the room. None of the foreign teachers were scheduled to help Sandy that day. After a mad scramble, my boss discovered that she made a mistake on my schedule and that I would have to be the one to help Sandy. Ugh, I wasn't in the mood.

So, after some preparation, I headed upstairs to the PTA. One thing I should mention is PTA's are generally pretty crazy because the kids are wound up after performing for their parents. The teachers spend weeks preparing the students so that they can shine for their parents. This means that the kids are ready to blow off steam and raise Cain. This class was no exception. The problem was I wasn't in the mood for craziness.

Five minutes into the class, I start losing my grip. The kids were bouncing off the walls. Suddenly evil Teacher David appeared. I grabbed one kid by his shirt and pulled him to the front of the class, it was time to lay down the law. I had him stand up near the white board and hold a marker on top of his head. The rest of the class thought that was pretty darn funny, but the kid wasn't happy...he stood there for about 30 minutes looking incredibly goofy. This tactic wasn't enough. Not soon after I brought him to the front, some of the older boys in the back of the room started getting wild. By this point I was at the end of my rope. I walked over to their desks and had them take out their books. No more mister nice guy. I had two of the boys open their mouths and I put the books in their mouths and told them to bite down! These two boys spent the remainder of the class totally silent and embarrassed...not nice, but I was grumpy.

The class was a bit more subdued after that. I just wanted to get the heck out of there as quickly as I could.

This is not my normal way of dealing with problems. I rarely have situations like this and I wasn't prepared to deal with it in a sane manner. I hope I don't have to teach that class again anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Needless to say, I'm a bit worried about the stuff going on in Thailand. I was watching CNN last night and couldn't believe it. It's crazy, I was just at the Presidential Palace. The image they keep showing on the news is the Palace surrounded by tanks. I certainly hope things return to normal because I plan on going back there in a month or two. When I was there there wasn't any indication of unrest. Travel there might be rough for awhile. In the end, the Buddhist mentality will take over and all will be well, I hope.

It's More Than A Paycheck

I signed a new contract this past week. If you have been following my blogging, you know that I have been anticipating this event. I had planned on going into the meeting with an agenda. The agenda included a decent pay raise. The meeting took place a few days ago and much to my surprise, I didn't have to debate my boss on one matter. She expressed her satisfaction with the job I have done and gave me the exact amount of pay raise that I had planned on asking for...I didn't even have to ask!

Regardless of the pay raise, I love my job! Making lots of money is a great thing, but so is contentment. The positive atmosphere and wonderful reinforcement I get from my boss and co-workers is priceless. I will never get rich doing this work, but I will sleep well at night.

Just this past week, I have had several great interactions with my students. Tonight, one of my students took my picture so that she could include me in one of her projects at her regular school. Anne, the student with the project, is exceptional. She is a kind-hearted, hard-working kid that always brings a smile to my face. She is very quiet and shy, but I can always get a giggle or two out of her. I think she is going to be a teacher, a GREAT teacher.

As much as I'd like to live closer to everyone back home, it looks like I am going to be here at least another year.

Monday, September 18, 2006


I can't resist putting pics of the kids on here. This is a fun group that I teach every couple of weeks. They all wanted to be in the picture.

This is downtown, across from Taipei 101. Oddly enough, this place is called New York, New York. It's pretty neat. Lots of fun stuff to do inside. Check out the miniature Statue of Liberty.

My apartment building. It's kinda grungy looking on the outside because the pollution here is brutal. It's actually a very nice building, pretty modern. My apartment is on the top floor. See the two air conditioners on the top, left side of the building? The one on the right is my place. I dig it, very good location.

This is a shot from the top of Taipei 101. Yes, it's insanely tall!!! Looks more like a shot from an airplane. As you can see, the buildings in the pic are not one-story houses, they are big office buildings. Taipei 101 is one of the most remarkable structures I've ever seen. I didn't take this shot, I stole it from another

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Folks, THIS is Rock N Roll

As you may have noticed, I have placed a video on the right-hand side of the's right there, check it out! Click on the "play" button, not the screen, unless you want to link to the You Tube website.

Before you click on it, please understand that this is NOT over-produced, American Idol type crap. This is down and dirty rock n roll, the way it's supposed to be! These two guys recorded this stuff in the drummers basement in my hometown, Akron, Ohio. The entire album cost them about $50! They are quickly becoming one of the hottest bands on the planet.

