Sunday, 31 January 2010

birth of Malarkey on the Move

checking out the Neihu-Wudu section
home-made sandwiches
self-taken photo
the moment Malarkey on the Move was born

Saturday, 30 January 2010

i'm looking to find god again (IX)

a bruce springsteen fan, perhaps

Monday, 25 January 2010

even the most stupid animal doesn't behave like this

China Post editorial:

Three businessmen in southern Taiwan were detained last week in connection with the alleged supply of inferior-quality activated carbon used at 20 incinerators around the country.

Prosecutors say the trio will be charged with fraud, making false statements and violating the Waste Disposal Act. They claim that two Pingtung-based companies, having firstly provided qualified products to win contracts, subsequently switched to shoddy activated carbon and used delivery vehicles containing concealed compartments to substantially increase their profit margins.

Activated carbon, generally made from charcoal or coal, is used to absorb toxic chemical emissions in food and pharmaceutical manufacturing, water treatment and, in particular, at incinerators. If these allegations are correct, the implications for the health of the nation's population — which already suffers from one of the worst per capita dioxin load volumes in the world — will be grim, since before emission controls were introduced, incinerators were responsible for more than 80 percent of known dioxin sources, a figure that has been reduced by those correctly equipped with activated carbon, to under 5 percent.

Dioxins are naturally occurring organic compounds produced in relatively small quantities by volcanic action and forest fires. Since the Industrial Revolution, however, they have been produced synthetically in ever-increasing amounts, such as during the manufacture of plastics and pesticides, bleaching of paper and textiles, melting of iron and other metals, and energy production. Modern life is almost unimaginable without them, but they pose a severe threat to health. Largely ingested in food, they are stored in fatty tissues where, due to their low rates of metabolism and excretion (typical excretion half-lives are decades not months or years) they accumulate to toxic levels. Health problems include cancer, liver and endocrine malfunction, diabetes, genetic mutation, and birth and developmental defects, especially in relation to the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.

Last year alone, dioxins repeatedly made headlines in Taiwan, due to excessive levels in filtered water and mosquito coils, and thousands of ducks were culled at a Kaohsiung farm built on a former landfill site. Notorious cases elsewhere in the world include the Irish Pork Crisis and Naples Mozzarella Crisis of 2008; dioxins entering Belgium's food chain in 1999, which led to the culling of 7 million chickens and 60,000 pigs, and the ousting of the government in Belgium's next election; and the evacuation of the entire United States (U.S.) town of Times Beach, Missouri, in 1983, and its subsequent disincorporation. The effects of dioxins in the military defoliant Agent Orange on U.S. veterans and more than one million Vietnamese are still being researched in what is probably the largest-scale human research project into dioxin toxicity, while the dust produced by the 9-11 bombing of New York's Twin Towers caused what is claimed to be the highest ambient concentration of dioxins ever recorded.

All of which is to say that if the charges against the Pingtung three are substantiated — company spokespersons have already responded by saying the allegations are completely untrue — then their culpability far exceeds the charges of fraud and making false statements. They, and any other private or public citizens implicated through collusion or negligence, would be responsible for endangering the lives of millions of Taiwanese people.

Indeed, the scale of their greed would be quite astonishing. Given that the inferior product, which prosecutors allege contains as little as one-third of the legally required levels of activated compounds, were provided for more than six years to 20 incinerators located in every region of the country, from Keelung, Taipei city and county, and Taoyuan in the north, Miaoli, Taichung and Chaiyi in central Taiwan, to Tainan and Kaohsiung in the south, then the alleged culprits are guilty of polluting the very environment in which they live. For the sake of financial gain, the businessmen stand accused of endangering not just the lives of innumerable complete strangers but also of their own families and friends. The fact that these dioxins and heavy metals remain in the soil and water for decades means they could also endanger the healths and lives of these men's children and grandchildren. What kind of person would act in such a way? Even the least intelligent animals know better than to do this. [This last sentence was removed from the published version.]

