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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Lorem Ipsum

Have you noticed this bit of Latin on Blogger?
Lorem
ipsum vim ut utroque mandamus intellegebat, ut eam omittam ancillae sadipscing, per et eius soluta veritus
I tried to find out what it means by going to a Latin dictionary - and failed. I wrote to my friend Sergi asking for help and this is what he came up with:
"Apparently since 1500s when typographers have wanted to check some kind of font, they have started a sentence with "Lorem ipsum" to indicate it's just a dummy text. It looks like Latin, but it's not Latin at all. http://www.lipsum.com/"

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Absolute bullshit

Without going into too much detail...

I was translating an article a week or two ago, in regards to the legislative election which just passed. One of the candidates was Chen Yuan-chi (陳源奇). This article came from Liberty Times (自由時報), and it had several paragraphs which was lifted from a 2004 article on a television station's website. To cut a long story short, the articles (the LT and the website one) both contained a short summary of his education according to his resume. It was vaguely worded, and unclear as to whether the "educational history" listed on Chen's resume is something that was simply being quoted, or facts which have been verified. They looked pretty fucking suspect to me, so I took the bother to call some places up.

Chen claims to have graduated from Cheng Kung Universit's (成功大學) Business School. I rang up, and was connected to the School of Management. Apparently, they don't HAVE a business school - didn't have one before, don't have one now. The LT article also changed Lincoln University to Coln University, having missed out the first character in the Chinese phonetic translation. Of course, this does not answer the question of WHICH Lincoln University? Also, the Chinese term for uni could also refer to colleges. This left me with, oh, easily more than 5 choices scattered across the world. Chen also claims to have been a principal a private high school in southern Taiwan. I rang up directory assistance to find their phone number, since on line searches didn't turn up much. The directory assistance woman informed me that the school does not exist. In the end, Stardust (yes, that's her real name, in Chinese too), the super-secretary at our office found out what happened to this school. It had been shut down due to corruption and embezzlement allegations. Sounds suspect?

Chen also claims to have run in a huge number of elections of every sort. The Central Election Commission's database only has him registered for 3. Of course, some elections are not part of the database... but this guy is altogether starting to stink far too much.

I love working where I work because the people are great, and the pay is good. But when I find myself doing things like this, translating a piece of shit that will come out a piece of shit in English, I get seriously depressed. A journalist for LT had obviously plagiarised the website I found in order to get information about Chen to beef up an article about lesser known election candidates. This journalist also reprinted all the extremely suspect claims, and left out the first character of Lincoln University.

I couldn't find any way to get hold of Chen, or any of his associates. Unusual for an election campaign candidate, no? I thought perhaps the media had made false claims on his behalf. Maybe his resume doesn't lie? maybe he's misrepresented? But as I was unable to get hold of him, I couldn't get an answer to these questions.

In the end there's no way of knowing what's real. Not that I ever believed what I read in papers wholesale, but coming to live in Taiwan, and to work for a paper myself, has been a stunning reminder that I can't trust anything I see.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

圓斗 Yuan-tou

What is 圓斗 (Yuan-tou)?
Apparently it's the end of a series of Taoist worships at temples. The written format is actually a Mandarin word-play on the character 圓 (yuan) in Taiwanese, and should be read in Taiwanese. The term refers to "the end of 斗 (tou)" - 斗 (tou) being the series of Taoist worships. As the character 圓 (Yuan) literally means circular, and symbolizes perfection, peace and quietude, and all that is good in general, the Mandarin transliteration uses 圓 (yuan) instead of the character 完 (wan) for good luck.
This won't make a lot of sense unless you can speak both Mandarin and Taiwanese and English! A bit of a specific post - but I love these fascinating details about Taiwanese culture.

chain mails and all that

Here's something that I've been meaning to post for a long while. I received an email from my friend Tomer on Nov. 19 2007. Here's what it contained (minus the Hebrew):

Disgrace for England !

This week in England every memorial of the holocaust has been removed from the schools study programs, arguing that it hurts the Muslim population that denies the holocaust.

