Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Water sports anyone?

Two stories about being around or in the water and this all within days of Matsu's birthday.

One is funny, both are serious.

A fisherman gets his balls zapped by lightning:

Taitung angler's genitals struck by lightning
"Doctors said that Chen had some 20 percent of his body burnt, and remained conscious, adding that they would conduct further examinations to see if Chen's sex ability is undermined or not.

Weathermen said that as the thunderstorm would linger in Taitung area, people had better not expose themselves to the open space."


The second story is about a scuba diving crew that got separated from their boat. After being reported missing searchers went looking for them. After not being found, one of the divers actually swam back to the Taiwan mainland:

All divers saved after 40 hours
" 'My thirst kept me going,' said Ting, who was finally able to reach shore on his own power at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night. A diving trainer, Ting was being washed north by the Kuroshio, or the Japan Current, from Seven Stars Rock, some 20 miles south of Oluanpi, for 36 hours before he came close to Tamali, near Taitung on the other side of southern Taiwan."


Matsu seems to be watching out for poor Taiwan souls...

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Mounted Police of Taipei County

Saw these guys in Yingko a while back and caught them there again this weekend.

Very striking, very interesting, totally copied from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, right down to the red uniforms and hats (the sunglasses are a nice touch dude and let's not forget how nice it is to see a policewoman in uniform and in the saddle!)

From there being little or nothing about this new type of policeman in the news and on the web, there is a lot of chatter now. (I posted a comment here way, way back asking if anyone had any info about them. You can see them in the picture walking around Taipei Harbor.)

China Post
Taipei Times
Taiwan Review

"There are presently 40 male officers and 12 females on the mounted police team.

Their daily patrol territories cover the more populous districts in the county, extending from Danshui Fishermen's Wharf, to Yinge township that is noted for ceramic art works, museums, and other tourist spots.

Mounted police have the advantage of patrolling terrain districts that are difficult for the police vehicles to comb."

Other cities are getting in on the bandwagon: "To promote tourism, the Kaohsiung County Government has recently organized a mounted police team."

Here is one worrisome thing: "Captain Huang Hsin-wei of the mounted police team said it is rather safe for people if they avoid standing behind the horses."

Some people were actually doing just that and I told my wife than if one odd-ball (note the guy standing behind in the first picture) wasn't careful, he or she might get booted by the hind legs.

How do you spell lawsuit? Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

And what will this all bring? Well more tourists for sure. It may just fuel a new horse riding trend in Taiwan. Hell, we might even see a musical ride soon!

Here are some more pics of the police from my Picasa dating back to April of 2006:

Some riders on the beach in DanShui at sunset:

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Banana Peel Flowers

This flower looks innocuous but it is a menace.

In Taipei it falls on the sidewalks here in Taipei, especially on Fushing South Road. It grows high on the trees that line the sidewalks.

And why the fuss? Well, they're as slippery as banana peels if you step on one and you can wipe out if you're not careful.

Seems like a strange kind of flower for the city to have growing near sidewalks.

They're called 木棉花 or bombax ceiba or commonly 'tree cotton' or 'cotton tree'.

According to the Wikipedia: "The cotton in the husks were used a substitute of cotton. Its flower was a common ingredient in Chinese herbal tea." wiki

I'm going to call it 'banana peel flower tree'.

Cheese problems at Subway

I just encountered the food shortage problem at Subway today.

I noticed that when they made a large sub, they used to put 4 slices of cheese on. Lately they have only been putting 2. I thought this might just be the location that I went to. However, my friend also had the same experience at another location.

So today I asked what was going on. The girl there told me that their cheese came from Australia and that, because of drought, the cows weren't producing as much milk as usual. Also they pointed me to a fax that was posted. It said that the cheese problem was due to crops being shifted to ethanol production. With ethanol being so hot, more crops like corn are being planted to meet the demand and that means other land is being taken out of use for solely food production, for growing vegetables and fruit and raising animals.

I'm not sure what the clear connection is but the food shortage problem is in line with what has been happening in other parts of the world.

Oil prices have reached $117 a barrel. Egypt is trying to stem riots over the price of flour for breads and pasta. Vegetables in Taiwan are getting more and more expensive (this also happens after floods and typhoons because of crop damage). Even vegetable oil, a main staple of Chinese cooking,is creeping up. Things everyone took for granted are being affected.

If conversion to ethanol is really the problem then here is the crux of the environmental movements problem. Drastic changes like this have destabilizing effects as investors gauge the new value of the crops for fuel. And besides, is ethanol really a decent solution or even a stop-gap measure?

