Sunday, August 28, 2005

Another part of Taiwanese society

In my 7+ years of living in Taiwan, professionally I've been primarily involved with the IT industry. This constant exposure to Taiwanese IT people could have distorted my belief about who Taiwanese people are. Luckily through people like Jonathan Lee and other friends, I've been able to gain broader insight about Taiwanese as a whole.

Without my "guides" this other part of Taiwanese society would have been difficult to observe any other way. Many times I remember going to parties, nights out, or other gatherings and literally I would be the only one that wasn't actively working in the music industry. Actually it's a pretty insulated group. I suppose it's true anywhere, but on the whole the personalities of IT people (conservative, logical) and music people (liberal, intuitive) seem to be diametrically opposite (of course, exceptions belong in both).

An additional bonus was getting a unique behind-the-scenes look at the Taiwanese music industry. After visiting several studio sessions, I really found the process that's involved in creating an album quite fascinating and developed a new respect for the effort everyone contributes to try and make a hit album.

Singers may get fame and fortune, but they also work really hard to attain their goals (as well as all the other people working behind the scenes).

I challenge that anyone with any shred of a conscience who observed how hard these people work wouldn't be able to illegally download music and still sleep at night.

Thoughts on Jonathan Lee

Jonathan Lee is a talented, business savvy musician who is often described by people using words like “respected”, and “a legend.” For over 20 years due to his skill, ability, and uncompromising dedication to producing solid music, Jonathan has made himself one of the most well known music industry figures in Greater China (mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore). Jonathan has worked hard to gain the respect and the reputation he enjoys today and has become known throughout the region as “Big Brother”. Although not as well known in North America, it would be difficult to find a person in the Chinese-speaking world who hasn’t heard of Jonathan Lee.

Artist, musician, writer, and producer, Jonathan Lee is all of these and more. As an artist and musician he is famous for his innovative acoustic guitar-playing and soft melodies. As a writer he is known for his creative lyrics, and as a producer he is respected for producing hit songs that maintain their popularity.

Being one of the most famous producers in Asia also means being one of the busiest. In addition to setting up his own production company, (Promise Productions & Studios due to open early next year), he is still filling his role at Taiwan’s Rock Records as their main producer of hit songs. To date, Jonathan has arranged and produced over one thousand tunes both locally and regionally. In just the last 16 years, besides producing his own eight albums, this 42-year-old guitarist/writer/producer, has written and produced songs for many famous Chinese artists. A small list includes: Jackie Chan, Sandy Lam, Karen Mok, CoCo Lee, and so on and so on. It’s no surprise he has become the most sort-after arranger for taking a tune and making it into a hit. Yet despite all his projects and other duties, Jonathan still finds time to go on the road and sing with other artists during tours or concerts.

This was from a document I wrote for Jonathan in December, 2000.

I met Jonathan initially through Kate's friend, Chrissy (Jonathan's assistant).

Back then one of the first things I observed was that music people would act differently around Jonathan. Compared to Taiwanese in the IT industry, on the whole, music industry people are outspoken, opinionated, and outgoing. However, around Jonathan people would become serious, subdued, and somewhat submissive. Since I didn't know better, I was quite direct with him, which actually I think he appreciated.

To use an old cliche, Jonathan has got to be the hardest working man in the music industry. A perfect example is the concert Saturday night. I'm sure they already had a full day of rehearsals, then he was on stage for 3+ hours. After that interviews until 2:30 AM, and then he was signing autographs for crew members and other "VIPs". Remember he's in his mid to late 40's. Unbelievable!

Unfortunately I don't see Jonathan as much as I did in those days when we were meeting several times a month to discuss projects. However, despite whatever else he's doing, every year since I've known him he's generously invited our family to their year-end company party.

During the concert Jonathan kept referring to himself as "Little Lee" and giving credit to those that have supported him throughout his career. He said "if I've walked 10 kilometers, then they've walked 100."

Jonathan Lee Live!- 2005.08.27

Jonathan Lee Live!- 2005.08.27
Jonathan Lee Live!- 2005.08.27, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

Jonathan Lee Live!- 2005.08.27

Jonathan Lee Live!- 2005.08.27

Went to Jonathan Lee (李宗盛) and Huajian's (周華健) concert Saturday night. Nice thing about having friends in the music industry: VIP passes.

