Archive for December 2010

Cross-Country Flight Links

December 31, 2010

At this very moment I’m flying back to Taipei. So how am I updating?! Well, I scheduled this post a day in advance. Spooky, huh?

China bars English words in all publications, and not just words but abbreviations, for example you must write “國際商業機器公司” (guoji shangye jiqi gongsi, International Business Machines Corporation) instead of “IBM” from now on. Because all Chinese characters are one syllable already, the only way to abbreviate phrases is to drop characters. For example, you could turn IBM into “國際機器” (guoji jiqi, International Machines) as long as that phrase doesn’t overlap with something else.

One editor at a Beijing publishing house told the China Daily that the new GAPP regulation could actually result in reduced understanding.

“The intention of protecting the Chinese language is good. But in an age of globalisation, when some English acronyms like WTO have been widely accepted by readers, it might be too absolute to eliminate them,” the editor said.

“Conversationally, people also use these words all the time, so the regulation could create discord between the oral and written uses of language.”

World’s 5 biggest airlines now from Asia, Latin America

Air China has a market capitalization of $20 billion, followed by Singapore airlines with $14 billion and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific with $12 billion.

China Southern has a market cap of $11 billion, as does LATAM, the Latin American airline recently created from the merger of Chile’s LAN and TAM of Brazil. U.S. carrier Delta and Germany’s Lufthansa follow with market capitalizations of $10 billion each.

I’m not qualified to comment on this: Dogs are ‘smarter than cats’

The intelligence of “a man’s best friend” has evolved at a greater rate than the less social cat over millions of years, scientists at Oxford University have claimed.

It was often thought that the feline pet was smarter than its canine counterpart because it needed less attention but researchers have discovered that cats’ brains are smaller because they are less social.

Paycheck Calculator estimates how much you’re taking home after taxes. It’s especially good to consult before moving to another state for work.

Interactive Scale of the Universe looks interesting.

Sports Illustrated’s Pictures of the Year are worth a look. The two-page photo spreads are highlights of the magazine.

Why it’s cold here but warm over in Greenland provides useful, apolitical weather knowledge. Isn’t it funny that you have to specify that now?

Suspended Buckeyes should cut ties with unfair system, turn pro is another good critique of the NCAA.

In Obama’s New Start, Charles Krauthammer says his opponent, the President, did extremely well for himself in the lame duck session.

Steep Drop Seen in Circumcisions in U.S. I say this is bad news!

Objection! is helluva fun. It lets you deploy Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney in your online arguments.

Basketball on a Winter Night in Indiana

December 30, 2010

I spent my last night in America at a Pacers game with my family.

First, a short review of our dinner: we came downtown before rush hour and ate at Acapulco Joe’s. Joe’s life was inspiring: he tried to sneak across the border seven times before finally breaking through. He tried to go to Minneapolis because he heard there was a job as a waiter available there, but the cashier at the Greyhound station misheard his order and put him on a bus to Indianapolis instead. Soon after he arrived, a stranger lent him $5000 to help him establish a Mexican restaurant which has been in business for decades. After it was successful, a couple friends helped him with his immigration and naturalization papers. His biography emphasized his lifelong gratitude for the help and opportunities he received: the restaurant’s slogan is “God Bless America.” He passed away 25 years ago after a long and fulfilling life. As for the current culinary experience, the entrees were generous and delicious, but the chips, salsa, service speed, and price left something to be desired. As far as Mexican food goes, it’s 2010, and downtown Indianapolis can do better.

Twelve-year old Conseco Fieldhouse is still a gem. It’s basically a large-scale version of Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, AKA the Sistine Chapel of Basketball, but nobody minds. We Hoosiers can’t get enough of Chuck Taylors, 1950’s fashion, and murals on bricks, as long as the facilities are clean. When the Celtics needed a new building, why didn’t they reuse the saintly design of the Boston Garden?

Parking isn’t bad considering the stadium is in the center of the city rather than snuggled between major highways and parking palaces like Comiskey Park or Giants Stadium. We didn’t have to walk far in the cold. Our seats were at the very top, and though it was dizzying at first, it might have been the best place for appreciating the stadium itself. The temperature was perfect, which is not something you can say about every building.

The band of LCD screens on the rim of the upper deck injected some life into the place: to be honest with you, the crowd was subdued, and half the crowd was wearing green because so many of the Midwest’s Celtics fans drove down for the game. Pacers basketball is better this year, but the Colts are hogging the city’s love, and a lot of people still haven’t gotten over the Malice at the Palace. The team has been mediocre for a decade, and it’s hard to have spirit after such an enervating run, even if a lack of support might drive it out of business.

