I've really got no idea what I'm doing, but this is, as they say, familiar territory for me.
I don't know whether teaching is an art or a science. I hope it's both and that it's ok if I mix in a little more of one than the other. If not, I've been doing it wrong since 1998.
An incredibly interesting semester seems to be upon us. For the first time in a long time, there appear to be fewer restrictions on what & how to teach.
I am fortunate to be working in a school with a new campus and equipment that was in sight of cutting edge when the purchase orders were approved for it last year. I'm also lucky enough to have at least several students out of over 100 that are motivated to learn and to create.
Like any other school in Taiwan, there are communication problems, misunderstandings, and extended periods of mind-numbing annoyance. There is a certain equilibrium between students that have changed my hair color from what it looks like on my ID photo to what it looks like on my head, and the students who snooker me into thinking that ok, perhaps I can do this teaching thing for just one more year.
I need to work out which set is more detrimental to my well-being.
February 20, 2013
I've really got no idea what I'm doing, but this is, as they say, familiar territory for me.
February 15, 2013
|I Get Knocked Down...And I Get Up Again|
Actually, when we say "eenie, meenie, miney, moe" the Japanese say, "Darumasan ga korounda" which means, Mr Daruma falls down, but he gets back up. There's a lesson in perseverance to be had.
This particular Darumasan was waiting in the downstairs lobby of the American Institute in Taiwan's Kaohshiung branch office where we went a few weeks back to get my daughter's passport sorted out. I asked the guard what this guy was called in Chinese, and he wasn't too sure. He guessed that it was DaMo. I'm not too sure.
|Gods Visiting a Local Shrine for the Holiday.|
|It doesn't matter what the dishes are, but the gods have to have 12 of them.|
Food is all well and good, but we like to have a little walking around money, and so do the gods. God money comes in all denominations, and is often budgeted strictly for clothes or certain kinds of food.
|This is called Shou-shen. It's money used to grease the wheels in heaven and attract blessings.|
|This is for kids. When kids have a problem, this is what the gods are given to bless the young-uns.|
|Money to burn.|
|Da Jia Gong Xi|
|The statuary gets red envelopes, too.|
Haphazardly thrown together by Paul Batt at 2/15/2013 11:31:00 PM
January 25, 2013
July 26, 2012
I got one of those emails the other day. You know the kind I mean. 18 point font, lots of exclamation points, multi-colored text. And, unfortunately, the sender hasn't realized the function of the BCC window in his email composer, so the entire CC list of 83 email addresses was before me. If I were a nefarious individual, which I claim not to be, I might try to do something nefarious with such a long CC list.
Is this short enough to quote here?
Attorney General Holder says,
"WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO POSSESS GUNS"TAKES 10 SECONDS ... DO IT AND PASS IT ONGuess they were not happy with the poll results the first time, so USA today is running another one...Vote now...Attorney General Eric Holder, has already said this is one of his major issues. He does not believe the 2nd Amendment gives individuals the right to bear arms. This takes literally 2 clicks to complete. Please vote on this gun issue question with USA Today. Then pass the link on to all the pro-gun folks you know. Hopefully the results will be published later this month.Here's what you need to do:First - vote.Second- Send it to other folks,then we will see if the results get published.Click to vote:
Sure, why not. In my email, the font is HUGE, and I swear there are five different colors. I voted, and the pro-gun-control folks were taking a shellacking, 98%-2.
This may be the third time I've gotten such an email from this older relative of mine, and each warning is just as preposterous as the one previous. Normally what I do, is I check Snopes.com for the history of the story, and then email everyone on the CC list back, and entreat them not to take such foolishness to heart.
But this gun control discussion, needs to open up. It needs to be a dialogue. We need to find common ground and hold it. So, I wrote back.
