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??????

The Old Quarter On The Elbow Trick

Once again, I managed to make myself look like a total goofball in front of the boss. I was teaching my writing class tonight and realized that I had about 15 minutes left at the end of class. I had already covered everything that I had planned on...had to kill a few minutes before I could set the kids free. I found myself falling back on one of the few mildly entertaining things I know how to do. I stood up in front of the class and did the place a few coins on your elbow and grab them with the hand on the same arm trick. The kids dig it because it's fast and they never seem to be able to do it, makes me look cool in the eyes of 13 year Anyhow, much to my dismay, my boss happened to be looking in the window at the very moment I was performing this trick. I had no idea until the class began to break up and one of my students approached and informed me that Carol was gazing through the window....YIKES! I started to freak a little and decided to deal with the issue head on. I walked out into the hallway and asked Carol point-blank if I was in trouble. She giggled and said no! Phew, disaster averted! The kids got a kick out of me freaking out when I heard she had been watching...

Being a clown can be hard

Monday, August 28, 2006

Love The Comments!

I thoroughly enjoy reading all of your comments. If I haven't replied to your comments, it's not because I don't's plain and simple laziness! Please continue to contribute, it's a hoot!

Friday, August 25, 2006

1000 Hits!

As you may have noticed, there is a little world map on this page. It's located just below the links portion on the right side of the page. It tracks the visitors to the site. I didn't install the tracker until this past June. This means in just 2 months, I passed the 1000 visitor mark! Thank you all for caring enough to check in here. It's encouraging to know that folks out there care enough to see what I'm up to. 2000 hits is just a stones throw away...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sawat-dii Bangkok Part 2

When I last checked in with everyone, I had gone to bed on Saturday night. Well Sunday would prove to be one of the most interesting days I've had in recent memory.

I got up and did the morning paper thing with a nice breakfast. After finishing my breakfast, I decided to jump into a tuk-tuk and cruise the city. After checking out the Grand Palace, which I couldn't get in because there was some official ceremony going on, I told the tuk-tuk to take me to some of his favorite temples and interesting sites in the city. He then took me to the Temple of the Lucky Buddha. What an awesome sight. The artwork was mind-boggling. It was very peaceful and felt like I had stepped back several hundred years. Next he took me to this great little area of food stalls. Although I told him that I just ate breakfast, he insisted I try some of the food. It wasn't bad. Not sure what most of it was, but I survived. He then took me to the Temple of the Standing Buddha. This place was cool! At the entrance, you get a little cage with 3 or 4 little birds in it. You walk to the base of the statue and release the birds. What a remarkably life-affirming experience that was. The statue itself was frighteningly huge. There was a woman at the feet of the Buddha praying. I did my best not to disturb her. She looked like an ant at the feet of an elephant...the effigy of Buddha dwarfed everything around it. On our way out of the temple I told the tuk-tuk driver that I wanted to see some of the crazier parts of Bangkok...he obliged. Before I knew it, he was pulling up to a massage parlor! I spent the next two hours getting one of the most intense massages one can imagine. She twisted me into a pretzel and moved me in directions I didn't think I could go! When it was all over I felt freaking great! I told the tuk-tuk driver that I had had enough for the afternoon...he took me back to the hotel. Believe it or not, the entire trip in the tuk-tuk cost me about $3 American!!!

After chilling out at the hotel for awhile, I met a Dutch guy named Herman who wanted to go hang out on Khao San Rd.. We decided to hike on over, have a few drinks and take in the crazy atmosphere. The clothes vendors are hard to resist. I ended up buying a bunch of stuff that evening. My take included a few DVD's, some shirts, and a handful of trinkets. I had yet another helping of PadThai.

I had the stereotypical dog-fight with a vendor. I stopped at his stand and was checking out the wallets. I picked one up and asked him the price, he said 600 they always do, he followed that by saying "but I can give you a good discount price" I responded with an "ok, how much?". He said "550". I looked at him in disbelief. 550 Baht is a handsome sum in Thailand. I put the wallet down and said "no thank you". Of course he came back with a "wait, what do you want to pay?". I said I might be willing to pay 400...that was a mistake! He then came back with "500". I put the wallet down and began to walk away, felt his hand on my shoulder and "ok, ok, let's deal". Problem was, I really didn't want to pay After deflecting a few minutes of fast-talking by him and his buddies, I got away unscathed.

