Thursday, June 30, 2005

Men and women in Taiwan

I got a wonderfully warm letter in my email box the other day that compels me write on something I have long wanted to discuss....the writer said:

I agree entirely about the male - female relationship problems. The Taiwanese just study too hard throughout their youth that they never ever get to know about the opposite sex and developing mature relationships. Holding hands and adolescent fumbling sex is about as romantic as it gets...according to......

In simple terms, the women feel that many men are inept as lovers, as companions and husbands. The men....well I think they are really looking for a mother, someone to feed them, clothe them and care for their basic needs. After all, Taiwanese mothers seem to pander to every son's whim to almost a sickening extreme, even when they are adults.

Bruce Malina has written extensively on honor-shame cultures in the Mediterranean context. In The Social World of Jesus and the Gospels Malina describes how in such cultures, child raising is carried on mainly by the women. Above all, males are raised by women., their mothers. Fathers remain distant.

Because fathers are distant, there is no one to teach the boy what it means to be a man, and how to treat women. The result is males who are essentially deeply insecure about their own sexuality, and who to compensate develop a hypermasculinity that manifests itself in two ways, as chivalry on one hand, and contempt and control on the other.

In Taiwan the local men grow up in homes where the father is likely cheating on the mother and where marital relationships are controlling, distrustful, and distant by our standards. One thing I have seen in Taiwanese marriages is the struggle for control that goes on constantly. Because neither party really trusts the other, they maintain separate bank accounts and separate properties...separate lives. I think it is sad. Marriage can be a joy-filled oneness, done right, a fortress of mutual support, a universe of love built for two. And few Taiwanese ever seem to know that.

My reading of Taiwanese males is that their behavior reflects are role that has solved its problem of the threat of female power by positing male control as the answer: the constant flow of controlling behavior, controlling remarks, and controlling situations, especially criticism, one of the major artifices of control. Another is to reduce women's power in whatever form it might take. Many of us in Taiwan have remarked on how local men dislike females with muscles and brains. My college females come dressed in pink constantly, and the the males in my classes have said that they prefer girls dressed in pink to girls dressed in black. Of course, any femme who wears pink in my class gets an earful. LOL! The final riposte to the rise of women is to not marry them; local males have an advantage not found in our culture -- it was culturally acceptable for them to marry women from other countries rather than upgrade their attitudes. Men in the US did not have that option, and so were forced to change if they wanted mates.

Things are slowly changing here, though. I have great hopes for the future, a couple of generations from now. But for now......there is a whole galaxy of attractive, single, intelligent, employed females in the 25-35 range who are looking for partners. Foreign men, are you listening?

UPDATE: (10/18/05) The Peking Duck recently blogged on this topic. Lots of good comments there.


Media misrepresentation continues on King Car

King Car, a group of missionaries posing as volunteer English teachers in rural areas, is in the news again -- here is an earlier story from last year. The local news media has now written two large stories on King Car without once mentioning that they are a missionary group. The fact is that King Car is backed by the far-right Christian Institute in Basic Life Principles. Does King Car teach its students that the Earth is only 6,000 years old as IiBLP apparently believes? Scary stuff. Further, IiBLP says bluntly that this is a "ministry", as it is refered to on their website as Taiwan Ministry opportunities to share God's truth. King Car teachers are not trained in any professional program, but instead receive unaccredited distance learning training at home or at the program's retreat through the "Verity Program." As Scott Sommers pointed out in a long-running series of posts on King Car, they are not legally able to teach English in Taiwan: Their website says:

The Verity program is conducted at IBLP's Riverfront Character Inn in Flint, Michigan. It is an accelerated learning program designed to help students earn a bachelor's degree in two years from one of several distance-learning institutions while growing in their relationships with Christ.

Students earn their credits by taking CLEP, DANTES, and other standardized tests. Verity students have the option of living on-site and participating in classes and study groups or earning their degree from home via distance learning. Through interaction with staff and fellow students, Verity students have the opportunity to study each subject from a Biblical perspective. They may also take part in Bible studies, accountability groups, and morning chapel services.

Taipei Times, can we get some truth-in-advertising here? I hope in the next article about King Car their origin and purpose are not obscured by the local media.

More from the Hatemail stack

Got this in a greeting card the other day. I never went to look, thinking it was spam, but they sent out a reminder today, so I looked. The greeting card was a cowardly way to send hatemail....but I didn't have the right plug-in, so couldn't view the animation. Here's the pic (click for larger view):

The text yowls:

I just read through some part of your website, but I didn't find it tureful. In your website, u black mailed so much of Taiwan.
Common rip-off: many vendors will deliberately attempt to give you the smallest piece of whatever they are buying, especially if you are a regular customer. The best stuff is reserved for new customers. The logic is, if you're a regular, you've been captured, so why should they bother to give you the good stuff?
I felt almost insulted about this paragraph. Maybe some vendors do that, not everyone. Plus many things that you mention in the website, have you ever think about culture difference? Not because you grow up in somewhere else, every other country has to go around your country. You should appreciate what Taiwan has to offer you. If you live there, you have to love it. Otherwise MOVE!


That shout of joy you may have heard around 9:30 AM was me finishing grading all my tests and papers!


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Site Updates begun!

I added some new stuff to the website today, expanding my second Just Pictures page, and adding a page on critters that collects all the critter photos I have on the site on web page. I hope to start revisions to my history page later this summer.

Taiwan has some great bugs VI

I nabbed these guys on a walk to pick up my daughter today (click for full size)

This crawlie was menacing our ivy plants....

This beautiful beetle is commonly found in my neighborhood....

A refugee from the cast of Mimic? No, just a cicada looking a mite alien in a close-up.

Lizards: always fun for the cat to chase.

On Kinmen Island, Residents Chafe at Not Being Part of China -- and other stories

Tim Johnson of Knight Ridder's Washington Bureau writes on the residents of Kinmen, "suffering" for being part of Taiwan.

But fear of colossal China, barely a few miles away, has given way to envy and frustration. Residents gaze across the water and see high-rises and late-model cars. They hear tales of new wealth and economic boom in China. Most can't travel there, though, and few free-spending Chinese tourists are permitted on the 45-minute boat ride to Kinmen Island. Tensions along the Taiwan Strait keep trade and travel to a minimum.

"We think it's nonsense," said Lee Juh-feng, a commissioner for Kinmen (pronounced "GIN mun") and a proponent on the 58-square-mile island for more open trade and freedom of movement.

"Taiwan is holding Kinmen as a pawn," Lee said.

I feel sad for the people of Kinmen, for there is no question that Kinmen and Matsu and the other offshore holdings of Taiwan belong to China. But China could take them back any time it wanted. It doesn't. Why? Because it wants the government in Taipei to have geographic link with the mainland.

Taiwan needs to enter into negotiations to return Kinmen to China. Most people on the island would probably welcome it. Taiwan also needs to return the treasures in the National Palace Museum. It's time to set ourselves free, folks.

