Recently in 台灣 Category

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So it turns out that essay, which I thought was due last Friday, is actually due this Friday. So here I was this morning, waking up at 12:30pm, going oh f*ck, i was supposed to go try and turn it in this morning, then i called my classmate who gave me the lowdown. That's OK, at least I have the bulk of it done. I'll add a semblance of structure to it tomorrow, it'll make me feel better.

It turns out--now that I've used it more extensively--this keyboard I bought is actually harder on wrists. I mean, the keys give more resistance. But the keyboard on my laptop is a bit too high, though it's softer. Moral of the story--you want a soft keyboard that's at the right height.

But the mouse was such a good investment. Even Yoshida, who came in and stole it one day, said he really liked it.

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「找你七百八十,謝謝。」 I collected the change and the receipt and placed them on top of the copy of the 廣韻 that i just bought. I lowered this system that I had just created, intending to slide the change into my hand and transfer it to my pocket. The coins slid. A 10-NT coin flew off, obeying the laws of projectile motion, diving into the gap behind the bookshelf. Crap. The woman looked up, saw nothing of interest, and looked back down again.

I never did get that coin back.

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I never noticed before, but there's a 蓮霧 (rose apple) tree that grows behind our dorm, near the end of the low wall that everyone steps over to get to the rest of the campus. 蓮霧s, I learned last Thursday, grow in groups of three. The reason why the ones you buy at the market are all big is because they pluck out two of the fruits when they first start growing. That way, the one that's left grows bigger.

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i hate watching movies downstairs. it's always this constant fight against mosquitoes, so you can't properly enjoy the movie. unless you go in with full body armor. they'll hunt out whatever exposed skin you have: forehead... neck... fingers...

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so I finally figured out why my EasyCard (for metro, bus, etc.) beeps angrily at me every time I use it. apparently, it does that when your remaining balance is less than 100.

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i don't think i've ever seen a mango seed before, i thought as i cut it open. it was one of the mangos that Jaakko left today, since he's going back to Finland. he left a whole bunch of stuff for the second floor, including tea, oatmeal, and four mangos placed in the yellow doggie dish he ate his oatmeal in. (i guess he didn't want the dish, either.) jaakko is one of the most thoughtful people i know.

all the food i got when i was little was all prepared for me. i didn't understand the cooking process, nor was i terribly interested in it. it took me years to figure out that the 菠菜 that I ate at home was the same as the spinach that Popeye had on TV, and probably several more years before I knew what spinach looked like before it was cooked. The first time I cooked spinach, I was amazed at how it shrunk into that familiar spinach shape i was used to. I suppose I still am.

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is it true that you talk more when you're in a good mood?

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i had to go to the library today to find some austronesian grammars, and to my chagrin discovered that they were enforcing a mask-wearing rule. all library patrons must put on a face mask, so as to prevent the spread of SARS. i must admit, this seems rather excessive to me. i mean, whoever heard of getting SARS at the library? so i had to run over to familymart (right next to the library--i suppose they're in cahoots) and get a mask. i chose a sensibly plain-looking mask, and discovered after opening the package that the mask, far from being plain, sported the bottom half of the likeness of a teddy bear. oh well. there goes 27 cents. i mean, nt dollars.

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i don't think i had a satisfactory introduction to syntax. in other words, in an introductory phonology class, you pretty much learn the basics of what you need to know to analyze a language's sound system. basically, this involves finding out what the sounds are, and the constraints and/or rules that govern how these sounds are put together (into syllables, etc.).

syntax, on the other hand, seems so much more complex. let's say that syntax involves finding out what the units that make up a sentence are, and the constraints and/or rules that govern how these units are put together. with phonology, there's, say, a couple dozen vowels and consonants (leaving aside sign language phonology for now); with syntax, you get into words, which fall into word classes like noun and verb and preposition, and then semantic roles like agent and patient, and then case marking like nom and acc and instrumental and ablative and what-have-you. And then what of tense and aspect, and subjects and predicates and objects, and basic word order SVO or SOV, and what about subjects of intransitive verbs, and ergativity? in short, what does one need to know in order to describe the syntax of a language? and, shouldn't the basics of this be taught in an intro to syntax course? and why, in the intro to syntax course that i took, did i not learn these basics? all i got was lots of hpsg propaganda.

oh well. must stop typing. but you syntax folks out there (you[singular] know who you are), what do you think? is syntax really that complex? shouldn't i be able to flip open any intro-to-syntax book, look up "aspect", and find a list of all possible aspects? just like, i should expect to be able to find a list of velar consonants, phonation types, etc. in an intro-to-phonology book.

