Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ode to Mudskippers

Mudskippers are pretty interesting fish behaving much the way amphibians do. I'd seen them before along the banks of the river in Malacca, Malaysia but this was the first time in Taiwan.

The DanShui river near the ocean is swarming with fiddler crabs as well! Posted by Picasa

Interview with the ZhuWei Ostrich Man

I went to ZhuWei today for a BBQ down by the DanShui River on a small farm. The owner came over with an ostrich egg.

I knew there were ostriches as a friend of mine who lives in a building at ZhuWei said he had spotted them from his window. I had also eaten an ostrich meat dish at HongLou, a restaurant on a hillside in DanShui.

It turns out the eggs are pretty strong. The guy in the picture weighs 100kg and the egg is holding up. I guess it shouldn't be surprising as my wife's father can make egg-shell china (pottery) by hand as strong as this as well.

Eventually it broke, not from even pressure but from impact on some hard tiles.

I thought maybe the owner was raising the birds for meat as a substitute for beef. I've heard this considered as an option for countries who are considering cutting down forest land to raise cattle. Basically, ostrich meat would be more environmentally friendly.

Turns out, he just raises them for the kids who visit the farm. He said that it's rare for people to buy the meat. He likes raising ostriches because it's so easy. Apparently the birds even eat their own poo if there is no food! I wonder if it changes the flavor of their meat...

One other interesting fact mentioned was that lots of ostrich eggs are lost as the birds lay them standing so they actually drop from a height. The time to mature, from the time of laying to birth of the chick, is about 45 days. Posted by Picasa

Born to be Wild ... or Not

I'm sure you're wondering what these are. Well this is what's left after you burn all the plastic parts off a scooter. These ones were probably caught in a fire that spread to the densely parked scooters near the fire. It's amazing how little of substance there is on these things.

Just thought I'd weigh in on the ride or don't ride debate that seems to come up quite often in foreign circles.

First, I need to say, I am a scooter driver. Second, I spoke about the evils and dangers of scooters before getting one myself.

After almost 6 years, I still haven't had an accident. What do I attribute this to? Personality. Keeping a cool head is the key to success with scooters. There are other related things though. Don't be the first one through an intersection. Be aware of your periphery. Study the behavior of taxis and buses. Keep your scooter in good shape. Use your mirrors and not shoulder checking. Watch those slippery surface road lines and sewer lids in rainy weather.

Driving a scooter is, at its best, a true pleasure. Feeling the wind cooling you off on a hot summer day. Freedom comes to mind. It allows you to explore the city in a way that you can't on foot. You can certainly get a lot more done in a short time, traveling from place to place is a breeze. At it's worst, it's a cold, wet or bone-chilling ride in the winter.

Which brings me to my point. Basically there are two types of personalities: scooter or non-scooter. People who drive scooters are not likely to ever go back to public transportation. Believe me, even cars are not a pleasure in Taipei with all the traffic. Scooters can squeeze through the cracks of the traffic easily. Nor are parking spaces for cars easy to find. Scooters are much more practical for this too.

People who fall in the non-scooter driver category have many reasons: the fear of the unknown, danger, accident, injury and death, the distaste of a little dirt in the face and maybe even a little snobbery thinking that driving a scooter is for the low-class.

To me, they are living the lie that lots of non-scooter drivers always seem to chime along together, "Oh driving a scooter? That's crazy! Too dangerous!" (I know people say this because this is what I said before too!) Well choose what you want to believe folks. Experience is everything, speculation is just a guess in the end. To the doubters, I say, "Don't knock it until you try it..."

While we're on the topic, you might be aware of the strange scooter names here in Taiwan. The models truly have strange names. Perhaps the 'king' of them all is the Grand Dink, a large Kymco model that looks like a boat. Can you image a guy saying, "Hey babe! Would you like a ride on my Grand Dink?"

Finally for all you riders! Don't get caught in the no riding zones, especially on ChengDe Road. I've been photographed by police on the skywalks on that very road several times. Fines are hefty so beware!Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Orz to Wikipedia for this one!

"Orz" has been showing up in ads and on billboards for a while now so let's take a look at it. "Orz" for the uninitiated is an emoticon but one that many Westerners may be unfamiliar with.