In other news of impossible dreams regarding China, a group of Tibetans has filed a case in a Spanish court against Li Peng and Jiang for the savagery of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. It would be nice to see international action on Tibet.

The CS Monitor reports on the China threat in great detail, with many useful links, here.

Taiwan Independence Bracelets

Feli over at Writer's Block has a pointer to these Taiwan Independence Bracelets sold by FAPA. Good for any occasion, except perhaps passing through customs in Guangdong.


Kudos to Coen Blaauw and the FAPA Young Professionals Group.

Taiwan and Maps: China seizes material meant for Japanese School in China

Chinese officials seized materials meant for a Japanese expat school in Dalian because Taiwan was colored differently than China, reports the Asahi Shimbun

BEIJING--Customs officials in Dalian confiscated educational materials headed for a Japanese school because of "inappropriate" references to Taiwan, including maps that gave the island a different color than China's.

This was the first time Japanese education materials have been seized in China, according to officials of the Japan Overseas Educational Services, an organization affiliated with the education ministry that shipped the materials to the Dalian Japanese school....

Technorati Tag Post

I've created this as an updatable list of Technorati tags I've used here so I can grab them quickly without laborious typing.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

We Should Censor the Internet in China Because Western Porn is Polluting It!

ESWN, always a font of fascinating stuff, offered this argument for web censorship in China:

Inevitably, someone is bound to draw the analogy to the Opium Wars. Once upon a time, the Chinese government declared that it no longer wanted to have the opium produced by the East India Company, even though its addicted citizens craved for it. The British Empire decided that anti-free trade practice was bad for business, and employed its mighty naval gunboats to force China to continue to accept more opium as well as pay heavy compensation (such as giving Hong Kong away) for daring to oppose. Today, the Chinese government declared that it does not want any of the pornography produced in Japan and the United States, even if some of its citizens craved for it. But there are forces that are trying to make sure that it fails, although most of these people do not recognize that their efforts have this perverse effect.

Dribs and Drabs

I am furiously grading papers....but I wanted to blog this letter:


Hi Michael,

What is an absolutely great website! I can't begin to express how much enjoyment it had brought me in perusing through your galleries of pictures. This is especially true with those food and food market related pictures. Viewing this site is almost like dousing oneself in a giant tank filled with the concentrated essence of Taiwan. mmm...

While much of your commentary on the pictures are insightful and terrifically entertaining, I still think some of your criticisms regarding Taiwan's gastronomic products/trends are, well... unduly harsh. Sure, those purple swirled Taro "edibles" do not look exactly appealing, nor are many of those stuffed bread-like things, but I believe cuisine is itself a form of cultural expression. What one culture considers delectable are usually e scoffed at by another as I'm sure you already understand ;) Heck, many Americans and other westerners ridicule each other over something as simple as toppings on french fries (ketchup in the States, gravy/cheese in Canada, and mayo/ketchup in much of Europe).

Hopefully I do not come-off as being rude or pretentious in this email, and if so, I sincerely apologize since this was not my intent. Of all the websites on teaching English in Taiwan and Taiwan in general, yours is definitely one of the best out there, excelling in both the quality of information as well as in the sheer volume of visual content. Without it, I would have had less info to learn, no pictures to see, and also no commentaries to nit-pick :P

All I can said is that I hope that you can find a place in your heart for the sweet bean paste and bah-so (dried, sweetened, fluffy meat) filled buns, as well as the many mayonnaise slathered creations of Taiwan as I have done for American chop-suey and those chewy "chicken balls" with red sauce in mine :)

Oh, and if I may be so bold to ask, please, please, please post more food/food market pictures. That fish market page was like a dream come true.

PS The food shown in is actually wrapped in bamboo leaves no banana. Your wife or her parents might have made them for that celebration a week or two back. Sorry, just being pedantic.

Don't know why I wrote "banana leaves" instead of "bamboo leaves" since I know perfectly well it is bamboo. All I can do is plead cultural programming: beans in chili, good, beans in bread, bad. I don't like the British habit of beans on toast for breakfast either, so it's not an anti-Taiwan thing.

Anyway, I made the changes the writer recommended.

Taiwan blogger Erick Heroux, who always posts high quality content, logged this comical piece on the US split that's making the rounds:

We're ticked off at the way you've treated California, and we've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us.

In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to
the people of the new country of Neuvo California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay.....

And of course, I couldn't resist this spider I saw hanging above my lawnmower yesterday. Amazing that I had any time to picture it, what with the constant rain. Did I somehow go to sleep and wake up in Borneo or something?

More on US beef

I blogged on AmCham's promotion of US beef earlier this month, and lo! the government has banned US beef imports. Retailers are yanking the products from the shelves, and AIT is out there in the best Bush fashion, re-assuring people that the beef is safe when everyone knows it is not. The Taipei Times, not normally an enthusiastic servant of US corporate interests, nevertheless attempted to serve up some wonderfully disingenuous writing in support of US beef, The Times follows the AIT line almost word for word:

What are the facts? For a start, the BSE case in the US is not a new one. It was a retest of an old sample dating from last year, when the animal died. Under current US regulations, the animal could not have entered the food chain. it was too old -- over 30 months -- and was born before the regulations on the use of beef by-products in cattle feed were in place. This animal, as the American Institute in Taiwan pointed out, has nothing to do with the beef that was until last week imported into Taiwan. Add to this the fact that the World Animal Health Organization (WAHO) stated last month that boneless beef from cattle under 30 months old -- the only US beef available in Taiwan -- can be freely traded without risk to consumers, even from BSE-infected countries (as long as certain safeguards are in place, which in the US' case they are) and a reasonable person soon comes to the conclusion that US beef poses no danger.

Given these conditions, the government certainly caved in to pressure -- but not pressure from the US, but from unscrupulous, populist politicians. It should not have banned US beef, but explained clearly why such a ban was unnecessary. Those who do not believe in the WAHO's science or the effectiveness of US slaughterhouse regulation could simply choose not to eat US beef. Let the market decide. Which last weekend it did; consumers flocked to the stores to purchase US beef, expecting that stores would cut prices to get the meat off their shelves before they might be compelled to take it off. At least the public has shown some common sense.
Problem: the Times simply ignores the real issue, which is that the US beef supply is unsafe, because US government regulations on the issue are a joke. To quote from the editorial above: what are the facts? John Stauber, an activist on this issue for many years, notes in CommonDreams this week:

The so-called 'firewall feed ban' to prevent cattle from contracting the disease in the United States is a joke, and more like pouring gasoline on a fire. Hundreds of millions of pounds of cattle blood, cattle fat, and the meat, blood, fat and bone meal from pigs and chickens are legally fed to cattle each year on US farms and ranches and feedlots. American cattle are also being fed a million tons a year of chicken litter and feces contaminated with cattle meat and bone meal. These are practices that can spread mad cow disease and are banned in countries like England and Japan where there is a real firewall feed ban.

