Thursday, December 18, 2003


Sore throat, runny nose, fever - I've got SARS... Well probably not, but no thanks to morons like military researcher Yang who was in a hurry to complete a SARS experiment, infected himself and then got on a plane to Singapore. Fortunately, I've got Nurse Vanessa looking after me. A bowl of hot borscht with crackers and a neck rub does wonders for one's state of mind. It's almost worth it being sick. Almost. Mental note to self: Treat wife like goddess next time she gets sick. Actually treat her like a goddess every day, but especially if she gets sick.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Almost Christmas

It's almost Christmas, and I'm a little stressed. I don't have a lot of money, as I am currently dropping my students one-by-one to make room in my schedule for my buxiban (cram school) classes. That's right, I am about to embark on the road of small business. Vanessa and I purchased a small wenli buxiban (a wenli buxiban teaches subjects like chemistry, mathematics, Chinese as well as English), but we are changing it into an English-only cram school. We're still waiting to hear if our name is approved or not. The minute it is approved, I'll let you guys know what it is.

Home life is good. Vanessa and I are turning out to be a pretty good team. We have our arguments, but the fallout from them is less and less all the time. We're both a little stressed about the business, but I'm hoping that once the uncertainty of everything has faded, we'll be a little more sure of ourselves and more relaxed. In the meantime, we're enjoying our dog's company immensely. We got Gustav on August 29th, the same day we got back from our family reunion in Canada. We got him from a very reputable breeder in Australia, one Merrilyn Walsh, and we have been completely happy with him. He's a purebred chocolate Labrador Retriever, with a bloodline more distinguished than that of most people I know. His offical kennel papers from Oz list five generations of ancestors, and of the 62 dogs that have contributed to his genetic makeup named there, 39 of them are "champions", which is the official rank the kennel association gives dogs who have taken first place in 3 or more dog shows. Or something like that. Anyway, we didn't care about his royal status, we just wanted a dog that was healthy and sound.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Jumping for Joy

Battle of the Titans: Art and Jer, competing for the farthest leap from the boathouse. Despite Art's home game advantage and buff physique, Jeremy beat him by a healthy margin. Go Jer!

This was hilarious - Vanessa actually wanted to change her mind at the last minute, but she had already built up a little speed and couldn't stop in time!

Big man in the water!

Anth on water-skis

Monday, August 25, 2003

Cannonball Anth

I can displace a fair bit of water, but unfortunately I couldn't give this my best effort because I was afraid I'd crack the diving board if I jumped too hard!

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Fresh Fish

Vanessa and I had a great time fishing with Art Kingma, my cousin-in-law. This was Vanessa's first real fishing experience and as you can tell by her smile, she was pretty excited!

Uncle Paul

Not bad for a 70 year old guy!

Diving Anth

Um, I'm diving into the water.


From our family reunion - this is a bunch of cousins and cousins' kids jumping off the roof of the boathouse.


Yes, that's me showing my tubing skill!

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Dinner at the lake

Life at the cottage was mellow and good, and dinner was a highlight of the day. The food was always great, and the conversation relaxed and enjoyable.

Vanessa Intros the Island

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Vanessa Intros Winkler

Vanessa explains Winkler.

The Farm

Vanessa was somewhat amazed by the sheer vastness of the land in Canada. Space like this just doesn't exist in Taiwan.

Grandma's Basement

When we stayed in Winkler, Jeremy, Justin, Kristine, Vanessa and I slept in the basement rec room. Janice and Jeremy had to sleep separately, because of their not-yet-married status! That was fine by everyone, we just thought it was cute.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Downtown Winkler

Don't ask me about the strange noises Uncle Chas was making - I have no idea!

Monday, August 18, 2003

Greasy Spoon

After we flew from Toronto to Winnipeg, we got in our rented van (huge!) and started driving south towards Winkler. We stopped at this Greasy Spoon:


Vanessa and I took Justin to Elora Gorge. It was a fun day.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Welcoming Vanessa into the family

On August 17th, Mom and Dad had a party to welcome her into the family. All our old friends were there, and of course they all thought Vanessa was terrific. (Who wouldn't?!) Anyway, here are the videos from that day.

