Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Islamic State and Spreading Ebola Virus Crises: Natural Outcomes of our Insistence on Multi-Culturalism and Drive Toward Globalism?

During our vacation I have been reading the classic The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. Although I cannot agree with everything he says, Merton writes marvelously. Practically every word explodes with meaning. Although portions of this book are dated, the timeliness of other sections invite one to reflect on their relevancy for today.

With regard to the paragraphs I have copied below, for example, I wonder how Merton would feel about the Islamic State and Ebola Virus epidemic crises (as well as Russia/Ukraine, Israel/Gaza and other current hot spots in the world). Specifically, would he feel that they are logical consequences of our post-modern ways of thinking?

“For that was to be 1939, the year when the war that everybody had been fearing finally began to teach us with its inexorable logic that the dread of war is not enough. If you don’t want the effect, do something to remove the causes. There is no use loving the cause and fearing the effect and being surprised when the effect inevitably follows the cause…” (p. 256)

“There was something else in my own mind—the recognition: “I myself am responsible for this. My sins have done this. Hitler is not the only one who has started this war: I have my share in it too… It was a very sobering thought, and yet its deep and probing light by its very truth eased my soul a little…" (p. 272)

What do you think he would say? And would you agree or disagree?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Andy Stanley on Leading a Team Meeting

I’m not in any sort of leadership capacity at present, but I still enjoy reading and listening to leadership-related materials. Last night I was catching up with an Andy Stanley Leadership podcast from last April 4. Here are two nuggets I took from his discussion:

1. “When we get together (in our leadership team meeting to discuss the future and progress)... It's great to have a number two person, it's even better to have five number 2 people, or ten number 2 people... To find that man or woman who can carry an enormous amount of responsiblity--they don't feel the need to be #1, but they want to influence their own destiny. And most of us in leadership, especially when you get past 40-- I don't have to be #1, but I want to be in the meeting that determines my destiny in this organization. And so the leadership team allows me to have a large group of extraordinary people anyone of which can be #2 in this organization...”

2. “The leader isn't so much leading the meeting as he is excavating... getting it all out.... There are going to be conflicting opinions (but they all need to be heard)... Why is it so important that everyone be heard? Everyone listening to this podcast, me included, can probably think back to decisions that were made with which we didn't agree with, and it was difficult for us to fully engage. Because first of all we didn't think it was the right decision. But most leaders can move beyond that. What's really difficult is to ask me to engage with something that I don't agree with when I never feel like my opinion was heard. Most mature people if they feel like OK, I've  been heard, their opinion was factored it in, they just didn't agree. Mature people can move past that. The idea that a decsion was made  and my opinion was not even factored in, now a mature leader can move past that as well, but if I've got everyone in the room and I've got the right people in the room there's no reason for everyone not to be heard.... “

Looking forward to some of his more recent podcasts (and maybe start listening to his weekly message?). The leadership podcasts seem more substantial than some of other podcasts I’ve been listening to recently.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ollie and Gabi

Be honest—how intelligent do the dogs below look to you on a scale of 1-10?IMG_1068If you were being generous, maybe you rated them 1.5 or maybe even a 2.   Even though 土狗 (according to yahoo, “Formosan mountain dog”, a breed native to Taiwan) are FAR from bright they’re very low-maintenance – and good pets most of the time. When we go for our weekly hikes they’ll run straight from their doghouses to the car without a leash (though today getting them both back into the car after the hike was a bit more of a challenge).

Today during our Saturday afternoon hike something I have long feared happened. The ever-reckless and playful Gabi (coffee-colored dog) pushed Ollie off the path and down a very steep embankment while the two dogs were in a full run. I barely managed to climb down and lift him out--- at first I was a little worried I wouldn't even be able to climb back out myself. I didn’t notice the nasty cuts and scratches and cuts up and down my right triceps until several hours afterward.

A half hour later when we reached the peak I recorded the slightly more controlled rampage below.

dogs enjoy their weekly hike with me

The (not so bright) dogs remained blissfully ignorant of Ollie’s brush with death  and immediately  continued their torrid rampage. Makes me wonder how incognizant we may sometimes be whenever God intervenes to rescue us from dangerous circumstances.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Taiwan Barbet 五色鳥

On 3/14/2014, this beautiful little bird known here as the Taiwan Barbet or in Chinese as the 五色鳥 "Five-Colored Bird" apparently flew into a window at my wife’s family’s restaurant here in Guanziling 關子嶺 and was temporarily incapacitated. Fortunately, after recovering for an hour or so, it recovered from its stupor and safely continued along its way.