The US mad cow testing system seems designed to cover up mad cow disease rather than find it. Other countries test most or all of their cattle before human consumption for food safety purposes. The United States tests a small percentage of the 36 million cattle a year slaughtered and put into the human and animal feed chain. Most animals infected with mad cow disease will look healthy and be slaughtered and put into the food system without testing. Only testing millions of US cattle a year will reveal how much mad cow disease there really is in the United States.
The point is that the US system doesn't work, the Bush Administration doesn't want it to work, and ironically, only concrete pressure from the outside world can create real change in the US position. The US government apparently cares little for its citizens' health, but it does care about the exports of US corporations. Go Taiwan! And keep the pressure on.

UPDATE: June 30. Ni Howdy has a great but opposite take.

UPDATE: July 1: Activist John Stauber has more to say on Mad Cow at CommonDreams:

To this day, the real 'firewall feed ban' necessary to stop mad cow disease in the United State has not been constructed. Officials of the United States Department of Agriculture simply lie to the press and public when they say, as USDA veterinarian John Clifford did on June 29, that a "ruminant to ruminant feed ban" prevents cattle protein from being fed to cattle in the US, cutting off the spread of the disease. In reality, as Clifford well knows, US animal feed regulations allow hundreds of millions of pounds of cattle blood and fat to be fed back to cattle each year, including the widespread weaning of calves on cattle blood protein in calf milk replacer and milk formula. In addition, one million tons a year of "poultry litter" is shoveled from barn floors at chicken factories and fed to cattle, although the spilled and defecated chicken feed in the litter can contain up to 30% mammalian meat and bone meal.

In Mad Cow USA we explain how and why Texas cattlemen, at the urging of now-governor Rick Perry, sued Oprah Winfrey in early 1996 for the Texas crime of disparaging beef. Oprah's sin was to host a balanced program on mad cow risks in the United States that aired April 16, 1996 and featured Dr. Gary Weber of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Dr. Will Hueston of the USDA. Also on her show was former cattle rancher Howard Lyman who for the first time before a national audience revealed that cattle slaughterhouse waste was (and is today) being fed to cattle in the United States and that the United States would develop mad cow disease if the practice continued. As we now know, Lyman's warning and prediction was accurate and mad cow disease was probably spreading in Texas at the time of Oprah's show.

Yes, it's true Taiwan's slaughterhouses are a disaster and meat processing probably less safe than in the US. But that's simply not relevant to the issue of whether Taiwan should import beef from regions that are not implementing proper feeding practices.

It is also true that the mad dow cases are being used in a very Chinese way -- blaming the foreigner for the problems of local society. This kind of scapegoating is a common official practice, though I note that the Taiwanese are not so apt as their leaders, when thinking about their own society, to blame others. Remember when Mayor Ma of Taipei had a Japanese man arrested at a local hotel for soliciting a prostitute who turned out to be from mainland China? Subtext: prostitution is a foreign problem. Likewise, there is some of that going on here, as Ni Howdy more or less points out. But the fact is that US beef is probably not safe, not as long as feed practices remain unsafe.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Taiwan Spiders: the Skinny

Had to blog this, of course.

Spiders in Taiwan from Sinorama

"In just one spider survey zone on Mt. Chiuchiu in Nantou County, we discovered 200 species," says Chen Shyh-hwang. He states that the number of spider species thus far discovered in Taiwan stands at between eight and nine hundred, but over half of these have not yet been properly identified, so the next major task to be tackled is to compare the specimens of newly discovered spiders, classify and name them, and include them in illustrated field guides.

"For instance, the sheet-web spiders are a big family, but at present there's no-one in Taiwan who knows how to identify them." Chen freely admits that many spiders are small and very similar in appearance, so that their identification takes ample literature, large collections of specimens, and great powers of discernment. Hence spider research in Taiwan is still in its early stages. In Chen's own laboratory alone there are 100 species of spider awaiting classification.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

New pages up on the site....

To hell with grading papers. Today we visited the fish market out at Taichung port, about an hour from our house.

Also, I am officially announcing a new Just Pictures page. I hope to expand this one over the summer.

UPDATE: Taichung blogger Jonathon Benda visited the fish market at Taichung port the same day I did. Here's his take, with many great fotos.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

It's grading time...

...and so I am likely to be out of commission until Wednesday.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Taiwan to get US Early Warning Radar

Reuters reports that Taiwan is finally getting the US early warning radar that the US had agree to sell Taipei in 2000.

The U.S. Defense Department said on Thursday it would supply Taiwan with key elements of a missile and air defense capability, a move aimed at defusing the threat from China.

Raytheon Co. won a U.S. Air Force contract worth up to $752 million to supply the Early Warning Surveillance Radar by September 2009, the Pentagon said.

In a move bound to anger Beijing, which views Taiwan as a renegade province, the system will let Taiwan's air force detect and track long- and short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, enemy aircraft and surface ships with "no doubt" reliability, said Raytheon, based in Waltham, Massachusetts.

The system includes an ultra-high frequency "phased array" radar to be integrated with Taiwan-supplied beacons that identify aircraft as friends or foes as well as two missile warning centers, a Defense Department contract announcement said.

Religious Tolerance in Taiwan

An acquaintance observes:
I must admit to having trained to be a [Christian Cleric] many years ago. It did not take me very long after training to become an atheist! Years have now passed, and my studies of religions or curiosity have not abated. Buddhism became something which I have felt most comfortable with,and I guess as a philosophy it quite suited me. Since marriage and being introduced to Daoism, Taiwanese buddhism and other "isms" I learned something very important from my lovely wife. She, in all her wisdom simply says that no matter what you believe in, you should show respect...for people, their beliefs and their culture. She is not critical of any religion or belief....(except for the JW's and the Mormons). It is a moving experience to go to the temple and just observe whole families paying respects. It is something which we foreigners should consider more, not as a religion, but as a lifestyle.
It's interesting, the tolerance here, compared to how bad things are getting in the US. Katha Pollitt in the Nation logs this sad tale of an atheist who was attacked by the tabloids and essentially denied a position at a university in NY city. Bertrand Russell? No, this one happened in 2005. Taiwanese do occasionally go ape over sex (note how the attack on Ms. Ho was driven by foreign-introduced religious groups, whose primary goal appears to be control over the minds and bodies of others), and there is of course the omnipresence of political issues. But religion is simply not on the radar here.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, people of all religions live together peaceably, and atheism is widely accepted. I always tell my atheist friends in the US, where atheist males outnumber atheist females something like 2-1, that East Asia is an enormous pool of atheist females -- and tolerant ones where not atheist -- that they should take advantage of.

UPDATE June 25: An incredibly virile and stupendously effective gamer sent me an article he wrote recently on this issue. Here's a excerpt:

The Taiwanese seem to have figured this out, while the rest of the world stumbles along with religious condemnation, relentless proselytizing, and the occasional holy war. That makes Taiwan a great place for atheists, and a tougher ride for those who feel compelled to come here and save souls. The advanced attitudes of people in Taiwan towards religion makes converting them to a new faith very difficult. Consider our diligent Mormon missionaries- The LDS church has been in Taiwan since 1956. Total Mormons in Taiwan today: 38,735. There are still more Muslims in Taiwan (53,000) than there are Mormons, and I have yet to see a single Muslim missionary here. Of course, that could be because Muslims don't spend much time at PJ's or FM.

