2014年6月25日 星期三

See You in September! 祝你有個美好的暑假

Summer vacation starts next week, and I'll be away from the blog for a while.  祝你有個美好的暑假, 開學見囉!

2014年6月23日 星期一

Mixed Message*

Taoyuan ji chang

Sometimes you take the fae ji to the Taoyuan ji chang and then you get there and it should be sunny but it's raining and it's OK while you're in the ji chang but you know that once you get out of the ji cheng che or the gong che it's going to be a wen ti.

So maybe later you take the gong che to Taipei and then you get out in front of your lu guan and the shia yu is very big and you have to drag your shing li into the lu guan and everything gets wet but it's OK too because you're happy to be back in Taiwan.

And at that time you are hun lei so you shui jhao for the wan shang and then you chi chuang in the dzao shang and you leave the lu guan and spend a tian in Taipei which should be more hao wan than it is but after the shia yu it's very rhe and you find yourself gravitating towards places with lung chi.

Which leads you into the nearest Tai Ping Yang where you wander around looking at yi fu, dian dong wan ju, and shu, and after this you start to get e, and you ask a fu wu ren yuan about tsan tings in the di chu.

"你想吃什麼?" says the fu wu ren yuan.

"Japanese, Chinese, 還是 Western 都可以," you say.

After which point the fu wu ren yuan directs you to a rh ben tsan ting outside the Tai Ping Yang, which the fu wu ren yuan really shouldn't do but he's a nice guy and he knows that the rh ben tsan ting inside the bai huo aren't that great.

So you have sou shr and later you go to a Shin Ba Ke for ka fei and later still you ride the jie yun from jong shiao fu shing to the Taipei Che Jhan where your lu guan is waiting and then you enjoy a few pi jiou in your fang jian and watch some dian shr and then shui jiao for the second time in Taiwan.

Shiao Wu Lai

Leading me (and you) to your third tian in Taiwan, in which you begin to lu shing around the dao.  You go to Shiao Wu Lai in 桃園, Nan Liao in 新竹, a few famous places in 苗栗, and Shr Dze Shan on the way to Shuei Ba Guo Jia Gong Yuan.  It's a really fun lu shing.

台中, 嘉義, and 台南.  Drinking more pi jiou and wandering through the Mei Shu Guan.  高雄, 屏東, and 台東.  Lost around yu gangs and finding clear kong chi on the other side.  花蓮, 宜蘭, 基隆, and then back to 台北, but not to 南投 because of the inconvenience of getting there and back.

"你回來了!" says the yuan gong at your lu guan, remembering your lian.

"沒錯" you say, smiling.  "我明天要回國.  這個禮拜過得好快!"

So you pack your shing li the wan shang before and get a good shiou shi in your lu guan, waking up early the next tian so that you can take a ji cheng che back to the ji chang and catch your fae ji back home.

And while you are waiting in the ji chang a mo sheng de ren sitting next to you strikes up a dui hua.

"請問," says the mo sheng de ren very politely, "你在台灣很久了嗎?"

"I'm sorry," you answer, "I don't speak Jhong Wen.  Could you say that again in English?"

Jhong Wen

Related Entries:

Meta-analysis 2
Fruits and Vegetables 水果跟蔬菜 (中 / 英)
Tea Vs. Coffee
Do You Remember? 

*I have never studied pinyin, so the English spellings of Chinese words are largely my own inventions.

2014年6月16日 星期一

Meta-analysis 2

Whether other blogs are insightful or ignorant, I am always trying to learn from them.  My goal has always been a blog that is informative, well-written, and not crushingly serious.  Reading other blogs has brought me a lot closer to this goal, though I admit I still have some work to do.

I entered the words "blog" and "Taiwan" into Google, but came up with a lot of crap, so I added the word "foreigner" to the search.  These were the first five results of that search.

1. 老外愛台灣 Taiwan in the Eyes of a Foreigner

What I Liked: Nothing really.  This whole thing is just lame (see below).

What I Didn't Like: This "blog" is not really a blog at all, but rather a publicity website for a book about Taiwan.  Everything is written in the third person, and one is forced to the conclusion that this Nick Kembel is less an individual than the creation of a publishing company.

Something Strange:The guy has a blue mohawk.  Why?  And why is it "Taiwan in the Eyes of a Foreigner" and not through the eyes of a foreigner?

2. Life as a Foreigner in Taiwan

What I Liked: The picture under the heading.  That was about it.

What I Didn't Like: This guy is really in love with himself.  The subtitle of this blog is "Everything you need to know to start a life in Taiwan," and in the "About" section he goes on to state that the purpose of his blog is "to help the next generation of foreigners in Taiwan."  I'm assuming that he means Westerners, and not people from Vietnam, the Philippines, and all the other countries he has failed to recognize.

Something Strange: In his "Another 10 Foods You Ought to Try in Taiwan" entry, he refers to many common foods by their Chinese names.  Why call them "digua qiu" (地瓜球) when you could just call them sweet potato balls?  Why call it "kao digua" (烤地瓜) when you could just call it roasted sweet potato?

Still pondering the phrase "Over the past few months I have moved back to Texas."  Did he move to Texas several months ago?  Or has the move taken several months?  I hope this guy wasn't teaching English here, though odds are he was.

3. My New Life in Asia

What I Liked: The banner is cool.  It is well laid out and easy to use.

What I Didn't Like: Weird English.  I'm assuming that this guy is not a native English speaker.  He (I'm assuming it's a he) also tends to ramble.

Something Strange: Nothing aside from the odd phrases and sentence structures.  It's a relatively balanced picture of what life in Taiwan is like.

4. The Study Chinese in Taiwan Blog

What I Liked: It is professionally written, and quite informative.  The author is a Canadian studying Chinese in Taipei, and resident foreigners studying Chinese in Taiwan (especially in Taipei), will find this blog very helpful.

What I Didn't Like: It's not finished.  The "Reviews" section is blank.

Something Strange: Couldn't find anything strange, and this might be a mark against it.  Often strange = interesting.