We give blessing to the Wikipedia for the wisdom we are about to receive:
[It illustrates a person facing left and kneeling on the ground: the "o" symbolizes the head, the "r" represents the arms and the body while the "z" shows the legs. Though people use the pictograph to show that they have failed and/or they are in despair, some people, in Taiwan, use it to show that they laugh a lot so that they kneel down.]

It achieved notoriety when it appeared in a question on a college entrance exam in the Chinese ability section.
China Post (cached)

Personally, I feel it's more of a bow down, or kowtow, before the god thing. Well, anyhow, it surfaced in Japan circa 2004 so it's good to know that Taiwan is only 2 years behind Asia's premiere diffusor of (useless) culture!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Simple Sign Goes Horribly Wrong

You can find this gem at the rest area atop Elephant mountain overlooking the HsinYi District.

The sign reads "Multiple Purpose Room", by the way, presumably for changing diapers.

Good view of Taipei 101 from this location though... too bad about the sign... Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 9, 2006

"Chinaman" - Good or bad word?

While I was in PengHu at the aquarium there on a recent vacation I snapped this one. I was quite surprised to see it there.

I had always had this feeling that the word "Chinaman" was derogatory.

I remember reading about railworker's giving the Chinese laborers "not a Chinaman's chance" when reading about the Yellow Peril in my American history books.

I also remembered the occasional "chink" being shouted in high school, probably due to the differences apparent between the Asians, mostly Vietnamese, and the whites. God knows what they called us in Vietnamese. :)

Well, although I wouldn't use the terms myself, it appears that Chinese might just use them themselves. Apart from presenting this fish, Wang Lee Hom, a popular Taiwanese singer, apparently coined the term "chinked-out" to describe his new style of music.

So, it appears that Chinese have started to do what African Americans have done with the n-word. Posted by Picasa

Boar-ed in Taipei

I was walking down ChongQing South Road, a block from the Presidential Building, and from behind a pillar in the sidewalk came this giant dog - no! - a huge boar!!!

It surprised the crap out of me! I wasn't expecting to see one in the middle of the city. I have seen them at people's home's before in the south. Taiwanese still like to keep exotic, wild pets (monkeys and orangutangs used to be common!).

I asked the owner of this one, who runs a sports store, what it's story was. They said they had raised it from a piglet. Hmmm, wild animals in contact with civilization. Didn't I hear that was one of the prime causes of the spread of SARS? Posted by Picasa

Aboriginal Nose Flute

Who wants to play the next song?

Another classic shot from the ShunYi Museum.

Funny thing I noticed there. Everything is well presented and exhibits have English translation... except one. If you visit, you'll find it in the basement section tucked in a corner. It's the headhunting section. No English here. Cover up? You tell me... Posted by Picasa

Dumb Donald Alive and Well on Orchid Island

Hey hey hey! Remember the Fat Albert cartoon on Saturday morning TV? Well, I was visiting the ShunYi Aboriginal Museum across from the Palace Museum and I saw this. It looks exactly like Dumb Donald that character from the cartoon!

This is actually the warrior outfit of the aborigines who live on Orchid Island, a South-East island of Taiwan.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 7, 2006

7Eleven is Taiwan's Wal-mart

I think a lot of people are amazed at the number of 7Elevens that they find here in Taiwan. Some are indeed right across from each other. Others can be found in concentrations of 3 or 4 a block.

Although the most obvious story, this is not the bigest story. 7Eleven is probably the most efficient chain store in Taiwan. Its supply chain is, in my opinion, unsurpassed. Take these things into consideration.

They have point of sale computers that can register depleted stock immediately. Add to this a daily delivery chain and you have a powerhouse. That's called one degree of separation.

Let me give you an example. You buy an item. The cashier scans the barcode and it immediately is registered in a networked database (the same way that all 7Eleven's have networked LCDs at the cash that display ads - networked so that all stores get tailored advertising from the center). 7Eleven central can then send an order to the supplier to get more stock and ship in the next day to the store. That's efficiency: customer satisfaction from not having enough stock, no over stock at the warehouse. Just think of that the next time you see the clerk walking around the store with a PDA checking stock.

As back home in Canada, convenience stores are getting into services like postal outlets. It pays to have that 24 hour convenience. Taiwan does not have postal outlets yet but they do have some other amazing services. You can buy phone cards and MRT cards you can pay most utility and credit card bills under $20 000 at any location (other convenience stores too). It's not just Slurpees and hot dogs anymore baby(Taiwan also has steamed buns and tea eggs)!!!

