Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Election Selection: 2018 midterms

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This KMT candidate promises to change the district of Nantun in southern Taichung city.

Time for another pile of photos showing the finest marketing moves the two parties can offer. Go below the read more link to see more... if you want to see more of a photo, click on it to be taken to its page on Flickr.

Great New Book out this fall: A Culinary History of Taipei


Can't wait to get my hands on this tome from two of the most incredibly knowledgeable people I know, Steven Crook and Katy Hui-wen Hung. Looks delish! The publisher's blurb is below. Order here.

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A Culinary History of Taipei
Beyond Pork and Ponlai
By Steven Crook and Katy Hui-Wen Hung

Praise for A Culinary History of Taipei
“Dive deep into the delicious intricacies of a cuisine rich with historical lore, political landmines, and great significance to dining trends worldwide. Steven Crook and Katy Hui-wen Hung have done us a great service in illuminating the food of Taipei in all its complicated beauty, lending a voice to its unheard soldiers along the way as well as the outside influences that continue to shape its future.”
— Cathy Erway, author of The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island

“In this exceptionally broad survey, Crook and Hung go well beyond Taipei's iconic night markets and street food to familiarise the reader with Taiwan's natural bounty and its signature ingredients, and to introduce us to farmers and chefs. Chapters on offerings and festival foods and longstanding 'landmark' restaurants celebrate culinary tradition, while an interview with a Taiwanese chef spearheading modern approaches to the island's cuisine in his Taipei restaurant acknowledges the evolving nature of the city's culinary culture. Rounded out with dining recommendations for visitors, and a recipe chapter for home cooks, A Culinary History of Taipei is the essential guide to Asia's
most overlooked gastronomic center.”
— Robyn Eckhardt, American food journalist and author of Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring Turkey's Diverse Cuisines

About the Book
There is a compelling story behind Taiwan’s recent emergence as a food destination of international significance. A Culinary History of Taipei is the first comprehensive English-language examination of what Taiwan’s people eat and why they eat those foods, as well as the role and perception of particular foods. Distinctive culinary traditions have not merely survived the travails of recent centuries, but grown more complex and enticing. Taipei is a city where people still buy fresh produce almost every morning of the year; where weddings are celebrated with streetside bando banquets; and where baristas craft cups of world-class coffee. Wherever there are chopsticks, there is curiosity and adventurousness regarding food. Like every great city, Taipei is the sum of its people: Hard-working and talented, for sure, but also eager to enjoy every bite they take.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with the leading lights of Taiwan’s food scene, meticulously sifted English- and Chinese-language materials published in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, and rich personal experience, the authors have assembled a unique book about a place that has added all kinds of outside influences to its own robust, if little understood, foundations.

About the Authors
Steven Crook has freelanced for Taiwan’s English-language newspapers and inflight magazines in the region since 1996, writing about travel, culture, business and environmental issues as well as food. His articles have appeared in Christian Science Monitor, South China Morning Post, and CNN Traveler Asia-Pacific, as well as several other magazines and newspapers. Recent assignments have included indigenous restaurants, an overview of Taiwan’s world-beating oolong teas, Taipei’s whiskey and cocktail bars, and the role of the papaya in local farming and cooking. He’s had four books about Taiwan published, including Taiwan: The Bradt Travel Guide.

Katy Hui-wen Hung is an avid collector of recipes and culinary stories, as well as a passionate advocate of Taiwanese cuisine. She has assisted a number of well-known food writers on their Taipei food assignments, including Andrea Nguyen and Robyn Eckhardt.

Order information below the read more line.

