Getting busy

Well, I’ve been getting busier as the opening date approaches. I’m still aiming for second week of May, but it all depends on when the rest of the equipment ships from the US. Outdoor signs are up and look really spiffy. Ironically enough the best vantage point to see the signs clearly is the front door of McDonald’s. 🙂 I’ve set the signs up on a timer so they’ll automatically come on from 6p-11p daily. Already I’ve heard a lot more people talking about the shop as they are walking by now that the signage is up.

104 Job Bank is sending me about 100 job applicants per day in email, so it’s gonna be a huge help in finding staff.

Tomorrow morning I’m going with the accountant to the tax office to get invoices. Here there is a VAT of 5% that is included in prices, and you have to use official receipts to be legal. Like most things in Taiwan there are lots of small shops that don’t use official receipts and hence don’t pay sales tax on the purchase. To encourage compliance they have a receipt lottery every two months where if you match all the numbers on the receipt with the draw number you win TW$200,000 (about US$6,000), and smaller prizes for winning fewer matched numbers.

Today I went out and bought an LG LX-M340A bookshelf stereo system for the shop. The shop has three speakers in the customer area which I hooked up to the stereo in the back room, with the speakers it came with also hooked up. It’s a pretty basic system, but it has 30 watts per channel of power which is plenty for background music in the restaurant. It has a cassette deck (do people still use those?), a CD player with MP3 support, radio, plus an aux input for hooking up an iPod, etc. Pretty nifty system and not very expensive. Sounds pretty good in the shop too.

Tonight all three of us hopped on Maggie’s scooter to drive to the Yongkang Street area for dinner. Maggie recently picked up the scooter second hand from one of the guys who ran a vegetarian restaurant next to her shop that recently went bust. First we went to a Tainan style restaurant where I had fried fish soup, which shouldn’t be too unexpected if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, then over to the Vietnamese restaurant where I had beef ball soup, and then to The Italian Job to finish up with a Chicken Parmesan roll and Peroni beer.

It’s a Hot One

Today was pretty hot weather. It got up to about 34C, and with the humidity level that’s pretty hot. I haven’t turned on the AC except one time last week though. That’s probably not gonna last too long.

Today I caught up on various things, including watching Lost. There’s been some pretty good episodes lately. Later I fixed the main toilet, checked out how the shop is coming, and then we went out to “Pizza Pub” at the Sheraton for dinner. I thought it was expensive and noisy, but other people seemed to like it. Oh, and I don’t think I’ve seen so many white people in one place before in Taipei.

Busy and Interesting Day

Today was a pretty busy day, but let’s start with the fun part. Tonight we went out to eat Thai Food at Mei Kung restaurant. It’s a pretty well known Thai place and Maggie frequently points out various local celebrities dining there. The only one I’ve really know all that well was Shunza but tonight when we were eating Maggie pointed out that Mavis Fan (范曉萱) was waiting outside for a table. After a while she came in and sat at the table right next to ours. I’ve been listening to her music for several years.

Anyways, back to other things. This morning I went to the accountant’s office to pick up my bank book, business license, tax stamp, and a bunch of various documents. Then I went to the bank with Maggie where we did a whole lot of stuff including getting the company bank account finally activated, get the extra US$ money over the initial startup capital converted to TW$, claim a wire transfer from my US account to my personal account, and do a bank transfer of the second payment for the contractor. I’m getting good at writing my Chinese name now from signing lots of documents.

Then I went to check out how the shop is going. The wallpaper is all up now and they were working on the walls in the back room. With the wallpaper and tiling done up front, it’s really starting to look nice.

Tainan and etc.

We actually didn’t make it to Gaoxiong at all. The first went down to the old Chikan fort in central Tainan to look around. I’d been there before but it’s still neat to look around. While we were there, there were some military fighter jets doing some training overhead and I managed to get a couple decent photos as they flew over. The Japanese sidewalk restaurant we were supposed to go to on Friday night was across the street and though we thought it was only open for dinner, it was just opening up when we left the fort, so Maggie and Emily and I ate lunch there while the rest went elsewhere nearby.

Bonita and Ilona had bought return bus tickets for 2:50pm but they decided to stay rather than go after all, so Elly and my mother-in-law used those tickets instead. The rest of us went to the other old fort in Tainan, Anping fort which is near the waterfront. First Emily took a ride on a small train set a vendor had set up, while I watched and the others looked around the market outside.

I decided not to go into the fort as I’d been there too and wasn’t as interested in going again, so Maggie and Emily and I set out to find someplace to sit and wait for them. We saw a guy carrying two large lizards who was soliciting people to take pictures with them. He took an interest in Emily and when he heard she wanted a cracker to eat he darted off to a nearby stand to help her buy some crab flavored crisps. Then we walked out to the main road and Emily saw a guy selling fresh squeezed orange juice and wanted to get some. She’s getting so she can buy things herself now.