For those that don't know, Jonathan Lee is a an icon in the Mandarin music industry. Everyone calls him "big brother" to show their respect. Probably a song writer first, Jonathan is also a producer, musician, composer, and businessman. A very talented and very busy guy.

The concert was held in Taipei county (Xin zhuang) so Kate, Griffon, and I took the MRT to Ximen and from there rode a cab the rest of the way. The Xin zhuang stadium is well designed, unfortunately can't say the same for the roads surrounding it.

Jonathan and Huajian have worked together for 20+ years, but this was the first time they held a concert together. I was quite impressed. For two guys in the twilight of their career, both of them sang with a lot of energy which the crowd fed off of.

Both shared the stage in the beginning, then it was Huajian's turn to have the spotlight to himself, after which Jonathan took over. At the end they re-joined on stage again and sang more.

The concert started around 8 and finished slightly before midnight. After crew and some others went to Huajian's newly opened restaurant on Chung Xiao E. Rd. for late night snacks.

Both of the stars had little time to eat and chat as they had to still do photoshoots, interviews, and sign autographs until almost 3:00 AM. Who says being a star is easy?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

2 down 4 to go

Continuing with the one book per week challenge, I recently completed: The Naked Investor by John Lawrence Reynolds.

Anybody who:
  • Holds or is planning on holding RRSPs/RRIFs
  • Is planning to or currently works with a financial advisor, planner, broker, mutual fund sales person
Should run and buy this book.

It basically throws a spotlight on the Canadian investment industry by providing deep insight into the inner workings and infrastructure.

The writer argues that although there are good and bad apples in every profession, the investment industry is structured in a way to look after the investment industry's needs first and needs of clients second. As he writes, if you win, they win. If you lose, they still win.

Regarding mutual funds, things to watch out/ask about: DSC (deferred sales charges), MER (management expense ratio) cost, and trailer fees.

People he mentions trying to make a difference: Joe Killoran, Glorianne Stromberg, and John De Goey.

Some mutual fund companies he says are quite good, but are never heard of because they don't offer commissions or pay trailer fees, examples include: Altamira, McLean Budden, Saxon, and Phillips, Hager & North.

To summarize, compares management of RRSPs/RRIFs to a coast-to-coast road trip. Should you take the main highway (risks are still possible) or should you pay attention to billboards, try to take shortcuts and invite greater risk?

This is my first book I've read of his, and will not be my last. Thinking of checking out this one: Free Rider : How A Bay Street Whiz Kid Stole and Spent $20 Million.

That is, after I finish the remaining four of course. Must... maintain... discipline...

Anna's officially 9 months!

Here's a couple pics to compare the difference 6 months makes:

March '05



6 months later...

Cosmo Grill Aug ' 05

Cosmo Grill Aug ' 05

Slow down sweetie, you're growing too fast!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cosmo Grill Aug ' 05

Cosmo Grill Aug ' 05

Cosmo Grill Aug ' 05

Cosmo Grill Aug ' 05

Cosmo Grill Aug ' 05, originally uploaded by jdgemm, CLICK PICs for more.

On our way to Cosmo (restaurant I invested in), it started coming down in buckets.

Unbelievable how hard it was raining. I turned off my windshield wipers and after a few seconds took a picture.

Besides eating dinner met up with one of the other partners. He's creating the new menu and I volunteered to create a new drink menu.

He showed me what he had done using Microsoft Publisher. Looks like a good tool.

Cosmopolitan Grill "The Best American Food in Hsimending"

Telephone: 02-2381-2060

7F, #77, Wu Chang St., Sec. 2, Taipei, Taiwan

Chung Yuan Festival

Chung Yuan Festival

Chung Yuan Festival

Chung Yuan Festival

Chung Yuan Festival, originally uploaded by jdgemm, CLICK PICs for more.

Takes place on the 15th day of the Seventh month (Lunar calender). Also halfway through ghost month.