Can anyone give me some context for the alleged stance of Eric Holder towards your right to have a gun to protect your castle? Any video, or links to his comments on the matter. As much as I would like to take the original poster's word for it, I have no idea who the gentleman is and you know what Mom said about accepting shiny (or large multi-colored font-laden) things from strangers.Also, I'd expect the results of this sort of poll to be somewhat skewed as gun rights supporters are the ones who are actively passing this around. I'm also pretty sure that USA Today does not have as wide a readership as one my suspect, but no matter.I hope you get to keep your guns. I would hate to see on the news what would happen if the police/army attempted to go house to house and pry them out of your cold dead hands. Besides, apart from the time a teenager, pointed a loaded shotgun in my face, I'm sure most gun owners teach their kids to handle weapons responsibly, and the occasional 4 year old that takes one to school and blows away a classmate is just acceptable to ensure our wider freedoms. I think the guy I knew in college who shot off his Glock in the middle of town, pointing just over the tree line knew what he was doing, because he'd had military training...driving tanks. But I digress. We've made our bed, let's get comfortable in it.There are tons of stories on the net about people who have interfered with robberies, burglaries, home invasions, attempted rapes, etc. and shot the suspect dead. I know this because it's easy to find these stories on the net. It's just as easy to find stories about kids who take guns to school, or who are accidentally killed by firearms. These two kinds of sites are separated by some great divide where neither side appears to care much what they other one says. Our nation is so polarized and isolated that I think the chances of us getting together and making progress with a national dialogue is impossible because we've accepted the demonization of anyone who believes differently from us.I know gun people. I am not one. The ones I know who are irresponsible are by far in the minority. The sample size, however, is extremely limited as I live in Taiwan, where citizens don't have the right to purchase guns. (I've digressed before, I reserve the right to do again...there are stories of soldiers serving their compulsory military service standing on guard duty who have shot each other with their M-16's because they haven't been taught gun safety. The problem got so bad, that the bases stopped equipping guards with ammunition. Gangsters then drove up to the bases and stole the weapons from the hapless guards. There's a lesson for someone in there somewhere.) None of the gun people I know have cases of AK47's in their basements, or have purchased 100 round drum magazines. I think this is because for personal safety, these are not convenient tools for the job of getting the stranger off of your front porch.Surely there must be some people, though, in this Cc: list that consider themselves to be ProLife and who pray and struggle every day with knitted brow for an answer to end to deaths of innocents. To stand for something so noble is to be applauded. As the gun industry is almost entirely unregulated, aren't firearms providers just as culpable as abortion providers?I voted in the survey, btw. My side is taking a beating.Peace and Love to you all,
So I waited to see what might happen. I was immediately inundated with emails!
Apparently, someone's address book isn't up to date, and I got a lot of "there's no such address" replies from robots.
The next day, however, I got a living breathing person to reply. She works for an insurance company and asked me to take her off her mailing list. Swing and a miss, for dialogue.
The next response was from Caroline H. who suggested the wording of the USAToday poll may have helped to slant the results. She suggested the question be "SHOULD the 2nd Amendment give citizens to right to bear arms?" instead of "does" and she would be hesitant to say yes. Baseball metaphors, while All-American and therefore Good, will not play out very well here because I'm either going to strike out, or get a piece of something. I'm not looking to knock anything out of the park here. If we're going to have a national dialogue, we're going to have to stop arguing and start listening to what the other side's concerns are.
