Thursday, 30 April 2009

fish of the day

It was tastier than it looks.

One nice thing about Thailand (hint hint, Welcome, Carrefour &c.) is that you can get fresh select-your-own-salad at supermarkets here. This is about one-quarter of a bagful that cost NT$34.

free biking if you can stand the heat

Bangkok has free bicycles to borrow, but ...
1. you have to lend them your passport
2. you can only have the bike for 3 hours
3. you can only ride on a certain route that goes on pavements around some touristic parts in a small area of the city
4. you can only ride in the heat of the day
i waited for the worst of the heat to be over and went at 16:45 and was told to "come back tomorrow"
(apparently you can rent a bit later on the weekend)

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

fish of the day

A boy fishing in one of Muang Ake Golf Course's water hazards at sunset

(this was my only decent shot all day)

Ma switches support to Treaty of Taipei, but why?

At a ceremony held yesterday to unveil a bronze sculpture of ROC and Japanese representatives signing the April 28, 1952 “Treaty of Taipei” (see TT Treaty confirmed sovereignty: Ma) ROC President Ma Ying-jeou claimed that the 57-year-old document affirmed the transfer of Taiwan’s sovereignty from Japan to the Republic of China.

This represents a clear shift from his previous claim that it was the 1943 “Cairo Declaration” that did so.

... Independence activists, however, doubt the validity of the 1943 declaration, saying it was little more than a press release and cite the 1952 treaty to argue that Taiwan’s international status remains undefined.

... On Monday former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) had challenged Ma to declare “two Chinas” and to apologize for citing the Cairo Declaration as the KMT’s rationale that Taiwan is part of China and that the ROC is the legal government of Taiwan.

... [She] said Ma’s attendance at yesterday’s ceremony was tantamount to recognizing the Treaty of Taipei. … She also urged the president to modify high school history books to show that the ROC was not the legitimate government of Taiwan.

Clearly that is not going to happen. But it is good to see somebody from the opposition DPP continuing to make articulate, reasoned arguments keeping attention on the current administrations antics and shortcomings.

The rest of the opposition is engaging in cantancorous infighting that is sadly reminiscent of the UK’s Labour Party throughout the 1980s, which therefore allowed the Thatcher government too much freedom to exercise its so-called electoral mandate, and similarly of the Conservative Party during most of the current 12-year Blair/Brown Labour government. Opposition splits are only good for the government: the DPP must act quickly.

Perhaps it is Lu's independence from the electoral squabbling that allows her a statesperson-like position, she is not planning to run in the 2012 presidential election, or at least has shown no intention to do so, unlike Chen Shui-bian who has joked (?) about doing so.

Anyway, Ma certainly needs keeping a check on. Just what is he up to with this shift in position? What, for heaven’s sake, is he doing celebrating the 57th anniversary of anything? Let alone a treaty which will reach 60 (the magical number for Chinese) before the end of Ma’s 4-year term.

Is he trying to give the ROC sovereignty over Taiwan just so he can use it as a bargaining chip with China? (If so, then that's something else to worry about.)

Dalai Lama, international criminal on the lam

a worrying suggestion in TT editorial today about the long-awaited agreement on crime signed between Taiwan and China that might stop local criminals hiding out there

The devil in the detail

... At a glance, the cross-strait agreement on crime appears wholly beneficial to both sides. They have agreed to repatriate criminals and suspected criminals and to jointly act against criminal organizations and individuals. The pact has been hailed as a success as China has long been a place where Taiwanese criminals and criminal suspects can find shelter.

According to the agreement, all criminal acts are subject to cross-strait jurisdiction, particularly noting (a) major crimes such as murder, robbery, kidnapping, smuggling of arms and other items, and drug and human trafficking, (b) white-collar crimes such as embezzlement, breach of trust, money laundering and counterfeiting, (c) corruption, bribery and professional negligence, and (d) terrorist crimes such as hijacking aircraft or boats.

However, a closer look at the pact — the fifth clause, to be precise — offers the skeptical observer cause for alarm by foreshadowing chilling changes that would complement Beijing’s agenda.

In Beijing’s eyes, violations of its “Anti-Secession Law” constitute a criminal offense. Such violations include advocacy of Taiwan’s independence or firmer actions in that regard, as well as any number of other “separatist” activities.

Two simple examples can clarify this. Should the Dalai Lama set foot in Taiwan again, China could regard his presence in Taiwan to be an offense under the terms of the fifth clause and request that Taiwan extradite him. If Chinese dissident Wang Dan (王丹), the prominent Tiananmen Square Democracy Movement student leader, visits Taiwan again, China could cite the fifth clause and request repatriation.

Some may rush to dismiss such scenarios as far-fetched, especially given that any extradition requires the other government’s agreement, but the truth is that the fifth clause has now given room for those in Taiwan’s government who oppose independence or other political agendas to act against their compatriots or threaten to do so ...

reason to be cheerful?

TT: WHO invites ‘Chinese Taipei’ to WHA

Taiwan has received a letter from the WHO inviting it to attend as an observer at this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting next month under the name “Chinese Taipei,” Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) said yesterday.

...Taiwan’s presence at this annual meeting of the decision-­making arm of the WHO would mark the first time the country has been allowed to participate in a meeting or activity of a specialized UN agency since losing its UN membership to China in 1971.

But Taiwan is NOT going to this meeting; "Chinese Taipei" is,
and actually Taiwan was not a member of the UN; China (ROC) was and was replaced as "China member" by China (PRC)
the people of Taiwan were never represented and have never been asked their opinion
that's 23 million people, in case you think it's just a little unimportant island, and 17th (or so) largest trading nation in the world
(sorry, back to the TT article)

... Taiwan launched a campaign to participate in the WHO in 1997, but to no avail amid opposition from China.

so am i the only one worried that Ma&Co. have promised China something in return for what Ma calls the "goodwill of the 'mainland authorities'"?

... The officials at yesterday’s press conference declined to say what had transpired between Chinese and Taiwanese negotiators that led to Taiwan being granted WHA observer status.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

fish of the day

mackeral and shad?

deer in the forests of Tainan, or not

In fact, Tainan’s Shanshang Township (山上鄉), is not literally “on a mountain” as its name implies, but is described as being in the 麓 (, “foothills”).

This is a fairly uncommon Chinese word, at least in speech. But composed of the words for deer (鹿) beneath the trees of a forest (林), at first sight it looks like a lovely compound pictograph making use of complex imagery.
Perhaps it is, for one thing it is in the dictionary under the 鹿 radical (whereas the similar character 簏 composed of deer under bamboo is found under the 竹 bamboo radical), but characters were not always categorized "correctly".
Furthermore, 鹿 is pronounced lu4, which is similar enough to the 4 of 麓, so perhaps it is just a regular radical-phonetic compound after all.

on the mountains but not (perhaps) on the sea

Today I was researching Tainan township place name origins (cos that’s the kind of boring guy I am on vacation, though actually they’re pretty interesting because they reflect Aboriginal, Dutch, Zheng, Qing, Japanese and ROC language and history).

