Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yes, Great Rock-N-Roll is Still Being Made

The Black Keys. The boys from my hometown are the real deal. It's a shame that today's music has abandoned its roots. These guys are doing their best to keep alive the gut-wrenching guitar and drum riffs that make rock n roll great. Just two guys playing some seriously heavy stuff. It's raw, unadulterated my-soul-is-on-fire music. Check out the evolution of Dan, the lead singer, in the following videos. He goes from a clean-cut kid in the beginning to now he is doing his best Jerry Garcia

The early days on Conan O'Brien.

Starting to get some exposure and great press, live on Letterman.

A song from their latest album. I love this tune. The recording is pretty bad, but it grooves.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Saying Goodbye & Ugly PTA

As I mentioned a few posts back, I am changing schools. My boss needs me to help out another one of her schools. She needs someone with experience to go there and get it back on track. I am flattered that she has so much confidence in me. This could be a great opportunity for me.

The obvious down-side is I have to leave my current position. I really have become attached to my kids and my place in that office. Nearly two years at the school is plenty of time to develop some great relationships. The kids and the teachers have become an important part of my life. I will miss them.

Yesterday was the PTA for my 1106 class. It didn't go well. Angela, my assistant, made the mistake of bringing up my departure to the parents. I knew we would have to talk about it, but she said something about it in the first few minutes...not the way I would've handled it. From that moment on, the parents were preoccupied with the topic. It turned out to be a complaint session. They were not happy about losing the teacher their kids had been doing so well with. I had little time to talk about the things we had accomplished and what the kids were expected to do in the near future. Not exactly the what I had planned for this meeting. I did my best to assure them that the new teacher will continue to do good things and their kids will succeed. It was a tough sale. I really hope that I don't have to preside over a mess like that again.

I have four more days in Shulin. I hope they will be fun. I am certain they will be a bit emotional for me. That crazy school has helped me define who I am. It sounds silly, but this teaching gig has truly helped me discover some things about myself. I have learned more about who I am and what I can do in the past few years than I did in the previous 35.

Saying goodbye sucks.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Frightening and Funny

A clip from a recent episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The actual event that they are examining will make you shudder. The way that they skewer it is priceless. The part about James Comey's testimony is shocking..."a dios mio!"

Monday, May 28, 2007

Morphine & Son Volt

Two of my favorite bands. These two couldn't be more different. Morphine was an underground band in the '90's, they didn't have a guitarists, just bass, drums, and horns. Son Volt is a great band to emerge from the alt-country genre. Neither one of these bands is putting out music anymore. The lead singer of Morphine had a heart attack and died, and Son Volt broke up.

Early to Bed by Morphine
check out the great artwork in this one...these guys were quirky and very creative.

Catching On by Son Volt (live at Austin City Limits)

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Just a few shots I took this past week. As I said in the previous post, I haven't had anything terribly note-worthy happen this past week.

Taipei 101 (the world's tallest building) on a wonderfully clear day. It's rare to see the very top of the building. Usually it's far too hazy in the city to see the spire.

This is a creation by Evan, one of my favorite kids at my school. He was bored after taking a test and he knows I love maps, so he drew this one from memory. This is a 12 year old boy...extremely bright. Notice the English and Chinese names for many of the places. I know it's difficult to see, but check out the U.S....for some bizarre reason the only state he chose to draw was Texas....yikes! Evan is going to be a mad scientist when he grows up.

Edit: I stand corrected! Evan has informed me that he is 10 years old, not bad. To answer your question, I put this picture on the blog because it is AWESOME! I am very proud of you Evan, you are a great kid!

Friday, May 25, 2007


I haven't had much time or inspiration to post anything on the blog this past week. I am big-time busy at work and haven't done anything blog-worthy.

There has been some upheaval at work. Apparently, a branch of the school I work for has been having some trouble. Carol, the boss-lady, has decided that she wants me to transfer over there and dig them out of the hole they are in. The branch has only one full-time foreign teacher and they haven't had much luck finding a suitable person to take the spot.