It is hoped, therefore, that the companies' spokespersons are correct: that no fraud was committed and no dioxins were released into the island's environment. Not only would this be to the advantage of Taiwan's people's health, but it would also provide a reason to be optimistic about human beings' responsible behavior and our species' self-given mandate to manage the planet on behalf of all its inhabitants. Indeed, this case offers a salutary lesson to us all about how to conduct ourselves and how to balance the pleasures and conveniences of our modern lifestyles with the long-term preservation of an environment fit for our habitation.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

fish of the day

shark's teeth as a metaphor for lift doors
(IKEA in Sanchong, or is it Xinzhuang?)

Friday, 22 January 2010

critical(ly un)mass

... and don't forget, Critical Mass (Taipei) is this Sunday, the fourth NOT last Sunday of each month

I'll post details tomorrow (if i can find them)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

fish of the day

another "fish" from yesterday's ride through the mountains

魚翅瓜 "fish fin melon" (or perhaps "shark fin melon")
according to wikipedia it is (Cucurbita pepo)
aka the spaghetti squash in English,and 金絲瓜 ("golden strand melon") in Japanese;
all names deriving from its yellow fibers

in Taiwan it is mostly used as an ingredient in soup

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

fish of the day

a mural on the road in Fuxing Township (復興), Taoyuan County
actually an advert for the nearby 鱒 farm
the Aborigine is probably just poetic (advertising) license, because the proprietor looked pure huaren to me

鱒 is not in my Chinese-English dictionary, but is in my Japanese-English one, so perhaps a hangover from colonial times, pronounced masu (zun in Mandarin), it means trout

seems it is a Fuxing speciality

roadkill of the day

cycling from Cilan to Taipei, for a moment i thought it was another (see human skull
but not with that canine, so a dog perhaps
but that doesn't seem right,

some kind of monkey perhaps

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


i'm not usually into the "aren't the locals bad at English" stuff,

but i kind of liked this one, and cannot understand how the mistake could occur

(the romanization of Wuling is wrong too)

CKS's country place (cont.)

statue of the Generalisssssssssssssssssimo outside his country cottage

I'm in Cilan because the resort ( organized a press event for the re-opening of its deluxe (NT$9,000 per night) rooms after typhoon damage

Matthew Lien played piano and sang (and preached the need for environmental protection and Aboriginal involvement in that protection), they also had a saxophonist:

the new rooms are pretty swanky, here's the bathroom:
a lot nicer than CKS's old one:

mind you, CKS did get the best view:

fish of the day

fish-design vase at CKS's country cottage at Cilan (棲蘭山莊) in Yilan County

Thursday, 14 January 2010

photo of the day

a wide range of seasonings in a typical Taiwan restaurant kitchen

fish of the day

Chang Ming-fa (張明發), boss of the San Ming Restaurant (三明美食) in Wanli's Guihou (龜吼) fishing port, selects a fish from the tanks

though in fact San Ming's speciality is sushi with flying fish roe (飛魚卵壽司)

Bando - Taiwan's 'outside, outside catering'

Amcham TOPICS piece from two years ago:

Bando -- Outside, Outside-Catering
Text and photos by Mark Caltonhill

Just after dawn on a warm November morning, "Just-call-me-Jiang" pulled his canvas-sided CMC Varica onto Linkou Road in Linkou Township, 20 kilometers west of his home in Taipei's Shilin district. The marquee builders had already come and gone. For 30 yards, one lane of the road was blocked by a bamboo frame covered in red, white, and blue plastic sheeting, a dozen folded tables leaned against a wall, and a dozen stacks of red plastic stools stood around like dayglo obelisks.

Jiang climbed out of his 1,100cc truck, and with his two assistants started to unload wooden boxes, gas cookers, crates of live chickens, bags of rice, and other foodstuffs. It is Jiang's job, as a "bando" boss, to set up the tables and by sunset cover them with a dozen delicious courses of traditional Taiwan fare for the 120 guests of a Linkou businessman.