5. The Happier Abroaders

What I Liked: A lot of the entries here are more interesting than what I usually come across.  I enjoyed the "10 Reasons Why Taiwan Sucks for Social Life, Fun, Happiness, and Romance" entry, even if I didn't agree with most of it.  It is, moreover, an entry which belies their blog title.  Are they happier abroad?

What I Didn't Like: The racist and judgmental character of almost everything written on this blog.  It also seems to be a front for prostitution, the finding of foreign wives, or both.

Something Strange:This thing is written like a tabloid.  Probably the strangest part is the heading, which proclaims an agenda that involves "Exposing the Toxicity of American Culture," "Freethought," and "Non-Censorship of Truth."

Related Entries:

Fruits and Vegetables 水果跟蔬菜 (中 / 英)
Tea Vs. Coffee
Do You Remember?
10 Reasons To Be Happy You Live in Taiwan 十個喜愛台灣的原因 (中)

2014年6月8日 星期日

Fruits and Vegetables 水果跟蔬菜 (中 / 英)

ME: OK class, we'll be talking about fruits and vegetables today.  Do you know what fruits and vegetables are?

CLASS: Yes, teacher.

ME: Great!  Now I want to remind everyone to speak English in class!  Speaking English will help you to learn more English!

CLASS: Yes, teacher.

ME: Repeat after me: "Apple."

CLASS: "Apple."

ME: "Orange."

Class: "Orange."

ME: "Pineapple."

Class: "Pineapple."

A student raises his hand.

ME: Yes?

STUDENT 1: Teacher, how to say 釋迦 in English?

ME: That is "Buddha-head fruit," or "sugar apple," or "custard apple."  It has more than one English name.

STUDENT 1: OK teacher.  Thanks.

ME: "Banana."

CLASS: "Banana."

Another student raises her hand.

ME: Yes?  You have a question?

STUDENT 2: 老師, 火龍果英文怎麼說?

ME: I'm sorry, can you ask that question in English?

STUDENT 2: Yes, teacher.  Sorry.  How to say 火龍果 in English?

ME: That one is "dragonfruit" or "pitaya."  It also has more than one English name.

STUDENT 2: Thanks, teacher.

ME: "Dragon eyes."

CLASS: "Dragon eyes."

STUDENT 3: 老師, dragon eyes 是什麼?

ME: Who knows how to say "dragon eyes" in Chinese?

STUDENT 1: It's 龍眼.

STUDENT 3: Oh, OK.  真是奇怪 . 

ME: "Pear."

CLASS: "Pear."

STUDENT 3: 那如果"dragon eyes"就是龍眼, 荔枝怎麼叫leechee呢?

ME: Can you ask me that question again?  In English?

STUDENT 3: 我不會. 

ME: What you want to say is: "If the English name for 龍眼 is 'dragon eyes,' why is the English name for 荔枝 leechee?"

STUDENT 3: 你看!  老師也會講中文!

ME: Yes, but this is English class.  Can you ask me the question again in English?

STUDENT 3: Huh?  你說什麼?  我聽不懂!

ME: I said: can you ask me one more time?  In English?

STUDENT 1: 老師叫你用英文問問題.

STUDENT 3: 什麼問題?  他不是已經回答我的問題嗎?

STUDENT 2: 還沒.  他只是叫你上課的時候要講英文.

STUDENT 3: 好.  可是我忘記我問過什麼問題.

ME: Ahhhhh.  Forget it.  Repeat after me.  IN ENGLISH.  "Strawberry."

STUDENT 2: 老師, "strawberry" 是什麼? 是草莓嗎?

ME: 是.  I mean yes!  I mean: can you ask that question in English?

STUDENT 2: 老師為甚麼要再問一次?  你不是已經回答了嗎?

ME: 氣死我了!

Related Entries 相關的文章:

Tea Vs. Coffee
10 Reasons To Be Happy You Live in Taiwan 十個喜愛台灣的原因 (中)
Thoughts 9
A Scriptural Exegesis of Longman 8*

2014年6月1日 星期日

Blog Archive 30 很久很久以前的文章

1. Birth of a Nation? (March 2014)

Civil unrest is making headlines in Taiwan.  A couple of weeks ago, a group of student protesters began occupying the Taiwanese legislature, as a means of drawing attention to the China-Taiwan trade bill that was hurried through that part of the government.  The students are still there now, and many people are pointing their fingers at Ma Ying-Jeou 馬英九, current President of Taiwan, as the one responsible for the breakdown of the democratic process in this country.

The protesters are of course upset by the content of the trade bill, which would compromise many local industries, but their main concern is the fact that this bill was hurried through the legislature without having been reviewed in full.  At best, the representatives involved weren't concerned enough with the content of the bill, and just wanted to expedite its passage into law.  At worst, these representatives were attempting to pass this bill without the full cooperation of interested parties, and in order to do so they were willing to break the law.  Given that President Ma was a supporter of this bill, the whole thing reflects very badly on him.

Since the protests began, the protesters have clashed with police several times.  No one has been seriously injured as yet, but some of them have been bloodied, and water cannons have been deployed.  Whichever side of this argument one falls on, you have to admire the protesters' fortitude.  It is already the second week of their stay in the legislature, and there are few reasons to think that this demonstration will end any time soon.

For me, what this protest brings to mind is the future course of Taiwanese politics.  I'm not just talking about the trade imbalance with China, but also the larger issue of Taiwanese identity.  What does this protest portend for Taiwanese people and their idea of Taiwan?  What does it mean for their future?  Beyond the politics of party, what does this protest mean for the Taiwanese sense of self?

As anyone acquainted with Taiwanese history will tell you, this island has a long history of being caught between a rock and a hard place.  In the 1600s it was caught between Dutch colonizers and the Ming Dynasty.  Later on it was an object of dispute between the Ming loyalists and the Ching Dynasty.  Still later it was caught between Japan and imperial China, and up until now it has been disputed between the governments of China and Taiwan.  For all this time, Taiwan has never had a chance to be its own nation, its own people, and (in some ways) its own culture, defined against the national cultures of other regional powers.