ACT: Selling out Taiwan is Selling out Japan


Getting back into blogging today. Lots of posts coming. First, my latest for American Citizens for Taiwan
Moreover, the “envoy documents” that Shaw refers to do not claim that the Ming and Qing owned the Senkakus. They merely show that the envoys passed by them on their way to Okinawa, and that the boatmen informed them, as they were passing them, that their ships were leaving the world known to the Chinese, not the world the Chinese “owned”. The real inconvenient truth is that as Ming officials declared, China stopped at the water’s edge, and the seas belonged to all. The idea that distant islands belonged to specific states is a modern idea.
....remember, selling out Taiwan is selling out Japan. And Phils...
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Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Taking a Break

Taking a week or two off for vacations. Stuff I write for ACT will still be posted.

UPDATE: Still blogging very light. Latest ACT piece is below.
UPDATE: Wrote up my four day ride with my man Dom this weekend, just below.
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Days of Rain, Nights of Mango Ice and Beer

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Morning out of Ruisui

Four days of riding east and west: Duona and Fangliao, and Ruisui and Hualien. Rain it did, but we had an excellent time medicating with mango ice and beer after the long rides. Come below the READ MORE line for the pics and discussion...

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

American Citizens for Taiwan #7: The Status Quo is independence


My latest for ACT over at Medium.com focuses on the obvious pro-China slant of NCCU's famous tracking poll of independence-unification.
Imagine if you could make a majority political position disappear at the stroke of a pen. Imagine if you could make reality disappear, so that journalists and scholars not only failed to see it, but quoted your re-defining of it with approving nods. There’s no need to use your imagination: it’s happened right in front of our noses. Welcome to the widely cited independence and unification tracking poll from the Election Study Center at National Chengchi University (NCCU), a propaganda relic of a bygone age, now well into its third decade of making Taiwan independence sentiment disappear by cutting it into a welter of confusing, useless categories.
This poll is widely used by pan-Blue writers, and its assertions sometimes find their way into the international media as well. Enjoy!
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Monday, June 25, 2018

Beetleporn + bonus wasps

Was out today cycling and spotted several trees full of mating beetles. We stopped to get some pics and noticed something interesting...

...wherever there were mating beetles, there were wasps around in the gouges on the bark the beetles create as the mate.

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More than one kind of wasp, too. Were they collecting the softened bark to make their nests? Or drinking the sap?
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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Whither the Media: Sex and the Media (Note clickbait title!)

My man Dom brakes for a view.
"Manuel, on some subjects I don't trust even myself. Limiting the freedom of news 'just a little bit' is in the same category with the classic example 'a little bit pregnant.' We are not yet free nor will we be as long as anyone--even our ally Mike--controls our news. Someday I hope to own a newspaper independent of any source or channel. I would happily set print by hand, like Benjamin Franklin."
Many articles have discussed the problems of journalism in an internet world where digital replication at almost no cost is destroying the scarcity that makes news worth purchasing. In Taiwan this has led to rapid shifts in the English media environment.

Some of them are very obvious. A couple of years ago China Post shed its staff and went completely digital. I still mourn its death today. Pro-China it may have been, but some of its local reporting was really good and it had a nice set of features and columns, and of course many of the people who worked there were pro-Taiwan.

This same process is now going on at the Taipei Times, I hear. It is funded by the pro-Green Liberty Times group, and is a money loser. I expect at some point that it will move online entirely or even disappear, and all we will be left with for robust English media in Taiwan is Taiwan News and the government news organizations.

Taiwan News underwent several changes. It began as print media, then went totally online. For a while it was a hideous totally online website that sourced all its content from the CNA and was coated with ads. Then it changed to its current more dignified and useful online format and began to operate like a real newspaper.

Taiwan News is owned by a pro-Green business group, and criticism of the DPP there is muted. But it does do some original reporting. Because it is online, it needs to generate clicks, and thus, it puts out lots of clickbait. For example...
Of those, three contain pictures of nude women, blurred over for those who have never seen a nude woman before. The headline about the Taiwanese blogger also notes that the nude wife is in fact his cousin, thus creating a double whammy of nudity-incest titillation. As the local English news media moves online, the amount of tiresome clickbait and worse, clickbait headlines, will rise, but it is a necessary evil from their point of view, because clicks help support their existence.