There was another response when I woke up from David S:
It took only three emails from human beings before Godwin's Law was invoked. Still, David and I are on different sides of this vast ideological gap. And he WROTE to me. It could be that I'm taking this email as an attempt to open a dialogue in the same way that I think that the cute Barista at Starbucks is hitting on me. Whether or not, he's typing on autopilot, I wrote back to him this morning:First I want to make it clear that I am a Life Member of the NRA (National Rifle Association}.For those of you that are not aware of a piece of Horrific history, in 1938 +/- a year or so, Adolf Hitler has all civilians turn in their firearms.This was quickly followed up by the Holocaust!I strongly urge that we tell the "liberals" in Washington to keep their hands off our Second Amendment rights
Dave, thank you so much for writing back to me.You are absolutely right about Hitler. However, I think you may be drawing a comparison that is a bit of a leap. I don't think that you are directly comparing our leaders in Washington to Hitler, nor do I imagine that you feel that our men in uniform from the top down would stage a coup and attack civilians at large.As an NRA member, you're obviously a gun owner. If you've ever made purchases online, I think there's an option where you can round up your total to the next dollar and donate to the NRA. I don't think the battle over gun control has anything to do with taking away your 2nd Amendment Right to bear arms, but more with the NRA's desire to maintain this crucial influx of donations. Call it the trickle up theory if you will.If you look at the phrase in question, "Gun Control,"--yes, I've seen the bumper sticker about steady hands--there is nothing at all that leads me to believe that anyone wants to take away your right to have guns. But, we do need more controls on what can be purchased.There's a reason that you can drive a pickup truck down the street, but not a McLaren F1 race car. Those cars are not street legal. I could buy a Bugatti Veyron, with a top speed of over 250 miles an hour, but if I drove it that fast in the city, I would have troubles. If I had the money, and new how to fly, I could buy a jet, but I can't buy an F-16. They are regulated. There are certain drugs that can be purchased, and certain ones that have not been approved for consumption by Americans.Cars must be registered with the government. Your marriage, your house, your business, maybe farm equipment? I don't know. Elevators must be registered and inspected. Public fountains that feature lighting, must pass government safety standards. Doctors, lawyers, HAIRDRESSERS have to be licensed by some form of government regulation.Yet, the argument is that registering guns limits your freedom. The purpose of a gun is to kill. And the industry is so loosely regulated that there are millions of guns all over America in who knows whose hands?Cat's out of the bag. The guns have spread through both legal and illegal channels. They're out there. And there doesn't seem to be anything we can do about it.I understand that in Juneau, Alaska where there is a high percentage of concealed carriers that the crime rate is quite low. I've read those studies, and I do not believe as I once did that all guns were bad. I know that it's a sport, I know that people hunt with them, and that they need them for protection.What I don't understand is the availability of semiautomatic assault rifles with high volume magazines. An assault rifle, by its name is not a defensive weapon. Does anyone need 100 rounds at their fingertips to do anything except shoot at a lot of .... people?The reason that I'm worked up and writing about this now--and I thank you greatly for reading this far--is that NONE of the things that would have disallowed this guy in Colorado from making those purchases online. He had no criminal record, he had no documented history of mental illness like the guy at Virginia Tech. In a few weeks, this guy purchased 6000 rounds, body armor, and guns. Are these not signs that he was planning to do something? They were, but we would have no way of noticing them, because...why?If he had been limited to a 12 round magazine, he still would have killed people. And we would still be saying "What a shame, what a shame." But the body count would not have been nearly so high.Sorry for going on so long. Thank you for taking the time to read this far. If we can continue to have a discussion on this topic, I would feel honored.
Haven't heard back from him yet. But I would like to ask him or anyone, if assault weapons are acceptable products for sale to the general public, what about hand grenades? Landmines? I almost had a boss who owned a few Sherman tanks, but that was a little different. Where, indeed, do you draw the line?
Haphazardly thrown together by Paul Batt at 7/26/2012 12:44:00 AM
June 19, 2012
Remember, no matter how long you've lived abroad, you have the right to vote in Federal elections. U.S. election laws have changed, so no matter what you've done in the past the safest thing is to register or to request a ballot every election year.
Step 1: Go to www.votefromabroad.org and request your ballot.
Step 2: Print your ballot request, sign it and mail to the address required.
Step 3: When you receive your ballot, go vote!
Haphazardly thrown together by Paul Batt at 6/19/2012 05:22:00 PM
May 08, 2012
I was at the park with my delightful daughter last night, alternating between pushing her on the swings, doling out the M&M's, and sipping on a cup of cheap, but overpriced coffee from 7-11. Each time I go to this park, people talk to me. It's nice when it's not an interrogation. That is, it's good not to be ostracized as "That Big-Nosed Foreigner," but it's good when there's a little give-and-take in the conversation.