According to Kate's Mom, in the morning they performed certain rituals inside for their ancestors.

Rituals include setting out food, drink, cigarettes for those departed spirits. Also included is burning of "ghost money" to make sure they're well provided for in the spirit world.

In the afternoon they performed other rituals for those spirits who don't have friends or relatives outside. In addition, it helps ensure those spirits don't cause any trouble to the family. Sounds a little like spiritual extortion.

Unfortunately in the China Post it was reported that burning ghost money releases benzene which is a cancer-causing substance.

As Kate's mom says, it's hard to change customs.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Taiwan vs. Vancouver Island

Taiwan vs. Vancouver Island
Taiwan vs. Vancouver Island, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

Thought it would be interesting to compare the two islands (I know I'm a wild and crazy guy...).


Taiwan is larger in terms of area (measured in square kilometers), but Vancouver Island has a larger coastline.

The population of Taiwan is 33 times that of Vancouver Island and has a population density approx. 29 times greater. A way to put the population density number into perspective: when I'm back on Vancouver Island and every time I see a person, think well actually in Taiwan it would be 29. So if there are 10 people in a lineup, don't complain because in Taiwan it would be 290.

Facts below.

Vancouver Island

Population: 700,000 (est. 2005)

Area: 31,284 square kilometers (sq km)

Population density: 22/sq km

Lenght of coastline: 3,440 km


Population: 22,894,384 (approx. 33 times that of Vancouver Island)

Area: 35,980 sq km

Population density; 636/sq km (approx. 29 times that of Vancouver Island)

Length of coastline: 1,566.3 km

Where the heck is Nanoose Bay, BC?

Nanoose Bay, BC
VI-1, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

Zoom in...
Nanoose Bay, BC

Nanoose Bay, BC

To make thinks easier, I always tell Taiwanese that my home is Vancouver. If I tell them Nanoose Bay, I know I would get a lot of blank stares. Not that you can really blame them, even people on Vancouver Island may not know about Nanoose.

Nanoose Bay is located on the eastern side of Vancouver Island and Vancouver Island is located off the west coast of Canada.

Population of Nanoose Bay: 4820.

Population of Taipei: 2.6 million.

I captured these images from google maps. Very cool.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Suggestions for PC-cillin

PC-cillin Pop up
PC-cillin Pop up, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

The good: pop up to tell me that I need to update because new virus outbreak.

The bad: no "Always perform this action" check box so the pop ups not continually in my face (think pop-up ads, bad right?).

The ugly: have already clicked around 5 times, if I was playing an online game or something could get very distracting.

1 down 5 to go

Earlier I posted that I need to finish reading 6 books before end of Sept. (roughly a book/week) before I would permit myself to buy more.

Last night I finished The Smartest Guys in the Room : The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, by Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind.

The authors do a really good job at answering the question, for all its high-priced, and intelligent people, why did Enron fail? Simple answer: hubris, and greed. If anyone wants to understand the Enron scandal this is the book for them.

It was also interesting to read how much of an influence the work environment has on people. There's a line in the book that goes something like this, there would be freshly-minted, energetic, idealistic MBAs starting at Enron and within 6 months they'd be assholes.

The book ends with Jeff Skilling (ex-CEO) and Ken Lay (ex-CEO and founder) being indicted. looked on the Internet and Jeff Skilling's trial is set for January 2006.

UFC-15 Workout

Last night completed another round of the UFC-15 workout. It's a modification of a workout that a friend recommended.

I modified it because the original one was too difficult. I mean, I'm just trying to get a little more cardio exercise, not enter the Gobi March.

The modified version goes like this:

First- 15 minutes of cardio (for me on our cross-country exercise machine that had been gathering dust).

Second- 15 reps of pushups (used pushup bars that had also been gathering dust), crunches, and squats. Then 14 reps of each, and continue each cycle by counting down by 1 and then back up to 15 again (e.g., next 14 pushups, crunches, squats, then 13 pushups, crunches, squats, 12... and then back up again).

On Monday I made it down to 10 and was dying. Last night I made it down to 8 and had a little left in the tank.

Goal is to "attach" with yoga days (M, W, F) and perform more reps than the previous time.