The street was especially lively that night, lots of interesting street performers and the like. At about 2a.m., I decided to call it a night.

I woke up early on Monday. I figured I better make use of the time I had. My flight was leaving at 1:30 that afternoon. Had the requisite great breakfast, jumped in a tuk-tuk, and flew around the city. Caught as many interesting sites as time would allow. Found a few folks that were looking to share a taxi ride to the airport, and I was off.

What a freaking great time! I am going to go back to Thailand as soon as I can. I had a picture-perfect weekend. One of my few regrets was not taking more pictures. Oh well, next time I will be quicker with the camera.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bangkok Photos!

The Temple of the Lucky Buddha. Buddhists know how to build shrines. The amount of gold is crazy but it works. It's really a beautiful place. Awe-inspiring.This is a close-up of one of the walls in the Temple of the Lucky Buddha. You could spend hours just looking at all of these little scenes. The monks spent years decorating the Temple.
The big board at the Airport in Taipei. Anxious to get started on my trip.
One of my Monday morning destinations. I made it to the top and got a glimpse of Bangkok from up high. The weather was perfect and it was very peaceful up there.

Bangkok Photos!

One of many little shrines to the King. Thai's love their King. He has been leading the country for about 60 years. I think he is the longest serving leader in the world. I spoke with many locals and they all think he is an amazing man. The accompanying picture is quite old...he is over 80 years old now.My tuk-tuk driver on Monday morning. Great guy. We burned around the city for a few hours. He took me to a bunch of places and only charged me a total of about $3 American.
This is the standing Buddha. A freaking giant statue. I zoomed in for this shot. At the base of the statue, you are given a small cage with some birds in it. It is customary to release the birds in the direction of the Buddha, it was a very spiritual.
A look at a little shrine in the temple of the lucky Buddha. It's difficult to make out, but the design is insanely ornate. The attention to detail is mind-boggling.

Bangkok Photos!

I can't resist snapping shots of English language goofs. This one is great. This is a sign for one of the guest houses on Khao San Rd.Khao San Rd. It's about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. You can imagine how packed it gets as ya get closer to the evening. This placed is incredible, so much fun. Bargains like I've never seen before.
The Chao Phraya Express on one of the many canals running through the city. An excellent way to get around the city.
Making my way up the mountain. The bells are all engraved with Buddhist proverbs. This is smack in the middle of the city, but somehow very quiet. It's about a 10 minute walk to the top and great views of the city.

Bangkok Photos!

On Saturday, we took this boat to the market. It's a quick way to get from one end of the city to the other. I tried to take some pics while on the boat but none of them turned out because the water was really choppy. I was feeling a bit woozy by the time we reached shore.
Just behind the ladies in this pic is a Tuk-Tuk. It's a super-cheap alternative to a taxi. Insanely dangerous, but fun. It's like a motorcycle with an old bench seat attached to the back. They fly around the city in crazy traffic.
This is a shot from a temple high on a hill. The city is looks similar to Taipei from a distance.
An old temple. These building are about 400 years old. This temple was built for women. It was once a place for women to come and meditate.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sawat-dii (Hello) Bangkok Part 1

I had soooo much fun! What an incredibly cool city. I don't know where to begin.

Got into BKK at about 11p.m. Friday night. The flights on KLM were excellent. Met a couple of really cool guys at the airport, Brits teaching English in Taiwan. We split the cab fare to the hotel and decided to hang out together on Saturday. After the one-hour taxi ride, we arrived at the hotel. Lewis and "Gas", my two new friends, didn't have reservations, so they had to hunt for a hotel with a room. The place I was staying at was packed, they were out of luck. They took off down Khao San Rd. to find a spot. Unfortunately, I never saw them again. I didn't sweat it, they probably got side-tracked along the way. I was pretty tired at this point so I decided to just grab a bite to eat and hit the sack. I walked about 2 blocks down the road from the hotel and stopped at a street vendor selling PadThai. I gulped it down in record time and headed back to the hotel. Off to bed because I wanted to be ready to kick some butt on Saturday.

