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January 16, 2009 | 16 Comments

Random encounters

(All the Chinese words are my own spelling.)

There are a lot of other akward, geeky white guys in Taipei, but apparently not too many because I find I am a bit of a spectable in many places. My presence has lead to some strange meetings.

One old man with just a few teeth left came up to me and stuck up his thumb and said, “Number one!” It was so sudden, all I could remember was Japanese—“Ichiban desu!” I put my thumb up, too. He said, “Number one good!” I finally remembered the Chinese, “Hao Ban!” He left, very satisfied, saying “Good, good.”

Another old man saw me from a distance and waited until I wandered near. He said, in English, “Do you speak Chinese?” I said, “Yi dian dian” (a little bit). Didn’t phase him. “Do you speak Japanese?” I said, “Hai. Wakarimasu. Skoshi desu.” He gave me a bg smile and walked off repeating “Wakarimasu“.

The last time I was here I was in a toilet and a guy was at the sink. I was about to wash my hands and he just stuck his hand out to me to shake. I did. He nodded and left. No expression on his face the whole time.

I was at a street fair and a businessman started to walk beside me. He finally worked up the courage to say something. “Why are you in Taiwan?” I said, “Vacation” He said, “That’s good.” I told him I loved Taipei, the food especially, and that I was very happy to be here. I could see his chest swell with pride. I made the man very happy.

A man at a Hakka rice wine stand saw me and said, “Where are you from.” I told him New York. He smiled and said, “Good bye!”

When I am at street food stands, the proprietresses (more women than men run these stations) often watch me eat every bite, so I feel like I have to put on a bit of a performance. I repeat “Hao chu!” (delicious) or “Hao hua!” (same for liquids). I make delicious faces and act as if I’m critically assessing the food. With the amount that I am eating, I am making friends all over the island.

The encounters aren’t always good, though, but only because my Chinese stinks. For example, I am so stupid that I can never remember the difference between the words Bukachi and Duebachi. This can lead to disaster. Yesterday, at a Japanese bakery, I bumped into an old lady and upset her tray of food. “Bukachi!” I announced. The look she gave me! It means “You’re welcome!” I did the same thing to a young woman whose foot I stepped on causing her shoe to come off, and to a guy driving a car that I stupidly stepped in front of. I keep telling people they are welcome for me making an idiot of myself. I should say Duebachi, which of course means “I’m sorry”.

January 14, 2009 | 5 Comments

Taiwan travel

Petanque in Taiwan!

Completely by luck, I passed this sign by the entrance to a seaside almost-beach. There was a little sand but mostly coral. No swimming signs were posted. No people were around at all, so I couldn’t ask anybody who played and when. I did find this article via Google, about a field built right in Taipei. Doesn’t say where, though. I found another site that says a club with six members plays in Da-an park, which is not far from where I’m staying.

Ah, well. I didn’t bring my manly steel balls so I couldn’t play anyway.

What? You don’t know about Petanque? Incredible! Remind me to tell you about it when I return, or search for an earlier article.

Taiwan Market

This is from a food market. The man is selling two kinds of tofu-kan and some peanuts. The tofu-kan here is the best you can have anywhere. It’s smooth and creamy, but not soupy. Delicious. Peanuts are everywhere. Hai and bai, or black and white. The black ones are actually look the same as regular but have a purple skin around the nut. Peanut snacks that are made into a crumbly interior coated with a hard shell are my favorite. The Hakka people make a kind that is very small, bite size. You can’t stop eating them. And I haven’t.

Taiwan Market

I’m dying to have the pork that’s in the middle pan. It makes my mouth water every time I walk by.

Taiwan Market

The meat for sale here is displayed a little differently. This is all pig meat. My favorite, and the most popular in Taiwan.

Taiwan Oyster Omlette

This was the end of today’s lunch. Pork blood soup and an oyster omelette. The pork blood soup is a thin base of ginger and garlic with, of course, green onion. The blood is in small bite size pieces. Perfectly silky and just a hint of saltiness.

Oyster omelettes are famous. They start by frying half a dozen oysters, then pouring over a rice batter. An egg is then broken on top and a bok choy-like vegetable is shredded all over everything. After a while, the whole thing is flipped and put on a plate with the red sauce, which is very sweet and just a hint of pepperiness. I prefer mine spicy, so you see the red and yellow jar or hot sauce, which is unbelievably good. I have it every morning with my dumplings. It’s smoky, has little beans that are salty, and is very spicy. I haven’t tasted anything like it in the United States. My last trip here I brought back two jars, which they made up for me at my breakfast place.

Once I have some time, I’ll try and describe the food in better detail and explain why it is among the world’s best.

January 10, 2009 | 13 Comments

Nearly heaven

Eham.com.tw

This picture represents one solid component of what heaven will be like (you’ll notice that there is no beer tap present, which is why this is only a partial view of The Future State). It is from the Nanmen market (my spelling) near the Chiang Kai-sheck Memorial Hall in central Taipei. You can see the several different kinds of sausages hanging in front, but what’s partly hidden are the legs of ham dangling in the back.

