Wednesday, February 28, 2007


This was taken from the top of the building where I teach. A fire had broken out in the distance. It was already a nasty air-quality day, this made it especially bad. The fire is pretty far away yet pieces of burnt paper were landing on our building...crazy.

Another in my series of kid close-ups. He is a cutie. His name is Jason and he was more than happy to let me snap this one.

A nice little park area across the street from my apartment. A pleasant spot to get some relief from the madness of the big city. The detail in the roofing is impressive.

Strolling down the street I live on. A typical scene at the big intersection. Actually, I only see about a half a dozen motorcycles...not very busy. My apartment is just to the right of the building with the big "Hotel" sign on top.

Almost There

With a little advice from friends and family, I am getting the blog in shape. I still have to add a few more things, but it's coming together.

Special thanks to my cousin Wendy, she is great. She keeps a close eye on this thing and I value her opinion.

Monday, February 26, 2007


I've been playing around with the configuration of the blog...I need some opinions.

Is this color scheme cool, or not?

Too many colors?
Is the black too much?
Does the contrast make it harder to read?

Need some opinions people!
Leave a comment...yea or nay?

I am planning on putting back a bunch of the stuff that I had on the blog before. It's a labor-intensive rebuilding process.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Longer School Days in the U.S.?

Just read this article off of the AP wire:

U.S. schools weigh extending their hours

a few excerpts from the piece:

Fletcher-Maynard Academy, a combined public elementary and middle school in Cambridge, Mass., that is experimenting with an extended, eight-hour school day.

On average, U.S. students go to school 6.5 hours a day, 180 days a year, fewer than in many other industrialized countries, according to a report by the Education Sector, a Washington-based think tank.

Dawn Oliver was so apprehensive about a plan this year to expand the day at her daughter's middle school in Fall River, Mass., that she considered pulling 11-year-old Brittany out.

"We all had the same thought in our head, which was, 'Oh my God, these kids are going to have their head in a book for the same amount of time as working a full-time job,'" Oliver said.

Would that be such a tragedy? In Taiwan, kids attend elementary school all day long and then go to supplemental schools in the late afternoon. This often adds up to 10 hours a day. A 10 hour school day is par for the course here. I know that some of you out there will scoff at this...what else would the kids be doing? Sitting in front of the TV or computer getting fat? Getting into trouble? Working some meaningless minimum wage job? Taiwanese kids are as well behaved and bright as any I have ever met because they are so well educated. The long school days are a solid way to instill a strong work ethic. No one will ever say that Taiwanese people are lazy...

Trial and Error

My classes are generally very loose and borderline silly. Self-deprecation and a healthy dose of respect for the kids are the main ingredients when I am cooking in the classroom.

Rarely does a class period pass without a silly moment where the kids can see that Teacher David is capable of making mistakes and that is perfectly OK. We usually giggle about it and go on. By making fun of myself and not being embarrassed about my goofiness I am showing these kids that even a teacher is fallible. I don't think that enough teachers do this, especially in this country. The mood in many classrooms is far too serious and competitive. As a result, the kids become increasingly guarded and less likely to take chances. When this happens a huge part of learning is lost. Trial and error is a major part of the learning process. If the kids are afraid to give wrong answers or take a risk, many of their questions will go unanswered. My kids tend to take more chances than others and I attribute this to my history of

**In Taiwan, you must score 80% or better to pass.**

Also, I do my best to show these kids that learning is fun and failure is temporary and often times perfectly normal. Nothing irks me more than seeing a kid breakdown as a result of a bad grade. The amount of pressure on students here is obscene. A 12 year old kid should never, I repeat NEVER cry because they got a bad grade. The tears are because they are embarrassed in front of their classmates and they know they are going to catch hell when they get home. To alleviate these pressures, I usually grab the kid prior to the start of class and discuss the issue with them in private. I think this is the best course of action because being a teenager is tough enough without the loss of face in the classroom due to of bad grades. There isn't much I can do about eliminating the use of corporal punishment at home...that's a whole different ball of wax that I don't care to think about, makes me too angry. I know that this sounds like I am making it too easy on these kids, but it's worked thus far.

