Tuesday, 30 June 2009

(three?) fish of the day

a couple of fish from ProfAnn's study
or three in Chinese, because crocodiles are 鱷魚 (e-yu)

fish of the day

Taipei Times: photo story
An oarfish, also known as an “earthquake fish,” lies on the ground after it was caught in waters off Hualien County yesterday. Locals say that the increasing appearance of oarfish suggests an earthquake.PHOTO: CNA

Monday, 29 June 2009

fish of the day / trivia question 1

The fish in batter of the English "national dish" of fish and chips
shares an origin
with the similar fish in batter of Japanese tempura

Q: Did the English get their battered fish from the Japanese tempura
did the Japanese get their tempura from English battered fish
... ?

i'm looking to find god again (VIII)

the driver's favorite coffee, I guess
(because his[?] name is Lin Chun-jie -- a "Spring-born Talent" perhaps)


Sunday, 28 June 2009

f***ing croissants

Geant supermarket has been selling croissants for months,
alternating its price from NT$36 for 6 to NT$49 for 8
which didn't really make sense
since the unit price is almost the same (ca. NT$6)
but presumably it had good reason for continually changing the price

today i suddenly found out why:
they are now priced at NT$49 for 6
(unit price of ca. NT$8; a 33% increase)
even i was confused

which presumably is Geant's intention

also, potatoes were NT$45(ish) for 1.2kg
for the longest time
today they are NT$49
a small increase (ca. 10%), acceptable perhaps
but the bag felt light
and had no weight indicated
so i weighed it:
1.0 kg
so actually a sneaky increase also of about 33%

watch out, there's a thief about

Friday, 26 June 2009

No buts, it's got to be fresh fat

the strange thing about McUnfreshFatGate is that "customers noticed their food did not taste right"

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

the turtles made it ... (into the Post)

yesterday's visit to Shihli made it into today's Post:

Rescued turtles released from Penghu center
By Mark Caltonhill, The China Post

Penghu County Magistrate Wang Chien-fa, front row left, and staff of the Penghu Marine Biology Research Center help a large green turtle to return to the sea after 18 months of ...

[btw, if you want to buy this photo, please contact VftH and NOT China Post!]

PENGHU, Taiwan -- Seven green turtles were released into the seas off Penghu yesterday, as part of Taiwan's contribution to the conservation of this endangered animal.

The large reptiles, weighing between 11 and 89 kilograms, were helped on their way by Penghu County Magistrate Wang Chien-fa, Liu Chiung-lien of the central government's Forestry Bureau, which underwrites a part of the country's conservation budget, and Hsu Chung-kang of the Penghu Marine Biology Research Center, which has looked after them since they were rescued from Taiwan's subtropical seas.
The turtles, known by scientists as Chelonia mydas, had stayed at the center for between one and 18 months while they recovered from disease or injury, Hsu said.
The longest resident was the largest, which he estimated was more than 20 years old. Green turtles often live to over 50, by which time they may weigh over 200 kilograms. PHA108, as she was code named, gained 12 kilograms since arriving at the center in December 2007. Hsu said she had a problem with her internal organs that prevented her from diving underwater. PHA114, on the other hand, had only suffered superficial injuries and so was released within one month of its rescue on May 31 this year.
As part of their environment education, also present for yesterday's release were the entire roll call of local Shihli Elementary School and Shihli Kindergarten.
The dozens of pupils cheered as the turtles struggled the few meters across the sand, then clapped loudly as they swam majestically the first tens of meters through the surf, on the beginning of a journey that could take them thousands of kilometers across the Pacific and Indian oceans.
It is because of the large distances the turtles migrate, that Taiwan has joined the international program to protect them.

[oops! hey, i was hurrying to get it written on a borrowed computer at Penghu County Hall so that the civil servants could clock off on time.]
In addition to the work done by the research center near Shihli on the Fengguei Peninsula of Penghu's main island, there is also the Green Turtle Tourism and Conservation Center on the smaller outlying island of Wangan.

the real reason i went to Xiwei

Xiwei is famous for its sun-dried thread noodles,
which is why i was there
(and got some pics, so hopefully, one day, i will finish my food book)

fish of the day

These goldfish are swimming in an old well in Xiwei (西衛) just north of Magong

"very moving" turtles

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Shihli on the way to the spitting rocks at Fenggui

and the original 1622 Dutch fort (site)

has a long line of fish murals

which i almost didn't finish photographing because there were so many

but fortunately i did,

as i was just taking the last one,

a teacher from the village elementary school opposite it came over and talked to me
and told me the County Magistrate and others were coming to release some turtles
which was "very moving" (as i told the local TV station)

sport is bad for you

Monday, 22 June 2009

China Post: Sports for all

Sports are bad.

Worse still, Taiwan is about to enter a period of unprecedented sporting activity. But all is not lost. In fact, with a little effort, central and regional governments can turn the situation to the nation's advantage.

Sports are not just bad for the individual, but they are also bad for society and the nation as a whole. This is not referring to the broken bones of downhill skiers or to the fractured egos of prima donna football stars. This is also not referring to participation sports at any level. Participating in sports is good for the individual and arguably good for the wider society.
What's bad is the watching of excessive amounts of sports.