This is The Black Keys live on Letterman. This video is a few years old, from a couple of albums ago.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Congrats Tricia & Steve

I talked to my mom this morning, she told me that my cousin Tricia had her baby! Liam was born this past Friday. Awesome! They are going to be great parents. Enjoy! One thing is certain, little Liam is going to be spoiled rotten...Aunt Janet & Uncle Pat will see to that...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sandra & Hockey Pucks

Sandra, one of my students in my Wed/Sat class, is one of those kids that you just know is going to succeed in EVERYTHING she does. She is a real joy to teach. Seems like she raises her hand with an excellent question every class. A teacher would be in 7th heaven with a classroom full of kids like her. Anyhow, after class yesterday she came to my desk and asked me if I wanted to watch her perform in another class she was taking...of course I said yes. She is also taking a summer composition course which requires students to get up and speak in front of the class on the final day, which was yesterday. I feel so honored that she cared enough to ask me to watch her. Most kids her age (13, I think) are big-time embarrassed when performing, not her. I followed her into the room and sat down to watch. She went first. It was great. Her topic was her favorite holiday. Shockingly, she chose "Teacher's Day". In Taiwan, they set aside a day every year to honor teachers. She talked about how she likes to give her favorite teachers gifts...last week, Sandra gave me a beautiful necklace! The speech was wonderful, I clapped loudly and told her I was very proud of her.

What does this all mean? It means that I have a fan and I gotta stay sharp! There is no way that I am going to give anything less than 110% for this great kid. She doesn't now it, but her actions do wonders for me. Knowing that this kid looks to me to better herself means that I have no choice but to continue to strive to do better. I graded the classes latest written tests last night, these tests are extremely difficult. The average score for the past eight units is around 89 to 90%, she scored a 97%, the highest score any of my students has ever earned!! I'm so proud.

My faith in Taiwanese food has been given a boost. Yesterday, my boss Gavin came into the office with a bag full of food that smelled incredible. I asked him if I could try whatever it was..he was shocked because I NEVER eat what the Taiwanese teachers eat. He gave me one. I took a bite and nearly fell out of my chair. It tasted like my mom's meatloaf!! (a.k.a. heavenly). They are called Sien Bing, or something like that, my Chinese is hysterical. They are about the size of a hockey puck and have a shell that is similiar in texture to that of a dumpling/pot sticker. The inside is a scrumptious blend of beef and onions. I'm hooked.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

WOW! WOW! WOW! Bullseye!!

MSNBC Anchor Keith Olberman on 9/11. This is terrific.

Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.

All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and -- as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul -- two more in the Towers.

And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.

I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.

And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft,"or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.

However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.

Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.

Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.

Five years later this country's wound is still open.

Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.

Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.

It is beyond shameful.

At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial -- barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field -- Mr. Lincoln said, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.

Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." So we won't.
Instead they bicker and buck pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere.
They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they're doing instead of doing any job at all.

Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets.

And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.

And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country.

The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.
The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."

The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."

Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.

Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.

Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.

Yet what is happening this very night?

A mini-series, created, influenced -- possibly financed by -- the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.

The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections?

How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?

Just as the terrorists have succeeded -- are still succeeding -- as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.

So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.

This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.

And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street." In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car -- and only his car -- starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man's lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An "alien" is shot -- but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help. The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there's no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it's themselves."

And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight: "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.

"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn."

When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...

When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?
We have not forgotten, Mr. President.
You have.
May this country forgive you.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Workplace Issues

Lately, the foreign teachers, including myself, have been mumbling and grumbling a lot. Seems like we have been getting the short end of the stick recently. For the past few months we have been negotiating our office hours with the boss. It can be frustrating at times because we are required to "work" 34 hours a week, while only teaching about 15-20. This leaves us with an awful lot of time at our desks. We are all competent teachers and don't that mush time to prepare for our classes. Therefore, we spend a lot of our "office hours" doing something close to nothing. It has always been this way and I am alright with it, for the most part...easy money. Carrie & John on the other hand, are much more type A, and don't dig the down time. I can understand where they're coming from, it can be mind-numbing. They have managed to convince Carol (the boss) to cut down our Saturday and Wednesday hours and we all are liking the changes. Perhaps some more changes are coming in the near future?