The performances and presentations during breaks in the action (the part you miss when you’re watching on TV) were the standards, and if I went to every game I might get tired of T-shirt cannons and races between computer-animated shoes, but I don’t. The trivia question (the single-game team rebounding record is 37 by George McGinnis) was mind-blowing, and the Simon Says competition at center court during halftime, run by a professional Simon, was more exciting than the main event! The next time you party with your friends, after everyone is good and drunk, bust out that game. Please.

A couple high school friends happened to sit right in front of me. (I ran into another old friend in the restroom, but that was hardly the place for shaking hands.) That was a great surprise and helped make up for the result of the content.

December 28, 2010: Boston 95, Indiana 83

When the Lakers beat you, it’s because they’re more talented. You don’t feel bad as much as you admire them and wish you could be like them. When the Celtics beat you, it’s because they’re more disciplined. Their defense is so good that they ruin what you’re trying to do and make you feel incompetent. The Pacers put up a good fight for the first thirty minutes. They looked crisp and young, and they made the Celtics seem rudderless without injured point guard Rajon Rondo. But the boys in blue lost their concentration, shooting guard Marquis Daniels became the leader of the Celtics’ offense, and things spiraled out of control (4th quarter score: 29-16 Boston).

This was my first and only chance to see Shaq in person, and he didn’t disappoint: he really is huge. Like a (comically large mythical creature of your choice). He was the first person I recognized from my seat in the watchtower. He shot 6 free throws (making 5 of them!), dunked and made a floater, and committed six clumsy fouls in sixteen minutes. So I got the whole experience.

When I want to understand a game, I look at the box score. It has almost everything you need to know. The Pacers got a few more rebounds and free throws, and the Celtics committed a few less turnovers, but really, Boston won this basketball game in the simplest way possible. They made more shots. The Celtics made 37 of 73 (51%), and Indiana was 29/78 (37.2%). Of those, Boston made 6 of 11 3-pointers (54.5%), Indiana 5 of 17 (29.4%). This result fits the Celtics’ profile.

All the Celtics played well except washed-up former Pacer Jermaine O’Neal. As I mentioned before, Daniels was solid (12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, only 1 foul and 2 turnovers). They needed him because the Pacers’ defensive shell was strong enough to keep the Celtics out of rhythm and out of the paint for three quarters. The Big Three didn’t disappoint.

As for the Pacers, The New Roy Hibbert sparked the offense in his limited minutes, but Danny Granger (5 for 21) looked like just another NBA player who’s overrated because he shoots a lot. Josh McRoberts, who used to be a friendly, bright-eyed high school freshman who had to duck every time he got on my bus, was limited to hoping someone would toss an alley-oop to him through traffic, and on defense, Big Baby Davis, who looks slower, rounder, and weaker, lit him up. Nor did McRoberts contribute anything else like rebounds or creativity. For the season as a whole, though, my old classmate is doing much better, and I’m happy he’s home.

The Pacers don’t have any star players who can carry them. They need everyone to work together, which means having energy on defense and vision on offense. This time, they lost their focus late in the game, and their opponents didn’t, so the home team struggled with the shot clock, settled for bad shots, and threw passes to people who weren’t looking. Even when things were going well, though, they missed some opportunities for sweet plays. Collison and Granger are leaders in name, but I didn’t see excellence from them.

Is creativity something that can be learned? If so, I’ll feel more hopeful about our future. At the very least, we’re not a bad team anymore, I got to see the Celtics go to work, and it was a social and inexpensive way to enjoy basketball. It was worth the trip.

Three High School Spanish Dialogues

December 29, 2010

One of the pleasures of coming home is going through old things.  Here are a few dialogues I co-wrote for Spanish 4.

Uno
Paciente: Buenos días, doctor, ¿cómo está Ud.?
Doctor: Estoy muy bien, gracias. Dígame cómo le puedo ayudar. ¿Está Ud. enfermo?
Paciente: No, mi problema es que soy la persona más aburrida de mi oficina.
Doctor: ¿Es ése un problema médico?
Paciente: Por supuesto. Mi vida es tan divertida como la de un pescado en una pesera.
Doctor: ¿Que quiere que haga?
Paciente: Le exigo un examen médico. Yo creo que tengo una grave enfermedad.
Doctor: Bueno, le voy a tomar una radiografía de los pulmones, una muestra de sangre, la tensión arterial y el pulso.
Paciente: No, eso me asusta. Ya estoy en buena salud, gracias. ¡Adios!

