Saturday, April 25, 2009

Things that you should watch out when they were young...

My 6 year-old has been quite busy with our Xerox machine lately. I
didn't really pay attention to what he was doing, arts and crafts,
innocent child's play, right?

This morning, amidst the pile of strewn paper on the floor of my study, I picked
up the two pieces of Xeroxed "Honor Roll" award that his older brother
had gotten. I burst out laughing: So that's what he's been doing!

I looked around some more and found "forged" Monopoly money as well.

Do I have a master forger in the making on my hand?

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

On the Empty Seat: musings about how we all sit together, or not, on the train

Like on any public transportation, an empty space on the seat next to where you are sitting is highly coveted – this has been proven with money (after all it talks) when airlines started offering “an empty seat next to you as long as it is not a full flight” as one of the benefits for being a super premier member, the elite amongst all the elites (e.g. United Airlines’ 1K members).

I take the commuter train to and fro work every day and have been intrigued by the phenomenon surrounding the “The Empty Seat” (“TES” henceforth) Syndrome; in my perverted easily-amused mind, this is an anthropological subject waiting to happen: talk about cultural and social boundaries and unwritten rules being played out here, much like what one can observe inside an elevator. Only, on the train, I have an entire hour to watch the dance between two strangers forced to sit side by side for an extended period of time, sometimes, egads, with arms and/or legs touching!

It is curious even though there is no rule on this, it does seem that people always sit by the window if they are the first to occupy a seat. This is after all good civil etiquette. However, immediately following Rule #1, Rule #2 commands, “Unless there is NO MORE empty seat on this train cart, do NOT come sit by me! Consider TES next to me only as a last resort!” Whoever breaks Rule #2 is immediately looked upon with suspicion and even alarm.

TES is subtly guarded with vehemence – just look at the purse, the briefcase, the newspaper, the magazine, the book, the shopping bag, and the McDonald’s paper bag placed on where there another person could have been sitting. This gesture murmurs loudly, “Yes, you are of course welcome to sit here, but I’d prefer if you don’t!” Some people seem to have taken TES as their god-given right: instead of the subtle act of leaving object on TES, they simply plot themselves down PAST the invisible dividing line on the two-person seat. Men tend to do this a lot, and oftentimes I am tempted to ask whether they are ready to have the conductor punch two holes on their tickets. (And I am more than ready to punch two holes on somewhere else other than their tickets… I am passionate about things that don’t matter like this…)

The most intriguing is the act of “choosing a seat” on a train that no longer has any TES left. Every single chair is occupied, with someone sitting by the window. And here you can tell roughly what kind of person each one of us is:

Health warning: Since we are NOT in B-school and I don’t work for any of the management consulting firms, the following attempt at metaphorically grouping passengers on MY train is by no means MECE. Anybody that complains, “But it’s not MECE!” will die a horrible death…

The forever conscientious: these people, mostly women (and not young), move their belongings onto their lap as soon as they see new passengers coming. But very seldom do I see people ready to 1. move their bag all the way to the floor, 2. move themselves closer to the window so as to make more space. “Please, please, please. I want to do the right thing but please don’t pick me…”

The “I have done my share so what do you want from me”: these people will continue to do whatever they are doing. They have kept their belongs relatively close to themselves so there is still reasonable space for a relatively normal-sized person to sit in TES. Maybe they really are so engrossed in the book or the scenery outside. They will simply ignore you, and not budge while you sit down.

The “Yeah I see you but I am not happy about moving my stuff”: maybe they are simply pretending that they don’t see you coming. You need to actually ask these people, “eh, excuse me…” The nicer ones would quickly move their stuff, some even apologetically. The not so nice ones will furrow their brows as if you are asking them to give you their first born. When you sit down, you are made to feel ashamed for encroaching on their carefully constructed personal space.

The “I am sitting here and you’d better not try and squeeze in beside me”: These are the aforementioned (mostly male) passengers. Their body takes up so much space, mind you, not because they are overweight, but because they do not make the attempt to “be one with the window”. They leave so little space that only a waif could possible sit by them – perhaps that is the intention… I am not sure. Though I often, as I mentioned above, wanted to confront them, I have never actually tried to sit down, afraid that they may turn out to be truly jerk-offs – They may NOT budge an inch, and I will have to suffer either the shame of getting up from a seat and moving to another seat (a questionable act on the train unless you have an excuse that EVERYBODY else could see and could easily understand…) or the agony of being squeezed into a space fit only for a waif, for an entire hour!

