Tuesday, 31 March 2009

How I de-stress at work

Exhausted, but having fun.

I walk around either scaring people or giving them a laugh, or sometimes even both. Well, just that one day...

Borrowed this from Solon, who bought it for a reenactment scene in his documentary of Cardinal Shan Kuo-Hsi (單國璽). It was fun sitting across from Solon the last three years. He moved to his own assignment editor desk last month.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Hello, World!

Meet Dottie, the first orchid I've ever let bloom. All the others, I've killed before they got a chance to grow new flowers... More are surviving, though! They may not have all their leaves whole or spot free, but more and more of them are surviving my overzealous care. Orchids should be left alone until they come to you, kind of like cats. Can you tell I'm more of a dog person?

This was her last year after I bought her from Santa Ana's, the florist:

I went home to Danshui for a couple of days for tomb sweeping. It's that time of the year again. And here is Oreo falling asleep on top of King. She was trying very hard to stay awake. Lucky and King already gave in. Miffy's in another bed in another corner of the room, and Hero's outside the Great Wall of China - where the Huns live - this way, there is peace on earth.

See how Oreo's hind legs are crossed? She thinks she is human (like Miffy). Somehow all the other dogs know they're dogs, but Miffy and Oreo...they still think they're people. Maybe we're actually the dogs and they're the humans. They're very smart. Oreo and Lucky know how to ride the lift on their own. They automatically get in the elevator when the door opens in the morning even when there's no one inside. They know if they get in, it magically brings them to the humans upstairs. These days the dogs sleep downstairs, but in the morning, we'll send the lift down, it opens, they get in, and we call the lift back up when we know that they're inside. How do we know they're in the lift? When they get in, you can hear their toe nails clacking on the elevator floor. They always do this elevator dance when they're inside, kind of like that "ooooh COOkie COOOOkie!" dance. So they get in, up comes the lift, out the pop and it's the "HELLO, GOOOOOOD MORNING!" licking, jumping, burrowing their face into your leg, pretzel twisting their bodies routine.

I'll try take a video next time.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Primo Trattoria

Primo opened late last year to quite a success. They have Neapolitan pizzas that are just yum yum yum yum yum! This one here is the Fiorentine - spinach, cheese, pancetta and egg. Oh yum. Yum yum yum. They also have pastas cooked al dente (a rarity in Taipei), and lots of cheeses and inexpensive wines (one of the investors is a cheese and wine importer).

Here is Gloria, my next-door neighbor at work. She sits at what used to be the disaster area, now cleaned up. The mess is gone, but life is no less exciting - she's been teaching me how to cuss! Well, I'm trying not to learn, but she swears like a sailor too, and sometimes I accidentally pick up her vocabulary. When I heard that she was doing a story on Primo, I wanted to come along, because I was really curious about the restaurant (this was before I tried it myself), so I stopped by after my own interview at a hospital. Jason, the head chef and general manager, seems like a diligent and nice guy, and he learned how to make his pizzas in, of all places, Tokyo.

He explained that Neapolitan pizzas are made by just pressing on the dough in the middle, rather than by flattening with a rolling pin, and then baked in an oven at more than 450 degrees Celsius for just three or four minutes. He says his imported oven costed more than TWD 1 mn. Expensive oven...

The pizzas are really tasty. The crust in the middle is almost nonexistent and seem to only serve the purpose of holding the toppings. The crust on the end (or, the "ears" as they are called in Japanese), is crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Great texture.

So far, I've tried the AOP (olive oil, garlic, cheese, chili peppers), Fiorentine, three cheese (with in includes blue cheese, and they give you honey on the side to drizzle over - very Japanese, and very good) and genovese (mushroom).

I've been there three times in the last two weeks. Once during the interview, once with Daphne and Karen (my colleagues on the health/medicine beat) and once with Ann. Lunch with Mom and Dad there tomorrow makes it four times.

They have mainly just simple dishes there. The basic Caesar salad there is topped with parmigiano from a drum sitting in the dining area, freshly shaved for you as the food is delivered to the table. It's quite tasty - the parmigiano soft and fluffy, dressing complete with egg yolk, garlic and anchovy. The squid ink pasta, sauteed mushroom with shrimp and pesto sauce and oven baked vegetables were so so. Service is good when they're not incredibly busy. While the servers are young, you can tell they've been properly trained. The price is reasonable - TWD200 to TWD300 for pizzas. Ann and I ordered a salad, pizza, glass of house wine, glass of fresh juice, two desserts, and we paid about TWD1300 total.