On a related note, corporate HQ recently decided they were going to start docking us pay if we came in late, even one minute. We arrive at work each day at three o'clock, but don't start teaching until five. The train I had been taking for the past 6 months arrives at about three minutes until 3:00...sometimes it's a minute or two late. As a result, I am late by a few minutes a lot. I didn't think this was a big deal because we often stay well past 9:00, when we are scheduled to go home. Apparently, HQ didn't like this and recently started a policy of docking us pay after the third episode of tardiness in any given month. As a result of the punitive, child-like move, I am now taking an earlier train. I arrive at work about 30 minutes early every day and am not gonna be paid for it...the price you pay for being on a salary. As crappy as this is, I am not about to rock the boat. I am still very well paid for what I do and I love my job.

The latest frustration happened today. We are supposed to be paid on the 10th of every month. The 10th was yesterday, Sunday. We all showed up for work today expecting our pay to be in the bank. Much to our dismay, none of us our pay directly deposited as it should be. I'm sure it'll be there tonight or tomorrow. The beef here is if we are expected to march to their drum beat and follow some of these petty new rules, then the least they could do is be sure we are paid on time! A valid argument that will almost certainly fall on deaf ears.

Scott spoke with Brent over the weekend. Brent is the guy who taught at the school for 8 years and now is living back in Canada. Scott brought up the subject of the contract completion bonus and Brent said it has been a problem for years. The school has a long history of attempting to keep their teachers from collecting. They purposely set your hours every month so that at the end of the year you come up just a hair short of 900, the total needed to get the bonus. As I said before, I haven't got up enough nerve to address the subject at work because I am afraid the evil side of me will prevail and I'll say some things I'll regret. I am somewhat optimistic that I will get the bonus...


Yesterday, I decided to finally check out Carrefour. It's a European-based grocery chain that has a few outlets here in Taiwan. I normally go to Jason's, but I'm getting tired of paying so much money for stuff. Jason's is the import grocery store located in the basement of Taipei 101. They make you pay through the nose for the goodies they bring in from overseas. I thought I could probably find many of the same things at Carrefour, not so. They had lots of good stuff, but it pales in comparison to Jason's. The prices were better, but the stock was much more Asian-based. I found a few things that I hadn't seen at Jason's, but not enough to make me switch my shopping agenda. One notable thing, Carrefour has one-pound bags of M&M's...that's a big plus! Also found Del Monte corn and green beans a lot cheaper than they are at Jason's.

The store was packed. Taiwanese steer shopping carts about as well as they drive cars...what a mess. I witnessed two messes as a result of out of control shopping carts. One guy knocked over an entire display trying to round a As much as I hate to perpetuate stereotypes, what is the deal with Asians and maneuverability? Always trying to cut corners and ignoring their surroundings is not a good technique. And to think, I was considering buying a motorcycle...

I thought I might need to start building my ark yesterday. We had one of those monsoon-style rains that lasted the entire day. On the bright side, it cooled off big time. I actually slept last night without air-con.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Kindie on Monday

Romper Room, here I come. The school has recently added a kindergarten class. They haven't had any K classes in a long time because there is so much competition and it's completely different from regular English classes. It's more like baby-sitting, than teaching. The little ones have to be fed and take naps, not the normal teaching fare. Thankfully, I don't have to do those things. My part of the equation is a one-hour session teaching them 12 new words...sounds easy, but it's not. Imagine trying to explain new words to someone who has never heard English before! It requires the use of lots of body language and ya gotta have fun doing it. Five year olds have the attention span of a fruit fly. I'm going to have to play the clown and get them all involved. Getting them involved is one thing, keeping them on track is a totally different thing. I have only taught a K class one time, so this is gonna be intense. The little ones are so darn cute, as long as they don't go the potty in their pants!!!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Food Issues, Again

It's time for David to make a wholesale change of his diet. I have been eating way too much fried/fast food. I'm heading out this weekend to the expensive grocery store and I'm gonna invest in some good stuff. I eat a lot of fruit, so that's not a problem. Just gotta cut down seriously on the fried stuff. Lately, I have been eating lots of soup, but it just isn't cutting it. I think I need to start eating more veggies and non-fried meat dishes...stuff that sticks to your ribs. Considering investing in a crock pot, like the idea of making stews.

I know I can't completely cut out fried foods, but I can eat a lot less and feel a heck-of-a-lot better as a result.

