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Archive for March, 2007

What a painful day it was at work yesterday. On Thursday night, I got an email from Martin, saying that there was a bread-maker with my name on it at his place. Since he was leaving for Japan the next day, I headed over right away.

The apartment looked like some sort of disaster zone. I really can’t command adequate words to explain the place. Garbage was everywhere, and though the Tealit Vultures had cleaned out all of the big things, there must have been hundreds of books, pieces of clothing and other things that couldn’t be sold. After a single glance it was clear- Martin was screwed.

Not wanting to see his landlady (who rivals my old landlady) keep his entire deposit. I helped him out. We packed stuff into bags, we dragged what seemed like 40 kilos of clothes to the charity drop off and we hauled crap out of his apartment until daybreak. There were a few adventures of the evening that I don’t really feel should be on the internet, but suffice to say, it was very similar to the experience Matt and I had in the 24 hours up to the time I sold my old house in Colorado. Some things are the same everywhere.

John’s officially a bad person. Not only is he a blog butcher, but he’s responsible for me finding out about Desktop Tower Defense, a flash game of crack-like addictiveness.

Desktop Tower Defense has officially made all other work both impossible and pointless. If you something that you need to get done, today, by all means avoid clicking on that link.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

またあの煩い外人(John Biesnecker’s blog): Desktop Tower Defense

Warnings shmarnings. This is one dangerous game. It sucks time from you until you’re nothing but a twitching husk of a person capable only of fantasizing about ever more diabolical mazes. I managed to achieve a total elimination of every creep, though, so take that, John!

(If you happen to get bitten by this addiction, too, you can find my scores on the “China Bloggers” group)

As my motivation for language learning surges, I find myself practically stumbling over more useful tools. I’ve recently found an absolutely fantastic essay about language learning on Scribd. It’s both inspirational and full of useful advice.
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Last night, Rika threw a dinner party over at my place. Since she and Martin already sold most of their things, including their refrigerator, to the Tealit vultures, she had to make the food over at my place. I’ve been really busy with work recently… but hey, they’re leaving and the party needed to be thrown. I wasn’t that thrilled with the idea initially, but in the end it turned out better than I possibly could have expected.
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On Saturday, Martin and Rika sold all their stuff to the “Tealit vultures”. Within one day of posting an ad on Tealit, Martin got over 80 emails from people interested in buying the stuff he couldn’t take with him to Canada. It sounds great, but he didn’t call them “vultures” for nothing. Everything was on sale at ridiculously low prices, but people still tried to haggle. Unsatisfied with buying a four thousand dollar item for six hundred, they’d ask for five; unsatisfied with getting a nice leather couch for $700台幣, one guy actually asked him if he could get the couch shipped to him. I’m not sure what Martin said to him, but I know what he should have said:

Ship you a leather couch that I’ve already discounted to less than 10% of its value? Spend three times what you’re offering to pay me so that I can ship it to you? Sure! Of course I’ll spend my time shipping my things to you at a loss, because I live for you. Would you like it gift-wrapped, too?

I met up with him and a couple of Rika’s friends for dinner and then went over to his place to see the aftermath. Everything was picked and pawed over. The floor was a mess from people walking with their shoes on indoors. The bed was gone, sold to someone who haggled even though it was only selling for three US dollars. Those Tealit guys were scavengers!

Good news today.

A committee of the Legislative Yuan gave initial approval to the proposed new rules to allow foreign employees to take up positions as directors or supervisors of labor unions. The rules, when ratified by the lawmakers, will also permit teachers to organize labor unions.

The China Post: Lawmakers approve new rules to let foreign workers serve as union officials

I remember Scott Sommers writing about unionized foreign teachers in Japan a while back. At the time, I thought it was a bit odd that I’d never heard of anything similar in Taiwan, and now I know the reason- laws. Most teachers here are are a migratory bunch and don’t stay in Taiwan that long, but I think unions still make some sense. In Japan, teachers have open work permits, i.e., once they have a work visa, they can work at any company that will hire them. Here in Taiwan, on the other hand, a foreigners’ permission to work is tied to their employers. Employers definitely have a lot of power here.

I guess I’ve always organized and remembered my experiences based upon who was around me at least as much as upon what I was doing. My first couple of years in Taiwan were difficult in several ways. That time ended when I started working at Modawei, though. More than anything else, I valued that experience for the people I met. At the time I considered pretty much every teacher at the school a friend, and Mike, Nathan and Martin were very good friends. After moving to Guishan, I lost touch with Mike. Nathan became an even better friend that year, but he eventually left Taiwan and became a philosophy teacher at a community college back in Michigan. And now I’ve recently learned that, Martin, my best friend in Taiwan, will be leaving very soon.
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This entry was originally written in 2007. Since then, Taiwanderful has changed significantly and my initial misgivings no longer apply. The site no longer emphasizes monetary considerations on its front page, I believe it now shares 100% of blog post earnings with the authors of those posts, and most importantly the pop-up ads are gone!

A while back, I noticed that Forumosa, the largest community site for foreigners in Taiwan, had a new guide for Taiwan. It’s called Taiwanease: The Knowledge, and it’s a wiki, which means that anybody can add articles to it and edit it. This sort of site usually takes a lot of work to get going, but once it’s big enough there will probably be quite a few people volunteering their time and knowledge to make it a better site. The most famous wiki is Wikipedia, which has grown into an absolutely gigantic, non-commercial online encyclopedia.
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Recently, I saw the following video on one of my friend’s personal blogs:

My first thoughts were of all of the 50’s sci-fi I’ve read. You know the type, people getting rockets equipped with super computers sporting “millions of vacuum tubes” and flying to Jupiter’s moons… in 1995. The vast bulk of the literature I’ve read far overestimated many types of technology such as space travel, while simultaneously underestimating the incredible computer technology that actually did become reality. So, I found myself immediately wondering what sorts of technological progress the video over-stated and what sorts it understated.

I mean, with several decades of incredible breakthroughs in computing, it’s really easy to over-estimate, right? Just as my great-grandmother, who grew-up in a time in which cars were unseen and then lived to see planes, and eventually space-faring rockets might have over-estimated future progress in transportation technology, isn’t it reasonable to consider that we might be over-estimating advances in information technology? Maybe, maybe not. Raymond Kurzweil, one of the leading authors on transhumanism and futurism makes a pretty good case that we have very good reasons to expect continued exponential growth in a wide variety of fields that hinge on information technologies.

During the time I’ve been living in Taiwan, I’ve occasionally been shocked at the way Hitler is portrayed here. His image has been used by (completely ignorant) marketers, and there have been occasional restaurants and exhibitions themed in a way that could never happen in many countries. A couple of years ago, a Chinese video game of the same genre as Civilization had Hitler as one of the playable characters. Still, it came as a shock when I heard that a group of college students here have actually formed a Nazi association.
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