7Eleven also offers catalog orders for things as diverse as books, birthday cakes, holiday and seasonal foods and things like iPods. Yes, Apple iPods!!! It's all using the efficiency of the chain supply network. Order your item online and Uni-President, operator of 7Eleven in Taiwan and operator of COSMED and Starbucks here not to mention having its own line of products, will ship it using their ready-made suplly chain to the 7Eleven nearest you so, basically, around the block in no time flat!

7Eleven is at the forefront of advertising and promotion here too. It just recently concluded an extremely successful Hello Kitty magnet and button campaign that all other convenient stores have copied but have yet to match. It was brilliant. When the shopper bought $77 or more of products, they got a Hello Kitty magnet. It was extremely popular with the trendy Taiwanese kids and adults alike. 7Eleven even manufactured and sold magnet boards to display the collections of magnets. At one point there were even private magnet swap meetings to trade magnets and complete collections!

And that $77. How did they choose that amount? Well, contrary to popular thinking, it has nothing to do with the name 7Eleven although it was 'convenient'. It was arrived at from looking at the point of sale numbers in the database. Through a 'simple' calculation it was determined that sales could be increased by getting people to buy this amount. To understand this you need to know that most lucrative sale in 7Eleven is with drinks (one of Uni-Pres' important products). On the average a drink might cost between $20 and $25. So in order to get the magnet, customers had to buy more than 3 drinks and go well over $77. So the incentive worked amazingly and drastically boosted sales. 7Eleven was mopping the floor with the competion!

An interesting aside: 7Eleven is called that since its original operating hours where from 7am to 11pm. How things have changed! As 'The World is Flat" author Thomas L. Friedman would say, that's 365-24-7 convenience, especially in Taiwan's case!

One final thing, remember to keep those receipts (from any business) for the big (free) lottery. The government wants to keep businesses honest with their taxes by having them issue receipts for all purchases. Give them a hand and have fun (good luck) with the draw at the same time. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Giving Haagen-Dazs a run for the money!

For those not in the know Haagen-Dazs is American ice cream and not from Europe. Don't believe me?

It's just a scam to get you to think it's European I suppose to cash in on the foreign allure ("Oh! European cars are so much more sophisticated than American ones..."). Well it seems to work.

Getting to my point... There's a new guy in town and his name is Bigtom. And he may just have the right stuff to kick Haagen-Dazs' ass out of Taiwan (much like Baskin Robbins left the Taiwan market). (It's from Texas)

Here are the good points. The high quality ice cream is cheap by comparison to HD at $165 for 2 scoops (and no service charges). The ice cream is delicious and has all the flavors you love plus a few local novelties such as my favorite, blueberry and ginger flavor.

What it doesn't have working for it is exposure or advertising. It's hard to find . It's actually along the side of the SYS Memorial with a great outdoor patio with an amazing Taipei 101 over a pond view (in the picture you can see the Taipei 101 tower in the background)!

Definitely check out this little slice of heaven! And maybe before you go, take in Aunty Su's Pizza across the street for some deep dish pizza too! Posted by Picasa

Monstrosity or Taipei's Response to Dali???

You can find this new building out near where they are building the NeiHu MRT line behind the Miramar. It's called Wu Jiao Chuan Ban which rougly translates as Five Cent (Piece) Boat Deck.

Opinions are already a little mixed about this one. I think it's fine. God knows it's a break from the swimming pool tile that seems to cover a lot of the buildings in Taipei. Other's see a little Dali here.

On the other hand, some purists think it's an eyesore. If you've ever been to Indian Jurassic Restaurant, a Chinese restaurant on BaDe Road, and have seen their decor, you might see some common tackiness (Indian is decorated with large stumps for chairs, dinosaur rib cages and bones and has a North American Indian motif to boot!). It must be hell to clean the Taipei dust with all these nooks and crannies!!!

Well, check it out when your in the neighborhood.

If you want to check out Indian too, here are a load of suggestions fromt the AmCham: Posted by Picasa

Share IslaFormosa on Facebook


Haven't found what you want?


Total Pageviews

RSS Subscribe Now!