Oil and electricity prices have been capped until May 20. What happens after that is anyone's guess. Suddenly, that fourth nuclear reactor for Taiwan doesn't seem like such a bad idea. I wonder if the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) folks will soften under such energy need pressures. Would you rather have coal or prohibitively expensive and sometimes impractical alternative energy (wind, solar, hydro) which amount to just a trickle of what the country needs?

There are some difficult decisions to be made. For now, I decide to let those two extra slices of cheese go and pay the same price so I guess I'm doing my part.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Taipei Tourism... Second Take?

Of highlight on this TOUR.I.SM MAP (Is this an S&M plug?):

Memorial Hall of Father of China
Fashion World
Former Highest Building (101 but not very flattering)
WC (Yes, public washrooms are an attraction!)
Motel's Love (No idea what this means... heh heh!)

Check out the third pic. Is it a bird? Is it a spoon? Is it a tower? No, it's a bird!

(click on any of the pics for a larger view!)

Ok, ok, I guess by now you might have read the Chinese explanation below. Although this might just be a exhibition of artwork, it still is amusing, especially since it's displayed in a very public area behind the Natural History Museum.

Either it's a comment about what Taipei tourism is like in reality or it's a collection of the creators personal favorites.

Either way, it makes us think.
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This is why we teach...

This has been the source of laughter around the office...

... found in Taipei Times no less.

(click on images for larger view)

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Focusing on Taipei Tourism

I found these posters behind the Museum of History beside the Horticultural Gardens.

Created by Japanese Nobuo Takamori for The Institute of Chinese Taipei's Tourism, they obviously focus on what attracts Japanese tourists.

The highlights?
The Amazing Snake Killing Show (HuaXi Street)
The Fat Bamboo (Taipei 101)
The Best School (???)
The Statue of Dictator in the Best School (???)
The Former Erotic Taipei
The Erotic Taipei

The last two speak for themselves.

(Click on the pictures for a larger view. Sorry for the glare from the glass.)

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Frankie's Pies and More

Here's a little plug for a friend of mine. He runs a pie shop (not fruit pies though...).

I can vouch for the food. It's decent, authentic and tasty.

We wish him well in his business venture!

Frankie's Pies and More
Open 7 days a week 11:00 to 23:00.

How to get there:
Go to Tinghsi MRT Station (Yellow Line) Exit 2. Turn left, at traffic lights turn left again. You are now in Wen Hua Rd.

Yong He City, Wen Hua Rd, #31
Google Maps link

On the menu:
Pepper steak $95
Vegetables and Cheese $80 (completely vegetarian, no egg)
Chicken and Cheese $85
Chicken Curry $85
Chicken and Mushroom $80
Italian Steak $95

Hamburger $80 (Homemade pork patty)
Chicken burger cheese $80
Burger Chicken Ole $80

Quiche $60/slice ( New flavors daily)

Salads big $60 Small $40

Chips $35 (Frankie's own special flavoring)

Deep Fried Chicken, Salad, thai sauce $90

A message from Frank:
This is just to give you an idea of what we are doing at the moment. We have sets available and much more is coming.

Hope to see you soon.

Frank Thiart

Thank you so much for your support.

Contact info:

Facebook link:

Monday, April 14, 2008

McDonalds will do anything...

... to get the S.H.E. girls into tight fitting red leather... for promotional reasons of course.

Come to think of it, I know a few people who would also (well at least the two on the right).
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Monday, April 7, 2008

On subtitles and dubbing

Subtitles happen to be very accepted in Taiwan as a way to bridge the gap between Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka speakers. This is not to mention helping people understand the Cantonese spoken in HK movies, as well or the myriad of English, Japanese and Korean shows and movies.

They also have the added benefit of allowing people to watch TV with the volume off. To see this, watch the people looking at silent TVs through windows or in noisy public places where you wouldn't be able to hear due to the background volume anyway. Gyms are a good case in point. With all the whirring and thumping machines, TVs for exercisers to watch attached to their machines have the sound turned off. Though I wish I could read the characters fast enough!

This being said, there are also the occasionally dubbed shows. One of the most hilarious, from a Western point of view, is a Taiwanese soap opera I saw with a Korean star. She acts in Korean and has her part dubbed while all the other stars speak Mandarin! Why you may ask? Because she has star power and the pretty face, in this case, goes farther than the words. I won't say anything about the quality of the acting...