That is a sign of an upcoming worldwide disaster, terrifying evidence of how easily countries can give in to anti-Semitism.

It has been more than 60 years since the end of World War 2 in Europe .

This email has been sent in order to create a chain of memory for those 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians, and 1900 catholic priests, that have been murdered, raped, burnt, starved to death, and humiliated by the Nazis.

Now, more than ever, considering the efforts of Iran and others ' denying the Holocaust, it is most crucial to do whatever it takes to ensure that the world never forgets .

This email should reach at least 40 million people in the world.

Join us and become a link in the chain of memory for those who have past in the terrible events of the Holocaust. Help spread this email around the world so others may understand and help as well.

Please send this message to at least 10 of your friends or contacts. Please do not delete this email; it only takes one minute to pass it on. Thank you for your efforts.

And here is my reply:

Dear Tomer:

I was horrified by the email you sent me about English schools removing the holocaust from their education. I went on line to check it out since I thought something like that must have an accompanying news story, and here is what I found:

From the BBC (Holocaust NOT banned, phew)
From The Times
From The Times (criticism of teachers not able to delivery meaningful lessons on difficult subjects, such as the Holocaust)
From The Daily Mail
(Criticism of teachers avoiding difficult subjects, such as the holocaust)

The last article, from the Daily Mail specifically reports:

"In another department, the Holocaust was taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils.
"But the same department deliberately avoided teaching the Crusades at Key Stage 3 (11- to 14-year-olds) because their balanced treatment of the topic would have challenged what was taught in some local mosques."

It doesn't seem like a case of anti-Semitism so much as just general cowardice. If children receive conflicting views about history then they should be taught in formal education that history is not fact - it is interpretation. What's the deal with schools thinking that children need to be taught what to think instead of how to think? Luckily, from what I have read, the comments reacting to these news stories is one of utter outrage at the 'dumbing down' of education, so most people seem to find it ridiculous that teachers would try to avoid teaching emotive subjects for fear of giving offence. In any case, as the BBC reports, there is not 'blanket ban' on teaching about the holocaust in England.

I wonder where this chain of emails started? I think it's a good thing to remain vigilant about cases of anti-Semitism, but I also think that in these politically charged times, it's better to be absolutely accurate about what is being reported. It appears to me, though, however, that these reports have in common the issue of the Muslim community. I'm not really sure how to respond to this except to say that it's a problem when the school (which is an ideological apparatus of the state) is touting a very different kind of ideology from that of the community who sends their children there receive their education. Although many people maintain that public education is non-denominational, I don't think it can be entirely bias-free. Secular education can easily clash with religious teachings, whether if it's the problem of Holocaust/Crusade vs. Islam, or Evolution vs. Creation/Intelligent Design/Christianity.

As a non-denominational, non-qualified observer, I think that children should be presented with a variety of world views. The important thing is to teach them that everything adults tell them aren't necessarily true. I realize that this is problematic for religious upbringings. Not many faithful individuals would present the word of God (any God) to their children and say that it's not the literal truth. But secular education should be able to give a more analytic, critical perspective. To me, sowing the seeds of doubt is the true task of education. So, coming back to the idea of presenting different world views: if children are taught something at home as being indisputable fact, then they are taught at once what to think, alongside a little bit of how (not so much of the latter, I would argue). When they come to school and are confronted with a different version of what to think, alongside with a lot of how to accept that there are many many many people in the world who believe different things, then they are getting a truly important lesson.

Perhaps what I am really promoting is an accepting attitude which at least leaves room for peaceful dialogue even if the things that we believe are different from one another, and we think that everyone else who doesn't believe what we believe is utterly misguided.

This may be something worthwhile to think about for English teachers who cower before challenging subjects.

By the way, I accidentally deleted the original email you sent me with that word file. Can you send it to me again? I would like to hang onto it for reference sake...

love,

A.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

From the mail bag of Johnny Neihu

Johnny Neihu has a column every Saturday on Taipei Times (台北時報) - the sister paper of Liberty Times (自由時報). Actually, more like the kept-woman of Liberty Times, and not well kept either: just compare the standard of their web sites.