The hotel was very comfortable. The bed was king size, excellent air-con, and very quiet. The only complaint I have is the lack of water pressure in the shower...not much more than a trickle.

Woke up Saturday morning ready to conquer Bangkok. I went downstairs and had a great breakfast and read the newspaper in the hotel restaurant. Very happy with the little diner, excellent eggs and bacon breakfast. It was nice to relax and eat a nice breakfast before the heat of the day set in. I was seriously out-numbered in Bangkok, as far as tourists are concerned. This place is crawling with Europeans. After breakfast, I met a couple of nice young ladies from Austria. We decided to jump in a cab and head over to the Chatuchak Market. This is the place I spoke of before, the largest market in the world. While perusing the market I asked a police officer how many vendors are currently in the market, he said about 14,000! The girls and I shopped for about 3 hours and bought lots of interesting Thai goods. My favorite has to be the rubbery thingy's that look like an egg and some poop. You throw them against the wall and they splat into smooshed version of eggs and poop!!! Totally Also, this started my clothing binge. Insane prices for very nice clothes! When we were convinced we saw everything, we decided to get the heck out of there. The girls wanted to head to a temple on the other side of town. I was more keen to heading to Khao San Rd. We split up and I went my own way.

Khao San Rd. is a part of Bangkok famous for it's street scene. It's been the mecca for backpackers for decades. You can see and buy anything under the sun there. My hotel was about a 5 minute walk from there, so it was where I spent a good bit of my time. When I got there on Saturday afternoon, the place was already hopping. It was pretty hot so I decided to grab a beer or three and take in the scene at a one of the bars. I sat down in a patio that was at the center of all the craziness and enjoyed people watching for awhile. There was a big soccer game on, so there was no shortage of Euro's screaming at the TV. After the refreshments I headed down the road to find some DVD's. Before long, I was gulping down another order of PadThai. The stuff is incredible. It's a noodle dish made with different spices. I soon came upon a vender with an ocean of DVD's. I pulled up a chair and went to work. About a half hour later, I walked away with about a dozen movies. Not too bad for my first go at the pirate DVD market.

I made a quick trip back to my room and dropped off my afternoon purchases. While I was meandering through the lobby I struck up a conversation with a Dutch guy named Herman. A nice guy who was in the process of traveling around the world. We decided to jump into a tuk-tuk (see picture above) and head downtown. There is a giant mall/market there that the Lonely Planet Guide said was a must-see...not impressed. I felt like I was back in Taipei. Just another non-descript mall with no flavor. The only thing I managed to find was a nice new wallet and some American candy I can't get in Taiwan. We jumped back into a tuk-tuk and went cruising around the city. The tuk-tuk driver was really cool and showed us many interesting sites. Unfortunately, I left my camera at the hotel...ugh.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was dinner time. Herman & I staked out a couple of seats at a groovy little restaurant on Khao San Rd. and noshed while watching some soccer. Soccer is on 24/7 in Bangkok. It was about midnight and I was starting to wind down. A long day of craziness and the heat was pretty intense. I got back to the hotel and hit the sack.

Sunday/Monday in the next installment.


I went to see Margos, the owner of the hostel, the other day and she confirmed my suspicions. Yes, the killer stayed at Taiwanmex. She hadn't heard about the events so she was pretty freaked out when I showed her his picture on the 'net.

She told me she thought he was a little odd, too. She said he tried to bum money off of her for a plane ticket to Bangkok...

Let's hope this animal spends the rest of his days in prison.

Friday, August 18, 2006

My Brush With A Murderer

I barely slept last night. Late last night, the news began showing pictures of the guy who has been arrested for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. I clicked on the news story on Google and almost fell out of my chair!!