While I would like to help out Carol, I am not happy about losing all that I have worked so hard to build in Shulin. My kids are super-duper important to me and I want to see them through to graduation. Carol and I have been talking about options and I am to the point where I may just have to put my foot down and refuse to leave my current position. I think if I go to the other branch I may be able to make considerably more money and work less, but I am not sure it's worth the loss of what I have now.

The next few days are pivotal in the decision-making process. I am open to a compromise. Perhaps I could spend a few days each week at both schools? Not sure.

Sorry for the inactivity regarding my blogging. I have to get this situation and a few others worked out before I can go back to effective blog maintenance.

Monday, May 21, 2007

At the Movies...Zodiac

It was raining most of the weekend, so Cath and I didn't get to go on an outdoor adventure. We did catch an excellent movie on Sunday night though. I had been waiting for this one for quite some time. It's the true story of the Zodiac killer. The movie/case revolves around several unsolved murders committed in the 1960's and 70's in California. The cast is outstanding. One of my favorite actors, Robert Downey Jr., played a major role and was excellent. Despite having a hectic personal life, he always seems to nail whatever role he plays. Jake Gyllenhaal was the star of the show. He was fantastic as a man obsessed with capturing the killer. His quirkiness was right on. Following him along the route to obsession was easy to do, a perfect casting. The movie also had several cameos by top-notch actors including Brian Cox, Chloe Sevigny, and Philip Baker Hall.

Despite being over two-and-a-half hours long, it was very fun to watch. The pace of the movie made it feel much shorter.

I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Proud Mary

Anyone who has ever spent time with me will tell you that I am a music nut. My music collection is mind-boggling. I have been an avid collector and listener since I was a kid. I recently stumbled upon a live performance of, what I believe to be, one of the greatest songs I have ever heard. It's a cover version of CCR's Proud Mary. Ike & Tina Turner laid down the groove like few others could or ever will.

It starts nice and easy and builds up to such an incredible groove. If you don't feel the need to shake your booty while listening to this, you may want to consult a physician.

Check out this great piece of music history:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Shulin Night Market & Shien Bing?

Perusing the night market near my work. It's located in Shulin, a suburb of Taipei. The little night market is pretty busy most nights. The main reason I go there is because they have my favorite Taiwanese food concoction. I am not certain how to spell it, but it's something like "shien bing". If anyone out there knows the proper spelling, feel free to correct me.

The seemingly endless sprawl of shops selling everything from cheesy t-shirts to stinky tofu.

My favorite food spot. The husband and wife are there every night of the week selling the delicious hockey puck looking things.

Here they are cooking. They fry them for about 5 minutes until they are golden brown. You can order them filled with beef, pork, chicken, or vegetables. I prefer the beef, but the pork is pretty good, too. They cost $25 each, which is about 75 cents American. Yummy!

The packaging they come in. Perhaps this will clarify exactly what they are for those of you out there with a working knowledge of Chinese.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Some of My Kids (Pictures!)

The following pictures are some of the crazy kids I have the privilege to teach. They are great kids. The first group is class 1106. I have been their one-and-only English teacher for the past 5 months. They have a wonderful attitude. This is an incredibly easy group to teach.

This is most of them. The class has 21 students, it's tough to catch them all in the same frame.

Here they are hard at work. Jacky, the boy in the front, is crazy. He always has a smile on his face and loves to mess with me...great kid.

I had to include this one in this group. This is a class that I teach about once every two weeks. They are young and silly as can be. What makes this class unique is that 3 of the girls in this class are the little sisters of 3 of the students in my 1106 class (the class in the first two pics)...what are the odds?

At the Movies...