I got as far as Shanshang Township (山上鄉), which clearly means “On/in” the “Mountain(s)”, or according to Chinese word order, “Mountains On”.

This set me thinking about China’s Shanghai (上海), which is generally explained/translated as “On the Ocean” (for example see Asia Times Online, which translates it as “Above the Ocean”.

Probably this is correct, but perhaps not. After all, Shandong (山東) means “East of the Mountains” (unlike Tainan’s Dongshan 東山, which means “Eastern Mountain”) so we might expect 海上 (Haishang) for “On/above the Ocean”.

Chinese grammar far from being “non-existent” as many native speakers claim, or “simple” as many foreign learners claim (not having to worry about conjugations/declensions/tenses/plurals &c. perhaps), is complex because of its ambiguity. 上, for example, has a multitude of grammatical functions including prepositional “on/above ...”, adjectival “upper/last (week) ...”, adverbial “upwards”, verbal “go up” and so on.

Before the noun 海 (“ocean”, which elsewhere could also be adjectival “oceanic”, of course), 上 would normally be adjectival, making Shanghai mean “Upper Ocean”, or verbal, giving “Onto the Ocean”. For a river, 上 most commonly occurs in 上游 “upstream/upper reaches”, which might fit with Shanghai being slightly up the Huangpu River (黃浦江) from the East China Sea (東海).

Or have I been on vacation too long and the sun is addling my brain? In any case, one thing my studying of place names is teaching me is that “everything is possible” (see Bejing 北京 “Northern Capital” compared with Taipei 台北 “Taiwan North [Part?]”). So I guess Shanghai is just an unusual way of saying “on the ocean”.

get your advertising out of my face, ears (II)

if you think my rant yesterday (here) against (certain) advertising practices was angry, read Horst Bullinger’s letter about advertising in the Skytrain (Thailand’s MRT) in “The Nation” newspaper today:

... the advertising shenanigans are nothing but a disgrace. They are terrorizing their captive passenger audience with a form of psycho torture not unlike the one used by the United States in Guantanamo Bay …

and positive thinking about food

and after my complaint about the cold-chips restaurant at Chatuchak, here's a positive review
actually i don't know its name,but all the little restaurants over hanging the river near peir no. 10 are probably ok,
not so much for the food,
though that's fine,
(today I had a shaved ice with 3-choice, for Bt15, and a bottle of cold water, but i've had main courses before)
more just for the atmosphere
friendly staff
and pace of life

positive thinking blogrule No.1

to stop VftH becoming a moanfest,
here is local rule No.1:

"For each pet hate there must be one pet like"

so to compensate for my tirade against advertising on Bangkok buses,
here is one of my favorite Bangkok things to do, riding on the river buses:

The bus-boats are full of monks, tourists, parents and kids, people going to work, children getting off school, and there are boats going by every minute

bus-boats, taxi-boats, private boats, tour boats, restaurant boats, commercial “truck boats”

why are the economics of Thailand's river so different from Taiwan?

The bus-boat costing about NT$13 per trip, whereas Taipei’s river has about two boats per day, and a passenger ticket costs several hundred NT to Guandu or Danshui. No one’s going to take that to work.
p.s. this is not a complaint, just a query. It would be nice though.

Monday, 27 April 2009

fish of the day

at Bt3,000+ (ca. US$100) per pair,
these fish will be staying behind the glass

hard cheese on the Chinese

TT (opinion piece by Bruce Liao, assistant professor, Dept. Law, NCCU):
Equal rights apply to Chinese, too

No they don't
The PRC threatens, no, it promises, to annex ("unite with") Taiwan, by force if necessary

On April 23, the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee ... preliminarily decided that all Chinese nationals married to Taiwanese should be granted work permits and that ... cap on the inheritance they could receive from their Taiwanese spouses should be scrapped. In addition, the waiting time for Chinese spouses to apply for citizenship is expected to be shortened from eight years to six or four years.

... Even if the amendments are passed, they will not be enough to make treatment of spouses from China equal to treatment of spouses from other countries. ... Policies that discriminate against Chinese spouses and treat them as “second-class immigrants” should not be allowed to continue, yet some legislators and politicians ... put political ideology before human rights

"policies" are not "political ideology", Mr. Associate Professor
and, before i let you continue, it is intellectual weakness to bleat on about "human rights" to promote your cause. GROUPS of people have (human) rights too, not just individuals. That is what politics is all about, balancing the competing rights and interests of different individuals and groups.

Chinese residents and the Taiwanese should stand together through thick and thin. The former have to pay taxes and abide by Taiwanese law like everyone else and should enjoy the same rights.

er ... I pay taxes and have to abide by Taiwanese law too. But i don't see you hurrying to protect my rights. (For crying out loud, i didn't even qualify for NT$3,600 of 消費券 and i've paid almost 20 years of taxes in Taiwan).
Anyone who works in taiwan for as little as one day has to pay taxes on what he/she earns, and woe betide anyone who breaks the law during that one day.

If the government continues to neglect the rights and interests of Chinese spouses and to treat them as second-class immigrants and third-class citizens — inferior both to Taiwanese and spouses from other countries — how will Taiwan be able to praise itself as a free and democratic country founded on human rights?

you're right, but you're more wrong.
a.m.a., Taiwan is threatened with invasion, and its government should protect its citizens from this threat. If that requires curtailing of the rights and liberties of citizens who were born in the country that threatens Taiwan, and who knows, may even vote measures that undermine Taiwan's ability to defend itself, then that is understandable.

Either A.P. Liao is naive, or he is living in the ideal world of academia (or worse)

pet hate No.2

yes, there was a pet hate No. 1
wake up at the back there
today's pet hate is advertising
not all of it
but probably yes, all of it
but i guess i accept there has to be some of it
but it's getting so intrusive
not just in newspapers and on the television and on billboards
like today, i was on the bus, and i couldn't see through the window because they had some advert painted on the outside
(it was worse than it looks in the photo)
i mean, advertisers claim it is our right, as consumers, to know what products are available to us
what utter BS
what they mean is it's their right to shove things down our throats
and i don't believe it
what about my right to see through the bus window
why even have windows
what about my right to a quiet life
today i was in the supermarket and they now have TV screens beside the checkouts
screaming at you to buy more
yes, screaming
i could hardly hear myself think
how can they abuse their customers like that
that's not information
anyway, they say the best advertising is word of mouth
crap, if it was they wouldn't need to advertise
we'd all just go around telling each other "i bought X, and it's really good"
i mean it should be
that should be the best form of advertising
let's go back to that
i mean, what a waste of energy most advertising is
even if it doesn't make us angry
most of it misses the target
it's not like it produces anything useful
except to the shareholders of advertising companies
and even when it's successful, it only makes us consume more of their clients' products
which we now know is probably not helping

and what's the carbon footprint of the world's advertising industry (for producing this nothing)?

(it was louder than it looks)


it seems i'm not the only one
(VftH here)

appropriate entertainment? appropriate Engerlishe?