Free Time and Work Opportunities

Now that I am pretty comfortable at work, I think it's time to start looking for some supplemental income. I have most of my days free, I don't leave for work until about 2 o'clock. I might as well look into turning that free time into an opportunity to make some cash. There are side jobs available to foreigners. Many companies here publish their materials in Chinese & English, and they need someone to edit/proofread their stuff. All you have to do is walk down any street in Taipei and it becomes frightening clear that a lot more editing and proofreading is needed. I have never seen such butchery of the English language. It's under-the-table work and pays pretty well. I plan on doing a search this weekend for some work. I've been told that there are tons of flyers around town with jobs opps., we shall see.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Angry Mom & BBQ This Weekend

Last week, when I wasn't in the office, a mother of one of my students visited the school. She was ranting and raving about her daughter's poor grammar skills. She was insinuating that I wasn't teaching grammar very well in class. She was speaking very loudly in front of everyone in the office. I was told that my boss calmed her down and assured her that her daughter will be OK and sent her on her way.

Two different people who witnessed this event told me that my boss and others came to my defense and told the lady that the problem wasn't my teaching, it was her child. It's nice to see that the folks at work have my back when I am not there. My boss assured me yesterday that she is confident of my skills and told me to keep doing things the way I have been.

I may not be the best teacher in the world, but I try very hard. The child of the mother who was involved in the above event is one of my favorites in class. She is a great kid, but has a very short attention span. She is one of the younger kids in class and I often have to keep her in line. Looks like I am gonna have to be a little more firm with her and pay extra attention to her progress.

The staff at work is heading out to a really cool park this weekend to have a barbecue. We have periodic outings and they are usually pretty fun. The school is picking up the tab, so how bad could it be?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Enjoy Every Sandwich

This week marks three years since the death of Warren Zevon. Enjoy Every Sandwich was an insight he was fond of using prior to his death. I have been a fan of Warren's music for as long as I can remember...I think his Mr. Bad Example album may have been the first CD I ever bought. He had a wonderfully twisted sense of humor that bordered on scary at times. My buddy Perry & I had the pleasure of catching Warren play in Cleveland about a year or so before his death, what a memorable night.

I like to think my time here in Taiwan is about Enjoying Every Sandwich. At work, I try my best to have fun at all costs. See the value in even the smallest things.

In honor of Warren, my Ipod will be playing only his music on the 7th. Not really all that big of a deal, I listen to his stuff all the time.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

World Map Project

I have been thinking about putting together one of those giant, wall-sized World maps at the school. I helped put one together when I was in Honduras, it's lots of fun. I'm gonna get 3 or 4 of my students to help me paint the outlines of all the countries, and then have all the other kids volunteer to paint one country each. It's a really cool project. The map will be about five feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide, I hope. I think my kids here will have a million great questions and I am sure I can come up with a bunch of activities related to the map.

The most difficult aspect of putting this together is getting an over-head projector. I don't think the school has one. You use the projector to project the image of the map to the wall. The first step to making one of these maps is to make a copy of a map onto a transparency so that you can use a projector to aid in the tracing of the map borders. If I can't get a projector, this project will be extremely tough. My boss will give me to cash for the paint, I think. She doesn't skimp when it comes to school improvements.

I have a meeting with her this week and I am going to discuss this idea with her.

Wish me luck with this one and stay tuned for updates on the progress of the map.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Magic Potion (Desperate Plea)

OK, someone out there has to do me a HUGE favor! I need the new Black Keys CD!!! It's coming out on Sept. 12th (Magic Potion is the name of the new album)...who is gonna do me a solid and buy/ship it to me??? If you do, I will somehow pay you back ten-fold. This is serious stuff folks, I am unable to get it over here in this musical black hole. If you're so inclined, here is my shipping address:

David Edwards
#280-9th Floor-E
Nen Hua Road Section 1
Banchiao City
Taipei County, Taiwan 220

p.s. I won't tell anyone if you stash a few Reese's Cups in the box with the CD!!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Black Sabbath Had It Right

Love him or hate him for his goofy reality TV show, Ozzy Osbourne hit the nail on the head back in the day (circa 1970). The first song on the Paranoid LP, War Pigs rings true today, 36 years later.

I was jamming to the tune on my Ipod today and it shocked me how it captures the current mess our country (the US) is in.