Friday, July 18, 2003


I'm sitting here at half past midnight, not feeling even a little bit guilty for not having entered anything noteworthy in the last couple of months. I didn't want to share what was going on in my life because it was too fresh, too exciting, too personal, and too close to me at the time. Now things are settling into a comfortable routine, and I am getting some perspective on things.

I am married.

I married a beautiful, funny, incredibly perceptive, loving person - Vanessa Pan. (Her Chinese name is Pan Huixin - pronounced "Hway-sheen") We got married on my 36th birthday - a date we chose so that I would never forget our anniversary, so that Vanessa can combine my b-day gift and anniversary day gift, and because we're also getting married publically next summer, so we didn't want to assign too much significance to one individual day. It was a really hot day. I wore a black silk Chinese style shirt that V had bought for me, and she wore a beautiful cream-coloured dress.

I was pretty excited that day, even though I had tried to fool myself by saying it was just paperwork and didn't mean that much. It didn't work - by the time I got there, my heart was racing. It was a thrilling experience.

The gentleman presiding was a Notary Public who specializes in this sort of thing. He had a little altar set up, with the Chinese character for double happiness in red neon behind. It wasn't as tacky as it sounds. He spoke to us about the powers invested in him by the government of the Republic of China, our responsibilities to each other as a married couple, he mispronounced three out of four of my names, we then bowed to each other (almost bumping heads), smooched, and he then handed me our marriage certificate. That was it.

Despite the banality of the procedure, when it came time for the little "ceremony", I felt very moved. I mean wow - there was a beautiful woman standing next to me who actually wanted to be with me for the rest of my life. I was thrilled and proud. What a high! Our witnesses to the ceremony, next-door-neighbours and all-round good guys Geoff and Joyce Lin, took us out for a celebratory bowl of beef noodles for lunch that were just insanely spicy. We went home, had an afternoon nap (we were both zonked - too much nervous energy), and then later in the evening went to Salsa Bistro on Anhe Road with them for Champagne and dinner.

After dinner, we went to an outdoor cafe very close to Lotus Hill and had coffee outside under the trees. The music was nice. I just remembered - when we sat down there, the waitress came to take our temperatures - SARS was in full bloom back then - and the way she was fiddling around with the laser-pointer thermometer made me realize that she was new at this. She did me first and the second she pointed the laser at me, I grabbed my head in apparent agony and started moaning. The poor girl was startled - she thought she had killed me.
"Omigod sir, are you alright?!"
"Yeah, just playing with you - I'm sorry...."
Everybody else was in stitches, but the poor girl looked faint. I'm such a bastard...

Anyhow we all talked about nothing for a couple of hours, and I kept stealing looks at Vanessa beside me. She was especially beautiful that night. I think I'll remember that day and that night for a long time - forever, I guess. Here's to our beautiful life together ~clinks glasses~

Monday, June 02, 2003

I Don't Believe In Full Disclosure

It's been a heck of a month. Where to begin? Business? Work? Love? Money? ~whew~ And I find the whole prospect of a blog a little daunting. After all, how much information am I expected to reveal here? I am by nature a fairly private person, although I am simultaneously extroverted. I guess that means I like communicating with people, but I don't believe in full disclosure - at least not initially. Maybe that will change as I become more accustomed to this medium. Or maybe not.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Fricking SARS

Fricking SARS. It's affecting my life several times a day now. I get my temperature taken when I go into a parking garage, a movie theatre, my gym. It's all they can talk about on the local news. When someone coughs, everybody in the vicinity gets nervous. I find myself glaring at people who spit in the streets. (No wait, I've always done that...) I feel tired and I wonder if I'm coming down with something. I get hot in the sun, feel the sweat on my forehead, and wonder if I'm feverish. Stupid.