Catherine and I caught the latest installment of the Spiderman series Sunday night. We went to the 7:50 showing. A little earlier than we usually go because it's a long movie, about two hours and a half hours. I was surprised to see the theater was not even half full. I think it's probably because they are showing it on two or three screens. There couldn't have been more than about 50 people in the room, yet we were all scrunched into the middle. I had someone in front, behind, and next to me...I hate that. The whole assigned seating things bugs me.

Last week I read quite a few bad reviews about Spiderman 3. Most of them said it bit off more than it could chew, too many story lines. After seeing the movie, I kind of agree. I felt like I was watching 3 movies in one. Several villains to fight, girlfriend issues, and dealing with his fame made Spidey a busy guy in this one. It was an enjoyable movie as long as you didn't expect to get too deep into any of the above story lines. The action was great, very well filmed. I thought Sandman was a very cool bad guy, excellent effects. The portion of the movie dealing with the dark side of Spiderman was especially enjoyable. I loved the James Brown-like groove scene. I think they could have dedicated an entire movie Evil Spidey. I was shocked to see that there wasn't any indication of his next adventure at the end of the movie. Usually they give you a peek at what's next...

Overall, I enjoyed the movie and so did Catherine. I think it was probably the best of the three in the series. Rumor has it that Tobey Maquire doesn't want to play the role anymore. Why would you want to walk away from such a killer gig?

A Down Weekend

I have been struggling this past week with my allergies. As a result, Catherine & I didn't take a trip on Sunday. We have been committed to checking out an interesting spot here every weekend, but I just couldn't do it this time around. She was pretty bummed. I hope to back at it next weekend.

Along with the nasty allergies, I have had some serious craziness at work. The combination of these two things took me out of commission for the past few days.

We did manage to catch a movie last night. I also took some pics last week. Above is evidence of my existence this past week.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Parliamentary Melee, again

Here we go again. The lawmakers in Taiwan watch too much wrestling on TV. Check out this story, (be sure to click on the video link) :

Parliamentary Brawl

I am torn about my feelings regarding this matter. While it seems extremely uncouth, I think that it's great to see such vehemence. Anyone who has ever watched C-Span back in the U.S. can tell you that watching the American legislature is about as exciting as watching paint dry. All too often legislatures seem constrained by formalities and come across as simply going through the motions.

Far too often legislatures debate issues as disparate as war appropriations and taxation with the same staid sobriety.

Where is the passion?'s in Taiwan!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Adventures with Catherine, Danshui & Bali (Trip #3)

We set out at about 11:30 on Sunday for the northern-most part of Taipei, Danshui. Our mission was to find the ferry that crosses the Danshui river to Bali. Bali is a haven for walkers and bike riders in northern Taiwan. It's a tree-lined community that is a nice escape from the madness of the city.

After asking a handful of people, we managed to find the boat and bought tickets. Catherine thought it would be fun to buy a pass that takes us to Bali and on to Fisherman's Wharf. This meant we would take the 6 minute boat ride to Bali and then another ferry to Fisherman's Wharf, which is about a 12 minute trip across the river. Sort of a tour of the whole area. Since it was Sunday and the weather was great the place was crawling with people.

After arriving in Bali, we quickly found a little bike-rental place and picked out a nifty little tandem model. I could tell by the look on Catherine's face that she was pretty skittish about being on the bike. It was really crowded and Taiwanese people aren't known for their ability to steer ANYTHING! She knew I was excited to do it, so she held her breath and we set off. Being an American, I am not about to calmly allow others to cut me off and/or inhibit my riding pace. Not long after setting off we encountered numerous folks that felt compelled to stop in the middle of the trail to talk, take pictures, etc...ugh. After a few near collisions I looked back and was shocked that Catherine didn't have her eyes closed. She said she was frightened but trusted me. We managed to bike for a few hours without incident. At one point, I looked down and discovered the Cath wasn't wonder I was sweating like a pig, I was doing all the work! She giggled and said she didn't realize that I wanted her to share in the work...ya right!