Anyway, here's a letter from someone who's got his head screwed on right.
--------------
Dear Johnny,

You must tell me which bowel of Taiwanese depravity you frequent so that I might join you for a few word-slurring beers over treasonous KMT trash talk. I cringe to think you are the only one with a license to spout off on the foul nature of your brethren or that your Hunter S. Thompson style is unrecognizable.

Now that the niceties are out of the way, let's talk shop. I, too, a foreigner no less, recognize the "pig sodomizers" amongst us.

Perhaps by the 12th round of Taiwanese formaldehyde-laden hops we could reach a consensus such as this: at the least, an ignorant "Jimmy Waiguoren" can be brought around to the reality of Taiwan, when most locals are so blindly fashioned to their shade of blue or green that they don't know, can't articulate or reason otherwise.

"It's very complicated" is my favorite answer. And by the way, did Mr. Waiguoren, in his naive fog, explain why he had such an articulate question to render forth on the "overdue scrapping of a dictator's personality cult"? ("Election 2008: The `sissy factor,'" Dec. 15, page 8.)

You see, when I can't be bothered to mission to the Combat Zone, I am quite happy to sort out Taiwanese politics outside the nearest 7-Eleven with a good plastic crate to sit on. Try hiding from the populace with 12 empty cans at your feet there, my friend! The looks I get are ominous.

And from my pulpit of cheap beer within the public domain I preach thus: "Brace yourself, Taiwan, brace yourself for the thing that is Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)."

He is a new breed of snake in this political ecosystem. Punch-drunk on power, give this guy a single glass of red wine and he'd sell his old man's ashes for a night out at the PRC "Mao Zedong's Still Our Hero" bash.

He relishes in politics for the commoner, the real Taiwanese, the Taiwanese who can no longer afford Alexander gym memberships. And the "staff writers" at the China Post, who create the fear of economic Armageddon on this island, felt it journalistically responsible to report Alexander was going under because economic hardship under the "Green Terror" forced patrons to stay home and get fat. Rubbish. Still, they often have no choice but to admit (on the back page, usually) to the economic success of this island.

The propaganda put forth in that rag of a newspaper instead implores, as would Ma, that the value of property on the island will go up when the Chinese get here. No shit? And then the bloody commoner who can't afford a dumpling will really be fucked, much less those with a chance to pursue middle class status. Can I get my gym membership money back please?

And then -- this pisses me off -- Ma claims kids only need to start learning English (whether it matters at all is arguable) in the fifth grade.

Well, I met the guy once, shook his greasy hand and posed for the photo op with my students. His indiscreet, yet telling anecdote of his background at Cambridge in Boston sickened me so that I eventually vomited on the steps outside his office. I wasn't even hung over.

First of all, there is no way in hell this guy started speaking English in the fifth grade! And all language-based evidence suggests learning two languages at a young age does not harm the dominant language. I would dare him to spin this shit in Canada. And what about Taiwanese, isn't this a second language as well? Leave the didactics of education to the experts, you dick!

Finally, but not finally, Ma has been chirping off about the "Green Terror." Is the guy retarded? I know you can't say that but I just did. So who exactly has the Democratic Progressive Party rounded up, relieved of their human rights and then executed? Sure, I wouldn't mind putting a few on the list, but my opinions are a bit "out there" at 4am.

Sometimes this place is so messed up I wonder what I'm doing here and why I bother to care about politics and freedom. Feel free to tell me to go home -- it's the obvious retort.

Just when you think Taiwan has a chance, that it just might do something right like stand up for itself, as President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) proposes, some "important" American jackass throws in his two cents.

I'm Canadian, and no offense to Americans in general, but this is why I speak the same language, watch the same movies and share the same culture and history (sound familiar?), but have as much chance of growing back my hair as becoming American. I take solace in believing the Americans do know what is right and are only playing "devil's advocate" for the sake of keeping up appearances with its fat, ugly friend China.