Bumped into a couple of Mormon missionaries, late, after the park lights came on. They sort of arrived out of nowhere, announced by the bright white shirts subdivided by black ties, before their faces came into focus. Nice guys.
We didn't talk about Romney. We just, y'know, "shot the shit" as they like to say. I think sometimes, when you're a missionary, you need a break and maybe it's just good to talk to someone from "back home." Who knows. They'd been on the island for three months and six months, so they....
.... I can't even remember what it felt to be three months into a stay in Taiwan. I think I probably still looked at Western faces on the street in the hope that they might be willing to spare a moment or two for idle small-talk. Christ, how long has it been since I felt like that....
I tell my students, occasionally, if they are looking for someone to practice English with, taxi drivers are possibly the worst choice, but Mormons are a pretty good bet, but they should be approached with care. With a plan. The game, I told them, they could play was, how many questions can I ask before they talk about The Book of Mormon? I usually stretch the conversation towards 5 minutes before they bring up their church about the same time that I remember my appointment.
It's a bit of a rude game, but I'm getting better at it.
Last night, we discussed reasons for coming to Taiwan, plans for the future, foods, courses of action for language learning, who learns Taiwanese vs who learns Mandarin. We talked about the Mormon settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois that I visited as a child, finding common ground. As individuals, they were friendly, interesting, and polite when I told them that as a potential convert, they would be best to write me down as a "lost cause."
I didn't bring up coffee, or multiple wives, or ask them if they took their family dogs on vacation tied to the roof of the car. I didn't think to ask about baptizing Anne Frank. I have my opinions about missionaries, and they likely have their opinions about dirty hippies. But it was nice to have a relaxing, late-evening conversation in a park, with a couple of kids from back home.
My daughter was tired of the conversation before I was and reminded me that it was time to go get her brother from math class. We said goodbye and got on the scooter. Before I left the park, I zipped around and found them unlocking their bikes and told them the story which is my reason for not giving Mormons shit when they come up to me:
When I first came to Taiwan, 12 years ago, and was lost on the weekends and couldn't find my way on a map, I used to walk to the nearest major intersection and wait for the Mormons to come around on their bikes, because they were not only the most-visible Westerners in the city, they were also the ones who were most likely to know where shit was.
So, fellas, I continued, if you go two years and don't make a single conversion, you may well make an impact in other ways.
Just a note about a conversation. Please do not seize this opportunity to contact me regarding The Book of Mormon, or services at the local temple. I'm not interested. But, feel free to see me for a chat on the street.
September 14, 2011
Last weekend, on the Sunday morning, early, we put on our go-to-meetin' finery and set off, map in hand, for family pictures on the kindergarten's dime, being our dime, as we pay the tuition and they don't just give services away for free. The invitation said 0900 in a such an obscene manner that you couldn't imagine. There's no good reason to be up that early on any Sunday. And to be lost amongst Chinese street signs makes the injury a double blow.
Car radio don't work, wife slept late, kids are hungry. And picky. We left the house at five minutes before we were to arrive across town at the photo studio. The street signs weren't making any sense. Our target was just this side of Chungde Road off to the right on a side street. We missed it the first time. As well as the second. The fourth time around the block, I opened Google Maps and experimented with several spellings before giving it up as a poor investment in my sanity.
After an exploration off to the right which turned up nothing more interesting than a hospital, I asked Maggie what the big, black box on the lower left represented. Turns out it was the B&Q on the Northeast side of town. There were other strange illustrations as well, perhaps the most interesting of which being an upside down isoceles triangle pointing at the character 北, which it may be helpful to point out indicates the general position of North on the map.
