Sunday, February 21, 2010

Nurturing Kinmen's Trees

Here's a cool little story that I heard from my father-in-law about his days on JinMen island, just off the coast of Xiamen, as a soldier in the 1950s.  At that time there was serious fighting and the island was armed to the teeth with soldiers and weapons. 

He recounts that one officer had the common sense of realizing that to stay indefinitely on the island wouldn't be feasible without trees.  Without trees, he argued, keeping people on the island wasn't sustainable.  Apparently JinMen was a little barer than it looks today. 

So he made it mandatory that all soldiers planted a tree upon their tour of duty.  But that's not all.  The officer tied the well being of the soldier to the survival of the tree.  If the soldier didn't take care of and nurture his tree, he would face the consequences. I think that's a novel idea.  It's funny how enlightened (under military rule of course) thinking like this can have a positive effect for the long term of the island. 

This follows exactly with what Jared Diamond warns about in his book Collapse when describing how the culture on Easter Island collapsed after all the trees on the island were chopped down (among other things).  He also cites the case of Dominican Republic which instituted their national forest program under a dictatorship.  The Dominican Republic now has a very healthy forest system while Haiti on the other side of the shared island suffers with most of its trees chopped down.

Questions of Mixed Race and the Birth Rate

Catching up on my article material, I've been meaning on writing up this one for some time. A while ago there was a great story in TIME about a contestant for the Chinese equivalent of American Idol:,8599,1925589,00.html

In it, we are introduced to Lou Jing "Born to a Chinese mother and an African-American father whom she has never met.",8599,1945937,00.html

So there you have it. Taiwan's societal makeup is changing in ways never imagined. The question of what is Taiwanese may in fact be a moot point in a matter of years when a large portion of the population is actually a combination and well on its way to becoming quite a mixed society.

Poor Lou Jing had the unfortunate fate of facing the xenophobia that occurs in the Chinese world, especially towards people of darker skin (even in Taiwan). Here's hope that seemingly homogeneous societies like Taiwan can come to terms with a more heterogeneous future.

With that, I leave you with Liu Xin Mei (pictured). She's 4'10" and she's African/Chinese. And smokin'. What a combination!

Lessons from Taiwan's Public Health System

 I have marveled at Taiwan's Health Care System since I have lived here on the island.  It costs so little but provides so much, even, to my surprise, dental.

Basically everyone pays into the system on a monthly basis and, if you need to visit a doctor, then there is a deductible of NT$50 (unless you get one of those doctors who extra-bills).  There are some annoying things about it such as making multiple trips to the doctor (one filling at a time) and the overdoing it in the pill area (giving you massive amounts of individually packaged pills).

If you are wondering how the system came to be, read this great article that looks at the genesis of the system that exists today and its good and bad points.

"William Hsiao is a professor of economics at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of the 2004 book “Getting Health Reform Right.” He served as a health care adviser to the Taiwan government in the 1990s, when officials decided to reform that country’s health care system and to introduce universal coverage."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Have white guys got it all wrong?

"[I]s it possible that Westerners, on average, have thinking styles that make them ill-suited for the problems of the future while Asians have styles that make them better suited?"

I put this out there.  Are we doomed?  It's an interesting little debate.

Orchids are Big Business

 Orchids are quite commonplace in Taiwan.  These parasitic plants are sold in flower markets across the island.  They can be found potted in wood waste rather than the traditional soil that grows other plants.

They are also big business in Taiwan with Taiwanese businesses working to cut the cost of the flowers down and make big bucks in the process.  In fact you can find huge nurseries like the one in the pictures below run by JinChe (Gold Cart), makers of Mr. Brown Coffee and Kavalan whisky in YiLan and elsewhere.

My father would be jealous to know that our orchids at home flourish without much attention in the moist and relatively warm weather of Taiwan.

Most Expensive Fallow Fields on Earth

Found this great article about the vacant property found right facing the 101 tower that many visitors pass by and wonder about.

"Insulated from modern Taipei by a thin wall of knotweed, a gingham-shirted farmer adjusts his wellies and sprays insecticide on what, at an estimated $1.2 million (£725,000) each, are probably the most expensive cabbages on Earth."

>> Watch the video

CNY English Fail

Spot that Flag?

The Simpsons 2010 Winter Olympics episode featured a flag in the background that we all recognize if only for a few fleeting instances. Was it on purpose to piss off China? Was it a jab? Who knows?

Did Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) have anyone representing them in the Winter Olympics anyhow?
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