I can speak for many English speakers when I say that we, by and large, get turned off by foreign language films with subtitles. And the English language movie producers and distributors have noticed. Many a foreign film have been remade in Hollywood English for that very reason (Femme Nikita, The Ring, etc...).

Speaking of subtitles, if you want a good laugh, the clips that I include in this article are a classic. The link below is to Revenge of the Sith subtitles from a Chinese pirated CD which feature "a direct english translation of the chinese interpretation of what the script was saying", that is, translated from English (no subtitles) into Chinese and then translated from that Chinese back into English (with English subtitles as if we need them!).

Strangely, I am captivated by these subtitles.

Taiwan is (still) Yahoo country

PC World writes that Yahoo has been 'dethroned' in Taiwan as top portal. Well... sort of...

Taiwan has been one of Yahoo's gems for at least seven years. The reasons are that Yahoo initially combined with local portal Kimo here and quickly built up its Chinese services. Google on the other hand has been slow to do this but may be catching up.

This makes me think of Facebook as well as, although popular for expats living here, it is out of touch with locals need to have a Chinese version (BTW, Facebook noticed that I had Mandarin written in my profile and sent me a message to help translate their features so I assume that a Chinese version is in the works).

Yahoo's portal provides Taiwanese with such popular things as (duh!) searching but also translation and dictionary tools, shopping and the auction sections (which beat Ebay in Taiwan as well). I guess it pays to be first in line with Chinese services since locals are not too keen on learning the English interfaces, which became all too apparent when I tried to introduce my brother-in-law to Google's wide array of services in Beta that have not been translated to Chinese. He scratched his head and proclaimed it too hard to understand (although he'll gladly buy and read a Chinese magazine that will walk him through his Japanese language menus and dialog in his PS2 and Wii games!!!)

I guess people get turned off the English instructions and menus in much the same way as Americans dislike foreign language films with subtitles unless it is unavoidable or there is some kind of overriding incentive to it all (read 'be the first to know and use the knowledge').

According to the article, Yahoo has been unseated by Wretch. Not much of a victory though since Yahoo had the foresight to purchase Wretch last year. What's interesting is that it is still at a .cc address which I have written about here:

internet domains

"In video posting sites, Taiwan's I'm TV beat out YouTube for the top spot in Taiwan."
Maybe I shouldn't be suprised. Once again, it needs to be translated into Chinese in order to get locals' attention in a big way.

Talking purely about search engines, the article had this to say:
"The U.S. version of Google ranked first among search engines, and 14th overall, while Google Taiwan came in second."

Look out Yahoo. Guess who's aiming for #1.

pc world article

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Treaure Hill is a mess

I went to see what Treasure Hill was all about. Treasure Hill is the squatters' village that runs down the other side of the hill at the edge of the GongGuan water filtration plant (if you don't get it, see my Picasa page below that is tied into Google Maps).

I have to say that it was a little disappointing as it is under construction. Large areas have been blocked off . I managed to get into the construction area and take a walk up one of the lanes. It seems a lot of the houses have been vacated and have been gutted and/or some torn down.

Villagers are living in temporary green barrack type buildings while the renovation and rejuvenations are going on. I asked one woman there and she told me the time frame may be as long as 2 years before completion.

Once complete it will be nice as there is a great view of the river and a little creek runs nearby. The village also has a pleasant Buddhist temple. It also seems that there will be a way for villagers and passersby to ride or walk onto the riverside bike path as well.

I've posted some pics of what it looks like now here:

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Printed T's are all the rage this season!

And that means one thing: nonsensical English!

Here's a typical sampling of what I have seen so far:

a) A guy standing in the subway with a baseball jacket on. Written on the back in huge letters was "DORK".

b) At Giordano, a silver t-shirt with a telephone design. Written underneath was the dark message "Suicide Hotline. Please Hold the Line." (click on the t-shirt stand pic for a larger view and you can see the telephone shirt on the far right)

c) At Baleno, a green men's t-shirt emblazoned with "These are Real! The t-shirt is fake."

Boy! I think we're going to have a field day this spring!
Have fun shopping!
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Various GongGuan Art and Grafitti

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Friday, April 4, 2008

U2 (3D) is coming...

Details are sketchy but it looks like Taiwan will get U23D very soon.

This is a 3D movie of one of their concerts made by National Geographic in South America.

UPDATE: I just went to Living Mall today to buy tickets. It's a 3 day event, 4/11 to 4/13 so don't miss it. If you buy two tickets for $640 they'll throw in a U2 3D mug as well.

Here is a link to the times:

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