Bando (辦桌) is Taiwanese - the Mandarin would be Banzhuo, but no one ever says that - and means "attending to tables." They are the island's traditional outside caterers, with the emphasis very much on "outside." Traveling from gig to gig, they set up their makeshift kitchens wherever needed: sometimes in fields or car parks, but most often in the street, blocking half or even all of it. Until a few years ago, most foreign visitors to Taiwan would not be on the island more than a week or two before encountering one obstructing their way home, but with parking spaces at a premium and concerns over cleanliness, in Taipei City they are largely a thing of the past. In Taipei County, including Linkou, and throughout the rest of the country, the tradition is very much alive, though anyone planning a street-blocking bando must apply for a three-day permit from the police. One day is for erecting the scaffolding and tenting, one day for cooking and eating the food, and one day for taking down the marquee.

Nevertheless, according to Jiang, business is much the same as it has always been. Due to the economic downturn of the last few years, in fact, competition has intensified, with many people entering the trade who had barely cooked a barbecue before in their lives. Bando companies cater to birthday parties, weddings, funerals, and temple activities. People engage them, rather than going to a restaurant or hotel, for a variety of reasons, including their lower price and last-minute availability, but primarily because they are traditional.

Jiang was in Linkou for a temple fair. The Chulin Shan Guanyin Temple (竹林山觀音寺) was celebrating the Chu Jia (出家) ceremony honoring the anniversary of "leaving home" to become a monastic of its patron deity, the bodhisattva Guanyin. The whole town was in party mood. On Linkou Road and other side streets behind the temple, 40 or 50 marquees had been erected and bando companies were arriving from all over northern Taiwan. His is normally a solitary occupation, but temple fairs offer Jiang a chance to catch up with his colleagues, some of whom he hasn't seen since the same fair one year earlier or, in the case of Linkou, five years earlier.

Perhaps surprisingly, none of the cooks seemed to come from Linkou itself. A-lien, for example, had come from Tucheng City in southwestern Taipei County, the Chen family from Sanchong City just across the river from downtown Taipei, and A-Chi, who had set up his kitchen in the car park right beside the temple, hailed from Danshuei Township to the north of the city, where he runs the café at "one of the local golf courses."

Just as Jiang goes only by his surname and A-lien by his nickname, A-chi is also reluctant to part with any means of identification or contact. "This is not a company," he explained. "I just help out friends. Contact is by word of mouth."

At 46 years of age, A-chi has been "attending to tables" for more than 20 years. From a farming background and with many brothers, he left school early and started work in restaurant kitchens in his neighborhood. With half-a-dozen years of experience under his belt, he started his bando "non-company" in his early twenties.

Secretive about himself, A-chi was more than happy to talk about the bando business. Events for temple fairs, such as the one he was preparing, cost about NT$5,000 per table - so about NT$50,000 to NT$60,000 for that day's ten-course meal for 12 tables of 10 diners each - birthday parties cost about the same, funerals less (about NT$4,000 per table as the food doesn't need to be such high quality), and weddings more, perhaps NT$6,000 per table, as better food and more courses are served. The marquee, tables, and chairs are ordered and paid for by the client; a bando boss may make a little extra money by helping to arrange entertainment - karaoke, a band, or even a "foreign show," which A-chi explains as meaning Russian strippers, female or male. With 40 or 50 bando catering to upwards of 7,500 people, somewhere around NT$4 million would be changing hands on this Thursday evening in Lin-kou alone. Given the secrecy of the various proprietors, presumably Taiwan's revenue service would not be hearing too much about this.

A long day of labor

Although not too lavish, temple fair banquets represent a full day's work, as they require the bando boss to turn up around dawn and stay till the last dish is washed, which could be as early as 10 p.m. or as late as the small hours of the next morning. He or she must come early because the food needs to be blessed twice, once raw and once cooked, to make it suitable for consumption by deities and ancestral spirits. For this, it must be clean.

It must also be dead, so one of the first tasks, therefore, is to kill, pluck, scale, and clean out the chickens, ducks, fish, and at the Linkou event, even pigs. The staff then set about scrubbing and slicing vegetables and preparing soups. Flavorings are added liberally; Jiang, for one, had six 500g boxes of MSG to add to his dozen courses, suggesting that each diner would consume more than 25 grams of this additive alone if they drank every last spoonful of soup.

