Saturday, 28 December 2013

Rude Service

Usually when I go into a store to buy something I like to look for it myself. I don't like to ask someone where it is because I feel that looking around is much easier. Maybe I'm strange, but that's just the way I feel.

The other night I went into a drug store to buy something and as I was looking around for it the clerk asked me -- in English -- if she could help me. (Since I live in Taiwan, it's unusual to have someone speak English; most people would speak Mandarin -- or nothing at all -- to me.) Her pronunciation wasn't great, but there was nothing really wrong with her English. Still, I find it much easier to deal with other people in Mandarin rather than English. One of the reasons for that is that I don't like the assumption that just because I am white -- and therefore not Taiwanese -- that I am unable to speak Mandarin. Another reason is that my Mandarin is usually much better than other people's English. Not always, but chances are that if you are working as a clerk in a store -- and not at a professional job like something in a hospital, large office, or English school -- then my Mandarin in better than your English. So I told her what I wanted in Mandarin.

Now here's where we get interesting.

The clerk calls out to the pharmacist what I want and he goes to get it. I tell him I want two and he brings back two bottles. As he does do he says what it is, which isn't unusual, but how he said it was. The way he said was in Mandarin but with an inflection void of intonation. (Chinese is a tonal language, but many people misunderstand what they means. They think there are tones in Chinese, but it isn't tones, it's intonation. The same sound can have an entirely different meaning depending on whether the voice rises or falls while saying it.) The clerk then started doing the same thing.

They were, essentially, making fun of me and my Chinese. And I told them just as much.

The clerk then tried to engage me in conversation -- in English -- but I basically ignored her. I was quite insulted and upset. Finally I told her -- in Mandarin -- to just give me what I wanted.

This kind of behaviour is, quite honestly, very common. This happens to me quite often, but usually the people who do it are younger, people like children and teenagers. It most often happens in class when my students speak Chinese and I ask them to speak in English. They then repeat what they said but in a flat voice, as if they think that Mandarin spoken without intonation automatically makes it English.

That is quite annoying -- and I let my students know it isn't funny or appreciated -- but it is understandable when one considers the age and maturity of the people doing it. But to have adults do it is another thing entirely. And not just adults, but adults who work in the service industry. And not just that, but one of them -- the one who started it even -- is a pharmacist, a person who I would assume to be educated and at least semi-intelligent. Maybe I am wrong with that assumption, though.

If I can, I will be avoiding that particular drug store in the future. If they're going to treat me like that, I am not going to give them my business. I'll take my money somewhere else. I don't appreciate their attempts at humour.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Being Treated as Air

(A little background information, in case you weren’t aware of this: I am a Canadian living in Taiwan. My wife is Taiwanese and both of our children were born here. As well as my first language of English, I have also become quite fluent in Mandarin Chinese in the twelve-plus years I have been living here. I am quite capable of carrying on a conversation with anybody about anything here. The person mentioned below knows this -- or at least should know this because I have spoken with her before.)
As posted on my Facebook page: 如果我一天不想在台灣繼續住下去的話,原因就是我受不了別人認為我是空氣。
This afternoon my wife, my daughter, and I went to pick up my son from school. As we were standing there waiting for the children to be let out, one of the teachers came out to tell us – or I at least thought it was “us” – something good that my son had done that day. I was holding on to my daughter and my wife was standing right beside me. The teacher came out and started telling my wife – not me, apparently – what had happened. The interesting thing that I noted was that her eyes were focused on my wife and my wife only. They didn't register me at all. It was as if I wasn't there. To make matters worse, as they were talking, both the teacher and my wife turned their bodies to look at my son who was across the yard playing. In doing so they essentially turned their backs to me and left me standing behind them. I was effectively eliminated from the conversation.
That in itself isn't very nice, I think, and left me feeling quite strange. The big thing, however, is that the school my son goes to is a little special. They are taught the basic concepts of Buddhism and Confucianism. One of the things they are taught is that the family unit is very important. In particular, children there are taught that one's parents are very important and need to be respected. For example, all the students are expected to bow and say hello to every parent – including their own – that they see.
Should that doctrine not also extend to the teachers as well? If we as adults want children to behave a certain way, should we not act that way ourselves? As such, should the teachers not also respect the parents of the students there? One way, I would think, to show that respect is not to pretend or in any way give the impression that one parent is not even there. Because that's the way it felt to me as I was standing there. I got the feeling that that teacher didn't even know I was there, even though I was standing right beside the person she did know was there.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Love or Loathe?