It's not right, but it is part of the facade of international politics. I should say I support the US war on terror, because terror is real, and so is China.

Meanwhile, Taipei's jackass mayor and his punch-drunk civil servants think it wise and entirely within their realm to defy the Central Election Commission. What?

Then the China Post's Sunday editorial ("Election tricks cause concern," Dec. 16) thought it wise to speculate on "dirty tricks" that might be played by Chen and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at the risk of World War III.

Yeah, and having some nut fire a homemade gun at your gut hoping it only "wounds" you is the best way to go about trying to win an election.

If that is the case, then Chen has bigger cajones than a wild 17-year-old alpha male dog from Miaoli with three legs and its nuts dragging on the ground.

Frank Hsieh (謝長廷): Cut this task manager loose. I like him, except for the kowtowing, but he's going to lose the presidential election big time. "Frank Hu"? is what people north of Taichung are wondering.

The best advice I ever received in minor hockey in Canada -- the last game where you can fight and shake hands afterward -- was to keep my head on a swivel. That way, if you see a hit coming you can get the hell out of the way. Right now, no one in the DPP seems to see the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) charging with a vicious cross-check from behind.

But back to Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for a millisecond. I wrote "UN 4 Taiwan" on the back of my shirt during the ING half marathon on Dec. 16. I expected to make conversation or be stomped before the start line. I got neither.

Clones, Ma clones, all staggering and crawling to the finish line having never trained, just to show the world that the next big cash windfall or idea is just around the corner. Yes, when China gets here, they are the ones who will have the innate "will" to get rich.

I got one jiayou (加油) from a dude in green attire and he skirted away for fear someone heard him.

"Green terror," my butt.

As I ran through the tunnel before the finish, a song I hadn't heard in a while rang through my iPod. Pearl Jam's Do the Evolution sped up my pace for the last 1,000m and gave me goosebumps. I thought of Ma as the lyrics came screaming through Eddie Vedder's guttural voice:

Buying stocks on the day of the crash ...
All the rolling hills, I'll flatten 'em out
It's herd behavior ...
This land is mine, this land is free
I do what I want,
but irresponsibly ...
I'm a thief, I'm a liar
There's my church [the PRC],
I sing in the choir.

Taiwan, you might like the KMT bonus check, but it won't go far.

Gathering speed,

Keith Justik

P.S. Did I mention another article in the China Post? It seems the Chinese "forgive" Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) for his political bloodletting in that country. Okay? Must be a fact then.

------------

Check out the original (in two parts: Emeralds and Gray are your keywords for navigating this joke of a page) here.

Fit to wipe my arse.

Want some definitive proof that there's no neutral press in Taiwan? Want some definitive proof that the media here is a propaganda machine?

Ok, then you are asking for too much... but I do have something scandalous concerning press integrity to share with you.

The Liberty Times (自由時報) is one of the major newspapers in Taiwan. It supports the pan-green camp (Democratic Progressive Party, who has been in power for the last 8 years: pro-independence, has large grassroots following). Their rivals are China Post (中國時報) and United Daily (聯合報) - which are supporters of the pan-blue camp (The Chinese Nationalist Party, previously enforced despotic one party rule in Taiwan, imposed 50 years of martial law and white terror, murdered many dissenters, and now the major opposition party - yes, I'm as surprised as you are).

So recently a porcelain company in Taiwan, Franz, got a rare photo opportunity with the Pope. Unfortunately, the photo also featured Wang Shaw-lan (王效蘭), publisher of United Daily, third from left. Here's the photograph as released by CNA, the Taiwanese Central News Agency.

Now, when the photo was released on Liberty Times, it inexplicably altered. Can you spot the difference? Curious, isn't it? How Wang seems to have vanished from the scene. This photo was published by Liberty Times on the 17th of December, 2007, D10, if you are interested.

So what happened? Of course people noticed this rather obvious absence. And according to Liberty Times, the photo came to them that way, and they apologize for not noticing that it had been edited. Franz, however, insists that they edited the image at the request of Liberty Times.

