Monthly Archives: December 2005

greetings from Formosa

Day Six on this island known as the Republic of China, or more familiarly called Taiwan, and i’m trying to process a lot of the stuff that i’ve experienced during my stay. Melanie has been a most excellent host, leading me all around Taipei and other parts of Taiwan while using her knowledge of Mandarin to communicate and get us around. We’ve done a lot of walking, some sightseeing, scootering (including an unfortunate mini-accident last night), and a lot of eating. I’ll go into greater detail about the trip when i organize the photos and post up a Weekend entry about Taiwan, but a short list of observations/experiences for those curious about me being in an Asian country not named Korea.

* pooping – not a fan of throwing toilet paper into a waste basket after wiping. supposedly their drainage system can’t handle paper waste. i’ve gotten pretty adept at wrapping the soiled paper like a dumpling so i won’t have to look at my own poop stains.

* Barista Coffee – not entirely sure if it’s a Taiwanese franchise, but Barista Coffee is eerily similar to Starbucks Coffee, even down to the decor and logo. Melanie and I had breakfast there once – the coffee was really strong and the “bagel burgers” were delicious.

* lots of signs – when you walk the streets of Taipei (or any place with lots of stores), you’ll notice that every store seems to have signs that jut out and face you. it’s like a huge pile of Mahjong tiles except these have bright colors and lights. i told Melanie, on more than one occasion, that this place was like “one big Chinatown.” hehe.

* palm trees – the weather was very nice for the first four days i was in Taiwan. on the third day, the temperature reached the sixties (we had to use our C-F 5/9 conversion). i saw lots of palm trees and thought about the time i went to Florida during Christmas time. but overall, it was still chilly enough that we needed to have our jackets on most of the time.

* 7-11 – no Indian or Pakistani store owners at the 7-11s in Taiwan. i feel like there’s one on every street corner, and they are a lot nicer than the ones we have in the states. haven’t really seen a Big Gulp slurpee machine, but every 7-11 has a pot with tea eggs (eggs in some soy sauce broth).

* money (NT$) – I used to make fun of Japanese money because you needed a lot more yen to have the same amount of dollars. i found it amusing to see Taiwnese currency in action. the conversion rate is something like 100 NT$ = $3 USD, so it was funny/intimidating when Melanie had to buy a corkscrew and it cost 500 dollars. a dinner for two at Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in Taiwanese dollars would be something like 6,670 bucks!

okay that’s it for now. i’m waiting for Melanie to get back with McDonald’s – i was craving some American food after nonstop Taiwanese cuisine. i told Mel that in New York, i have all kinds of food each week – Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, French, etc. – so some French fries and chicken nuggets would hit the spot. oh, i almost forgot. Mos Burgers are awesome! they have this one burger that has sticky rice buns and some teriyaki-seasoned beef with lettuce leaves that totally blew me away. wish they had one in the states. well, happy holidays!

just for the record: what i’ve been up to

i noticed that i haven’t really updated my blog, and if someone who wanted to get to know me was to read my blog, they would probably get not much more than a few mediocre short stories, some cryptic entries about this and that, and some pseudo-serious discussions on design. haha, i think i am okay with that, but just in case you were curious about what i was “up to these days” without my usually contrived thematic approach to writing, please read on.

okay. i’ve been working. yes, at that bank near Times Square. me and Sergey, the other first-year analyst in the group, often joke about subordinated tranches and finding a third party to help us short the company’s stock (Compliance: please note “joking” as the key word here, i.e. don’t fire us). we get incredible workouts from flipping pitchbooks and packaging offering memorandums. one of the highlights of my week includes eating salmon roe one orange ball at a time while sitting at my desk. one of my daily dilemmas is deciding whether or not to get the cheese danish in the morning – it’s a craving versus unnecessary carbs type of ordeal.

i try to work out a few times a week in the gym on the 4th floor of my building. i usually go after 11pm because i come home late sometimes, but i don’t mind it because then i get the gym all to myself. i change all the TVs to ESPN or ABC if it’s Monday (MNF), and i sing out loud to whatever is playing on my iPod while i do dumbbells or the stair climber machine. i really feel uncomfortable when this really muscular white guy is in there and working out. he has ridiculously cut and huge arms that make me feel very self-conscious. i usually don’t roll up my sleeves until he leaves. ugh. but i tell myself i can probably take him in a race or beat him in agility drills.

wook and i have been fairly busy with our web work. we’ve done sites and print materials for two clients in the past three weeks, and we have a few more lined up. a sort of routine has begun to emerge: on friday nights, after work, i make my way up to Columbia, where we set up shop in Lerner and design away until the morning. we then retire to wook’s room where i catch a few hours of nap on the floor. this weekend we hit up two brunch places which added an element of relaxation to our working focus. Good Enough to Eat on 80th and Amsterdam, which serves Vermont-style traditional American fare, was homey and delicious, although I had a certain level of disgust for all the yuppies filling up the room (a self-loathing disgust, actually). this morning, we checked out HK on 39th St. and 9th Ave. it was a very trendy, hip place which served a reasonably priced brunch and used very good-looking glassware and ceramics (and waitresses). i might even go back just for the deliciously huge cup of coffee.

i spent part of the day making a website for Kelvin to showcase his collection of paintings. i really love the way he uses colors, and i’m glad i could help to make his work more accessible. on the ulterior motive side, because i’m usually selfish like that, i made it because i wanted to finally use a script that imitated Flash features but was completely javascript. yes, i took it from someone else (i credit the guy, so no worries), but it was a bitch to get working properly. also, i wanted to beef up the content on, which is sort of making a resurgence lately with The Hoching Post picking up momentum and The Essential Menand being listed on the second page of Google for the “Louis Menand” search. adding Kelvin’s site increases our offering, not that traffic to our site has any cash value – yet.

i’ve bought plane tix to Taiwan to visit melanie over Christmas. i’m excited to see her again, and am also looking forward to seeing a part of Asia (although, as i’ve told many people, it certainly isn’t Korea). i’m always thinking about race here in the states – imagine going to a place where race isn’t much of an issue since we’re all yellow! well, i still have that ethnicity/language-barrier thing to consider. i’ll try to write a Kottke-type of Asia trip log of my experience there, but it’ll probably be a simple overview like my Paris trip blog entry from March.

i really like the Charles Tyrwitt tie that i got in the mail last week. it’s a navy blue color with this tiny egg-shaped pattern and goes very nicely with my Brooks Brothers shirts. i also love browsing through Lee Allison Company catalogues. he does a great job of marketing his stuff. i saw a cool pattern called “Raining Cats and Dogs” and it has cats and dogs in the shape of raindrops.

i’ve been having trouble settling down on a book to read. i’ve been juggling through a bunch. I really ought to finish off Seize the Day by Saul Bellow because it’s only about 70 pages long, and it vaguely reminds me of my Elusive Hope story – middle-age failure. and reading David Denby’s Great Books makes me pretty nostalgic about my Lit Hum and CC classes. I should send an email to my CC prof just to let her know that i’ve become a sell out but still have some interest in cultivating my mind (or at least keep up with NY Times). I also started Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and i love his gritty prose. does anyone else notice that he approaches women characters a bit like pretty, shiny objects?

it’s past my bedtime, but i feel like this blog wouldn’t exist if i never wrote after bedtime hours. Sergey keeps track of all the hours he’s logged as an analyst in a spreadsheet. i should try to calculate the average time of day i’ve logged entries into this blog. probably between 1am and 3am. but with that said, i will retire for the night.