Dos
Policía: Buenas tardes… (I didn’t write down her lines)
Ciudadano: (Llorando) Sí, por favor. Acabo de ser la víctima de un crimen.
Policía: Descríbame…
Ciudadano: (Bebiendo) Estaba limpiando mi navío cuando llegaron unos maleantes y me lo quitaron.
Policía: Ud…
Ciudadano: Eran cinco. Pertenecían a una pandilla llamada “Los conquistadores.”
Policía: No puede…
Ciudadano: Se llama La Madrugada. (Se echa whisky sobre la cabeza) Es blanco con velas azules. Lo usaba para ir a pescar.
Policía: Entendido…
Ciudadano: Me llamo Jaime Smyth.
Policía: Y su…
Ciudadano: Calle 7 #32-37 La Aurora, Cartagena. Y mi teléfono es…
Policía: No hay…
Ciudadano: Gracias, hasta luego.
Policía: Adios.

Tres
Satán: ¡Hola! Me llamo Beelzebub, el Padre de Mentiras.
Jesús: ¡Este apartamento está lejos! Tuve que caminar sobre el agua para llegar.
Satán: ¡Es extraordinario! Aprecio la generosidad de Pablo. (That was a set phrase from the lesson)
Jesús: ¿Por qué?
Satán: Me vendió este apartamento y su alma para un millón de dolares.
Jesús: ¡Que espantoso! Mi padre lo encontraría abominable.
Satán: ¿Siempre haces lo que tu padre te diga?
Jesús: ¡Ya estoy harto! Me deja frío. No soy muy aficionado de malvado. ¡Adios!
Satán: No puedo aguantar ese tío.

九份 Jiufen 2

December 28, 2010

九份 Jiufen

This town inspired the setting of “Spirited Away” (千と千尋の神隠し). It’s near the Taiwanese-Japanese gold mine from the last album, and it’s still bustling because the market is packed with great food, and the beautiful Japanese tea houses are a great tourist draw. We also released flying wish lanterns from the edge of town.  Zhu Ge Liang invented these lanterns almost 1800 years ago to send military signals.  Shifen, near Jiufen, has a quaint traditional market straddling the railroad.

Jiufen Market Street
Jiufen Food Stand
Jiufen Shoe StoreTaro Cakes
Vegan Beef
Tea House Advertisement
Tea House Gate
Tea House Wall
Tea House Staircase
Tea House Roof
Closer Look
Flying Wish Lantern 1
Flying Wish Lantern 2
Flying Wish Lantern 3
Flying Wish Lantern 4
Shifen Market
Fried Ice Cream
Noodle Powder Pudding
Charms Shifen Train

九份 Jiufen 1

December 27, 2010

九份 Jiufen

This town inspired the setting of “Spirited Away” (千と千尋の神隠し). It’s near the Taiwanese-Japanese gold mine from the last album, and it’s still bustling because the market is packed with great food, and the beautiful Japanese tea houses are a great tourist draw.

Jiufen Trinket Shop
Seafood Stand
Calligraphy Art
Taiwanese Guava
Bitter Melon
Boiled Red Bean Dumpling
Japanese Ice Cream Sandwich
Moon Cake
Path to Tea Houses
Secret Passageway
Cat and Empty Soil Pots
Urban Kanon
Japanese Tea House
View of Ocean
View of Tea House

Home for Christmas

December 26, 2010

I’m home in Carmel, Indiana for Christmas. I said my long goodbye a few years ago, but every time I return, the town seems more lovely. The environment is impeccable; the parents are involved; the opportunities are many; the traffic is convenient; the churches are lively. I had to live in other places to realize what was special about this one. Since I’m called to do international work, I’ll ironically be restricted to living in big and connected capital cities for the near future, but a couple weeks of Hoosierdom a year is refreshing.

And I’m refreshing for Hoosiers, rather than confusing…I hope. Taiwanese people thought I acted Japanese, and Americans think I act like I’m from…somewhere else. People in my own hometown ask me, “Where are you from?” I say “Here!” and they say “Really? Why do you have an accent?” A few add, “You speak very beautiful English!” and I say, “Thank you very much!”

