Thursday, 31 December 2009
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Friday, 25 December 2009
“... you have to think first of modern literature as a sort of grand council considering what mankind should do next, how we should fill our mortal time, what we should feel, what we should see, where we should get our courage, how we should love or hate, how we should be pure or great or terrible, evil (you know!), and all the rest. This advice of literature has never done much good. But you see God doesn’t rule over men as he used to, and for a long time people haven’t been able to feel that life was firmly attached at both ends so that they could stand confidently in the middle. That kind of faith is missing, and for many years poets have tried to supply a substitute. Like ‘the unacknowledged legislators’ or ‘the best is yet to be,’ or Walt Whitman saying that whoever touched him could be sure he was touching a man. Some have stood up for beauty, and some have stood up for perfect proportion, and the very best have soon gotten tired of art for its own sake. Some took it as their duty to behave like brave performers who try to hold down panic during a theater fire. Very great ones have quit, like Tolstoy, who became a reformer, or like Rimbaud, who went to Abyssinia, and at the end of his life was begging of a priest, ‘Montrez-moi. Montrez … Show me something.’ Frightening, the lives some of these geniuses led. Maybe they assumed too much responsibility. They knew that if by their poems and novels they were fixing values, there must be something wrong with the values. No one man can furnish them. Oh, he may try, if his inspiration is for values, but not if his inspiration is for words. If you throw the full responsibility for meaning and for the establishing of good and evil on poets, they are bound to go down. However, the poets reflected what was happening to everyone. There are people who feel that there are responsible for everything. Gonzaga is free from this, and that’s why I love him.”
And since Manuel Gonaza did not exist (and should not be confused [presumably, though maybe Bellow is a fan] with the 18th-century Brazilian/Portuguese poet Tomás Antônio Gonzaga) but is Bellow’s invention, perhaps we can assume that these are Bellow’s opinions.
“Here, See what he says in some of these letters… ‘Many feel they must say it all, whereas all has been said, unsaid, resaid so many times that we are bound to feel a little futile unless we understand that we are merely adding our voices. Adding them when moved by the spirit. Then and then only.’ Or this: ‘A poem may outlive its subject—say, my poem about the girl who sang songs on the train—but the poet has no right to expect this. The poem has no greater privilege than the girl.’ You see what kind of man he really was?”
… “ ‘Lots of people call themselves leaders, healers, priests, and spokesmen for God, prophets or witnesses, but Gonzaga was a human being who spoke only as a human being; there was nothing spurious about him. He tried never to misrepresent; he wanted to see. To move you he didn’t have to do anything, he merely had to be. We’ve made the most natural things the hardest of all.’”
Clarence's color grew very high and he looked dazed. He paid no attention to his broiled meat and French fried potatoes. "I don't keep up much with science," he said. "I remember I did read somewhere that industry gives off six billion tons of carbon dioxide every year and so the earth is growing warmer because the carbon dioxide in the air is opaque to heat radiation. All that means that the glaciers won't be coming back."
from Saul Bellow's "The Gonzaga Manuscripts"
PUBLISHED IN 1954
Friday, 18 December 2009
but clearly some people think it is, and think that pandering to the prejudices of some sections of the population will give them an electoral advantage
shame the DPP is not immune from this:
Yahoo news reports:
[which roughly translated means]
DPP legislator Li Jun-yi: "In the legislative by-elections and five special-municipality mayoral elections, even if [the KMT] loses all of them, it won't be King Pu-tsung's fault, because the kind of relationship that King Pu-tsung has with Ma Ying-jeou, is one that has transcended friendship, a relationship that has transcended friendship."
and that, everyone knows, is a just-inside-the-boundary-of-getting-your-ass-sued insinuation of homosexuality, something that Li seems to think is shameful, despite being a member of a so-called liberal party
come on, DPP, there is no need for this
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Why Aborigines support KMTMany outsiders coming to Taiwan find Aboriginal support for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) hard to understand. Given the suppression of their cultures, languages and even their names during the five decades of one-party rule, one might imagine their disenchantment with the organ of that rule would be as great or greater than that of the Hoklo Taiwanese, and that Aborigines would be staunch supporters, and even leaders, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Reading the smug post-election “victory” analysis by Liang Wen-chieh (梁文傑) of the DPP-allied New Society for Taiwan (“Has Ma done anything right yet?,” Dec.13, page 8), helps to explain why Aborigines do not trust the opposition:
“In Taitung County, the DPP closed the gap from 20,000 votes in 2005 to around 5,000 this time. If we subtract the votes of the county’s Aborigines, who are mostly loyal Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) voters, the DPP would have won in Taitung. This result shows how angry people in Taitung are about the performance of outgoing county commissioner Kuang Li-chen (鄺麗貞), who used to enjoy Ma’s strong support.”
Why not go the whole hog and argue that Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) election as president should not stand because of all the women who voted for his “good looks”? But no; thanks to the influence of former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and others, sexism is taboo in the party, at least in explicit terms. Clearly not racism, however.
Ridding itself of such attitudes would help transform the DPP into a truly liberal party and, as a pleasant side effect, increase its chances of electoral success.
Monday, 14 December 2009
One planet for us all to inhabit
Two items of news covered the whole of last Wednesday's front page; one was extremely worrying, while the other was exciting and perhaps offers a silver lining to the gloom hanging over Homo Sapiens' future.
On the eve of the climate summit in Copenhagen, the first piece asked whether humankind collectively has the ability, the will, and even sufficient time to reverse the tide of global warming. The upbeat sidebar on opportunities offered to Taiwanese firms in the multi-billion-dollar-funded search for emission-curbing technologies notwithstanding, the article focused mostly on the challenges ahead and made for pretty depressing reading.