When I first got to Taiwan, I stayed at a hostel. Great place, very homey and perfectly located in the city. The owners, Margos and Raul, are like family to me. During my stay there I had many opportunities to meet all kinds of folks from all over the world. One of the people I hung out with for a few weeks was a quiet guy from the US who was looking to start a teaching career here. He went out with the group several times for dinner, shopping, etc. He was a bit odd, but nice enough. You meet all kinds of people when you travel overseas, they all seem to have their little quirks...his name was John!

It's the guy who killed JonBenet!!!

I am freaking out! I had quite a few interesting conversations with him. The first time I met him he was wearing a t-shirt from Honduras, so naturally we spoke for a long time about Hondu. He mentioned he had worked there, I immediately felt a connection because of my time there...HOW SCARY!

He spent about a month at the hostel and then just disappeared. Margos said he decided to head to Malaysia and just took off with little notice. I hope it wasn't because he had done something evil here and needed to get out...

Honestly, none of us had a clue he was such an animal. He just seemed kinda quiet and not the most socially adept guy. It's not like he had "murderer" written on his forehead.

One thing I do remember vividly about him is his computer knowledge. He cleaned up the computers at the hostel and they ran better than they ever had before.

I'm heading to the hostel today to talk to Margos about this craziness...stay tuned.

p.s. Oddly enough, I am heading to Bangkok tonight for the weekend. The very city where they captured the guy...CREEPY!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blazing My Own Trail & Krispy Kreme Rumors

I have been teaching my writing class for six months now. It has been a roller coaster ride. I started with a very strong group of students. Things have changed a lot in six months. Most of the core group that were with me at the beginning have left because of their class loads in Junior High. I have been able to pick up a student here or there along the way, but none of them have been the caliber of the ones that left. What was a big class of 21 is now an intimate group of nine.

The curriculum I was given at the onset of the course was perfect for the group I had then. It's unbearable now. Since this is the first time this class has ever been taught, it has been a bumpy road. For the past two months, I have been struggling to find the right level of material for the students currently in the class. About three weeks ago I stumbled on a great website that has a bunch of good stuff on it. I have been using the stuff in class and it seems to be working great, the kids are digging it. One teeny tiny problem. I have yet to tell the boss that I ditched the prescribed stuff and have gone my own way. She is NOT going to be happy about it. As I have said before, she is tough and it's gonna take some smooth talking on my part to avoid her wrath. The way I see it, I am doing what needs to be done. The kids were sputtering big-time with the other stuff. I was spending way too much time explaining things that were going right over their heads. Also, I was spending an inordinate amount of time correcting papers that were a disaster. I think if I present my argument to her in the right manner, she'll come around. Until then, I am gonna continue doing my thing.

Rumors have been flying around Taipei that Krispy Kreme may be setting up some franchises in the city. Oh please Krispy Kreme people, give us a shot. Taiwanese make donuts that I wouldn't feed to a

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Contract Issue

Scott, one of the other foreign teachers at work, recently signed a contract for another year. This means he was in line for the "contract completion bonus". It's standard policy for schools to give the foreign teachers a sizeable sum at the end of each yearly contract. Well, it appears that there is some fine print in our contracts that states you have to teach for 900 hours during the contract period to get the bonus. Scott's total teaching hours came to 854, he did not get the bonus. He was not happy to get this news. He was in the process of getting a new apartment and using the bonus cash to make it happen.

I am not certain what my total hours are. I am going to make a trip to the head offices this week to find out. It ain't gonna be pretty if they tell me I don't have enough hours to receive the bonus. As most of you know, I am not passive aggressive. I will not go lightly.

What happened to Scott is just not cool. He is a good teacher and really needs that cash.

What irks me most about this situation is that we are full-time employees. None of us has ever asked for a reduction in hours. We all assumed that we were on track for the 900. It almost feels like a fix. It's as if they may be making a concerted effort to be sure we don't reach that plateau and cash in. It's a substantial amount of money, about a third of a month's pay.