My paranoia aside, this is also affecting my income. Students are cancelling classes out of fear, or in the case of a few companies, are prohibited from having outsiders come into their offices. I'm hoping this whole thing blows over by the time The Project kicks into gear. Now that I'm finally becoming my own boss, I really want to work my ass off and make my mark. Last thing I need is to have everything derailed by a lousy virus from Zhongguo.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Bangkok Weekend

V and I came back from a great weekend in Bangkok. We stayed at the Grand President Hotel, which was cheap, central and adequate. We spent a good deal of time at the pool, woke up one morning before dawn to catch the floating market 140 kms outside of Bangkok, ate some great food and some not-so-great food. We were at a riverside restaurant (the Yok Yor Restaurant, I believe) that had great views, mediocre food and a godawful sound system that crackled out more static than music. Throughout the meal we were subjected to entertainment. I use the word loosely. After the inevitable "traditional" Thai dance, the girls on stage whipped off their long robes to reveal black leather shorts and halters with riding crops in their hands for added effect. They had no talent whatsoever. When they finally exited the stage, I breathed a sigh of relief. The calm of the evening was soon broken, because five minutes after the girls left the stage, they started belting out Karaoke hits. The singers were all half-drunk Taiwanese men who somehow thought we really wanted to hear their renditions of off-key Taiwan love songs. For the record, I hope God has a special place in hell for the inventors of Karaoke. I had such a sour face that Vanessa wisely hustled me out of there before I became violent. We went to a quiet Starbucks where a latte brought me back to my good spirits.

We had some great food also. It seems that whenever I go to Thailand, the best meals I have are also the cheapest. Hmmm.

One night we went by the Nana Entertainment complex - a three story Sodom and Gomorrah chock-a-block with go-go bars. Feeling naughty, we went into one. A bunch of bored girls on a stage shuffling their feet listlessly to hard rock from the seventies - the music that most of their target clientele grew up with. I hadn't heard so much Steppenwolf, Blue Oyster Cult, Uriah Heep and whatnot in a looooong time. (That's been a good thing.)

We also went out to a lounge/bar called Q-Bar. What a fantastic place! Great music (old school hip-hop, and funk from the 70's to the present), great crowd (non-tourist expats and local scenesters). There were a lot of beautiful people there that night. Thai women can be stunning... Right next to our hotel there was another funky bar/lounge called the Bed Supper Club - definitely have to check it out next time......

Kind of funny, but EVERYONE assumed Vanessa was Thai. Whenever we went somewhere, the taxi drivers/shopkeepers/waiters/door staff would speak to Vanessa in Thai. And the first night the security guard headed her off at the elevator because he thought she was a ~ahem~ "lady of the evening". I was walking a few steps behind and set the guard straight pretty quickly. It bothered Vanessa a little because she suddenly realized that most people in Thailand woiuld make certain assumptions about her nationality and the nature of our relationship - assumptions that she herself was making about the fat white businessmen there with a young Thai girl on each arm. It's a sleazy world.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

War Porn

It's been a busy couple of weeks. I 've been watching way too much CNN (war porn!), busy trying to arrange the details of my upcoming projects, teaching classes (mostly privates by now...), and still hanging on to a few Lado classes.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Embedded reporters? In bed with reporters?

I've been wondering about this business of embedded reporters. The first time I heard the phrase it was in the context of "John Smith, embedded with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade". I wasn't paying close attention and misheard it as "John Smith, in bed with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade". Maybe there's not so much difference after all...

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Operation Shock & Awe

I watched the opening shots of Operation Shock & Awe late last night. It was pretty terrifying to watch - I can only imagine what it must be like to be in the thick of things. 8,000 Iraqi troops just surrendered, says CNN. That's good news. That's 8,000 men who can return to their families in one piece and help rebuild their country.

Friday, March 07, 2003

I miss Al Gore

I've been getting anti-war petitions on an almost daily basis. Most are from The petitions are asking us to support "tough inspections, not war". I'm a little hesitant to sign. My dilemma is this: Saddam Hussein did not allow weapons inspectors back into Iraq until the US started sabre rattling. If tough inspections are not possible without the threat of war, then one can not preclude the possibility of war, otherwise the fear that compels Saddam to comply disappears. After all, what's he afraid of - more economic sanctions? I don't think so. The way Saddam has implemented sanctions, the only people to "feel the pain", so to speak, are the innocent civilians. Saddam's administration is not a bit weaker because of them. So if economic sanctions don't work, and military threats (with the implied possibility of military action) are not allowed then how do we rein in rogue nations? We cannot trust them to have good intentions, obviously. I'm in favour of military action, if the only alternative is inaction. Unfortuately, I believe that George Bush is going to bungle the job. ~sigh~ I miss Al Gore.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

The Story of Mao

A couple of days ago, on the community website I ran before launching, someone asked about the origins of the name "maoman". Here's the answer for your reference.