I think the truth of the matter is a foregone conclusion - why in the name of everything Liberty Times does not stand for would anyone alter the image? And another question: did Liberty Times think that nobody would notice? They apparently take us for idiots. (Oh, by the way, this isn't the first time it's been caught editing photographs to suit their liking.) In another instance, the title of a paper being read by a man in a photograph, originally United Daily, was changed to Liberty Times, on 18th of October, 2005.

So, if Liberty Times has no qualms about changing photographs to suit themselves, then what's to stop it from changing news to suit themselves? After all, it is the Liberty Times - meaning, prone to taking liberties with the times.

I lament for the quality of free press in Taiwan.

I must add, my impression is that the other two major papers are not much better - when I come across some evidence I shall of course share them with you. Keep your eyes on this space for further farces.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Press for Freedom (except for people who work for the press)

I've recently been tuning in to the BBC podcast series, Press for Freedom. It's very good to keep my mind occupied to and from work (long public commute). Funnily enough, I work for the press (translator at newspaper), and these days I am feeling distinctly un-free. Not in the ideological sense, since my ideological opinions are not sought anyhow (we are input/output machines, essentially). In fact, there was a simply appalling article today, and I brought it up with one of the editors. They decided to go ahead and run it anyway. I guess it's not a big deal, since my objection to the article is mainly stylistic - and after the editors get at it, it'll probably read a lot less New Age (I mean that in the worst sense of the term). Anyway, my feeling of un-freedom is due to over working. To put it basically, we have too few holidays. I get one day off a week, plus 2 more additional days off somewhere in the month. Somehow, without the two day break each week that I have become accustomed to in the West, this is very difficult. One day off is really not much - I need one day just to recover!
Even worse, we had 3 days we could take off recently: Christmas Day, New Year's Day, and the 2nd of January. I decided to save these days for when Toph arrives, so I worked all three. Oh, and the boss is away, so the workload on each of us has increased somewhat - but I suspect it's increased most heavily for me as I've been here the whole time...
So, I'm knackered. Oh, and today is my "duty day," which means I get to do photo captions (always a bitch), and stay till 10 pm while everyone else takes off at 9.

It's not that bad. I just like to complain when I'm tired, that's all...

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

引魂

人類死亡之後,肉體終歸腐朽,但靈魂依然不滅,因相信靈魂的存在,認為死後都要接受輪迴轉世,如果生前為惡,死後靈魂會被閻羅王幽禁在地獄,所以必 須延請道士讀經向閻羅王請罪,以便希望藉由神明的導引與保護下,帶領死者亡魂,通過陰司地府、遊十殿,最後抵達西方極樂世界。   在台灣傳統民間習俗在處理喪葬儀式時,凡因意外死亡者,在入殮當天前幾個小時皆須至出事地點「引魂」,並請道士誦經超度亡魂(路旁屍,溺斃海中者,車禍死 者等即是)然後再引魂至喪家,否則其魂魄將會在該地徘徊不去。在引魂超度祭拜時需準備如下:湯圓三碗、壽金、九金、銀紙、四果、香還有二枚拾元硬幣(擲筊 用),此時大都在路口舉行,死者家屬以跪拜祭之,孝男則需穿著麻衣,道士以硃筆沾白雞冠血為亡靈紙像開光點眼,隨之執旛鈸咒唱「魂兮歸來」的引魂咒,引魂 咒唱完由家屬一人擲筊,判斷亡者是否歸來,允杯表示亡靈已有歸來,並且立即引靈回家,一旁道士則以敲鈸為亡靈帶路,家屬沿路大哭直到靈堂,再一一奠酒跪 祭,即完成引魂儀式。

道士引魂超度,以招魂幡招鬼魂之魂,上書逝者卒生年月日時,兩旁所寫的詩句多半是依照《超薦日魂引靈科儀》而寫,常見者如「一炷心香通法界、九泉使者引魂來」,在靈前道士手持招魂幡誦藥師等經咒,使亡魂受解信任來安頓其靈魂,引導亡魂走應走之路。