Was considering before and after shots, but thought it might be too depressing if no noticable improvement.

The original version is something ridiculous like 45 minutes of cardio and then start at 20 reps. I nicknamed it "UFC-15" after the Ultimate Fighting Champship (recommendor used to be a professional fighter and still stays in fairly decent shape) and the 15 for well... refer above.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

David Allen Doing Microsoft Leadership Forum

I blogged earlier about David Allen.

Well turns out he's doing a Microsoft Webinar this Wednesday 08/18.

I've viewed some of the archived webinars and they're usually pretty good and free.

Testing self-portrait function

Testing self-portrait function
Testing self-portrait function, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

Just for fun thought I'd test my camera's self-portrait function and get pictures of Anna. Two birds with one stone... Click image for more pictures.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Books to finish before Q4 '05 = 1 book/week for 6 weeks

I love books and am always eager to buy/read new ones. However, I feel guilty getting new ones if there's still some in the pipeline.

Since Q4 2005 is rapidly approaching (about a month and a half away) that's a good cut-off for me to finish reading books I already have before I start mining my Amazon wishlist and buying new ones.

These are the books I need to finish by September 30th, if I want to buy new ones.

The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking and Problem Solving, by Barbara Minto

In Search of Excellence : Lessons from Americas Best Run Companies, by Thomas J Peters, Robert Waterman

Marketing Imagination, New, Expanded Edition, by Theodore Levitt

The Smartest Guys in the Room : The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, by Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind

Practical Thinking: 4 Ways to Be Right, 5 Ways to Be Wrong, 5 Ways to Understand, by Edward De Bono

The Naked Investor by John Lawrence Reynolds

6 books in approx. 45 days. Roughly 1 book/week. Guess this means, less blogging/taking pictures, more reading.

(Thankfully I've already read some of all the books I've mentioned and won't be starting any of them from page 1. Not a great habit, but think about what you had to do in unversity).

Eliminating doubts when selling music

Years ago, I remember browsing CDs in a music store and seeing one that looked interesting. I had heard the name of the band, but couldn't really recall any of their songs. So there I was, buy or don't buy? Obviously my main concern was should I take a risk on buying something that has only a couple of good songs?

Yesterday I was in Carrefour in Hsin Dian and they have a system in place that elminates that doubt and makes it easy to buy. It's simple, just place any CD's bar code underneath a reader, pick up the headphones and start listening. Each song lasts for 30 seconds and you can skip through the songs to make sure there's lots of quality ones.

Previously I'd seen this type of system, but there was only a limited number of CDs you could sample from.

It seemed to be quite popular. I'm sure they must collect the data on number of CDs sampled and then compare that to actual CD purchases.

Now if only they could increase the selection of their Western CDs...

(ps. I did end up buying the CD mentioned in intro, but wasn't super impressed).

Educational and Watchable

To provide Griffon as much positive exposure to English (besides just me) I'm always on the lookout for good educational DVDs that he will enjoy watching. There's lots of educational ones available, but they're no use if I'm begging him to watch them.

A US co-worker told me about Leapfrog so I bought him this one: Leap Frog - Letter Factory.

Includes good educational content that teaches him ABCs, and phonics (which sounds the letters make). Also, and just as important, it's entertaining and he really likes watching it.

I think it's moved to his second favorite (after the Ultraman DVD). Actually if the Ultraman creators made educational DVDs, they'd clean up in Taiwan.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Deep insight into the Canadian investment industry

Here's a really good book for Canadians on investing and insights about financial planners, advisers, etc.

The Naked Investor.

About half-way through, and definitely worth a read.

Thanks Mom!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Getting Things Done- Interview with David Allen

Good interview with David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

In a nutshell:

1. Get all your commitments out of your head and on paper, email, post-it notes or somewhere.

2. For each one make a decision: do, defer, or delegate. And then decide what the next physical thing you will do.

Also mentions, know what done looks like and know what doing looks like. Often people confuse the two.

Canada, Summer '05 Closing Thoughts

Think I definitely accomplished my goals: 1. Keep Griffon entertained, 2. Give him more exposure to English. He's became more willing to speak during the course of the trip and that willingness has carried over after our return.

