Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I am teaching 霖霖 how to shoot. He is learning quickly. We were winding down, his last batch of arrows. Just before he shot the last arrow, I noticed that his left hand was in the wrong position, but before I could correct him, he let fly. The arrow flew over the target, high over the hedge, and into the ravine. I heard it hit a rock. Not a problem, because these are target points, so they're not very sharp to begin with, and if I hear what the arrow hits, I have a better chance of finding it in the jungle down there.

I searched the ravine, but couldn't find it. Funny, I lined up the trajectory and looked everywhere, but it was just gone. That happens. Reminding myself to get fluorescent shafts next time, I called off the search, because it was about time for our guests to leave.

After I saw them off, I thought I'd give the ravine another quick search, coming from below this time instead of above. Within a few minutes, I found the missing arrow resting beside a rock, under a bush. Not only that, but in the bush next to the rock, I also found two other arrows I had given up for lost weeks ago. What's more, I realized that during my earlier search I had been within arm's reach of all three arrows, but hadn't been able to see them because of the undergrowth.

Sometimes when you have a problem, you just have to approach it from another angle.

Ooooh, that’s deep!

Sunday, December 27, 2009








Friday, December 25, 2009



The Tayal had no metallurgy. Any metals were traded from the Chinese. A highly treasured bride-price gift was the limuq, or copper wok. In the highly symbolic imagery of Tayal lmuhu poetry, the limuq stood for a brother-in-law, probably because of its role in marriage negotiations.

Now that metal is easily obtained, old limuq are no longer treasured or even kept. Those who still have them often use them to feed chickens or dogs.

But once upon a time, a now misshapen limuq was bright and shiny, the centerpiece of wedding festivities. Maybe for years afterwards it reminded the aging couple of the happy event. Years pass, people die, and a new generation sees nothing more than a tatty, stained old wok, useful for nothing more than feeding animals. But in its day, it was glorious.

limuq collected by Watan Kahat
This one was cast brass; here he points out a thick part which 吳宗霖Gong-maker Wu patched for him.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

How the past comes back to haunt us!

When I taught at the Language Center/語言測驗訓練中心 in the late 1970s, we had a teacher named Dennis, Irish from South Boston. Dennis had trained for the priesthood, but evidently did not have the vocation, because he ended up teaching English in Taipei, and was visible from miles away. The reason was that tailors were cheap in those days, so Dennis would find the most outrageous, outlandishly loud cloth for his clothes. We always used to joke that his tailor had to wear welding goggles when he was making Dennis's clothes.

One day an advertising agency asked the Language Center for help in enlisting some "native foreigners," as we were called, for a photo shoot. We were supposed to pose as a wild rock 'n roll band playing, wearing appropriately wild clothing. I enlisted Bill, Michael, and George, but ever since I read 墨子, my taste in clothing has always been more subdued than wild: colors at least. I asked Dennis for help, and he very kindly lent me a shirt, one he wore for funerals, court engagements, and other such quiet, formal occasions.

We gathered for the photo shoot. The advertising agency especially imported a photographer from Japan. We took up our instruments: Michael on the saxophone, Bill on the drums, George and I on the guitar. Bill was the only one of us who could actually play the instrument in our hands, but it was a still shot, not a sound clip. We lined up, lights, action.. fizzle. The photographer looked perplexed. Lights, actions… fizzle… the photographer came over and held a light meter up to Dennis’s shirt, shaking his head as he watched the needle go crazy. He sighed heavily, rolled his eyes towards heaven, fiddled with the lights and his filters, and finally completed the shot.

The poster gained us a certain notoriety in Taipei in those days, and I had to explain many, many times that that was NOT MY SHIRT!
I thought the past was gone and buried, until recently I got in touch with Bill again after many decades, and found that he still had a copy of the infamous poster. I reproduce it here in sign of my sincerity to be honest about my past.

And don't forget, that was NOT MY SHIRT!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009





I am not a horseman in the Light Brigade: mine is not to do or die, mine is but to wonder why.

Deng Xiaoping was nobody's fool. He was a master at enduring setbacks and delaying gratification, he was capable of taking a long view on events, he led China towards a freer society. Why, then, did he call in the tanks at Tienanmen?

Perhaps it was a panic reaction. When the Cultural Revolution was getting out of hand, and the Red Guards were starting to rampage, Chairman Mao sent Deng and Liu Shaoqi to Beijing settle things down. It soon became apparent that the Red Guards (almost entirely students, high school students at first) were set up by Mao to bring down Deng and Liu, who were both tortured. Liu was then the leader of government, but the Red Guards tortured him to death. Nobody knows how many died during the Cultural Revolution, but certainly tens of millions at least, and China was set back a generation.

Twenty some years down the road, when Deng was the leader of the government, the students took to the streets. Maybe Deng panicked and thought that ensuing havoc would kill millions more and set back all the progress he had so painfully made.

I am not excusing Deng and I am not excoriating him. I simply wonder why.

Thursday, December 17, 2009





Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The blogosphere has been just that little bit less contaminated lately, as I have been busy preparing teaching material for my new course which I am starting in January (聽說如意) and haven't had time to write.

But I have been alert. I recently collected this great quote:


"If one person is about 1.5 meters tall, two people would be three hundred meters."

Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

You just gotta love bureaucrats. Obama promised government transparency and openness, right? So they are having a workshop on openness. Only catch is, it's closed to the public.

Read all about it::here:::

Sunday, December 06, 2009


本局新聞稿 (98年12月新聞稿)


Thursday, December 03, 2009




Wednesday, December 02, 2009

1PM ...Well, I Don't Mean It in a Sexually Harassing Way, Sir...
Trainee: This customer is mad because we won't cover an accident that happened before he was insured with us. He won't stop yelling!
Trainer: Ha! He's gonna have to suck eggs on that one! Sucks for him. But seriously, go through the facts and dates with him and explain why we won't cover it. Stay calm and apologize. You can do this!
Trainee, to customer: Thank you for holding. This... uh... Okay. My manager says you have to suck eggs, I'm sorry.

Riverview Parkway, San Diego
via Overheard in the Office, Nov 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A violent killer sentenced to 95 years in prison in Arkansas has allegedly killed four Seattle policeman. What, you ask, why wasn't he in prison in Arkansas? We need the Republicans to stop all these left-wing shenanigans, these bleeding-heart liberals who aren't tough enough to take pride in law and order!

Softly, softly. The convict was pardoned by the governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, once Republican contender for the presidential nomination.

But all is well: On Sunday, Huckabee issued this statement on his Web site: "Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington state."