I don't know whether this person really likes my post or hates it, but either way this person cant' spell.
> i read your article and loave it so much ,thank you so much.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

A Lament


The things we remember, the things we remember doing. The feelings. The lament for the times gone by, the feeling that those times are gone and may never come back again. We remember them; we miss them; we think of them from time to time and wonder where they went. Those times have gone and we wish they'd come back.

Living in the past but still living in the present. Can we live in the future? How is it possible to know what will come, what will happen? We may think we will know what is going to happen, but do we really know? Where will I be five, ten years from now. Yes, my son will be thirteen and my daughter will be eleven. But what about me? Will I still be teaching? Did I know twelve years ago that twelve years later I would be sitting here in a foreign country married with two children? Did I ever think it would be like this? No, I didn't, and so I have idea what I will be doing and where I will be doing it ten years from now.

But the problem is the past and all the things and times that have gone, gone forever. Oh, how I miss them! Well, at least some of them. I miss….how Leland used to say "Go for walk.", how we used to go out at night for a walk after I got back from school…..That was a special time. I'd be at work all day and come home after nine at night. Leland would be upstairs and be waiting for me to come home so we could go out. We'd come downstairs and put on our jackets (it was what passes for winter here at the time) and then go outside, in the dark, for a walk. I would have to carry him; he wanted me to carry him. We'd go out the gate and just walk around. There wasn't much to look because it was too dark to see much or go anywhere exciting, but we would just walk up and down the road, maybe look at the few cars that went by. Maybe come back inside and walk around our neighbourhood for a while. Those times are gone.

We used to go out after supper and look for toads. Those times are gone too, but times like that may come back. The just going for a walk times are probably gone…unless it's Kelsey who wants to go for a walk.

But….look to the future, don't live in the past. It's living in the past that puts me in these moods, puts me in these moods where I don't really want to do anything. But…these moods are probably when I do my best writing. (But don't judge my writing by this: This is just a collection of my rambling thoughts, and not "writing" at all.)


I miss the time when Leland was very young. He went to bed very early, around 7:30 at night, I think. After he went to bed, Cindy and I would go downstairs and eat a hot pot supper and watch "Heroes". At the time it seemed we had lots of free time at night. (And weren't as tired as we are now with two kids!)

Later, I knew that almost every night I had the opportunity to either exercise or ride my bike, Now I almost never do. Even on those nights when Leland goes to bed early and I do have free time, I'm too tired to really want to go out or exercise, or I'm already thinking about other stuff — like writing — that I would like to do. But of course, even those nights are only possible on those evenings when I don't have class.

Those times, like the ones I mentioned earlier, are gone, probably forever.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Parking Ticket

It looks like I got a parking ticket tonight while I was in class at 巨匠. I thought I was parked in a good spot; I was parked on 西門街 right beside the school. I thought it was an okay spot.

My questions are these: Just where are we supposed to park? Or are we not supposed to go there? Also, where do the cops — whose police station is just on the other corner from the school — park their scooters? I can understand the need to regulate where people park, but I also think a little common sense is necessary. Once again, just where are we supposed to park? There is no where else. All the scooter parking spots close to the school are already taken; one has to be very lucky to get a parking spot there. We can't park in front of the school, they've already told us that.

So where do we park? Or am I supposed to drive a car all the time? Isn't riding a scooter cheaper and better for the environment? Shouldn't they be encouraging us to ride scooters instead of driving? Giving tickets for parking in places like that when there's no where else to park is not a good way to encourage people to ride instead of drive. I think I'll be taking the car as often as I can from now on. Fortunately, with the typhoon coming, it'll probably be raining tomorrow night and so I will be taking the car. Costs me a little more money, yes, but then I don't have to put up this crap.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Classroom Rules

1. Speak English. Do not speak Chinese, Taiwanese, or anything else.

2. Listen. Pay attention. Do not talk to your classmates.

3. Look at the teacher when he is talking and when you are talking to him. Maintain eye contact.

4. Answer all questions. Be active.

        A) If you don't know the answer to a question, you can say, "I don't know."

        B) If you don't understand the question, you can say, "I don't understand."

        C) If you didn't hear the question, you can say, "Say it again, please."

5. Bring your books to class. No book, no chair.

6. Have your book and a pencil case on your desk. Nothing else.

7. Do not do homework in class or any other writing or drawing.

8. Do not put your head on your desk. Do not sleep in class.

9. Keep notes.

        A) If the teacher writes something on the board, write it in you book.

        B) If you don't have a book, write things in a notebook or on paper.

  1. 10. Be respectful and polite to everyone.
Did I forget anything? Please let me know.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Task Manager Apps

(I don’t usually do stuff like this, but this time I thought it was necessary.)