TT: Penghu's monthlong fireworks festival begins on May 2

The Penghu County Government, which has organized the event since 2003, plans large firework displays on designated nights for a month.

my query is not whether letting off large quantities of noisy, polluting fireworks is still an appropriate form of entertainment
(don't get me wrong, i love watching fireworks, i just worry that in public displays they might damage the environment, and in private displays they come damn close to damaging what little hair i have left)

The display on the opening night ... and will feature several designs of fireworks, including two that will display a large windmill and the English word “Go!”

but "Go" ?
Go home (Gringo)?
Go (Yankees)?
Go Ahead? (come on, that joke was old ten years ago)
Go, Windmill?

man on golf course agrees with woman on bus

today i played golf with a man and his son
(or a boy and his father,
or, in blog-strives-for-jounalistic-accuracy: a man who said the boy with him was his son)
and they said that Chinese is the number one foreign language learned in Thailand now

prediction No.1

TT: National Palace Museum unveils 'night feast tours

The National Palace Museum will launch a new “night feast” program ... target corporate clients and government agencies, offering them the opportunity to rent the entire venue at NT$220,000 per night for an all-inclusive “night feast.”

... groups of up to 100 guests with a one-hour tour of the museum’s masterpieces with in-depth commentary by experts... teas and desserts at the museum’s teahouse... a “night feast” at which three meals will be served

er.. "courses/dishes" i presume

anyway, Prediction No.1:
These feast tours are successful, but eventually they will get booked up by Chinese tour groups.
After all, PRC tourists have to spend around NT$2,000 per day; this will be a steal for them. At least it will give FaLunGong fanatics something to do in their evenings.

in fact, two-for-one on predictions at VftH today,

Prediction No.2:
Taiwan's media complain a lot about the NatPalMus catering such events for Chinese tourists

wind, renewables go round, and around and around

taipei times has an update on the wind-power firm: renewable energy back in focus after German company threatens to pull out

... Following a threat earlier this month by German wind-power firm InfraVest GmbH — the only private producer of wind energy in Taiwan — to quit the country, debate surrounding a bill to develop alternative energy from renewable resources, blocked in the legislature for more than six years, was brought back into focus.

Recently, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) have restated the government’s position that the bill must clear the legislative floor before the end of this legislative session on May 31.

New Energy Association of Taiwan secretary-general Rosa Tsou (鄒智純) said she doubted the government was resolute enough to push the bill through, as it “involves complicated business interests involving different parties.”

what a surprise
read on

... A senior legislative assistant who wished to remain anonymous said that had it not been for some lawmakers who were pressured by operators of incinerators, the bill would likely have cleared the legislature at the end of 2005.

... it was again delayed after a lawmaker sought ... to include electricity generated from rice husks.

Another lawmaker ... tried to add “run-of-river water plants,” ... a practice that can damage the environment

... Green Consumers’ Foundation chairman Jay Fang (方儉) said he doubted the bills would increase renewable energy use.

“The bills focus mainly on establishing a subsidy system to help renewable energy projects, while the objective should be to create an environment in which renewable energy operators would find it profitable to invest,” Fang said.

... “Before InfraVest GmbH invested in the country, Taipower told the ministry that the cost of producing one unit of electricity from wind was between NT$7 and NT$8. Why, then, did Taipower offer InfraVest only NT$2 per unit?” he asked.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

fish of the day (dinner)

Bangkok's "Pla'zzz" restaurant

(pla means fish in Thai,
I don't know what zzz means
555 is how Thai text messagers say LOL,
becuase it is pronounced ha ha ha in Thai)

(so healthy, even the squirrel eats here)

"The future belongs to China", says woman on bus

At first i thought this woman was learning English on the bus in Bangkok's Sunday rain

i ASSUMED she'd be learning English, it's the world language, right?

turns out (sorry, you cannot really see in the photo) that she's learning Chinese

fish (warning) of the day

Taipei Times warns DOH says fish samples contain malachite green

Perhaps it's time to give up on fish

Seven of 25 samples of aquatic products examined last month were found to contain small amounts of a banned fungicide, the Department of Health said on Friday night.

The samples of tilapia, grouper and threadfin fish that were contaminated with malachite green had residue amounts of around 0.002ppm — the maximum level acceptable in the EU.
Taiwan’s food safety law bans the presence of residues of malachite green in aquatic products sold locally.

The toxic chemical, used to treat external fungal and parasitic infections on fish and shellfish, has been found to harm animals’ livers in laboratory tests.

Hsu Ching-hsin (許景鑫), a DOH food safety official, said the contaminated aquatic samples were collected from seven places, including a farmers’ association supermarket in Taitung County, a seafood restaurant in Kaohsiung County, a fish market in Chiayi City, a Carrefour shop in Taipei City’s Wanhua District (萬華), a department store in Taichung County, a seafood restaurant in Taichung City and a coastal fish market in Keelung City.

for those of you not familiar with taiwan, this means EVERYWHERE

Even though the contaminated fish might have been consumed, Hsu said the DOH would track all related suppliers, which could be slapped with fines of between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000 if they are found to have illegally used the fungicide for disinfection.

fish of the day (lunch)

a couple of suggestions to the proprietor of this establishment
(at Bangkok's Chatuchak market)

1. Serving Chang soda water rather than the Bt 1 more expensive Singha just makes you look cheap.
2. Serving cold chips just makes you look like a crap chef.

No wonder your place is empty while next door is full

(stupid me for giving you a chance)

old verse

with no more excuse than the mention of “Mongolian dust” on it’s way to Taiwan ["Heavy dust on the way"]

as well as the general approach of summer

and today's photo of C.B. sellers at the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok

here is my "Ode to C.B., my summer love":

As sun slides into humid dusk,
when bats take wing from idle trees,
my throat choked by Mongolian dust
and slight is hope of cool sea breeze,
there grows within a hankering
for my summer soulmate, Chwa Bing (挫冰).
White hair as soft as mi-tai-mu (米苔目),
tree ears, almond eyes (and peanut zits),
red ripe jujubes, such kissable lips,
sometimes, I feel like eating you.

Modest or bejeweled; love has two alchemists:
black sugar veil, thick cream bandana,
fruit d’amour broach, taro amethysts,
barley pearls, necklace of banana;
and multicolored QQ candy bling—
nothing’s too fine, for my precious Bao Bing (刨冰).
Some jellies: hsien-tsao (仙草) and ai-yu (愛玉),
beans: red, green and honey,
chewy things: o-yee (芋圓) and hwun-yee (粉圓),
oh mysterious ineffable you.

Your complexion changes by the season,
as with fruit, most colorful,
peach, grape, mango, persimmon,
coconut, strawberry and pineapple,
on top, a snub nosed caramel pudding,
oh, how I love you, cute Bing Bing.
Peaches stop coughs, grapes strengthen tendons,
while mangoes quench my thirst,
all of which makes you the perfect first
or last dish for a meal to end on.

Grapefruit detox the alcoholic,
guavas plug my diarrhea,
lotus seeds are a blood-and-chi tonic,
consumed on ice, a great panacea;
it seems, therefore, our summer fling
is both a healthy and zestful thing.
The more beans one eats, the more one pees,
papayas aid digestion,
plums kill worms of the intestine,
but eat too fast and you’ll get brain freeze.

