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Sunday, March 29, 2009

House Call

Even though we have a dishwasher in our kitchen in Taipei, we still need a dish rack. I decide to purchase the Dish Doctor designed by Marc Newson in 1997 for Magis. The dish rack measures 390mm x 460mm in plan and 100mm in height. The material is injection molded glossy polypropylene and comes in four colors: green, orange, white and translucent. I have always been intrigued by Newson's designs, which are visually attractive with the use of curved volumes and sophisticated technologies. While many of Newson's designs now sell for over six figures, I am glad the Dish Doctor can be had for much less. The dish rack adds some bold colors into our white kitchen.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I have determined that the most used English word in Taiwan is "OK". The word is not used in an English sentence but incorporated into everyday Mandarin, like another Chinese word. I am not sure when this happened but this was certainly not the case when I learned Chinese. Instead of "可以" or "好", people say "OK", or more precisely, "是OK啦"; "好嗎?" is now "OK嗎?"; and "可不可以" has become "O不OK".

Monday, March 23, 2009

At Your Own Risk

We have now taken the kids to a couple of my favorite restaurants in Taipei (銀翼 and 鼎泰豐). While both restaurants are always crowded, there is no problem with bringing the kids, except for the high chair, which do not have a strap between the tray and the seat. There is nothing to prevent the baby from slipping down and out of the chair. Our solution is to position the baby at a 45 degree angle on the chair and use the corner post as a barrier.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Foggy Cloud

In New York, we always rely on floor lamps to light the space of our apartment for two main reasons: the ceiling height is low (I can touch it if I stretch) and no labor cost to install (plug and play); the Toio floor lamp by Achille Castiglioni remains my favorite. In contrast, the apartment in Taipei has relatively high ceiling and each rooms comes with a mounting bracket for a single ceiling lamp and wires connected to a wall switch. Given the setup, I decide to go with the flow and use some ceiling mounted lamps.

For our dining area I am using the Cloud lamp designed by Frank O. Gehry in 2005 for Belux. The Cloud is a voluminous and paper-like shade with a steel bracket for the light bulb inside. The shape of the lamp shade appears irregular and sculptural but is actually produced by modular folded sheets buttoned together. The number of sheets determine the size of the lamp which comes in four varieties: 5 (#30), 7 (#32), 10 (#34), and 14 (#36) sheets. The modular sheets also allow for some customization in size. The material of the sheets is a flame-resistant polyester membrane that is very durable and tear-free. Therefore, while each lamp has the same structure and predetermined shape, the user can still alter the shape of the lamp by bulging it out or pressing it in.

Instead of the typical setup of one lamp per room, I decide to make things a bit more interesting by having three. This actually requires a bit more work because the ceiling bracket is set up to only take one lamp. To keep things simple and cheap, a 180mm x 500mm stainless sheet panel is made to serve as a cover and mounting plate for the three lamps. I have one Cloud #30 and two Cloud #32.

The lamps are hung in a triangular formation in plan and at various heights. They are very light and are only supported by the wires. Cloud #30 is placed in the middle and hung closest to the dining table. Below are two views of the lamps as installed.

Note: Gehry is sometime known as "Foggy", a play on his initials F.O.G. The O. is for Owen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Grist for the Mill

I left my Peugeot pepper mill in New York since we still need it there. Peugeot was the first to create the mechanism for pepper grinder in 1842. The mechanism uses a hardened steel that allows for long term use. While I love the Peugeot, I figure I try something else for our kitchen in Taipei. I purchased an Alessi grinder (PZ01) designed by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. The grinder was originally designed by Zumthor as an one-off piece for his own use. Now it is part of the Alessi Officina collection. The grinder is made from a single piece of wood, either maple or walnut (the one I have), and measures 29.5 cm in height. Unlike the typical mill with a protruding knob at the top, Zumthor designed a countersunk screw as the adjuster and attachment to the drive shaft; a little harder to access but much sleeker in appearance.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