The second piece applauded the unveiling of what is planned as the world's first commercial spacecraft by multi-billionaire entrepreneur-turned-adventurer Richard Branson. If the predictions by the Virgin conglomerate's boss of US$200,000-per-person suborbital space flights offering views back at the entire Earth and experiences of weightlessness within 18 months are realized, this will represent the most important advance in manned space exploration since American Neil Armstrong took his “one giant leap” in 1969 and the Russians launched Space Station Mir in 1986.
Of course such a realization is far from certain. Branson and chief designer Burt Rutan's budget has already risen signifaica ntly and their deadlines have already been postponed from 2008 to 2011. And this in just the space of five years since Rutan won the Ansari X Prize and Collier Trophy for designing and launching the first privately funded and flown craft to reach space in 2004, the same year in which Branson launched his wholly— owned Virgin Galactic subsidiary promising to cater for space tourists at a fraction of the tens of millions of dollars per person charged by the Russian space agency.
Last week's unveiling is still a significant step forward and worthy of the intense media coverage it received. Nevertheless, it is a relatively small step compared with the hyperbolic leaps of imagination that some journalists and legions of bloggers succumbed to in its wake. This, they predicted, would just be a first step towards launch of a permanently inhabited space station, colonization of other planets, and so forth.
While this kind of dream has long held a fascination for the human race—perhaps ever since it came to realize that there were other planets and solar systems and not just spots of light in the heavens—and may indeed one day be realized, we would be better rewarded spending our time, money and efforts ensuring the future of the only inhabitable planet known to date. We should also work to make it a better place for all its inhabitants to live.
Which brings us back to climate change. Branson and Rutan, whose political ideologies are often well to the right of center, were for a long time outspoken skeptics on the issue. While Rutan still is—he explains it as part of his “fear of governmental expansion”— Branson has changed sides and for some time has been throwing his considerable financial resources behind environmental causes in general and that of tackling climate change in particular.
In 2006 he pledged to invest profits from Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains in research for environmentally friendly fuels. In 2007, he announced the Virgin Earth Challenge, offering a reward of US$25 million for anyone coming up with a commercially viable design that results in the net removal of manmade global-warming gases annually for at least a decade and which does not have harmful side effects. The next year he promised to open a chain of healthcare centers offering homeopathic therapies alongside conventional medical treatments, and this year he has shown interest in helping rescue the deeply troubled Formula One motor-racing sport by investing in or taking over one of the teams, but only on the condition that the whole operation develop a more environmentally responsible image and adopt a cleaner fuel.
Perhaps most significantly in the long term will turn out to be his contribution as one of The Founders in helping underwrite the establishment and organization of The Elders, a group of world figures led by Desmond Tutu and including people like Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing and Mary Robinson. While The Elders have a wide agenda ranging from settlement of conflicts such as that in the Middle East to defeating poverty and starvation, one of its recurrent and most pressing issues is tackling climate change.
Thus, while Branson shares every child's dream of exploring outer space — and has the immense wealth needed to indulge his fantasy—he is clearly sensible enough to know that for the time being, not to mention the foreseeable future, Homo sapiens will only have one planet to inhabit, and that we must do everything we can to protect it.
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Here is something I don't remember seeing before, at least not by a supposedly democratic political party.
In an opinion piece in today's Taipei Times (Has Ma done anything right yet?), Liang Wen-chieh (梁文傑), deputy director of the DPP-allied think tank New Society for Taiwan (台灣新社會智庫), brags about the party's so-called victory in last week's city and county elections. He then discusses Taitung, where the DPP lost narrowly:
"... In Taitung County, the DPP closed the gap from 20,000 votes in 2005 to around 5,000 this time. If we subtract the votes of the county’s Aborigines, who are mostly loyal Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) voters, the DPP would have won in Taitung. This result shows how angry people in Taitung are about the performance of outgoing county commissioner Kuang Li-chen (鄺麗貞), who used to enjoy Ma’s strong support."
Not try to garner Aboriginal votes by drawing up policies they might agree with (which can be a cynical practice itself sometimes), but SUBTRACT THE VOTES. Presumably his "people of Taitung" does not include them either.
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Taipei Times article:
COA to work on labor rights for PRC fishermen
The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday said it hoped the upcoming cross-strait talks could resolve the long-neglected issue of labor rights for Chinese fishermen working on Taiwanese vessels.
“By formulating a policy on [Chinese] fishermen, we can create a more humanitarian working environment as well as ensure the safety of our fishing vessels,” Council Deputy Minister Hu Sing-hwa (胡興華) told a media briefing.
... Policies including labor rights for Chinese fishermen and standardizing import procedures for agricultural goods will be among the four main items on the agenda.
Hu said he did not foresee any major changes in the number of Chinese fishermen working on Taiwanese boats after the signing of the agreement.
The government first allowed local fishing vessels to hire Chinese workers 15 years ago amid a shortage of domestic workers, which officials attributed to the low pay and hard working conditions. It lifted a ban on Chinese workers entering domestic ports in 2003 following protests by human rights organizations over their poor treatment.Council figures show that the average monthly pay for Chinese workers was just under NT$15,000 last year. Although this was higher compared with the pay for other foreign workers, many operators prefer hiring Chinese workers because they speak the same language. While Taiwanese workers on fishing vessels are covered by labor laws, workers from China are not.
... Council statistics shows 25 cases of hijackings by Chinese crewmembers and 11 cases of murder. Since the government allowed Chinese workers to enter local ports, there have also been 402 cases of Chinese absconding, with 149 still at large. ...
Friday, 4 December 2009
WEDNESDAY, 02 DECEMBER 2009
China Post editorial: Taiwan should at least pay attention to Greenpeace
Pacific marine resources are over-exploited, and if current practices are continued, the commercial fish harvest of not just the region, but the entire planet may be wiped out by as early as the middle of this century. Naturally, this presents a grave threat to humankind. Or so claimed Greenpeace at a press conference held last week in Taiwan.