As summer suns give autumn moons,
the grass is wet, from trees fall leaves,
it’s not just twilight’s mood that cools,
of glacial swims, no one conceives:
and sad to say, dear sweet Chwa Bing
you’re somewhat less to my liking.
When rains fall heavier, winds blow more’n’more,
bronchitic germs invade my chest,
my new-found interest, I must confess,
is for your spicy cousin, Huo Guo (火鍋).

sad, lonely birthday, Donna

my last birthday was a dismal affair

18 hours on a bus from Goa to Mumbai

(it should have been 12 but the bus broke down)

then out to the airport to wait out the last few hours

but at least i wasn't so sad and lonely to take out 10m high signs wishing myself "happy birthday"

goodbye to all (both?) my readers

Taipei Times warns: WHO on alert over swine flu outbreak

Is this the big one?

The WHO was on high alert yesterday in the face of an outbreak of swine flu with alarming characteristics that has killed as many as 60 people in Mexico and also reached the US.

“The most worrying fact is that it appears to transmit from human to human,” a spokesman for the UN body, Thomas Abraham, said, adding that the swine flu virus had mutated into “a mix of genes that we have never seen before.”

Dave Daigle of the US Centers for Disease Control, which is working closely with the WHO, said a strain of bird flu, two of swine flu and one human strain had combined for the first time.
These features, along with the fact that unusually young and healthy adults have fallen victim — rather than the very old or very young — have given rise to fears of a serious epidemic, if not a pandemic.

fish of the day (breakfast)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

fish of the day

evidently there's good money to be made from barbecued stuffed fish
or is that just the "rolls royce" of street barbecues?

ethnic politicking runs deep (green)

one of my pet hates is that the ethnic question seems to underpin politics in taiwan to such an extent that other issues--left/right, women, environment, &c.--dont' get much of a look in

ok, so i'm not adequately on the ball since the Daan by-election is over already, but i guess the Green Party hasn't got anything else to put on its English-language website but the profile of its candidate, Calvin Wen:

Hakka descent. M.A., Graduate Institute Of Building And Planning, National Taiwan University (NTU). B.A. in Agriculture, NTU. Formerly has served as secretary-general of the Green Party Taiwan, as a director of the Taiwan Environmental Action Network Association, as a Legislative Yuan congressional assistant; as a research assistant with the National Science Council, as general convener of the Taiwan delegation to the Global Greens 2008 Congress in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and as a Taiwan delegate to the Asia Pacific Greens Kyoto Meeting 2005.

top of the list?

Hakka descent

OK, this is a start, now ban fireworks and joss money; especially joss money

DPP councilors condemn trashing of NT$80m lantern

Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City councilors yesterday condemned the Taipei City Department of Civil Affairs for trashing the main lantern of this year’s Taipei Lantern Festival following the end of the event, and urged the department to draw up recycling plans for display lanterns.

The main lantern of this year’s Taipei Lantern Festival in January, a 16m ox wearing a taekwondo outfit named Mou Mou (哞哞), cost the city government more than NT$80 million (US$2.3 million) to build ... and was only on display for about 10 days

... [Councilors} Lee and Chien urged the department to draw up plans to either recycle or reuse the million-dollar main lanterns after each festival, and to make the lanterns with recycled materials. Department Commissioner Huang Lu Ching-ru (黃呂錦茹) acknowledged the difficulty in finding enterprises to buy this year’s main lantern, and promised to implement new measures to prevent lanterns from being abandoned as trash.

But she and Hau have no intention, presumably, of dealing with the millions of dollars of joss money burned twice a month in the "help-me-make-money" ritual, as well as the frequent "i-was-so-neglectful-of-you-in-your-lifetime-but-i'll-impress-the-neighbours-with-the-amount-of-carcinogenic-smoke-i-can-create" religious events.

at least someone in the US is worried, it's just not Paal and his chums

Friendship with Taiwan remains strong, Paal says

and when did Paal become a man Taiwan can trust?

... Douglas Paal, director of the China Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace ... [and] a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan, said: “The people who make policy in the US are right to be unconcerned by the pace and scope of political detente with the mainland. It’s time for the Taiwanese people to realize the benefits of reduced tensions in the very important economic and cultural relationship with China.”

well that puts my mind at rest

He said that some people in Washington worried that Taiwan would rush into unification with China.

It's nice to hear that "some" people are worried. That's better than no one.

“I think this simply is not on the cards. The terms offered by China are not seen as generous by the Taiwanese. President Hu seems to recognize it is not going to happen any time soon,” Paal said. “Unification is not on the agenda. We can trust Taiwan’s vibrant democracy to make sure that does not happen. Even if a leader were to come to power tomorrow who wanted to unify with China, he couldn’t do it because of the Constitution.

Hasn't Paal heard of the ECFA and EIU (economically inevitable unification)?

"The people are the final arbiters. We should have confidence that it’s not going to happen.”

Not only does Ma not intend "the people" to vote in a referendum, he doesn't even dare to let the KMT-dominated legislature discuss the ECFA.

another "objective" MAC poll

Number of Taiwanese who want 'status quo' maintained increasing every year

The number of Taiwanese who would prefer to maintain the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait has reached an all-time high, a poll released by the Mainland Affairs Council yesterday showed.

1. It would. It is a government agency promoting the Ma administration's "get into bed with Hu and we can win the Nobel Peace Prize" policy.

2. Remember the "unbiased" nature of the MAC's previous poll? (VftH here)


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Chan dropped from Deaflympics

or not, apparently

according to taipei mayor Hao Lung-bin, Jackie Chan had already completed his work for the Deaflympics:

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said yesterday that action star Jackie Chan's (成龍) tenure as ambassador for the Deaflympics ended last year and urged the public not to politicize sports, amid a furor over the celebrity's anti-democratic remarks.

...“Each of the ambassadors we invited has a different mission and Jackie Chan's work was done last year"

now i don't want to call Hau a liar, but if this is true, someone forgot to tell the Deaflympics organizing team

when i interviewed their PR spokesperson a couple of months back, she couldn't wait to tell me how central Jackie Chan was to their promotion of the games

and in another interview just one week ago, who was the first ambassador mentioned by the organizer's CEO?
That's right, Mr. J. Chan Esq.

well they would, wouldn't they

MAC poll results unreliable: DPP

Taipei Times says one of the questions asked by the Berkeley polling company on behalf of the Mainland Affairs Council was: “The second round of cross-strait talks established direct cross-strait charter flights, which save time and money for people traveling to China; are you satisfied with the result?”

seems just a tad biased, i'd have to agree

riddle no. 3/ 謎語三號

For Taipei citizens, what connects 1911 and 1945?