If you were to come and watch my class Monday, you would see that I am leading a group of wonderfully bright and often times silly kids. My students, especially my 1093 class, are probably louder and more talkative than most other classes. I take that as a sign of comfort. I want them to think as a group, be friends as well as classmates. As a teacher, you are responsible for setting an example. Ten years from now I hope that these kids will look back and remember that Teacher David showed them that it's OK to make mistakes. I hope I am helping create memories of a healthy classroom environment. Learning is one of the most important things in life, and so is laughter.

p.s. My methods are working...1093 averages about 95% across the board. 1106, my newest class, is at about the same level. Since taking over these classes, I have retained 100% of my students.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

We Have a Right to Know!...just plain creepy

This one goes out to my best buddy Perry. Check out the video on the top of the right-hand column. This is one of many wonderfully bizarre concoctions by Tom Waits. If you aren't familiar with his work, then SHAME ON YOU! He is undoubtedly one of the most original artists of our day. A critic once described his voice as sounding "like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months then taken outside and run over with a car." His music persona is unique. He is at his best when singing about freaky places and characters. Perry has been a die-hard fan of his for years. He once traveled on a Greyhound bus from Cleveland to Minneapolis to see him...kinda kooky!

He likes to throw in a spoken-word number every now and then on his albums. The video is one of my favorite stories he tells. He isn't singing in this one, but it's a classic.

The whistling at the end sends a chill up my spine.

Do yourself a favor and get some of his music. **warning** It can be habit forming!

In the Midst of the Islamic Reformation...

I recently read an article in Time magazine that examined the mess in the Middle East. The writer drew some interesting comparisons. His argument is that we may be stuck in the middle of an Islamic reformation.

The Reformation of the 16th century saw the differing sects within Christianity killing each other off because of differing interpretations of the Bible. The Catholic church was splintered and several new forms of Christianity emerged, including Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Anglicans. Many of the sects have come to form what we know as Protestants today. The cost of this fight was great, countless believers were killed all in the name of religion...

Today, we have Islam going through a transition period. 85% of the Muslim world is Sunni. The remaining 15% is mostly Shia. Again, much like Christianity, the reason they are not united is differing views of the substance in the Qur'an, the holiest in book of Islam. They are particularly differentiated by their interpretations of the 5 pillars of Islam:

*Tawhid: The Oneness of God
*Adelah: The Justice of God
*Nubuwwah: God's appointed messengers and prophets
*Imamah: God's appointed leaders to guide mankind
*Qiyamah: God's judgment on man.

Each sect has differing views on the importance of the above.

Shiites have managed to take control of Iraq & Iran despite having only 10-15% of the world's Muslim population. Shiites have long been oppressed by the Sunni majority throughout and the Islamic world. Infighting has been commonplace for hundreds of years. Recently, Shiites have been exercising their power much to the dismay of the rest of the Islamic community. This has caused a upswing in fighting throughout the region. Perhaps in the coming years we will see a Shite-led movement similar to the Protestants of the 16th century?

Throw in the US & British troops into the mix...not good. If there is one thing for certain in this world, it's that religion is an all-powerful force that drives people to extremes. Why in the world would anyone want to step into the middle of this? What the so-called coalition of the willing has done is given the extreme elements of both sides of the conflict fuel for the fire. One thing that seems to bring the groups in the Middle East together is their disdain for the western world and it's desire to shape things to their liking.

The war in the Middle East is about the future of Islam. We, the western world, have to step back and allow the leadership of the dominant factions work things out. There is no way that military actions will ever trump religious fervor.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

3000 Hits!

Thanks to everyone who has visited this silly little page to read my rants and raves. I noticed today that the ticker just rolled over 3000! I'm not sure that I deserve so much attention, but thanks. I will continue to post as much as I am able. I anticipate a lot of posts in the near future about my possible transition back to the States. Regardless what I spew about, please continue to leave those great comments. I don't always respond, but I read each and every one and they inspire me.

Muchas Gracias...on to 4000!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Name is Earl (check out the video on the right)

I was in tears...

I recently watched the first season of My Name is Earl. My co-worker, Carrie, has the box set. I haven't laughed so hard in a loooong time! In case some of you aren't in the know, it's a sitcom on NBC. The show revolves around a guy trying to turn his life around. He has done lots of bad things and he is now trying to make up for his transgressions by helping those he has hurt. Each episode he sets out to correct a nasty thing he did in the past. The characters are trailer park & motel residents...not the most upstanding folks on the planet. The pathetic lives the characters lead are hysterical.

I am really impressed with the writing, it's sharp. If the Coen Brothers were to make a TV show, it would be something like this.

I added a video clip from the show to the blog. It's the one on the top of the video column.

Here is a typical comment made by Earl's ex-wife:

''You know they say mosquitoes in Africa kill people. Can you imagine the size those things gotta be?''


Cheerios & Wind-up Alarm Clocks

This past week I have been blissfully discovering some great shopping spots.