There has been an explosion in sports audiences over the last few decades,
[clause removed, which had slipped in by mistake] matched by a concurrent decline in sporting participation. This is lamentable, as prolonged sitting on a sofa or stadium seat is bad for the lower spine, though not as bad perhaps as the consumption of the sugar-and-caffeine-laden fizzy drinks and fat-filled fast food — and previously tobacco and alcohol products too — that are commonly advertised at major sporting events.

Furthermore, with nothing more exciting offered than the sight of swimmers slogging relentlessly up and down the pool or footballers kicking a synthetic pig bladder back and forth for 90 minutes, boredom takes over and audiences engage in partisan support, which is the slippery slope toward petty nationalism. This is negative, divisive, and exacerbates tensions between different social groups. The effects of watching sports are, therefore, in direct contrast to those of participating in sports.

For the individual concerned, regular sporting activity lowers the risk of contracting coronary, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. There are also clear benefits to joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons, while improved metabolism helps regulate hormones and prevent diseases such as late-onset diabetes. Probably the greatest gains are in psychological health, with clear evidence of reduced anxiety and depression.

Participation in sports gives individuals increased self-confidence and self-esteem, which are especially valuable to the rising numbers of Taiwan's unemployed — officially almost 6 percent but probably significantly higher — and teaches transferable skills such as goal identification and realization, and dealing magnanimously with winning and coping generously with losing.

Partner and team sports improve leadership, management, communication and socialization skills, and teach tolerance and respect for others. Proficiency in inter-group relations learned through sports produces tangible improvements in community integration, something Taiwan could well use. And although the causes of criminality are not easy to analyze, preliminary evidence suggests that sports can play a role in reducing crime, particularly among young people.

Increased health of individuals means fewer hospital visits and reduced demands on Taiwan's ailing National Health Insurance program, as well as fewer days off work. Participation in sports is therefore good for both public and private purses.

With these considerations in mind, it was not surprising that when the organizers of next month's World Games in Kaohsiung and September's Summer Deaflympics in Taipei went cap-in-hand to their respective councils and the central government, they argued that hosting international sporting events leaves a positive legacy. With so many role models on show, they said, Taiwanese would forego their KTVs, beers and cigarettes for sports facilities and isotonic drinks.

But the correlation between watching sports and subsequently participating in sports is not clear. Organizers and government agencies must do more to capitalize on these world-class events. After securing public financial support, most of the organizers' pronouncements have focused on how hosting these events helps put Taiwan on the map, and how the facilities will help attract more such events in the future.

One of the key challenges is to assist young people to continue after graduation the sporting habit they pick up in school. This problem is particularly acute in Taiwan, given the hours of overtime typically required in entry-level jobs. Bosses as well as workers need education about the benefits gained from reduced work time and encouraging healthy activities.

A second problem is the class-divide in sports. Getting people on lower salaries to commit a sizable slice of their income to improving their health is a tough ask. Swimming, as a low impact sport, is the best fitness program for rehabilitating long-term sloths and chubbies. Taipei City recently opened the Xinyi Sports Center, the eighth of twelve such flagship facilities. The NT$110 cost for using the pool is a deterrent to many. The key to health is regular exercise, which translates to three swims a week at least. It's no wonder that most pools in Taiwan are the territory of the middle aged and middle class.

While it is encouraging that this summer's sporting extravaganzas will help put Taiwan on the world stage, organizers and government agencies should devise ways to promote the events' real “health legacy.”

While enjoying the games, don't forget to get up and stretch occasionally.

fish of the day

Sunday, 21 June 2009
fresh(ish) fish soup and thread noodles, a Penghu classic

long-lived window

Sunday, 21 June 2009

In addition to a profusion of murals
--most of them good--
Penghu has lots of art on the old houses,
including intricate window designs
such as this one,
based, I think, on the character 壽 (shou)

fish of the day

Saturday, 20 June 2009

fish art in old Penghu residence in Erkan (二崁)

fish of the day

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Tourist Information service operative at Penghu's Magong (馬公) airport was very helpful, recommending a number of camping sites,
including beside Guanyin Temple next to the Youth Activity Center.

Seems he has an unusual understanding of the word "camping"
or possible of the word "information".

The police box near the mosquito infested toilets does have nice murals, however,
including this one of local (?) fish.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

climber's death

Politics not worth killing or dying for

Last week this newspaper reported the tragic and distressing death of 70-year-old Mr. Huang from wounds sustained while climbing on Chai Mountain, known locally as the “Lungs of Kaohsiung City.”

This was a particularly upsetting incident since Huang was not injured by the gangs of Formosan macaque that inhabit the area and are known to attack ramblers for food. Nor did he succumb to hyperthermia, which would be unlikely on a subtropical hill with a peak just 356 meters above sea level. Rather, he was wounded by a fellow climber, identified as 52-year-old Mr. Guo.

Huang and Guo had stopped for a rest during their ascent and became engaged in an animated discussion of local politics. Reportedly, this led to fisticuffs after pro-independence Huang called pro-unification Guo a “Taiwan bull,” and ended, two days later, with Huang dead in hospital and Guo arrested by the Kaohsiung police.

There are very few things worth dying for, and even fewer worth killing for. Surely, in this day and age, differences in political opinion are not one of these. Throughout history, however, political issues - or their prehistoric equivalents -were commonly solved through the legitimized murder of war, latterly under the euphemistic title of gunboat diplomacy.

