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Big Ass Catch Up Post

It’s been a while since my last post, so I’ll just do one big ass one to catch up… actually I started writing this weeks ago. This is only a tiny bit of what’s happened recently. Expect another BACUP soon.

Cakes
A new cake shop opened up near Sun-Yat Sen Memorial Hall on Zhong Xiao and it looked so good that Alice, Ian and I just had to go try it out. When ordering, the variety and types of cakes was overwhelming. Each little description made your mouth water, sometimes even leaving you imagining the taste on the tip of your tongue. Then to top it off, the cake isn’t just slapped on a plate and plonked in front of you. Each slice of cake is delicately decorated with chocolate, fruit or sauce which made it just that much more enticing. This was after we ate a 4 course meal at Bellini Pasta.. needless to say, I was filled to the brim that night.

Karaoke
KTV is to Taiwanese culture as barbeque’s and the beach is to Australia. So when some of my finance classmates finally got some free time, which is a rarity for them (they study a lot), we organised an afternoon of karaoke. Everyone was bustin’ out the tunes.

Roxy Jnr with Kojen
Joseph was back in Taipei again as he got some time off from his military service so we all met up at Roxy Jnr for a few drinks and played pool and foosball.

Idol, Taiwan Style
Taiwan is playing copycat by coming out with their own version of Idol. But instead of opening up registration to the general population, they have decided to make it a match-off between universities. By chance I managed to catch a glimpse of the Idol competition at NTU. Let’s just say that some of the contenders should have stayed home. But what I found quite amusing was that instead of letting them finish their performance and then tell them they sucked, here the judges have a switch that they flip which lights up a red light. When all three judges have flipped the switch, then the performer gets blasted by a stream of smoke to signify that they should get off the stage. I tried my best to get a photo of that demoralizing event, but my timing with the camera was always off.

NTU Finance Volleyball
A little friendly competition was held between the Finance year levels at uni. We didn’t do too bad considering we were a team of randoms and the others had actually been training. Turned out to be a fun day.

Intel Blue Men
For a marketing presentation on Intel, we decided to go all blue for the day. Below is Ian’s hair on show, and also our resident Egyptian who we persuaded to do his beard.

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Sale crazy women

Sale! Sale! Sale! That’s been the buzz-word this month with Sogo holding their yearly anniversary sales. The women go crazy and buy mountains of stuff and the poor guys are left to hold their bags. There’s no way the women can resist the urge to shop when things are 20% store-wide and deals such as spend NT$30,000 and receive a NT$3000 voucher or buy a mascara for $2300 discounted from $2500, and receive a lip gloss, eye liner and toner as gifts. With over 10,000 people jammed into the store you don’t walk, you shuffle.

It doesn’t just stop there. There are promotional giveaways at certain times. The queues for these go out the back door and into the adjacent park. People are literally lining up in the bushes just to get a free gift. Must be quiet in the other departments stores the last 20 days.

You can buy Dell in Taiwan?

That’s the question I’ve been asked countless times since getting my Dell XPS M1210 a few weeks ago. I’m surprised that the locals don’t know that Dell is operating in the Taiwan market. I suppose they like to wear their national pride and go for typical Taiwanese brands such as Acer or Asus.

After telling them that I got it from Dell.tw, they always assume that it’s expensive. In actual fact it’s massively cheaper than similarly configured Asus or Acer notebooks, in the range of 20+% less with no sacrifice in build quality or features. The only downside is that it’s slightly thicker and heavier, however it’s still within tolerable levels.

Not only am I satisfied with the product, the ordering process was the best Internet purchase I’ve ever experienced. I placed the order around 10pm on a Thursday night, 9:30am the next morning I receive a call from China (can tell from the accent) to confirm my specification, payment and shipping details. 9:45am I receive an email from the customer rep to give me my order, customer number and her contact details. Friday morning I receive another email telling me that the payment process has been completed and my order has moved to the material procurement stage. The Dell website has a order status page which shows you where your order is as it moves from manufacturing to product testing to delivery, by Sunday it was already delivered. At this stage the information suddenly stops and leaves me hanging as the status page did not mention my expected arrival date, but initially the customer rep said it should take 10 working days so the wait begins.

8 days later on a Monday I got a bit impatient so sent them an email asking for an expected arrival date. Within 5 minutes the customer rep calls me to tell me that it has been shipped from Malaysia and should arrive on Thursday. However the next day I receive a call from a different Dell rep, this time with Taiwanese accent who informed me that the courier will be dropping by in the afternoon and to confirm that someone will be around to accept the shipment. I came home that night with a big box in my room, and straight away reformatted to put on English Windows.

Recently I’ve also subscribed to Taipei WiFly so I can access the internet almost anywhere in Taipei City. Quite handy if I want to study outside or Starbucks. Not bad for only NT$299 (AU$12) a month.

Here are the specs:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 (2.0GHz/4MB L2 Cache/667MHz FSB)
  • 512MB DDR2-553 Memory
  • 120GB 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 8x DVD+/-RW DL Writer
  • nVidia GeForce Go 7400 TurboCache 256MB
  • 12.1″ WXGA with TrueLife (1280×800)
  • SigmaTel HD Audio Codec
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11a/b/g Mini Card
  • Dell Wireless 355 Bluetooth v2.0 + EDR Module
  • 1.3MP Logitech Webcam
  • 9-cell Lithium Ion Extended Primary Battery (85 WHr)

Chose the smallest amount of memory as the upgrade prices are a bit steep. So when the time comes to upgrade to Vista, I’ll just buy some RAM from the computer market.