I’m the type of person who needs to keep a list of things I want or need to do. If I don’t have some kind of visual reminder to do something, I most often forget. Therefore nothing gets done and I start feeling upset with myself because I’m not doing anything. Back in the days when I was using a PDA (Palm OS), I was always adding tasks -- back in those days people called them “to dos” -- on it in order to remind myself to do them. After the PDA fad died and before I got my iPad, I used iCal on my Mac as best as I could. I tried to use my Android phone as well, but syncing was always a problem.

So when I got my iPad (and a big thank you to my wife for going out and buying me one as a surprise!) one of the things I was looking forward to was having a portable means to create, track, and be reminded of those things I wanted to do. But then I discovered one problem: The Reminders app that comes with iOS 5 isn’t the greatest.

One problem -- and the biggest issue I have -- with Reminders is that tasks created with it -- that is, on the iPad -- need to have a time set to them. Maybe there’s some way to change that, but I haven’t been able to figure out how. When I create a task, I just want to have a visual reminder that something needs to be done. If I can see it, I will remember it. If I see it often enough, I will eventually do it. With a busy work schedule and two young kids (three years and eight months), I can’t just say that I will do something at this particular time. It will get done sometime, but I can’t say when. For some reason though, Reminders always wanted me to set an alarm for a specific time every time I created a task. That was very annoying. Another issue I had with it were the lack of colours -- or any other visual clue -- for lists. I also didn’t like that I couldn’t really see what tasks were coming up. I could see all tasks for today or for a specific day, or I could see all -- today’s and all future -- tasks for a particular list, but not all tasks that were coming up in the next week, for example. I like the way iCal displays tasks and I can’t understand why Reminders doesn’t display them the same way.

So I started looking for another task manager. I should mention, however, that the biggest reason for looking for another task manager wasn’t dissatisfaction with Reminders, but with the fact that my wife also decided -- finally -- to buy me an iPod Touch. I had been wanting to get one for a while, as I can’t really afford the data plan required for an iPhone. An iPod Touch, I thought, would give me the functionality I wanted (something akin to a PDA and a portable music player) that I couldn’t get from an iPad (in-my-pocket-portability). The problem with the Touch, however, was that she got me a refurbished second generation one, and those ones can only handle iOS 4.2 and therefore cannot access iCloud. So I couldn’t use Reminders with it.

Then I found Wunderlist which fulfilled the requirements of giving me a task manager on my Mac, on my iPad, and on my Touch. But then I discovered more issues. A lot of those issues are similar to what I mentioned above. The problem with describing those issues, however, is that each version of the Wunderlist app did things a different way, so detailing those issues would take a long time and would probably more than you want to read. That, in itself, was a big issue as well: I couldn’t understand why the apps for the Mac, the iPad, and iPhone were so different. I can understand there being some differences between them as screen real estate and how things work differ between he three mediums, but it felt like going from one device to the other was like using a totalling different interface. Another issue was the syncing. It worked fine, but I couldn’t understand why I always seemed to manually have to do it. Most of the time the task count on either my iPad or Touch was wrong. Every time I opened the app, I had to manually sync my tasks. Quite annoying. The nice thing about Reminders is that it syncs with the cloud automatically upon launch. And then every time I synced, Wunderlist would switch to a view of a different list than the one I wanted, which was usually “Today”.

So let me tell you what I want in a task manager. I want to be able to easily create a task and in the process set the due date, the list, and the priority. Wunderlist wouldn’t let me do that. Creating a task with it seemed to be a two- or three-step process. I want to be able to view tasks that are due today and those that are due in at least the next few days. Neither Reminders nor Wunderlist did that. I want to be able to see at a glance which list each task belongs to. Once again, neither one did that. In all fairness, the Wunderlist app for the Mac did that, but there is a problem with spacing. If I have many tasks spread across three or four lists, they wouldn’t all show on the screen at the same time. (I could make the window larger, I know, but I don’t want it to be too big.) I want my tasks to be in the cloud, updated and synced almost immediately, and accessible on every device I own.

Let me now say that I think I have found an app that does what I want it to. I discovered, purchased, and trialled 2Do from Guided Ways Technologies. So far it has been doing everything I would like it to do. It's a universal app, and therefore runs on both my iPad and my Touch. It syncs with iCloud, so my tasks are both in iCal and on my devices. And it displays things the way I would like them displayed. I'm not exactly happy about having to pay for an app when free ones are available, but the cost is not a lot and there is nothing wrong with having to pay for a quality app. So far, so good. I think I'll be sticking with 2Do for a long time.