Isn't that beautiful? As we say in Chinese, 推得很乾淨, he pushed that one away from himself very cleanly. It’s not Huckabee's fault he pardoned a deranged violent criminal, it's the fault of the criminal justice system, and not just in Arkansas, but in Washington state too!

Pardon me while I vomit.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I was recording a flock of 白喉笑鶇 (白喉噪眉) White-throated laughing thrush (Garrulax albogularis) that was passing by. As I tried to record them, the dogs started singing.

I have other clips of the dogs singing on YouTube click here::

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tnaq tasiq loziq na itan



One time when I was in college, in the early 70s, I was coming out of the high mountains in central Taiwan and met a group of Tayal coming back from shopping in town. Every one laughed when they saw me; something was going on. Towards the rear of the group was an old lady with traditional face tattoes ~ and very untraditional green eyes. We all laughed and they said, "See, her eyes are the same as yours!" Balay!

I never figured out if she had cataracts or her eyes were naturally green. She couldn't speak Mandarin, and I couldn't speak Tayal then, and anyway everybody was laughing too hard. Before I could figure it out, everybody waved and we went our separate ways.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Not necessarily.

Columbia guy: So my friend has this idea for our project to put generators on playground equipment that could let kids power the lights in the park. I told him my only problem with it is: what if we end up electrocuting the kids accidentally? That would be really bad.

--1 Train Overheard by: Nathan

Monday, November 23, 2009





一個很奇怪的現象:同一行,甚至同一嗜好的人,往往有共同點,而斯共同點,超越時空、國籍。大凡,律師文筆不好。臺灣律師文筆之差,早已證明。例如,英文的intellectual property rights,在臺灣居然將intellectual翻成「智慧」,多荒謬!智慧,是經過多少事、多少反省而修出的結晶,絕不同于人家發明新機器、寫書、作曲的智力或知識。Gilbert Hyatt發明microprocessor,非常聰明,但與「智慧」扯不上邊。

所以,大陸翻「知識產權」,合理多了。真希望臺灣依樣可以改正。…. 不太可能吧。嗌。


這就犯了第二條。英文字的詞性很清楚,中文則未必。為了顯示這是動詞,所以英文加字尾~ize;嚴格說,這種文筆本來就不漂亮,很多~ize字尾的字,極為笨拙,如finalize, pressurize, privatize, colorize, prioritize,都是極不優美的英文,少用為妙。但無論如何,英文確須詞性。若說詞性,「除」已表明動詞,所以「除罪化」的「化」,是多餘的。



Sunday, November 22, 2009

In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, you may purchase an assault rifle, but you are not permitted to hang your laundry out to dry. The main logic behind that is that civilized neighbors should have enough money to buy a dryer, and anybody who wants to dry laundry in the sun, for an environmentally friendly, fresh smelling wash, must be trailer trash, so rules, regulations, and ordinances abound to prohibit such uncouth behavior. here:::

Don't ask me to explain it, it doesn't make any sense to me, either.

But it does bring to mind that golden moldie,
We had joy, we had fun, we had laundry in the sun~

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This blog is a veritable lode of useful information. I bet you have always been wondering:::
how long would the Golden Gate Bridge be if you measured it in Oreo cookies?

I know you've been sitting up late into the night wondering about this, allow me to inform you that the Golden Gate bridge is 28,800 Oreo cookies long. This is calculated on an average cookie size of 44mm diameter, and 8mm thick.

Thank dog that's answered! Now you may thank me for allowing you a good night's sleep, at last. Maybe you can dream about having 28,800 Oreos to eat. Burp.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

overheard on the subway: What are friends for?

High school boy to buddy: "He's just like you, he looks ridiculous."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Concerning polyphony (music with more than one musical part playing at a time), Daniel J Levitin says, "The Catholic Church banned music that contained polyphony, fearing it would cause people to doubt the unity of God."

Sounds superstitious? But then, consider that in our music now we have polyphony, quadrophony, harmony, and cacophony, people doubt not only the unity of god, but the existence of god.

So maybe they had a point. But I'll stick with polyphony, thanks a lot.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Profound gratitude to Dicki and Val from the Boston Children's Foundation who came to Taiwan to hold a workshop on Dance Movement Therapy / 舞蹈治療, in particular treating the trauma of little children who survived the floods and landslides of Morakot typhoon. The Foundation paid for their travel expenses and they held the workshop gratis, training thirty therapists in the Rainbowdance, who will soon begin working to help those children.

Friday, November 06, 2009

While I was shooting today, one arrow skipped on the top of the target and flew off into the ravine. I haven't found the arrow yet, but I did find a complete turtle shell and carapace. A good sign.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009








A couple of years ago, a tribal elder named Oro asked me, "Yugan, is the moon less bright than it was before?"

"How long ago do you mean, Oro? A couple million years ago, maybe."

"No, I feel that the moon is not as bright as it was when I was young. When I was young, I could walk from the Tribe to my hut at nighttime with only the moonlight, on mountain paths, through the jungle, and I could see fine, but I can't do that now. Maybe the moon isn't as bright as it was before."

"Ao, Oro, it may be age. When we read or look at things close up, we need reading glasses, because when you get older, your eyes don't absorb light as well as before."

"No, Yugan, my eyes are fine. I think the moon isn't as bright as it was before."

"That's only been a couple decades, the moonlight wouldn't change that quickly. I feel, now every night we have electric lights, maybe our eyes now are used to electric lights, so we can't see clearly without electric lights."

"Ao, balay, that makes sense! When I was young, we didn't have electricity, and I had never even seen a flashlight. Now there are electric lights everywhere. No wonder we can't see clearly at night."

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Tayal driver, commenting on a dog lying in the middle of the road: "He's never been to school, so you have to yield to him."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

There truly is a silver lining to every cloud. Poor Iceland suffers from financial crises and mismanagement, but on the bright side, due to all those difficulties, the McDonald's franchise in Iceland is going out of business. This is sure to improve Icelanders' health.

Interesting to note that the first person to eat a Mickey D's junkburger in Iceland, then Prime Minister Oddsson, was also forced out of office by his incompetence in handling the financial crises which have almost bankrupted his country. But then, nobody ever called McDonald's brain food.

Sunday, October 25, 2009















曾子想的孝順,順多于孝,以為父母之言不敢違、乖乖聽父母的話就是孝,所以孝經記錄,曾子問孔子,「敢問子從父之令,可謂孝乎?」子曰:「是何言與,是何言與!昔者天子有爭臣七人,雖無道,不失其天下; 諸侯有爭臣五人,雖無道,不失其國;大夫有爭臣三人,雖無道,不失其家;士有爭友,則身不離於令名;父有爭子,則身不陷於不義。則子不可以不爭於父,臣不可以不爭於君;故當不義,則爭之。從父之令,又焉得為孝乎!」






Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yumin has been climbing trees again.

