I have not, as a general rule, daylogged much before. However, since I am in Tainan in the Republic of China, I consider what I have to say here both important information, and is a record I might want to refer back to later.

Having been in the country for only 36 hours now, I can barely make any sweeping statements about Chinese culture, the Republic or modernization. One of the most striking things about the cities of Taiwan, (besides the obvious motor scooter free-for-all and the fact everything is in Chinese) is that the difference between public and private space is wildly blurred.

I remember one of the seemingly silly aspects of Chinese culture that my professor explained to me in first year Chinese was the fact that there is a gate keeper at the front of every institution in China. This seemed rather paranoid to me at the time, even though I was assured that the guards were only there for show.

Paranoia, so far, does not seem to be anywhere near the rule in China that it is in America. And indeed, the guards are only there for show. But after a few long walks around the winding alleys of Tainan, I started to understand why there were guards at the gates of college campuses.

In America, it would be somewhat rude and perhaps dangerous to barge into an office building and go poking around. In Taiwan, the same rule seems to apply, besides it is very possible to be outdoors and still inside an instituion. I find it hard to tell sometimes, since there are very small, winding roads that seem to be public roads, as well as large boulevards that run through middle schools and other places that would seem to be not open to the public. Shops and markets seem to run out of buildings, but place their wares on the sidewalk, so that walking down the sidewalk may take you right behind someone's cash register.

This is, right now, merely an introductory notice on a phenonmenea. Hopefully I will be able to explain more about this as time goes on.

Is that the right word?

I don’t know if it’s the right word or not but when I think of the Christmas’s of my youth, that’s the word that comes to mind..

I can remember hoping that each year around the holidays, that this year was going to be different. There would be no family fights, the boozing would be kept to a minimum, the meal would taste better and that we would actually enjoy each others company.

Christmas always seemed to start a week early in my household. My father would go down the basement and drag out the ratty artificial Christmas tree and the boxes of lights and decorations that were hastily stashed away from last year. As God is my witness, in all the years growing up, I can’t remember ever getting anything new to put on the tree but somehow that was ok. After dumping the contents of the boxes and twisting and bending the tree so that it might somehow actually resemble something mother nature might have intended, the fun was about to begin.

My dad would crack open a bottle of J&B, pour himself a healthy dose, break out the phonograph (yup, you heard right!) and to the strains of the Jackie Gleason orchestra playing some kind of Hawaiian tunes, the decorating would begin.

First the lights had to be tested and those different color reflectors had to be attached to each one. I wasn’t allowed to do that, too dangerous. They were then placed around the tree with the touch of a drunken surgeon. I wasn’t allowed to do that, might knock the tree over. After each and every strand of lights went on the tree, my dad would walk away, pour himself another and admire his handiwork. Next to go on was the garland. I don’t know about you but the stuff we had seemed to be left over from the forties. Much of it was tattered and in pieces and somehow retied together to make a single strand. I wasn’t allowed to do that – not tall enough.

My father would somehow manage to get this stuff on the tree, walk away, pour himself another and sit back to admire his handiwork. Next came the ornaments. We didn’t have anything particularly fancy, mostly solid colors and made of that kind of glass that threatened to shatter if you looked at it the wrong way. I wasn’t allowed to help, these things were too fragile for my clumsy mitts and the thought of me breaking one and incurring my fathers wrath really wasn’t all that appealing anyway. The balls had to hung a certain way, little ones top, mid sizes in the middle and the larger ones at the bottom. Supposedly, this method had the effect of “tapering” the tree so that it looked like a green triangle. After each set of balls was hung, my father would pour himself another, sit back and admire his handiwork.

Last came the tinsel. Believe it or not, much of it had been retained from the year(s) before! My father would usually be pretty soused by now and he would grab some of it, and, to the strains of the music, dance his way over to the tree and ever so gently, toss the stuff onto the tree, step back, pour another shot, and admire his handiwork. I wasn’t allowed to help- to delicate a task for one so young.

During this time, my mom would be tucked away in the kitchen, cooking up a rather bland concoction that my dad would find fault with later. Hey, at least she tried. We would often wind up ordering out from a chicken joint that delivered. If memory serves, I think it was called “Chicken Delight” or something like that and I distinctly remember the grease-stained buckets of fried chicken and the accompanying odor that seemed to linger in the house for days.

After some fine-tuning was done to the tree, we were all summoned into the living room for the grand finale. As night approached and it started getting dark, the moment was upon us. My dad would pour another drink, dim the light in the house and plug in the tree. I guess it looked nice.

I dunno. This procedure repeated it self for at least five to seven years running. Since I wasn’t allowed to help, I never really felt part of it. Sorta like an innocent bystander about to observe the inevitable trainwreck that was sure to come. I guess “detached” would be a good word.