So true!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Taiwan has some great bugs: V

I tracked down some more bug pics off my website, and added a new pictures page today (grand opening later) that includes a couple of bug shots....

Well, it ain't a bug, but it shore is purty....

A moth clings to our car door....

Caught this beetle crawling across someone's bumper....

This bad boy was off to steal someone's crops....

Blogging, Cisco, and China from Rebecca MacKinnon

A friend passed along this article from Rebecca MacKinnon's blog. She's an ex-China reporter.....

MacKinnon writes:


Confirmed: All Typepad blogs blocked in China

...The Chinese government is mainly to blame for this, but it's important to consider the way in which U.S. technology is being used to stifle free speech in China - and the extent to which U.S. companies are responsible for this usage. This includes not only Microsoft, but also Cisco Systems and others. Here is what Reporters Without Borders had to say about Cisco's complicity in a recent report:

The architecture of the Chinese Internet was designed from the outset to allow information control. There are just five backbones or hubs through which all traffic must pass. No matter what ISP is chosen by Internet users, their e-mails and the files they download and send must pass through one of these hubs.

China then acquired state-of-the-art technology and equipment from US companies. Cisco Systems has sold China several thousand routers at more that 16,000 euros each for use in building the regime's surveillance infrastructure. This equipment was programmed with the help of Cisco engineers. It allows the authorities to read data transmitted on the Internet and to spot "subversive" key words. The police are able to identify who visits banned sites and who sends "dangerous" e-mail messages.

As this excellent article on the issue points out, Cisco denies direct complicity. There is also an argument to be made that the existence of Cisco routers in China on the whole has done more to facilitate free speech than to stifle it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

GIO Periodicals

For those interested, the Government Information Office's Periodicals page is here. The Taiwan Review has no English articles online that I can see, but Sinorama has quite an extensive list of stuff in English.

UPDATED TO ADD: ...including this fascinating tale of Spain's plans to invade China from the Philippines in the 16th century.

Always an Accident Somewhere

Nice day, Monday. Took my son to the university with me and on the way we witnessed two small accidents, of the kind that happen every minute on The Beautiful Island. The accidents occurred within a 200 meter stretch of the same road in Wufeng that winds along the base of the mountains of there, connecting houses, factories, warehouses, and ultimately, Chaoyang University.

The first accident was almost a stereotype: an old man on motorcycle hits large expensive car.

The second accident was opaque to me when I first saw it. Couldn't figure out why it happened. Looking at the picture, I realized he must have been going fairly fast when he hit the pole, which is why he bounced into the road at that funny angle.

The passenger of the second car was walking up and down the road, banging on windows, asking if anyone knew the number of the tow truck....

Why does Taiwan have so many accidents? One reason is, of course, land use laws. Another is the lack of police enforcement of the law, except on the highways, where the police do a pretty good job. Awful driver's training, and indifference to the needs of others, are additional explanatory factors. Yet another reason, though, is the problem of rewarding behavior that is then repeated...

A couple of years ago I went out to eat with a friend, Charles, who, like me, has a daughter in the local school system. Charles brought along an assignment from school. The question discussed a young man who was studying at home for an important test. The people next door were playing music loudly, and the lad couldn't study. Should I call the police? he suggested to his father. Dad berated him for being impolite.

In most of our home cultures, to impose on others is an impoliteness. But in Taiwan, politeness runs in the other direction: when someone else imposes on you, you're supposed to give way. That's politeness. Probably everyone here has noticed the incredible difficulty that Taiwanese have in saying "no." Their definition of politeness is different than ours, and the result is the incredible tolerance they have for foreigners.

On the roads, though, it simply encourages lawlessness. Everyone drives knows the daily frustration of waiting patiently in a line of vehicles for a light or an exit, while some jerk passes the entire line and squeezes in at the front. Incredibly, someone always lets them in. Every day we see similar impositions on the politeness of others on the roads. And we've all said to ourselves: that behavior would never be tolerated at home. Somebody would certainly abuse the perp. Not here in Taiwan, where one must accept impositions. As we know, since that behavior is rewarded, it is repeated. And thus, it continues....

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


The Ugly Expat offered a link to this fantastic program, Autostitch, that creates panoramas easily and automatically. Below is a link to a panorama of Taichung I shot from Chaoyang University in Wufeng, looking north to Taichung (full size 8.5 MB). Autostitch created this from eight different images. All I did was tell the program which files I wanted stitched, it did the rest. The results are top-flight, folks. Autostitch is free as a demo for the nonce, so grab it while it's still hot.

Pic here (2.5 MB)

New Page on Website

Your Local Neighborhood Bakery: A Photo Essay.

This is what happens when I have 5 minutes alone in a bakery shop, camera in hand.

AmCham and US beef

The American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan comments on US beef in Taiwan, once the sixth-largest market for that product:

For the non-profit Consumer Foundation, the issue was another not-to-be-missed opportunity to demonstrate its zeal in standing up for consumer interests, whether real or imagined. It questioned why Taiwan should drop the ban before such other countries as Japan and Korea had acted first, and it proposed that U.S. beef in supermarket display cases be labeled with a warning that the source was an infected area.

At that point the government's Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) apparently felt compelled to demonstrate that it too had the public's well-being at heart. Convening a meeting with major food distributors, with representatives of some other government departments also in attendance, the CPC raised several matters for discussion. For one, it sought assurances from retailers that the beef would be clearly identifiable by consumers as coming from the United States. That was determined to be no problem, since most stores had prepared special promotional displays and considered the country of origin to be a positive selling point. Another request, which the distributors readily agreed to, was that copies of the authorization documents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture be displayed at the point of sale, or at least be available if consumers asked to see them.

That left the point raised by the Consumer Foundation of requiring labeling that the beef was from an infected area, a step that would certainly discourage purchases and might in fact create unwarranted consumer worries about health risks. The DOH representative seemed to put the matter to rest by stating forcefully that the Department had full confidence in the thoroughness of the investigation process it went through before reaching its decision.

Since millions of Americans have been eating beef daily for the past year and a half without incident, and since no other problem case has arisen since 2003, there would seem to be no logical reason to challenge the DOH's professional judgment.

I don't eat beef much, and certainly not US beef. The Bush Administration's flagrant disregard for science and ethics, as well as its indifference to the health and safety of Americans, does not exactly fill me with confidence in its regulatory oversight, hence my personal ban. The CDC notes that the disease has a long incubation period that lasts years, which makes that last paragraph of the AmCham report downright disingenuous. The desperate hacking on consumer groups here is quite shameful-- note that there is nothing concrete to be said against them, so the writers have to revert to snarky comments and sneers. Taiwan has every right to protect itself, and were I health minister, no US beef imports would be permitted until an Administration committed to progress on safety and the environment enters office.