I reported on this blog last year that Yumin treed a kitty-cat and then tried to climb up after it.

This morning we were awakened by the racket of Byajing's barking in the ravine out front. I went out to investigate and found Tlahuy and Byajing craning their necks at a kitty high in the tree, and Yumin muscling his way up. He's actually got good climbing form. He uses pressure on his back to force his way upwards, but unluckily for him, luckily for the cat, the branches branch apart before he can get close to the perched cat.

I finally asked Sabiy to go get some dog treats. Then I lifted Yumin off the tree, and carried him away. Tlahuy and Byajing followed, and we gave them all treats and praise. The plan was to give the cat time to slip away.

Notice that Tlahuy and Byajing just stay earthbound and hope gravity will bring Cat to Dog, but Yumin exerts his powerful imagination and physique to bring Dog to Cat ("If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad…") You can't help but admire his imagination! Yumin was unable to go too high because the branches separated, removing his friction. But what if he found a tree which enabled him to go all the way up to the cat's perch? I'm sure the cat wouldn't stick around, but I worry about how Yumin would get down.

That would be a terribly embarrassing phonecall to have to make: "Hello, fire station, could you please send someone over, my beagle has climbed up a tree and he can't get down…"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This morning the trees were full of raucous birds. I recorded three sets and posted them on flickr. In the first, you can hear 樹鵲 tree pies and 藍鵲 blue magpies staking claim to the large tree out front, while to the right, a flock of 笑鶇 laughing thrushes trill in warning. Other birds also sing in the background. The birds flit back and forth among the branches. A blue magpie takes a strategic perch on a branch.

City dwellers are highly recommended to watch and listen to all three, to recall the wonders of our world, and to cleanse the soul.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Today Denise the Vet came to give the dogs their annual shots. Yumin HATES to have shots ~ I think it's the indignity of it all that distresses him, because he is generally impervious to pain. He remembers Denise, no doubt about that at all! He wouldn't come near her, so I told her to stay indoors while I coaxed Yumin over. I took a firm grip on his collar and held him while Denise gave him his shots. Then Yumin at a brisk pace trotted as far away from us as he could get and still remain on our property, by the front gate, sat down, and waited to be comforted.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Typhoon Parma should get an award for Most Persistent Typhoon.
Now go away, please!

Monday, October 12, 2009







"Yugan, do you get a lot of mosquitoes at your place?

"Where in Wulai aren't there a lot of mosquitoes?"

"Then you should burn mosquito coils."

"Doesn’t work."

"Yes it does! Mosquito coils do work, because the mosquitoes can't stand the smell, so when they fly, they pinch their noses shut. That way, they lose their balance, and if they can't fly well, they can't bite people so well."

"Yeah, right, they can't fly, so they walk up and bite you."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

We all sleep easier when we remember how the Republicans and the Christian Right are protecting everybody’s morals. These are people who take strong moral stands, believe in the sanctity of marriage and the family, and man the bastions against divorce and pornography.

The latest Republican candidate for Vice President, ex-Governor Palin, was so proud of being absolutely right on all moral issues that her unmarried teenage daughter got pregnant. The father of Palin’s grandfather, who of course has long since broken up with Bristol Palin, is now working out at the gym. Reason? To get in shape, because he is going to pose nude for Playgirl magazine. Here:::

Hurrah for Christian Republic morals and good old-fashioned hypocrisy!

Monday, October 05, 2009


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Of all the holidays on the calendar, Western or Chinese, the only one I really celebrate is 中秋節, the Mid Autumn Festival, October 3 this year by the solar calendar. The main activities for the Mid Autumn Festival are admiring the Harvest Moon and eating mooncakes, yum yum!

I love this holiday because a} it means the torrid, muggy Taiwan summer is just about over and relief is in sight; b} the moon is beautiful; c} isn't it beautiful to have a national holiday for nothing more political or religious than admiring the moon: and finally, most important, d} mooncakes, yum yum!

This is the theory, mind you. The day before yesterday, it started raining. The weather has been cloudy all week, because we have two typhoons bearing down on us. Yesterday, the big day, it rained all day, and it's still raining now.

What can you do under such circumstances? First, we moved our tea drinking indoors from the porch. Yum yum, 民國八十四年珍藏的普洱,現在大約四、五十年 + mooncakes. Rather than admire the Harvest Moon, we admired our beloved 臺灣土狗Taiwan tugo Byajing, the Canine Moon.

Explanation: 'byajing' is Tayal for 'moon.'

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Polanski is a movie director I had a certain sympathy for, after the Mason gang murdered his pregnant wife. But sympathy goes only so far, not so far as rape or pedophilia. Polanski has lived in France for many years as a fugitive from justice, evading sentencing for raping a 13 year old girl. He was arrested when he left France and went to Switzerland. The French government has protested his arrest.

Double standards, says I. I cannot imagine the French government speaking up for a low-paid, uneducated, unknown African accused of any crime. Polanski should not be above the law just because he is a rich movie maker. It is hard to believe that France is such a perfect society that the government can find no more productive outlets for their efforts than protecting a rapist and pedophile. I can't believe that they have no more pressing issues to deal with.

Unless I am severely mistaken, Polanski is a Polish name. According to Reuters, Poland has approved a law making castration mandatory for pedophiles. Maybe Mr Polanski would like to visit the homeland of his ancestors?

Monday, September 28, 2009

My father, the son of Serbian immigrants, was raised in Donora, a Pennsylvania steel town where Slavs were looked down on. Slavs did the backbreaking hard work in the steel mills, that's all, and never got a chance to be promoted to higher jobs. When World War II started, Dad joined the Army, partly for patriotism (and what Serb would miss a chance to shoot a German?), partly to get out of Donora.

To his great regret, Dad had taken shorthand classes in high school, and since more men could shoot guns than take shorthand, Dad never got to go to the front. He served as Eisenhower's personal secretary in the Pentagon, and eventually earned promotion to officer. After the war, Dad was back in Donora on a visit. One of the steel mill managers shook his hand and said, "Pete, come back to the mill and we'll make you a foreman" -- an unheard-of honor for a Slav. Dad told him, "You can go to hell, I'm going to college!"

I think this was Dad's finest moment, and it reminds me of a story of my own. When I was a college freshman, I spent my Winter vacation (in January 1972) in Saigon. The ceasefire intended to end the Viet Nam War had just begun. I met a boat captain, a tough, burly hardhat about 50. He was bidding for a contract to take out the mines the US military had planted in Haiphong harbor. He needed men. This was a rare, historic opportunity, and a great adventure. I told him I was considering taking a semester off from school to join his crew. I'll never forget this rough captain shaking his head, chopping the air, saying, "Go to school! Go to school!"