I have done some figuring with the paperwork I have. According to my calculations, I should get the bonus as long as I have a normal month in September. I was mentioning this to my boss and she said that my contract with the school is different than the one the government has. She said that the school's contract started a month prior to the governments and therefore the contract that counts started in August. Well, that's not a good thing. I spent the entire month of August training and observing classes. I didn't teach at all in August. If they insist on counting August, I may be out of luck. Again, this feels like collusion on the part of my boss and the corporate folks.

To me, this is bad business. Why would you screw with the folks that pay your bills? Without good foreign teachers, a school is bound to fail. I certainly don't want this to taint my 2nd year as a teacher.

Needless to say, I am gonna raise heck if this deal turns sour.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

My Class Is Up To Snuff

Today was a big day in my teaching career. My 1093 class had their final tests for the level they have been in for the past 4 months. Students have to score 80% on these tests in order to go on to the next level. This is my first experience having my own class in this position. There are 18 students in the class, 17 of them made it! The one that didn't pass has decided to not continue in the program. I think she has known for quite some time that she wasn't returning, so she hasn't been working very hard.

This success rate is great because the final tests for all levels tend to be really tough and the failure rates are usually high. Scott, one of my fellow foreign teachers, has a class in the level and about the same size. He had a half a dozen students fail. So I am pretty proud of my group. I attribute their success to my countless hand-outs and busy work I give them. Also, they were taught for a long time by Eileen, a remarkable Chinese teacher. She had them for a few years prior to my arrival. I model a lot of what I do after Eileen's approach. She also uses lots of hand-outs and extra assignments. Many of the students moan and groan when they see the work they have to do, but I think they are thankful for the chance to succeed.

One thing I have began to integrate into my class is crosswords. I think they are a great way to solidify the students vocabulary comprehension. I give them crosswords that cover the verbs in each unit and puzzles that provide a nice overview of the entire unit. I have always loved to do crosswords and I hope I can inspire these kids to feel the same.

I got some bad news today. I am going to be losing 3 of my students in this class. They are junior high students that just don't have enough time to study English. I hate this part of the job. I invest emotions in all of these kids. It's a bummer to lose them. On a bright note, I have a new student starting this week. He is a great kid and I can't wait to teach him.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Why I Am Not and Never Will Be A Republican

I found this wonderful collection of truths while surfing the 'net.

What You Need To Believe (These Days) To Be A Republican:

1. Jesus loves you...and shares your hatred of homosexuals, the scientific method, and Hillary Clinton.

2. Saddam Hussein was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's dad made war with him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

3. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

4. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while quietly slashing benefits and combat pay at the same time.

7. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

8. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

9. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

10. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriage and censoring the internet.

11. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio talk show host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

12. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960's is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the 80's is irrelevant.

13. That we should show support for hunters who shoot their friends and then blame them for wearing orange vests similiar in color to those worn by quail.

These may seem silly, but they do point out some rather questionable logic.


A typical scene in the office. These are some of my students from my advanced-level class chatting with Teacher Carrie. Carrie is our newest teacher, she taught in mainland China for about 4 years prior to teaching in Taiwan.The sprawling Banchiao train station. I stroll through this walkway every day on my way to work. It's huge! I've been told it's the largest train station in Asia, not sure about that.

3 Nights in Bangkok

One week until I leave for Thailand! I hope the weather isn't too crazy. There have been several typhoons lately, I'm not thrilled about flying while dodging massive storms. I know its gonna be hot, that's no big deal, I can handle the heat.

Desperate Times...

I have been watching the news about the busted terror plot in the UK. I have to say none of this comes as a surprise to me.

It's tough, but try and put yourself in the shoes of a member of the Taliban, or an Iraqi citizen. You have been staring down the barrel of American guns for a long time and perhaps your family was killed in one of the endless bombing raids? How much would it take to convince you to join a radical group and attempt to strike back at those who have taken away everything you know and value? You've lost pretty much all that you have…

I am not justifying the terrorism, just trying to understand the mindset.

Personally, I am not sure what I would do if I were put into such a position. This is not a Middle-East thing, it's a human thing. Lack of conventional weapons and a few charismatic leaders is the recipe for radicalism.