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this morning i went to the 水煎包 place for breakfast. it’s hot—very hot—the calm before the storm, Typhoon Kujira which is taking its time to get here. the lady next to me comments on the weather. “今天很 lè,” she says. the 老闆娘 (the woman who runs the place) replies. “not ‘lè,’” she says, correcting her. “it’s ‘rè’!” we laugh.

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I'm feeling off-kilter, so i decide to take an afternoon nap. Not that it helps much. I enter a gay bar and sit down, waiting for the waiter to ask me what i want to drink. i find that he seems to be categorically ignoring me (which is just as well, so now I don't have to pay), so i get up for what i came for in the first place: in a shelf behind me is some stuff that i've been storing here. I kneel down to pull out the calligraphy paper. I've been meaning to write since that calligraphy exhibit at the 故宮. I like bold, geometric, masculine strokes. Whatever that means. But i have to hurry up, the taxi outside is waiting for me. i hesitate. should i take the brush, or not? as i recall, the brush was a crappy one, so i might as well buy a new one. whatever. i stuff everything into my backpack and rush out. the taxi is still there, but the driver is talking on her cell phone. as we drive along, i look at the name on her cell phone. it turns out she's talking to Third Aunt--her daughter's name is there, Caller-ID'd for me to see. The driver's speaking Cantonese, but i don't think anything of it. Someone's very sick, apparently. They must be talking about Uncle. I realize that i haven't yet told the driver where i want to go yet. she continues blazing a path south down Roosevelt Road. At least it's the right direction. But I don't have my glasses on, so i have no idea where i am. maybe we've passed 台大 already. i don't want the main gate, i need to get back to my dorm. um, "siji?" I venture. she's talking away on her phone, not really paying attention to the road. she's actually kind of looking sideways. but here we are going 30km/hr and magically avoiding pedestrians and stationary objects. it is at once vaguely harrowing and at once not. as i struggle to pull out my glasses, she finally finishes her phone conversation.

"xinhai lu gen fuxing nan lu de lukou," i tell her. we're on our way. "你點樣識講廣東話嘅?" she asks me, in Cantonese. funny, i don't remember speaking Cantonese to her, but I guess I must have. I tell her. "Did you come to Taiwan to study?"

"Yes... Did you come here to... well, I guess you didn't come to drive a taxi."

"No."

"You know, you were just talking to my aunt," I tell her, still in Cantonese.

"Oh really? What a small world," she responds, though she doesn't act particularly surprised.

The ride back to my dorm is taking longer than expected. Now I'm at the hospital. i took a plane back to the states. why? something about my passport, although now that i'm here, i think they could just as easily have taken care of it in Taiwan. oh well. it's good to be back. i get to see my sister, and everyone. i'm sitting in a waiting room of some sort. I can see my uncle and aunt and all my relatives in the next room, but they don't see me yet. now i'm talking to him. he seems quite healthy, not really sick at all. you can't really tell there's been a sickness eating away at him for months, maybe years. i came here to see you, first thing, i tell him.

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it's been getting hotter lately. 台北 weather is so weird, it's freezing one day and hot the next.

in an unfortunate turn of events, the class i went to today, taiwanese lexicon, sucked. not to be unfair to the professor... but i wasn't really sure what the class was about, even after sitting there for over three hours (it seemed like a lot of dictionary looking-up), and on another front, i don't know enough taiwanese to appreciate it properly. now i have to hunt for 3 units so it adds up to 15...