He was right. In the world today, how many people have college degrees? One per cent. One out of every hundred people in the world today has a college degree. This privilege should be shouldered with honor and respect; a privilege entails a responsibility not to abuse that privilege.

Before I started my college studies (師大國文, Chinese Lit, NTNU) I went for a hike. In the mountains I encountered a Sadeq - Tayal tribesman about my age. He spoke good Mandarin, and was obviously intelligent, alert, curious. He asked about my plans. I told him that after I went back to the city I would start college. He sorrowfully, enviously told me that he wanted to continue his education, but he was too poor; his family needed what he could contribute through his meager income.

Recently I heard of an advisor in an American college saying that all he remembered from his college days were the part time jobs he held down. What a waste! What a shame! You have plenty of opportunity to work after you get out of school, take my word for it, but how many opportunities do you get to think, to learn, or to study great works of literature, art, science, or philosophy? Four years you have the opportunity to learn, to ponder great issues, to expand your imagination, to see through other people's eyes, and to squander it on football, beer, or karaoke? Self-respect alone should be enough to make the choice, to have confidence that your potential extends farther than stupid frivolity. Fun is fun, but there should be more to human potential than that.

Another frivolous abuse of the privilege to study is to fritter it away on trivial pursuits. Once I read a review of a book researching the life of a minor hanger-on to a group of minor beatniks in about 1959. Think of how much education it takes to produce someone who is capable of doing research. And to squander it on some make-work topic like THAT? Shame!

IMHO, learning and thinking are among the greatest human joys. 學而時習之,不亦樂乎? There are countless interesting ideas to play with, immeasurable concepts to intrigue and beguile your mind, infinite thoughts to pursue. What could be more fun?

So everybody join me now as we sing Happy Birthday to Confucius. 孟子說,「周雖舊邦,其命惟新’,文王之謂也」其亦夫子之謂耶。「仰之彌高,鑽之彌堅;瞻之在前,忽焉在後。夫子循循然善誘人,博我以文,約我以禮。欲罷不能,既竭吾才,如有所立卓爾。雖欲從之,末由也已。」

Today, Confucius's Birthday, take a moment to express your gratitude mentally to all of your teachers. Nothing on this earth is more wonderful than the human capacity to learn.
"America believes in education: the average professor earns more money in a year than a professional athlete earns in a whole week." - Evan Esar

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How nice. Science has finally verified that human bodies glow. Click here and here.

Aren't they a bit slow? Chinese have talked about that since before the Roman Empire existed, but hey, everybody knows science was invented by Galileo and Newton, in EUROPE, so what could the Chinese possibly contribute?

Talk about Aura photography (pioneered by Nicolas Telsa in 1891), talk about Kirlian photography, you're a nut, you're New Age, and some Professional Skeptic will jump on your case (~but of course, professional skeptics serve their egos and prejudices, not the pursuit of knowledge). They can't now, because Scientists have Verified this. Woweezowiee.

But, better late than never, I suppose.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cecilia Lindqvist林西莉著古琴的故事(2006):「幾十年前所有的琴都用絲弦,但八0年代以後,愈來愈多人開始使用有很多優點的剛絲弦或尼龍弦。…音色大大不同。…最受損失的是泛音,用絲弦時泛音顯然要長一些。對于古琴音樂而論,正是以泛音的音色繚繞為特點。」





Wednesday, September 23, 2009

a rainbow of dancers
Originally uploaded by Yugan Dali


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Of course President Obama has much on his mind, but I can't help feeling a certain disappointment that he has not gotten his priorities straight. He failed to remind the nation and the world that September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Therefore, I take it upon myself to announce this noteworthy, august event, to remind you, why is this day different from all other days? Because this is the day, my hearties, ye' talk like a fire-breathing, rough and ready pirate, and look sharp, be sprightly about it, or it's under the keel with ye', ARRGH!

here and here

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back in the days when you had your choice between Hitler and Stalin, Chiang Kai Shek invited German drillmasters to train the ragtag recruits who were trying to repel the sadistic Japanese imperialists who were killing, raping, and pillaging China.

Some of these drillmasters stayed in China through the war, and afterwards declined to return to Germany in their Nazi uniforms, so they stayed put. When Mao conquered the mainland, these drillmasters figured, correctly probably, that German drillmasters, no matter how tepid or ardent their love for Hitler and the Nazis, would not fare well under a totalitarian communist regime, so when CKS moved to Taiwan, they packed their bags and moved too.

A drillmaster is, after all, a sort of teacher, and Chinese tradition pays profound respect to teachers, so the retired drillmasters were given homes and small stipends. There were only a few, and I never heard of any training ROC forces after the move to Taiwan, but there were a few of these old Nazis around Taipei; I would guess they have all died by now.

An old German soldier lived on 信義路 not far from where I lived in the early 70s. People said he lived quietly, modestly, harmlessly, and was a voracious reader, spending his last years among piles of books.

On the other end of the spectrum was an old Nazi living on 陽明山 Yangming Mountain, on the northern edge of Taipei. In the late 70s, Dave responded to an ad for a room for rent to foreigners only, and found himself renting a room from an elderly German with a heavy accent (in English; no Chinese).

The house was of a type almost extinct, 日本平房 wooden houses built during the Japanese Occupation of Taiwan to house the occupiers. They were built in Japanese style with Western windows and outer doors. When the Japanese surrendered, the houses were taken over and, very sensibly, kept in use, until they finally succumbed to age, termites, rot, typhoons that flew off with roof tiles, and sky-high land prices that made the land they stood on far too valuable for a one storey dwelling.
If you didn't mind the mosquitoes or rats, and the mold didn't bother you, they were quite pleasant to live in. I sought them out, and lived in three or four. So when Dave saw that the address on the ad led him to a Japanese wooden house, he was pleased, paid his rent to the old German promptly, and moved in without further ado.

At the crack of dawn the next morning, Dave was startled awake by a terrific racket. Crawling out of his room to investigate, he was alarmed to see his landlord, dressed in a complete Nazi uniform, wearing boots and goose-stepping up and down the hallway of the little house, screaming "Sieg Heil!" as he snapped off Nazi rigid-arm salutes. This went on for an hour, and was continued without break every morning that Dave stayed in the house, which was not long.

Understand that part of the shock was the idea of wearing shoes indoors. No civilized person enters a house shod, much less a wooden house! Dave said the floors banged like snare drums.

