Monday, September 25, 2006

Check this out!

There's a new blogger in town. You can find him here:

He's having a lot of fun with his entries -- drop him a line and tell him what you think.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I just posted below, but there's something amiss with the links -- they seem to work all right, but for some reason there's an extra space at the end which causes my commas to dangle precariously all on their own. It probably only bothers me (well, and Tim, and maybe a certain few of you), but now I've got to figure out how to fix it. It looked good in the preview. Sigh.

Books, books, books

I've updated my reading list over on the sidebar. I recently put in a big Amazon order with some other teachers, which meant I finally got to delete some titles that had been lingering on my wish list. The Eugene Peterson book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, is one that I've had my eye on for a while. I also ordered two cookbooks, The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook and Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker, which I'm hoping will motivate me to use those two machines a bit more. I seem to be only getting busier, so it's time to put some of these devices to work.

Still on my wish list: Oracle Bones, by Peter Hessler, whose first book, River Town, I thoroughly enjoyed; Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton; and The Poetry Home Repair Manual, by Ted Kooser. The latter I read a couple years ago and still think of often, so at some point I'd like to get a copy.

Books have been figuring prominently in my life lately. I am organizing Scholastic orders for the middle schoolers, which was a bit of a grind to set up but now should go fairly smoothly. I have been working on a children's book, based on a nursery rhyme I used to tell Cole and which might have some publishing potential; and I've been doing some editing work as well. I am happy to be surrounded by all things book, though it does keep me in the house more.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have just today gotten set up as an Associate, which means that anytime someone clicks on one of my Amazon links and then makes a purchase (of that particular item or another), I get a bit of the take. I'm not expecting to make millions off it, but since I've been posting Amazon links in my posts anyway, I figured I might as well take advantage of the opportunity. I've opted to get reimbursement in the form of Amazon gift certificates, so if my nickels and dimes do add up, you can guess what you'll be getting for Christmas.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Driver's Ed.

I need to get my license.

I have always relied on an international driver license to keep me legal here in Taiwan, but, alas, mine has lapsed and I need to get a local one to get back on the right side of the law. The test is similar to to the one in the states, at least on the surface: you must first pass a written exam, and then take the practical portion. The driving guide is available online, as is a practice exam. I decided to try the test once, without consulting the guide, so I could judge my baseline competency. I wanted to know how hard I'll have to work to pass this thing. The results were not encouraging, as you can see here:

I believe you need a score of 80 to pass, so I've got some work to do -- that death threat has given me new motivation. I'm surprised they used gallows humor in this case, actually; taking an exam in this culture is a big deal, and many young people do take their own lives if they feel they have let their families down.

Passing on the first try is a rare thing among the expats who have tested and lived to tell about it. The problem is not the written test, although it is bizarrely worded and full of arcane details about fees and fines and special rules for taxis; the problem is with the driving portion, which is as impractical as a practical exam can be. The test takes place on a closed track outfitted with sensors and alarms. The student driver gets behind the wheel of a car trimmed out with tags that trip the sensors, which, of course, set off the alarms, every time you make an error. The driver is tested on his ability to parallel park smoothly (without stopping during the maneuver); to negotiate a set of S-curves, both forward and back; and to back into a space, again without stopping the car while doing so. The course has numbered markers to guide the driver: pull forward until you are even with the #13; turn the wheel two turns to the right and reverse until you are even with the #14; turn the wheel five turns to the left and reverse until you are even with then #15; straighten out your wheels. Yes, this is the practical exam. Perhaps this explains why so many Chinese people require assistance when parking their cars. It's commonplace for whomever is riding shotgun to hop out (often to race ahead and save a space, but that's another story) and direct the driver gently into the slot. It doesn't matter how big the space or how small the car; parking is very often a team effort.

I've heard that you must get a score of 85 to pass the driving portion; each error is worth 10 points. I'm not even going to go there. I'll just chalk it up to new math.