In fairness, despite the highly slanted presentations on US products -- and it's AmCham's job to push our exports -- the site does offer some solid articles on things to do on the Beautiful Island, including touring religious sites and eco-tourism, as well as some moderately scary articles on re-use of single-use items in local hospitals. Their links page, which might be useful, unfortunately appears to be dead.

UPDATE: June 26th....Taiwan has banned US beef again. No, really? Imagine that.

Soldiers Still Not Getting Armor; Has Iran War Begun Already?

More wonderful news on the ongoing defeat in Iraq. Scott Ritter argues that the US war on Iran has begun already. Meanwhile the US military is still not providing armor to its troops.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Israeli Arms Sales to China

Many years ago, when I was working for an independence-related organization in Washington DC, I asked one of Stephen Solarz' staffers why the Jewish Congressman from New York City was so interested in Taiwan affairs. The staffer replied that the Congressman, long a friend of the island and one of its most influential Congressional supporters during the 1980s, saw Taiwan and Israel as small nations threatened by mighty numbers from without, and needing the support of great powers, two examples of the same case, moral commitments both. One could not be honored without the other also being honored.

It is thus hard to see Israeli arms sales to China -- most recently upgrades for China's drones -- as anything but the most extreme perfidy. The Guardian has more facts on recent sales:

According to Ha'aretz, the US has indicated that normal relations will not be resumed until Israel agrees to a series of humiliating conditions.

Israel must provide information on 60 recent arms deals with China and agree to American supervision of arms dealings which might be seen as "sensitive" by the US, the report said.

Sixty recent arms deals! This article here discusses numerous other transfers of Israeli technology, and US technology (by Israel) to China.

Chinese fighters carry Israel's potent Python 3 heat-seeking missile, a weapon painstakingly developed by Israel based on the venerable Sidewinder missile that the United States sold to the Jewish states decades ago, say former intelligence officials. Reconnaissance photographs of Chinese F-8 fighters intercepting, and in some cases harassing, U.S. patrol planes clearly show the fast, short-range Pythons affixed under the fighters' wings. China has bought the rights to domestically produce the Python 3, an early 1990s transaction that the Pentagon says it learned of only after the fact. "I think we would have preferred to know in advance, but we didn?t get that," said Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, the Defense Department's chief spokesman, expressing Washington?s latest irritation with Israel over arms deals with communist China.


The April 1 emergency landing of the Navy EP-3E surveillance plane, after a Python-armed Chinese F-8 fighter flew into its propeller, once again has thrown the spotlight on the Israel-China arms connection. Larry M. Wortzel, a former U.S. military attache in Beijing and now an analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said the Israel-China arms channel has flowed for more than 50 years. "It grew and grew, and the United States just winked at a number of serious transfers," he said. "China is benefiting from reverse-engineering American technology provided to Israel," added Mr. Wortzel, a retired Army colonel who says he saw evidence of improper transfers while a counterintelligence officer in the 1980s.

and according to this article Dick Cheney himself avers that the Israelis transferred Patriot missile data to China.

Richard B. Cheney, the defense secretary at the time, said he had 'good reason" to believe the Patriot diversion occurred. The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency compiled evidence substantiating the transfer. Yet a special State Department team said it could find no evidence that Israel, a close ally of Washington and beneficiary of $3 billion annually in U.S. economic and military aid, sold China Patriot secrets. To this day, intelligence analysts in and out of government continue to stress that the transfer occurred. Mr. Fisher believes advanced technology from the Patriot, a ground-based anti-aircraft and anti-missile interceptor, found its way into China?s new advanced surface-to-air missiles now on watch. He also believes the PLA used illicit Patriot data to improve M-9 short-range missiles aimed at Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway republic and has vowed to reincorporate with the mainland -- by force if necessary. "They used the information from the Patriot for the M-9 to be able to evade Patriot interception," Mr. Fisher said.

And who could forget our $3 billion per annum pals from Tel Aviv attempting to sell the Phalcon Airbone Early Warning Command and Control System to China. The sale was canceled by US pressure during the Clinton Administration, but the Sharon gov't attempted to revive it, only to be thwarted by the Bush Administration.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

a better tomorrow

From time to time I plan to blog on some of the other blogs around the neighborhood. Tonight I had a chance to look over a better tomorrow, a fantastic blog with a wide mix of great stuff. First there are some kickass pics... (click for original)

...and some absolutely great stuff on everything from the elections to the rampant inflation on the Beauiful Island:

There's a serious inflation problem in Taiwan. Not an inflation of the money supply/price level, but a serious inflation of bra cup sizes.

No, the women of Taiwan aren't suddenly sporting pairs of basketballs or anything. But rather, they're moving their goal posts. What would at most be a generous B cup in the West, they're calling a G cup out here.

I first saw it out here when I was flipping through the tabloid news channels out here and noticed that would describe models as having 38G cup sizes. I sorta laughed it off, until I dropped by the local Family Mart last night with Wen and she pointed to the Next Magazine on the counter, which had 蔡依林 on the cover. She pointed to her and said 蔡依林 had such a large rack, that surely it must be a G cup. Of course, it was at most a padded B cup.

Now despite my propensity to do a bit of cross-dressing during college (of which the ample photographic evidence that exists will preclude me from ever running for even the most minor public office), I only have a vague idea of which cup sizes correspond to what sizes. Nonetheless, I'm positive that the very existence of a G cup, let alone its prevelance in an Asian country, is as my good friend Vizzini would say, "Inconceivable!"

"She pointed to her and said 蔡依林 had such a large rack, that surely it must be a G cup." *falls off chair laughing*. 蔡依林 (Jolin Tsai) is so thin that she publicly confessed last year that she hadn't had a period since the Ching Dynasty fell.

Anyway, if you get a chance, visit the archives and check out the pictures. Some great stuff in there.

Swiss Priest Captures Soles in Taiwan

A friend of mine alerted me to this priest who re-introduced the art of foot massage to Taiwan.

Dubbed "Taiwan's Father of Foot Massage", Father Josef is credited by many practitioners for reinvigorating the ancient health-care method, somewhat serendipitously, in his small parish in eastern Taiwan.

Now 65, Father Josef came to the island some 30 years ago as a missionary from Berneck, Switzerland and was stationed in a small town called Changbin in Taitung county.

He suffered from arthritis in his knees which western medicine had failed to help, so a fellow Swiss monk tried foot reflexology on him and suggested he read a book about it written by Swiss nurse Hedi Masafret.

Geoffrey Cartridge

The Taipei Times offered us this letter today...

It's one of the many marvelous magic powers of our little island that it turns all visitors into experts on Taiwan. Just a few weeks on Taiwan, and any tinhorn will become an expert in What Taiwan Needs.

This letter also brings up another bit of drollery often seen in letters from non-North American speakers of English, namely, that the cure to all English problems in Taiwan is to teach them anything but American English.