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

I'm looking to find God again (IV)

Good to be back in Taipei's traffic after the quiet roads of Houshan (後山)
well, at least i can continue my search:
still no God (only a god)
and this one had me stumped for a moment,
i thought it might be Aboriginal (again),
but A-lu-mi (Shark suggests 阿路米, suspects it might be via Japanese) is slang for 鋁 (lu, pronounced the same as the surname 呂 Lu), meaning "aluminium" (or "aluminum" in US English),
so presumably it's the driver's nickname

last image on leaving Hualien

"Our earth is in the hands of these hero[es]"

[painted on the wall near the Hualien fire station]

Monday, 20 April 2009

fish of the day

Fish (? or woman, or, The Shad suggests, a castrated male) outside the Hualien Stone Sculpturing Museum (石雕博物館)

it's litter-pickin' good

When I say it, I'm an "economy-ruining, out-of-touch, wannabe hippie", (OK, no one actually said that, but none of the papers and magazines I write for would go near my proposal for an atricle on "litter picking, public service, and the Buddhist goal of 'no self'")

but when Tzu Chi says it, it makes the papers:

Buddhists unveil 'Enrich with Simplicity' project

To combat the depressed economy — and possibly climate change as well — the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation yesterday unveiled an exhibition and workshop, calling on people to enrich their lives by turning waste into reusable resources.

... Tzu Chi spiritual leader Master Cheng Yen (證嚴法師) has told her followers that living a simple lifestyle is the best way to get through the current economic crisis.

... On top of saving money, the practices also advance environmental protection, which is also an important part of the foundation’s mission.

I suppose I should be happy. Actually, I'm not a big TC fan, but at least this is better than old "There-are-no-Taiwanese-in-Taiwan" Master Hsing Yun.

i DON'T fit the blogger demographic after all

For want of a better answer, when people ask why VftH went to blog edition, I say I fit the profile: fat, bald, old, bearded male (hence the art work behind the blog title).

Today's "Taipei Times" (and the Liberty Times two days ago?) article "Survey reveals students' Web habits" concluded that "male students were likely to keep in touch with friends using instant messaging, while females preferred blogs"

Whoops! I don't fit the demographic after all. I'll need a new excuse for this blog.

The study also found that although a large percentage of the students would search for health information online, they did not necessarily believe the information they discovered.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

a-hole of the day

Jackie Chan wonders about freedom

Action star Jackie Chan (成龍) said yesterday he was not sure if a free society is a good thing for China and that he was starting to think “we Chinese need to be controlled.”

Chan’s comments drew applause from a predominantly Chinese audience of business leaders in China’s southern island province of Hainan.

The 55-year-old Hong Kong actor was participating in a panel at the annual Boao Forum when he was asked to discuss censorship and restrictions on filmmakers in China. He expanded his comments to include society.“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not,” Chan said. “I’m really confused now. If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.”

Chan added: “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.” The kung fu star has not been a vocal supporter of the pro-­democracy movement in his hometown of Hong Kong. Since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, voters have not been allowed to directly elect their leader. Several massive street protests have been held to demand full democracy, but Beijing has said Hong Kong isn’t ready for it.

Aborigines, whirling water but definitely not flowers

A great many explanations are given for the origin of the name Hualien (花蓮, "flower lotus"), including wishful thinking, such that the nearbycliffs where covered by joined(連) flowers.

Most reliable seems to be that it was called HuaLen (洄瀾,“whirling waves”) by Hoklo-speaking settlers. This is said to be a description of the swirling back of water in the Hualien River (花蓮溪) as it met the ocean.

There is also another early name of GeeLai (奇萊, and variants, QiLai in Mdn.), which Abe (安倍明義) says derived from the Amis Aboriginal name for the area, "Q Kirai" .

Some people claim 奇萊 was changed to "Hualien" during the period of Japanese rule (1895-1945) because the Japanese pronunciation sounds the same as a word for "detest".

But it seems that the change in names from 洄瀾 to the similar sounding (in Hoklo) 花蓮 dates from two decades before the Japanese, when Shen Bao-zhen (沈葆楨) petitioned the Qing court to make the change. Shen is closely tied to much of Hualien's early history because it was being explored and cleared for cultivation by Han Chinese during his stint in charge of Taiwan.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Taipei Times takes a cheap pot shot at former VP Lu Hsiu-lien

Towards the end of today's Taipei Times editorial "Ideology and the real political world", this "pro-localization" paper takes an uncharacteristic swipe at former Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien (呂秀蓮):

The problem with the DPP, then as now, is that it shows its ideological hand before elections at the expense of what voters want. With dire results hampering the party of late, its challenge is to attract support by tapping the concerns of a majority, gaining their trust and only then engaging wider ideological issues as necessary.

There was precious little of this understanding on show at a forum yesterday analyzing the role of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in today’s Taiwan. Former Examination Yuan president Yao Wen-chia (姚嘉文) and former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) gave speeches that indicate the older generation of democracy activists cannot deliver new ideas on how the DPP can appeal to those crucial votes that swing legislative seats.

... Lu argued that Taiwan operates on a political cycle of 30 years; after each cycle there is major change, she said, as if this seismology-flavored analysis was of the remotest use for DPP politicians 20 points behind in key electorates.

Ideology and a sense of mission provide undeniable energy and inspiration for political figures and their supporters. But the privileging of righteousness over hard tactics amounts to nothing more than indulgence, which is the politest word describing such behavior at a time of growing national threat.

What is the TT's agenda here? The forum's agenda was the role of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in today’s Taiwan, which seems to be what Yao and Lu were addressing. Why does the TT use this ridiculous-sounding soundbite out of context? Moreover, if one wishes to criticize someone (in this instance Lu for having no new policy ideas) but one does not propose something constructive (new policy ideas), then one is simply name-calling. That is what blogs do (more often than not), but it is below the journalistic expectations readers have of a serious newspaper, especially in an editorial.

So why is the TT taking this cheap pot shot at VPL? Is it trying to distance itself from the former vice head of state, like it has from former president Chen? If so, why?

Surely it is not because of the launch last week of her new "Formosa Post" newspaper (should i declare here my tenuous connection with that publication?, though in fact I've had many more articles published in the TT than i ever will in the FP), which aims to share (compete for?) a similar pro-Taiwan readership. Surely the Liberty Times Group doesn't see the underfunded under-resourced FP as a threat.

new towns, old towns

The northern suburbs of Hualien, many of which have nice, broad, tree-lined streets, belong it seems to XinCheng (新城, "new town") Township rather than Hualien (花蓮) City itself.

Xincheng dates from the 1870s when the top Qing official in Taiwan, Shen Bao-zhen (沈葆楨), had three roads constructed to connect the underdeveloped Hualien County to the rest of the island as part of Chinese attempts to civilize (subdue) Aborigines in the wake of the Mudan Incident (牡丹社事件).

Xincheng, near the north of the county, was the first "new town" to be developed.

In contrast, nearby Guangfu (光復, "Retrocession") was an Aboriginal township with a long history.
Since every household grew beans, the area was known as the hometown of bean growing, “Fataan” in the language of the Amis. This was transliterated into Hoklo Chinese as “馬太鞍”, and appeared in Qing dynasty texts under this and other Chinese names.

When the ROC administrators rolled into Hualien in 1945, they decided to upgrade the community to the level of township. As the first new township following the end of Japanese rule and the "retrocession" of Taiwan to Chinese rule, it was given the honor of being called "Retrocession”.