This is not surprising, since politics, in part at least, represents the struggle between individuals or, more commonly, competing interest groups. What they compete for are resources, such as food, territory, sex, water, oil and so forth. Although in modern times this is often manifested in the appearance of competition for political power, it is essentially still the same millennia-old struggle over resources between different groups, such as between kings and nobles, nobles and common people and so forth.

Politics, at its best, is the sublimation of armed conflict over resources into the civilized and rational struggle for voters' allegiance at a local level, and diplomacy at the international level. Thus one measure of the relatively civilized nature of cross-Strait relations - despite the tensions, posturing, threats and arms proliferation, albeit with outside influence - is that barely a shot has been fired for almost half a century. This has given Taiwan the opportunity to develop into the world's 18th-largest trading nation and has offered China the chance to bring the world's largest population back from the brink of starvation and, most recently, onto the global stage.
But China has yet to experience the growing pains associated with transforming authoritarian government into representational democracy, while Taiwan is not long out of short trousers on the same issue.

Perhaps Taiwanese people still retain some of the frontier mentality of their ancestors, since for centuries disagreements were settled by clan-based feuds in the absence of effective rule of law.
Indeed, Huang might be forgiven his rudeness and Guo his punches, given the insults and blows frequently traded by their elected officials inside the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan's national parliament. And parliaments, by their very definition, are intended to be talking shops, having specifically evolved as a means to avoid armed disputes.

Taiwan's maturing democratic institutions have achieved many noticeable successes during their short histories. Of all these, perhaps the most significant change brought about through government policy in the two decades since the end of Martial Law - more significant even than the peaceful transfer of political power in 2000 after five decades of one-party rule - was the reduction of the work week from six days to five.

This key indicator of Taiwan's progress from rural to industrial to post-industrial society was implemented gradually between 1998 and 2001.

Moreover, the political debate over the two-day weekend represented a typical modern take on the classical struggle over resources, in this case fought over the resource of time between the contending vested interests of capital and labor.

This has subsequently led to a wide-ranging re-evaluation of people's priorities and concomitant social changes.

This is still being played out, as can be seen from the way people choose to spend more time with family and friends; from the massive increase in hobbies, such as the recent craze for cycling; from the improved balance between making money at work to spending it on leisure; and from the growing market for organic food products and a desire to clean up the environment following the industrial pollution of recent decades.

It is ironic, therefore, that Huang and Guo fell out while engaging in their shared passions for exercise, health and the great outdoors. Hopefully the tragic death of Mr. Huang will remind legislators and other elected representatives of their function as role models for wider society, and remind the general public of the importance of identifying which causes are not worth dying for, and better still, those that are worth living for.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Taipei opens first dedicated bike lane

the new bike line in Taipei City?
nothing but free parking for taxis so far

Monday, 15 June 2009

fish of the day

Taipei Times cartoon

Peng still silent on escape ...

Taipei Times: Peng Ming-min launches new book, castigates Ma

Former presidential advisor [and Taiwan's first opposition presidential candidate] Peng Ming-min speaks at an event launching his book about how he escaped Taiwan almost 40 years ago.
On Sept. 20, 1964, Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) was arrested for treason for advocating democracy in Taiwan. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in 1965 and put under house arrest later the same year after receiving a special pardon.
On Jan. 2, 1970, Peng left his family and began a 22-year exile. At a book launch in Taipei yesterday, the 86-year-old shared his successful escape from the then-­Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime 39 years ago, which he describes in his book titled "A Perfect Escape."

... With help from various individuals — Peng said he had to be careful with details in the book to protect the privacy of individuals and respect the wish of those who helped him but wanted to remain anonymous — his escape took him through Hong Kong, Bangkok, the Soviet Union and Denmark before he arrived in Stockholm, where he was granted political asylum.

In other words, he still doesn't spill the beans on how he escaped and who helped him do so.
When i interviewed him a few years back, that was ALL people wanted to know about him. Seems he will take it to the grave.

anyway, it gives me a chance to post my previous article:

What Happened Next?
Updates on the TJ Retrospective
TAIWAN Journal
March 25 - 31, 2006

By Mark Caltonhill and Hung Mao-feng
Ten years ago last week, Peng Ming-min and Frank Hsieh ran in Taiwan's first direct election for the president and vice president, receiving in-depth coverage by the Free China Journal, the forerunner of this paper. Representing the Democratic Progressive Party, the Peng-Hsieh ticket got 21 percent of the vote, placing them in second place behind incumbent KMT candidates Lee Teng-hui and Lien Chan, who garnered 54 percent.
Peng Ming-min was born in Taiwan Aug. 15, 1923 and educated in Japan. Returning to Taiwan in 1946, he studied law at National Taiwan University and was drawn toward the ruling clique, even joining the ROC delegation to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Arrested in 1964 for preparing a Declaration of Formosan Self-Salvation, which challenged the world to recognize one China and one Formosa, Peng was sentenced to eight years in prison but was put under house arrest after one. He escaped to the West in 1970, only returning to Taiwan in 1992 following a general amnesty for political offenders.
To find out what he has been up to since 1996, the Taiwan Journal met up with Peng on Feb. 27 this year at his office in Taipei. The following interview has been edited for length and style.