Yes, there were brief moments of nationalist fervor in Taiwanese history.  Many of the Ming loyalists were fighting more for their home (Taiwan) than for any issues related to dynastic succession.  There was even the short-lived "Republic of Taiwan" 台灣民主國 that collapsed just as the Japanese were arriving.  One might even point to the election of Chen Shui-bien 陳水扁, a noted advocate of independence, and say that his election symbolized the Taiwanese desire for true sovereignty.  Of course we all know how it went with Chen Shui-bien, but that doesn't change the importance of the gesture.

What Taiwan has always lacked is a consensus.  What Taiwan has always lacked is a collective will, a group of people standing up and saying "We are Taiwan.  We are not China."  This has not happened because outdated, ridiculous claims to the Mainland still persist through the Taiwanese constitution, and forsaking such claims would involve a long, complicated political process.  It wouldn't be an easy thing for the people of Taiwan to stand up and say "We are Taiwan."  Such as statement would, in many respects, be as difficult as many English colonists standing up in the 1700s and saying "We are the United States of America."

Even so, I think such a statement would be worth making.  There are many problems in Taiwan that aren't going to be fixed until the people of Taiwan can make such a statement.  Until they can do so, the trade imbalances will continue to get worse, and Taiwan's economy will continue to slide into the Mainland vortex.  That is unless the Chinese government or economy undergo some kind of collapse, which doesn't seem likely in the near future.  Odds are that such a collapse might even make things worse for Taiwan, not better.

Just imagine, for a moment, what it might be like to see a Taiwanese delegate in the United Nations.  Just imagine what it might be like to see Taiwan as a true nation, in its own right.  Just imagine what it might be like to be Taiwanese, and not to have to explain or apologize for that fact.  Yes, it's a long way from here to there, but it is a definite possibility.  It is, moreover, a possibility that can become a reality in our lifetimes.

When I look at these protesters, I can't help but wonder if they are the beginning of this process.  Whatever their reasons for engaging in this demonstration, whatever their knowledge of what they're protesting and why, they have the world's attention right now, and they could be a good thing for Taiwan.  Perhaps, as it watches these brave students, the Taiwanese government might learn a lesson from them.  Perhaps the government might learn that there is a will to sovereignty alive in this place, and that people are ready to fight when their freedoms are taken away.

Maybe a seed has been planted.  Maybe one day, not too far removed from now, that seed will grow into an independent Taiwan.  That would be a good thing, I think.  That would be a thing worth fighting for.

2. A Boat and Many Oysters 在台南坐船及吃牡蠣的旅程 (April 2014)

We had a good time in Tainan two weeks ago.  After I ran the Tainan "Old Captial" Marathon we drove up to Chi Gu, north of the city, and took in some of the sights.  我們二個禮拜前去台南玩得很開心.  我跑完台南的古都馬拉松後, 去台南的北邊七股看風景.

I have also discussed this area in the Historic Tainan 台南 1 entry.  As you can probably tell, I'm quite fond of this area.  我在Historic Tainan 台南 1那篇文章中討論過這個地區.  我對這個地區很有興趣.

This is the place where we took the boat tour.  There are many such places in the area.  A boat ride, and all the oysters you can eat within 30 minutes costs 330 NT a person.  這是我們坐船的地方.  七股還有其他類似的地方.  每張船票和30分鐘內吃到飽的牡蠣是330元.

My younger daughter on the boat, just before we started our tour of the bay.  No, she doesn't usually look so much like a squirrel. 這是船要開前照的.  她是我的小女兒.  她平常不是長的那麼像松鼠的.

On our way down the river.  A couple of local fishermen.  船行時在那附近的漁夫.

Docking at the island on the other side of the bay.  船到河口另外一邊的小島.

Small stand selling seafood on the island.  It's nice to have fish here, but many of the customers leave their garbage all over the island.  島上賣海鮮的小店.  在這裡吃海鮮是滿好玩的事情, 可是吃完以後很多顧客亂丟他們的垃圾.

View from the beach, looking east.  The other side was prettier, but the sun there was too bright for my camera.  從小島的沙灘往東邊看.  小島的另外一邊比較漂亮, 可是那邊的陽光太亮.  我的照相機拍不出來那邊的風景.

One of our tour guides pulling up some oysters.  The oysters are grown on long wires suspended from the bamboo.  我們的導遊正要拉幾串牡蠣上來.  牡蠣是串在竹子下面的線長大的.

After our boat ride, barbecuing oysters.  After this it was back in the car, and also back to the city.  It was a good trip, and I look forward to going back to Tainan someday soon!  坐船結束後就是烤牡蠣了.  之後我們開回市區.  這一次的旅程玩得很盡興.  有機會, 我還想去台南.

3. The Near Future in the Present Tense (April 2014)

Every month or so we get a newsletter from the Taitung County Government 台東縣政府.  This newsletter is a platform for the County Magistrate, Justin Hwang 黃建庭 to announce his administration's recent achievements, and to discuss issues pertinent to the ongoing development of Taitung County.

Below are some points taken from this newsletter.  All of these points have to do with recent or soon-to-be-realized developments in Taitung County.  They might also serve as an outline of how Taitung will change in the near future.

Taitung's garbage incinerator

1. The Maintenance of the Garbage Incinerator 焚化爐

Some local history: as the landfill near Shan Li 山里 neared capacity, Taitung County began shipping its garbage to Pingtung County 屏東縣.  Pingtung County charges a fee for this service, and the county responded to this fee by charging private businesses a fee relative to the amount of garbage they produce.  This added fee has gone a long way towards reducing waste in the area.

There are many environmental concerns surrounding this incinerator, though it has never, to my knowledge, been used.  While this incinerator is NOT being used, the Taitung County Government is paying for its upkeep.  When you think about it, Taitung is paying twice to dispose of garbage outside the county - once to the Pingtung County Government, and once to maintain an incinerator that is not being used.

Tai Ping River and bridge spanning Jung Hua Road

2. Development of Areas Near the Tai Ping River 太平溪

Many sites have been developed, or are being developed for recreational use.  These sites include the riverbanks near Jung Hua Road 中華路, that weird beehive thing in the Seashore Park 海濱公園的國際地標, an ocean trail 太平洋步道, new sidewalks downtown 騎樓整平, the bike trail that loops around the city 通學步道, the sugar factory 台東糖廠, and the municipal swimming pool 湧泉運動公園.  While I applaud these achievements, some of them were completed so long ago that I'm not sure why they were included in this newsletter. 