Since some of the food had been prepared earlier and would need only to be heated up, by mid-morning A-chi's team were sitting in the shade, the dead fowl and sliced vegetables protected from flies with a large sheet of netting. An hour later they set back to work, but in fact were cooking themselves lunch - an eight-dish mini banquet - which took less time to eat than it did to cook. By midday they were asleep under the marquee. Work started in earnest after the nap, with more vegetables to slice, chickens to sever, lobsters to shell, and meat to flavor. With menus fairly standard, bando staff the length of the street seemed to be engaged in some heart-learned ritual, all plucking, cutting, slicing, and cleaving as if in time to some unwritten timetable.
All were starting with lobster, the first soup was invariably "Buddha jumps the wall" (佛跳牆) - so-called because it is said to be so delicious that monks slip out of their monasteries to eat it - and given the special nature of the Linkou "Killing of Lord Pig" (殺豬公) event, all had at least one dish cooked using large lumps of fatty pork.

If something was found to be missing or more ice was needed, one of the liveried staff would run off to the nearest supermarket or 7-Eleven to make up the deficiencies. Pans, dishes, chop boards, cleavers, and various utensils were washed in buckets at the roadside. Finally, with the gas stoves lighted and all the food loaded into huge wooden steamers measuring about 2'6" square and piled six or eight high, the staff could sit down for another well-earned rest.

While the boss kept an eye on the cooking, a junior staff member stapled plastic tablecloths to the tables and laid each table with ten sets consisting of a plastic bowl, glass tumbler, wooden chopsticks, and paper napkin.

At around 5:45 the first guests started to arrive, most decked out in their finest clothes. So far, only pumpkin seeds and other snacks had been put on the tables, and guests helped themselves to guava or orange juice, but not yet whiskey. At 6 p.m. the town exploded with firecrackers, and the tables quickly filled up. Jiang said that diners were punctual at temple fairs, less so at weddings and birthday parties, and much less so at funeral banquets. With cars, motorcycles, and even buses and trucks passing within inches - occasionally, news of a bando traffic accident makes the papers - the first dish was brought out, carried in above-the-shoulder style by the cooks/waitresses, still dressed in the aprons they had worn all day.

At A-chi's car-park venue, lobster salad was followed by vegetables and glass noodles, sweet and sour ribs, "100 cuts" free-range chicken, scallops, sea cucumber, "ten brocade" delicacies, and so forth - one dish every 10 minutes or so, until at around 8 o'clock, the extra "free" dish of fruit was presented.

All that he, Jiang, A-lien, and their colleagues could do now was sit down for a cigarette and hope the guests were not in too chatty a mood.

As each serving dish was emptied, it was brought into the kitchen area and washed; as each table cleared of diners, the glasses were removed and everything else - disposable bowls, chopsticks, napkins, empty drink bottles, and spat-out bones - were wrapped up in the plastic tablecloths ready for the garbage collectors.

Finally, with everything loaded back onto the ubiquitous blue mini-trucks, each of the bando bosses stepped into the shadows, shared a cigarette with his client, and accepted his day's earnings.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

three 'Asian' former presidents

china post editorial:

Three “Asian” former presidents have appeared in the news recently.

First, Taiwan's own Chen Shui-bian, already sentenced to life imprisonment for graft, bribery and money laundering, spent Christmas contemplating the new corruption charges laid against him, this time relating to monies changing hands following reforms of Taiwan's financial-holding companies during his first term in office.

Similarly in Peru, the Supreme Court upheld the 25-year prison sentence handed down to former President Alberto Fujimori. The first president of East Asian descent in the Americas — he was nicknamed El Chino, “The Chinaman,” by enemies and supporters alike — Fujimori's 1990 election success was greeted with pride not just in Japan, but throughout the continent of his parents' births.

Fujimori rode to power on the wave of public dissatisfaction with the outgoing regime of Alan Garcia, and though the “Fujishock” reform policies he implemented bore little resemblance to his election manifesto, he quickly gained further popularity by battling the leftist terrorist groups that controlled large parts of the country. And by restoring economic stability, he brought Peru back into the global economic system.