Let's not forget that the USA is not immune to breeding terrorists. Eric Rudolph, the idiot who killed all those folks while bombing abortion clinics, was as American as apple pie. Some of the freaks in the anti-choice movement told him what he wanted to hear and turned him into a weapon. The terrorist acts he committed are no less horrific than the ones committed by Bin Laden and his group.

Before any of you espouse the destruction of the Middle Eastern countries that may be involved in the current situation, remember, Eric Rudolph could be your next-door neighbor.

"Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding."
-Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Magic Potion and My Head Is Spinning

Just heard a few tracks from the new Black Keys album, outstanding! I am gonna be contacting folks at home regarding picking me up a copy of Magic Potion. It's going to be released on September 12th. I need someone to grab one for me a ship it over here...already growing impatient.

I've been able to pick up a few MP3's off the 'net so far, not enough, I need the album!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I'm a classic Belonephobic! According to the AMA, it is someone who suffers from a fear of needles.

I had yet another traumatic experience with a needle a few days ago. It is time for me to renew my visa so I can stay in Taiwan another year. This means I had to go through the nasty medical check-up. The check-up includes giving 5c.c.'s of blood. It was awful. I sat down and stretched out my left arm, all the while trying to breath deeply and pretend it wasn't happening. When I thought she had finished (she poked me two or three times), I asked her if it would be OK for me to lay down for a few minutes. She led me into a room and got me a cold towel for my head...I break out in a cold sweat every freaking time I have blood taken. I don't mean a little wetness, I am drenched! Then she lowered the boom...Mr. Edwards, I wasn't able to get any blood, we are gonna have to try the other arm...I thought I was gonna die! I complied with her wishes and after the room stopped spinning, I managed to get the heck out of Taipei City Hospital.

You know, you'd think after the countless injections I went through to get into Peace Corps, I would be pro at this...NOT EVEN CLOSE!

That nightmare is behind me.

Tomorrow I am gonna attempt to lay out a plan for my second year on this island. I think it is gonna be a good one.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Wag The Dog or The Next Domino?

I've been watching the events in Lebanon & Israel this past week or two. I can't help but wonder if this isn't a well-timed distraction from the mess in Iraq, or perhaps a product of the crumbling region?

CNN has put Iraq on the back burner. The folks in the White House must be awfully happy about that. There have been some crucial events taking place involving some of the actors involved in Iraq recently. The death rates are rising, civil war is imminent, Rumsfeld is being pushed to resign, Bush is about to send a bunch more American kids there, and the court martials of some horribly misguided American troops are about to take place. Why aren't these things getting more press? It makes one wonder if there isn't an element out there that is thankful for the Israeli aggression? Deflect attention from the mess in Iraq and the criminals who are orchestrating this madness can continue to do as they please.

On the other hand, the Israel/Lebanon fighting could just be the next hot zone. The borders of the countries in the Middle East don't necessarily separate folks with differing beliefs or desires, except perhaps the Israeli's. How many of you could tell me the difference between an Iraqi and a person from Iran? So, aggression in one country is bound to spill over to others. Imagine a war that required Canadians to defend their country...don't you think that quite a few Americans would also feel threatened and perhaps feel obliged to take up arms? The US aggression is Iraq, in my view, has threatened the stability in the entire region.

The US governments unflinching support of Israel may come back to haunt us. They are not well loved by the other countries in the region. Check out the footage of the Sunni's marching in the streets of Iraq chanting "death to Israel". Iran is more than ready to come to the aid of Hezbollah, if need be, that's not a good thing. The leadership in Iran is not afraid of anything. They are a hell of a lot more dangerous than Iraq ever has been. They are driven by deep religious convictions. Engaging a group that is driven by religious ideology is a million times more difficult than fighting a secular country like Iraq. We need to look for a peaceful solution to all of this stuff. Let's stop antagonizing these folks!