When I first came to Taiwan in the late 80's, I was living in very uninternational Jiayi. The good people there butchered the hell out of my English name (Anthony), to the point that I cringed whenever anyone called me by my name. I begged a friend to give me a Chinese name. Since his surname was Mao, everybody called him Ah-Mao. I was bigger than him, and older than him (by one week), and I had long, curly rock-star hair (hey, it was the 80's) that my friend thought looked like yangmao (fleece), so I was given the nickname Da Mao. Literally, it could be translated as "Big Fuzz" or something like that. The truth is, "mao" by itself isn't very meaningful - most expressions use it as part of a compound word. And yes, I'm aware that half of the word for pubic hair - yinmao - is the same "mao" (陰毛).

Da Mao, I have been told on countless occasions, is not a serious name. It's a good name for a pet, although I have heard kids called this name on more than one occasion. It has worked for me though, because although students are sometimes intimidated by my appearance (I'm kind of big, and - Taiwanese people say - serious-looking), all shyness disappears when they hear my nickname. It's a great ice-breaker. I think a reasonable English equivalent would be "Scruffy" or "Shaggy" or something like that. As for "maoman", well that was first suggested to me one drunken night at the late, great Opium Den by one drunken "Wuman", aka David Wu, an ABC VJ-turned-actor. The mystery is over... Go in peace.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003


Thought for the Day: Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

Friday, February 21, 2003

Watersports in Thailand

Read an interesting article in the Guardian: The Enema Within, written last year. (If I can't read an interesting-looking article right away, I'll bookmark it for later... sometimes a year later...) The article is about colonic cleansing done in a spa in Koh Samui, Thailand, just outside of Lamai Beach, where I spent a great week with my mom and dad 6 years ago. Next time, instead of taking them to the Aloha Resort, I'll take them to the Spa Resort. "Watersports" takes on a whole new meaning...

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

It was a great day today. Warm, occasionally sunny, and the air was thick with the smell of spring. I love that. Having lunch on my balcony overlooking the Lotus Hill Complex is fantastic and really makes me appreciate where I'm living.

Poagao said this today, and he has a point:
I've learned my lesson about living outside the city for the past few weeks, though: I want to stay in the city. It's ok if you're living with dogs, cats, roomies and various significant otherly beings, but if you're alone, being out in the middle of nowhere rather sucks.

Although I have two cats - Babs & Mitch - the house does seem empty now without a dog. In the last year I've discovered that I am a "dog person". It all started one morning at Jake's. (Ok, the official name is J.U.K.E., which means Jake's Urban Kitchen East, but I think it's a ridiculous name and won't use it.) The boss lady brought in a street dog and gave it water. The dog was a purebred Sharpei - "wrinkle dog" - that had obviously seen better days. He was skinny, hungry, tired, had a sinus infection and was wounded from fighting with other dogs. Seeing as the boss was just going to turn him back out on the street after giving it food and water, V and I decided to take him home. We were both re-reading The Hobbit, so we gave him the name Bilbo Baggins, or Bo for short. We brought Bo to the vet where he got a preliminary check-up and some antibiotics. He was also scanned and the vet discovered that he had a microchip, but the information was unreadable. The vet was able track down the owner info, though and a few days later we gave Bilbo back to his relieved owner. That little episode made me realize that a dog would fit into my domestic life quite nicely, and so I started doing some research. Although I love all dogs in general, there are four breeds that I am particularly fond of: Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Great Danes and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Labs, however, have always been at the top of the list, because of their great personality (V would say "humanality"), their handsome appearance, and their love of human interaction. They were also the easiest choice in terms of local availability, so a couple of months later we came home with Balder.