So far, so good.

Primo Trattoria
Fuxing South Road Section 1, Lane 107, #14, 1st Floor
+886 2 2711 1726

You may want to make reservations, three days in advance.

Old friends and hanga day

After lunch with Vivian, Eddie and Shelly who flew in from America for Bennet's wedding last weekend, I came home and had a nice hanga day. I think I'm printing and mixing colors a little better now. In the end, I played with some of the leftover paint and did some fun background colors. I think I want to do a few more variations and make it a mosaic piece to put over the couch in the living room. The empty space there is looking really sad.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Happy soul

They say it’s a particularly inauspicious year to marry this year, but somehow it doesn’t feel so. Robert, my junior high school friend, is getting married this weekend, and last weekend, Bennet, my high school crush got married. Though not particularly crushed by the news, it sure felt weird, and it wasn’t only because of who the groom was. Sitting at a table with friends from NEHS (one of the three high schools I went to), while it was nice to see them after so many years, I felt like something’s changed. More like, someone’s changed. And the person who changed was…me.

I was at NEHS my freshman year, but most of my friends were seniors. I always looked up to these sempais of mine. They were all very smart and I always loved hanging out with them and listening to them. Whatever they talked about, it seemed more interesting than what my own classmates were talking about. I guess I kind of saw them as teachers, sort of. But not anymore. Everyone added 14 years to their lives, but not necessarily the same number of years to their sprit and soul. I’m not saying I’ve become that much wiser, but I certainly think my soul has aged more than many of them. They may be very successful in their career, already have a family or have traveled the world three times around, but some of them still just seem so...”young.”

What does it feel like to have an older soul? When I see someone gossiping incessantly, complaining nonstop, or picking a bone with someone else over the littlest of things, I say to myself, “give them time, they’ll grow up.” I don’t get annoyed, I just look at them kind of like I would at a younger brother or sister, except they may be older than me. These days, I can pretty much sense if a person has a young or old soul without them saying much. I just didn’t really realize that I’ve become this soul that’s either gotten or is getting “old,” until this wedding.

Over a Neapolitan pizza genovese at Primo last night, Ann said, “Maybe they didn’t have to grow because they didn’t have to. You grow when you are faced with adversity and suffering.” I think she couldn’t have been more right. My NEHS friends are very, very intelligent and talented. From just Bennet’s class of 12 or so, Tom already won a Golden Horse Award, Caroline is the head of Google’s communications department in this part of the world, May-yi is one of the heads of National Geographic Channel also in this region, Bennet’s a senior engineer at TSMC, and many others are in high level management positions at other companies. Some of them are so smart they didn’t have to suffer much, nor saw much they would call “adversity.”

I guess that makes me, the less intelligent one, a person who had to suffer and really fight to overcome hurdles.

When I was little, while I received a lot of love from Mom and Dad, I also received a lot of stress. Michael and Daniel tell me that they’ve never seen me smile as a kid. I never noticed! Maybe I was too busy making myself miserable. Then as I was about to graduate from business school, I realized that I really didn’t like business and I certainly didn’t think finance and economics was interesting at all, so I decided to walk my own path and come into the media industry in Taiwan. I was turned down many times before finally landing my first job at FTV, working as a part of the English news team. A year later, I was transferred to the mainstream Chinese news, and that’s when all hell seemed to break loose for me. In addition to having to report in Mandarin, which I hardly read/spoke/wrote, face two deadlines a day, anchor in Taiwanese, which I knew even less of (my Taiwanese ability was the equivalent of a Californian’s fluency of Spanish – taco, burrito), I had a boss who was a medicating manic depressive, a chief editor who seemed to swear even more and that much louder than a sailor at all hours of the day, and a bunch of cameramen who loved to bully, scare and verbally abuse me any chance they got. Now I can crank out as many news stories as they throw at me, anchor in Taiwanese without losing sleep the night before, selectively hear what my bosses say/shout, and even gained the respect of the cameramen, including the one who very publicly ridiculed me. Heck, these days, I’m even OK with food or sleep when I can’t get it. But most importantly, I learned to be conscious of happiness, and I make an effort to be happy.