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Went to the library to watch Chungking Express yesterday. I've been meaning to watch it. Ever since I watched it with Wills, I think of it as a birthday movie, of sorts. The guy in the movie is 24, turning 25. Just like me, this year. Running in the rain has always held a certain appeal to me. I was going to go today, but I ended up sleeping instead. Then it was too late. I don't run after 5pm, as a rule, out of respect for Taipei pollution. Plus it was cold.I also sort of wanted to see the anti-war protest, which was today at 6pm at the US "embassy". Just to see what it was like. But then the exchange office (in California) told us not to attend such events, for fear of possible danger to US people. Plus it was raining. I must reduce the frequency of blog updates, out of respect for my wrists. Email, mail, and calls from friends near and far are always welcome.

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i struggle to express myself all the time. it's hard enough in english; trying to do it in mandarin is super-tough. cantonese is almost as bad. gone are the simple days of spanish class when, if you didn't know what to say, you could just "lie," using a grammatically well-formed sentence. now people ask me questions, from why-can't-you-make-dinner-tonight, to do-you-think-you've-matured-in-the-last-semester, and i'm supposed to say what i actually mean.

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the mad rush of the beginning of the semester is over. i look back and am amazed that i've read 6 chapters on probability, 6 from 漢語音韻學 (by 董同龢--it's a classic)... and absolutely nothing from 莊子.

left wrist... pain. more like fatigue, weakness.

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i don't understand mandarin english. see, cantonese english makes sense. lexical stress--primary, secondary, etc.--all map nicely onto the tone system of cantonese. like, primary stress maps to high tone. but mandarin doesn't seem to do anything of the sort. So the other day, i'm sitting in math class, and the teacher's talking about X E and X R. I'm like, what-the-F is X E? Don't you mean, E(X), the expectation of X? Then suddenly, it hits me: she's saying, X一跟X二, not XE 跟 XR. Further observation suggested that the phenomenon involves tones: when she wanted to say "r" or "l", she would use ér (sounds like 兒) and él, with mandarin second tone. i wonder if this is a common phenomenon, or if only people in math circles do this.

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It's late. Itchy is playing with my cell phone. I'm typing. Suddenly, my room phone rings. Almost out of reflex, I pick it up. It's your friend, my axons and dendrites tell me. You're expecting his call, they say. Itchy interrupts them, pulling my hand back, putting the handset back on the phone. My mind says, It was just Itchy playing with the phone. Don't waste your cell phone minutes. Of course it's not him. Nobody in their right mind would call at this hour. The whole interchange takes about two seconds.

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I was shocked when Grace told me that she didn't know that The Lord of the Rings was a classic. Or rather, I was surprised that she was surprised when I told her it was. It happened like this: she noticed a copy of The Two Towers on my bookshelf, and when she asked about it, I told her the story of how last December, we had gone on a wild goose chase in search of a movie that wasn't playing anymore, and everyone else ended up watching lord of the rings, but i refused, since i hadn't read the book yet, so i went home by myself instead. Hoang was for some reason fixated on this incident, and eventually ended up buying me a copy of the two towers, to "aid me in my adventure" through the lord of the rings. So Grace said, are you like this for every movie? and I said, no, but this book is a classic, at which point we had to go into what "classic" meant, and why I thought it was one (and why Jonathan didn't), and the fact that it was actually written decades ago was all new information to her. At any rate, I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that people here are less familiar with English-language literature. I guess I never thought about it before. But still, it's kind of sad that, for some people, the only exposure they'll get to lord of the rings is through hollywood.

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Wow... I really can't sleep. I must have seriously f*cked up my sleeping patterns. Either that, or my mind is preoccupied with too many things. People always tell me not to think so much... 唔好諗咁多野啦, they say... but how exactly am i supposed to do that? Can I just turn off my thoughts, like Data turning off his emotion chip? How I wish I could just relegate all these thoughts to my subconscious, and start fresh tomorrow!

Oh well, no rest for the weary, apparently. I think I'll post some blog entries I've been saving up.

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my biggest accomplishment today was finishing my statistics homework. i suppose it seems kind of insignificant to write about, but i feel like i ought to celebrate the little victories (or as the Pipe Organ voice of mac text-to-speech says, "we mu-u-ust rejoice in this mo-o-orbid voice"). like, last week, when i gave my oral report in chinese in the language typology/universals class. that was certainly an event. and today, i must say it felt rather novel, writing my name in chinese at the top of a math homework.

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