This was supposed to be a fish-of-the-day post, but was sidetracked to place-name history (another VftH obsession). Anyway, here's the same sign from Xincheng, but more "artistic" because VftH's chief photographer forgot to set the flash.

Friday, 17 April 2009

fish of the day

apparently it's not a hot spring called "fish"
nor hot-spring-cooked fish (that's eggs i'm thinking of)
but a hot spring with fish in that eat the dead skin off one's feet

Time to tap into renewable energy

following yesterday's news that the government responded with the proverbial "well, you know where the door is" when German wind energy company InfraVest announced it might have to leave Taiwan (VftH here),

the Taipei Times has a good editorial on the topic:

Time to tap into renewable energy

... after German wind turbine maker InfraVest Wind Power Group threatened to withdraw from the local market if state-run energy monopoly Taipower refused to raise the tariffs it pays for electricity generated by InfraVest’s turbines.

... InfraVest also implored the government to speed up passage of the proposed statute on promoting renewable energy, a bill that has lain idle in the legislature since 2003.

It would be a severe blow to renewables in Taiwan if InfraVest pulled out of the market as German companies are world leaders in renewable energy generation.

... since [Germany's Renewable Energy Sources Act was] passed, the share of renewable energy in total electricity consumption has risen rapidly, from 6.3 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2007, according to Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. It hopes to make that figure 45 percent by 2030.

... Contrast that with Taiwan where, according to the Bureau of Energy, renewable energy this year will make up just 3.5 percent of total consumption, and it becomes clear that successive governments have been dragging their feet on this issue.

This is a shame, as Taiwan has great potential for renewable power sources such as solar, wind, tidal and geothermal. If properly harnessed, these sources could make up a good portion of Taiwan’s electricity needs. ...

what is this bird?

last year when i asked i got some spectacular (but incorrect) responses

I'd really like to know.


Hot Spring City or Dry River or Stony River

Fujianese settlers to Yilan called this area at the north end of the Lanyang Plain "DeKeh" (旱溪, "dry river", [HanXi in Mandarin]) because of the paucity of water.
The town itself was also known as Teng-a-Hsia (湯仔城, "hot-spring town", [TangZaiCheng in Mandarin])

Over time, DeKeh changed to Jiao-keh (礁溪, "stony river", [JiaoXi in Mandarin]), though most lcoal people still call it DaKeh.

duck of the day

at around 40 minutes (really) to Jiaosi (礁溪), a trip to Yilan truly is more convenient than Beitou and Yangmingshan.

what better start than some smoked duck (鴨賞; A-hsiew in Yilan's unique variant of Hoklo) with "gar-leeks", cabbage with ginger (apparently a Yilan habit) as well as garlic, and a bottle of consume-within-18-days Taiwan beer?

I'm looking to find God again (V)

Returning from the north coast last weekend I was passed by a bus, whose driver’s family name is Xi (奚).

I don’t remember ever meeting someone with this name (though before you say it, let me admit that might just be my bad memory).

So back home I checked, and indeed it is not in the most common 100 family names, which account for around 85% of all Chinese people.

The five most common names—Li 李, Wang 王, and Zhang張, Liu, 劉 and Chen 陳—account for around 30%, and the next five—趙, 楊, 吳, 黃, and 周—for around another 10-15%. The next 10 family names—徐, 朱, 林, 孫, 馬, 高, 胡, 鄭, 郭, 蕭—together account for another 10+% of Chinese people.

Regional differences occur because of selective migration, however. This is especially true in Taiwan, which not only is an island but was also cut off from China for long periods, including 110 of the last 114 years.

The ten most common family names in Taiwan are Chen 陳 (11.06%) , Lin 林 (8.28%), Huang 黃 (6.01%), Zhang 張 (5.26%), Li 李 (5.11%), Wang 王 (4.12%), Wu 吳 (4.04%), Liu 劉 (3.17%), Cai 蔡 (2.91%), and Yang 楊 (2.66%) .

Less than 0.1% of Chinese have the family name 奚, therefore, (and less than 0.01% if it is not in the 101st-200th range),

In fact, 奚 is a pretty rare character altogether.
Looking in my Chinese-English dictionary (under the 大 radical not 爫), there are just three entries. In Classical Chinese it meant “why/what/where”, and its only common current usage is in xiluo (奚落) “to taunt”.

Two explanations exist for its use as a family name: i) that it is an offshoot from the 任 (Ren) clan, or ii) that it derives from the BoXi (薄奚) non-Han ethnic group, which subsequently dropped the “Bo” part of its name.

My twenty-volume encyclopedia has no entry under 奚, suggesting there are no well-known writers, artists, politicians or historical figures with this family name.
Wikipedia did better, with almost a dozen.

Probably the most famous person with this name was one of Confucius’ 72 “virtuous men” (賢intellectual/talented?), the preeminent of his 3,000 disciples, Xi Rong-dian (奚容蒧), who is said to have come from the state of Wei 衛國 (in today’s …)

Among contemporary Taiwanese, perhaps television personality Hsi Sheng-lin (奚聖林) is best known, particularly for his sports reporting.

And now Hsi Chia-hung (奚嘉鴻) joins them for his efforts on the north coast bus routes.

methadone in vending machines?

City councilors upset by needle vending machines

... Vending machines selling condoms, needles, syringes and the drug substitute methadone have been installed in more than 30 public restrooms in Taipei City, some of which are near schools, making them easily accessible to students, Taipei City councilors Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) and Hung Chien-yi (洪健益) said.

The packages, which cost NT$20, come with instructions from Taipei City’s Health Department, the councilors told a press conference.

1. That perhaps also explains why i keep finding used needles in the park. That worries me more than that students will buy them.

... Yen Muh-yong (顏慕庸), a division chief at the department, said installing the vending machines was part of the central government’s program to combat the spread of HIV.

Under the program, several hundred distribution points have been set up across the country to provide syringes and methadone, which is used by recovering drug addicts.

The goal is to ensure drug users have access to clean needles to prevent the spread of HIV and to offer anti-addictives used in quitting drug use, he said.

2. I will need persuading about the methadone. I find it hard to believe you can buy it from vending machines. Or did i misread this?

3. What's wrong with needle exchange programmes? Too labour-intensive?

Department of Health data shows that about 80 percent of Taiwan’s HIV cases are related to drug use, [Yen] said.

... He said the department would remove the vending machines from seven public restrooms near schools and would place warning labels on the remaining machines to prevent confusion over their contents.

link to Chinese-langauge article (here) [thanks to The Shad]


Thursday, 16 April 2009

fish of the day

It's a long time since i had smoked salmon for breakfast.

I used to have it all the time when i lived in edinburgh.

(Well "all the time" at least.)

But it's too expensive in taipei.

Not that it's cheap in scotland, but cheaper.

Apparently it used to be so cheap that workers stipulated in their contracts "salmon only x times per week".

Or is that one of those rural myths?

I'll try to find out.