Chris, my neighbor and soon to be co-worker, has a membership at Costco. He was kind enough to let me tag along with him last time he went...I struck gold! I was like a kid in a candy store. Some of my biggest scores were Cheerios, Chunky soup, California pistachios, Treetop apple juice, dried kiwis, and Pop-Tarts. What a great place. I barely scratched the surface. Planning on going back sometime this week.

Last night, we trekked over to the north-east side of the city. I rarely get over there. I live in the extreme south-west. There are two coveted places that beckon you to take the long subway ride...Ikea & Outback steak house. I convinced Chris to join me and we headed that way. Ikea is a pretty nifty place. Tons of stuff that would go perfectly in any apartment, remarkably useful. It takes forever to get through the place, but you always end up with both arms full of gadgets and such that are bound to make life easier. Last night I found a great little wind-up alarm clock. Remarkably useful considering that it's starting to get hot here and during this time of year we have our fair share of power-outages. Everyone starts cranking up the air-conditioning and it overloads the circuitry...kinda frustrating. I bought a few other little items to help streamline my life. I saw many other things that I'd love to have for my place but I resisted the temptation...everything in After perusing that Swedish manufacturing mecca we headed next-door to the Outback. Sheesh, my stomach is still aching. We both had the garlic steak plate with mixed vegetables and a blooming onion. Good stuff. It's a nice break from the usual dining experience here (no fish!).

Thus far my holiday vacation has been great. The next 5 days should prove to be just as fun, I hope. I picked up a Taipei day trip book from the hostel. It's time to pick one or two things to do and give them a whirl...stay tuned.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Happy Lunar New Year!

The title of this post roughly translates into congratulations and be prosperous. It's a common saying heard here this time of year.

It's been very festive here this past week. Fireworks have been going off steadily for the past few days and people seem to be especially cheerful. This is the year of the pig. As many of you already know, Chinese zodiac is based on a 12 year cycle. If you are turning 12, 24, 36, etc. this year, you are a Those born in the year of the pig are usually honest, loyal, and straightforward. At the same time, they are usually selfish, spoiled, unhealthy, and pushy. Yikes, a tough combination.

Some of the practices/superstitions this time of year are interesting.

It's considered very bad luck to get your hair cut this month because the word hair is a homophone for prosperity in Chinese. Therefore, you will be cutting away your prosperity. Sweeping the floor in your home is a no-no because it is believed that you will be sweeping away all your good luck for the following year.

It's a good idea to leave your windows open this week to bring in good luck for the coming year. Candy is eaten this week to ensure a sweet year. Cleaning thoroughly prior to the holiday is a good idea. It's frowned upon to clean your house for the few days after the holiday.

Of all of the traditions here, I am especially fond of the giving of red envelopes. Red envelopes stuffed with cash are given by parents to their single children and by business owners to their employees. Good Stuff! The cash is believed to be a tool to suppress possible evil spirits in the coming year. I don't know much about evil spirits but I dig the extra cash!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

OK, This is Freaky...

A friend just sent me these things.

Follow the instructions and don't peek ahead!!

1. Think of a number between 1 and 10.

2. Multiply that number by 9.

3. If the number is a two-digit number, add the digits together.

4. Subtract five from that number.

5. Determine what number corresponds with the number you ended up with (example: 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, etc.).

6. Think of a country that starts with that letter.

7. Remember the last letter in the name of that country.

8. Think of the name of an animal that starts with that letter.

9. Remember the last letter in the name of that animal.

10. Think of the name of a fruit that starts with that letter.

**Are you thinking of a kangaroo in Denmark eating an orange?

Yikes...pretty crazy. 98% of the population will get the above answer...the other 2% are wacky.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Don't Miss This....

COLD! This is one aspect of home I certainly don't miss. From what I have been reading, it's been miserable there for the past week or so. The nasty weather really does a number on your psyche. Can be pretty depressing. I snapped this picture while home for a visit last month. This is standing in front of my mom's house.

p.s. It's been lovely here. Not a hint of rain, temp in the 60's & 70's...good stuff.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Just found out that Mom had to put T to sleep this week...gonna miss my little buddy. I had him for about 15 years. He was a great little guy, lived a long, happy life. Mom said the vet told her that his kidneys were failing and he was severely dehydrated. He was one of the prettiest cats you'll ever see, a perfect shiny coat. He was always a very skittish cat, afraid of his own shadow. That is probably why he lived such a long life. He was very good at avoiding trouble. I knew this day was coming soon so I am thankful I got to spend some time with him on my visit home last month. Rest in peace little one, I will miss you...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


A few of my 1093 kids. From Left to Right: Sandra, Olivia, and Sherry. These girls are awesome. Always a smile on their faces and an unending supply of silliness.