It was a lot of fun. We managed to see a good bit of the area. Tandem bikes are much harder to control. It's sort of like driving a bus, maneuverability is limited. Here are some pics from our arrival and bike trail fun.

The day's catch. A common sight on the banks of the river. The aroma of fish fills the air.

A cool looking sculpture. Sort of sticks out like a sore thumb amongst all the fish stalls and ice cream stands.

A look at the boat that we were going to board to go to Bali. The water was calm. I was a little nervous about taking the boat, I am not a big fan of seasickness. It was an easy ride.

Cath ready to set off on our trip. She is such a cutie.

A house located next to the bike trail. We were just a stones throw from the giant apartment buildings and gray buildings but it was serene along the trail.

Adventures with Catherine, Danshui & Bali (part 2)

A rarity in Taipei, a view of trees without any imposing buildings looming in the distance. The bike trail is a great place.

What happened to my hair? Yikes! Here we are on our tandem. It was a nice breezy day.

Cool looking bridge along the route.

A popular spot to take a rest. I was shocked to see so many avid bike riders on the trail.

Yet another statue along the way. Overall, a very nice area. The bike ride was lots of fun.

Adventures with Catherine, Danshui & Bali (part 3)

The following are some pictures of the market in Bali and Fisherman's Wharf. After the bike ride we decided to slow down and find some nice spots to relax. The time in Fisherman's Wharf was more about winding down and enjoying the afternoon breezes coming off of the water.

The Corral. An alternative to a bicycle for the little ones. As the peddle the various creatures, they move up and down and the wheels move. I think it's a great idea but also kind of dangerous when on the bike path.

Here is a little guy trying to get the hang of it.

In front of the bridge in Fisherman's Wharf. A very busy part of the area. There is a nice pub on the other side that I am going to have to check out.

Here we are mugging for the camera. My trips with Catherine are always so much fun. They make tackling the next week at work much easier.

Here she is on the same bridge as the last few pics.

Watching these guys hang out in and around this tree was fascinating. I think they spend a good bit of their days there.

Adventures with Catherine, Danshui & Bali (part 4)

We finally made our way back to Danshui and headed over to the night market. It's one of my favorite markets in the city. While heading that way, we ran across a few interesting sights. There was a great ceremony at one of the temples. The following is a set of pictures from the evening. We also did some shopping. I managed to complete my set of Snoopy 7/11 credit card holder thingies. A shop had all of the cards for sale and I bought them at a reasonable price. I also picked up a few silly things I can share with my students. I gladly bought Cath a cute little skirt that is going to look great on her. She reluctantly allowed me to pay for it because she knows I enjoy buying things for her.

The "Lucky Luck Company" I can't imagine a better name for a store.

The ceremony at the temple. The dragon was actually two young guys balancing on metal poles. They were acrobatic. Somehow they managed to jump from pole to pole in unison. The music was intense and the crowd was really into it.

Here they are in flight. If they miss their target, it'll be ugly.

I couldn't take my eyes off of them. A very impressive show.

Another great outing. Every time we come to the end of one of these trips we both can't imagine how we can top it. Yet, each and every trip has proven to be memorable and unique. Thanks for checking it out and stay tuned...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Censorship of Porky

Here in Taiwan, they edit all language, nudity, and other titillating stuff out of TV programs. I think it's pretty silly, but not a big deal. I have grown accustomed to watching programs that have been "sanitized". Until the other night I had never been puzzled why they edited something out of a program.

A few nights ago I was watching an episode of Fear Factor. It's fun to watch if you can get past the host. I think they discovered him at a frat party on a college campus...every other word out of his mouth is "dude". Anyhow, at the end of each program they have a segment where they go to a viewer's house and have them perform one of the eating challenges. If they are successful they win $5000. On this particular episode the family had to stick their faces into a vat of nastiness and pull out several pig's feet with their teeth. The host went about explaining the challenge to the family and every time he said "pig's feet" they edited out the word "pig's". Huh? Is this a pork and Islam thing? Help me out here. The editing process is done for the Asian broadcast of the show, so I am assuming that it was done in deference to the large Buddhist and/or Islamic population. I am not losing sleep over this. Just curious.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love

A man confessed to murdering a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines. Here is the link the to the story:

Yahoo News

As a former PC volunteer, this story hits close to home. PC is not an easy gig. I was once told by a US Marine while I was serving in Honduras that he would "Never serve in Peace Corps, it makes serving in the Marines look easy."

