Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lessons from Beijing

Watching the Olympics it's interesting to note how different countries and different races excel in different area of sport.

And it's obvious that Asians are good at several sports. I think the implications are clear for Taiwan. Put more emphasis on exercise, sport and health and you can get results.

Since I have been living in the Taipei area, my judgment is based on what I have seen here. People do a lot of sports and exercise through high school but it all falls off in university. Once students reach the workforce, they are mostly couch potatoes.

Girls turn to makeup and high heels and boys turn to their computer monitors and video games.

Women worry about building muscles but don't realize that exercise can tone and tighten flabby body parts. They go on no-eating diets which are not really even diets at all. But their slim bodies for the most part put on the extra weight they so fear in their 30s.

They also try to maintain their pristine white skin by staying indoors explaining it away with "one white hides three darks". In fact, this expression, which is used to justify staying as white as possible, harks back to times when having dark skin meant that you came from a working background (ex. working outside in the fields as a poor farmer). It separated you from the rich and pampered who never had to work under the beating sun. It's hardly the case in modern society Taiwan. God knows people need to get active outside more rather than less.

Men are not afraid of getting a little dark. However, the white collar workers sit in cubicles and their cars relatively motionless. On the weekends, they huff and puff with a baby on their back in the park or take naps in department stores as their wives and kids shop on. As for the
blue collar workers, they do backbreaking work but smoke heavily and sometimes drink excessively as do some of their white collar counterparts.

The point is that people never look back at their healthier earlier selves to discover what they need to do differently. They largely become lethargic and lazy. And although there are some noticeable exercisers they are the exception rather than the rule. And what is the root cause? Well, it's a mixture of long overtime work hours, terrible commutes, a more and more unhealthy diet which are sometimes unavoidable. However, mostly little or no emphasis on exercise past a certain point in Taiwanese's lives is a big factor as well.

Taiwanese can be better at sports and exercise in general. This is clear. However, if Taiwan wants more gold or any kinds of medals to push their international recognition status, they have to somehow change the general later life mindset against exercise. You can maintain (at least) your shape with healthier eating AND regular exercise and being active. This is the message that needs to get across.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We know Chinese Taipei is really Taiwan

So far 2 bronze medals for Taiwan female weightlifters.

Follow all the Olympic medal counts here:

Taiwan's medal count here:

Taiwan Olympic history here:

Monday, August 11, 2008

My 10NT's worth

In Canada, one of the first things I noticed was how light an shiny the coins are here compared to Taiwan's coins. The later are often scratched to hell, are filthy and weigh down in your pocket.

A quick look around the Wikipedia found this: wiki

It seems that Taiwan's silver colored coins are made with cupro-nickel (copper and nickel alloy). Aha, that explains it. Canadian silver colored coins are made with nickel, right?

Well, actually this is wrong. In fact, according to Wiki, Canadian coins
"in 2000, [...][had] plated-steel 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents coins, with the 1 cent plated in copper and the others [dollar coins] plated in cupro-nickel".

The steel in the coins seems to explain why silver-colored Canadian coins are lighter and shinier (stainless) than their Taiwan counterparts. 10NT weighs 7.5 grams while the comparably sized Canadian quarter (25 cents) only weighs 4.4 grams.

The Canadian dollar coins do seem a bit duller in comparison due to their cupro-nickel exterior which fits with how the Taiwanese coins are. Plus they are fairly heavy. If you want to see and compare this, use the pictures and the information on the above mentioned wiki pages.

eeePC for free... kind of...

There has already been some talk about other companies giving away eeePCs to people who sign up for services but this is the first I have heard of it in Canada.

It actually is questionable whether they are really 'free' as the service costs often are high. Sometime the service fees can increase the actual cost drastically.


I was watching an TV ad in Canada for the Royal Bank of Canada that offered this:
"To get your FREE ASUS Eee PC, just open a new RBC Signature No Limit Banking® Account or RBC VIP Banking® account by September 12, 2008"

However, upon further reading they really come to the point:
"Take a closer look at this all-inclusive account. For just $13.95 a month with no minimum balance required"


$13.95 is quite a but of a bank account fee! The true free eeePC remains elusive!

At least the eeePC seems to be riding high though.

A bit about banks and banking

I thought I would write a bit about going to banks in Taiwan.

The first thing is about opening bank accounts. Usually businesses you work for will ask you to open an account with a bank of their choosing, usually as close as possible to the office. They do this because banks offer them deals to open multiple accounts. This is very different than in my native Canada where people have their pay deposited in their respective banks regardless of their name or location.

By the way, on an aside note, if you are free to choose a bank then there are a multitude of small and large banks to choose from in Taiwan. However, not all are in great financial shape. Of the top banks, I would recommend China Trust. Their service is fantastic, they are open later until 5pm instead of the regular 3:30 of most banks, they have a good financial advice section (I bought foreign mutual funds when other banks turned me down!) and they are efficient in their use of depositing bank machines. On the negative side, they didn't have safety deposit boxes free (all full they said) and they don't deal with a lot of foreign currency (I couldn't make Canadian travelers cheques there although American funds were ok. I went to ICBC and they had Canadian ones.).

Speaking of foreign exchange, here's a second thing I experienced recently. As I was planning a bit of travel and the exchange rates were decent, I decided to change some money. Being a month before my departure, I did not want to leave the money lying around the house. So I purchased traveler's cheques. Traveler's cheques are, as far as I can see, little used by Taiwanese. In fact, students have mentioned that they believe Taiwanese are easy targets for thieves when compared to foreigners for the very reason that they carry cash on them. This makes sense. So it makes you wonder why they don't think of using traveler's cheques. It may have to do with older people's mistrust of them or for the general reason that they are not convenient for Taiwanese. In Asia they usually need to be changed at banks as local merchants don't recognize them (apart from perhaps hotels).

The thing that stunned me the most when I purchased my cheques they did not ask me to sign them on the spot. Although I am not too sure why this happens (the cheques themselves have a message on them to sign upon receiving) I assume that the Taiwanese use the cheques as a way to send money to people by mail. A foreign friend of mine told me something about this.

Here's how it works. You want to send money overseas. You buy the cheques and do not sign them. You put them in a letter and send them overseas. If they are lost, you call the company and have them replaced (remember you keep the receipt for the cheques with the series numbers on it in case of theft). Otherwise, when they reach their destination, the receiver signs them and countersigns them and voila the money is transferred.

Just so you know, if you decide to get traveler's cheques like a good Westerner should, there may be some fees involved. The bank I went to gave US fund cheques no charge. CAD required a one time fee of $100 no matter how much money is changed. And remember to sign at least once before cashing the cheques. Some banks won't even cash them if they see the cheques were not initially signed. Finally, although you may get away with no charge on the purchasing end, there may be bank fees on the selling end.

So there you have it. If you have any other bank stories about depositing, withdrawing, wiring money, getting a safety deposit box or whatever, drop me a line.

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