遠古人們就有三魂七魄的傳統觀念,一魂會留在陰間,一魂會轉世,一魂則會在神主牌受家屬供奉,所以安葬後要引魂回來,七魄則會隨著屍體腐爛 而消失,這就是所謂的「魂(神)升而魄(軀體)降」。所以人一死,就得辦法事,引導這些魂魄去該去的地方,以安排靈魂的歸宿,出殯前的牽亡歌陣,則是最常 見的民間超度亡魂的喪葬陣頭。

  • 撰稿者:曾方怡
  • 資料來源:臺灣大百科
  • 資料出處:黃文博,《台灣冥魂傳奇》p.16、p.108

The year in review

Taipei 101 does an annual new year's eve fireworks show (for those of you who don't know, Taipei 101 is/was one of the tallest buildings in the world) - apparently it's something to behold. I saw it from my balcony just now, and it did look like... well, impressive... but as all the fireworks were coming out of the building, it could also be imagined as an explosion. Almost like someone had nuked the thing and it is exploding in spectacular colours.

There are some people who don't get to stop and celebrate. I came quite close to being one of them this year, since I took on a job at a paper. No matter what happens, there's always gotta be a paper tomorrow - consequently we don't ever have days off all at once. Of course we take turns going on holiday and stuff, but I opted to work on Christmas and New Year's Eve and New Year's day, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my boyfriend isn't here. I thought the people in my department deserve to have those days off more, seeing as they will be celebrating it with someone. Second, I just started this job, and it seems like a good thing to do, help others out and show that I'm committed and hard-working etc. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this entitles me to 3 days off whenever I feel like it. I'll take 3 days to spend with Toph when he comes over on the 17th.

So I went to work today, and it was unexpectedly busy. I had a good time though, since I caught other people making mistakes for a change. Thing is, I've been making a lot of stupid mistakes recently (The Taipei Times Village Idiot), and catching others at it makes me feel marginally less dim witted. Ted and Anna (and others) had issued invitations to New Year activities. I was undecided until I saw the masses of people packed around the Taipei 101 area. This is where I saw the other people who will be working through the night. The Metro system will be running non-stop this year to accommodate the crush. At 10:30 pm, the roads were already heavily laden with traffic, and the MRT was almost impossible. Leaving the area was, but going there was simply a jam of limbs and heads and more trying to pile onto every train. There were staff in neon jackets with loudspeakers everywhere, directing pedestrian traffic. I saw empty buses lined up on the side of roads with blue placards "New Year's Eve Special Bus" in the front window, their drivers smoking together on the pavement. At Taipei Main Station the crowd was so dense it looked as though it should be immovable, but I saw families with small children cheerfully weaving through the masses of bodies. Luckily, as I was going out of the action, traffic was smooth all the way home. The bus from Ximen to the flat was almost empty (practically unheard of on any other night). Of course after the fireworks the traffic stream will be reversed. The city had already made plans and closed off nearby areas. It will be interesting to read reports of whether people were evacuated smoothly afterwards.

Needless to say I didn't go to Ted's party or watch fireworks at 101 with Anna. It seemed like too much trouble to get home afterwards. Besides, I have work tomorrow. I think that making a good start in the new year is more important than partying at the end of the old one, I guess. I will wake up at a reasonable hour tomorrow, and do yoga.

Speaking of parties though, I've always thought these things are a bit of a catch 22. If I don't get invited to any, I feel like nobody loves me. If I do get invited to any, then I don't feel like it's necessary to go any more, since I know that I am loved. That's putting it pretty crudely, and it's only one side of it. The other side is that I always feel an obligation to be sociable, and a pressure to conform to some inner expectation or live up to a standard of some kind. I'm not sure when this began as I can distinctly remember spending extensive amounts of time quite happily by myself as a child. Now if I am alone on a weekend evening I begin to wonder whether if I ought not to be alone - and a sense of inadequacy ensues because I should be doing something fun. Occasionally though I go out to things that I expected to enjoy and I get the feeling that I am surrounded by people who are trying to have FUN because they think they ought to, not because they really are enjoying themselves - and there's nothing worse. Of course, that could just be my perception - funny how I usually get this feeling when I'm in a crowd of people apparently enjoying what I think is a very, very bad performance of some kind.