Taiwan Journal: What is your overriding memory of March 23, 1996?
Peng Ming-min: As the first time people could elect the president by popular vote, it was, from any point of view, epoch-making. Especially after a half-century of dictatorship. The excitement, shared by all people regardless of their political position. There was a certain idealism, that this was our first step to the process of democracy. People were not so cynical as today.

Q: Did you imagine then, with only 21 percent of the vote, that the DPP could take power as early as 2000?
A: Firstly, you say only 21 percent of the vote. With all due respect and humility, this was a remarkable achievement. It followed 50 years of totalitarianism, of educational, cultural and political brainwashing. Also, personally, I was demonized, and had been under arrest warrant for 23 years. People didn't know me, or had only heard lies. Our idea of Taiwan independence had also been demonized.
I remember, when I was first in the United States, people whispered it. 1996 gave us a chance to present this idea [independence] openly. Many people had never heard of this idea. For 50 years, all civic organizations were all controlled by the KMT. I never had the opportunity to appear on TV. Our 21 percent should be compared to North Korea, Iran or Syria, where the ruling parties get more than 100 percent. I didn't even get good support from the DPP: Some so-called supporters actually tried to pull me down.

Q: So even within the DPP the idea of independence wasn't predominant?
A: The DPP is not a very well-disciplined political party, even now. I always kid them: "Which position can you put forward and say this is our position?" So their people just think and do whatever they like.

Q: What do you feel about your main opponent in 1996, Lee Teng-hui, who is now an outspoken advocate of Taiwan's independence?
A: Actually, people like to say that my 21 percent plus President Lee's 54 percent was really a 75-percent vote for Taiwan independence. I always kid him that he never knew whether he was chairman of the KMT or a citizen of Taiwan. Now he is with the Taiwan Solidarity Union. After the 1996 election, some people urged me to form a new party, but there is no room for a new party.

Q: Do you mean that Taiwan's democracy is best served by two parties?
A: No, I don't say that. I mean that supporters of the DPP and TSU are basically the same people, so they have to fight each other to share the same slice of pie.

Q: You fell out with the DPP, which culminated in your not renewing your party membership in 1998. What has been your role since the 1996 election?
A: Actually, I took the initiative to withdraw. Many of my supporters were angry, I felt frustrated.

Q: But you stayed close to the party?
A: Of course, many are personal friends.

Q: Because he was your running mate in 1996, many people still associate you with Frank Hsieh. Have you followed his political career with special interest?
A: I only knew him just before I came back to Taiwan. He was studying in Japan and came to a speech that I gave. After four years, when I decided to run and was looking for a running mate, there were not so many suitable candidates, for various reasons. He worked very hard at that time. He is the one that proposed that for the main theme of our campaign, that the KMT was an "alien regime." I was really surprised that he would propose it; I thought it was too strong a word for that time. But, to be frank, since he became Kaohsiung mayor and then premier, some of his statements, I cannot agree. I am not really in support of his "reconciliation and co-existence," as well as the idea of the "one China constitution." Everyone likes peace, everyone talks about reconciliation, but it takes two to reconcile. I met him after he resigned, we are good friends, but politically we are not close.

Q: You have devoted much of the last ten years to the Peng Foundation for Culture and Education. What is its role on Taiwan's political landscape?
A: This was set up in 1994 before I ran in the election. This is not political but educational. We have conferences, seminars and summer schools to invite schoolteachers to teach them Taiwan history, strengthen understanding. We sense a lack of understanding of identification with Taiwan.
Given people's lack of understanding about their own country, these changes are not nearly enough. It is natural that people should first understand their own history and culture, then those of others. For us, learning about China? This is really unnatural. People have a natural, biological identification with the place were they are born, where they live. People used to say, "I am Chinese," now the majority will say, "I am Taiwanese." So-called Taiwanese identification is not necessary ideologically, it is a natural thing.

Q: What about the use of the Mandarin language rather than Taiwanese?
A: So many people are easier using Mandarin, so I am not opposed to that. Having more "national languages" doesn't mean we will unite more, but people should talk their own language.

Q: What about aboriginal languages falling into disuse?
A: This is inevitable. Unfortunately, they became a minority. Languages die, disappear. I have read articles about many languages around the world disappearing, I think it is natural: don't force anything, don't forbid anything, just let things develop.

Q: You became Senior Advisor to the President following the 2000 election. What has that position entailed?
A: You know, senior advisor is just a job description: to advise the president about anything from his hairstyle to the purchase of submarines, but basically I don't know much about these other things, such as economics. Mainly I talk about foreign relations, education; those things.

Q: Is there any achievement of President Chen's first six years in office of which you are especially proud?
A: He is in extremely difficult position with the opposition majority in parliament. They have no idea about so-called loyal opposition. Your enemy automatically adopts an opposite position, and harasses you, humiliates you, insults you and makes it impossible for you to operate. That is the reality of the presidency. In the States, for example, defense matters are above party matters. People accuse President Chen of switching positions back and forth. But, compared with other countries, Chen is no worse. So-called peaceful reform is more difficult sometimes than military revolution. In the French revolution, Russian revolution, Chinese revolution, they just killed off the ancient regime and wrote up new laws and a new constitution. But with democratic peaceful reform you have to follow due process of law. Those laws were given by the former regime, and how can you change laws? Otherwise you are violating the rule of law. This kind of problem is everywhere, especially after a 50-year dictatorship.

