Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: Hop on Pop

Whereas previously I had believed this book to be a work of fiction, I now have reason to believe it is rooted in the personal experience of the author.

I mean, come on! "Hop! Hop! We like to hop. We like to hop on top of Pop!" could only have come from the father of two preschool children.

And the stirring filial imperative, "Stop! You must not hop on Pop!" makes me weep for its plea for early morning peace and quiet. I was like, omigod, I can so totally relate. The author is going insane, and it's because of his kids. The horror. The horror.

This book has so many levels to it - and it is only now that I'm beginning to explore and understand them.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Little Girl Who Follows Me

A careful man I want to be;
A little girl, she follows me.
I do not dare to go astray
For fear she'll go the self- same way.

I cannot once escape her eyes,
Whate'er she sees me do, she tries.
Like me she says she's going to be;
The little girl who follows me.

She thinks that I'm so very fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me she must not see;
The little girl who follows me.

I must remember as I go
Through summer's sun and winter's snow,
I'm building for the years to be;
The little girl who follows me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dream Water Floatation Tanks in Taipei

Earlier this week, I had the cool experience of trying out a floatation tank for the first time at Dream Water, a new company in Dazhi owned by a friend of mine, Mike Zev. What an amazing experience! (No, the girl in the photo doesn't come with the experience - you'd probably have to pay a lot more for that!)

I still remember watching the classic sci-fi horror thriller "Altered States", which dealt with the effects of sensory deprivation and psychoactive drugs. It didn't look relaxing, but I was intrigued even then (I was just thirteen years old when that movie came out!)

Anyway, I'd always thought it would be a cool thing to try, and so when I heard that Mike had imported state-of-the-art flotation tanks, I immediately signed up for a session.

The location is very nice, a quiet, upscale lane in Dazhi, not too far from the Miramar shopping center. If you're not driving, the fastest way there is to take the MRT to the Jiannan Road Station on the Brown Line. If you are driving, there is ample parking in the area. Inside, the feeling is very spa-like. The decor is modern and relaxing, and you feel mellow just stepping in the door. Mike took me on a tour of the place and I was impressed by the attention to detail they took with the renovations.

Then it was time for the float. Mike encouraged me to use the bathroom first - he said nothing ruins a good float like the creeping awareness that one's bladder is the only part of you that isn't relaxed! Good advice.

I then stepped into the shower, rinsed off, and opened the floatation tank. (Actually, it looks more like a "pod" than a tank, I think.) The tank is BIG, and although the water isn't very deep, it's loaded with epsom salt, so that you're always floating - it's physically impossible to sink. There is a light inside that can be easily turned on and off, and the lid is also easy to open, so there was no sense of claustrophobia. Actually, the whole thing was very womb-like. The water is heated to body temperature, and once you get in, there's some soft relaxation music that plays to help get you in the right state of mind. After five minutes, the music stops and the real relaxation begins. I have to confess, it took me about twenty minutes before I could "empty my mind" of thoughts, and just float. I was also experimenting with different float positions to find out what the most relaxing position was. Once I found that position, and I started getting used to the whole novelty of the experience, I pretty much lost track of time. I wasn't asleep, but I wasn't entirely conscious, either. After an hour, the music quietly came back on, and my mind started to return to the day. I pushed open the lid, walked over to the shower stall, and took another shower, this time to get the salt out of my hair.

The rest of the day was fantastic. I felt really rested, and had lots of energy. I also felt relaxed, which is a very rare thing for me - my daily life is pretty stressful, and feeling relaxed is NOT my usual state of being.

So, it was a very positive experience. If you need a little bit of downtime, if your batteries need recharging, or if you just want some peace and quiet, you should definitely check Dream Water out.

Their address is No. 61, Lane 69, Jìngyè 2nd Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei.

Their telephone number is (02) 8502-6900

Monday, March 28, 2011

Things I learned from the Entrepreneur's Meet yesterday

  1. Know what the model is and stick to it.
  2. Keep your team motivated, especially in the tough times.
  3. Develop a solid core team; "build the foundation before the house". Usually 4-5 people.
  4. Never stop marketing. Always keep a positive image and energy.
  5. Nurture long term relationships with key supporters. A "no" today might turn into a "yes" next year.
  6. Allow others to pay your tuition.
  7. Limit partners. Don't mix business and family/friends.
These are just a few thoughts I wanted to remember, and writing them down in my blog seemed to be the simplest thing to do.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Where was God?

I missed this the first time around - the late William Safire published it in the New York Times in the aftermath of the Boxing Day Tsunami in the Indian Ocean:

In the aftermath of a cataclysm, with pictures of parents sobbing over dead infants driven into human consciousness around the globe, faith-shaking questions arise: Where was God? Why does a good and all-powerful deity permit such evil and grief to fall on so many thousands of innocents? What did these people do to deserve such suffering?

After a similar natural disaster wiped out tens of thousands of lives in Lisbon in the 18th century, the philosopher Voltaire wrote "Candide," savagely satirizing optimists who still found comfort and hope in God. After last month's Indian Ocean tsunami, the same anguished questioning is in the minds of millions of religious believers.

Turn to the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible. It was written some 2,500 years ago during what must have been a crisis of faith. The covenant with Abraham - worship the one God, and his people would be protected - didn't seem to be working. The good died young, the wicked prospered; where was the promised justice?

The poet-priest who wrote this book began with a dialogue between God and the Satan, then a kind of prosecuting angel. When God pointed to "my servant Job" as most upright and devout, the Satan suggested Job worshipped God only because he had been given power and riches. On a bet that Job would stay faithful, God let the angel take the good man's possessions, kill his children and afflict him with loathsome boils.