Crazy Claire! One of the great teachers I have the pleasure of working with. She is a hoot. We are always giggling and having fun. Working with folks like Claire is a blast!

The Christmas party. Gavin, Queenie, Sandy, and Carol getting into the spirit. We had a gift exchange. It was a secret santa thing. Turned out great and we all had a few good laughs.

My gang, known as 1093. Saturday morning classes are rough. Most of them run from the camera. As you can see, a few of them managed to hide behind their papers. Check out Milton on the right, he is a GREAT kid. Any parent would be proud to call him their son. Always laughing but also insanely dedicated and accomplished...he works as hard as any kid I have seen here.
RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!! It's the giant 7-11 thingy. A shameless 7-11 promotional parade on New Year's Eve. It was pretty surreal stepping out of the subway and seeing this...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Revolutionary War...Redux!

Scott, the crazy British guy I work with, has once again brought on the practical joke war. This has been going on for about 18 months and it's starting to heat up again...

He has a really twisted sense of humor. I lay the blame squarely on his Recently he has been having fun with tape. Last week, I had to teach at our satellite school for the entire day. In my absence, Scott saw fit to commandeer the office clear tape dispenser and tape one of my class folders shut, tape down the cap on my iced tea, and tape a "poo boy" label on my tape recorder. Also, I discovered the label "gay cream" on my bottle of hand cream. Juvenile as can be, but pretty darn funny.

This scene kicked in my revenge mode. The following day, I decided to exact my revenge...

Scott drinks lots of coffee. He keeps a little box full of instant coffee packets on his desk. I decided that this was going to be the center of the action. I grabbed the stapler and proceeded to staple the packets to the side of the box, making it impossible for Scott to drink his precious java without taking apart the box. While I was stapling, the owners of the school were looking on and laughing hysterically. They know that there has been a long-standing war of silliness going on and they think it's fun.

Later that evening he finally reached for a packet and jerked the whole box into the air. It took him a few moments to figure it out. Meanwhile, we were laughing like 9 years Just hearing him grumble was priceless.

These exchanges are too much fun. He is a worthy adversary.

The latest installment came tonight. I was working at my desk when Scott ran up from the 4th floor and hollered at me to come with him. There was something I had to see downstairs. I put down all the papers that I was furiously shuffling and sped downstairs with him. On the way down he was acting like he saw an image of Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich...giddy. Shortly we arrived in the bathroom on the 4th floor. Scott pointed down towards the toilet and exclaimed "check it out! someone took a poo and didn't flush, look at that thing!"

Needless to say, I nearly punched him. I turned around and marched back to my desk. I was dumbfounded. I can't believe that nut case pulled me away from my desk to look at someone's log. This little incident will not be forgotten. He thought it was so great that he told a bunch of other folks in the office about the scene...the shame!

It's an England vs. U.S.A. thing. Not sure how I can top his latest goofiness, but you can be sure I'll do my best.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Obama in 2008! Barack the Vote!

The real deal. He officially announced his candidacy for the presidency today, thank god. What an interesting guy. He is very charismatic and has some great ideas/intentions.

One thing I especially like is his candor. His stances on the issues are crystal clear, which is a welcomed sight...for too many of those in D.C. leave you guessing. He unequivocally states the war in Iraq is a mistake and he hasn't wavered on that stance. He is on record as being opposed from the get-go. He opposes the death penalty, a brave stance in today's political climate. He would like to pick up where the Clinton White House left off so far as universal health care is concerned. Regardless of the cost, I think it's a necessary thing if we are going to sustain a population that is getting older at a rapid pace. There are many other stances he has that I support. I am sure I will be addressing them in the future.

Many have speculated that he can't win because he is a relative newcomer in D.C.. I disagree. I believe a young energetic outsider might be what we need to get the country back on track. The country is about as screwed up as I have seen it in my lifetime...

I really like the fact that he has already aired his dirty laundry in the 2 books that he has published. This means the mean-spirited attack dogs of the religious right won't be able to use these things in their fear mongering campaign. He makes no secret of the fact that he drank and did cocaine while in college. It's also well known that he is a smoker and poker player. These things only strengthen his appeal. He is a normal guy with a few skeletons in his closet and weaknesses just like you and me.

Let's get moving and elect this great guy!! The election is just 20 months

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Belated Thanks

I don't think I made it clear how thankful I am to everyone for putting up with me on my trip home. Everyone, including mom, the sisters, and the Sundbergs. They all went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and I am truly thankful.