The environmental NGO called on individual people to exercise selectivity when purchasing seafood — tuna in particular — so as to ensure it came from sustainable supplies; called on Taiwan's fishing fleet to abandon indiscriminate fishing techniques, such as longliners and fishing aggregation devices; and called on the ROC government to push for closure of four high seas pockets as marine reserves at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) when it convenes in Tahiti in early December.
Director-General of the ROC's Fisheries Agency (FA), James Sha, responded that Taiwan's fishing fleet, like all ships sailing in international waters, remained under the jurisdiction of their flag of state, and that Greenpeace, as an NGO, had no such jurisdiction.
The global fish market is currently 2.5 times a level that would be sustainable, Greenpeace maintains. In particular, the world's appetite for tuna and the advancements in technology used to catch it have grown to such an extent that three of the five commercial species are listed as endangered, and two — bigeye and yellowfin tuna — are expected to be critically over-fished within three years. Moreover, illegal shipping accounts for as much as 35 percent of the Pacific fish catch.
Taiwan's fleet plays a significant role in this industry and makes a significant contribution to the nation's economy. Employing around 350,000 workers and catching some 1.3 million tons of seafood, the industry garners around NT$90 billion, of which NT$40 billion comes from exports, almost half from tuna. It supports another 20,000 in auxiliary industries such as boat-building and marine supply. If fish stocks are on the verge of collapse, then this source of revenues and employment is under threat, and measures must be pursued to protect it.
Yet it is the industry's practices which provide the greatest threat, and ultimately it is the number, size and technology of the vessels that requires governance. With around 2,200 distant water fishing vessels flying the ROC flag, and around 500 more Taiwanese boats flying flags of convenience (FOC), Taiwan has the largest tuna-fishing fleet in the world.
Greenpeace claims to have presented evidence of Taiwanese-flagged vessels engaged in illegal fishing or illegal transshipments to the FA. But even if the government is willing and able to police this insatiable armada, the growing number of FOC vessels undermines these efforts.
Greenpeace's solution is the creation of marine reserves, the high seas pockets which would be closed to absolutely all forms of fishing.
Greenpeace grew out of the antinuclear movements of the 1950s and 1960s, and first came to prominence taking direct action against nuclear bomb testing, particularly by the United States beneath the Alaskan Aleutian Island and by France at Moruroa in French Polynesia. It then expended its activities to environmental concerns such as campaigning against whaling and the slaughter of baby seals for the fur trade.
Greenpeace's current priorities include tackling climate change, preserving the world's oceans and forests, eliminating toxic chemicals from waste, as well as an ongoing commitment to nuclear disarmament.
However, its immense size — an annual income of around US$200 million and 3 million supporters — confrontational direct action, orchestration of publicity-seeking events, economic naivety, and alarmist radical stance have moved it outside the mainstream, with some of its original founders defecting to more mainstream organizations. It has been accused of valuing non-human causes over human ones, and most notably, the Japanese government has described its so-called eco-warrior position as more akin to eco-terrorism or piracy.
Yet on many issues Greenpeace has been proven correct. Most major states have now signed and ratified the U.N.-backed Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and only a tiny minority of states engage in whaling.
So while FA Director-General Sha is right about Greenpeace, as an NGO, not having jurisdiction over Taiwan's fishing fleet, his agency should at the very least examine the evidence the organization has presented to it, since it is very much the role of NGOs to provide information governments may have overlooked and assist them in the service of their citizens.
If Greenpeace's reports of illegal activities turn out to be true, the FA should revoke the licenses of the vessels involved. If its reports of widespread overfishing by Taiwanese vessels are substantiated, the ROC government should devise and implement an appropriate strategy. If its prediction of imminent demise of the world's commercial fish stocks are even halfway accurate, the government should use its influence to promote no-fishing marine reserves at next month's WCPFC. And all of us should make sure the tuna we eat is from sustainably-caught skipjack and albacore species, and not the higher value, but far more endangered bigeye, yellowfin and bluefin varieties.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
i eat tuna about once every two months (well twice, if sushi is included)
and yesterday was that day (see here), with leftovers in my 蛋餅 for breakfast today
and this evening I went to the "Formosa & Tuna -- Netting up the Pacific" Greenpeace exhibition at Dunnan Eslite
oh, the guilt (well at least i didn't go by scooter)
go check it out (it's on till Sunday)
and start eating sustainably-harvested fish
how the H do I know, but i'll try to find out
(i will not be making this again, but i offer it for those who perhaps like fruit with their fish)
p.s. the potato was nice, on the other hand, such a contrast to restaurant-bought jackets here in Taiwan, which are always done in foil and so do not evaporate enough water, making them heavy rather than flaky
AND, whatever that veg is called, i LOVE it: just the right balance of bitterness (it's in the markets now, NT$1o a bunch or there abouts)
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Frontpage story in today's Taipei Times:
Activists condemn fishing industry
Taiwanese-owned fishing fleets are some of the worst offenders of overfishing and illegal activities in the Pacific Ocean, representatives from Greenpeace and the Environmental and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) said in Taipei yesterday.
If the current rate of fishing is not substantially reduced, stocks of Pacific Tuna — one of the world’s most overfished species — are expected to be near extinction in three to five years, they said, calling on the government to support international conservation measures, close some areas to fishing and crack down on illegal fishing at the upcoming annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Tahiti next month.
The WCPFC — of which Taiwan is a full member — manages and regulates fish stocks in the Pacific Ocean.
Greenpeace representatives said yesterday that in an eight-week investigation undertaken by their vessel, the Esperanza, they documented seven vessels operated by Taiwanese companies engaging in illegal fishing, fish transferring or fishing in vulnerable areas.
Fish transferring is a problem because some vessels catch fish in areas where it is prohibited and then transfer the catch to ships that have fishing licenses for other areas, they said.“Taiwan’s fishing fleets are out of control,” said Sari Tolvanen, an official at Greenpeace. “It is the worst [perpetrator] of illegal activities in the [Pacific Ocean].”
