Wednesday, June 18, 2008

happy things

my new jawbone 2 headset. so loud that i have to turn the volume down to 50%-- this is fantastic. sleek black design and pretty darn comfy on my noggin. good bye logitech.

firefox 3. gmail is now so fast its scary. the ie8 beta does not impress, but it is beta after all.

legoland in carlsbad. first classy amusement park i've been too in a long time. not for anyone over 5-6 really, but well done.

yo venice. every neighborhood should have this, expertly done. informative and has the flavor of the community.

off to see shipwrecked at the geffen on friday and thievery+bebel on sunday at the bowl. is it friday yet? :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I’m on my way back from Taipei today and have wrapped up my adventure in Asia that started 10 short days ago with an afternoon flight from LAX and a chance encounter with a dear friend at the airport. Before the events slip from my memory amongst the hurry of life at home, here’s a few snapshots from my time in Taiwan.

The trip began with soup dumplings at a nearby restaurant with Alex, his girlfriend and family. It’s a telling fact of our global community that I can have one of my best friends for 16 years and never have met his parents! This was resolved over traditional Taiwanese pork dumplings whose soupy interior was piping hot and really tasty. Dinner that night was also local fare—I got to try the hot pot Alex had told me about for so long. It’s a sort of bouillabaisse served in a steel pot that was split to allow for 2 flavors of broth. One of the broths was fairly mellow but nice, the other was one of the most unique flavors I’ve tasted in a long time. It was spicy, but in a very herbal way that was both odd and yummy. If you ate too much of it without using the nearby vinegar and ginger dip, it actually numbed your tongue like an anesthetic. Into the broth we threw in a variety of vegetables, tofu, and meat.

Taipei 101 is really an impressive engineering feat—but not that interesting beyond the technical marvel of having such an enormously tall edifice on a volcanic island buffeted by strong winds and rocked by the occasional earthquake. The top level observation deck that was outdoors tested my fear of heights. Once again, I failed the test and exited after circling it nervously one time around. The “super big wind damper” was a highlight, it’s basically a giant steel ball hooked up to hydraulics used to keep the building from swaying too much.

The photo here is of a painting posted in a very visible location when you enter the hotel. Alex told me that it was placed there to ward off evil spirits. Specifically, he stated “they must have trouble with ghosts.” Hrm. I got more of an explanation when one of my colleagues informed me that the locals avoid the Grand Hyatt as it is believed to be haunted by the spirits of those that were killed in a prisoner of war camp that was previously at the same location. I’m open to the idea of ghosts and had a curious incident in my room where a light came on unexpectedly while I was in bed watching TV. I may very well have accidentally turned it on by bumping one of the controls I later found near the bed, but this would have been tricky to do. Interesting!

Here’s me riding the giant cat statue in conference room we used for the workshop we were hosting. Yeehawwwwwwwww super kitty! We took a team photo with all of us mounted on the feline after sneaking in around midnight and passing a very nervous looking hotel employee.

Earlier in the evening I had arranged with the help of a local to take the entire workshop team out for massages. After 9 days on the road and far too many evenings spent sitting in the bar, we needed something different and relaxing before the big event the next day. It ended up being a pretty unique experience, as all 6 of us (all men but 1) were ushered into the same room for our massages. Comedy ensued as the little old men pounded our buttocks throughout the session, even going so far as to rhythmically pound out a bongo beat on our collective behinds at one point.

The sun is coming up outside the window in my economy class seat now and I’m about to embark on one those strange time zone twisted days that last far too long. I’ve got a little more work to do before landing in San Francisco for a brief layover en route to LAX so I’ll hang up my blogger hat for now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

current playlist

club thing - yoav - charmed and strange
beautiful lie - yoav - charmed and strange
prana - tom middleton - lifetracks
best for last - adele -19
the zone - j-live feat. chali 2na - then what happened
deep water - portishead - third
garoto (steve cobby solid doc rerub) - cusmos - g-stone online selection
sol - pacifika - asuncion
mercy - duffy - rockferry
you are not through - evil nine - you can be special too
viva la vida - coldplay - viva la vida
going strong - makeba mooncycle - nightmares on wax presents wax on records
il serpente - kraak and smaak - plastic people
shakatakadoodub - kruder and dorfmeister - shakatakadoodub single

Saturday, June 07, 2008

asia + nostalgia

mittedly, i've not been very pensive of late. work has kept me rushing from place to place and from one task to another. i wake up most days between 5 and 6, log into email and begin hammering away at a task list which obstinately stays at the same length. mind you this does not mean that i'm rejecting family or social obligations, only that the combined effort of keeping all the balls in the air means that my moments of clear, uinterrupted thought are scarce.