The landlord's only other passion in life was his chickens. He raised dozens of chickens in cages behind the house, and over and over again he explained to Dave that "These are good chickens, and you see why? Every one of them is WHITE, jah! White is the superior color! I will NOT HAVE chickens of any other color! No black chickens for me! I KILL the black chicken!! No red chicken, no brown chicken, only WHITE chickens, because WHITE is the superior color, jah! All mine chickens are WHITE, and ONLY WHITE, PURE WHITE!!”

Dave moved out after about ten days. He didn't have much money, but he couldn’t stand to stay in that house for a day longer than it took him to find other lodgings. "I'm no Jew, but for crying out loud I just couldn't stand that old freak!" He vowed revenge. He promised himself that one night he would sneak back to the house and spray-paint all the chickens some non-Aryan color. I suggested green. Dave thought that was a pretty good idea, and delighted himself by visualizing, over and over again, how horrified Herr Nazi would be to wake up one morning and discover that all his pure white chickens had turned green overnight. Dave would imitate a heavy Cherman accent, "Mine CHICKENS! Mine chickens zey haff turnt green, vat hass happened to mine VITE chickens, jah?" Unfortunately, Dave was a man of words, not action. I volunteered to buy the paint and go help spray; what self-respecting Serbian-American would pass up a chance to spray a Nazi's chickens green? But Dave contented himself with thinking how mortified old Herr Nazi would be to discover that his chickens were green, and nothing ever came of it. Too bad.

Saturday, September 12, 2009





Thursday, September 10, 2009



Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I can't let this date go by without some notice ~ 090909 ~ hurrah for nines.

Can you stand the excitement?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Far be it from me to pretend I know (or care) anything about economics. Nonetheless, I was heartened to read the World Economic Forum's global competitiveness report, in which Taiwan ranks 12th globally, up from 17th last year, right above the UK and below Hong Kong. South Korea ranks 19th, the PRC 29th, and Serbia 93rd. Actually pretty interesting.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Overheard on the bus: 烏來線

釣客,站在公車司機後面:「前面的那一班是誰開的?我去年買的手機用了沒多久就掉了。很奇怪,為甚麼沒有人養白鷺鷥?你們公司有一台車,車牌123。我剛看到摩托車號碼345。你知道嗎?英文的「西瓜」是water melon。我過法院的時候,看到法官出來,可是沒看到犯人。現在晚霞沒有以前好看,可能是季節。你看誰比較厲害,馬祖或者超人?我頭髮前幾天剪過。如果你眼睛閉起來,有沒有辦法把車子開到臺北?現在星期天的遊客比以前多。很多老人走路用拐杖,可是我阿姨戴隱形眼鏡。你有沒有被性騷擾過?年輕人的字寫的不漂亮。聽說魏xx的車子今天保養,可是林xx今天休假。聽奧辦的很大,可是我一直搞不清楚,到底是誰參加比賽?聽障的人看得見嗎?是不是全部都連在一起?聽不見,那麼他們看得到嗎?熱天喝汽水很舒服,可是有人比較喜歡喝酒。你公車上有人心臟病發作的話,你怎麼辦?新店市公所的前一站是檳榔路,可是捷運沒有檳榔路的站。我站在你後面受不了。我下車。」




Fisherman, standing right in back of bus driver: “Who's driving the bus in front of you? Last year I bought a cell phone but before long I lost it. I wonder why nobody raises egrets. Your bus company has a bus with 123 on the license plate, and I just saw a motorcycle with 345 on its plate. Do you know how to say 'hsi kwa' in English? 'Water melon.' I went by the courthouse and saw judges coming out, but I didn't see any criminals. The clouds at sunset aren't as pretty as they used to be, maybe it's the season. Who do you think would win in a fight, Matzu (the goddess of sailors) or Superman? I got a haircut a few days ago. If you shut your eyes, could you drive all the way in to Taipei? There are more passengers on Sundays now. A lot of people walk with canes, but my aunt has contact lenses. Have you ever been sexually harassed? Young people can't write good calligraphy. I hear Wei's bus is in the garage for maintenance today, but Lin has the day off. The Deaf Olympics are really big, but I can't figure out, who is participating in them? Can deaf people see? Is everything all connected? If they can't hear, can they see? Drinking soda pop on a hot day feels great, but some people like liquor. What would you do if somebody had a heart attack on your bus? The bus stop before Hsintien City Hall is Betel Road, but the subway doesn't stop there. Standing in back of you is really uncomfortable. I'm getting off here."
Fisherman gets off bus.
Driver: "I feel dizzy."

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A lot of gesturing in Taipei these days. We are hosting the Deaf Olympics, so you see a lot of sign languages around. On my way to class, we were a bit early, so we sat in Dunkin' Donuts for some coffee and donuts. This is the Dunkin' Donuts across 忠孝西路 from Taipei Main Station. It turns out that many teams are lodging in the hotel next door. As I watched Russian athletes board their bus, and the Cuban team came back to the hotel, I couldn't help wonder at the changes.

When I was in college, I used to catch busses only a few steps from where I sat drinking coffee: a few steps, 35 years, and a million ways different. The building the Dunkin' Donuts is in was still many years in the future; when it was built, at 22 storeys, it was by far the tallest building in Taiwan, and people just off the train used to stand and gawk at it. In the early 70s, few buildings in Taiwan were over a dozen storeys. Where I waited 在騎樓下for the bus, a row of one and two storey buildings housed small stores, noodle shops, and odds and ends. The Cultural Revolution was still going on, so the slogan was 反共抗俄 Fight the Communists and Resist the Russians! Precious little chance of any Russian athletes coming to Taiwan then!

And it goes without saying that there was no Dunkin' Donuts then. That has just come to Taiwan in the last couple years, long after Reagan forced the gates open for Mickey D, American tobacco, and American liquor, which the government had not allowed, in order to protect the people's health. Mickey D, that is, not Dunkin' Donuts!!

Times have changed, and I wish the Russian team great success in the Deaf Olympics, although I have to say I hope the Cuban baseball team loses to Taiwan.



Thursday, September 03, 2009

For about 35 of the past 40 years, I have slept on tatami. In college, every time I moved to a new place I just plunked my two tatami on the floor, instant bed. Cheap, comfortable, good for your back, don't take up unnecessary space, easy to move. With care, tatami last for decades. Just don't let them get moldy, but if they do wear out, since they are mostly straw, they are highly biodegradable. Or use them as an archery target.

Last summer we were too busy to put the tatami out in the sun, and this July and August were very busy too. Last weekend, under the witheringly hot sun, looking at the weather forecast, I thought, great, sunny all next week. Even though we were busy from Thursday through Tuesday, I thought, no problem, look at the forecast, I can put them out under the strong sun Wednesday for several days, which should do the trick.

Ha ha.

