30.4.10

Women in the news

Interestingly, this morning the "Most Popular Stories Now" listing on the BBC News website included the following four links (in a list of 10):
Arab women, Islam, dress codes, sexuality, prostitution, American women, European women, women in the military --- it strikes me that this particular algorithm-generated list is a neat synecdoche for where women "fit" in terms of news and social issues these days.

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26.4.10

I feel a little jetlagged

Ancient Mountain Trail

I realise there's no time difference between Singapore and Taiwan, but I felt off-kilter when I got home last Thursday and it took several days of sleeping in and not doing anything more strenuous than going out for satay or steamboat, to restore my balance. In a lot of ways the 8-day jaunt to Taiwan was a lot more demanding than the longer Lonely Planet trips I've done to Vietnam and Korea, in no small part because:
  • We hit the airport 7 times during that 8-day trip.
  • We never stayed in the same hotel or minsu (homestay) twice.
  • We spent much less time in each place than most vacationers do, so the local guides really had to squeeze in all the best sights and stops while we were there.
  • I cut my foot so I was favouring my left leg, which wore out my right leg more quickly.
None of which was Taiwan's fault, of course. It's a country with lots of warm-hearted people who were eager to show us what excited them about their respective home islands, and oh-so-forgiving of my inelegant Mandarin. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

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20.4.10

Island-hopping

Visiting Penghu was a whirlwind of beaches, old temples and volcanic rock formations. There were two rocky areas I decided not to hazard, given that my foot's still recovering, but generally I'm relieved that my movements haven't been much impeded.

After 25 hours here, we're about to board a plane for Jinmen. The pace of this trip is pretty crazy, worse than my Lonely Planet trips, or maybe it's because I have less direct control over my time and what I see.

On the bright side (pardon the pun), in Penghu the sun finally came out for us for the first time this trip. It was a scorcher, so I spent a lot of time hiding in the shade. Our guide took us to eat lots of local specialties --- how the locals stay healthy eating such good stuff is a mystery to me. I can still taste the sweet sticky flavour of this morning's 炸棗 (deep-fried sticky dough ball with peanut).

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17.4.10

Feeling doltish

So I moved with unnecessary haste coming out the front door of the minsu (homestay) where I was staying yesterday, and scraped my left little toe badly enough that it gushed blood for a good few minutes and merited two stitches to tidy it up. Fortunately, the guides who were showing us around Green Island (綠島) were just picking me up for lunch then and whipped me off to the local hospital posthaste.

Because Green Island has an islander population of about 1,000, the local hospital is only about double the size of a typical Singapore HDB clinic and looks like something out of the 1970s. A young mainlander doctor and an islander nurse attended to me, and he was very apologetic when he had to put two stitches in my toe instead of one. Total cost (including a tetanus shot, antibiotics and painkillers): NT$ 360, equivalent to about S$16. My Singapore HDB doctor charges me more than that for consultation alone.

So now I'm limping a wee bit and confined to wearing slippers for the rest of this trip and changing the bandage every night. No more hot springs or snorkelling for me, so it's just as well I had a taste of that before my silly fall.

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16.4.10

In the boondocks

And I mean that in a good way. We spent just over 12 hours in Taipei, then hopped on a plane to southern Taiwan to spend a couple of days at Green Island (綠島). The weather is, unfortunately, a sullen grey, more suited to the moors of Yorkshire than to this lush gem of an island that's trying to promote itself as a rustic playground. One can imagine how pretty everything looks when the sun is out --- it's just too bad that seems unlikely to happen while we're here.

It's just past noon and already I've taken a short hike up a local hill, rambled up another for a panoramic view of one of the world's only two seawater hot springs, and snorkelled among enough brightly coloured reef fish to make the word "rainbow" seem woefully inadequate. I wonder what the afternoon has in store.

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14.4.10

I need to do better at this

Another mad rush to the airport, accompanied by that nagging feeling that I've forgotten something. It's great that Singapore Airlines has Internet check-in, but that just means I procrastinate all the more on leaving home for the airport.

Blogging this from the plane. They're much less draconian about mobile phone use than they used to be.

Next stop: Taipei.

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11.4.10

Blog migration completed (I think)

The thing about things going slightly pear-shaped when using the Blogger FTP migration tool, is that you can't actually blog about it because your blog is in untouchable stasis once the migration tool has been activated.

Fortunately there's still Twitter, whereat I noted around midnight:
Blog migration interruptus: forgot that I need to get a new CNAME with my domain registrar first. This might take longer than I thought.
And an update from earlier this afternoon:
Struggling with a stubborn local proxy and recalcitrant Blogger FTP migration tool. This is NOT how I'd planned to spend Sunday afternoon.
Right now the CNAME issue has been resolved and http://blog.toomanythoughts.org seems to be working. However, my local proxy still hates me, so I can't view my own blog unless I use a proxy server. And finally, I think the Blogger FTP migration tool failed to update all my old blog pages with redirect code, like it was supposed to, so I might have to go back and patch things up --- someday. If you see me advertising for an assistant to do some murderously repetitive HTML updates in a few weeks, you'll know why.

And now we return your to your regularly scheduled blog programming.

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10.4.10

Blog migration imminent

Though hopefully one that will be invisible to you, dear readers.

Blogger is discontinuing FTP support, which displeases me but since we FTP users are apparently in the stark minority of Blogger users, I guess I'm outnumbered on this one. Anyways, there's a supposedly foolproof migration tool available and I finally have a pocket of time tonight to try this out --- so here goes.

If all goes well, after this post my blog will appear at http://blog.toomanythoughts.org (instead of http://www.toomanythoughts.org/blog/index.html).

See you on the other side.

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9.4.10

Taiwan calling

I've finally gotten confirmation of next week's press trip to Taiwan, which is not for Lonely Planet but a Singapore publication. Hey, all-expenses-paid travel --- I ain't complainin'.

I'll be in:
  • Taipei (but only in a cursory fashion, I suspect)
  • Green Island (绿岛 or Ludao)
  • Beitou (北投)
  • Penghu (澎湖, another island), and
  • Jinmen (金门, or the island formerly known as Quemoy)
Judging from the itinerary, the main objective of this trip seems to be overwhelm us with the delightfulness of Taiwan's hot springs (温泉) and islands. I'm particularly keen to see Jinmen, which is only 2 km off the coast of mainland China --- after seeing the DMZ in Korea last year, I find disputed border areas quite compelling, even if I'm there just as a layperson observer.

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2.4.10

This is a very disjointed post

The blog's been silent because I started writing something a few days ago, based on something that happened on Saturday, but the vignette just won't come out right. After whacking intermittently at it for the past few nights, I'm now resigned that it might sit in my drafts folder forever.

Meanwhile, my birthday came and went, I had to write furiously on the days before and after to meet certain deadlines, and how can it be April already?

Actually, I feel like scratching April off because most of the month will be filled up by a work trip, followed by the usual post-trip writing frenzy. I've started to say to friends, "Yeah, let's catch up in May ..."

If you really want to hear me blather on about work, then you should go read this little interview with me over at Nanzinc.Com. Thank you, Melanie! It was a nice post-birthday surprise.

Someday, when I am interviewed, I will say something as intelligent as this:


(There's also a transcript available at Boing Boing.)

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