Letter: Clear English in short supply
By Geoffrey Cartridge


But I feel that there is more to this issue than is immediately apparent from the statistical analysis of examination results. As a very experienced Australian teacher who has visited my wonderful family in Taiwan many times, I have noted several things about Taiwanese English speakers -- both young and old.

Cartridge has been to visit Taiwan many times. Has he ever lived here? Apparently not, for he lauds Taiwan in this letter here without showing much understanding of the system here, except its superficial positives. Cartridge complains....

I note that many English teaching jobs advertised in Taiwan state that a "North American accent" is preferred, presumably for perceived status, cultural and economic reasons.

Sure...and any time neutrally accented nations are willing to give aid to Taiwan, protect it from China, and absorb the bulk of its exports, by all means, let's hire their expats! Oh wait, there are no nuetrally-accented nations. Damn!

I really love the next line here, Geoff....

But surely, if students are to have some competency in spoken and written English, then exposure to "neutrally accented" teachers is preferable.
Because, as we know, exposure to North American English makes one....INCOMPETENT. Pleez kin Ah gow ta thuh baethrum, titcher? Why, I'm sure I'd have been a much better writer, if only one of my teachers had been from Pretoria, Auckland, or Bangalore. Alas, though, I was saddled with American-accented teachers, and thus never learned to communicate in good English. Poor me. Do ya think it's too late, Geoff?

In any case, accent is not an important issue. In fact, it's probably the least important, key only for non-North Americans who whine and bitch about the prevalence of the US accent here. Far more important is, as Cartridge correctly identifies, the lack of English colonial culture, along with things like the low status of things "foreign" in local culture, the test-orientation of English teaching, the rise of China that has devalued English, the low status of English in the government -- not a requirement until recently, and so on. Next time, Geoff, live here for a while.

UPDATE, June 22...

Cartridge took a well-deserved spankin' in the Taipei Times today here and here....

UPDATE June 23....

Cartridge sent me a very kind and courteous letter, which has completely changed my opinion of him.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Taiwan has some great bugs: IV

Here's some critter pics from my on them to see the full-size view.

Here's a non-poisonous whip scorpion.....

A snail I spotted on our patio....

Fried honeybees. Yum.

A bee, one of the first photos with my new camera.

My daughter models a grasshopper.

This tiny wolf spider was crouching in a join created by two metal bars on our door. You can get an idea of its size from the sand grains on the right, pooled in the crevices there. I love the level of detail in this shot.

Bees hard at work on a campus flower.

Here's that beetle again.

I caught this flower, and got the beetle,which I hadn't noticed, as a bonus.

A beetle scuttles from the path....

On the same hike, I spotted these guys on flowers. I have no idea what they are.

The mushroom farm we went to visit a while ago also raised these babies as a side income.

This little spider hung out on an early morning leaf.

I took these two leaf-eaters on a hike along the east coast.

Ok, so lizards aren't bugs. But they are critters...

I love the color and detail in this shot.

Tom Tomorrow, Bush, and Watergate

Tom Tomorrow, one of the nation's finest political cartoonists, showed how much the nation has changed with this brilliant comic about Watergate and Bush (click for full size)(thanks to Dailykos):

The LA Times is reporting that Congressional Republicans are going after the International Red Cross for not serving American interests. Actually, the Red Cross serves American interests, assuming that American interests include democracy, freedom, forward vision, and a better world for everyone. But perhaps the Republicans make different assumptions than those.

Tom Dispatch, always a good source, offers us The Actually Existing Occupation by Tom Engelhardt and Jonathan Schell, on the ongoing defeat in Iraq (via

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the American officers fighting the war and their troops tell another story to reporters. Senior officials now claim not-so-privately "that there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,300 U.S. troops during the past two years." Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, commented to reporter Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder, "I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that … this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations." Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, told Lasseter (a fine reporter, by the way) that "the insurgency doesn't seem to be running out of new recruits, a dynamic fueled by tribal members seeking revenge for relatives killed in fighting. 'We can't kill them all,' Wellman said. 'When I kill one I create three.'" Gen. George W. Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq, "called the military's efforts 'the Pillsbury Doughboy idea' – pressing the insurgency in one area only causes it to rise elsewhere."
*sigh* And the Pentagon says Guantanamo critics are ignorant. Quite true. We'd love to be enlightened on what the prisoners have done, why they are being held, when they will be let free, and whether the government will apologize to the world and compensate the prisoners for its illegal and immoral behavior.

And the US launched another Vietnam-style raid-n-run into northern Iraq today, along the Syrian border, Operation Spear. Did we learn nothing from defeat in Vietnam?

Friday, June 17, 2005

"Floods Reflect Serious Policy Failure"

This weeks torrential rains and flooding all over southern Taiwan revealed a public policy failure of monumental proportions.

One thing I have noticed over the years of teaching here is that Taiwanese accept natural disasters as "natural." Every year I have my students do papers on policy failures in Taiwan, such as the recent spate of droughts in the North, for their writing classes, and every year they explain them in terms of "not enough rain" or similar. Some students manage to make the connection between illegal betel nut tree planting in the mountains and water shortages, but that one involves conventional middle-class scapegoating of lower class habits. Hardly anybody seems to realize the extent to which the lived environment is a construction of public policy. Next year for my writing class I think I'm going to have them read Cadillac Desert. Does anyone know a similar study of water policy in Taiwan in English or Chinese?

Wu Hsain-Hsion (吳信雄), current chairman of the National Association of Hydraulic Engineer Unions in Taiwan, had a great commentary in the Taipei Times today that shed a harsh light on the practices of the central government and Taiwan's water policy in recent years. Discussions of public policy do not always make for exciting reading, but they are the most important kind of reading there is.

Wu's piece starts out with a pertinent observation that I had also wondered about....

During the rainy season this year, average rainfall caused floods from Keelung in the north to Hengchun and Kenting in the south. Why? The largest daily rainfall this season was about 400mm. This is not very much when compared to the 2,000mm that fell in one day on Alishan during Typhoon Herb in 1996, the 1,700mm in one day in Hsitou during Typhoon Toraji in 2001, the 1,600mm in one day in Taipei's Huoshaoliao during Typhoon Nari in 2003 or the 1,200mm at Shihmen in one day during Typhoon Aere last year.

Given the standard of Taiwan's river dredging, water drainage and metropolitan rainwater sewerage, daily precipitation of 600mm or less should not lead to floods, yet it does. Why? This issue must be approached from a policy perspective.

I lived down south during the late 1990s in Taliao, outside of Kaohsiung, and never worried about floods. Yet this time around Taliao flooded 150 cm deep. I could hardly believe it. What has happened? Well, the Central government has attempted to devolve some of its powers down to the local governments...with predictable results.

Prior to 2001, the Taiwan Provincial Government Water Resources Department (台灣省政府水利處) had a special budget of NT$8 billion (US$254.7 million) to subsidize, assist and provide technical guidance to local governments to maintain, improve and manage water resources, and to force them to prioritize flood prevention measures for rivers and water drainage.