The first point the Book of Job made was that suffering is not evidence of sin. When Job's friends said that he must have done something awful to deserve such misery, the reader knows that is false. Job's suffering was a test of his faith: even as he grew angry with God for being unjust - wishing he could sue him in a court of law - he never abandoned his belief.

And did this righteous Gentile get furious: "Damn the day that I was born!" Forget the so-called "patience of Job"; that legend is blown away by the shockingly irreverent biblical narrative. Job's famous expression of meek acceptance in the 1611 King James Version - "though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" - was a blatant misreading by nervous translators. Modern scholarship offers a much different translation: "He may slay me, I'll not quaver."

The point of Job's gutsy defiance of God's injustice - right there in the Bible - is that it is not blasphemous to challenge the highest authority when it inflicts a moral wrong. (I titled a book on this "The First Dissident.") Indeed, Job's demand that his unseen adversary show up at a trial with a written indictment gets an unexpected reaction: in a thunderous theophany, God appears before the startled man with the longest and most beautifully poetic speech attributed directly to him in Scripture.

Frankly, God's voice "out of the whirlwind" carries a message not all that satisfying to those wondering about moral mismanagement. Virginia Woolf wrote in her journal "I read the Book of Job last night - I don't think God comes well out of it."

The powerful voice demands of puny Man: "Where were you when I laid the Earth's foundations?" Summoning an image of the mythic sea-monster symbolizing Chaos, God asks, "Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a hook?" The poet-priest's point, I think, is that God is occupied bringing light to darkness, imposing physical order on chaos, and leaves his human creations free to work out moral justice on their own.

Job's moral outrage caused God to appear, thereby demonstrating that the sufferer who believes is never alone. Job abruptly stops complaining, and - in a prosaic happy ending that strikes me as tacked on by other sages so as to get the troublesome book accepted in the Hebrew canon - he is rewarded. (Christianity promises to rectify earthly injustice in an afterlife.)

Job's lessons for today:

(1) Victims of this cataclysm in no way "deserved" a fate inflicted by the Leviathanic force of nature.

(2) Questioning God's inscrutable ways has its exemplar in the Bible and need not undermine faith.

(3) Humanity's obligation to ameliorate injustice on earth is being expressed in a surge of generosity that refutes Voltaire's cynicism.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

總理 vs. 首相

Why is a Canadian Prime Minister a 總理 (zǒnglǐ), but from the UK he's a 首相 (shǒuxiàng). Canada and the UK are quite similar politically - they both have Westminster-style parliamentary systems. So what gives?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring has sprung

So yesterday was the first day of 2011 at the beach (Chinese New Year doesn't count, because we were down south.) The day was warm, bordering on hot, so everyone was out of their house, and although traffic getting out of the city was a bit of a mess, it was nice driving along the coast, enjoying the blue skies, brilliant sunshine, and watching the waves rolling in. By the time we got to the beach, though, some fog had rolled in, and it wasn't until we left that the sun cleared it up. We still had a good time - A & J and their kids met us there, and our kids played in the sand. I threw sticks out into the sea for Gustav to fetch, and the mood was mellow. A & J had bought some food along the way, so we had a bit of a picnic, and we had a nice time talking with A & J.

On the way back home, Vanessa offered to drive to let me nap for a bit, and I said, sure, just wake me up if you're not sure where to go. Well, while I was snoozing, I sort of felt that the car was making too many turns to be on the straight road that we were supposed to be on. I opened my eyes and asked V where we were. "Oh, it's a shortcut!", she said brightly. "The sign said that we can go this way to Taipei." End result? It took us an hour longer than it should have to get back home. Groan. We got back home, changed our clothes quickly and made it over to A & S's place for dinner at 8:00, instead of 7:00. A had cooked a fantastic meal - rack of lamb, roast potatoes, broccoli, wine, cheese, salmon - it was a great dinner! After that, I dropped Vanessa off at a KTV where she was meeting some friends, took the kids home, put them to bed, and slept like a log. All in all, a very nice day!

Anyway, now that beach weather has started, it's time to get back on the bike. I've been pretty sedentary for the last three months, and it shows. I really want to make some improvements in my life this year, and physical fitness will help that. And I want to be less of a dork on a surfboard, although that may not be possible.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

David Rakoff's 'Wedding Toast' Poem from This American Life

I've always wanted to share this poem by David Rakoff with my friends - I think it's brilliant. I heard it first on the "Frenemies" episode of the public radio show broadcast This American Life (#389) broadcast in September 2009. Here Rakoff demonstrates - in rhyme - how to make a wedding toast for people you never wanted to see married in the first place.

Nathan, at one of the outlying tables,
his feet tangled up in the disc jockey's cables,
surveyed the room as unseen as a ghost,
while he mulled over what he might say for his toast.
That the couple had asked him for this benediction,
seemed at odds with them parking him here by the kitchen.

That he'd shown up at all was still a surprise,
and not just to him, it was there in the eyes
of the guests who had seen a mirage and drew near,
and then covered their shock with a 'Nathan, you're here?'
And then silence, they'd nothing to say beyond that.
A few of the braver souls lingered to chat.
They all knew - it was neither a secret nor mystery -
that he and the couple had quite an odd history.
Their bonds were a tangle of friendship and sex,
Josh, his best pal once, and Patty, his ex.

For the rest, please go to  http://www.taiwanease.com/en/forums/david-rakoff-s-wedding-toast-poem-from-this-american-life-t5559.html