She said the Taiwanese government must take immediate measures to control the activities not only Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessels but also those registered under other countries but owned by Taiwanese companies.
Greenpeace says Taiwanese fishing vessels account for about 10 percent of the total tuna catch in the Pacific Ocean. They said that amount must be reduced by 50 percent to ensure sustainability for both fishing stocks and the fishing community.
Officials from EAST said Taiwan’s fishing fleet capacity — at 2,500 vessels — far exceeds economically viable and sustainable catches of tuna, adding that the government was more concerned about the fishing industry than the environment or sustainability.
At a separate setting yesterday, Fisheries Agency Director-General James Sha (沙志一) said the reports of illegal activities undertaken by Taiwanese vessels would be investigated.
Sha said that if the reports were found to be true, the agency would likely revoke the licenses of those vessels.
He also said that as an NGO, Greenpeace had no jurisdiction over the vessels. Ships sailing in international waters generally remain under the jurisdiction of the flag state.
Officials from the agency said the government prioritizes tuna conservation, including increased monitoring and reporting of Taiwanese-flagged vessels, adding that the agency is committed to long-term sustainability of fishing stocks and subsequently the fishing industry.
Tolvanen said Greenpeace and EAST have set up an exhibition titled “Netting up the Pacific” at the Dunnan branch of Eslite Book Store in Taipei that runs through next Sunday.
is it merely because Taipei wants to be an international city, so everything the TCG does is "international" ?
for crying out loud, it doesn't even translate "牛肉麵" into English
or any other international language,
merely transliterates it into "New Row Mian", which certainly is not the international standard romanization,
nor, in fact, any romanization system ever used anywhere in the world (outside Taipei)
(but if, by some miracle, noodle makers from other countries did participate, i'll apologize -- though i still think New Row Mian is a stupid title)
1. Critical Mass Taipei did not have an event today at 3pm
2. CMT did not meet at Taipei Arena
3. Only one person attended CMT
(apologies if i got the time/place wrong, but seems i didn't mislead anyone into going anyway)
Saturday, 21 November 2009
tomorrow (Sunday) 3pm
gather outside the Taipei Arena (Nanjing E. Rd. and Dunhua N. Rd.)
come fight for your rights to cycle safely
see you all there (or probably not, if last time's is anything to go by)
At the beginning of “In the House of the Spirits”,
Isobelle Allende introduces the character Rosa
(the family's eldest daughter, who represents the "angelic", while the youngest daughter represents "satanic"):
“The tone of her skin, with its soft bluish lights, and of her hair, as well as her slow movements and silent character, all made one think of some inhabitant of the sea. There was something of the fish to her (if she had had a scaly tail, she would have been a mermaid), but her two legs placed her squarely on the tenuous line between a human being and a creature of myth.”
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
China Post editorial (though I post the original text, as the CP editors have some creative ideas about the use of m-dashes):
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) last week announced it would research ways to balance supply and demand in the market for taxicabs. This is in response to findings of its Institute of Transportation (IOT) that supply of taxis far exceeds demand. Although taxi drivers work an average of 12.17 hours per day, it reported, they only carry an average of 18 fares and spend about 80 percent of the time driving an empty cab around.
This is indeed a sad state of affairs, but perhaps not for the reason the MOTC thinks. Like most government agencies, it clearly believes the solution lies in bureaucratic intervention. But perhaps the ministry isn’t aware, Taiwan has a free-market economy, and according to the theories of capitalism, without intervention—usually called regulation in transportation circles—market forces would naturally find a balance between supply and demand.
Taiwan is not alone, of course, in having regulated Taxi services. This practice is widespread around the world, usually implemented in the name increasing safety and improving customer satisfaction. But there are other ways of enforcing safety, and the factor of most importance to customers is cost. The only clear beneficiaries of regulation are the taxi companies and their drivers, who profit from a closed market, reduced competition and artificially maintained high fares.
If anything, therefore, there is an undersupply not an oversupply of cabs; a situation that arises from the reduction in demand, which is also a result of the artificially high fares. Deregulation, whereby any qualified driver could offer taxi services, from and to any location, and at any cost agreed with the passenger, would be the surest way to balance supply and demand.
But such a move would clearly need to be considered carefully, given the potential social and environmental impacts. Having yet more greenhouse-gas-producing vehicles driving round the nation’s streets, mostly empty but occasionally occupied, does not necessarily gel with the pressing need to prevent the greatest threat to humankind’s continued wellbeing in the 21st century.
The potential role of taxicabs in the battle against climate change is hotly debated. Some argue that increasing their number will simply increase carbon emissions; others that increasing their number and lowering their fares will encourage private drivers to abandon car and motorbike ownership.
Weaning the nation off private transport use—Taiwan is rapidly approaching having the unenviable figure of one car or motorbike for each member of its 23-million population—must make walking, cycling and mass transportation its goal. But in the medium term, taxis, a non-mass public transportation, can play a key transitional role.
The MOTC will need to take a more outside-the-box approach to the issue, however, and taxi firms and drivers will have to play ball rather than digging in their heels on policies aimed at reducing their environmental impact, whether within a regulated or deregulated system.
To reduce the effects of taxis driving around empty for long periods—other studies show figures lower than the 80 percent recorded by the IOT, but still around 60 or 70 percent—the Taipei City Government, for example, has long been proposing the establishment of designated stands where cabs would queue for fares. Although this would not mean the end to taxis’ traditional point-to-point services, since they could still be booked by telephone or online, this environmentally friendly move has and is being stubbornly opposed by taxi drivers who argue that having to use stands would be inconvenient for passengers and drivers. They obviously fail to imagine the levels of inconvenience that are predicted to result from not responding to the threat of climate change, a change that itself results from our increasingly convenience-driven lifestyles.
