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Archive for April, 2011

Earthquaking again!

Earthquake 050 of the year was respectable, and one of the first I’ve seen close to New Taipei City.  Usually they’re down in the south or east, but we just had a 5.7 up here.  It was pretty strong!  Everything’s okay, although I was quite surprised.  I bet it would have been madness on the 10th floor.

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Oasis

The signs said pumpkin, but I lean toward squash.

Taipei is by no means a concrete jungle devoid of green, but what it does lack is open spaces.  The Flora Expo satisfies that need and adds in vast beds of flowers and shady groves of trees.  One of my favorite parts was the bower of ornamental pumpkins, squashes, and tomatoes, partly for their shade value, and partly because they have such a clean smell: not sweet like flowers or cold like pines, but rather a green and summery smell that is very refreshing.  Whenever athelas is mentioned in Lord of the Rings, I think of this smell.  Well, that or rosemary.

Speaking of rosemary, let’s address one of the problems of learning Chinese: you can’t just look at it and sound it out.  When you try (as I often do), you often mix sounds together.  Rosemary is a perfect example.  When I saw the sign nestled in the stalks, I thought “I can read that!  That’s mí​moxiāng​!  What an amusing and adorable name.”

Well, a little research once I got home revealed that 迷迭香 is actually pronounced mí​dié​xiāng​, and I was confused because I fused two characters into one sound sometime back in my memory.

This was a soccer stadium, but I'm not sure if these are the stands or just part of a courtyard.

Other highlights of the Expo were the temple fighters and the culture pavilion in general, as well as the country pavilions from Japan, the US, Taiwan, and others.  I’ll come back to these in future posts.

Most of my enjoyment of the Expo came from basking in the masses of flowers and the smells of so much greenery.  I’ll leave you with a double rainbow that I saw in spite of the muggy and rainless weather.

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Technological difficulties

I went to the Flora Expo today (by free bus; my favorite kind!) and took many wonderful pictures and videos.  However, my Bluetooth connection is acting up, so I can’t get the pictures onto my computer.  Please patiently bear with me and check out this bizarre and random “Florapedia” page on the Expo’s website.

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Too much money

Last night, my class was about jobs and related vocabulary.  After a sincerely difficult yet ultimately successful search for “baker,” we started to discuss the concept of a rewarding job.  I defined rewarding as a job that perhaps doesn’t pay much but still makes you happy and satisfied.  Usually, people consider teaching a rewarding job, but the first suggestion a student pulled off the page was sales rep.  Blinking with confusion, I turned to the other two students and asked “What else?”  They suggested firefighter and police officer, but when I tendered teacher, they weren’t having it.  They thought teachers were too well paid!

Perhaps my explanation was off, or maybe it’s just a cultural thing.  Would you explain rewarding a different way?  I’m always looking for the clearest and simplest way to put things…

Oh, one last thing: the one studying to be a baker will eventually head a factory of some sort.  How do you explain that one?!  I eventually came up with “baking engineer!”

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Sunrise, sunset

It’s the end of the read-a-thon and I pretty much had my nose or ears buried in a book except for three hours between 6 and 9am. The final challenge is just a good wrap-up, so here goes.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
I had trouble at 6am, when I had been awake for nearly a day save a quick nap just before the kick-off of the read-a-thon.  I believe that was hour 10 or 11.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
I find a good humorous book is an excellent choice.  Mary Roach always does it for me, delivering facts and funny about interesting topics.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the read-a-thon next year?
Make sure comments work across all blogs.  Blogger has the potential to be a really unfriendly platform, and I couldn’t participate in at least one challenge because of it.  Also, the number of challenges focusing on romance or supernatural romance seemed higher than one might expect.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s read-a-thon?
The challenges were mostly pretty good and my personal scheduling was way better than last year, although it still left something to be desired.

5. How many books did you read and what were the titles?
I read 4 books: I finished Catch-22 and Witches Abroad, but I also worked on Packing for Mars and The Return of the King.  I also read a bit of Cracked now and again!

6. Which book did you enjoy most?
It’s hard to say, although I guess it’ll have to be Packing for Mars. Not only did it make me giggle, it also flies by!

7. Which did you enjoy least?
Hyperion.  I only persisted because I went out walking and had no other audiobook choice.  Towards the end of my stroll it started to improve, and I’ll probably finish it because I do a lot of walking here, but as it stands, I’m not reading the next books in the series.

8. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I think I will definitely go for it again in October, since I’ll be preparing to go home and I’ll really be under pressure to clear out my bookshelves!  I might host a mini-challenge or cheerlead for an hour or two.

While I read for 21 hours out of 24, my actual reading time was closer to 15.5 hours due to participating in read-a-thon events and other necessary tasks such as food.  I’m still really satisfied with this, and consider it to have met my goal.  Goals for next time: read less library or other borrowed books, and more of my own mess!

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Catch-22

Two-word verdict: Endlessly frustrating.

I have been told Catch-22 is a modern classic, one that at least one friend has already told me he loved, but I can’t see the art.  The humor is black–which isn’t usually a problem for me–but so bitter, and Heller seems to glory in writing the most contradictory characters I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.  Complex characters are great, but these aren’t complex; they’re just lists of adjectives with a hearty helping of idiocy.

Outside of their chapters, the characters are generally indistinguishable, even after the adjectives Heller has so generously lavished on them.  The non-linear nature of the story only adds to the confusion.  In addition, the utter lack of admirable characters or even characteristics is quite depressing.  This must have been to add humor, but I kept thinking of the Daffy Duck cartoons where he does nothing but frustrate an innocent through deliberate stupidity, or the Grover bits on Sesame Street where, in his willful ignorance, he succeeds in aggravating people almost to tears.  Yes, Catch-22 is making me dredge up my half-remembered childhood television issues.

On the bright side, Snowden’s death, when it finally came, was very well-written and gave me a little insight into Yossarian at the last.  Too, while I was irritated by the depression brought on by the never-ending stupidity and slavish bureaucracy, it was a little refreshing to read a World War II novel not populated by noble deeds and great men.  The greatest generation can be bad for the ego…

I’ve finished a “work of literature,” and I don’t have to worry about it any more.  Also, I now know precisely what catch-22 means: you can only understand Catch-22 if you read it, but you can only read Catch-22 if you don’t want to read it.  Or something like that.

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I suppose they’re reading Lolita in Chinese in Tehran?  I’ve read two out of three of these, although not during the read-a-thon.

Thanks for the fun challenge, Kate!

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