Balder was a great dog. He learned very quickly and had a fantastic personality. Unfortunately he also had bad genes. At 3 months he was diagnosed with fibrosarcoma, a very aggressive strain of cancer. The vet was surprised to see it in such a young dog. We were heartbroken. After removing lumps from his leg twice, the vet said the only chance to save his life was to amputate his leg. We reluctantly agreed but it was too late. The doc discovered that the cancer had spread quite high up the leg and he was forced to remove more of the leg than he had originally anticipated. I went to see Balder after the surgery, and as soon as he heard my voice his tail started wagging feebly. He lifted his head onto my hand, gave a little lick and went to sleep. He died later that night, only 7 months old.

He was a well-trained puppy, able to respond to many different commands, and always eager to please. He liked to sleep at my feet. ~sigh~ I still miss him.

A couple of months ago, our vet called us to say that a labrador retriever had given birth and then died of an infection in her womb - the owner had seven live puppies that needed saving and couldn't do it all by himself - could we lend a hand? Well, of course we agreed. For a day and a half we tended to two puppies non-stop, but to no avail. On the second day they both died from the same infection that their mother had, as did all of the other pups in the litter except for one. We weren't surprised, but we were disappointed.

One month ago, we decided to try again. One of my students knew a pet store owner whose own dog was having puppies. We went to take a look and brought home Cleo. She was beautiful, but became ill a few days after we brought her home. It turned out that she had Canine Distemper - a very deadly virus. We did our best to save her over a period of two weeks, but after she started having seizures, the vet said that the virus had entered her nervous system and there was little chance of a recovery. With heavy hearts we put her to sleep. That was a particularly exhausting experience. The pet store owner told us that the dog was guaranteed, and offered to replace it, but V and I feel that we've been burned enough by the experience - we won't ever get a dog from an unregistered, unlicensed breeder again. As Taiwan has no kennel club to speak of, this means that we will probably import a dog from overseas - probably Australia or New Zealand, as there are no applicable quarantine regulations for dogs coming from there.

You might ask why we would still want a dog after all of this heartbreak, but if you did ask this question you are most likely not a dog owner. Dog lovers understand...

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Between Iraq and a hard place

There was an anti-war protest yesterday in Taipei - about 300 people showed up. I have to say, I'm feeling a little conflicted on this issue. I detest George Bush - I think he's an absolute moron - but on the other hand, I have no faith at all in Iraq's good intentions. I believe that the only reason Saddam is complying to the extent he has is because of the military muscle being amassed just outside his borders. If there were no repercussions to his actions, I'm sure he would be simultaneously mooning the international community and flipping us the bird...

Monday, February 17, 2003

Bread & Circus

V & I had a very nice dinner last night at La Terrasse. The restaurant was spotlessly clean, very well decorated, and unmistakably French. The French music playing in the background, the beautiful flower arrangments and the overall design of the place made it easy to forget that one was in Asia. I started out with frog legs in a mushroom sauce, which was delicious, and then had the lobster bisque, followed by lamb chops with mustard sauce. V had a wonderful seafood salad, with the lobster bisque and then duck a l'orange. The wine - some French white - was ok, but nothing special. After dinner we sat on the terrace finishing our wine and then moved on to coffee and dessert. Great coffee! It was strong - really strong - but delicious. The food last night was good, but the serving sizes were a little light. Or maybe I've become a glutton, and anything less than a feast leaves me feeling unsatiated...

After dinner we went to see the movie Shanghai Knights, which was ok. Good physical comedy. Owen Wilson cracks me up...

After the movie V and I headed over to Watersheds and had drinks with Rob and Mandy, two good friends of ours. Came home at 2:00 feeling quite tired. We had planned on going to church today, but decided against it in favour of a Sunday morning lie-in.

Today I hope to clean the house because Damien is coming over for dinner and a swim, and maybe I can get around to e-mailing various people who I have neglected.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Valentine's Eve

Happy Valentine's Day! Ok, it was yesterday, but I'm celebrating with V tonight. We're going out to a French restaurant, La Terrasse, for a romantic dinner, and then maybe a movie, or possibly drinks with some friends.