Q: So is there one achievement of which you are particularly proud?
A: It is hard. Because of the opposition's majority, no legislation could be passed, and reforms of the nation's laws have not been passed. In that sense, I cannot really say what.
Well, at least this government is more transparent, more open; that can't be denied. So the recent charge of corruption, I am not saying there is no corruption, but even New Zealand and Australia have corruption. This government is more open and more transparent, so in that sense, in the long run, it has advanced democracy.

Q: Do you think those changes and the openness of government cannot be turned back now?
A: Oh yes, I don't think it can be turned back now. Democracy is not the ideal system; the problem is that humankind has not thought up a better one. Churchill said that democracy is a terrible system but other systems are worse. With that I agree.

Q: How do you envisage the democratic process continuing?
A: So in spite of our disappointment, in parliament, there is no rush. I always emphasize: How long did it take to get democracy [in Europe], 400 years? In the States, 200 years? And still so many problems are not solved. And I think in the beginning of Western democracies even worse things happened.
If we are left alone, I am not so pessimistic. This is the issue: "if we are left alone." My position is the same as in 1996; we have our own constitution, our own territory. We don't need to declare from today on we are independent. We just quietly are de facto independent. The status quo means independence.
Changing the name of the country is not the top priority. The Republic of China is all right, at least in this transitional period. But we must declare to the world that our territory, our sovereignty is limited to Taiwan, that we are not interested to control mainland China. We have no intention to provoke anyone; we just want to be left alone.

fake meat not fake

I want to say "serves you right for eating imitation meat", but then i remembered i've been experimenting with TVP mince for shepherd's pie and moussaka lately.

Taipei Times: Meat found in vegetarian food

The Investigation Bureau recently found that some processed foods advertised as vegetarian contained meat and said it would refer producers who knowingly added meat to their products for prosecution on fraud charges. Pu Chang-en (蒲長恩), a technician at the bureau’s Department of Forensic Science, said yesterday that among samples collected from 31 vegetarian food vendors in Taipei City and County for safety checks, food taken from 17 vendors contained meat. An investigation targeting the producers of the processed food was launched to determine whether meat was deliberately added to the soybean-based products to enrich their texture and flavor. Fu said it was possible that vegetarian food showing small traces of meat was contaminated by poorly cleaned work tables or cooking equipment in factories where meat products are also processed. Producers who have not deliberately defrauded consumers would not be subject to prosecution, Fu said.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

fish(ing) of the day

sign on the road to Wulai
i thought it said the fish were protected,
but actually it seems to be the fishing that's protected

Saturday, 13 June 2009

was NT$79, NOW NT$79

don't believe the recession has reached Taiwan?
check out these great discounts at Carrefour

Thursday, 11 June 2009

the tide has turned ...

China Post editorial: It's time for the opposition party to get onboard

Among all the predictable “good work” cheers from Taiwan's blue camp and “must do better” jibes from the green camp that marked the completion of President Ma Ying-jeou's first twelve months in office, perhaps the most significant achievement largely slipped beneath the radar.

This was the paradigm shift in relations with the People's Republic of China that has taken place under Ma's leadership, which has been fuelled by the will of society at large.

There are two reasons why this shift warrants the over-worked adjective “paradigm.” First, while this change can be moderated by future administrations, it cannot be easily reversed. Second, although the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has yet to officially acknowledge it, more and more individuals from the ranks of Taiwan's opposition are getting on board.

That the DPP must come up with some positive ideas on cross-strait exchanges, and do so soon, is important, not just for the party but for the whole of society. An effective and imaginative opposition is an absolute necessity for the proper functioning of democracy.

Unfortunately, for the present, the DPP is mired in a swamp of its own making, with its leaders, activists and grassroots all divided into two distinct factions. One supports their beleaguered former President Chen Shui-bian, the other seeks to close that particular chapter and move forward.

The party is even more split on the issue of cross-strait exchanges. Some, like Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, have taken the pragmatic route to Beijing and, while there, taken the opportunity to air their political opinions. Similarly, former Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien earlier this month called on her party to behave like a responsible opposition party and embrace a more open attitude to cross-strait exchanges. Taiwan has entered a new era of cross-strait exchange and there have been big changes in domestic affairs, foreign affairs, the economy and culture, she noted. As a responsible opposition party, the DPP should not close its door to opportunities, she added.

Some, more nervous about their power bases, are sitting on the fence until DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen decides which way the wind is blowing.

For yet a third group, the words and actions of Lu, Chen and even Tsai represent a selling out of principle. Too many in the DPP, both grassroots members and their political figureheads, still act out of ideological rather than pragmatic concerns, and want nothing to do with improved cross-strait relations.

But their day is gone. Most mainstream DPP opinion is beginning to face reality.

Earlier this month a pro-independence newspaper ran an opinion piece acknowledging that Taiwan must deal with China. The real problem, it said, was the way Taiwan dealt with China. The pan-green camp, it urged, should find a roadmap that's different from President Ma's and the KMT's, implying that by virtue of being different, it would necessarily be better.

The piece argued for, among other things, practical measures that trample over Taiwanese people's individual rights. For example, it called on the DPP to disallow Taiwanese politicians from visiting China and worshiping their ancestors. This, it argued, would break China's effort to nationalize Taiwan and paint the island as a progeny of China.