"What stupid Motherfucker puts 'North' at the bottom of a goddam map?" is a sentence pattern which you would be surprised to hear my sweet four-year old daughter spit out before she hears me repeat it a few more times and I hope it shall never come to that for as it is the only person I've encountered who sees this as normal is a Taiwanese photographer who uses a printed backdrop of a grand staircase in his studio for family portraits for people who want that fake I'm-in-the-money look.
There was no hurry to get there, though. Although all the graduating Kindy kids were supposed to be there, few could find the place.
Both the kids and both the adults in our family thought the photographer was an asshole. From the over the top costumes from 1001 Nights to the gimcracks the assistant put in Gretchen's hair we wanted out. I pulled Maggie aside, conferred with out eyes, and understood that we weren't buying any of it. And this was before he started whistling to get my daughter's attention as if she were a showdog.
Haphazardly thrown together by Paul Batt at 9/14/2011 12:37:00 PM
Haphazardly thrown together by Paul Batt at 9/14/2011 12:15:00 PM
October 10, 2010
The stars of the dolphin show at the ocean park in Hualien are likely more intelligent than the presenters. But they were both light years ahead of the volunteer from the audience, a ten-year-old boy who was asked to give an addition or multiplication problem whose answer would be ten or less. The dolphin was to give the answer with slaps of his tail. But the kid couldn't come up with the question, instead settling on the tired and true fallback of "I don't know." This went on for far too long before the bubbly host went for the fake and told the kid to whisper in her ear what his question for the bottle-nosed dolphin was. " Eight Plus Two" she shouted to game approval from the crowd of a couple hundred. The dolphin gave the answer with ten slaps of the tail and the crowd was about as excited as you could imagine. The audience volunteers were to be given prizes in exchange for their cooperation and an assistant emerged with a picture of the mascot with maybe a button attached to it. The reticent child spoke distinctly when he said into the microphone not "Thank You" but "Can I change it for something else?" to which a few dozen audience members quickly fell just short of booing to show the brat their disappointment. We all watched on the giant screen as he scampered up the steps of the arena to meet his approving mother.
Haphazardly thrown together by Paul Batt at 10/10/2010 07:21:00 PM
August 13, 2010
On The Road Not Taken, by Robert FrostRefresh your memory if you haven't read it in awhile. It's good for you. Skip down to the end if you're lazy.
21. What do you think the poem means? What is the poet telling the reader about?
|TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,|
|And sorry I could not travel both|
|And be one traveler, long I stood|
|And looked down one as far as I could|
|To where it bent in the undergrowth;||5|
|Then took the other, as just as fair,|
|And having perhaps the better claim,|
|Because it was grassy and wanted wear;|
|Though as for that the passing there|
|Had worn them really about the same,||10|
|And both that morning equally lay|
|In leaves no step had trodden black.|
|Oh, I kept the first for another day!|
|Yet knowing how way leads on to way,|
|I doubted if I should ever come back.||15|
|I shall be telling this with a sigh|
|Somewhere ages and ages hence:|
|Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—|
|I took the one less traveled by,|
|And that has made all the difference.|
And the student's response:
I'll admit there was a WTF moment upon reading the answer, but then I looked at a couple lines of the poem, figured, yeah, why not, and gave him full marks.
He is a traveler, I think. Maybe it's about love, so he needs to choose which would be the better one. He decided to break up with two girls at the same moment.
- Yellow, in Chinese, can mean pornographic, as in "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood."
- The line "...I stood/and looked down one as far as I could/To where it bent in the undergrowth/ Then took the other, as just as fair" certainly could be interpreted as being "Yellow" as they say around here.
- But the next phrase about the fair one "...having perhaps the better claim/ Because it was grassy and wanted wear" hits it out of the park.
I shall indeed be "telling this with a sigh/somewhere ages and ages hence" whenever I teach this poem as a morality tale about running around with loose women. God bless that kid. Drove me crazy all year long and then provided me with the biggest gut laugh I've had in quite some time this morning.