(In Taiwan it is common to have trucks parked by the side of the road selling produce. For orange juice you’ll see a truck piled high with oranges and there will be a guy at the side of the truck cutting up oranges and tossing them into a mechanical juice press and bottling the results. It’s really amazing how good real fresh squeezed orange juice is.)

I asked the juice guy where the beach was but the answer was a bit too complex so Maggie talked to him in Taiwanese for a bit. The developed beach area was a few kilometers away so we set off to get a taxi to take us. In Taipei you can just about go out to the curb and flag a taxi down in less than a minute most of the time, but in Tainan there’s not as many taxis around. We eventually got one and set out.

When we got to the entrance of the beach area Maggie noticed a famous restaurant called the Five Cent Driftwood House across the street, so we went in there to chill out for a few hours having tea and beer and snacks. The restaurant was made out of various random pieces of wood logs and was pretty inventively put together. In any case, it was a nice cool air conditioned place to kick back.

Ilona and Bonita joined up with us and after they had their rest we headed back to the previous night’s Fried Fish Soup restaurant (on Hai An Road near Bao An Road, for the next time you’re in Tainan) where I wolfed down two bowls of soup for dinner. Then we headed off to the bus station to buy our return tickets. The tickets we got were for about an hour and a half later so we headed to a nearby park for a while where Emily spent a lot of time playing on the playground.

We left around 7:45pm and got back home around 12:30am.

This week I’ve ordered the local equipment and signed a contract for construction. I also went and talked with S.P., another American who has opened up two Subway shops in Taipei, and who was able to give me a lot of good advice. He was given as a reference by the construction guy I chose, and I had intended to just ask him about that, but he ended up chatting with me for almost an hour and a half about lots of good things to know about the business.

On funny thing happened to me when I was in the Landis Hotel bakery yesterday. My conversation went something like this:


This apparently delighted one of the other customers who said my Chinese sounded very good. My Chinese isn’t actually that good, but since I buy a lot of french bread, that conversation is pretty much down pat. She then proceeded to ask if I know any Taiwanese and said I don’t, which is mostly true, so she tried to teach me some. When she was doing this I surprised her by throwing in a couple of Taiwanese words that I do know. I really don’t know Taiwanese but I do know stuff like “sorry”, “it’s nothing”, “unbelievable”, “i don’t want”, “i’m full” and “crab”. (“crab” sounds like Jim in Taiwanese so I get teased about that sometime.) Anyways, it was kinda fun.

The only other interesting occurrence this week was another earthquake, this time a 5.7 in the middle of the night. Felt like someone bumped into my bed:

2006-04-05 03:30:00 M 5.7 24.42N 122.74E, i.e. 107.8 km ESE of Yilan City #034 (0405033057034)

I’m still waiting for the damn insurance policy. It was supposed to be done today.

Santa Barbara

I was planning on finishing up a few things on Saturday morning and then head to Santa Barbara, but a few things turned into more things and then it was already early afternoon and I was still not ready, so had to push SB off until Sunday. That was compounded by Taiwan having a series of strong quakes, so had to console my wife over that.

One of the new toys that arrived while I was at school was my new iPod. When the iPod first came out, I thought it was nice, but a little too big. When the iPod mini came out, I thought it was just the right size, but 4gb for $249 was too much for too little capacity. So when Apple rolled out the new iPod mini 6gb for $249 and lowered the 4gb model to $199, it was finally just right. I ordered a blue iPod mini 6gb during the brief time I was in Taipei between Kyoto and US. All in all I’m quite impressed with it.

I also got an iTrip mini for it, a small FM transmitter that fits on top so you can play your iPod over a car stereo. Reviews of it have been pretty evenly split between “blows goats” and “totally awesome.” So I’m going to buck the trend and say that it is merely adequate. The main problem is that the instructions tell you to find a free channel, and better yet, one with free channels to either side of it. Problem is, if you live anywhere reasonably populated, it’s pretty damn difficult to find a free channel at all, much less one that has free channels to either side. In Silicon Valley, there’s only a couple of free channels at all. Plus on the ride down to SB, I had to retune twice as my free channel was suddenly in use a couple of hours down the road. That said, it does work reasonably well, though it is somewhat annoying to be fiddling with channels every so often. If you live somewhere more remote, it’ll probably work just great.

So anyways, Sunday morning I was pretty much ready, but wanted to make one hardware change on I got that all done OK, but then after moving things back around on the computer rack, I knocked the master power switch on the remote power management box, and all the computers went down at once. Everything rebooted cleanly a few minutes later, so not too bad, but had an uptime of 1 year and 1 month, so it was kinda disappointing to interrupt that uptime.

Finally I was able to make it onto the road and down to Santa Barbara where I’ll be until Wednesday morning.