Other things to remember for Canada, Summer '06:

* Before trip ask Mom if needs any electronic stuff.
* Bring copy of PC-cillin for Trev.
* With kids, night flights are the way to go.
* Confirm with airlines want kid's meals. Kid's ticket isn't enough?!?
* Next year pack car seat for Anna.
* Pack the camera and video rechargers.
* Shoot more video, and bring relevant cords so can shoot during day and watch at night with everyone.
* Set up tent again for Griffon on the porch.
* Not be so aggressive posting pictures and blog entries. Takes up a lot of time.
* Don't pack so many shoes: tevas, and golf shoes should do it.
* Manage expectations on the amount of books to bring.
* Wear a hat more often and go generous with sunscreen. Just because not Asia-hot, doesn't mean not getting bombarded by rays.
* Instead of going to usual places, consider closeby outdoor hikes.
* When rolling on grass, first check for wasps. Shoulder sting, ouch.
* Ask how much it costs to print digital pictures first. In Parksville, 0.89/print, double ouch!

Canada, Summer '05-Nanoose Fairwinds Schooner Cove Fishing and Driving

Taken here at Schooner Cove.

We were on the water by 5:30 AM. Felt pretty much like an all-nighter as I went to bed at 2:30 AM the night before.

Had the lines in the water for no more than 5 minutes when the bells rang and we caught our first one, a 19 lb spring salmon. I reeled her in after a long fight. Arm aching I thought to myself, "I hope it's not like this all morning". I needn't have worried.

We caught lots of dog fish, had a couple more hits, but no more salmon.

Canada, Summer '05-Top Bridge

Top Bridge
Top Bridge, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

Swimming at Englishman River at a place called Top Bridge.

Many happy times coming here during the summers and jumping off the "Nose".

Also, came here at night when we couldn't find a party in town. Inevitably there would be people here. Worst was the tire fires.

Canada, Summer '05-Parksville Beach Playground and Water Park

Just hangin' out at the Parksville Beach playground and water park.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Canada, Summer '05-Nanoose Beach

Nanoose Beach
Nanoose Beach, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

Took them to a closeby beach that I remember going to and being amazed at the diversity of life.

So lots of creatures for them to interact with, crabs, starfish, bullfish, etc.

Saw a couple of eagles and a large jellyfish that had been leftover when the tide went out.

Despite a couple of scrapes (add 'em to the collection) think everyone had fun.

Canada, Summer'05-Nanoose Enos Lake

Nanoose Enos Lake
Nanoose Enos Lake, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

Had a big dinner so thought it would e fun to go on a short hike down to Enos Lake.

Unfortunately Griffon tripped while going down a dirt road and scraped his elbow and knee.

Rough day. Stung by a wasp and scraped knee and elbow.

Canada, Summer '05-Comox Valley

Comox Valley
Comox Valley, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

Went up Sunday night to Comox to visit my friend Jamey. Takes about an hour to get there from from Nanoose on the new inland highway (110 KM speed limit).

Jamey was housesitting a place that has a pool and a hot tub.

The next day we went and visited his recently purchased home and then went to Cumberland to hike trails and boulder.

Unfortunately as we were coming off the trail onto a road, we encountered angry, aggressive wasps. Dave (ankle), Katie (ankle), and poor Griffon (back of the head) were all stung. I was picking the wasps off Griffon's head, but because of his hair I didn't see the one on the back of his head. Poor little guy. First wasp sting. Ouch!

Canada, Summer '05-Nanoose Blackberry Picking

Nanoose Blackberry Picking
Nanoose Blackberry Picking, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

Wild blackberry picking around my mom's house. Lots of blackberries available.

Griffon was really excited about it and picked a lot. He was quite proud that he had the most blackberries in his bucket.

Final product tastes delicious on vanilla ice cream.

Canada, Summer '05-Nanoose Hiking

Nanoose Hiking
Nanoose Hiking, originally uploaded by jdgemm.

Took Griffon and his cousins for a small hike around areas close to my mom's house.

Nice trails to do a small hike.