The article about the British pick up artist is more interesting. I will not provide any links since I do not want to increase their clicks, but these people had long ago declared that Taiwan media are easily scammed, and they ran this latest move of theirs as a scam aimed at the Taiwan media's "they're rogering our wimmenz!" reporting style. Not content with getting into Taiwan News, they also spammed the Taiwan-related Reddits and newsgroups on Facebook with fake news, including obvious garbage claiming that gangsters had killed one of them, and similar. Apparently one of them has scores of fake identities which he uses to troll. Sad.

One of the Facebook groups was Taiwan Daily News in English, which I moderate. Cleaning out the garbage they left on our group, including some sprawling, stupid arguments, sucked.

People like these are essentially parasites, trolling for clickbait, spreading fake news, exploiting the goodwill and hard work of others in building useful web communities, wasting the time and resources of those of us dedicated to fostering such communities, and then declaring themselves superior while leaving better people to clean up the turds they leave behind. Their behaviors are deeply sociopathic. But they are symptomatic of the new media world in which there is so much stuff going on, some of it is fake, and news organizations increasingly lack the resources or skills to determine what is real and what is not. That is going to be an urgent problem for Taiwan's impoverished online media, which cannot even afford routine reporting.

Another problem that the need to generate clickbait is going to exacerbate is the already rampant sexism in Taiwan's media. The pieces featuring nude women in Taiwan News above are only one example. My Twitter feed is filled with gorgeous, partially dressed females tweeted around by Apple Daily, for example, none of them at all news. Even minor fluff pieces like this are fronted with unnecessary images of partially dressed females that are unrelated to the topic at hand.

To get a sense of what is happening, compare the Taiwan News headline about a recent brothel raid in Keelung with the CNA report at Focus Taiwan.
CNA: Keelung police crack prostitution ring, 31 arrested

TN: 17 Thai prostitutes nabbed in northern Taiwan's Keelung
The CNA article notes that the Thai-ness of the prostitutes was what got the police alerted to the brothel operation, and that they will be deported, but definitely places their origin in the background. Taiwan News moves the Otherness of the prostitutes to the headline and then keeps mentioning their origin in subsequent paragraphs, keeping their Otherness at the center of the reader's attention and muting the involvement of locals. The CNA report is shorter, but it focuses more strongly on the real criminals, the operators of the brothel (you can see why people operate brothels -- the most you can get is two years and the fine for the girls amounts to a weeks' work). The opportunity to troll the audience with Otherness + sex was too good to pass up.

Finally, Taiwan News and the Taipei Times augur an even more serious problem: they are both owned by big companies, which limits the kind of reporting they can do. Since large companies are apt to treat such investments as cost centers, this means that our media institutions, like so many other institutions and vocations in our modern corporate capitalist universe, have become... precarious.

Corporate capitalist ownership of media also leads to another problem: China. David Spencer contended in a recent Taiwan News commentary:
Let's take the Taiwanese media as an example. Almost every Taiwanese TV news and print media outlet now has some form of Chinese investment. Many of these financial interests are controlling ones. And the effects this has had on media output in Taiwan has been profound.
The "almost every" is patently untrue (Spencer provides no evidence to support this claim), but the core issue of the claim is disturbingly correct -- it is entirely possible for China to purchase influence, especially since the local media is precarious, always a CEO's decision away from being slashed back to nothing. Moreover, many media firms belong to large conglomerates that have investments in China, one reason China encourages Taiwanese investment. A 2014 piece at Thinking Taiwan laid  out the consequences:
The evidence Hsu uses to support his research has a broad range. Circulation figures are used to examine market shares of various media, which allows for the further analysis of an outlet’s development trends and changing political orientation. Hsu studies not only the cases involving overtly pro-Beijing and pro-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) media such as the Want Want China Times Group, but also others, including Formosa TV (FTV) and SET, which originally sided with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and were Taiwan-centric but later surrendered their political posture to Beijing’s wishes, ostensibly in order to protect their business relations with China. Hsu’s research demonstrates that some traditionally pro-DPP media are engaging in self-censorship under pressure from Beijing, warning signs of deteriorating freedom of the press and speech in Taiwan.

