Mantis living on Renai Circle

On Saturday I posted this pic on my twitpics account:

There’s a bit of a story behind this. For those not familiar with Taipei, Renai Circle at Renai Road and Dunhua South Road is one of the largest roundabout intersections in Taipei (if not the biggest). Emily has a weekly class near there where she plays different games intended to develop problem solving skills. A week prior to this picture being taken, while walking to her class we saw a mantis sitting on a window of a building located on the circle. I didn’t think to take a picture of it at that time. The following week as we were walking to her class I jokingly said to Emily we should look for the mantis again. I didn’t actually think we would actually see him though. But sure enough, there he was, sitting on top of a bush and nibbling away at some leaves. He even turned his head to look at us. So, in the middle of a busy city at a busy intersection, there’s a 4 inch long mantis happily living in a bush.

US Trip

Today Maggie and Emily are going to the US to stay with my Dad in Santa Barbara for two weeks. I’m not going because someone needs to stay and make sure my business is running smoothly. The last two times I left (Singapore and US) a significant amount of money went missing each time. We now have video surveillance systems in place in both stores but I’m still a bit nervous about leaving again until I’m more confident that things are OK. Besides I also have a lot of things on my TODO list that I can get done once things are a bit quieter.

Pictures

I’ve updated Emily’s 2007 Album for 2007-03-24 through 2007-08-05. One thing I’ve been playing with recently is making panoramas by stitching multiple pictures into one large panorama image using Autostitch. Here is one from tonight (well last night by the time this is posted) of the atrium of Core Pacific City Living Mall.

Core Pacific City Living Mall Atrium Panorama
Click For Larger Version

I’ve also finally posted an album from my family’s 1978 Soviet Union Trip for a bit of history. Here’s a sampling:

Sarah walking to the Ob Sea
Click For Larger Version

Quick Up-to-dates

So, I passed the written part of the driving test. Still working on the road test parts. Before you laugh at me, go back and review those videos of the test in the last post.

Sunday April 1, we went by High Speed Rail to Tainan for early Tomb Sweeping for my great-grandfather-in-law, grandmother-in-law, and father-in-law. Instead of 5 hours by bus, it was about 1:45 hours on the HSR. I had to give driving directions to Maggie’s father’s grave since she never remembers. I had fried fish soup for lunch (everyone else had other stuff).

In the afternoon we headed to Kending by bus via Gaoxiong. HSR doesn’t go further than Gaoxiong and the bus to Gaoxiong was faster anyways, since the HSR stations are far outside of downtown in both Gaoxiong and Tainan. In Kending we stayed at the Chateau Hotel which was right on the beach. We went a short walk into town for dinner where we sampled night market fare and had some Thai food.

Tuesday we spent all day hanging out on the beach or in the pool.

Wednesday the weather turned cold again but it was still just warm enough in the sun to enjoy the beach a bit more until we had to make our way back home. We took the bus back to Gaoxiong and stopped off at the Liuhe Night Market where I again had my favorite fried fish soup. The Liuhe Night Market place makes it best, even though the Tainan one is supposedly more authentic. Then we took the train up to the HSR station and then back to Taipei on the express train in just 1:40 instead of 6 hours by bus.

Weather has been pretty crappy in Taipei since then. That and the real Tomb Sweeping 4-day holiday of Thursday, April 5 through Sunday April 8 really put a dent in business. Things have been slowly warming up though, so that and some sunny weather should be good for business. Please! Please!

Last night Emily was playing around and dropped a heavy 10 meter metal tape measure square on her big toe and busted the toenail. Lots of blood and drama but she seems to be OK today.

Next week I’m going to Singapore April 15 though April 18 for a Subway meeting. My flight on Sunday leaves 7:40am which means leaving the house at 5:00am. And since the buses aren’t running that early, that also means hiring a taxi to go to the airport. Ugh, too early.

I’m still hoping to make it back to the US at the end of this month. In related news, I’ve finally got the majority of my stuff off of tcp.com and onto my hosting accounts. I just may be able to get the last remnants off by the end of this week.

I also finally got the finalized versions of the VIP discount cards done for my shop, both English and Chinese versions. I found a nice heavy stock green paper that’s a bit lighter than “Subway Green” but pretty nifty looking. Microsoft Word has some decent Business Card Templates that I was able to use for layout, and they even have the ‘A4 sizes’. I got a small laminating machine, business card sized lamination sleeves, a small paper cutter and rounded corner snippers. I tried printing on my laser printer at home, but the toner tends to flake off the rough surface of the heavy stock paper I got. The HP inkjet printer at the restaurant works great though, and once printed, cut, and laminated they look really nifty.

For any of my readers in Taiwan, if you’d like a discount card, email me your mailing address (Chinese preferred) and let me know if you’d like the English or Chinese version and what name you’d like on it.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Last year we did a take-away packaged dinner from Landis Hotel for Thanksgiving. It was pretty good, but the turkey was too big, the pumpkin pie too small, and the trimmings a bit limited as well. Still, bacon wrapped turkey… mmm!

This year we decided to take a DIY approach. We were going to get a goose instead of a turkey, but they were out of them for some reason so we got a Beijing Roast Duck (北京烤鴨) instead. We also got a LARGE pumpkin pie from the Landis. Then I made mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce (well I opened the can), and marshmallow topped yams for the trimmings. I thought about doing stuffing too, but figured we had enough already.