I digress.

What I am trying to say is: I opted out of the socializing tonight and came home. I made some food, and read Harry Potter (which I always pick up and read at random when I am relaxing, especially eating). I did the laundry, and watched the fireworks from afar as I hung clothes up to dry. Then I had a hot shower and I was thinking about the new years that I could and couldn't remember.

In 1st year I was alone, depressed, and ill. The flat was quiet as everyone had gone out to Hogmanay celebrations (fireworks) on Prince's street. I heard screams at midnight, and then there was knocking at the front door. I put on my robe and went to answer. A bunch of neighbours were standing outside, and as soon as I opened the door, they all shouted "HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!" - I told them to fuck off and slammed the door in their face. Actually, I probably said happy new year cordially enough while wishing they would go away and let me sleep.

In my 2nd year at uni I spent new year at home in Toronto. There was a dance party on the lakeside. I taught a dance class with a friend, and met some people there that night who are still my friends now. A good time was had - because it was new year, but because I was dancing. I remember doing the count-down and feeling distinctly silly. Why is the revolution of a calendar year worth celebrating? I've always wondered. We don't celebrate the end of weeks, after all. Perhaps because it's the biggest unit which comes round at a reasonable enough pace for us to appreciate?

In my 3rd year I spent new year at home in Taiwan, in Kenting, on the souther tip. The weather was balmy and beautiful. The night before I bought sandals and two summer dresses. The night of, I went to bed early. The morning of the 1st of January was beautiful and bright. I went and had a good swim at the hotel pool (a very luxurious hotel from what I recall), feeling fresh and happy to have made a good healthy start.

In my 4th year I spent new year's eve on Yakushima with Toph, Alex, Laurent, and Mari. We had a big dinner at the station, followed by much alcohol and chat. I seem to remember getting into debates about the nature of anarchy, and about David Hume (I think we later gave a copy of "Sophie's World" to Alex). At midnight, Mari made us noodles, apparently a traditional Japanese way of celebrating. I remember mochi and oranges and new year's decoration everywhere on the island. That night Toph and I had an interesting walk home, where I out ran him for the first (and possibly the last) time. He had a very sore head the next day.

And exactly a year later, I'm writing this blog in Taipei.

Newspapers often do "The Year In Review" to recapitulate all the goings on of the last 365 days.

This year I...
Showed Topher Taiwan for the first time, and decided to come back here.
Slaved away on my dissertation for many hours at the library, to the point of misreading the title of a book "Death, Dissertation, and the Destitute" (actually "Death, Dissection, and the Destitute")
Got a radio from Toph for my birthday, and began my radio life as a devout listener of BBC.
Celebrated the anniversary of our relationship.
Went off caffeine.
Saw my favourite vintage clothing shop (and the place I worked for years) retire.
Met someone at a party who said that he likes Elizabethan folk songs - and became instant friends.
Visited an organic farm and rode their tractor.
Trucked half way around the world to be with the person I love (though that's nothing new).
Went to an outdoor music festival and heartily detested almost every moment of it.
Graduated from university.
Brought my folks to meet his folks (!!!!).
Performed a strip tease for a cabaret night.
Went to Herrang and found most of it awful.
Travelled from Edinburgh to Sweden, Hungary, Romania, and Turkey, where I smoked for the first time since I was 6, and played backgammon.
Volunteered at the emergency room of a hospital.
Got my first full time job.
Started a swing scene in Taipei.
Started to do yoga.
Went to my first political demonstration.

It did occur to me that if I didn't go see the Taipei 101 fireworks show, I might regret it. But thinking back, I lived in Edinburgh for 4 years never having gone to see the Hogmanay fireworks, and lived a whole year within spitting distance from the castle without ever having gone in - never feeling like I had missed out on much. On the happy thought, goodnight, and happy new year.