Tomorrow, I will blog about the agonizing thought process of when I choose a seat on the train back: So many choices, so little time…

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Will you marry me? If I propose to you at Taco Bell?

Taco Bell has been putting clever (ok, some more than the others...)
sayings on their taco sauces for a while now. We often got a good
chuckle out of them. This one though is the first time I saw "will you
marry me?" on the package.

I have been wondering in what scenario will a girl be so elated when
she is being proposed at Taco Bell, with her mouth stuffed with rice
and beans? Perhaps a spontaneous moment would come when a young man
sees this and takes action? I guess that would be romantic.

Perchance the girl says yes, and they will celebrate with a passionate
kiss. Perhaps other patrons will even applaud, just like in the

Perhaps not.


If I were working on an ethnographic study on the Global Twitter Tribe, I would start here with Twitter Earth...

If you have some inexplicable fascination of Twitter, the much beloved or maligned or questioned (depending on you hang out with...) but can't-be-ignored, new kid on the block, by my troth! you definitely should check out Twitter Earth...
Twitter Earth is basically a 3D presentation of Twittervision, which shows every tweet, live, and where it comes from, visually. You just need to trust me and click on the link here... words failed me... which they often do... 
Whenever I clicked on Twitterearth, I found myself thinking, "Wow, I could really sit here and watch this thing all day." Meaning, instead of watching the goldfish swimming on the Aquarium screen saver, I would rather watch Tweets around the globe live in action.
Even more wishful thinking would be to watch this thing on a JumboTron...  Wouldn't it be cool to have this app running non-stop on the giant screen at Times Square?!  
p.s. To those who wonder when I will stop yapping about Twitter "Enough Already!" tomorrow, I shall yap about... t-shirts!!! 

In honor of the Bard's birthday, prithee, we should channel Katharina from The Taming of the Shrew...

Today (April 23) is William Shakespeare's 445th birthday, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daly had proclaimed last week that today would be Talk Like Shakespeare Day in Chicago, since you know, the Second City is known for its high culture and all...

Of course today is the day I wish I had ordered "Shakespeare's Insults" : Fie on thee! I knew it would have come in handy one day!

The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre was more than happy to abide and set up the Talk Like Shakespeare website. Using the latest Internet sensation, who else? Twitter! they are even providing a translation service of some sort:

"A live feed straight from the Bard!" Tweet @ShakespeareSays any modern phrase, and he'll post on Twitter what it would have sounded like four hundred years ago. Whoever is behind that, Bard? is hilariously funny. As of this moment, the latest tweet is:

"Dear Blago: The hair that covers the wit is more than the wit, for the greater hides the less."

Merry-making aside, in accordance with my persona, I would like to channel Katharina from The Taming of the Shrew... (not just for today, of course, as my poor husband would gladly point out...):

Why, sir, I trust I may have leave to speak,
And speak I will; I am no child, no babe:
Your betters have endur'd me say my mind,
And if you cannot, best you stop your ears.
My tongue will tell the anger of my heart,
Or else my heart, concealing it, will break:
And rather than it shall, I will be free
Even to the uttermost, as I please, in words.

Shrews FTW!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Say What? Only in real life would such funny things be said in a court of law. And only in America...

This email was sent to me this morning, and provided much laughter inside my head.  I believe, like all jokes being passed around on the Internet today, this has been going around for a few years, especially considering that the following quotations are from a book called Disorder in the Court: Great Fractured Moments in Courtroom History by Charles M. Sevilla, published in 1999. 
Some of the gems from's brief introduction to the book:
A psychiatrist, starting with a court assertion that "we're not arguing truth here, we're arguing evidence," declares that "I am not here using common sense, I am an expert." A defendant accused of drunken driving displays delightful candor by pleading "guilty as hell." A team of three overzealous defense attorneys beats up a client to provide evidence of self-defense.
Apparently, the following are "things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and published by court reporters that had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were taking place."

ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, 'Where am I, Cathy?'
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan!

ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.

ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there..

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: He's twenty, much like your IQ.

ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Are you shitting me?

ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: getting laid

ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
WITNESS : Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Take a guess.


ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
WITNESS: Unless the Circus was in town I'm going with male.

ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.

ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.

ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?

ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I finished.

ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Are you qualified to ask that question?