I'm looking to find God again (III)

... but in the meantime I have found “a god”

Eros, ancient Greek god of lust, love and intercourse.

Although sometimes associated with love between the genders, it seems Eros was more often worshipped at wrestling schools, where men practiced amorous grappling as well as the combat variety.

MC "Deaflympics" article in Travel in Taiwan

YOUNG, GIFTED, AND DEAF - Four Thousand Olympians Heading for Taiwan

By Mark Caltonhill

On hearing that Taipei is staging the 21st Summer Deaflympics in September 2009, many people’s first response is to ask why the deaf need their own Olympics. This is not a question the players of the Taiwan Beer professional basketball team ask. At least, not since they tried playing while denied their sense of hearing.

It was weird, they said afterwards. An eerie silence. “All I could hear was my heart beating, and it sounded so loud.” “There was no sound of the ball bouncing on the floor. No fans cheering. No teammates calling for the ball. No referee’s whistle.” “And I couldn’t balance properly. It was as if I was about to fall over.”

The athletes were taking part in an exhibition game against the national Chinese Taipei deaf team to promote Deaflympics Taipei. To allow them to experience the game in something like its hearing-impaired format, and to level the playing field a bit, they wore earplugs. The result was, as reported, weird.

The Deaflympics are not exclusively for deaf people; to participate, athletes must have “a hearing loss of at least 55db in their better ear.” In fact, hearing-impaired people sometimes live, not in a world of total silence, but with a disorientating and frightening cacophony of partially audible sounds set against a partially deafening thunder.

And if more proof is needed that good hearing helps sporting achievement, a quick comparison of world records shows a gap of about 10 percent between Olympians and Deaflympians. The world record for the men’s 100m is 9.69 seconds, for example, as compared with that for deaf athletes, 10.61 seconds, while those for the 400m are 43.18 seconds and 47.09 seconds respectively. This gap might be exaggerated by the superior facilities and funds made available to able-bodied athletes, however.

Basketball and athletics are just two of 20 sports included in this year’s twenty-first version of the quadrennial event. Started in 1924 as the Silent Games, since 1995 it has been organized under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It will be held at the Taipei Arena, Taipei Gymnasium, Taipei Municipal Stadium, and another two dozen venues spread throughout the host city, surrounding Taipei County, and other northern counties.

The small but energetic Taipei green tree frog is the mascot of this year’s Deaflympics

The logo for the 2009 games -— the Chinese character for “north” (北; bei) in stylized form, composed of a running athlete and an ear -— can be said to represent all of northern Taiwan rather than merely Taipei, as has been officially announced. This would be fitting, since Ma Ying-jeou, who as Taipei mayor led the city’s 2003 bid for the event, is now the nation’s president. He evidently still feels passionate about the Deaflympics, as he referred to them as “my baby” while attending the September 2008 launch of the 365-day countdown.

The games’ mascot, a cartoon version of the Taipei green tree frog (Rhacophorus taipeianus) — smallest but perhaps most energetic of Taiwan’s eight endemic frog species — definitely represents the city. In addition, the banyan leaf and azalea flower worn by the male and female frogs, respectively, are Taipei’s official tree and flower.

Taipei, despite being a city of almost 3 million inhabitants, is noted for its green spaces and its fauna and flora. Indeed, it is unique among capitals around the world in having a national park within its boundaries. In fact, one venue of this year’s games, that for the orienteering competition, where competitors armed only with map and compass will navigate through open terrain, will be Yangmingshan National Park.

As with most, and probably all, Olympic events, some venues will not be completed until the last few months before the opening ceremony. At the time of this writing, for example, two of the three main sports grounds, the gymnasium and the 20,000-seat stadium, are still being built.

“They will be completed on time,” Creative Manager of the Taipei Organizing Committee of the 21st Summer Deaflympics, Jennifer Lee, assured Travel in Taiwan on January 5th at her office at Taipei Arena, next door to the stadium. “Moreover, they will be part of the games’ legacy, something Taipei City will gain. There used to be a 50-year-old sports stadium here, and hosting the Deaflympics has allowed us to bring forward the site’s renovation and expansion. Hopefully the international-standard facilities will enable Taipei to attract other major sporting events.”

Athletics, basketball, badminton, table tennis, the football (soccer) final, and the opening and closing ceremonies will take place in the three main venues, with other sports at 12 more venues throughout the city. Nevertheless, with the idea of the “sharing of riches,” the marathon and the road-cycling competitions, for example, will be staged along the north-coast highway in Taipei County between Jinshan and Danshui townships. Bowling will take place in the city of Zhonghe, shooting in Taoyuan, and swimming and water polo even further away in Hsinchu.

As "Travel in Taiwan" goes to press, more than 4,000 athletes have registered, as have around 1,300 coaches, officials, medical personnel, and translators. This represents a 50 percent-plus increase over the 2,400 participants in the previous Deaflympics, which were held in Melbourne, Australia, in 2005.

There are 164 athletes from Taiwan (or Chinese Taipei as it is known on such occasions), 107 men and 57 women. They will be hoping to improve on the nine gold medals won in Melbourne (including five in bowling), which elevated the team to fifth place behind Ukraine, Russia, South Africa, and the United States.

The largest contingent of athletes, numbering 241, comes from Japan; the smallest, a lone female tennis player, comes from Chile. She may have a good chance of a medal, however, since she is to be accompanied by two coaches. This means Chile has the highest ratio of coaches to athletes; highest that is, except for Zimbabwe, which although having no athletes in competition is sending two coaches, two officials, two medical personnel, and an interpreter.

The most popular sport is track and field, with 60 of the 80 participating countries sending a total of 796 athletes to participate in this category, around one-fifth of all competitors. Least popular are water polo and women’s road cycling, with just five nations entering competitors in each field.

Male athletes outnumber females almost exactly 2:1, and in no sport are there more women than men: the closest ratio is in orienteering, with 43 percent women. In addition to Chile, only two countries are sending more women than men — Iceland with four female bowlers and Swaziland with a female volleyball team — although Bolivia (swimming), Jamaica (table tennis), the Philippines (bowling), and Slovakia (various sports) all come close, with equal numbers of each sex.

As this will be the largest multisport event held to date in Taiwan, Taipei City is determined to make everything function as smoothly as possible

As this will be the largest multisport event held to date in Taiwan, Taipei City is determined to make everything function as smoothly as possible. Every need and desire of the 5,500 participants will be catered for by Lee and the rest of the preparatory committee staff, and even more so by the 10,000-plus volunteers, without whom the event couldn’t take place. Recruited from Taiwan’s schools and voluntary sector — Rotary International alone has signed up around 4,000 people — they will be responsible for everything from marshalling traffic and trash collection to sign language and even singing the theme song.

That’s right — pop diva A-Mei is among those who have offered services for free. In addition to warming up her vocal chords she is also serving as one of the spokespersons for Deaflympics Taipei. Other international ambassadors include senior Taiwanese actress Brigitte Lin and Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan, who feels a personal connection, not through sporting endeavors but because of partial deafness in one ear resulting from an accident while filming in Yugoslavia many years ago.