Wednesday I woke up to bright sunshine. As I prepared to pull up the tatami, I noticed some clouds forming, and thought, never mind, a few clouds won't hurt.

By the time I got all eight tatami out onto the porch roof, the sun was obscured by a thick layer of clouds, but never mind, they were skimming along quickly.

Yes indeed, they were skimming along quickly, pulling along the really dark clouds behind them. At noon, I pulled the tatami back in off the roof just in time to avoid a shower. All afternoon, sunshine followed by rain sunshine rain sunshine rain. I put the tatami back down on the bedroom floor.

This morning was bright and sunny. The moment I thought, "Maybe I can sun the tatami," clouds gathered. Is there some message here?
An hour ago, the sun was shining merrily as the rain was pelting down gleefully. Which reminds me of the old English folk saying, "If it rains while the sun is shining, the devil is beating his wife with a leg of mutton." (no I did not make this up, I found it years ago in a Japanese book of Useful English Proverbs.) It doesn't make sense to me, which may be the point: sunshine rain doesn't make sense.

But there are compensations. Just now the full moon rose behind a limpid veil of mist. Happy中元.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Professor Falk has kindly replied to my comments in the previous post, concerning making slings and whatnot. Apparently, Bickerton was writing with considerable poetic license, because when Falk says "early hominids," she means really really early—in other words, before there were any tools at all (so the time span would be ~7.0-2.5 mya). Her remarks in Bickerton's book were a bit out of context.

Nonetheless, unrepentant, I still feel it very possible that tying and weaving could have been among the very earliest human technologies. Maybe intelligent really really early hominids with no tools to hack through the underbrush got snarled in vines often enough that the light bulb went off, and they thought, Hey, I can snarl other things with these vines, like my baby.

Okay, maybe not a light bulb three or four million years ago, but you get the idea. If you don't, I'll point you off into the jungle without a knife and you'll very quickly see what I mean.

And if you're not back in a couple weeks, I'll go looking for you. If I remember.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Anthropologists have long guessed that slings and carrying apparatus were among the earliest human technologies. I think this is highly probable. When you see vines tying each other, you get snarled in plant fibers, and tendrils hinder your movement, it seems apparent that an ancestor intelligent enough to invent speech and use tools should certainly have been intelligent to have gotten the idea of wrapping things together with vines, and eventually inventing knots.

But that requires you get outdoors, maybe even off the path. Professor Dean Falk, now at Florida State U, "pours scorn on the notion that baby slings were an early invention; she says if you believe that, go into any woodland and try making one out of natural materials." (quote: Bickerton, Adam's Tongue).

There are about a hundred steps from my gate down to the road. After I read Professor Falk's statement, I walked down the steps and counted five materials I could easily use to make a baby sling with nothing more than my fingers, teeth, and maybe two hours' time. If you allow me a hacking blade, more time, and a range of five minutes' walk from my house, there are at least a dozen materials I could make into baby slings without too much fuss.

Arthur C Clarke's First Law: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong." People today are so used to buying things that they have forgotten how to make them.

Exploring the Australian desert in 1861, Burke and Wills starved to death in a land where the Aborigines ate comfortably. When someone accustomed to buying ready-made products does not see available natural materials, that does not mean those materials do not exist.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Friday, August 21, 2009

Seen on a tee shirt:
Because I am dangerous
Please do not approach

Thursday, August 20, 2009



Monday, August 17, 2009

This is bizarre. 90% of paper money in the US has traces of cocaine on it. ::Click here:::

Could this be taken as a sign that far too many Americans are trying to run away from themselves?

Friday, August 14, 2009




Thursday, August 13, 2009

In my last post I discussed the American love of gadgets. If Americans love gadgets, Japanese have a positive obsession for organizing, categorizing, ranking, and stultifying. Anything the Japanese get their hands on, they have to set up rigid standards for it until they are sure it is devoid of the last shred of spontaneity.

Tea. Chinese tea is a relaxed but focused effort to enjoy the best possible brew you can make out of the tea leaves. The Japanese have formalized the tea ceremony to the point that they don't even know what swill they are drinking ~ before you write me nasty letters about that, taste Japanese tea, and then Chinese tea.

For Japanese, codification is everything. A friend who went to college in Japan said that the rival tea clubs in his university used to erupt into fisticuffs, and over what? The length of one of the tea implements, the hook to pull old tealeaves out of the pot if I remember correctly. I forget just which implement they were shedding blood over, but one faction said the handle should be two centimeters longer than the other faction's approved length, and this caused vicious brawls.

I could care less how long the implement is, just so the tea tastes good! But taste is not a consideration in 御茶道 ocha-do, the Japanese tea ceremony.

I started grade school in Illinois. We used to look forward to winter snow, so we could have snowball fights. If you grew up where it snows, you probably have similar good memories.

A good snowball fight is a lot of fun, and I can't recall anybody ever getting hurt.

The problem is, our snowball fights were spontaneous, unorganized, totally lacking rhyme or reason, and loads of fun. That is what the Japanese cannot tolerate.

The Japanese cannot tolerate spontaneity. Each winter in Hokkaido thousands of snowball teams compete in the Showa Shinzan Yukigassen, or Snowball Tournament, a carefully regulated event with rules, by-laws, and regulations up the bazootie. Seven member teams compete in three minute fights. They don't just pack the snow and fling like we used to. Their snowballs are machine made, and have to be between 6.5 and 7 centimeters in diameter. They wear specially designed snowball uniforms, including specially designed helmets with integrated face shields. Before the tournament, they analyze videos of rival teams, practice with polyethylene balls, and study strategy.

Of course there are winners and losers, and thus rankings, which is what, I suspect, is a primary motive for the contest. How can you possibly just go out and pack snow and hurl? You have to have carefully studied and rehearsed moves, machine packed snowballs, and most important, a hierarchy: rank!!

Before long, they will probably start Yukigassen-do, and have long-winded lectures about the zen of snowballs. If so, I hope I don't hear about it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Americans love gadgets. If it is in any way possible to manufacture and sell a totally unnecessary gadget that performs some entirely superfluous function, something that you don't need any equipment for at all, Americans will do it, and other Americans will very happily shell out their hard-earned money and enthusiastically swear that the gadget is going to change their lives. For three or four days, that is, or until the next gadget appears on the market.

What could be simpler than doing a pushup? You just fall down on your face, and push yourself back up. That's so simple that even a football player can remember the sequence, right?

Well, I beg your pardon, ignoramus, that is not The American Way. The American Way, you cough up US$39.95 for a starter kit at Perfect Pushup and you get these scientifically designed handles that you place on the floor while you do a pushup so that you can be strong and be ready.