And the best for last:

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Twouble with Twitters" Funny animation vid explaining and condemning Twitter

Funny in a, "I know there is something wrong but I just can't stop it" kind of way. Sort like chocolate. Or, porn, for some people, I guess.

"Who are you talking to?"
"No one and every one!"

Someone posted link to this vid as a comment to the thought-provoking "It's Official - Twitter Is A Cult" by Jeremy Toeman. In which Mr. Toeman did an analysis, comparing Twitter to the official definitions of a cult. It is humorous yet alarming at the same time.

The entire article is here:

I am trying to cut back. But Twitter to me was like weed in the beginning. Now that I have installed Tweetdeck, it has become like crack cocain. So easy to get addicted to, so much harder to rehab.

Posted via web from The Absence of Alternatives

Wired article struck a cord and so I am copying and pasting the whole thing...

Ok. I am not really going to do this. But I just want to do something about this article: Scott Brown's "Gag Reflexes" in Wired (April 2009). The online edition has a longer title: "Scott Brown on Stand-Up Comedy, Lingua Franca of the Wired World" which sums up Mr. Brown's theory.

Maybe crumple up the page and eat it. But I already promised my husband that I will refrain from wrinkling up any magazine pages before he's done with them. (Ok. I am attempting to be funny here. If you read Mr. Brown article, you would understand why I feel exposed, caught in the act of trying to be funny. To earn more currency in this new economy...)

Is it wrong to want to quote an entire article really? Ok. Maybe not 100%. I don't really care for the examples Mr. Brown gave to support his argument. But the insights sprinkled in-between, those struck a cord.

I am no writer, and I am too tired (not to mention lazy), and here is my journal (i.e. I will do what I damn please), so I am going to jott down sentences that particularly resonate with me, and be done with it: (Thank goodness for Ctrl + C & Ctrl + V !!)

"... everything is 'material,' and life is one big writer's room, a massive clusterchuckle of witty one-upsmanship"

"More than that: Everyone must be funny. Because 'funny' is becoming a language unto itself, the lingua franca of the wired world."

Always feel this way since I got hooked on Twitter. Sometimes it feels almost like a comedy show writers' room, the pressure is on to be the next funniest. hence wisest, person in the Twitter stream that you can see.

"Humor saturates the infosphere, for at least two reasons: First, a successful joke implies insight, and insight, especially if it's pithy and self-explanatory, is the basic currency of a high-speed information economy. Second, the fundamental tools and techniques of that economy—memory, annotation, contrast, collage—are also the fundamental tools of comedy."

I absolutely agree with #1. Feeling grateful that someone actually voiced this murky concept so clearly in one single sentence. Everyone is a guru of life, and the shallow shall be deep again. Not so sure about #2 since those are the fundamental tools of storytelling, upon which human history has been, and will be, passed on. What we don't see in the histories in the past is IRONY and self-awareness, imo, which, well, make intelligent comedies.

Moreover, it has always been my one belief that a great sense of humor indicates a great presence of intellect and tolerance.

And this final quote may sound like an accusation "Gotcha!"

"If the references are flying over your head, no worries: You can zip over to Wikipedia and be back in time for the punch line."

Like I said, Google is Your Friend! Raise your hand if you have NEVER done this... Thankfully Mr. Brown provided hyperlinks to all the references he cited for the article.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Which countries lead in Teenage Drunkenness? Note to self: Do not move to Denmark...

This Daily Chart from the Economist solved it for me: have been agonizing over whether to move to Denmark since we love Legos so... Now I know with two impressionable boys, this is a country we should keep away from during their teenage years...

Denmark and excessive drinking? No surprise really, if you have seen this vid:

Lego Beer Song - The best free videos are right here

This is how you should order your fastfood! Taco Bell Drive-Thru Song

The most amazing things about this vid, in addition to the lovable singers-songwriters and the catchy lyrics and melody, are the ordering screen keeping up with the food items mentioned in the song and the drive-thru guy.

Is this truly unscripted? The drive-thru guy is not in on this? Amazing! He should definitely get a raise: THE BEST order taker at a drive-thru I have ever seen.

Posted via web from The Absence of Alternatives

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

If you like Sound of Music, you are going to love this. DO Re Mi remixed!

The beginning may be slow, but stay with it. It is so cool I am getting goose bumps all over my body just watching it now as I type this.

Posted via web from The Absence of Alternatives

If you like Sound of Music, you are going to love this. DO Re Mi remixed!

The beginning may be slow, but stay with it. It is so cool I am getting goose bumps all over my body just watching it now as I type this.