With the arrival of our container I have been busy putting our books on to the Billy shelves we purchased from Ikea. We probably have around 2500 books and approximately half of them are on architecture. Just about all of the books were acquired after high school. The process of organizing the books triggers memories of the various parts of my life: the fascination with Le Corbusier, economics, and music in college; the interest in philosophy, Mies, and modern art in graduate school; and the pursuit of excellence in cooking and child rearing in recent years. While I now spend more and more time on the computer, I still enjoy buying and reading books. Since looking at the contents of other people's bookshelves is one of my favorite things to do, I thought I share a couple of views of my bookshelves.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Long Journey

Last Friday our 20-foot container was finally delivered to our apartment in Taipei. It was a two months long journey that started in New York in early January.

A crew of six, including the driver spent a whole day packing and moving our things, which almost exceeded the space of the container.

The container was then driven to Newark and loaded on to a ship a week later. The ship traveled on the sea for about 10660 nautical miles and arrived in Keelung after around 33 days.

After clearing custom, the local mover drove the container into our small alley in Taipei and parked it in front of our apartment building.

The custom in Taiwan did open the container doors but didn't seem to move any of the contents inside.

A crew of five moved everything in the container into our apartment in half a day. Now we probably need to spend two weeks to put everything in place.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Since I haven't had a chance to go a bookstore and my books from New York have yet to arrive, I started to re-read some of the books lying around the shelves in Taipei. One of them is Marco Pierre White's autobiography, The Devil in the Kitchen.

White is an English chef from Leeds known for his unique talent in the kitchen as well as his quick temper. He was awarded three Michelin stars when he was only 33 - the youngest at the time. He has inspired countless chefs, the most famous is his former protege Gordon Ramsay. At age 38 in 1999, White retired from the kitchen and gave back his Michelin stars. Now he no longer cooks but still owns and oversees a number of restaurants.

The book is quite moving as it tells the compelling story of White's early struggle, apprenticeships in the best restaurants in London, development as a chef, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. Interspersed between the biographical stories are White's ideas on food and cooking techniques including seasoning, refinement of classic dishes, frying an egg, and roasting a chicken.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Too Tall

Looks like I can't work at 鼎泰豐. An article in 聯合報 today said to be a chef at 鼎泰豐, "身高要在一五五到一七五公分間,包包子看起來沒用多少力氣,但其實非常容易受傷,檯是固定的,體重與身高過與不及都可能影響到手勢與受傷的機率。"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Back to School

Today Vera went to a new pre-school in Taipei named Happy Kids. The curriculum of the school is similar to the ones in the U.S. and everything is conducted in English. Vera's main teacher is from Wisconsin. There are around eighteen kids in her class. For the four to five year old kids, the five days a week classes start at nine in the morning and end at three in the afternoon. The kids need to bring lunch to school everyday. Therefore, a few days ago we bought Vera a new Hello Kitty lunch box. We now need to think what to prepare for Vera's lunch. For today's lunch Vera had a prosciutto and provolone cheese sandwich with some pickles and grapes on the side. Tomorrow's lunch will probably be braised short ribs with carrots from our dinner tonight. There is also a half hour nap time after lunch and the kids are encouraged to bring their own pillows and blankets.


Last weekend I saw the Robert Wilson production of Orlando with 魏海敏 at the National Theater. Wilson’s Orlando is a one-woman play based on Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando: A Biography, published in 1928. Woolf tells the story of a man who does not grow old and later becomes a woman but with the same personality and intellect. Prior to Taipei’s production, Wilson has staged the play three times, with different languages and collaborators: in German with Jutta Lampe, in French with Isabelle Huppert, and in English with Miranda Richardson. Taipei’s production is different because the actress 魏海敏 is the famed Chinese opera star with her life-long training in voice and movement. This collaboration is a unique combination of Eastern and Western theatrical elements and aesthetics.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Arbitrage: Jarred Food

The markets in Taipei only seem to have baby food from Hipp or Gerber. The organic Hipp brand costs NT$57 (around US$1.70) per 125g (4.4oz) jar. In comparison, a 4oz jar of Earth Best's in NYC costs only US$0.96.