Category Archives: Uncategorized

Observed and Overheard

Observed: After an Aikido demonstration, he bowed to his uke, then bowed to the front. This was customary. Then, he paused, and bowed to the audience, which struck me as  original.

「站在底的橋下,身體挺高,也只是撞到自已的頭。」
“When standing under a low bridge, standing tall only causes you to hit your head.”
(compare with Japanese: 出る釘が打たれる。 The nail that sticks out gets struck.)

「大家忘了台語,很可惜,但是這個是時代的潮流。我也有聽不憧台語的朋友。我們不可能講台語然後翻給他聽。語言也只的一個方法。說出來,意思通就好了。」
“That people are forgetting to speak Taiwanese is too bad, but this is the direction of history. I have friends who don’t speak Taiwanese. It’s not practical for us in a group to speak Taiwanese and then translate so that he can understand. Language is just a means. What’s important is understanding.”

我覺得我可以從這個很蠢的東西感到動力。
不是蠢。是夢想。
別人也許會覺得很蠢。
你就做你的夢想。也須不會有回報,但是沒有夢想,什麼都沒有。別人怎麼感覺,是他們的事。
你不會覺得很蠢嗎?
這個說法沒有在我的詞彙裏。

I think I can keep going if I lose myself in this foolishness.
It’s not foolishness. It’s a dream.
Some might say it’s naiveté.
Work toward your dreams. Without them, what do you really have? What other people think is their business.
Don’t you think it’s naive?
Such a statement is not in my vocabulary.

我有障碍… 只是,我還在學。
I am handicapped… Well, it’s only that I’m still learning.

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Cities

Reasons to live in a city as opposed to the country. Walking distance to work or school, plentiful transport links, more diversions for leisure (parks, libraries, concert halls, bars, restaurants); a wider selection of goods; food stalls with cheap, good food; access to markets.

All of this is mitigated by building codes that specify minimum house size, a lack of public transport and the resulting traffic and parking lot sprawl, zoning laws that keep businesses and homes separate, and a permit and finance regime that works for chain stores and against independent stores.

Los Angeles is more expensive than Tokyo, and not as fun.

Degrees of Freedom

Today at practice we did pair work with wooden swords. It occurred to me that under normal circumstances, both parties fear death, and this limits the choice of possible movements. If it is possible to strike a fatal blow, but doing so opens one up for a simultaneous fatal blow, one will still not do it. Unless one does not fear death. The one who does not fear death is less restricted.

In the time of Caesar, the warriors of Gaul were willing to burn their cities so that Caesar would not have them. Given the choice of surrender or death, many chose to fight to the death, perhaps better to kill more Romans so that other Gallic tribes would have a chance. One tribe, the Aedui, had a long-standing peace with Rome. Caesar used their capitol, Noviodunum, as a granary and weapons store from which to launch his campaigns to incorporate Gaul into the Empire. By standards of the time, Noviodunum would have been a modern city, complete with political and civic institutions modeled on Rome. To preserve Gallic freedom, the Aedui joined the Gallic coalition against Caesar, and carried away all the all the grain they could, threw the rest in to the river, then evacuated and burned Noviodunum so that the Romans could not have it.

Degrees of freedom emerge from lack of fear, and this is present in circumstances that don’t necessarily involve life or death: whistle-blowers that end their careers in order to satisfy their sense of justice, politicians that negotiate compromises that will cause them to lose their jobs. Where this involves a statement of some kind, it makes the person more trustworthy – the messenger, by putting something at risk, must necessarily believe in the importance of his message.

Unfortunately, this is one of the seductions of IS and suicide bombing, though these are now subject to “reverse attacks” by people who bear-hug suicide bombers to prevent them from detonating explosives in a populated area.

I am looking forward to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s upcoming book Skin in the Game, which is supposed to have related discussion.

Gilan to Taipei via Sãtiau Kak

Set out at Gi-Lan at about 10:30am, rounded the cape at Sãtiau-Gak lighthouse, passed Hok-Liong beach, went through the Ping-Siang tunnel, then passed through Ping-khe and Chhim-khenn. Personal record: >100km. Weather generally good, but there were three surprise downpours before i rounded the cape. The owner of the B&B I stayed at had given me some rainwear, which I was thankful for, but it was a bit of a hassle to pack and unpack. next time – maybe wear quick-drying clothing, and it wont matter if I get wet.

Everything from Gi-lan up to the Peng-Siang tunnel was relatively peaceful, with wide shoulders or dedicated bike lanes. There were scenic stops, but the nature of cycling is that the countryside rolls by at a scenic pace, from ibises on the fields to fishermen on the sandy beach, to huge rolling waves crashing into rock strata. Downpours aside, there were occaisional light showers that did not block outbthe sun, and I was happy for these, as they cooled me off.

At about 2, I stipped for lunch at 品逸屋, which boasted locally caught seafood. I had 鰾, which I thought was a type of fish, but I learned is the air bladder of a fish. It was cooked in a good sauce of celery, chilis, leeks, and touban sauce. I will try to make this. I scarfed it down with three bowls of rice. The proprietress asked me when i paid – did you eat your fill? Yes, I told her simply.

I could have had a fourth, but I didnt want to become sluggish.

Ping-khe to Chhim-khenn was dangerous. Visibility limited by curves. Traffic flowing but heavy. Narrow shoulder. Jockeyed for position with cars. Reminds me of highway 17 to Santa Cruz, but here the tighter curves limit the speed of traffic. On the balance, more dangerous, as people take mire risks. At first, I stayed close to the shoulder, but took to occupying the entire lane when I found I was just as fast as the cars, especially as I could corner faster. Any distance that opened up on a straight stretch, I could gain back on cornering.