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Dell XPS M1210

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A lane near my place.

Not Quite Graduation

Today I got all dressed up in a black university gown and a graduation hat. Uninformed onlookers may have thought I was graduating, which would have been great. But alas, I still have 4 subjects and a thesis to go. What was really happening was our class graduation photo. I found it to be way too early to begin thinking about this stuff, but I was told it’s just how it happens in Taiwan. Apparently it’s the same with the graduation ceremony, it’s held before the actual end of the final semester before you know whether you passed or not. I guess this adds extra pressure for those exams. Wouldn’t want to still be around after attending your graduation ceremony.

Only in Taiwan

As mentioned before, I like to wander the streets of Taipei in the early hours of the morning, and the Zhong Xiao area offers a completely new experience with a gazillion times more lights and signs to see as well as a few small parks to visit. During my peaceful walks I have seen a few bizarre things which I have classified in the “only in Taiwan” category.

Sun Yat-Sen is the founding father of the country or something or rather and there is a Memorial Hall dedicated to him at the edge of the shopping district. The area has a large building in the middle of a wide open space which includes a few gardens and a pond, all elegantly designed and kept in pristine condition. The building is used as a performing arts theatre and the outside area is basically a public park with people just sitting around chatting, riding their bikes or walking their dogs. To get on with the story, as I was walking through the area I see far off in the distance two figures on a bench. Upon closer inspection I can make out a male with his female companion doing the hanky panky in the middle of the Memorial Hall. Must be a new way of paying respect to a prominent historical figure.

Another weird event happened right downstairs from my place in a lane with a fruit market. As I was walking down the lane I notice a couple passionately making out to the side. Trying very hard to ignore them when passing, the woman lets out two loud moans, one of them very high pitched, which got my attention and I look their way. The guy had almost taken the girl’s top off and one hand was down her pants. All this was happening in a non-secluded lane close to a brightly lit fruit market. Talk about taking public displays of affection to a whole new level.

This last one really tops my chart of wtf’ness. The cops here are really big in to the whole random testing thing at night and pull over scooters or cars to perform alcohol tests or vehicle and license compliance inspections. On this particular night two cops were doing their thing outside Sogo and were directing scooters to the side of the road with the normal red traffic glow light tube thing. A cop was waving down a scooter which was slowing down, completely typical behaviour. Then all of a sudden the cop runs towards the scooter and smashes his traffic stick on the rider sending broken plastic flying. The scooter picks up speed and hoons off into the distance. This all happened so fast that I pretty much stopped walking and just stood there trying to figure out wtf happened. I guess I’ll never know.

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Please do not leave rubbish and banana skins lying around. huh?!

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A cafe next to Tai-Power Building. One of my favourites.

Double Ten

Been a while since my last update, been a bit busy with Uni and work stuff. Actually, that’s a lie. I’ve just chosen instead to go out more and enjoy the convenience of my new location. So in order to catch up I’ve decided to just pick up the pace and maybe increase the frequency of posts for the next week or so instead of doing one massive one.

So to pick up where we left off, the 5 day long weekend finished with Taiwan’s National Day known as Double Ten as it occurs on October 10th, coincidentally it’s also my mum’s birthday. Usually on Double Ten, there is the usual National Day celebrations of any country which would include parades, marching bands and the like. However on this particular Double Ten the Red Army, as coined up by the local media, whose mission is to depose President Chen from office decided to hold their own illegal parade.

This time, instead of focusing their attention on the Presidential Office, they marched right by my place and down the shopping district and lingered a while outside Sogo Department store shouting “give us coupons (給我禮卷)” as the company was involved in a scandal with the First Lady. That was actually pretty funny to be honest, especially when an old man standing on a bench is shouting it.

Though it’s blatantly obvious that most of the 300,000 (or 1,300,000 depending on which newspaper) people in red are not really the hardcore protesters. They are only there because it’s fun. When else could you walk down the middle of the street with your friends shouting slogans against the nation’s president and disregard any traffic laws. I guess the restaurants and shops in the area would be laughing all the way to the bank. Maybe they should give President Chen a high-five on the way.

Just like to mention that yes, the hardcore protesters like Shih Ming-Teh have not disbanded yet. They are still lingering outside the Presidential Office and have been there everyday since the whole debacle started. That was so long ago that I’ve forgotten. Though apparently they are paying people money to stay there, and it’s not a small amount either.

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Mid-Autumn Festival

Last Friday was the Mid-Autumn Festival and represents on the Lunar calendar the end of the summer harvesting, the the start of festivities. On this particular day the moon is meant to be at its brightest and roundest for the year, hence the tradition of eating Mooncakes.

This year, Mid-Autumn Festival falls very close to Double Ten (Taiwan National Day), so it is basically a five day weekend. The locals are using this occasion to really enjoy themselves and have gone on a BBQ frenzy. In almost every open area available, there are people huddled around a charcoal grill either fanning the flames or flipping meat. Even walking down Zhong Xiao, the trendy and up-scaled shopping district, you would pass multiple BBQ’s. It is a bit weird to just see people squatting around a smoking grill on a busy street eating and drinking while shoppers in their fashionable clothes and LV bags walk pass.

My class level at Uni decided to hold our BBQ at a park next to the river. This river basically runs through Taipei from north to south and has been walled off with barriers since it is prone to flooding during Typhoons. The city has built non-essential facilities along the river bank such as basketball courts, tennis courts, bike paths and car parking so it is an ideal location for BBQ’s as we can eat, then play ball afterwards.

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Focus! Don’t burn the meat!

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Random group shot