If you don't believe me, click here:::

In utter seriousness their ad informs us that the new, improved pushup device has reinforced construction and improved functionality, with 30% more ball bearings, reinforced internal workings, padded, slightly grooved, solid feel, and new off-road tire inspired tread which provides better ground connection and non-slip feature.

My dog, anybody who uses 'functionality' must be an expert!

When I said 'utter seriousness,' I was taking them on trust. Maybe they laugh their heads off every time anybody orders one.

Their motto says, "Be Strong. Be Ready."
Ready for what? You mean we're supposed to lug these stupid handles around everywhere so we can whip out a pushup or two at any moment? Come on, each handle weighs over a kilo!

Me, I hate pushups. When I want exercise, I can find better ways to build up a sweat than imitating a lizard on a rock.

If I had any brains, I would figure out some way to cash in on this. Let's see. What’s the simplest thing you can do? Okay, sleep. What can be simpler than sleep? Any possible way to invent a totally unnecessary gadget for sleep?

I'm afraid somebody already beat me to it. There's an electronic device called a Zeo Personal Sleep Coach that you strap onto your forehead before you hit the sack, I kid you not. How can you possibly sleep with that stupid electronic thing strapped onto your forehead?
(I suspect Zeo is short for Zero, the IQ of suckers who buy these things.)

But mark my words, this may catch on, and all patriotic Americans will shun anybody who commits the faux pas of trying to sleep without strapping on his/her Personal Sleep Coach.

Come on, try it yourself. If you can say "personal sleep coach" without cracking a smile, I think you may already中毒已深 be beyond hope. If so, say "bah, bah, bah" like a good sheep and get your credit card ready.

PS: The Zeo Personal Sleep Coach costs US$399.00!! Give me US$380 and I'll sing you a lullaby.

Monday, August 10, 2009

0942 AM
Originally uploaded by Yugan Dali
Let's not be superstitious, but at the same time, let's not be so incredulous that we deny the voice of experience.

Our ancestors did not think scientifically, so it is illogical to expect that they should have expressed themselves scientifically. If you want to understand what they were expressing, you have to try to understand what they were thinking.

Recently everybody enjoyed a good sneer at the superstitious folk of yore who were afraid of eclipses. Why of course in our enlightened times we know that an eclipses is simply a matter of the orbits of the earth and the moon around the sun.

No sooner had all right-thinking people sneered at the superstition when typhoon Morakot hit, roughly over the path of the eclipse two weeks earlier. This was not a big typhoon, only middle size, but what it lacked in wind it made up for in rain. About three meters in three days in the mountains down south, washing villages away and killing many people (how many is still unknown.) 22 died in the Philippines. In mainland China 1.5 million people were evacuated, 10,000 homes were destroyed, and over 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of cropland were flooded, directly causing losses of about US$1.4billion.

浙江溫州Wenzhou in Chekiang/Zhejiang was particularly hard hit; some might remember that Wenzhou was smack in the middle of the total solar eclipse two weeks earlier, one of the best places on earth to view it, sorry it rained.

Is it possible that our ancestors were not as stupid as we think? Maybe over the years they noticed that after an eclipse, heaven and earth were out of kilter and strange things happened. Maybe disaster follows eclipses.

Consider the gravity of the situation, pun intended. The gravity of the sun and moon are strong enough to cause ocean tides and atmospheric tides, and to lift the surface of the earth closest to the moon 15 centimeters as it circles us. Everybody knows that tides are strongest at full moon and new moon. These are powerful forces.

Maybe these forces are powerful enough that, when aligned as an eclipse, they nudge the balance on earth just enough so that monstrous events follow.

As for me, come next eclipse, I'm going to be out there banging a drum and clanging the gong. Can't hurt to play safe.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

As I related in last Monday's post (July 27, 2009), the Search function on Blogger blogs does not function, and in my attempt to seek help, I discovered that there is no way to email Blogger or Google. Accordingly I wrote them a nice letter informing them of the malfunction, printed it out, placed it in an envelope, addressed it, put a stamp on it, and deposited it in a mail box. I am still waiting for a reply.

Things may improve in the future, though. I very kindly offered to apply for a gmail box for the Google company, assuring them that email is very convenient, and they would find it useful. Keep tuned for further developments.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009






I am a human being, not a wild beast with jagged teeth and short intestines, so of course I am a su (Buddhist) vegetarian. Dessert excepted, I eat very little processed food, very little that comes in plastic, very little that comes with a barcode. Dessert excepted, of course. I'm not an ascetic.

My wife and I donate blood regularly. As we donate platelets, each time our blood is drawn and examined. Yesterday, to my great surprise, the nurse told me, "Today your blood is a bit oily." How could that be possible? I was still safely within the limits, but she showed me two test tubes, my blood and my wife's. Mine very clearly had a thick layer of oil floating on top.

Chao and I eat the same food, day after day. We discussed this, and realized that after lunch, she had eaten one Oreo cookie, and I had eaten four. (I was going to eat only three, but to fit the remaining pack into a vacuum jar, I had no choice but to eat a fourth.) (Honestly!)

Think about that. Only a few Oreos, eaten four hours before my blood was drawn. Think about what you feed into your face, day in and day out. What is it doing to your health? And some day, it'll all come back at you.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mhway su kwari!
A typhoon may be forming. Brisk winds this morning, scudding clouds, spots of sunlight and silhouettes of clouds. I watched an eagle towering on an updraft across the valley, above Aqiq, over a kilometer away in a straight line. I thought: in all the time I have spent watching eagles soar, I have never seen one swoop down on prey. I have seen eagles with their talons full: a snake, a rodent, a squirrel. But I have never seen an eagle swoop.

I ruminated. Just then, the eagle dived on a steep swoop. I lost it against the background of the mountain about a hundred meters down, but I was satisfied. Hurrah! Many thanks to such an obliging eagle.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Recently someone mailed me a film, Chicken a la Carte, which won awards for short film in international contests.

The film is directed by Ferdinand Dimadura, produced in 2005. It shows two girls going into a fast food joint, ordering chicken, leaving a good portion uneaten on their plates, which is thrown into the garbage. The garbage collector fishes it out and takes it home to his slum where everybody enjoys the rotting chicken.

The synopsis says, "This short film shows a forgotten portion of the society. The people who live on the refuse of men to survive. What is inspiring is the hope and spirituality that never left this people." In other words, don't clean your plate, be wasteful and profligate so that wretchedly poor people may be beautifully hopeful and spiritual.

Excuse me, but that repulses me. I don't care how exotically full of hope or spirituality you think they are, I will bet you any money that those people would much rather live in nice, clean houses, wear nice, clean clothes, and eat nice, clean food. If you don't think so, fish some rotting chicken out of a garbage can and try eating it yourself.