Showtime Cineplex

3. More Jobs

There is a list of hotels and other businesses offering employment opportunities in Taitung County.  There are 36 businesses on this list, and the biggest employer (by far) is the Showtime Cineplex 秀太影城 downtown.  Almost all the other entries are hotels, with a KTV and a few (evil!) coral outlets thrown in for good measure. It should be added that many of these jobs pay extremely low wages. 

Train for the new Puyuma line

4. The Completion of the Puyuma Line 普悠瑪號 and Improved Rail Service

With the completion of the new Puyuma line, travel time between Taipei and Taitung will be reduced by about an hour, from 4 and 1/2 hours to 3 and 1/2 hours.  The Rift Valley 花東鐵路 and Southern Cross-Island 南迴 sections of the railway will also switch to electric power. 

Da Wu Fishing Port

5. Promotion and Infrastructure for Local Industries

There will be a new system for ordering local goods online.  In true Taitung fashion, no web address for this "system" was included.  Smaller access roads have also been built in agricultural areas, improving transport of local produce.  The Taitung County Government has also been working to improve several fishing ports in places such as Da Wu 大武, Chang Bin 長濱, and Fu Gang 富岡. 

Deconstruction of the Kai Feng Bridge

6. Other Projects

Other projects include the widening of the Kai Feng Bridge 開封橋, improved bus service to tourist areas, improved waste water treatment in Jer Ben 知本, a new library and athletic center (Where?  It doesn't say!), a new center for aboriginal crafts, a new park/recreation center at the present location of the Railway Art Village 鐵花村, an emergency medical center on the Southern Cross-Island Highway 南迴公路, free wireless internet service at select locations, and several other projects.

And that, my friends, is what the near future holds for Taitung.  As for the distant future, your guess is as good as mine.

4. A Scriptural Exegesis of Longman 8* (April 2014)

In my school we use the Longman English textbooks for fifth and sixth grade.  The fifth graders study Longman 5 and 6, and the sixth graders study Longman 7 and 8.  I've been constructing lessons around these textbooks for nearly five years, so I have them just about memorized.

In the Longman 8 textbook** there is a weird little comic strip/conversation centered around the days of the week.  In this conversation the character Nett meets with "Dr. Good," and the two talk about Dr. Good's weekly schedule.  Dr. Good is portrayed as a godlike figure, sitting at a desk in the clouds.  Their conversation is as follows:

Nett: This is PET News.  Hello, Dr. Good!
[Nett is speaking to Dr. Good from a screen]
Dr. Good: Good morning, young man.  What's your name?
[Nett emerges from the screen]
Nett: I'm Nett.  Nice to meet you!
Dr. Good: Nice to meet you, too.
Nett: Dr. Good, what do you do on Monday?
Dr. Good: I go to see the sun and the moon on Monday.
[Dr. Good and the sun exchange greetings]
Dr. Good: How are you?
Sun: I'm fine, Dr. Good!
Nett: Cool!  What do you do on Tuesday?
Dr. Good: I exercise on Tuesday.
[Dr. Good is standing upon the Earth, lifting a weight in one hand and a storm cloud in the other]
Nett: Great!  What do you do on Wednesday?
Dr. Good: I buy food at the supermarket.
[Dr. Good is holding a basket of produce, and he is reaching for an apple]
Nett: How about Thursday?
Dr. Good: I have math class on Thursday.
[Dr. Good is wearing glasses and holds a book.  He is standing in front of a class]
Students: WE LOVE MATH!!
Nett: I don't like math!  I like PE class.  Do you have PE class?
Dr. Good: Yes, I do.  I play baseball on Friday.
[Dr. Good is the pitcher in a baseball game, and he hands the batter a home run]
Nett: That's fun!  I like baseball, too.  What do you do on Saturday?
Dr. Good: I make snacks on Saturday.
[Dr. Good is shown pulling several cookies from the oven, all of which look like Nett]
Nett: What do you do on Sunday?
Dr. Good: I don't go out on Sunday!  I'm too tired!
[Dr. Good reclines on a chair]
Nett: Me, too.  Thank you for your time, Dr. Good.  See you!

Now of course after reading this conversation I start to wonder what this exchange might mean if "Dr. Good" was really "Dr. God."  If some future race of humanoids*** unearth the Longman 8 textbook from the archaelogical treasures that will come to represent our time period, what lessons will they draw from this text?  What ideas will they formulate about our species?

Let us say, for example, that the future humanoids unearth a very tattered, almost unidentifiable copy of Longman 8, with only Unit 2 in a readable condition.  If they are able to read its contents, won't they tend to view it as some kind of religious primer, some kind of introduction to a lost faith?

It is with such a possibility in mind that I now proceed to an exegesis of Nett's conversation with "Dr. Good."  I am writing this exegesis in the hope that these future humanoids will also have access to a few websites, or my laptop computer.  Perhaps they will even thank me, a voice speaking from several centuries or several millennia before the future present age, for my attempt to make their distant past much clearer.

[Future humanoids, you are welcome.]

Verse 1: 
Nett: This is PET News.  Hello, Dr. Good!

[Nett is speaking to Dr. Good from a screen]
Dr. Good: Good morning, young man.  What's your name?

Theological Import: Nett is able to communicate with the godhead directly, perhaps with the aid of a quantum computer, or through the use of a hallucinogenic substance which triggers this vision.    Nett wishes to spread God's message (the "News") to the people of the world, and Nett wishes to impart the news that God is benevolent (polite).  

God appears to Nett as an older Caucasian male sitting at a desk.  But God could have just as easily appeared as a pillar of fire, as a boy like himself, or as any other referent drawn from Nett's consciousness.  God's appearance in this instance may only be a reflection of Nett's continued search for a father figure.

God is certainly an elevated being, but His ignorance of Nett's name is telling.  Or does the divinity already know Nett's name?  Perhaps He is only asking for the sake of conversation.  It is possible that God has known the substance of this conversation since the beginning of the cosmos - or even earlier - and that He is only "playing along,"  or finds it necessary to imitate human ignorance in order to facilitate communication.