There are different ways to cure and cut these hams, and each is astonishingly delicious. I tasted small samples and wanted to buy out the whole market. If I could find a way to sneak some pig past customs, I would, too.

The company that makes the hams has a website (in Chinese) here. See especially this page that describes the many products. The pictures will make your mouth water. (You can go to babelfish.yahoo.com or translate.google.com to translate the pages: they are in traditional and not simplified Chinese.)

Duck tongue

This is from the Tounghua (my spelling) Night Market and is very typical of Taiwanese cuisine. My absolute favorite are the twig-like objects on the upper-left side of the center pan.

Duck tongue! I was shocked how good these were. They are usually served heavily spiced, soaked in soy sauce and others things. If you’ve ever had beef tendon (I can recommend a good place in Chinatown in Manhattan), you’ll notice that duck tongue has a similar consistency. Kind of springy and chewy with a hint of meat. There are many bones you have to bite around, but it’s worth the trouble. Once you start eating one, you can’t stop. They’re so small, just snacks really. I promise you will love them.

Next to the duck tongue are sausages, probably some kind of sweet meat. My Chinese stinks, so I wasn’t able to figure out. They are pretty good, but the tongue is better.

The chicken hearts you see are much better than duck hearts. The problem with duck hearts, I think, is that people are determined to serve/marinate them whole. They’re just too big and unless you do it perfectly, the center tends to be a bit mushy. Chicken hearts, on the other hands, keep their freshness easier.

I forgot to take a picture, but I also had a small bag of chicken stomach. It’s cut into small pieces and served spicy, like the duck tongue. They give you a bag and a long tooth pick to snag them. I haven’t the knack because the pieces are kind of slippery and when I did manage to poke the meat, I poked right through the bag. Excellent snack to serve with beer.

The left-hand pan has two kinds of tofu-kan, some duck liver, and seaweed. The tofu-kan here is varied, delicate and delicious. I’ll have to find better pictures and I’ll post a more complete description later.

January 9, 2009 | 14 Comments

The MIT Dahn Yoga Brain Respiration Experiment: Part V

NOW

I lost track of Sung, and had not given much thought to Dahn Yoga or KIBS in a long time. But my memory was jogged when I finally saw somebody in the window of a Dahn Yoga center, which is on my route to the dreaded F train (the center is on the second floor on the southwest corner of 66th and 3rd in Manhattan).

I did a search and found this video, which shows Dr Sung Won Lee in a conference sponsored by KIBS, held this past summer at the United Nations.

More on that conference can be found here.

Sung uses a lot of words, but says little other than that strong emotions can sometimes cause difficulties, something we have known since the men of Sumner first drank the byproducts of moistened barely. Intriguingly, he mentions that a later speaker will be Antonio Damasio, a best selling author of The Feeling of What Happens and Descartes’ Error. Damasio is a neurologist whose main interest is in consciousness, and is somewhat well known. This means that Ilchi Lee is still reaching out.

And Dahn Yoga and KIBS is going strong. Is this a good thing?

PRESSURE

I am not, in any way, an expert of cult behavior and so cannot say too much about this. But a quick search reveals stories like this one, not at all atypical. At the very least, Dahn Yoga practitioners like to put the hard sell on people to spend a lot quickly. Many more links are at Lorie Anderson’s site.

This video is typical of what you will find:

As is this video and this one.

The Rick Ross Institute is an “Internet archive of information about cults, destructive cults, controversial groups and movements.” They have a page on various Dahn Yoga activities that I highly recommend perusing.

Cult or no? I don’t know, but none of the evidence points to Dahn Yoga being an entirely benign organization.

I worry very much about the kids back in Korea who are undergoing “training” in brain respiration/education methods.

OPEN MIND

I am often told by proponents of psychic powers that “I should keep an open mind.” That if my mind was “closed” I would never be able to appreciate what they could.

I agree.

An open mind is important. This is why I design and conduct tests like the KIBS kids test. I will not dismiss somebody’s claims out of hand. If the KIBS kids test would have been a success, I would have been willing to believe that the theory behind brain respiration, now “brain education”, had validity. But the test did not work, and so, rationally, I conclude that brain respiration is yet another failed theory, that it is invalid.

I now ask those who believe in Ilchi Lee to have an open mind. To prove you have it, answer this question: What evidence will convince you that brain respiration/education is false?

To people who believe in ESP, I ask the same thing: What evidence will convince you that ESP is false?

To people who believe in any controversial theory in which the only evidence for or against it is observational: What evidence will convince you that it is false?

If you find you cannot or do not want to answer this question, then it’s your mind that is closed, it is you that is unwilling to face the truth, it is you that is stuck in old ways of thinking.

I have never yet met a True Believer who gave me an answer.

Part I, II, III, IV, V