While mentioning stars from the arts scene, it should be noted that playwright and theater director Stan Lai is the Games’ art director, responsible for creating memorable opening and closing ceremonies as well as a “silent experience hall.”

A large number of the volunteers have been receiving training in sign language. People sometimes assume that there is some kind of international sign language, as though beyond the spoken word there exists a kind of spontaneous, self-evident system of communication. This of course is not the case, and even the “hand languages” used by Mandarin Chinese speakers in Taiwan and China are different, as are the sign languages (which employ body gestures, facial expressions, and lip movements as well as hands) used in the United States and Great Britain.

After great efforts at harmonization and compromise, there is currently emerging some kind of consensus around International Sign, an attempt to create an “Esperanto for the hearing impaired.” So far it is too limited to be called a language — it is more of a pidgin sign language — but it is used for adjudication and inter-nation communication at the Deaflympics. As for the starter’s pistol and referee’s whistle of other sports, these are replaced by flashing lights and the use of flags, respectively.

The Games organizers have been using the upcoming Deaflympics to promote the learning of sign language and better understanding of hearing loss and other disabilities through a deaf-awareness program in Taiwan. Road safety, for example, has been one main thrust.

Holding the games has offered Taiwan’s governmental and non-governmental organizations the opportunity to soul-search about the provision of services for disabled people generally and foreign disabled visitors in particular. According to the Eden Social Welfare Foundation, Taiwan’s highest-profile NGO/NPO focusing on the issue of mobility and access for all disabled people, facilities for deaf travelers are fairly good in the capital. This is especially true in regard to the MRT and High Speed Rail systems, which have good provision of signs in both Chinese and English. People are therefore saved from having to ask for directions, something that causes annoyance for all travelers but can ruin a trip for the hard of hearing. Convenience can similarly be increased for blind people by the equivalent promotion of Braille and its Chinese version, “dot words”.

A second key provision for hearing-impaired visitors is museum and nature-reserve guides fluent in sign language. Major tourist sites such as the National Palace Museum offer this service, but inquiry and booking should be made in advance.

Advance planning is the key to disabled tourism, Eden says, whether concerning access, security, transportation, or accommodation. Large hotels have only a limited number of rooms designed for wheelchair access, for example.

Indeed, planning and booking are fundamental, Eden stresses, which necessitates a decrease in spontaneity.

Moreover, since everyone’s needs are individual, the more relevant information people have at their fingertips, the better they can plan their itinerary. With this in mind, the foundation publishes a bilingual Chinese/English booklet entitled “Move Free to the World,” which details disabled facilities at a wide range of tourist sites in Taiwan. Information about transportation options is available on its website.

For more information, visit

Halt Die Klappa

German firm InfraVest Wind Power Group, the only private wind power company in Taiwan, announced on Monday that it would withdraw from the local market if a proposed statute on promoting renewable energy was not passed...

because the prices set by Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) were unfair...

“Since opening the Taiwan branch nine years ago, InfraVest has invested more than US$398 million setting up 88 wind turbines in central Taiwan”...

But while Taipower purchases electricity generated by private coal-fired power plants at NT$2.7 per kilowatt hour and electricity generated by natural gas plants for NT$3 to NT$4 per kilowatt hour, “over the past nine years, Taipower has paid us NT$2 per kilowatt hour of electricity”...

“It puzzles us that it pays about NT$4 for natural gas, which is a clean source of energy, but only gives us NT$2 when our energy is even cleaner”...

[InfraVest] requested Taipower pay the same for its energy as it pays natural gas power plants. Unless this condition is met, InfraVest’s losses would soon be too much to sustain...

While VftH is not qualified to judge InfraVest’s claims, it is clearly Danke schön, Auf Wiedersehen and Das ist mir furzegal time as far as Taiwan's government is concerned:

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) declined to respond to the company’s complaint [but] said that while Ma was very concerned about energy conservation and cutting carbon emissions, he was only responsible for laying down the general direction of policies... The Ministry of Economic Affairs would be in a better position to comment ...

On whether the administration prioritized nuclear energy over green energy, Wang said this was a technical question that must be decided by certain government agencies and that the Presidential Office would respect their decision...

Wang said Ma “does not have any [specific thoughts on policy details] at the moment.”...

Asked what the Presidential Office’s position was on the renewable energy bill, Wang said reporters should ask the Executive Yuan whether it supported it.

Minister of Economic Affairs Yiin Chii-ming (尹啟銘) said on Monday he would respect the company’s decision...

Yiin blamed the problem on the economic crisis, saying the company should seek help from banks rather than the ministry...

He also said the company should have conducted a risk evaluation and feasibility study before venturing into the local market...

Once the proposed renewable energy bill clears the legislature, Yiin said he believed more companies would enter the market.

In other words: Ich gebe nicht einen Schei


Taipei Times has a good editorial on the topic (see VftH here)

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

dog days (also not my dog) ... salad days

Today feels like the hottest day of the year so far.

One positive thing to note is that Taiwanese farmers seem to be growing (or growing more) lettuce and other salad vegetables this year.
So instead of having to buy three large romaine lettuce for NT$180, or whatever Costco charged, you can buy one for around NT$40, and other similar vegetables for even less.
So it should be "salad days" all summer long.

help may be coming, but why now?

The US has launched a major campaign to help Taiwan win observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the supreme governing body of the WHO. Taiwan has fought for observer status every year from 1997 to 2006, and again last year, but has never been able to overcome strong opposition from China ...

"The United States will coordinate closely with like-minded nations so that we can effectively express our support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the work of the WHO,” the [leaked] report says ...

"The deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [SARS] in 2003 and the ongoing concern over the potential for human transmission of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus highlight the need to involve Taiwan in a meaningful, pragmatic way in the work of the WHO,” it says.

AND IT DIDN'T in 2003?
Talk about playing politics with people's lives.

what it says on the tin

more improve-the-enviroment-through-raising-consumption ideas

not even a month has gone by since i launched this blog with the EPA's car-gifts-for-environmentalists joke, and the same government agency is back behind the mike:

To mark upcoming environmental events including Earth Day and World Environment Day, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday launched a series of shopping events to encourage people to choose eco-friendly products.

However, some environmentalists criticized the plan for promoting “green purchases” rather than encouraging people to spend only when necessary.

For the first event in the series, EPA Minister Stephen Shen (沈世宏) lauded 18 private businesses for making green purchases that exceeded NT$20 million (US$600,000) last year ...

Green Party Taiwan Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said: “Instead of teaching people to buy, the government should lead by example and teach people to save the earth by [buying new things] only when necessary, rather than justifying their purchases by saying that these things are ‘green.’”

In addition, Pan said: “Businesses that purchase a lot of green products do not necessarily need to be praised...

I'm looking to find God again (II)

I was. The "Romanized name" has no obvious connection with the Chinese (Yang Ming-hui in Mandarin), so I caught up with the bus at the next red light and asked "Why Ka Jao?"
After I explained "No, I'm not trying to get to BanQiao", he told me it was his Aboriginal name. Amis to be precise.
Wikipedia's note on Taiwan's Aboriginal names (here)