The words that comprise God's honorific, "Dr." and "Good" are also significant.  "Dr." in this case refers to the exalted nature of the divine, and "Good" implies the beneficial nature of this knowledge.

Verse 2:
[Nett emerges from the screen]
Nett: I'm Nett.  Nice to meet you!
Dr. Good: Nice to meet you, too.

Theological Import: Nett is either able to transcend the original boundaries of his vision, or he is able to transport himself into higher dimensional space during the course of this interaction.  God affirms His benevolence by stating His appreciation of Nett's presence/existence.  From this we may determine that God takes joy in His creations.

Verse 3:
Nett: Dr. Good, what do you do on Monday?
Dr. Good: I go to see the sun and the moon on Monday.

Theological Import: God is in some sense bounded by time, or else he chooses to participate in the flow of chronological events.  God is moreover able to "witness" the sun and the moon as discrete objects, bounded by the same chronological flow that is one of the defining characteristics of Nett's existence.  And what are we to make of the verb used, "to see"?  I will leave future theologians to decide whether the verb used refers simply to the act of perception, or to the use of physical organs of sight.

"Verse" 4:
[Dr. Good and the sun exchange greetings]

Theological Import: The sun, imbued with consciousness, is able to communicate with the godhead.  Their method of communication is portrayed as a verbal exchange, though the artist may have engaged in a kind of iconography here.  As the sun is in a sense defined as a consciousness apart from humanity, one may theorize as to the existence of multiple deities, or of individuals operating at higher and lower levels of consciousness.

Verse 5:
Dr. Good: How are you?
Sun: I'm fine, Dr. Good!

Theological Import: Defining what the sun means by "fine" is tricky.  I am inclined to the position that the sun means "content," meaning that the sun is at peace with its presence and function in the scheme of things.  Again, one wonders whether Dr. Good's question implicates an imperfect knowledge of the universe, or a desire to engage in polite conversation.  If the former is true, Dr. Good may represent a lesser order of reality, set apart from the true source of creation.  If the latter is true, this might go some way to illuminating the nature of evil and Man's ability to "sin," or to transgress the bounds placed upon mankind by God.

Verse 6:
Nett: Cool!  What do you do on Tuesday?
Dr. Good: I exercise on Tuesday.
[Dr. Good is standing upon the Earth, lifting a weight in one hand and a storm cloud in the other] 

Theological Import: I believe the "exercise" referred to in this passage extends from the origin point of the creation to the end of days.  This is unless the universe is timeless, or if we are confronted by an endless succession of universes, each limited by a specific chronology.  God "exercises" or acts not only on Tuesday but on every day, right back to the beginning of the world.  The artist's rendering may represent a symbolic interpretation of Nett's transcendental experience, thus revealing the limitations of verbal or pictorial accounts of such experiences.

Verse 7:
Nett: Great!  What do you do on Wednesday?
Dr. Good: I buy food at the supermarket.
[Dr. Good is holding a basket of produce, and he is reaching for an apple] 

Theological Import: Nett rejoices in God's ceaseless activity.  God moreover reveals his ability to take human form and to engage in human activities.  The apple used is meaningful, and certainly points toward the fruit described in Genesis.  God, in taking the apple, advances into a knowledge of both good and evil, yet in so doing He limits Himself to the sphere of human events.

Verse 8:
Nett: How about Thursday?
Dr. Good: I have math class on Thursday.
[Dr. Good is wearing glasses and holds a book.  He is standing in front of a class]
Students: WE LOVE MATH!!

Theological Import: This might be the most important message to be found in this text.  In teaching His disciples to embrace a mathematical understanding of the world, God reveals that the universe also operates on such principles.  The students, in turn, celebrate God's revelation and seek to cultivate a better understanding of the subject.  A universe that proceeds along mathematical principles can be apprehended by human reason, though this apprehension must begin with the initial revelation provided by God.

Verse 9:
Nett: I don't like math!  I like PE class.  Do you have PE class?
Dr. Good: Yes, I do.  I play baseball on Friday.
[Dr. Good is the pitcher in a baseball game, and he throws the batter a home run] 

Theological Import: Nett, overcome by the intensity of his experience, rejects the knowledge offered by God.  In this context Nett becomes an apostate figure, or perhaps even a kind of fallen angel.  Even though God and Nett can share in the joy of physical activity (in this case baseball), Nett rejects a deeper understanding of God's plan.  

God, in allowing the batter a home run, demonstrates his compassion.

Verse 10:
Nett: That's fun!  I like baseball, too.  What do you do on Saturday?
Dr. Good: I make snacks on Saturday.
[Dr. Good is shown pulling several cookies from the oven, all of which look like Nett]

Theological Import: This section offers a powerful alternative to the creation myth seen in other faiths throughout history, though the implications are a bit unsettling.  In revealing His "cookies," God also reveals that He is Nett's creator and the author of other individuals like Nett.  Yet to whom is God offering the "cookies"?  Will God himself consume these "cookies"?  Is God drawing sustenance from his creation in this manner?  Such a scenario may explain the mortality of God's creations, in that He must reabsorb their spiritual energies in a continual act of (re)generation.  God, in this instance, is either not omnipotent or he has placed limits on his own omnipotence, and thus the size of the physical universe.

Verse 11:
Nett: What do you do on Sunday?
Dr. Good: I don't go out on Sunday!  I'm too tired!
[Dr. Good reclines on a chair]
Nett: Me, too.  Thank you for your time, Dr. Good.  See you!

Theological Import: God must "rest" on Sunday.  This use of "rest" in the text, like the use of the verb "to see" is problematic.  We might interpret "rest" as meaning either "taking time to replenish one's energies" or "to retire from the world."  I am inclined toward the second definition, given that it is in keeping with the apple presented in Verse 7.  God, in allowing his creatures a measure of free will, must remove Himself from either a certain percentage of physical space or a certain span of time.  In this He allows for the existence of evil, and the choice between righteousness and error.