But his methods were characterized by authoritarianism and corruption and his popularity waned. In 2000, Fujimori holed up in Tokyo, from where he suffered the indignity of attempting to resign his presidency by fax, and where the Japanese authorities refused demands for his extradition. Eventually extradited from Chile in 2007, he was prosecuted for “crimes against humanity” and convicted of murder, bodily harm and kidnapping.

Fujimori was additionally found guilty of embezzlement, and the huge sums involved and the systematic nature of his administration's cynical corruption — which pocketed upward of US$600 million — make Chen look like a schoolboy caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

The third and most significant item of news was the passing of former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid. Many official New Year's celebrations were canceled out of respect to the moderate Muslim politician who died on Dec. 30 at age 69 after prolonged illnesses.

More illuminating, perhaps, were the responses of ordinary Indonesians, many thousands of whom took to the streets to mark the passing of the man who led the country from 1999 to 2001 when the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation emerged from three decades of dictatorship. Admirers held vigils at mosques, churches, temples, schools and national landmarks.

These cross-community actions testify to the social cohesion sought by Wahid in the aftermath of the repression and inter-ethnic violence that characterized the Sukarno and Suharto regimes. Born into a family with moderate religious and political leanings — one grandfather had founded the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Islamic group, the other originated education for Indonesian women; and his father, after involvement in the nationalist movement became the independent nation's first minister of religious affairs — Wahid abandoned his academic career to work first as a teacher, then as a journalist and social commentator.

He was increasingly drawn into conflict and compromise with the Suharto regime, however, and having taken up leadership of the NU, he sought to revitalize it into a brand of Islam that was open, fair and tolerant. His liberal ideas and advocacy of interfaith dialogue — he accepted an invitation to visit Israel in 1994 — meant he sometimes struggled to promote this agenda even within his own organization.

Nevertheless, the strength of his ideals prevailed, and after Suharto was forced to step down in 1998, Wahid's National Awakening Party (PKB) held the balance of power. In the election for Indonesia's fourth post-independence president the following year, he defeated rival Megawati Sukarnoputri, who through her father's legacy had made a major contribution of putting pressure on Suharto, and whose Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) had won the largest share in the legislative elections.

Continuing his spirit of pluralism, Wahid invited Megawati to be his vice president, and selected a “national unity Cabinet” that included many non-aligned politicians, members of rival parties and even of Suharto's Golkar party.

Wahid continued to push a post-dictatorship agenda, abolishing the propangandistic Ministry of Information and highly corrupt Ministry of Welfare. It was his challenges to the military and the powerful ministers of industry and trade and of state-owned enterprises, as well as accusations of corruption leveled against himself and his own regime, that sowed the seeds of his fall from power in less than two years.

By that time Indonesia was firmly on the way to democratic governance, however, and although not freed from inter-ethnic conflict and violence, their scale was greatly diminished from the frequent excesses of the dictatorial decades.

Wahid's major achievement and his greatest legacy are perhaps not merely within Indonesia's Muslim community, but within the global Muslim community and the world at large.
Throughout his life, as teacher, journalist and social commentator, then as cleric and religious activist, and finally as politician, Wahid consistently sought tolerance and inclusion rather than extremism and exclusion, and wherever he traveled he preached his mantra that “upholding democracy is one of the principles of Islam.”

Monday, 11 January 2010

fish of the day

Interesting article on "alien" carp in North American waters in today's Financial Times (link here)
[but the FT is pretty cautious about copyright: "Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web", so I won't quote from it.]

photo of the day

view of the week in fact

if they can (do that, why do this?)


from the same people who brought you the cycle lane:

just the perfect size for trapping a bike wheel

--a rare example, rare enough that you aren't expecting them and have no time to take evasive action

(no wonder the locals choose to cylce on the pavement)

Saturday, 9 January 2010

if they can

cylce (-ish) lane beside an 8-lane highway in central Thailand

new verse







fish of the day

roadside stall selling dried fish, Thailand

Saturday, 2 January 2010

... i just know what i like

dec0rated "wave-destroying-blocks"(?) (消波塊) on the way to Dahsi

fish of the day

i finally got my fish flag set up

here we are on a New Year trip to Daxi (大溪)

by the time that i got there,

there was barely time for a quick plate of "dried" tofu

before a very wet ride back in the rain