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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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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.

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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

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Moved House

Haven’t updated for a while as I have been busy moving apartments, getting my subjects at uni organised and also starting to teach English again at a different Kojen school. I moved from a relatively quiet and serene apartment complex with a nice garden and a swimming pool with the drawback of being at the outskirts of Taipei to the noisy urban metropolitan, hip and trendy centre of where all the action is. It can be compared to moving from Rowville to right across the road from Myers in Melbourne.

I now have Sogo, Breeze Center and its movie cinemas, Eslite 24hr bookstore, Asia World, Ikea and the ice skating rink all within 15 minutes walk.

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View from old window

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New window

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Surrounding the President

Last Friday night, the protest to out President Chen was stepped up a notch with an organised march around the central Taipei area with a route designed to create a 5km circle of people around the Presidential Office. As you can imagine this would require a tremendous amount of people, and that was exactly what happened. There’s no other way to describe the turn out except to use the overused cliche ‘sea of people’ as it was literally a never ending flow of red down the street. There was no way to tell whether you were at the start or the end of the march as it was just people for as far as you could see.

The enthusiasm and energy of the crowd was kept high with never ending chanting and shouting. When one person stopped, another would take over. It mattered not who you were, whether male, female, old or young. As long as you shouted the President’s nickname (阿扁), the crowd would respond with “Step Down (下台).”

Saturday, the very next day, the President’s supporters dressed in green staged their own sit-down rally literally a block away from the Red camp. Both groups have been there since and tension is quite high as any miss-hap could result in an explosive riot. It’s obvious this is not just a few activists with nothing better to do. This is something that the whole population is involved in.

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MRT after the march

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Voice of the People

The rage all over the news for the past six months has been scandal after scandal involving the President’s family. First it started with the President’s son-in-law being involved in insider-trading and using his name and position to receive knock-backs from promoting certain products. The dust from that hadn’t even settled when it was found that the First Lady received a large sum of cash-vouchers for Sogo, an upscale department store in Taiwan, to influence the company’s take-over decision.

It was then uncovered that the President himself had been shifting his election campaign money into a personal account and also money that was allocated to him for Government purposes has been spent on personal items such as the rent for his son-in-law’s apartment, and the salary of their nanny. Of course the President denies the accusations or that he had no knowledge of the wrong-doings of his family. Regardless, the people are fed up and want him to step down.

Starting from September 9th, thousands of people have converged outside Parliament House dressed in red to stage a peaceful protest. They have sat there through battering rains, thunderstorms and the scorching hot sun without any indication of backing off. It’s a protest where people come and go as they please. People go off to work, then come back and mothers are bringing their kids to show them democracy at work. Interestingly over half the people at the protest are women so the chances of this turning into a violent encounter is slim. They also show their motherly touch by looking after us young people, offering us food, water and rain coats.

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Check out the rest of the photos from today here. Might go again a few more times during the week to see what’s going on. Oh yeah.. Bali write-up. It’ll happen when I’ve collected and gone through all the photos from my friends which is gonna take a while.

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