Beginning in 2002, the government amended the Law Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法) so that local government subsidies were allocated to general use, and abolished the practice of special budget subsidies coming from earmarked funds.

In other words, the money was given to local governments in unmarked brown bags, and they were told to do what they liked with it. The result?

The responsibility for local water drainage maintenance and improvements was handed to local government leaders, who now allocate funds from subsidies for general use. Because hydraulic engineering projects are part of the infrastructure and their effects aren't normally noticed, they aren't prioritized by local governments.

Probably many of you, like me, have noticed the many beautification projects in smaller towns and at the County level these days. Where has that money come from? The budget for water improvements. Not only has money been switched out of water conservation programs, but overall funding has been reduced:

After the earlier NT$8 billion budget was taken over by the government in 2003, the total water resource maintenance and improvement budget for all 23 counties and cities around Taiwan only amounted to NT$1 billion. Three counties and cities didn't even get a single cent.[emphasis mine]

Don't have political pull? Don't get cash. Simple as that. But it gets worse. When the spending authority was transferred to the local governments, the central water authorities lost their power, and were reduced to shrill reminders. Taiwan, like all modern industrial societies, runs on the Golden Rule: he who has the gold, makes the rules.

When the Water Resources Department lost its right to allocate financial subsidies, it also lost its influence over local governments.
Although the department continued to remind local governments to give priority to hydraulic engineering projects, they didn't listen.[emphasis mine]

Local governments in Taiwan are run by alliances of local organized crime, construction companies, and developers. Since elections in Taiwan have become more competitive and much fairer in recent years, public infrastructure projects and local development projects have come to resemble what many in Taiwan, including foreigners, see as a more western focus on park development, riverfront upgrading, and so on. These projects get plenty of positive press and result in more votes. Wu describes the effects:

One look at water drainage facilities -- whether in urban areas or in the countryside -- and one can see how one failed policy has brought about a negative effect in only three years. Many are dilapidated, covered with shrubbery, and plugged up by waste and mud. The only reason for this is that the effects of hydraulic engineering projects are not normally seen, and therefore bring no votes.

Wu also points to a terrifying fact in a country with plentiful rain, easily eroded soils, and complex irrigation agriculture:

What has happened to hydraulic engineering in Taiwan over the last five years? A single figure can help us understand: In 2000, the Taiwan Provincial Government Water Resource Department had a budget of NT$60 billion. This year, the annual budget for the Water Resources Agency (水利署) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs is NT$18 billion. Under the provincial government's water resource policies, one reservoir was built annually in order to provide Taiwan with a stable water supply. As a result, the government completed the Li Yu Tan, Nanhua, Hsinshan, Mutan, Chichi Lanho, Kaoping and Hsinchu Reservoirs in the 1990s. It also approved the construction of a second reservoir at Paoshan and the Hushan Reservoir, and it handled the Panhsin Water Purification Plant program as well as the Kaohsiung water quality and supply improvement program. It is only thanks to these projects that Taiwan still has a sufficient supply of water today.

Wu is obviously anti-DPP and pro-Soong (the "provincial government" subtext: the provincial governor during the 1990s was the authoritarian Soong, Chen's opponent in the recent Presidential campaign). The lauding of the provincial government needs to be put into perspective (1) it never paids its massive debts and so was dysfunctional and is now frozen and gone forever and (2) one reason the reservoir building has ended is that space for good reservoirs is largely gone. The Li Yu Tan Reservoir information page is here, and another page is here. It was begun in 1985. Wu's statement is also erroneous; Nanhua Reservoir was completed in 1988. The designer's factsheet for the Hushan Reservoir is here (the firm's politics are clear from the name) while the opposition to it has a website here.

Finally, before one is wont to blame the DPP, the budget cutting for the water resources programs began earlier. And the legislature, let us recall, is run by the KMT-PFP Alliance, not the DPP. Wu continues:

But for five years, the government has not completed any of the existing water resource development plans, and this will lead to serious water shortages. From the perspective of flood prevention, apart from the Keelung River dredging project, which is an extension of earlier plans, the disaster prevention system -- including river dredging, water drainage improvements and flood prevention -- has deteriorated seriously as a result of a shortage of funds, unclear definition of duties and responsibilities, and a lack of respect for expertise.

I like that last complaint, it makes my heart go out to Wu.

The Cabinet has recently proposed allocating NT$80 billion over eight years for a water drainage improvement program. This shows that the government has discovered the problems with existing policies and is willing to prioritize hydraulic engineering projects, which is good. But a closer look at the program reveals that it is restricted to Changhua, Yunlin, Chiai, Nantou, Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Ilan and Taipei counties. Are these the only places with water drainage problems? Or is it that their leaders paid little attention to the improvement of water drainage earlier and are now in a rush to make up for those shortcomings?

Or maybe, Wu doesn't ask, it has to do with the fact that most of those are historically pro-DPP areas....culture may be local, but pork is universal. And water projects are among the most sacred, and most popular, of pork projects.

Wu then closes with one of the best commentary conclusions I've seen in a while, for his suggestions have an element of concreteness that most recommendations do not. Many writers make the high school error of carefully outlining the problem, and then ending with the dumbest recommendation possible: "The government should pay more attention to the problem." I always ream my students out for that -- good English writing is concrete, guys. So full marks to Wu for this one.

Over the past few years, we have also seen many instances of funds aimed at disaster reconstruction or expanding domestic consumption being used to directly assist counties, cities and townships. But the lack of professional planning for these projects, as well as sloppy design, inferior quality of work, and the lack of supervisory and control mechanisms has been disheartening.

The eight-year, NT$80 billion plan should therefore be welcomed and supported, but with the following suggestions:

First, it should not be restricted to certain places, and the money should be spent where there is an urgent need.

Second, water drainage improvements should first be subject to systematic planning and a comprehensive plan should be proposed. The plan should also be subject to a strict professional evaluation, and responsibilities and duties should be unified and given to the Water Resources Agency -- which should supervise implementation to avoid any unnecessary political intervention.

Third, the eight-year plan should comply with the land restoration and conservation implementation plan (國土復育執行計劃). Adopting the ecological engineering concept, experts should be allowed to create professional programs, and specialized academics should be invited to help the Water Resources Agency apply strict professional standards and provide strict reviews of project plan design quality.

Fourth, a strict supervisory mechanism to provide implementation and quality controls should be created. Each part of a project must be correctly carried out to guarantee that the goal to improve water drainage is achieved. Bad planning, sloppy design and inferior work should be severely punished.

Taiwan is almost ideally designed for wise water policy. If you get out your map, you'll see that the counties are not laid out by tradition or mapmaker's convenience, like US states, but reflect actual watershed divisions. There's no reason that a country like Taiwan, with plentiful water resources, should be suffering from perennial water shortages. Wu neglects to recommend it, but the central government also needs to commence a full-scale plan to get the public in the habit of conserving water, including raising water prices and restricting development in water-critical regions, as well as more strongly invest in, and enforce, conservation in mountain areas.