Other measures would be to require new taxicabs to be hybrid vehicles—which emit one-third to one-half the climate-change emissions of regular automobiles—and for local and central government agencies to abandon the policy of providing free or subsidized parking spaces and subsidized travel by private vehicle to their employees, but rather require them to travel by mass transportation or taxis.
Getting the general population to shift to using cabs could involve a congestion charge like that of London and other cities, should definitely include restrictions on single-occupancy in cars, might require subsidization of taxis in rural areas, and could even go as far as some form of control of private ownership of cars, like in state-managed Singapore, which has almost twice the density of taxis than New York and almost three times that of San Francisco.
In short, the MOTC and other government agencies do have a role to play in devising sustainable transportation policies that meet present and future requirements. While free markets operating under purely market-driven forces may know everything about economics, and may know a lot about balancing supply and demand, they will need to be carefully nurtured into learning more about environmental protection and balancing humankind’s short-term needs and greeds against its long-term survival.
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Monday, 2 November 2009
Deal with road safety rather than dispute reputation
More than two millennia ago, the story goes, King Hui of Liang asked Meng Ke for advice about ruling his people. Master Meng, being the philosopher now known in the West as Mencius, answered by way of analogy. Two soldiers, he said, were fleeing from the front line of a battle; one of them stopped after running 50 paces, the other not until he had run 100 paces. The first to stop mocked the other for being scared and deserting the battle formation.
A similar situation occurred in Taiwan last week, when two transportation officials locked horns over whether the R.O.C.'s traffic-accident statistics meant the island's roads were the most dangerous in the world or simply among the most dangerous in the world.
Their disagreement arose at the end of a tragic month of local transportation accidents. Three weeks ago, seven people died and 21 were injured when a bus collided with a truck in Kaohsiung County. A week later, four more people died in Changhua County when another bus crashed into thirteen cars “like a bowling ball into pins.” Then just a few days ago, AIT Director William Stanton described eating beef from the United States as being “safer than riding a motorcycle in Taiwan.” All of which seem to have precipitated the spat between officials of the Road Traffic Safety Commission and the Ministry of Transportation and Communication.
But the truth is that with around 50 people dying on Taiwan's roads every week, public officials should focus more of their efforts on finding ways to lower this figure rather than worrying about what the figure does to Taiwan's international reputation. Traffic accidents can be reduced in a number of ways. The first is simply by lowering the volume of traffic on the island's roads. This requires cutting the number of non-essential journeys made by car or motorcycle, and shifting essential journeys to public transportation, bicycles and foot. Effecting these changes will require a shift in attitude by the general public, and firm resolve by policy makers. This resolve will certainly need to be firmer than that shown by Premier Wu recently when, within 24 hours of the Cabinet's Tax Reform Committee reaching a consensus on introducing a “green tax” on gasoline and other energy sources that will start in 2011 and increase in small increments over ten years, he bowed to public pressure and claimed that no such timetable had been arranged.
Without becoming sidetracked, it is worth noting, however, that various initiatives to combat climate change - moving from private to public transportation, traveling at slower speeds, green taxes, government encouragement and incentives for drivers to abandon gas-powered vehicles for bicycles -can also help with prevention of traffic accidents.
A second method requires improving roads and related facilities to make accidents less common, but this would also entail the use of mechanisms to slow vehicles down, particularly in accident-prone areas.
More stringent annual inspections of vehicles -that at present can take as little as a few minutes and see very few vehicles fail -would prevent less-than-roadworthy cars, trucks and motorcycles from endangering innocent lives.
Similarly, requirements that drivers upgrade their motoring skills are being mulled by some lawmakers, particularly drivers of buses and heavy-goods vehicles, just as there are already such regulations for those transporting hazardous materials.
At a more basic level, there are calls for learner drivers to practice and take their tests on real roads under actual driving conditions, rather than on the artificial conditions on the empty lots used at present.
But ultimately, what is most needed is a change of attitude in Taiwan's drivers, from the “might is right,” “first come first goes” and “time is money” mentality prevalent at the present.
Unfortunately, such a sea change in mindset will probably need more sticks than carrots, including adoption of stricter and more frequently enforced traffic regulations. Currently around 3 million tickets are issued for traffic violations each year; an amount that comes up to almost 8,000 per day. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg, and many drivers think the chance of being caught jumping a red light, parking illegally, or driving after drinking alcohol is no big deal, not to mention such widespread actions as changing lanes without flashing indicator lights, using horns for other purposes than preventing collisions, or cutting in from a side lane by impeding the motion of other vehicles -the sort of behavior that everyone disapproves of but a great many people do. It is with this in mind that one idea being run up the flagpole is the rewarding of citizens for presenting photographic evidence of other drivers' transgressions.
In short, drivers need to learn to respect each other, respect pedestrians, and to respect life in general. Hopefully, by adopting the above measures, Taiwan will soon be able to tell future AIT directors, “it is perfectly safe for you to ride a motorcycle here in Taiwan.”
Sunday, 1 November 2009
Apparently Hong Kong (香港) might not mean "Fragrant" (香) "Harbour" (港) as often said,
but rather the "Incense" (香) exporting "Harbour" (港), though "exporting" in this case might only be up the Pearl River to China.
apparently either the timber used for incense was shipped out of here, or there were incense-manufacturing plants in the town, and incense was shipped out.
Saturday, 31 October 2009
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Monday, 26 October 2009
where there is a surprising number of unpretentious secondhandbookshops
including one with a whole fiftypenceperbookbasement
with thousands of reasonable books to choose from
i got a couple of cookbooks, and a couple of poetry volumes
the second verse i read in the second of which was:
The Fish Museum by Amy Scattergood
Anna first came to the base at Keflavik
as an army machinist.