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Throughout his study, Hsu uses interesting anecdotes as evidence, and a good share of the information is made public for the first time. As mentioned above, an important contribution of this paper is that it does not exclude analysis of media that have upheld a pro-Taiwan or pro-DPP stance. Although analysts will not be overly surprised when reading Hsu’s description of how the China Times changed its position from being a pro-KMT to a pro-China newspaper under Beijing’s influence, they may be astonished to discover that traditionally pro-DPP media have also been modifying their views according to Beijing’s will. In fact, Hsu’s paper provides a lot of details about how the latter media have willingly censored themselves in exchange for profits in the Chinese market. For example, SET’s popular talk show program Big Talk News (Xinwen) was not permitted to discuss such “sensitive topics” as the Tiananmen Square massacre, Tibetan and Xinjiang issues, as well as Falun Gong. Moreover, SET finally axed the program in 2012 because of “pressure from Beijing” and “SET attempts to break into the Chinese TV market.
Will our English media be able to resist this unrelenting, ever-growing pressure?
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American Citizens for Taiwan #6: Taiwan: So Far From Beijing, So Close to Washington?


My latest on taking the long view:
I found out when I had to teach an annual class on the subject, it is difficult to overestimate America’s influence on Taiwan. From foods like soy milk, the omnipresent corn kernels, and Aiwen (Irwin) mangoes, to college textbooks and scholarly and scientific practices, to sports and exercise, to major consumer brands and military hardware, the US is a powerful shaper of the lives of Taiwanese. Taiwan’s relationship with the US is crucial to the island nation’s security.
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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Send them to Taiwan: Aus/Taiwan gov't deal to provide Nauru Refugees medical care in Taiwan

As the economy changes, former farms are becoming spaces for leisure and camping.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a deal between the Australian government and Taiwan...
The Turnbull government has signed a deal to send refugees on Nauru who need urgent medical care to Taiwan, in an undisclosed arrangement aimed at stopping them from applying to stay in Australia after being treated in local hospitals.

Fairfax Media can reveal Australia signed a memorandum of understanding with Taiwan - which is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention - in September last year that has so far seen about five refugees flown 5500 kilometres to the capital Taipei for high-level care.
The reason that the Australian government is spending piles of taxpayer money to send refugees all the way to Taiwan is that if they are cared for in Australia they can reach the court system there and file suit to stay. A dying Afghan refugee was not permitted to come to Australia for palliative care, and refused to go to Taiwan... it was just reported a few hours ago that he has been permitted to go to Australia to die.

Since Taiwan is not a signatory to the refugee convention, refugees cannot automatically apply for asylum in Taiwan.

In another case, a Somali woman whose had suffered from female genital mutilation refused to be treated in Taiwan, whose doctors testified that they could not treat her.

The lawyers were quoted in the SMH piece...
“The fundamental concern must be the person’s need for medical treatment. Once again, we see the absurd spectacle of the Australian government searching the globe to hive off its basic obligations ... to properly care for people subject to its policies which inflict such devastating harm.”

Lawyer George Newhouse of the National Justice Project - which handled the case involving the pregnant Somali woman - said the government was “sending a clear message to asylum-seekers around the world, that if they attempt to come to Australia by boat, they will be denied adequate medical care and our government will take all steps, including exposing them to harm, to ensure that they never reach the Australian mainland”.
It appears that Taiwan may well be complicit, if indeed these are human rights violations. Consider this case, reported in the Guardian:
The woman, Fatemah, had told the Guardian her 17-year-old son also required medical treatment for severe mental illness caused by his time in detention but did not receive treatment before the pair were returned to Nauru. Taiwan authorities said he was not listed as a patient on the medical transfer form.
How many refugees are there on Nauru, pent up there by the Australian government. Millions? Thousands? Nope -- just 330 is the latest total. Could easily disappear into the population of Australia, where they already have ethnic communities to support them. New Zealand offered to take them, but Australia refused, since once they obtain New Zealand IDs, they can easily enter Australia. Wiki has background on the Nauru center. It's grim.