Old soul, young soul, I guess it doesn’t matter as long as I am a happy soul. I’m glad for what I’ve been through, and what I have yet to go through. Boy, I sound like a masochist…

Are you a happy soul? If you are a happy and old soul and are interesting and can speak English, please email me. Let's have dinner. :)

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Congratulations, Nelson!

Nelson just got his MBA from Waseda and we celebrated by having dinner in one of the private dining rooms at San Want Hotel. Mom and Dad got him a pen. I made him a card from one of my hangas.

My favorite dish there - egg pudding with uni, ikura, caviar, salmon, lobster and half the rest of the ocean steamed in a goose egg

Whisky lobster risotto

Some kind of cake with cheese in it, hot on the outside and cool from ice cream on the inside. Yum.

San Want Hotel 神旺大飯店
Zhong Xiao East Road Sec 4, #172
+886 2 2772 2121

Also a great place to stay if you're visiting Taipei. It's very conveniently located, smack right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, with quick access to the subway.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Salami, olive, mushroom pizza - yum yum yum

Had this with Mom at Luna d'Italia in February. Yuuuumy it was.

Always on the phone.

"Are you taking pictures of me? Stop it! My hair's a mess and I have no make-up on!"

Luna d'Italia - another one of my favorite Italian places these days. I've tried some of their pasta, risotto, lasagna, salads - nom nom nom! The staff there, led by Johnson, works very hard. I've been there three or four times now and each time I've left very happy with the food and sincere service.

Dunhua South Road Sec 2, Lane 265, #3
+886 2 2733 9635
It's in the alley next to The Mall/Shangri La Hotel, before Heping East Road.


Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Tomomi - Faith

Goes well with peppermint herb tea in the afternoon. Or with warm water first thing in the morning.

You can buy the CD here.

(image via Amazon.co.jp)

Thank you, Tomoko! (sorry it took so long)

Look at these helmets!

Lately, I've been riding my bicycle with my riding helmet, and I thought that was cool. Well, these guys are 200000% times cooler! Oh, I love these helmets. And hats in general!

These are from Borsalino, who usually makes these kinds of lovely hats:

via one of my new favorite websites: If it's hip, it's here

Eating well

Don't worry, I don't eat steamed broccoli and paprika all the time. Dessert from a lunch with Mom & Dad who had an out-of-town guest.

At San Want Hotel's private table.

Local English news in Taiwan

Another English news show has been started, this time on ERA TV. There's a discussion about it on Forumosa, quite interesting.

Check it out if you ever wonder why the shows keep starting up and folding in, why the productions seem of rather low quality, why local English news isn't broadcasted overseas.

Here are my two cents in the discussion:

I can't help but wonder if there's enough demand abroad for non-business/technology news on Taiwan. For business/tech news, headlines and text for business/financial people to quickly skim through works much better than having to sit through the entire story, listening to the reporter talk at his/her own pace. For all the other news, I simply don't think there is enough demand for it in English anywhere, even in Taiwan to make it a viable business - you can see that from watching all the English news shows pop up from different local TV stations and then eventually folding. But the reason FTV still has it mainly because it's done it for so long, and it's added significant indirect value for the company. Ratings are still low, meaning no one wants to buy commercial time during the show, but the English segment attracts other worthwhile attention and business, which is good for FTV's image and finance.

Most international TV networks will buy footage from local TV stations for less important news, and send in their own crew for more important news. For less important news (like typhoons), it's not that important anyway, so they'll take the footage, write their own script and re-edit the video. For more important news (like the huge anti-Chen Shuibian and anti-anti-CSB protests), they will be more specific about what kind of interviews they want and what footage they need, so they'll have their own guys fly in (if they don't already have a team stationed here). Few int'l networks have people stationed here. I believe CNN doesn't, BBC has someone that usually writes for print or radio and may do a TV story once in a blue moon. Reuters, Asahi and NHK have small teams here, usually just one reporter and one cameraman.

I suppose int'l networks can interview or do lives with local reporters on special occasions, and that would be interesting, but the problem with that is there are very few local TV reporters who can speak at least semi-fluent English. There seems to be a very, very small pool of English-speaking TV news talent in Taiwan.