After the Cold War melted, she moved in
to the Njarovik house
and agreed to oversee its museum,
....[there aren't really dots, i cannot manage indentation]She was paid in flour and coffee.
petrol and light bulbs and plastic.
Every night she dreamt of dead fishermen.
During the day she watched the fishing boats rearrange the harbor
while she unpacked hundreds of examples of salmon.
She mounted stuffed haddock and herring on the walls.
....With her acetylene torch
she reinvented lightning. One day
.....she soldered together an airplane
out of empty aquavit bottles from the government store.
.....Soon she was building engines
with fish bones. With the radial cartilage of a Greenland halibut,
she made a generator flywheel.
Out of a frontal bone from an 18th century Arctic char,
she fashioned a propeller-bolt collar.
As dirty icebergs sailed in and out of the harbor,
she carried boxes of gill filaments
down from the attic and assembled a bone mosaic
.....on her kitchen floor. Amid battery jars
from her favorite Reykjavik store
.....and lithographs of cod drying racks,
she designed clavicle engines and fitted them
[the line break is not clear here]
in lemon sole mounts. The rooms whirred with activity.
Through here baleen curtains pieces of winter
.....swam over the furniture
and floated amid the cavities of her engines.
.....Sometimes she would sit and enjoy it all
while she ate gravlax and islands of thick rye bread
and read Popular Mechanics through an aquavit fog.
At night tears poured from the glaciers
and collected in kettle holes
while the dead fishermen powered their boats
with all her engines. They fished
off the Reykjanes peninsula with lamps made from fire-flies.
.....The bones of their engines clicked
through waters and porpoises, avoiding chunks of drift ice
and crates of lost firewood.
They spread their nets over the horizon
as she drifted in her sleep,
her socks pulled to her knees and her hair
falling over the floor-boards.
They motored between sleeping gulls
and pulled up the fish like little moonlit seeds
from the tesserae of broken ice.
When morning came
there was a bone heap in the middle of the floor
and a fresh trout wrapped in local newspaper.
She thought she saw footprints of ice
in the snow from the open door.
Later she stirred the air with a sheet of cardboard
from a battery packing crate
and the bones righted themselves and whirred.
Even with support, public libraries' future in doubt
Taipei City Government came under attack from two city councilors last week for conditions in its public libraries. With tatty books, unhealthy environments and out-of-date or non-functioning equipment, the capital's libraries resembled secondhand bookstalls rather than places of learning and self-advancement, one of the critics claimed.
In response, the city government said that around NT$60 million was spent each year acquiring around 200,000 new books that were shared between the city's 55 public libraries — meaning they now have an average of 2.06 books for each citizen — and that a further NT$150 million had already been earmarked for a three-year makeover of their buildings and equipment.
This, in local-government speak, probably means that the councilors have a point. Who knows? Maybe they were just helping make it clear — or perhaps appear — that the general public is keen that money is spent and library services and facilities are maintained and improved.
But are people keen on libraries? After all, many of libraries' traditional functions are now also done — or are better done — by computers, the Internet and other IT developments. With education, health, housing, leisure, transportation and numerous other public services competing for slices of national and local budgets, perhaps the information revolution is rendering libraries a beloved but costly irrelevance. That will be for future historians to decide. At the moment, the question facing politicians is whether to keep funding libraries, and that facing librarians is to find imaginative and innovative roles to justify their institutions' continued existence.
That libraries have a proud history is beyond dispute. Starting with the private collections of emperors and kings, through the semi-public libraries of religious and academic institutions, to the truly public and publicly-funded libraries of the last century or two, libraries have made major contributions to most fields of human endeavor, and the European and North American practice of providing tax-dollar supported libraries in every city, town and even village, which were free for everyone to use, is a tradition that rightly spread around the world.
And even in the 21st century, while it is true to say that hardly anyone makes the trek to his or her local library to thumb an encyclopedia or check a telephone number in a far-off city as they would have done just a decade ago, it is equally true that hardly anyone downloads an entire novel from the Internet or reads it on a computer screen. So while libraries' reference sections are probably a thing of the past, their literature, humanities and popular science sections still have a great deal going for them. When public libraries in two U.S. cities closed their doors recently, local people opted for a slight increase in taxes to fund their re-opening, albeit with reduced hours.
But libraries, like people, cannot remain relevant simply because of their past histories, and it is fair to say that the world of librarianship is in a worldwide state of crisis. Librarians are the first to admit it — though many are no longer called librarians, but information specialists or some such — and are racking their brains to find new roles that continue their social relevance. With the help of government funds, most libraries are now equipped with computers, are connected to the World Wide Web and have online databases, meaning that although they may not be able to compete with the Internet in certain functions, at least they can tap into it.
Some libraries are focusing on particular needs of their communities, such as those cities in the United States with high proportions of immigrant residents, which are offering advice on citizenship applications and language services such as assistance with form filling. Elsewhere, many libraries are focusing on reading groups for toddlers and young children, or providing space for youth clubs and adult-education classes to meet. Similarly in Taiwan, libraries have experimented with 24-hour opening, staff-less branches or small outlets at MRT stations.
But libraries are not Internet cafe's, kindergartens or community centers, and they will have to find roles more uniquely connected with their primary book-, periodical- and information-related functions if they really are to survive.
Unfortunately, to date, this seems beyond the imaginations of most librarians, library users, and the politicians supporting them. Future proposals by library professionals include a great deal about improving environments, expanding services and making staff friendlier, but very few concrete innovative suggestions. They will have to do better.
But libraries deserve to be given more time. Just as a sports club does not sack its star athlete and stop his salary as soon as he enters a slump, so politicians should not turn against libraries, which have similarly strong track records, and discontinue their funding while the information revolution is still unfolding.
seems it's not a one-off from Raymond Chandler
in "The Long Goodbye" he also has:
"The whole thing was just window-dressing. The clients of the Carne Organization were charged a minimum of one hundred fish per diem and they expected service in their homes. ..."