In Taiwan the refugees are treated at Adventist Hospital and housed in the nearby community. They receive top-notch care in our excellent health system. They are returned to Nauru on flights chartered from Executive Aviation Taiwan (the eyebrow raising costs are here and are between $8000 and $15000 an hour) that leave Songshan very early in the morning, probably because at that hour there is little competition for runway space and it is a long flight to Nauru and back to Taiwan.
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Friday, June 22, 2018

While we're on the subject of might-have-beens....

Bookish Asia has an author interview with the brilliant Tonio Andrade, who has written extensively and beautifully on the turbulent 17th century.
What’s interesting is that the Dutch colony on Taiwan was, in the 1640s and early 1650s, one of the most profitable of the Dutch East India Company’s holdings, but by the mid-1650s, and especially moving into the late 1650s, it became less profitable. In part this was because the Zheng family organization was increasingly carrying out trade embargoes, and competition heated up. But in part it had to do with the changing pattern of trade, as more Chinese vessels sailed to the Dutch headquarters in Indonesia, and, even more importantly, as the wars in China altered trading patterns. In 1683, Shi Lang, the conqueror of Zheng Taiwan, actually communicated with the Dutch to see if they were interested in retaking Taiwan, but by then the Dutch weren’t so interested and were content to let the island go. They found they could make money trading in Canton and elsewhere.
Imagine if the Dutch had reclaimed their colony....
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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

De-partisanization or just disenchantment?

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Fishing boats drydocked at Baishawan Port in Miaoli.

Why the claw machine fad, again discussed at Ketagalan? Hmmm.... cash business, open 24 hours, no way to count customers, almost no employees, divided into many small units, easily moved, reconstructed, and disassembled, rents rather than buys... almost seems like an ideal money laundering method... Most of the time these places are empty or have few customers.

The Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation is out there again with another poll, this one showing that people are giving up their party affiliations.
More than four in 10 Taiwanese identify themselves as independent voters, a sign of erosion in party loyalties and "partisan dealignment," according to a recent survey by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation.

....

When asked which major political party, either the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) or the Kuomintang (KMT), they identify with, 29.5 percent of respondents chose the DPP, and 23.2 percent chose the KMT.
Above is a June 2011 survey from Global Views Survey Research, showing "independents" at 29.8%, while a similar survey from Sept of 2009 has independents at 37.3%. This variance in party identification is a perfectly normal fluctuation over time. As voters become disenchanted with a party, they fail to publicly say they identify with it. What the pollster has done is measured disenchantment...which right now is vast.

"Partisan de-alignment" won't occur until the KMT is gone/Taiwanified and we have a robust collection of pro-Taiwan parties that people can "de-align" to or a broad selection of politicians who are not affiliated with a party.

The pollster has an old beef with the DPP, which apparently comes out in the way he invariably frames his poll data in an anti-DPP fashion....
You said the process has increased the potential for "political novices" such as Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je and former New Taipei Deputy Mayor Hou Yu-ih, who is the KMT's nominee for the New Taipei mayoral race in November.
Hou Yu-ih, the KMT candidate for New Taipei City, was seen as having political potential early on, since he was recruited by the DPP in 2002 even before becoming National Police Administration head in 2006. Hou has been Deputy mayor since 2010 and joined the KMT a few years later. He is hardly a "political novice" -- his name has been in front of the public for two decades and he is a member of a mainstream party. The pollster didn't identify any "political novices" for the DPP or NPP, though the latter party is nothing but political novices. Wonder why....