One interesting thing I've noticed recently. The health of Fidel Castro has been in the news...we see the Cuban exiles in Miami partying in anticipation of his death. This is seen as patriotic. At the same time, Lebanese are marching in the streets of Beirut calling for the death of Israel...these folks are terrorists? This is a double standard.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Random Thoughts

These are few things I have been mulling over for the past few days.

*I went into work on Saturday pretty much totally unprepared. Saturday is my toughest day of the week. I have been working on some planning and future big things I know I am going to have to accomplish. Time caught up to me and I hit the office Saturday with very little to work with. After some frantic searching for direction, I headed into my first class. To make a long story short, at the end of the day, everything went pretty well. I don't know if it was luck or a sign that I am becoming a much more competent teacher. Going into 2 two-hour sessions not having a solid plan and surviving was an accomplishment. This is not to excuse my stupidity. It was a dumb move on my part as far as my time management is concerned. I don't plan on doing that again anytime in the future, but it's nice to know I can handle it if I do.

*How do you remain objective in a classroom? I have been at this for about a year now and I find myself letting my emotions dictate a fair amount of my actions. Sherry, a student in my Wed/Sat class is a perfect example. She is an amazing kid. It's such a privilege to teach a child like her. She is 10 years old and about the cutest thing you've ever seen. Over-the-top silly at times, but also very emotional. She isn't the best student in the class, not even close. She struggles with a lot of the material. Last week, she got 22% on a quiz and began to cry in class. I had a little talk with her and she explained that she studied the wrong page. How in the heck am I supposed to be a hammer in this situation? I've been told that I have to tell her she is out of luck and better luck next time...can't do it. My approach is a decent mix of coddling and inspiration, I think. I tried to calm her down and assure her it's not the end of the world, and at the same time instill in her that she has to pay closer attention to the assignments and work hard. My job is to inspire these kids, not scare them. If I catch hell for not being tough enough, so be it. If someone came to my school and surveyed the kids about their favorite teachers, I am confident my name would be at the top, and that's what is most important!!!!!

*I will be negotiating a new contract in the next few weeks. I have decided I am gonna shoot for the moon. I am gonna ask for a substantial raise. One that is more than the norm. I have nothing to lose at this point. The owner of the school repeatedly has told me I am her best foreign teacher. We still have our petty little arguments, but more often than not, she ends up apologizing to me and likes my ideas. Am I off base for playing my position of strength? I don't think I am.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Malinda & Chinese Valentine's Day

I was talking with Malinda (yes, she spells it with an "a"), one of the Chinese teachers at work, yesterday and she mentioned that it was Chinese Valentine's Day. I had no idea. As the conversation progressed, we both had to admit that we didn't have a valentine. A rather sad state of affairs.

I have to admit that I have been attracted to Malinda for some time now and have been afraid to make my move because dating co-workers can be tough. The more I think about it the more I realize that I need to throw caution to the wind and give it a shot.

She is a great girl. Very sexy and has a killer smile. We always have fun in the office and seem to have a connection that goes beyond what I have with the rest of the teachers. I think we would have a blast given the chance to spend some time together outside of work. She is athletic. Perhaps she could get me back into playing more sports? I tell her all the time that I want to teach her how to play racquetball.

Taking her out is going to have to be done with great discretion. I think if I tell her that we will keep it a secret from the co-workers, she'll be more likely to agree. The last thing either one of us needs is to make this into a topic of conversation in the office. Taiwanese people love to gossip and I don't want her to feel uncomfortable. I simply think that the two of us can have a lot of fun together and break the monotony that seems to dominate both of our lives.

I'm gonna take the plunge this week and ask her out. Wish me luck people!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Seaweed Ice Cream

I was running some errands near Taipei 101 this past weekend when I came upon an ice cream vendor. Being the junk-food-junkie I am, I approached the cart. My eye caught the green tub at the end of the display. Thinking it was probably mint chocolate chip, I took a closer look. Much to my dismay, it was seaweed flavored ice cream!! I've seen it all. As much as I love ice cream on a hot summer day, I had to walk away. For the love of god people, IS NOTHING SACRED?!?!

I Couldn't Resist

I had to post this one. These two are so cute and photogenic.