For More Information:

Moth Caterpillar

This rather large caterpillar (as long and fatter than any of my fingers) looks like a little stick with lots of small plants growing out of it. He greeted me as I opened the car door to go to work this morning. It'll probably turn into one of those large moths (as big as a hand) we sometimes see around here.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

American Airlines Seating Rip-Off

American Airlines (and other carriers?) have no scruples.  Now when you buy a ticket, there are very few seats to choose from. That's because they want you to spend more money to buy your seats. The fine print says that once you've bought them, you cannot get a refund if cheaper or free seats become available later on. The "x"ed out ones are not filled, just temporarily "reserved" (for “elite” customers supposedly). And very few if any at all are seats that would have previously required extra money. Any way to make more money at the expense of your customers! Since our flight is 11 hours long, we don’t want to risk having really bad seats or not being able to sit together.


This has been going on for a while, but I haven’t flown internationally for almost 2 years. After all, airlines are businesses that want to turn profits. For more information, see the following links:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hiking Tainan’s DaDong Mountain

imageYears ago when I lived in Taichung City, it was  nearly an hour’s scooter ride just to get to DaKeng mountain. After factoring in 4-6 hours of actual hiking time, that made for a fairly full day. Likewise, when I lived in Western Yunlin it took an hour and a half just to drive to the nearest mountain in Chiayi. So, scheduling wise, I really appreciate the fact that I now live a mere five minute car/scooter ride  from the base of the trail to DaDong Mountain here in Guanziling, Tainan (關仔嶺大凍山). Though certainly not the reason why we live here, DaDong  just happens to be the most popular place to hike in all of Tainan! Here's a helpful google map someone put together of the trail.

For the second straight Saturday, I enjoyed an exhilarating afternoon/early evening hike up DaDong. Last week I brought our two dogs with me but one of them ran away and we didn’t find her for 4 days! So today I ventured out by myself (I’ll give the dogs a chance on a shorter trail on Monday).

I need to measure the distance myself to confirm, but I think from the temple parking lot at the base of the trail  (altitude 418 meters) to the top (1241 meters) is between 5 and 6 km. According to the recreation website, the trail's level of difficulty is a mere 2 out of 5, but that’s more than enough of a workout for me on most days.  

Last Saturday my legs felt like lead  since I had done two leg  weight-lifting/cardio workouts the previous day and earlier that same morning prior to my hike. Today, however, I felt much better. It took me two hours to make it to the top (a little shorter than the 180-15 = 165 minutes this recreational hiking website recommends, but right on for what this blogger says (see also the good pics—I’m really impressed the mountain biker rode up nearly to the top!).

I took three short kindle reading breaks at the top and on the way down but still managed to get back to my scooter just as dark was setting in at just 85 minutes.

If you stay out past dusk, you can typically see fireflies in the spring (while not a big deal for Americans who may be accustomed to seeing them in our backyards, fireflies are a very big deal to Taiwanese). I didn’t see any tonight, but I didn’t want to risk being out too far without a flashlight.

Also, as is the case at Taichung’s DaKeng mountain and other places, the curious foreigner can see monkeys here at DaDong as well (I did each of the last two weeks and on many former hikes). Enjoy this hike if you ever have the chance!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Air Pollution and Allergies

The last two days in Putzi and BaiHe have been very bad ones for me allergy-wise, the worst since I had year-before-last in Iowa and Nebraska during corn harvest. At first I assumed the problems yesterday and today may have been due to spring-related allergens, which may in fact be the case. However, with the sky so dark all day today, air pollution once again seems to be the more likely culprit (see this link and that link for updated information):
I heard from my barber this morning that the air in Chiayi, a small city near where I live and work, is widely considered to be the worst in all of Taiwan. This is not because of locally-generated pollution. Rather, it is all due to moralistically-challenged (沒有公德心) businessmen lacking civic-spirit who live in mainland China. Their legacy floats over here.
Wear a face mask before you go out to exercise, everyone!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Introducing Places My Family Lived Growing Up

I’ll share this short video I finished today with some of my English class students next semester. 我下個學期可能會用到今天才做好的短片向學生介紹我們家在美國長大的過程和環境。