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Monday, 19 October 2009
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
from “Farewell, My Lovely” by Raymond Chandler
does this mean “fish” is [or was] slang for US$?
anyway, it’s your fish-of-the-day,
answers on a postcard please …
Monday, 12 October 2009
More women participating in the work force
Last week the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) released figures showing a rise in Taiwan's women's labor force participation rate — a measure of the percentage of women of working age who are employed or looking for work — to 49.7 percent in 2008, up from around 46 percent in 2002. The CEPD anticipate that this indicator will break through the psychologically important 50-percent barrier sometime in 2010.
The CEPD also noted that since the total number of jobs had not increased significantly, this growth in women entering the labor market has been at the expense of the men's labor force participation rate, which fell from 68.2 percent to 67.0 percent over the same period.
While women lag behind men in terms of paid employment around the world, Taiwan's women also still lag behind their sisters in most other advanced economies. In many European and North American countries, for example, more than 70 percent of women participate in the workforce, and even in Japan and South Korea, which are typically characterized as having large gender gaps, the figures are 67 percent and 59 percent, respectively.
This is not simply an equal-opportunities issue of concern to feminists and liberal-minded organizations. It concerns Taiwan's competitiveness on the global stage. Having spent decades improving young women's access to educational resources, it is Taiwan's loss if the country does not make the most of their resulting talents.
Indeed, the current situation can be seen within an historical context stretching back thousands of years to China's golden age of philosophy, now known as the Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought. While this is generally understood as the period in which philosophers such as Confucius, Zhuangzi and Hanfeizi brought forth new ideas that later became codified as Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism and so forth, the real consequences were social and political rather than philosophical. Particularly important was the ideal of a meritocracy promoted by Confucius and Mozi, who argued that people should be employed according to their talents rather than according to their status at birth. Of course, the 'people' in this meritocracy meant 'men,' and it wasn't until the 20th century that women in Taiwan and China were given any significant role outside traditional areas of home and field.
That a meritocratic system was adopted had nothing to do with concepts of fairness, egalitarianism or human rights, but was simply a result of pragmatic requirements, a kind of Darwinian survival of the fittest applied to systems of government. By Confucius' birth some 26 centuries ago, China had split into a number of small states, which battled with each other for survival and supremacy, and for the right to reunite and rule “all under heaven.” In their pursuit of this goal, some states were willing to consider new political and military strategies, including the employment of talented members of the lower social orders. These were the states which prospered.
And just as the Confucian revolution was a product of its time, so are many of today's social and political changes. It was not mere coincidence, for example, that women's participation in the workforces of European and North American countries increased significantly during and after the Second World War when there was a shortage of male workers.
So what are the factors encouraging or driving Taiwan's women into paid employment in the first decade of the 21st century?
Since marriage and childcare are two of the key factors depressing women's participation in the workforce — with equal numbers of women and men working before marriage — the gradual increase in the age at which women wed has long been seen as a contributing factor. What is new is the 3-percent rise in participation by married women over the last seven years. This, the CEPD report suggested, might be due to the generally deteriorating economic environment in which a husband's salary alone is less able to support a family.
Another factor might be the gradual cracking of the “glass ceiling” said to prevent women from rising to high positions in business, government and non-governmental organizations, which make remaining in a professional career less attractive to women who have accumulated similar academic laurels or work experience as their male colleagues. For decades this has resulted in a drain of talent from Taiwan's public and private organizations, as many women embarked on careers in religious organizations, non-governmental agencies or simply returned to housework, a loss that was only masked by other advantages that helped Taiwan move up the league table of world competitiveness.
As a World Bank report concluded a few years ago, countries that protect women's rights and increase access to resources, education and employment are the ones with narrower gender gaps, have less corruption and achieve faster economic growth than those that do not. This economic growth then helps to further narrow the gender gap, creating a positive feedback loop, the kind of loop that Taiwan could use to its advantage.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
i chased after the car, to retake the photo
and interview the driver
but it disappeared
it is a picutre of a fish with legs
with 'DARWIN' written inside
how cool is that!
i want one
a reaction to the Christian symbol
from a neo-Darwinist like myself
I WANT ONE for my bike
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
fish-shaped soy sauce dispenser with sushi 'lunch' from Wilmslow Waitrose
and fish-shaped fish sushi too, of course
it was my first trip back since leaving almost 40 years ago and brought back many memories
as usual for these occasions i tried to write a poem, as usual i didn't find it easy, in part because i've never tried to write anything for five/six-year-old children before
Memories Stirred by a Visit to My Primary School
In whatever country, in whatever city,
when I see gorse flowers, so yellow and so pretty,
I remember, of course, my six years on a stool,
sat listening to teachers here at Gorsey Bank School.
Primary One was kind of fun,
the teachers were nice, but I still missed my mum,
things got better in Primary Two
there were collages, football and reading
... lots of good things to do.
Primary Three wasn't my best,
I recall, above all, failing the spelling test,
and most of Year Four I spent on the playground,
kicking a ball of old stockings around.
All i remember of Five was being out in the sun,
playing football on the Carnie,
... and skating on Lindow Common;
finally in Six I was taught how to hope,
writing essays entitled "What I want to do when I grow up."
I remember friends, like Susie and Jonathan,
and Robert (who said his name was Trebor backwards)
... and let's not forget Simon,
so looking back to my last days from the first,
so many happy memories at Gorsey Bank Primary School, Wilmslow,
... Cheshire, England, Europe,
... Northern Hemisphere, The Earth, The Solar System, The Galaxy,
... The Un ... i ... verse.