I got passed by two ambulances, and saw two accidents on the stretch from Ping-khe to Chhim-khenn alone. Emerging from Chhim-khenn, I got passed by another ambulance.

It was my second time riding that stretch. The first time, I saw a car marked off by police tape, with its front end wrapped around a telephone pole. There was a spider web cracking of the windshield on the driver’s side which must have been made my the driver’s head.

Arrived home about 5. After that adventure, it is a privelege to be able to fix up a dinner with stuff in the fridge and not to have to go out.

Paying the Bill In Three Languages

(台語)拄拄去阮兜附近个bar啉酒寫email。結張時店員佮我講。

伊講英語 “Two-twenty.”
我問講 “Two twenty?”
“Yes.”
我噉有按呢親像外國儂?予伊錢時、講 「遮三百箍」
(店員換講官話)「找你八十塊、謝謝。」
我閣講台語「多謝。」

Different sorts of training

Corporate small talk – During lunch one day we talked about different polo shirts that we had gotten from the company, and what colors we liked.

Resolve – A co-worker told me that it is not necessary to speak out about a person who is not doing his job. For one, the person speaking up is often punished. Once, he spoke up against his supervisor, who made the blame fall on my co-worker, and eventually got promoted in spite of the complaints against his management style. I thought about my own childhood, seeing people who spoke up and those who did not, and thought that speaking up is like standing up for yourself in a fight. The goal is not to win, but to make the other person pause in the future before doing anything disrespectful.

Compassion – He had spoken with his mother about a current co-worker of his, and his mother advised him not to say too much. Just think, what if the man got fired? Could you live with yourself?

Patience – the day after, my co-worker finished the story. His supervisor had gotten promoted over another person that my co-worker’s team was supporting for the promotion. This was considered unjust. Yet, when turnover at that team remained very high (due to the promoted man’s managerial style) he came under scrutiny, and was removed. Thus, the man was removed not by any one person’s complaint, but by gradual general consensus. You just have to wait things out.

Martial – I learned a new way of falling when getting thrown that allows me to counterattack with a knife in my free hand even when someone is twisting my arm. It requires me to jump over the shoulder of the arm that is being twisted, while knifing the person. During practice, I do not think of knifing my partner, as such a thought would cause me to tense up. Rather, I think whether it is possible to touch him. It will take some more work before I can execute the movement naturally. After practice, I spoke with the teacher. He praised my worn, patched hakama, the dress-like garment that is worn on the lower-half of the body over the pants. More than a belt rank, it is proof of the depth of one’s training. I asked him why he doesn’t wear his old hakama. He says the students would ask – why aren’t you wearing the new one. I remembered hearing that the new hakama was a gift from one of the students, and I realized it was because he didn’t want to disappoint them. This, too, indicates depth of his training.

Intellectual – How wonderful all the options for ways to make a living and tools to help us that present themselves to us. Yet, so many are dependent on oil and natural gas. Just in 2014, Canada was extracting oil from tar sands, an undertaking that requires burning large quantities of natural gas. That is how scarce oil was. Now with cheap shale oil, we have a reprieve, but for how long? All of human endeavor is currently subsidized by millions of years of fossilized sunlight. When we run out, as we certainly will, we will return, if we are lucky, to the Italian Renaissance, or to Tokugawa Japan. Where the Italian Renaissance got its energy from, I’m not sure, but Tokugawa Japan got its energy from large-scale planting of cedars, which were converted to coal to power industry. So extensively were cedars that the fill the air during pollen season so thickly with pollen that many who live in Japan for a few years become allergic to it.

Seeing things both ways – A Taiwanese-American recently moved back to Taiwan, in love with Aikido, having attained a certain level of training, teaching in order to spread ones love for the art. Such words describe me and one other person. But we are also different. I find that I am very Japanese. I came, met a lot of teachers and students, expanding my network of Aikido friends, helping to teach at various universities. I have done this for over two years. Stereotypically, Japan’s is a culture that looks to history for answers. The other man came, and after visiting a few places, decided that he wanted to do things differently, and opened his own dojo. Stereotypically, America’s is a culture without a past.

Friendships – Facebook has a feature that digs up old pictures and puts them on the newsfeed again. Today an old friend messaged me, commemorating eight years of friendship on facebook, but thirteen in reality. I had just thought about her yesterday, funny coincidence. In many ways I liked myself better then – truer to my ideals, faster to act, smiling more, talking more.

Aikido – A student of mine is going to Japan to live with a couple in Japan, whom I’ve known for eight years. The couple do Aikido, and when they came to Taiwan to live for a year, they came to the NTNU dojo because I’d recommended it to them. I know the couple well because I continued training at the same dojo in Tokyo in spite of some conflict between the teacher and me. I had considered leaving, but I stayed. As for my conflict with my teacher, this seemed in the end not so important as the fact that we were connected by our love for the art.

Different lives – Once, I did scaffolding, and the people I did scaffolding with would scarce imagine that I was trained as an engineer and once worked at an air-conditioned desk job. Now, at a desk job, the people around me would scarce imagine that I once used my sweat and muscle to earn money regardless of biting cold or sweltering heat. The cold was alright – moving kept me warm. But the heat was rather unbearable. One day, I drank five liters before getting off of work. I liked it well enough to continue doing it for a year on weekends after I went back to a desk job. And I think to myself, I have at different points in my life lived as an American, a Japanese, and now a Taiwanese, and they are all personas that I assume. Everyone has a persona that they assume for convenience or protection.