I made...food

Instead of making paper things, I made food today. I gave myself a pat on the shoulder. I don't think I've made any food in the past eight years... Both Mom and Mama are such great cooks that I either get chased out of the kitchen for my clumsiness when trying to help, or don't get a chance to try. Plus, my landlady basically only allows me to steam and microwave, which does great for inspiration, add to that my crazy schedule and no one else to cook for... When I'm by myself, I've basically been eating out when I have extra money or eating junk when I don't since I moved to Taipei.

Hankering for broccoli and wanting to work on the Kewpie (a creamy, vinegar-y Japanese mayonnaise) sitting in the fridge (I like to keep a high turnover of food in the fridge), I picked up broccoli on the way home from work the other day. Well, broccoli and Kewpie seemed awfully sad, so I also got carrots and a red and a yellow paprika. But in the end, I did all but dipped broccoli in Kewpie...

Tonight, I made:

Salad of broccoli with paprika, carrot, apple, dried cranberry and mixed nuts with a red wine vinegar, lemon, salt and olive oil dressing. The vinegar + lemon makes the sour flavor more interesting.


Salad of broccoli with shiitake mushroom, carrots and soba (buckwheat noodle) with a soba tsuyu dressing.


Veggie sticks of carrot and paprika with a Kewpie dip.


Mung bean and job's tear soup (mildly sweet).

They were edible. I'm still alive. However, steamed or cold or raw food just doesn't really appeal to me. Anyone have a good recipe for the steamer to breathe life to my sad, sad kitchen? You know, I used to make my own pasta from scratch when I was in college. And sauce too. And all other kinds of things back in the days when I had a usable kitchen, tools and friends to cook for on the weekends. These days, I have hardly a kitchen, few friends around and no weekends. Ah. Life isn't perfect. But mine's still pretty good. :)

Thursday, 5 March 2009

More printing practice

My first stretch of four days off felt like...a month. I'm just so not used to working and running around Taipei all day, chasing people down with my microphone and cameraman. But I could get used to this slower pace. My body is liking it. The first couple of days, I practiced woodblock printing. The gradation's getting better, but mixing the colors to how I want them to be is still really, really REALLY difficult. 頑張ります。Instead of putting them all over the floor and waiting forever for them to dry, I've decided to hang them up. Works like a miracle.

The prints that I'm not satisfied with (which right now are almost all of them), I started making them into cards. And since I get leftover strips of paper, I've made those into bookmarks that I can give to friends and family and coworkers. Who would like a bookmark? 只送不賣。

Please say "hello" to my newest orchid (that I haven't killed yet). Its name is "Kitty." I didn't name it, the grower did. They even won some kind of award for this last year.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Soul searching and soul food

Yippee! I still can't believe how many days I have off this month.

We all have desk calendars like this at work, so when coworkers come looking for us, they'll know if we're just away or off. Just looking at my March schedule makes giggle. Saturdays say "off," but I have to come in for anchoring. Speaking of which, I had the most time getting my brain to work one week, and I figured it was because I was still half asleep. So I started doing math problems between takes... Don't know if it worked. Then the following week, I meditated during hair & make-up, and that seemed to help a bit.

My brain's crispy fried from too much work. There's this email going around explaining how you get dumb from lack of sleep. Supposedly if you sleep one hour less than the time you need, every day for a week, you lose 100 IQ points by the end of the week. Well, that's me. I can still function, but if I do the math, four years of this crazy schedule, two years of which I sleep like nothing sometimes, I used to must have been some kind of genius. Now I'm really dumb and feeling crispy fried. Maybe that's why I had a craving for greasy, crispy fried chicken. For the first time in years, I went to KFC and bought two pieces of fried chicken. I didn't even know where they have a KFC around here. After checking on the Internet, I found one not very far away - maybe five minutes by bicycle. It was raining, so I walked. I walked more than half an hour roundtrip just for two greasy pieces of meat... My craving was so serious that I was waiting at the door with money in hand at 10h00 this morning, looking like I just received money from Mom & Dad for my birthday and was waiting for the toy shop to open. Well, the chicken shop didn't open until 10h30, but the wait and walk were both worth it. Soul searching, soul food...I am one happy girl.

Back to steamed broccoli and tofu again tomorrow.

Just kidding.

It's lunch at Nonzero with Mom tomorrow.