Remember also that Ko became mayor as a result of the DPP's decision to back him when the KMT decided to commit suicide in Taipei and run Sean Lien. A contingent and peculiar set of circumstances produced him. If the KMT had run Ting Shou-chung in 2014 Ko would currently be a cantankerous former surgeon periodically quoted in the media for his irresistibly hilarious gaffes and intemperate attacks on the major parties.

The independence referendum protest continues. The alliance, including former presidents Lee and Chen, wants the legislature to amend the law so they can have a vote in Apr of 2019. The legislature will never amend the law, and the people doing this know it. Too bad they couldn't put their energy into something more immediately useful and constructive, like renewable energy, prison reform, environmental clean-up, critiquing the Forward Looking infrastructure disaster, and the like. Instead money and energy are going to displays of ideological purity.

As for former President Chen, I'd like to take a moment and once again thank the KMT for locking him up during the elections of 2014 and silencing him in the run up to the 2016 election. Looking at this referendum initiative, it is easy to see what harm Chen might have been able to do if he'd been able to speak.

Finally, I have seen it in print. The preferential foreign exchange system for people in and connected to the KMT....
While the special foreign exchange system was only available to businesses run by KMT members, other businesses often resorted to bribery and undue networking to be included in the system, which led to the rise of special foreign exchange brokers, negatively affecting the economy, people’s livelihoods and the sociopolitical climate, Kao said.
Note that I am not saying that I personally ever took advantage of this preferential foreign exchange system in the late 80s and early 90s when I first showed up in Taiwan to teach English. All I am saying is that everyone has known of its existence for decades yet it seldom appears in the media or history books.
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The 17th century Japanese invasions of Taiwan

The Miaoli 55 north out of Jhuolan. One of my favorite roads in the area

Ran across this article on Facebook:
In 1593, 1609 and 1616 three very different attempts were made by the rulers of Japan to establish formal diplomatic and trade links with Taiwan. The 1593 approach consisted merely of a letter that proved impossible to deliver, while the others involved sending well-equipped fleets to the island. Both the latter expeditions were led by prominent Christians in efforts that ultimately came to nothing, in spite of being backed up by very meaningful threats of military intervention. This paper argues that it was largely the nature of Taiwan itself that frustrated Japan's schemes. Taiwan had no overall ruler who could participate, willingly or not, in the accepted modus operandi that had been applied to Korea in 1592 and Ryukyu in 1609. This was an approach based on the tributary model. Instead Taiwan's fragmentary structure of aboriginal tribes laid it open to a more western-style form of development involving the establishment of a military base and colonisation, a means that was to be exploited by the Dutch in Taiwan a decade later to the astonishment and rancour of the Japanese.
I wrote last week on the inevitability of history for ACT. These abortive episodes show how, if the Japanese had pushed, they might have altered history in a big way: people might now perceive Taiwan to be a Japanese island with a mixed aboriginal and Chinese population, with interesting food variety.
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Sunday, June 17, 2018

American Citizens for Taiwan #5: America, Taiwan, and the Inevitability of History

Our reservoirs should could have used that predicted rain...

My latest for American Citizens for Taiwan. I was going to post this up yesterday but was out all day biking and got back late...
However, this scheme was killed by the outgoing Secretary of State of the Buchanan Administration. When Pierce became president, he appointed William Reed to Parker’s place, and instructed him that on no account would the US annex Chinese territory. Thus ended the possibility of Formosa eventually becoming a US state.
...go thou and read...
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Monday, June 11, 2018

Then and Now: the Dong 19

A while back I posted on the old Japanese coast road, now the Dong 19 (Streetview), a little road right next to the sea just south of Chenggong in Taitung. National Historic Monuments of Taiwan puts up old pics every day on Facebook, and a recent one gave another view of the road.

This image may show the scene as it is now -- note that the boulder appears very similar. The road has been moved back away from the sea as the coastline has been eaten, so it is difficult to tell.

Another spot might be this view on Streetview. If you look there are remnants of an old road much closer to the sea, and the curve of the land seems quite similar.

I'll have to head back there this summer.
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