Posted via web from The Absence of Alternatives

Monday, April 6, 2009

"Man boobs", or, To raise boys you need great sense of humor...

I was finally going to go to bed but found in the dark something on my
pillow. I could tell that they are water-filled balloons since the
boys were playing with balloons in the bathtub earlier... I also felt
a note so I turned the light on again to read it. Imagine my surprise
& mixed reactions when I saw the "balloons" in this fashion... And the
note as written by my 11yo says:

It was 6 yo's idea to put them together like this and call them "man
boobs". He in now way likes this but promised to do something so only
20% his fault.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I think I will sleep for 3 hours
first then decide.


The importance of understanding Chinese...

Someone forwarded me this as a cautionary tale for people to understand the Chinese characters on the t-shirts they are wearing or, especially important, those that you are about to have tattooed on your body:

1. Pig. Not BOAR. But PIG. There is only one common Chinese word which stands for all types of pigs, but mostly the domesticated pigs, so yes, all negative stereotypes apply and don't kid yourself by saying what you have means BOAR. NOT.

2. Not sure whether she is knowingly wearing the t-shirt for shock values since it says "Love intercourse the most". 'nough said.

3. Chicken. Again, the one common Chinese character that stands for all chicken, so for example, Rooster is "male chicken", chick, "little chicken", chicken (that you eat), "chicken meat", and so on. The trouble with this t-shirt is that this word is also a slang for "hooker"...

4. The kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese) on the t-shirt says PERVERT. It would be funny if the person wearing it looked anything but...

Posted via email from The Absence of Alternatives

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Food we missed...

These things that we have taken for granted are either hard to find or ridiculously expensive...

Frozen food in general.

Cheese pizza: pizzas have to have LOTs of toppings. Tried to teach a
server at an Italian restaurant how to make cheese pizza and they came back with crust and cheese and nothing else.

Strawberry milk: we saw apple milk & even fruit milk. No luck finding low fat or no fat milk.

Cucumber: only saw small cucumbers with no visible seeds, like English cucumbers only much smaller.

Carrots that are peeled and washed; people are not as lazy... I think...

Pancakes and waffles in some fancy restaurants, especially pancakes with syrup at McDs were a big hit with my kids, but syrup seems to be a rare find: if you can have honey or jam why would you want "thickened sugar water"?

Sliced American cheese. Fancy French cheese yes. Mundane sliced American Cheese, say what?

Cream cheese: surprised to see bagels @ several restaurants, and there is even a New York Bagel Shop. But big tubs of cream cheese are not sold at stores. Naturally.

Ice cream: not difficult to find all sorts of fancy ice cream shops, and the more common ones too, in Taipei, including Cold Stone Creamery now. But our sticker shock in Beijing - 90 rmb ($15) for a tiny tub of B&J's prompted me to splurge on 3 @ 2 for $7 just now.

The small things in life...

Air China aircraft with the famous Beijing Five (Olympics mascots) pretty sure taking pics is not allowed?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

SOGO Department Store in Taipei : There is a recession here in Taiwan?

From what I was told, yes there is. 
This is inside the SOGO department store in Taipei.
So who is buying the Hermès, the Louie Vuittons, the Tods, and the Cartiers? I guess it is the same everywhere you go. The top of the pyramid is not really affected despite the global economic downturn. So they have to downsize from Mercedes Benz to Lexus. No tears from me for them...

I finally saw it with my own eyes! Sound machine inside public toilet to mask the embarrassing noise...

I have heard about this along time ago: Japanese women often flush the toilet as soon as they enter the stall to mask the embarrassing noise people naturally make when in the bathroom. This act of civility turned out to waste a lot of water resource. At first, they tried sound machines with music, etc., but still did not see significant reduction in water usage. Finally someone (or some company) came up with the idea of duplicating the sound of toilet flushing. This time, success.
I have always wanted to see one and after so many years, finally saw one in the luxurious restroom at the Takashimaya Department Store in Taipei (which also has the bidet-toilet seat...) 
I only took a picture of it (while fully clothed mind you!! Was just there to take the picture...)  But someone actually videotaped it here on Boing Boing. Glad to know I was not the only one fascinated by this thing. 

Starbucks in Beijing in the "Bar Street" @ Bei Hai (North Sea)

I have not travelled around the world enough to be a credible source, but from what I have seen, this is probably the best looking Starbucks...