Check out the lyrics:

Generals gathered in their masses,
just like witches at black masses.
Evil minds that plot destruction,
sorcerers of death's construction.
In the fields the bodies burning,
as the war machine keeps turning.
Death and hatred to mankind,
poisoning their brainwashed minds.
Oh lord, yeah.

(This is where the drummer, Bill Ward,
plays some of the most powerful drum riffs
I've ever heard.)

Politicians hide themselves away.
They only started the war.

Why should they go out and fight?
They leave that role to the poor, yeah.
Time will tell on their power minds,

making war just for fun.
Treating people just like pawns in chess,
wait till their judgement day comes, yeah.

(mean drum work with guitar riffs that
inspire some serious air-guitar moves...)

Now in darkness world stops turning,
ashes where the bodies burning.
No more War Pigs have the power,
Hand of God has struck the hour.
Day of judgement, God is calling,
on their knees the War Pigs crawling.
Begging mercies for their sins,
Satan laughing, spreads his wings.

Oh lord, yeah!

Impressive. Captures the insanity of war. Cuts through all the crap and spells it out. The guys orchestrating the actions in the Middle East are gonna be sitting at the right hand of Satan when all is said and done.

Whenever I listen to this album, I can't help but think back to my days in Junior High. As many of you know, I attended a rather frightening "Christian" school. One vivid memory I have of those days is the periodic record burning assemblies the school would put on in the name of "God". They would bring in some charismatic guy to scare us about the evils of rock n roll. I distinctly remember one guy going bonkers over the very song/album that I am talking about here.

He was convinced that Black Sabbath was the incarnation of Satan. He, shouting at this point, pointed out the glorification of Satan in the song War Pigs. This, I think, may have been my first exposure to spinning the truth to make your case...

Now that I am older, and I hope a little wiser, I can see through the bullsh*t they were trying to make us believe. It's happening today, with the situation in Iraq. The brainwashing is continuing as we speak.

Support for the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., is NOT a Christian value! The powers that be would like you to believe that what they are doing is righteous and perhaps biblical. It's biblical if you subscribe to the Old Testament way of living...and if you do, than I expect you to head straight out and stone to death all those folks who work on Sundays. When you're done with that adventure, start burning at the stake all those crazy people who insist on wearing garments made from two different threads...

Jesus, as I interpret the writings was a rather peaceful man.

Whacko Christian leaders and lawmakers in the US legislating their version of morality has done little more than bred hatred and intolerance.

I can't help but think that there is a link between the money-making efforts during war time and the religious zealots.

It's no wonder Buddhism is looking more and more like a refreshing way of life.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


What an amazing program! HBO has been showing the first season of "Huff" here. Impressive. The acting is as good as anything I have seen. I used to think the acting in "Six Feet Under" was tough to beat, this is better. I think it's easier to relate to the characters. Hank Azaria plays the main character, a psychiatrist. His character is compelling, far from perfect. His mother, played brilliantly by Blythe Danner, is awful. She makes me moan every time she speaks...great acting. The guy that sets the show apart is Oliver Platt. He plays one of most despicable characters ever and you can't help but love him. He is so smarmy it kills me! Easily one of the funniest characters in the history of TV. The writing is excellent because it exposes the flaws in the characters without turning them into caricatures. They deal with life's crap without making it sexy for the sake of TV. Great stuff. Check it out if you can.

Another Pleasant Surprise

After every class I have to sign the students homework books. These books contain what we did in class that day and the homework they have to do for the next class. I sign them to let the parents know they are official, I guess? Anyhow, Sandra, my best student, was at the end of the line of students. When it came to her turn she handed me her book and a wrapped gift!! I was stunned. It wasn't my birthday, or any other special occasion. She just smiled and said she was visiting a really neat place last weekend and bought it for me. It's a necklace with all kinds of cool colors...amazing.

Prior to signing the books, I was helping her with some of her English homework from her regular school and gushing about how wonderful she is. I reinforced that I am here to help her with anything she needs and that I think she will be an incredible English speaker if she continues to work hard at it.

Scenes like this are one of the main reasons I love my job. Such wonderful expressions of appreciation without strings attached. This young girl simply wanted to thank me for doing my job and helping her better herself. I just beam when stuff like this happens. It makes me want to work even harder to be the best teacher these kids have ever, or will ever have. Why would I ever want to do anything other than teach??????