This suggestion is a non-starter since, if there is one thing Taiwanese people value over their political opinions, it is their religious ones. And at the top of the religious pecking order is ancestral worship. If Taiwan wants to pay more than lip service to freedom of religious expression, then denying anyone, politician or otherwise, the right to pay his or her respects at the ancestral tomb is a clear violation of personal freedom championed by the DPP.

Similarly impractical is the suggestion to prevent its own party members who have “vested interests” in China from visiting. This smacks of the ultra-leftist belief that anyone with business interests should automatically be treated with suspicion. With China's increased clout on the world stage, it is not just Taiwanese people who have vested interests there. And bearing in mind Taiwan's historic ties, as well as geographic factors and economic necessities, this head-in-the-sand stance is simply naive.

What should be called for in ROC officials' dealings with the PRC is transparency in policymaking and pragmatic execution, prerequisites to strengthening any country's democratic system.

Despite the opposition's lack of constructive ideas, the tone is clear. The tide has turned and the ship has sailed. How long will it be until the DPP acknowledges and deals with the fact that its supporters are already onboard? Taiwan will move forward with or without the DPP.

language change should be bottom up

China Post: DPP blasts Ma's China proposal as trashing Taiwan's

The opposition camp yesterday blasted President Ma Ying-jeou for what they believed to be his proposal to adopt China's simplified Chinese characters in Taiwan.

Critics from the Democratic Progressive Party accused Ma of trashing the country's culture while kowtowing to China.
But the Presidential Office clarified that Ma only meant to urge people from China to learn the traditional Chinese characters used in Taiwan.

... yeah, right
anyway, it is a question that needs confronting
especially if the pro-unificationists are successful
a huge can of worms ... VftH's only observation for now is that any change in language should come from the bottom up not the top down

bought something crap?

complain complain complain

China Post: Statistics show consumers unhappy with repair services

One complaint is received every three days concerning post-purchase repair services, and nearly eighty percent of those complaints concern 3C products, according to statistics released by the Consumers' Foundation (CF).

3C products refer to computers, communications, and consumer electronics. CF Director Hsieh Tien-jen pointed out that CF had received 211 complaints in the past two years, and in addition to the eighty percent concerning 3C products, 11% were related to home appliances, while 10% were linked to other products.
Hsieh reminded consumers that according to articles 359 and 364 of the Civil Code, if consumers purchase flawed products, they are entitled by law to rescind their contracts of purchase, request a lowering in price, or demand that the merchant provide a product that has no defects.
Hsieh also stressed that while the warranty period still applies, merchants are not entitled to request consumers to pay any fees for the inspection or repair of defective products. When the warranty expires, merchants must inform consumers of any fees prior to the inspection or repair being carried out.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

new (light) verse

the origin of this verse is that someone once asked me where i live.
when i said "Wugu",
she told me: "你的發音不標準,你應該說: 'ㄊㄧㄢ ㄇㄨ' 。"





Sunday, 7 June 2009

(flying) fish of the day

ask J&J: am I sick?