Do not congratulate yourself on your insight, sympathy, philanthropy, and benevolence simply because you condescend to think those poor people are beautiful.

Instead, consider how you are contributing to their misery. Do you eat chicken? Chickens have to eat before they can be butchered for your benefit, right? So the producer buys food for them; people with money buy the food so that people without money can't afford food. It's a simple matter of unequal distribution of limited resources.

A farmer produces 1,000 tons of food (grain). This is sold to a chicken producer, who feeds it to chickens, to produce about 167 tons of food (chicken). If nobody ate chicken, there would be no incentive for the chicken producer to remove that thousand tons of food from the market, so it would be available to more people. I am operating on the assumption that 1,000 tons of food feeds more people than 167 tons of food.

If nobody ate beef, pork, poultry, fish, or other meat, there would be more than enough food for everybody in the world to eat healthily. If you have any conscience or concern for global hunger, stop eating all meat.

Do not patronize those poor people by saying their suffering is beautiful. Spit that meat out of your mouth so that they may live in dignity and eat properly.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The news tells us that the presidents of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China (mainland China) exchanged direct messages for the first time Monday since the two sides split 60 years ago — the latest sign of their warming relations. Warmer, warmer, Taiwan has lost the vigor and 朝氣 that made this little island a cultural and economic force for a few glorious years.

Thirty years ago, when the future of the Republic of China seemed particularly perilous, with the People's Liberation Army promising to wash Taiwan in blood, and their diplomatic offensive gathering steam, people here said that something really had to be done to ensure that the ROC lasted longer than the Yuan dynasty, founded by Genghis Khan, which lasted for 89 years (1279-1368). This is the 98th year of the Republic of China. Everybody respects the ROC's Founding Father 國父孫中山先生 Dr Sun Yet San, on both sides of the Straits. Maybe they're waiting for中華民國一百年 the century to pull the plug.

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Here's a delicious irony for you. We all know that the Internet is the information superhighway, increasing communication, closing distances, and allowing for open exchange of ideas and greater interaction between all of us on this big blue planet Earth doesn't that just make you warm all over and bring tears to your eyes?

Last week I noticed that the Search function on this blog, and any other Blogger blog, doesn't work. If you go to their HELP function, you may post your complaint so that they can ignore it. That's about the extent of what you can do. I have been trying in vain to email Blogspot or Google to ask about this question, but to date, I have been able to find no way to email either organization. Now (despondent drum roll, please), you can write snail-mail to Google at

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
you can phone them at +1 650-253-0000, and you can fax them at +1 650-253-0001, but to the best of my ability, I have been able to find no way to email them directly.

How's that for communication, interaction, and open exchange of ideas? Now you’ll excuse me while I find a postage stamp.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


A quick guide to Taiwan aborigines: Tayal and Bunun tribe: a not entirely unbiased presentation

"Your ears are complicated. All these people, they are all Tayal tribe, so their ears don't look good. I am Bunun tribe, so see how good my ears look? We Bunun all have good-looking ears. Your ears are complicated, so that means you can go to faraway places."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This morning we had a partial, almost total eclipse of the sun. That's natural, but what was shocking was the weather. Usually if there's an eclipse or meteor shower or comet, you can bet your booties that if it doesn't rain in Wulai, it's overcast. Not today. The weather was gloriously clear, perfect for viewing the sun getting chewed by the big dog in the sky.

I used a very high-tech device to view the eclipse: a pinprick in one piece of cardboard to project the sun’s image onto another piece of cardboard. It worked great.

The eclipse began around 8:45AM here, and lasted until around 11. The sunlight was noticeably weaker, so the morning wasn't so hot as it would have been. During a solar eclipse, tree leaves throw unusual shadows. You can understand why this sort of thing freaked out our ancestors.

Of course I couldn't let such an event go by without shooting dozens of nearly identical photos. For your edification, I have posted them on flickr: click here::

As I said, we got only a partial eclipse, although at the climax (height? acme? apogee? manatee? I forget the term), there was only a thin sliver of sun left. Across the straits, the lower reaches of the Yangtze River got the total eclipse. Good luck and smooth traveling to all the happy campers who trooped to Shanghai, Suchou, and Hangchou to view the great event; it rained all morning, all along the lower reaches of the Yangtze.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I came to Taiwan two years after Armstrong landed on the moon. A lot of people told me that the all the fun had gone out of the Middle Autumn Moon Festival ever since Armstrong went up there and he didn't see Chang E in her palace, he didn't see the rabbit pounding medicine. They figured, if she's not up there, if the rabbit's not up there, there's not much fun in the Moon Festival.



Monday, July 20, 2009

My mother was trained as an artist, but during World War II, she served her country by drafting battlefield maps ~~ in the Pentagon, as a matter of fact. In the Eyes Only drafting room, she had her own special desk separated from the rest by a curtain. Her maps could be seen only by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Roosevelt.

When I was in the 4th grade, for various reasons she decided she needed a job, and found one drafting for CalTech Geology. Many stories there, but the one I am telling today involves my parents' decision that we kids didn't need to be entertained, we should be able to entertain ourselves. As a result, to this day I have never lived in a house with a television.

All well and good, but one momentous July day in 1969 we wanted one. The Eagle was on the moon, and man's first step on the moon was going to be broadcast live.

It turned out we were not the only ones who just said NO to television. Many of the geologists who were first in line for the moon rocks also did not have televisions (smart people can find better things to do with their time than watch the idiot box?), so someone brought a set to the Moon Lab, and we went to watch it there.
(It may be hard for people today to understand what an overwhelming honor it was for these scientists to be first in line for the moon rocks. They earned that honor by decades of dedicated labor and groundbreaking discoveries. I recall that Eugene Shoemaker was there, as was Andy Ingersoll, who if I remember correctly was at the time one of the world's two or three astrogeologists.)

I vividly remember the excitement in the room as Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the Moon. Not the excitement that we beat the Russkies, or isn't that cool, or we're Number One, but the excitement of geologists seeing, live, rocks on another planet, and who knew they were the first geologists ever to see, live, rocks on another planet. Pure intellectual excitement and bliss.

Frankly, I don't think anybody in the Moon Lab but Mom and I were watching Armstrong. The geologists were straining to figure out, in the blurry black and white telecast, just what they were seeing. They knew they would be getting their share of the first rocks ever brought back from the Moon, but first they wanted an idea of what they would be getting, and what else there was to see.

Forty years ago today. In light of all the toil the United States devoted to that incredible, historical effort, it is comforting to know that NASA erased all the original tapes of the momentous Moon landing: :click here:::

and here::