somewhat humorously, as i was writing this we hit some turbulence on the plane (tokyo->taipei) and the 40ish looking japanese woman to my right grabbed my arm in fright and held it. like i was saying, this isn't bad, just a little distracting to say the least. truth be told after all this time flying i still get freaked out by turbulence. this might be due to losing my old pal mark stoehl on flight back from china when i was 20. i could also just be a big sissy :-)

coming to asia for me means visiting dear, old friends and revisting a time in my life when i had just graduated from university. in spring of 96, i had locked up a job at deloitte & touche in los angeles and had nearly limitless excitement for what lied ahead: an unwritten future full of palm trees, beautiful west coast women & a career in high-tech at a time when the internet boom was just beginning to blossom. looking back, i can't imagine a time in my life of more optimism and enthusiasm.

with all of this ahead of me, i focused at the time on wrapping up a couple jobs to fill my college student coffers before taking off for a summer of travel to singapore, indonesia, malaysia, and japan. i was working as a freelance web developer for a shady cat out of chicago my sister had introduced me to as well as a programmer for a professor at umich who wanted to analyze search engine results. way before google become a titan, i wrote a delphi application that parsed search engine results from hotbot, alta vista, yahoo, etc. in order to analyze their relative effectiveness. i was also polishing a web server log analysis tool i'd originally started in borland paradox for producing usage metrics for the biz school. we were actually using this to justify why we needed a website and procure add'l investment for developing the site. oh man, have times changed...

while i'm tempted to write a chronology of my summer travels, i don't remember my time so much as an itinerary as a collection of vivid snapshots in my memory. more of a series of loose photos than a video, so to speak. i recall my first taste of durian at jeffrey's parents' apartment in singapore, walking through crowded markets and garishly colored indian temples next to high tech shopping malls filled with chinese and malay singaporeans. along with jeff and his friends, arthur, wee teck and his eventual wife yen wuah, we traveled to bintan to spend a sun burnt weekend playing on the beach in bintan, indonesia.

i spent the lion's share of my travel that summer in japan, traveling from tokyo to fukuoka and back. sitting at the train station at some remote japanese city, traveling down to fukuoka to see my pal victor, a shinkansen shot through like a rocket, blowing back even my short-cropped hair. going through japan on my own was a rush, not only was the freedom intoxicating but i had spent 2 years of intensive japanese lessons and it felt great to finally use some of what i'd learned. there are those that accuse me of being an asia-phile b/c of this and my marriage to a korean, but i undertook japanese purely as an intellectual challenge having already excelled in all the romance languages and feeling like this would be the ultimate linguistic mountain to climb. to be honest, while i have very fond memories of asia i will likely always consider latino culture closer to my heart.

i remember going to see fuji-san with alex roberts, his mother and a shinto priestess who was her neighbor who had befriended me. her driving was so terrible that we all arrived at the base of the mountain nauseous and simply glad that we were no longer in the car, jerking along to the palsy of her seemingly spastic foot on the brake. i still have the ceramic & stone tea glasses she gave me before i left japan and i hope i always do. they serve as a beautiful, occasional reminder for me of this time in my life when we bring them out for a picnic or special occasion.

i will never forget going to a festival around a lake in fukuoka with victor and his then girlfriend. we ate fried tako (can never remember the name!), watched fireworks and drank entirely too much beer en route to closing out the evening with the best late night ramen noodles i've ever eaten. victor drove a cheap scooter that somewhat impossibly bore both of our weight down narrow streets and tight corners. i haven't a clue what ever happened to victor; unlike jeffrey, alex roberts and chou, he has faded out of my life with no clear means of retrieving his acquaintance. i admit this with no sorrow, it's inevitable and has happened with even closer friends. the tides of time seem to polish certain friendships into further relief and beauty while it carries others away with the retreating water.

there is a small garden somewhere in kyoto that has left a mark on me i hope to carry to the end of my days. i don't think it is a major landmark and may not live on a tourist map at all, but i recall walking up a narrow, stone street with alex roberts and finding a small entry way into a pristine buddhist garden. it was experty manicured and verdant green, the result of meticulous care and thoughtful design. as we sat and meditated, the occasional "clop" of the wooden mechanism for scaring off the deer broke the silence. the japanese name for this completely escapes me, but it fills with water from a source above it and only when weighted down with sufficient water does it drop to another wooden stick whose sloped angle encourages the water to drop from the tube that had just been filled by falling, gurgling water. it's an oddly musical, beautiful sound set against a backdrop of almost uninterrupted silence.

i just looked up and realized i've killed an hour or so writing this and have filled a couple pages already :-) time to wrap it up. off to taipei to make some new memories with alex chou.