Dear Jennifer and Jessica,
Last week the newspapers reported that Taiwanese-American psychiatrist Lin Ih-foo held a press conference here to promote his latest book. In it, he suggests that in voting for the KMT, Taiwanese people suffer from a form of Stockholm syndrome.
Since I, like the majority of my compatriots, voted for Ma Ying-jeou, does that make me sick?
Patty Hsu
Dear Patty,
No you are not sick.
Nor are you Swedish.
First, there is no such thing as Stockholm syndrome because there is no such thing as Stockholm. When our cousin Nokia Chang studied mechanical engineering (with a minor in smoked salmon) at Volvo-Fjord University, and he wished to go to Stockholm, capital of Sweden, he was told Yataboy was the capital. And if “Doctor” Lin doesn’t believe it, he can just Google the CIA World Factbook.
Second, in his book, “Psychological Analysis of the Taiwanese’s Self-abusing Behavior,” Lin says: The circumstances and the behavior of Taiwanese are very similar to those of the victims of the bank robbery in Sweden.
In support of this preposterous theory, he claims: After the KMT took over Taiwan and established Martial Law, standards of living improved and the KMT periodically provided ‘favors’ to different interest groups such as the military, government workers, teachers, fishermen, laborers and farmers.
Well, Patty, we know the socialist government of Sweden provides its over-taxed citizens with every luxury, but we can’t remember the bank robbers building roads and railways, defending the country from communist bombs and improving living standards.
Third, the Hibernia Bank is in San Francisco. Which isn’t even in Sweden. Lin has obviously been Stateside too long and is probably suffering from Bush-symptom Bad-geography syndrome. Or he is confused by the Minnesota Vikings, or by all the people with the surname Gudmumsson listed in the Boise telephone directory. Or he is simply confusing his syndromes.
Perhaps, what he means to say is that Taiwanese people suffer from Poland syndrome, which is characterized by webbed fingers and an absence of chest muscle. That certainly reminds us of a couple of men who’ve tried to pick us up recently at Brown Sugar.
Or Tourette’s syndrome. Since Taiwanese politicians certainly go in for sudden outbursts of obscene words and socially inappropriate behavior.
Or maybe he meant to say Asperger syndrome, in which people show antisocial (i.e. “separatist”) inclinations, not to mention poor linguistic and cognitive development.
Or Cronkhite-Canada syndrome.
Or, nearer home, Guam disease, a nervous disease brought on by eating some kind of tropical plant. Personally, we’ve always avoided men who chew betel nut, because, even if it is a turn-on for some Taiwanese women, surely it cannot be healthy.
Anyway, it is well known that throughout the 1990s Taiwanese suffered from Chicago syndrome (well Taiwanese men did, we women suffered from Hello Kitty syndrome with a short bout of Winnie the Pooh syndrome in the middle of the decade). Chicago syndrome (a.k.a. M.J. disease) is a dilapidating mental condition in which patients gain a sense of superiority by supporting a team which is already winning.
Since the start of the 21st century, however, Chicago syndrome has been replaced by a bad case of Kobe Bryant syndrome. And Kobe is in Japan (see CIA World Factbook), and its inhabitants don’t eat salmon, they eat beef. Though they do give the cows a daily massage, whereas Swedes only tickle their trout. But Kobe cows are also fed beer and sake, which might explain why there are so few Muslims in Japan.
And anyway, the Japanese “took over” Taiwan long before Chiang Kai-shek did (who actually, Smartypants, liberated it; and if you don’t know that you can Google the GIO World Factbook). [Ed: There is a sentence removed here that is considered too inflammatory for the liberal sensibilities of VftH. Those of illiberal tendencies may contact Jennifer and Jessica directly.]
So if you want to point the diagnostic “sympathy for oppressor” syndrome finger anywhere, let’s look a little closer to home.
Despite 50 years of ruthless suppression (which the dictionary defines as much worse than oppression) Taiwanese people are completely infatuated with Japanese culture, with Mitsubishi outselling Saab by about 3,000 to 1, and raw salmon outselling smoked by quite a lot too. So let’s put an end to talk of Stockholm syndrome, if you must talk of a syndrome, let’s look where the shoe really fits: Taiwanese suffer from Tokyo syndrome.
For example, yesterday we visited a Taipei department store and someone wearing a Hello Kitty costume and white gloves, with breath smelling of nadou, tried to sell us Shiseido cosmetics, a Vaio laptop and more extra-hot wasabi sauce than Lee Teng-hui eats in a year.
And if you think that’s just hearsay, here’s a couple of scientific facts:
First: Taiwanese people (by which we here refer to so-called Hoklo “Taiwanese” speakers) love to sprinkle their conversations with Japanese words like “oishii” and “kimoji” and “obasan.” Mandarin, meanwhile, is still ethnically pure (with the exception of an occasional Mongolian or Manchurian word or phrase).
And second: In a recent survey undertaken in advance of this September’s Taipei Deaflympics, researchers found that Taiwan Sign Language has only 30 percent lexical similarity with Beijing Sign Language but over 50 percent similarity with Japanese Sign Language.
So my goodness, even Taiwan’s hearing-impaired athletes suffer from Tokyo syndrome (a.k.a. Hello Kitty syndrome, but not a.k.a. Kawasaki syndrome, which is something to do with inflammation of the lymph nodes).
Something must be done. And quickly.
Maybe we should write a book. Something like: “Jennifer and Jessica’s Shopping Guide to Taiwanese Doctors’ Self-aggrandizing Behavior.”
Or maybe we should just hold a press conference.
Anyway, as they say in Swedish, “It takes one to know one.” Which means that “Doctor” Lin has evidently spent too much time in the company of psychiatric patients. He is, to say the least, confused.
Or delusional.
Or both.
Maybe they’ll name a new illness after him: Lin syndrome. In which patients clearly talk nonsense but still manage to convince people to turn up at press conferences and buy the horse manure they are selling.
You, on the other hand, Patty Hsu, are a rational, happy human being. Love your enemy. Turn the other cheek. Kick ’em where it hurts.
Adjö´ så länge!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

fish of the day

and on while on the topic of fat foreigners ...


Friday, 5 June 2009

fish of the day

selling out?

China Post: Lawmakers postpone reviewing of Chinese ads rules

Officials at the Taipei City Government estimated that the advertising outlay for Chinese products and services could reach at least NT$160 billion each year, four times the NT$40 billion ad expenditures of the domestic market.

Ok, VftH is in the culture business, not the business business, so this might be a little naïve,
but our understanding is that companies advertise to make money.
for each dollar they spend on advertising, they hope to get two, three or more dollars back in sales.
and if they don’t, they will stop spending money on advertising.
so if PRC companies spend NT$160 billion in Taiwan on advertising, they hope to take hundreds of billions more out of Taiwan in profits.
so we can see how allowing advertising is good for Taiwan’s advertising industry,
but how is it good for Taiwan?

bike lanes are coming

busy building taipei's roadside bike lanes on Dunhua N. Road
[update here]

Thursday, 4 June 2009

fish of the day

riddle no.4 / 謎語四號

Which is the odd man out:
a) Suao Town (蘇澳) in Yilan County
b) Liuying (柳營) Town in Tainan County
c) Songwu (宋屋) [Community] in Taoyaun County
d) Luodong Town (羅東) also in Yilan County?

[Photo really is a "view from the hill". It is the view back at Nanfangao and Suao harbours from the road to Hualien.]