Nett's phrase, "Thank you for your time" is also significant, again indicating God's identity as the source of time itself.  It may also indicate God's willingness to compromise Himself by existing in a temporal state.  The final phrase of the conversation, "See you later," might refer to future visions or conversations, Nett's mortality and ultimate re-absorption into the godhead, or an apocalyptic event removed from the present discussion.

...and lest you think I'm making mountains out of molehills, let us remember that in the very small we find the likenesses of the very large, and that God's own imprint can be found in the tiniest particle, or the most recent English textbook by Longman, whatever the case may be.  It is indeed a world without end.


Related Entries:

There are no related entries for this one, because my mental collapse occurred only yesterday.  Mixing the sane and the insane is a dangerous business, and is apt to jeopardize your own well being. For this reason I will not refer you to anything written before this point, and I instead encourage you to go somewhere scenic, perhaps enjoy a coffee, and to erase from your mind the infectious musings of an unbalanced person.

End Notes:

* This is the abbreviated version.  The expanded version will appear in my 10-volume "Longman's Path to Salvation," to be released shortly before my death in a freak accident involving a hot air balloon and a busload of gerbils, sometime in 2094.

** Pages 18-20 in the newest version.

*** No disrespect to other lifeforms.  These future archaeologists and/or theologians might more closely resemble insects, or their chemistry might not be based around carbon at all.  They might instead work on an entirely different set of principles, and be viewing our universe from a higher dimension or an alternate spacetime.

**** By the way, science fiction author Philip K. Dick did a similar sort of exegesis after his "VALIS" experience.  The main difference being that Dick was, arguably, mentally disturbed at the time.  He wasn't seeing God in English textbooks, but he did at one point believe that an extraterrestrial intelligence was beaming signals into his brain.  Check out the books "VALIS," "Radio Free Albemuth," and "The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick" if you're interested.

5. Second Thoughts 反思 (April 2014)

Shortly after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, I wrote an entry in Taitung Style about nuclear power.  In this entry I was quite strenuous in my objections to nuclear power, and also in my support for those protesting against the use of nuclear power in Taiwan.  福島核災以後, 我在Taitung Style寫了一篇關於核電的文章.  我在那裡強力反對核電, 也支持反核電的人.

In the years after Fukushima, Taiwan's anti-nuclear movement has gathered strength.  The protests following Fukushima were just the beginning.  Most recently there was another mass protest in Taipei, with smaller, corresponding protests around the island.  The government has responded to these protests by halting construction of a fourth nuclear plant in New Taipei City.  福島核災的幾年, 台灣的反核運動越來越興盛了.  福島剛發生時的反核活動只是一個起點而已.  最近在台北有個大型反核活動, 在別的地方也有些比較小型的反核活動.  對此中央政府也做出回應, 決定停蓋新北市的第四核電廠.

And while I congratulate local anti-nuke protestors on their recent success, I can't help but wonder if the anti-nuclear power movement in Taiwan is a bit misguided.  I realize that such a statement sounds strange coming from me, but I'm seeing the whole issue differently now.  當我慶祝反核夥伴的成功時, 我開始思考反核運動是否有點偏離主題.  我知道看到提倡環保的我說這樣的話很奇怪, 可是我現在對核電的看法有點不同了.

You see the problem for me is climate change.  Our planet is nearing a crisis point, and we are also nearing a point of no return.  I realize that such a statement sounds melodramatic, but it's true.  We simply must do something about climate change, and Taiwan's nuclear policy has some bearing on this issue.  我思考的問題是全球氣候的改變.  我們的地球面臨了一個危機, 我們正走向一條不歸路.  我知道這種話讓人很緊張, 但它卻是一件事實.  我們非解決全球氣候改變的問題不可. 而這個問題也跟台灣核電有關係.

In order to avert irreversible climate change, we must decrease our use of fossil fuels.  We need to be looking at alternative energy sources now, and not at some point in the distant future.  Nuclear power, despite the hazardous waste it generates, would be one one of these alternative energy sources.  I don't believe that solar and wind are adequate substitutes for our dependence on fossil fuels, and nuclear power could be used to supplement other methods of generating power.  為了要避免不可逆的氣候改變, 我們必須減少利用化石燃料.  我們需要馬上找到替代能源, 不能等到很久以後的未來.  核廢料當然是個問題, 可是核電也是替代能源的其中一個.  從我們現在使用化石燃料的狀況來看, 用太陽能還是風力發電真的不夠.  核能發電可以配合另外替代能源的計畫.

Central to this issue is the question of nuclear waste.  For one thing, newer reactors don't generate as much of it, and some reactors can even harvest energy from spent fuel rods.  The problem with Taiwan's existing reactors might not be the principles upon which they operate, but rather their age and design flaws.  Perhaps, with regard to the problems of waste and potential accidents, we might instead be talking about modernizing Taiwan's nuclear industry, and not simply doing away with it altogether.  Yes, there are some serious safety concerns with regard to nuclear power, but the only alternative seems to be a continued reliance on fossil fuels, and the continued alteration of our climate.  這件事的核心問題是核廢料處置.  最新型的核反應爐不會產生那麼多的核廢料, 還有一種核反應爐甚至可以利用已使用過的燃料棒發電.  台灣現在的問題可能不是核電的問題.  而可能是已有的核反應爐太老舊或是核反應爐不是最好的.  對可能的意外發生和核廢料來說, 不是除掉核電廠的問題, 而是該設備更新及讓台灣的核能產業跟上時代的問題.  核電當然有安全性的問題, 可是捨它而選擇化石燃料卻會讓全球氣候的改變越來越大.

The question isn't only: "Can we do away with nuclear power?" but also "What are we going to replace it with?"  When you think about it, when countries such as Germany eliminate nuclear power entirely, they are contributing much more toward climate change, for the simple fact that shortages in power supplied by nuclear reactors are often dealt with through the increased use of natural gas or other, more harmful sources.  Increased austerity isn't an option for a country foregoing nuclear power, since such austerity spells economic collapse. 問題不只是"我們是否可以不用核電?" 那麼簡單. 而是"我們用什麼能源取代核電?"  例如德國, 去除核電以後還是利用化石能源, 反讓氣候改變的問題更嚴重. 現實環境中,  這些不用核能的國家通常使用更多的天然氣或其他更有害的能源. 要求每個人降低需求並不是讓國家去除核電的好方法, 因為這反而會造成經濟的損害.