UPDATE: Premier Hsieh announced today that there would be no water price hikes for the next year. Until the price of water rises dramatically, conservation will not respond.


Australia Catches Up to the US

The Taipei Times logged a disgusting report from Oz yesterday

Chinese authorities grilled dissidents in Australian camps

Thursday, Jun 16, 2005

Officials from Beijing were allowed to interrogate Chinese held in Australian detention centers it was revealed yesterday, even as another defector said yesterday that China is using a vast network of spies in an attempt to turn Australia into a "political colony."

Yuan's charges came as it was reported that almost 50 Chinese people held in Australian immigration centers were put in isolation for more than two weeks last month and interrogated by Chinese government officials.

Some of the detainees were reportedly political dissidents or members of the spiritual group Falun Gong, which is banned in China.

Not much you can say about that....

Thursday, June 16, 2005

David's Betel Nut Girl Page

The Ultimate collection of Betel Nut Girl Links...

Taiwan Has Great Bugs: III

I thought I'd blog this baby I saw on the east coast last August above the port of Suao. The thing was so huge even my dumb autofocus was able to nail it. These spiders are common in Taiwan in forested and brushy areas. Does anyone out there know what they are?

Brightly colored beetles are also really common here. I snapped this on in the summer of last year on the grounds of Fooyin University in Taliao, Kaohsiung.

Afraid of spiders? Read the abstract to this paper on poisonous spiders in Taiwan:

Taiwan is located at the juncture of tropical and subtropical regions. About 300 species of spiders in Taiwan are named. Among the variety of spiders, only two kinds of spiders are reported to do serious harm to people. They are Latrodectus hasselti (red back spider) and Macrothele species (include M. gigas, M. holsti and M. taiwanensis). Tarantula which is mainly imported for petting would also do harm to people. Until now, no mortality case after spider bite was reported in Taiwan. The treatments of spider bite in Taiwan are supportive treatments. It is important to educate people not to capture the spiders with hands and be aware of the spiders especially in the dark and wet environment. If bitten by a spider, it is important to search medical support as soon as possible.

There, see? Nothing to fear.

Chinese Water Torture

Taiwan has been inundated with rain for the last seems like. My backyard has flooded, and my dogs are soaked.

The clean air offers great views, and shots full of ominous dark clouds....


Mark Goodacre over at his blog on the NTGateway passed along this excellent plea for less Powerpoint:

Stop your presentation before it kills again!

"I'll leave you with Tufte's fateful words, "Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely." Be careful out there... someone could get hurt."


Gangster turned Preacher...

A friend pass me this link from the Beeb:

Taiwan's gangster-turned-preacher

His job was working as the gang's debt collector - threatening force to get people to pay back money they owed from gambling.

His career as a criminal resulted in two spells in jail. But then came the turning point - Lu converted to Christianity.

Since his release from prison, he has become a pastor, dedicating his life to preaching the gospel and opening new churches.

More Stuff From the Letter Pile

I basically get three kinds of letters about my Taiwan website: those with questions about English teaching in Taiwan, letters thanking me for the great pictures because the writer has been to Taiwan, and oddball letters with questions about Taiwanese themselves, usually either "manage my love life" or "what kind of person is this Taiwanese I know?" Here's one that didn't fall into any of the usual categories...

Michael, you don't know me, but I came across your website and thought you might have some insight for me. I currently have a Taiwanese exchange student staying with me for the summer in order to improve her English. I have tested her to be on a third grade reading level in English, and yet her summer assignment is to read Pride and Prejudice which is a 12th grade level book. There are approximately 90 new vocab words to learn for every ten pages. Is this normal for Taiwanese schooling? I want to help her progress, but I can't imagine going from 3rd grade level to 12th in two months! How many new vocab words do you expect your students to learn each week/day?

Here's a common one -- me in the Dear Abby role:

I am moving to Taiwan in two weeks to start teaching. I recently returned from South Korea where I taught for two years. Your web page has been extremely helpful. I had a question about Taiwanese women, and since you are married to one, you could probably help.

I am definitely looking for that certain someone to marry or at least date while I am in Taiwan. I plan on being there at least a couple of years. I am 195cm's tall and about 125kgs. I am tall but a big guy as well. In South Korea I didn't have a problem talking to girls. I did have a girlfriend for two years but we had to break up because her family hated Americans. We were going to get married. Anyway, enough of the sob story.....I was wondering what is the best way to meet women who speak English? I have blond hair and blue eyes. Do you think I will have any problem meeting women? I am outgoing and very fun. I am just wondering what I should be looking for. Like you I dated the darker skinned athletic Korean girl. Very beautiful. Like you, my Korean friends thought she was not pretty but you said that taste in women are different from us and what they think.

My question is, will I have many problems meeting women and what is the best way in asking out one of these girls. I know they are shy, but I would rather have the "beat them off with a stick" problem than the shy unsure of themselves problem. Like you said, these women are considered second class. Same was true in Korea. My girlfriend hadn't dated in over 4 years because she hated Korean men and how they treated their women. What do you recommend? I have attached a picture of myself with my girlfriend from Korea so you can see what I look like and what my chances are of finding a girlfriend and what would be the best way to find one. Also, are they loyal? Many women in America cheat on their boyfriends. Should I worry about that? I usually treat my girlfriend better than I do my mother, and I am a momma's boy; usually like a princess or a queen. Thank you for reading this long email. I look forward to your response. [emphasis mine]

The last few lines are the real issue. Many of the letters about love I get are from males who have trust problems. Or to put it another way, they look suspiciously like controlling types. What can you say to a letter like this?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Registry of Asian E-Journals

Looking for something to read or someplace to publish? This Registry of Asian E-Journals is just the ticket.

Registry of Asian E-Journals

Taiwan Solidarity Union on its way out?

The TSU is sensing its own mortality as it pushes the DPP to give it space. The Taipei Times reported yesterday:

The DPP is expected to announce its nominations for the year-end elections today. Since last week, the TSU has been negotiating with the DPP to prevent it from nominating candidates in at least one or two counties in order to give the TSU candidates in those counties a chance. TSU Chairman Shu Chin-chiang's (蘇進強) has suggested the DPP not run a candidate in Keelung City, Hsinchu City and Tainan City.

The TSU has said that if the DPP does not agree to the arrangement, the TSU will nominate former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) daughter, Annie Lee (李安妮), to compete the position of Taipei County commissioner with the DPP's nominee Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉).

The TSU, Taiwan's resolute pro-independence party, is probably the party hurt worst by the new changes in the legislature, which mandate a reduction in the number of seats. Small parties and independents will all suffer, but the PFP, the fief of James Soong, will no doubt cling to life since its legislators are backed by "local factions" (read: organized crime) and because it has a solid core of mainlander support. The TSU appears to have neither of these resources.

Turn out the lights, the party's over....