Sometimes, I need to get someone’s attention, but I don’t want to impose…so instead of going right up to him, I’ll shuffle over at a 45 degree angle and duck apologetically. I bow to acknowledge someone from far away and for the Sign of Peace at Mass. Instead of calling “Excuse me” to a waitress, I’ll raise my hand. It feels strange to say “you” to strangers because that would be too familiar in Japanese, so I’ll say “I’m sorry, I still don’t know your name” and then try to use their names a lot or say “sir” and “ma’am.” I want to honk to say “thank you” to other drivers, but I’m worried they’ll get the wrong idea. I can’t eat as much as I used to, but the phrase “doggie bag” doesn’t seem clean anymore! Can’t we all agree to call it mochikaeri? That makes me feel better about not finishing my dinner.

I hope my friends abroad have good Christmases. It would be nice if my Spanish host family won the annual Christmas Lottery. In Japan and Taiwan, the shops may have decorations and music going, but Christmas is a date holiday and New Year’s is a family holiday, precisely the opposite of the West. Maybe my Japanese friends will enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner of Kentucky Fried Chicken with their special someones. Some of my students will make Christmas cakes with their families. Taiwan waits for Chinese New Year to go all-out, but I’ll be back in time for the 288-second, $2 million fireworks show at Taipei 101 to celebrate the 100th year of the Republic of China at 0:00:00, 01/01/11.

I’m always separated from someone. I feel like I have one chance to get everyone I love together: my wedding, some time in the far future. Until then, I’ll quietly think of people a couple times a day and try to lift them up. I’m grateful to be in touch with my family this week.

I woke up on the Winter Solstice to the moon shining in my eyes like a spotlight. Daybreak and religious observances came soon after, and from here the daylight gets longer. It’s Christmas, and new life has come. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Ferryboat and Traveler

December 25, 2010

나릇배 와 行人
나는 나룻배
당신은 행인

당신은 흙발로 나를 짓 밟습니다.
나는 당신을 안고 물을 건너갑니다.
나는 당신을 안으며 깊으나 옅으나 급한 여울이나 건너갑니다.

만일 당신이 아니 오시면 나는 바람을 쐬고 눈비를 맞으며
밤에서 낮까지 당신을 기다리고 있습니다.

당신은 물만 건너면 나를 돌아보지도 않고 가십니다그려,
그러나 당신이 언제든지 오실 줄만은 알아요
나는 당신을 기다리면서 날마다 날마다 낡아갑니다.

나는 나릇배
당신은 행인.

Ferryboat and Traveler
Author: Manhae Han Yong-un (1879-1944)
Translator: Francesca Cho

I’m the ferryboat;
you’re the traveler.

You walk on me with muddy feet;
I hold you and cross the water.
I bear you across the deep, the shallow, the rapid.

If you don’t come, I endure wind, snow, rain,
and wait for you, from dusk to dawn.
Once you cross the water, you leave without looking back.
Sooner or later you’ll come, I know.
I wait for you and grow old day by day.

I’m the ferryboat;
you’re the traveler.

Chippewa Harbor Sunrise by Ray Dumas
Chippewa Harbor Sunrise by Ray Dumas

“My father wants to know why you chose this poem,” the concierge of the Hanjin Hostel in Gyeongju, ancient capital of South Korea, asked me. For a small fee, his father had written this poem, and my name, in Korean Hangul calligraphy.

“I’m a Christian,” I said. “This poem has a really deep meaning for me. We believe that love is sacrifice.”

“Oh, I see…Where do you live?”

“Japan. I’m an English teacher.”

“Yes, this poem is very Japanese,” he said. He turned and told his father in Korean.

Nihon?” the father asked me.

Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka?” I replied. Until then, I’d only seen him sit still on the tatami and watch television during reception hours, but those words brought him to life. He grew up speaking Japanese during the occupation, spent some time in the country afterward, then returned home and eventually established this international hostel in this city of tombs and memories. (“Han” is Chinese for “Korea,” and “Jin” is Japanese for “person.”)

We happily spoke Japanese together. He came out from the office and showed me around the lobby. There were pictures of him with generations of travelers. Some had returned year after year for decades, and he would visit their own homes in return. He was an innkeeper in the truest sense.

I had a bus to catch, so we warmly said goodbye. I carried his calligraphy with me to Japan, America, and Taiwan. I hope he and his family are well this Christmas, as are all the other people I’ve met over these years on the road.

Manhae was a Buddhist monk who wrote during the Japanese occupation. The English collection of his poems, Everything Yearned For, is the only poetry book I carry from one home to another. It tells of intense love, the kind I hope to feel toward my beloved and my God.