Those disagreeing with me might want to look into some of the more recent developments with regard to nuclear power.  Their issues with it often reside not with the technology itself, but rather with the public implementation of this technology.  No one wants nuclear waste in their backyard, no one wants another Fukushima, but the truth about nuclear power might just be bigger than that.  不同意的朋友應該研究一下關於核電的最新發明.  可能你們抗議核電的理由是因為公共政策, 而不是因為現今的核電技術.  沒有人希望類似福島的核災再發生, 也沒有人想把核廢料放在自己的後院, 可是核電的運用可能比這二項擔憂還有意義.

I, for one, am going to withdraw many of my objections to nuclear power.  I realize that this isn't a popular position to take right now, but given what I've read about the problems of climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, and global freshwater use, I'm seeing nuclear power a lot differently.  It might just be a way out of the mess we've unwittingly created.  我不會再反對核能發電.  我知道最近這種看法不是很受歡迎, 可是我想氣候變化, 海洋酸化, 生物多樣性的喪失, 還有全球淡水使用的問題太嚴重.  我想核電有可能幫人類解決這些自造的問題.

6. Thoughts 9 (May 2014)

Item: Pizza is f*&king yummy.  A new pizza place opened up in Dulan 都蘭 recently, near Marino's Kitchen.  I keep wanting to call it "Dulan Diner," but their name is really "Dulan Dinner."  I've had their pizza once already, and I'm looking forward to going back there tomorrow.

Item: Triathlons are scary if you recently purchased clip pedals for the first time.  Since my shoes now attach themselves to my bike pedals, I'm worried about falling off my bike during the upcoming Puyuma Triathlon.  I will be joining the 51.5 KM, and I will be happy if I can a) not fall off my damn bike, and b) run the entire course.  If it's cloudy, I should have no problem with the running.

Item: The spring semester is almost over.  According to the paper on my desk we have only two months, or eight weeks remaining.  Add to this the fact that my English class, my English club, and all of the sixth grade classes will be ending early.  I will be especially happy after the Taitung County English competition concludes this month.  I look forward to getting my lunches back.

Item: Sometimes translating myself into Chinese is surprisingly easy, other times it's amazingly difficult.  I thought I would have no end of trouble with that "Second Thoughts 反思" entry, but it turned out to be shockingly simple.  Maybe it's because I read more science articles in both languages.  Maybe it's because I was more interested in the subject.  Maybe both.  There have been other times when I wrote something that I thought was so basic, only to later discover that it was full of mistakes.

Item: It is now two days later, and the Puyuma Triathlon was yesterday.  I didn't fall off my bike and I managed to run the entire thing.  Aside from a slow swim (not my fault, just too many people in the water), it was my best tri ever.

Item: Saw Star Wars yesterday without realizing that May 4th has somehow been declared "Star Wars Day".  What are the odds?  I've also been revisiting some of the other big films from the late 70s and early 80s.  Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies, Back to the Future, Mr. Mom... and so on.  Ah, those were the days.

Item: If I could be anywhere else right now, I'd be at that night market I went to in Ayutthaya, Thailand.  Those spring roll things I ate there were so yummy.  Or maybe I'd be in Seattle, at the Crab Pot, having fish and chips.  Or at that Cantonese restaurant in Taipei.

So.  Hungry.  Now!

7. Photo Gallery 8 (May 2014)

Hasn't been the best weather for taking pictures, but here is what I have.  The picture above is the old sugar factory in Guang Fu Township 光復鄉, Hualien County 花蓮縣.  If you have kids it can be an amusing destination.  Most single people would probably find it boring?

This is the factory complex behind the tourist center/fish pond pictured above.  I love old abandoned buildings.

My younger daughter on her way to school.  We ride bikes to school unless it rains.  She is very proud of her new bike.

In my school's activity center.  This was the third grade English song competition, and the fourth grade recorder competition.

In Yong An Community 永安社區, Lu Ye Township 鹿野鄉, Taitung County 台東縣.  Highway 9 is just on the other side of that field.

Road passing by the above field.  This is a roadside market which Yong An hosts during the second Saturday of every month.  The market isn't that great, but there are a couple of good coffee shops nearby.

Jin Loong Hu 金龍湖, or "Golden Dragon Lake," in Da Wu Township 大武鄉, Taitung County.  It's a cute little lake, and the terrain resembles southern Pingtung County 屏東縣.

Also taken at Jin Loong Hu.  It's a very quiet place, and I enjoy walking around this lake when I'm in the area.  If you come here, watch out for snakes.

8. 10 Reasons To Be Happy You Live in Taiwan 十個喜愛台灣的原因 (May 2014)

1. You will never need to look that hard for a taxi (there are taxis EVERYWHERE).  你不用花很多時間找計程車 (到處都是).

2. If you are bored and have nothing else to do, there is always something new to protest.  如果你覺得無聊而且也無事可做的話, 可以隨便找個理由去抗議.

3. You will never lack T-shirts bearing strange English phrases.  你到處可買到寫著奇怪的英文句子的T恤.

4. The food will always be oily enough.  食物一定夠油膩.

5. All traffic laws are relative.  不一定要遵守交通規則.

6. Driving in Taipei offers a great opportunity to listen to ALL of the songs on your MP3.  在新北市開車能讓你聽完你MP3裡所有的歌.

7. Cockroaches, although shy, are both cheap and loyal companions.  They will love you even after you try to smash them with a shoe! 害羞的蟑螂可是便宜又忠誠的寵物.  就算你要用鞋砸扁牠們, 牠們還是愛你.

8. Your "betel nut smile" will drive the ladies wild.  男人的"檳榔微笑"能讓小姐們趨之瘋狂.

9. Senior citizens on scooters will always make your morning commute more exciting.   騎著機車的年長者能讓你的早上上班路程很刺激.

10. As with taxis, you will NEVER need to look for a 7-11.  跟找計程車一樣, 你也不用花時間找7-11!

9. Do You Remember? (May 2014)

Do you remember The Empire Strikes Back?  Do you remember how crazy people were about that movie?  Do you remember the toys we had - the action figures and the playsets?  The T-shirts and the bedsheets?  Do you remember having nightmares after seeing Han Solo frozen in a block of carbonite?