The duck was actually a pretty good substitute. It’s a bit like dark meat turkey, and went well with gravy and cranberry sauce. Best of all, we finished about 80% of the bird, so we won’t be cursed with leftovers. (Last year we had so much that we were feeding the cat turkey leftovers and still had to throw some out when it got ripe.)

All the other trimmings came out nice as well, and everything was well received by the whole family, except Emily who was a bit picky. The marshmallow yams came out a bit too watery, but that was a minor thing. I haven’t tried the pumpkin pie yet, as I’m stuffed for now.

Other Catching Up

So what else has been going on…

Maggie went to Korea for a week for a beauty equipment class. Emily and I got to hang out a bunch. Maggie brought back a giant box of Choco Pie back (picture coming).

There’s a new chain of Japanese Curry Rice restaurants started up by Japan’s House Foods called CoCo Ichibanya. They have 7 levels of spiciness and a whole bunch of toppings! One is near Taipei Main Station and the other near Nanjing East Road Station. I love the Japanese Curry Rice, and I have found memories of House Food’s socal Curry House chain.

After going to the Nanjing one a couple of weeks ago I popped over to Asiaworld Center to get a gelato and ran into Maoman from Forumosa.com who was having lunch with his wife. It turned out he had been meaning to talk to me that day anyways. To make a long story short, I was invited to be a moderator of the Legal forums on Forumosa. So far I’ve managed not to let the power go to my head.

Last week after getting my gigabit switch replaced (see previous entry), I ran into miltownkid back at my Subway™ restaurant. He’d actually sent me email before hand, but since I’d been out I hadn’t seen it. Good thing I decided to drop by the store. He was there to meet one of my regular customers, Elliott, who I hadn’t yet introduced myself to, one of the Hess crowd. Elliott also has the same laptop as I do.

After Elliott left, miltownkid and I talked for a while and then I showed him around the restaurant a bit, then went back to my house to let him borrow some books. He seems to have gotten really excited by one of them and posted a big old blog entry about it.

Subway news: We had our tax withholding on the royalties changed from 20% to 10%, then they decided they didn’t do all the right paperwork so they switched back to the 20% rate with the extra kicker that those of us who did what we were told had to go revise the payments and paperwork with the tax office. Fun. We also had two boxes of wheat bread which didn’t rise last week. Apparently a problem with that lot. Also after getting the equipment in I was told they needed more money for the shipping costs which I wired over. Now they are ready to close down my equipment account and the money’s still there. I ask what’s up with that and turns out the shipping was in the original quote after all, so they shouldn’t have asked me for more. So yay I get money back, but boo US$22 in fees blown. Otherwise things going fairly well. The end of the July/August tax period is coming so there’ll be a bunch of invoice sorting at the end of the week.

Next week is APNIC22 in Gaoxiong. The spam session is Tuesday so I’ll be going down Monday night and returning Tuesday night. I got together today with Arthur Shay, one of the advisors on spam issues in Taiwan to get the latest scoop so I can give an update (we couldn’t find anyone local to do a Taiwan update other than me so far). He’s going to put me in touch with some other people so hopefully I can talk to them too. The conference is actually covering registration and room this time. Usually I only get registration covered as a speaker. (And in case you haven’t been paying attention to this blog, Gaoxiong trip means Liuhe Night Market Fried Fish Soup!)

Then at the end of the week my Dad will come for a visit to see Emily (and I assume the rest of us too). This time he’s decided to actually stay with us in the new guest room we remodeled last winter.

Fixing Things

There was a lot of fixing things this week.

First thing up was the one of the inside air conditioning units in the shop. Each unit has a drain line to get rid of condensation. The drain pipe flows down to another pipe that runs along the top of the drop down ceiling and out the back of the shop.

On Tuesday when the workers came in and turned on the AC, water started dripping from the ceiling. When I took a look I found that the main drain pipe had become detached from the AC’s drain line. For some reason the installers had taped those two together. Since the main drain pipe was being held on just by the tape, gravity eventually did its thing and the tape gave out. (Gravity is very patient.)

We left that AC unit off and called up the contractor who sent out a crew to fix it on Wednesday morning. This time they used something called “adhesive” to join the pipes together. (I checked the other three AC units and their drain lines were all securely attached.)

On Wednesday a package came from my US mail forwarder. One of the contents was a replacement handle for our tuna press. Getting it back together was as much of a pain in the butt as taking it apart, but now it’s working again!

Also in the package was a set of gears for our digital camera. Last month Emily decided the zoom lens on the camera looked like a nice hammer and was using it to bang on the table. After that the zoom wouldn’t open or close which made the camera’s software very upset.

Sony wanted TW$4500 (about US$140) to repair it which is getting close to the replacement cost with the prices of digital cameras these days. I took it apart and found that the problem was just one of the plastic gears in the zoom mechanism which had gotten stripped. I found a seller on eBay selling a set of replacement gears for my model of camera and bought them.

I got around to replacing the stripped gear today. The surgery was a success and the camera is now working fine again. As a test I took some pictures of the Landis Hotel which has all the windows boarded up in preparation for the Typhoon, and the small hospital kitty corner to the hotel which had some sandbags set up outside.

The hotel also has large metal gates for the front and side doors which they can bring out if flooding is expected. I saw them doing a practice drill a couple of weeks ago where they boarded up the windows and put up the flood gates. This neighborhood has flooded twice due to typhoons, so I’m a bit worried about the shop.

Anyways, the camera seems to be fine now and will be ready to take any pictures of the neighborhood after the Typhoon goes through.