There’s a couple of things I’ve learned over the years…

Sure, I’ll have my fair share of holiday cheer and tilt a few back but not when she’s around. I’ve invited some friends over for a nice dinner of prime rib and shrimp appetizers, all lovingly prepared by yours truly. We had a blast putting up the tree and her hands were there to help. I’ve even managed to come to terms with my ex over the holidays as not to squabble about who’s spending how much time with who over the next couple of days. Shit, I even got her a Christmas present.

I guess what it boils down to is that I don’t want borgette’s memories to consist of fighting, bickering, chastising and any other sort of bad feelings that might arise during the holidays. They’re stressful enough, you don’t need to compound it anymore than you have to.

Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas from me and mine.

I'm already planning my new year resolutions. Number one is to enjoy life more. Number two is not to drink red wine, 'cos it makes me unpleasantly ill in even the smallest quantities. One small glass of mulled wine this lunchtime left me feeling like hell. My judgement, which is never good, was also affected, which leads me on to my third resolution: I resolve not to act like a dork, and to learn how to make small talk that extends beyond 'My, you're cute'. I'm old enough and daft enough not to be such an arse.

Now that I'm recovering from my funny turn, I'd like to wish you all a very happy Christmas. I had had a vague plan to put something of a religious nature in this writeup, but on balance, you get enough of that from me already. Instead, I hope you all enjoy whatever it is that you do, and survive it to enjoy a happy new year too.

My presence here is likely to be a little intermittent for the next three and a half weeks, as I shall be in North California. This will be my first trip to North America ever, and I'm a little apprehensive. Not just about the earthquakes and the BSE and the terror alert and the flight cancellations, either. I'm worried that I'll make a fool of myself, and say or do something hideously inappropriate because I don't know better.

It may be that all this neurosis is the product of my work being very stressful for comparatively little reward. Some of you will know that I haven't been sleeping much lately, and you may have realised that tiredness impairs my judgement. I have every intention of relaxing and not stressing for nearly a month, which should be good.

Happy Christmas

I still believe.

Exciting kidlets nestled in brand new Christmas pj's (new family tradition = new pj's on Christmas Eve to wake up fresh for Santa time!). I am truly blessed.

I think about the story of the birth of Jesus and I think if I were Mary, I would have been hella scared right about this time that year. How heavy is that, to have an angel come down and let you know you're about to bring forth the saviour? I cannot even begin to fathom it. I was terrified to bring my own regular, everyday sort of children into this world. And then I also think about the first time I laid eyes on those babes of mine, and how absolutely perfect that moment was, and I remember crying, and I bet you Mary cried too. Because savior or not, he was her son and he was a brand new baby and he needed her like no other.

Anyway, that's the sort of thing I think about around this time.

Safe holidays, everyone.

Doughnut Machine

There is a doughnut machine in Kreske's dime store. There are many wonderful things in Kreske's but the doughnut machine is my favorite. Whenever I am in Kreske's all I want to do is stand in front of the glass shield and watch doughnuts being made.

Behind the glass is a round basin of hot oil. There is a shiny steel tube posed over the edge of the basin. At regular intervals a blob of white dough oozes out of the tube and plops into the boiling oil. It has a hole in the center of it, a doughnut-in-the-making.

The doughnut travels around the perimeter of the basin. It starts to turn brown at the edges. The dough on top gets bubbly. The hole in the center gets smaller as the doughnut gets bigger. Halfway around the basin, a slotted steel arm rises from the oil. It appears under the doughnut, lifts it up and flips it over, back into the oil.

Now the doughnut is upside down in the oil. Or is it now right side up? Is this the older, more mature side of the doughnut? The color is pale but gets darker as the doughnut continues to bob around the edge of the basin.

Just before the doughnut reaches the space under the steel tube another slotted arm rises from the oil.

This second arm flips the doughnut out of the oil, through an opening in the glass wall around the basin. The doughnut tumbles down a slotted steel slide, like a playground slide, to join its older brothers and sisters. They are waiting to be powdered and sugared and put into boxes. They will go out into the world, snuggling with their siblings in a shiny white box, warm and sweet and fragrant. Yummy-yum-yum.

I always hope the second arm will malfunction and miss the doughnut. I want to see the doughnut float under the dough tube again to receive a crown of white, raw dough, then turn into twins joined head to head.

History exists only in memory.

That means that you and I, each of us, can have our own version of a shared event. Impossible? Ridiculous? Not at all.

When the Indians won we call it a massacre; when the cavalry won we call it a victory.

Someone once said that history ends with each death. I don't think so.

You are gone and I am still here. I have reconsidered our relationship; it is different than when you were alive. And you, what are you calling it now?

Victory? Massacre?

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