Monday, 5 October 2009
Monday, 28 September 2009
When Confucius' son was born, the ruler of the State of Lu dispatched someone to deliver the gift of a carp, because of which, Confucius named his son Kong [surname] Li [given name, "Carp"], and the style name Boyu, meaning Fish [sent by] the Nobleman* [of Lu]
*ok, that's a pretty lame translation of 魯伯; any suggestions?
btw, the photo includes my mum because she shares her birthday with Confucius
also, both my mother and sister were born on the full moon of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, i.e. Mid-Autumn Festival,
AND, my mother was born in the Dragon Year; how auspicious is that?
China Post editorial:
That people throughout Taiwan got up before dawn, put on purple gowns, lit incense and watched eight rows of eight children in yellow costumes and peacock feathers perform a slow dance was not unusual; these rituals to honor Confucius are held annually on September 28. What was strange was that similar events were also held in China, which spent most of the twentieth century attempting to diminish the influence of Confucius' teachings and to dislodge “The Sage” from his pedestal.
The political changes that led to the overthrow of the imperial system in 1911 and establishment of the Republic of China the following year were quickly followed by the New Culture Movement, which sought the overthrow of a whole range of traditions that its leaders, Lu Xun, Hu Shih and others, held responsible for holding back China's development into a modern nation. Confucian influence over morality, education and public office came especially under attack, as did Confucius himself, as a symbol of the ossification of Chinese culture.
Although somewhat rehabilitated later under Republican rule, Confucius was again vilified by the Chinese Communist Party, which dedicated itself to smashing the “Four Olds”: old customs, old culture, old habits and old ideas.
This reached its peak during the Cultural Revolution, when Red Guards ran amok in Confucius' hometown of Qufu in Shandong Province. With connivance of the central government, they smashed or destroyed thousands of cultural artifacts relating to the man who, for two millennia, had been revered as the nation's sage and its first teacher.
So it is even more surprising that Communist Party officials were among those honoring this erstwhile villain in Qufu and elsewhere this morning; that Yu Dan's “Confucius from the Heart: Ancient Wisdom for Today's World” stayed on the Chinese bestseller list for more than two years, selling around 10 million copies; that 2,008 performers at the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics sang “Friends have come from afar, how happy we are,” in quotation from the “Confucian Analects;” that a biopic of Confucius' life starring Chow Yun-fat received government sponsorship; that “guoxue” — national learning, the study of traditional Chinese history, culture and literature — is currently undergoing a nationwide resurgence; and that when the PRC decided to set up a system of international institutes along the lines of the British Council or Alliance Francaise to promote Chinese language and culture, it decided to call them the Confucius Institutes.
Some people, most vocally those in South Korea, have suggested that the PRC's reappraisal of its views on Confucius is merely a cynical attempt to cash in on his international “brand recognition,” and have attacked the institutes as tools of Chinese cultural imperialism. But the truth is more complicated.
First, like the words of many philosophers, teachers and religious leaders whose reputations have endured over long periods, Confucius' teachings are ambiguous enough and so open to interpretation that they have been adopted and adapted by a variety of disparate interests, and that what started as a revolutionary perspective was quickly usurped and became a force for conservatism over the following two millennia.
This started with compilation of “The Analects” by the disciples of the disciples that succeeded Confucius himself; through codification of Confucian ideas into the official imperial philosophy and required reading for civil service examinations during the Han dynasty; reinterpretation by Zhu Xi in the Song Dynasty a thousand years later, which established the Neo-Confucianism that held sway until the end of the imperial system a century ago, and most recently has led to Yu Dan's idiosyncratic interpretation that has captured public imagination but has irritated many experts who accuse her of distorting Confucius' teachings.
So should the world be surprised by China's recent reappraisal and adoption of Confucius?
Perhaps not. First, although it is sometimes portrayed in the West as a religion — not surprisingly, perhaps, in light of the Sept. 28 ritual offerings made to The Sage — Confucianism is really a codification of ethics or even a political science.
Second, the Confucian concepts of righteousness, reciprocity and the Golden Rule — of doing unto others what you would have done to oneself — contrast sharply with the West's emphasis on self and self-interest, but accord with Communist ideals of communality.
Third, as the Communist Party has moved away from a true espousal of orthodox ideals, Confucianism might offer a source of legitimacy to party rule by filling the ideological void left by the abandonment of Marxism.
Most importantly, as stated in the government's explanation for choosing the name “Confucius Institute,” it manifests the longevity and profundity of Chinese language and culture. In other words, like at every change of dynasty or regime in China, the CCP started with promises of change but is ending up by appealing to the nation's glorious past and adopting many of the values, traditions and practices of its predecessors.
Although quieter than the changes pursued during the Cultural Revolution, this represents a truly radical change in China at the start of the 21st century.
Sunday, 27 September 2009
(almost) the first poem i read was "The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)
[so i shall call the "you're-never-too-late" woman "Elizabeth"]
I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes of full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
- the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly -
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
- It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
- if you could call it a lip -
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels - until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
despite googling for a German-to-English dictionary so i could discover what "Der Butt" means,
i evidently got English-to-German dictionaries because they kept offering: "der Arsch"
(as well as others such as "der Axtruecken", "der Croupon" and "der Gewehrkollben"--clearly male, whatever translation)
in fact, it is a flounder
Sunday, 13 September 2009
Past Future Perfect
I took down a book
inscribed For M., My Future
which would be funny
if it was funny
and if it wouldn't make you jealous
so should I destroy it
or destroy the first page
or just not tell you
or can you accept that i have a past
but that you are my future?
thanks to the Shad for help with translation
Saturday, 12 September 2009
Monday, 24 August 2009
cyclists come across all manner of road kill at the speed they go
road kill usually come in batches
this morning, for example, it was frogs
and one day I passed four dead dogs, three of them fresh
here in India, I usually see a snake or two each day, fortunately only rarely a live one
yesterday there was a water buffalo, lying where it had fallen
and today a cow being carried off by half a dozen men
but I’ve never seen anything like this before -->
is it what I think?
(the size is about that of a newborn baby)