Serving in PC is about risk versus reward. In order to succeed, you have to be willing to put yourself in harms way. Volunteers are sent to remote places alone and are expected to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, tragedy happens when you do this. Considering how many good men and women are serving in PC, it's surprising that there isn't a higher rate of crime against the volunteers.

When something like this sad event takes place, it's big news, thankfully. Julia Campbell was doing what not nearly enough people are willing to do. She was giving of herself in order to make this world a better place. Peace Corps is an outstanding organization that I am proud to have been a part of.

Adventures with Catherine, The Taipei Zoo

Sunday was the second in our planned series of excursions together. We decided to stay close to home for this one because we wanted to catch a movie that night. We headed over to the Taipei Zoo at about 11:30. It's about a 30-45 minute subway trip to the southeastern part of the city. The weather was perfect. When we got to the gate, we were shocked to see the crowd, the place was packed. Wall-to-Wall kids. That's OK, part of the fun is seeing the little kid's reactions to the animals. Admission to the zoo is only about $2 American, a bargain. We took our time and enjoyed the tour. Before we knew it, it was nearly 5:00. We were both pretty hungry so we decided to head over to near the movie theater and grab some dinner. I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story...

These guys are Formosan Macaque's. They are monkeys indigenous to Taiwan. We spent a lot of time just watching them interact. It's remarkable how social they are. It was like watching a reality TV

Here are the macaques tending to each other. We watched one pick the bugs off the stomach of another and eat them...fascinating They were very playful and seemed to feed off of the attention from the visitors.

Catherine looking cute, as usual. She had a lot of fun, except when we were looking at the snakes and lizards.

He just couldn't be bothered. It was pretty hot so I think he didn't feel much like entertaining.

An Asian elephant. Catherine told me that there are a lot of these in her country. This guy looks pretty old. The Asian elephants didn't seem quite as active as the African elephants that are pictured in a later shot. Quite a few kids were huddled around and in awe of every move by this guy.

Taipei Zoo cont'd

Catherine always wants me to be in the pictures with her...I ruined a perfectly good

Up close and personal. Can't remember what this lizard is called. There were two of them and their heads bobbed up and down wildly.

This is just outside the Penguin house. It's nice to be so close to the crazy city and not have to see the ugly gray buildings and choke on the air.

Mugging for the camera. We had a lot of fun. Catherine is the ideal companion for these trips. She is so easy-going. I think it's perfect because I am such a spaz.

There were many other animals that we enjoyed but the pics just didn't turn out too good. Also, I was a little disappointed by the condition of some of the animals. The famous Taiwan Black Bears looked a little rough. Psychologically, the animals have to be a bit strained. I have always been skeptical about zoos. I know that often times a zoos can rescue a species from extinction. But, at the same time, what the heck are we doing caging them for our amusement? Oh well, we had a nice day and trip #2 was a success!

At the Movies...

After the day at the zoo and a nice dinner, we decided to catch a movie. We picked a good one this time. Pan's Labyrinth is an excellent flick. It's a fairy tale with some seriously disturbing aspects. It's magical and heartbreaking at the same time. Guillermo Del Toro managed to tell a compelling bedtime story and show the ugliness of the era at the same time, it's mesmerizing.

I suppose I should include a note about this one...this is a Spanish movie. If subtitles are a problem for you, this may not be a good choice. Personally, I don't like to watch anything dubbed. Seeing a movie in it's original tongue is the only way for me.