Maybe not.  Maybe you weren't five years old at the time.  Maybe you were too old to care, or too young to notice.  Maybe you hadn't even been born yet.

Do you remember when life was divided between MTV and the local arcade?  Do you remember watching Duran Duran and Family Ties?  Do you remember spending hours playing Super Mario Brothers?  Do you remember the sound of the arcades?  The clicking of joysticks and the flashing of lights?

Maybe not.  Maybe you weren't a boy like I was.  Maybe you didn't like rock music, or your parents wouldn't let you watch MTV.  Maybe you thought arcades were too noisy, and arcade games a waste of money.

Do you remember that age between comic books and girlfriends?  Do you remember Desert Storm?  Do you remember when the Internet was new?  Do you remember when cassette tapes gave way to CDs?  Do you remember when none of your friends had cellular phones?

Maybe not.  Maybe you were a girl, and never cared about comic books.  Maybe you didn't care about technology either.  Maybe you still don't have a cellular phone.

Do you remember when Grunge hit the airwaves, and everything from Seattle was suddenly cool?  Do you remember the first time you bought a personal computer?  Do you remember a time when people worried more about the ozone layer than about global warming?  Do you remember going to college?

Maybe not.  Maybe you grew up in another country.  Maybe Grunge was never your cup of tea.  Maybe you were never that concerned about the ozone layer.  Maybe you never went to college.  Maybe you just started college, and it's too early to remember going there.

Do you remember 9/11?  Do you remember seeing it on TV?  Do you remember the hysteria?  Do you remember all the worry over the Y2K "crisis," and the relief when this "crisis" was averted?  Do you remember Taichung before the Science Park?  Do you remember the 9/21 Earthquake?  Do you remember Taipei before the MRT?

Maybe not.  Maybe you are too young to remember 9/11.  Maybe you never saw it on TV.  Maybe you were just a baby in 2000, so the Y2K "crisis" was before your time.  Maybe you've never been to Taiwan.  Maybe you are reading this and wondering what an MRT is.

Do you remember when your second daughter was born?  Do you remember sitting in the hospital waiting room, anxious and yet strangely happy?  Do you remember talking to your wife's grandmother on the phone, and not realizing that it would be the last time you ever spoke to her?  Do you remember driving down to Tiger City?

Maybe not.  Maybe you've never been married.  Maybe you've never been a parent.  Maybe you are single and happy to be so.  Maybe you are a woman, or you are gay.  Maybe you don't like Tiger City.

Do you remember that summer trip back to Seattle?  Do you remember how your daughters loved the waterfront?  Do you remember eating fish and chips?  Do you remember the camping trips in Eastern Washington, and the car speeding through the mountains?  Do you remember your mother, so happy to see her grandchildren?

Maybe not.  Maybe you were in Thailand, Cambodia, or Taiwan.  Maybe you were in Canada, Mexico, or Brazil.  Maybe you were in a place that even you can't remember, doing something forgettable.

Do you remember 2015?  Of course not, because it hasn't happened yet.  Just be careful not to blink, or you'll miss it.  All of the people, places, and things listed above seem like they happened yesterday, and here I am so many years later, wondering how 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 years passed me by.

I think you should enjoy your youth, if you are young.  You have many memories yet to make.  I think you should enjoy your old age, if you are old.  You have many memories to call your own.  The things we remember are the things that make us who we are, and they are not to be forgotten.

10. Tea Vs. Coffee (June 2014)

I moved to Taiwan just before the first Starbucks opened in Taichung 台中.  I remember this because all of the other teachers in my school talked about it constantly.  They'd drive all the way from our school to the Starbucks near the Taichung Science Museum - a 45 minute drive - and by the time they got back their iced coffees were no longer iced... or even cold.

Back then there weren't so many places to get coffee.  Not even in 1999.  In most of outlying Taichung, it was either instant coffee or tea.  There was a McDonald's near my school that sold coffee, but back then McDonald's coffee was terrible, and besides the McDonald's there was only a Dante coffee shop, which seemed to be the only coffee shop in north Taichung.

At that time tea shops were much more popular, and most Taiwanese people I knew drank tea.  This was increasingly the case the further one got from an urban area.  When I would visit my wife's family in Yunlin 雲林, there was no coffee to be had in that village.  Not even the canned kind.  Everyone in that place drank tea all day, and even cola was somewhat exotic in those parts.

In the fifteen years since that time, a lot has changed.  Now you can get coffee in every 7-11 and Family Mart.  Now there are coffee shops everywhere.  In 1999 coffee was a distinctly foreign beverage, and now it's so commonplace that most people don't even notice it.  Many of my friends from those early days are now addicted to coffee, and there are even people in my wife's hometown who own and operate coffee shops.

It's funny to remember those early days in Taiwan, and how earnestly I sought out good coffee.  I couldn't even buy coffee beans back then, and I usually resorted to the bags of 3-in-1 they sold in Hyper, Carrefour, or RT Mart.  In Seattle they had just experienced a coffee renaissance, with Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Tully's sprouting up on every street corner.  But in Taichung I was still in the third world, where coffee was often viewed as "disgusting" or "unhealthy" or just "odd."

How quickly things change.  Almost before I knew it, that first Taichung Starbucks had spawned others, and coffee shops were appearing around the city.  McDonald's upgraded its coffee, and suddenly I could buy both coffee beans and coffee makers.  A few years later the big convenience store chains followed the trend, much to everyone's satisfaction.  Coffee is now big business in Taiwan, and I know many Taiwanese people who drink it to the exclusion of almost everything else.

Now if only I could start a craze for Mountain Dew and microbrews.  Then I would truly feel at home, and then I wouldn't have to go searching for them in other cities.  It might be sad to see the old way of life pass out of fashion, but modernization - or some might say Westernization - can be a good thing.  It offers us the choices we didn't have before.

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