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

fish of the day

after quoting John Cheever's "pesce cane" (VftH here)
i came across the following on wikipedia:

"The Enormous Radio" appeared in the May 17, 1947, issue of The New Yorker-- a Kafkaesque tale about a sinister radio that broadcasts the private conversations of tenants in a New York apartment building. A startling advance on Cheever's early, more naturalistic work, the story elicited a fan letter from the magazine's irascible editor, Harold Ross: "It will turn out to be a memorable one, or I am a fish."

Monday, 1 June 2009

fish of the day

[photo: Fujianese fishermen prepare lines of hooks at Magong Harbor on Penghu]

China Post: Deckhand on Taiwanese fishing boat bitten by shark

Officials from the Coast Guard Administration's 15th flotilla said they received a radio request for help from the skipper of the Chin Sheng Fa 13 to help Zhang Sanqian, 46, a native from Fujian province who was bleeding profusely because of the shark bites.

...CGA officials quoted other crew members of Chin Sheng Fa 13 as saying that the crew caught the 80-kilogram shark in waters near Green Island during an operation to catch hake.
After Zhang and five other deckhands pulled the shark onto the deck, they had the fish electrocuted. As Zhang tried to pull the seemingly unconscious shark toward the freezer, it suddenly attacked him twice with its razor-sharp teeth, wounding his knee and tearing off large chunks of flesh from the back of his left lower leg.

DPP short on new ideas

The problem confronting the DPP (and others) regarding how to deal with China,
or rather the empty chasm of ideas, is evidenced by the following opinion piece by Paul Lin,
one of the intellectual heavyweights wheeled out regularly by the TT

Taipei Times: DPP needs plan to deal with China

... China’s existence is a fact that Taiwan cannot ignore. It is inevitable that Taiwan has to deal with China and that refusing to do so is not an option. The key issue is how Taiwan should go about it.

... So how should members of the pan-green camp deal with China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?
First of all, they should clarify Taiwan’s status, a precondition for establishing equality. Taiwan has never denied the existence of the People’s Republic of China, but China refuses to recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty, and Ma has never protested against this.

so far so good, though this has not much of substance.

... For example, they must refuse the recent practice of Taiwanese politicians going to China to “worship their ancestors” because this is part of China’s united front strategy and a nationalist ruse to present China as Taiwan’s ancestor.

ok, that's more substantial, but it shows the problems the opposition faces.
any measure like this will easily be portrayed (and dismissed) as an attack on individual liberty,
moreover, given the power of religion to ride roughshod over rationalism and politics, it will be kicked out before it even gets off the ground.

... In addition, they must also strictly adhere to the principle of avoiding conflicts of interest, and anyone with vested interests in China should not be sent there.

again, this will be rejected as an attack on individual rights

During the talks, they should act with self-respect but avoid being arrogant, and there is no need to make statements designed to upset the CCP. They should adopt an equanimous attitude and make clear their commitment to Taiwan’s sovereignty, freedom and human rights at appropriate times.

back to high-minded but substance-lacking ideas

vegetable war

Taipei Times: Root vegetables get chop from in-flight meals from today

In line with the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) new policy on special meals, starting today, the nation’s airlines will not include root vegetables in their in-flight Asian vegetarian meals.
... According to new standards for in-flight dining set by IATA, airlines will no longer be allowed to include root vegetables such as potatoes and yams in such meals.

er, I'm not sure potatoes (or even yams) are actually "root vegetables"

Liu Tsan-hsiung (劉燦雄), a chef for EVA Airways ... said he did not understand why root vegetables had been prohibited from standard Asian vegetarian meals.
It is possible that the measure was intended to cater for Jains. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion whose followers are strict vegetarians and are also forbidden from eating root vegetables.

not quite, i think
but many do not eat root vegetables AND potatoes ...

Liu said that without root vegetables, “the traditional Taiwanese meal would lose its flavor.” He said he would observe reaction to the new vegetarian meals to decide if he should recommend that IATA change its policy.

swimming beach ... drowning yesterday

after my recent rant about unswimmable swimming beaches, this is what happens when someone swims outside the waist-high boundary at Baishawan (白沙灣):

Liberty times 準研究生溺水 救生員面前漂走 (Graduate Student Drowns -- floats off in front of lifeguard)


apparently the 4th-year student (who couldn't swim very well) and a classmate drifted past the rope cordoning off the safe area and ended up going tens of metres out to sea

very different from when i intentionally stepped past the very same rope, and was immediately reprimanded by two lifeguards blowing whistles and demanding i return, one who waded over and one who arrived by canoe

救生員馳援 浪大來不及

according to a lifeguard trainer i interviewed for an article a few years back, around 800 people drown each year in taiwan at swimming pools, rivers, lakes and sea shores

aboriginal remains on north coast

Jinshan (金山, "gold mountain") on Taiwan's northern coast
gets its name from the aboriginal
which was transliterated as
(Jin-bao-li in Mandarin,
but presumably the original was Hoklo Taiwanese)
during Japanese rule (1895-1945)
only the 金 part was retained
with 山 (mountain) being added
as the township lies between sea and mountain.
[The photo shows a ceremony yesterday at the 200-year-old CiHu Temple (慈護宮), dedicated to, as the neon sign says, Jinbaoli Mazu (from right to left 金包里媽祖), the seafarers' deity]