Perry & Andrea carted me all over Las Vegas. It was lots of fun. I hope they find that perfect house soon.

Mom really knows how to make me happy...she cooked me all of the foods I only dream about here. Also, she was there to help me make a few decisions all the while knowing that being home is an emotional thing for me. I spent a good bit of the week on an emotional roller coaster and mom knew I needed to work through some things. She gave me my space and I was able to deal with them effectively. Mom is such a stabilizing force, although she denies it...

I didn't spend near enough time with the sisters, I never do. I suppose I was a bit selfish with my time and, looking back, I regret not seeing more of them.

One glaring absence during my visit was my youngest sister, Sydney. I guess she had a bit of a falling out with my mom. They haven't spoken in months. What a shame, I would've enjoyed seeing her. We have had a pretty tumultuous past but I love her just as much as the other sisters. I certainly hope she can patch things up with mom. All of us need mom in our lives.

It's been tough getting back into the swing of things here. It's strange how just a few weeks away can turn things upside down. I think the other teachers did a fine job in my's just tough to reconcile the missed class time. I am just now feeling like I am getting back in the groove.

Not sure when I'll be heading back home again. I hope the next trip is every bit as good as this one was.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


I have mentioned Sherry more than once in previous posts. She is a wonderful little girl in my 1093 class. She is 9 years old, one of my younger students. The material we have been covering for the past few months has been pretty tough and she is struggling. Part of the problem is her age, very few kids her age are learning at this level. Also, she has the attention span of a fruit fly. At nine years old, I was much the same way. She drifts off in class and I catch her doodling when she should be paying attention. Lately, she hasn't been doing her homework...not good. I heard through the grapevine that her mother is unhappy with her performance. A few days ago I approached her about the situation and noticed that her left arm looked strange. I asked her about it and she told me that her mother had beaten her. Her arm had red splotches all over it. I have a very hard time with this type of thing...her grades aren't great, but they certainly aren't terrible either. Last time I checked she was averaging about 80%.

While I understand that kids need to be disciplined, I just don't buy the "spare the rod, spoil the child" mentality. Hitting your kids is standard practice here and I hate it!

She is 9 years old...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Molly Ivins R.I.P.

Molly Ivins, one of the great political writers of this era died Wednesday. She had a knack for injecting searing humor into her analysis of the political arena, especially Texas politics. She had been battling breast cancer for a long time. This was the third recurrence of the cancer, she didn't beat it this time.

She was an unabashed liberal with the ability to skewer those in power on both sides.

Bill Clinton once said she was "good when she praised me and painfully good when she criticized me.".

Even our current president, whose name I can't seem to get to roll off my tongue, had this to say:
"Molly Ivins was a Texas original, I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words, and her ability to turn a phrase. She fought her illness with that same passion."

A few good quotes from Molly:

I am not anti-gun. I'm pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We'd turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don't ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.

Conservatives have been mad at the Supreme Court since it decided to desegregate the schools in 1954 and seen fit to blame the federal bench for everything that has happened since then that they don’t like.

Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.


Return to Normal...sorta

I have been back at work and life here in Taipei for about 4 days now. For some strange reason I have not been feeling good. Not outright sick, but not 100% either. I am beginning to think I may have picked something up while trapped in that airtight flying germ incubator we call an airplane. 14 hours of enclosed bodily functions may be why I feel so iffy. Body aches and lack of energy are my symptoms...not fun.

It has been great to see my kids again. It's awesome to know so many kids think so highly of me. The mood in my classes this week has been silly. It's been tough getting back into the swing of things but the attitude of the kids makes it much easier. This week has tested my ability to improvise and adjust things on the spot...I think I have done alright.

The steady stream of American candy has lightened things up and the kids have been digging it big time. Little do these kids know that I enjoy the junk food as much as they

I mentioned before that I would give a run-down of my stash...check it out:
(remember, I had to stuff all of this stuff in my bags along with clothing, books, my computer, etc.)

*countless bags of Hershey's Kisses, Nestle's Crunch Bars, and M&M's
*gazillions of Reese's Cups
*Pez, along with a giant bag of refills
*Juicy Fruit gum
*York Peppermint Patties
*Hershey's Nuggets...truffles...insanely tasty!
*Junior Mints
*Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavored candies
*Hershey bars and 3 Musketeers
*Smarties candy necklaces
*10 boxes of Quaker instant oatmeal (these are for me)
*8 bags of Lipton Pasta Sides (again, for me)
*a 500-count bottle of Ibuprofen (not liking the pain-relievers here)
*a 250-count bottle of Aleve (a wonder drug)

These are all things I HAD to