Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
The K’ang Hsi Emperor (Kangxi, 1654 – 1722, reigned from 1662) once shot 318 rabbits in one day. Even considering that he had beaters chasing game towards him, that is an astonishing skill in archery.
Plus, he sure had a lot of arrows!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
We view such miserable savages not with superiority, but with pity and sadness, but also with a very strong feeling of YUCKKK! Sad: life can be so civilized and refined, such a shame that they cannot enjoy the fruits of refinement and culture.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Shortly after I moved to Wulai, a group of four sibekay flew across the slope to my north. I didn't see them again for a couple years. Then small groups would come down the mountains in the winter, to stay for a couple weeks. Then they started showing up in our area year-round.
A year or two ago, a contest was held to choose a national bird for Taiwan, a national bird without a nation. The Sibekay won handily; I was relieved that another nice, innocuous bird was not chosen, because its English name is the "yellow tit". Taiwan has had enough image problems in the last decade; I had nightmares about the bird being chosen and the web being flooded with jokes about "Let's go to Taiwan to see the yellow tits."
The blue magpies travel in groups, almost never alone. Burdened down by their beautiful tails, they do not fly very far. They bob from tree to tree. The farthest I have ever seen a sibekay fly is about a hundred meters, from one side of the river to the other. They are very shy and very sensitive. They can tell if you are watching them, and they don't like that. Get out your camera, and flit, they're gone.
With strict conservation laws in force, the sibekay, among other species, have made a resounding comeback. Once rare, they started appearing in the trees around my house year around. The local tkrat (Chinese樹鵲; English, Himalayan Tree Pie; Latin, Dendrocitta formosae; Tayal, Tkrat), a strongly territorial species, would chase them away. Let a sibekay perch in a tree for a moment, and the tkrat would start arriving, by twos and by threes, to pressure it to leave: Keep moving, we don't want you here, don't loiter here, get a move on! Outnumbered, the sibekay had no choice but to go elsewhere.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
我小時候，Valentine’s Day情人節蠻單純；小朋友上美勞課作卡片偷偷送給異性；我還記得我小二把我作的卡片送給了隔壁的阿媽Mrs Smith(有的老師規定，班上有多少個異性就要送多少張卡，一張也不許少：這時只好用買的，不然作不完)。到了高中，已經漸漸把情人節給淡忘了。我來華時，情人節與元旦在臺灣的氣氛差不多：不太有人理它。但是後來大概為了給商人機會賺錢，情人節大作文章，情人節就一定要買花呀、巧克力呀，沒完沒了。
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Chian-tzu (active around 500BC) drowned his underling Luan Chiao in a river. He said, “I took pleasure in music and women; Luan Chiao procured them for me. I took pleasure in palaces with pavilions and walkways; Luan Chiao built them for me. I took pleasure in excellent horses and skilled chariot drivers; Luan Chiao sought them for me. I have taken pleasure in capable subordinates for six years, and Luan Chiao has not introduced one person. He encourages me in wrongdoing and drives away the good.”
Splash, burble burble.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
One reason I enjoy biking (or did before my bike fell apart) is that you can enjoy peace and quiet, moving smoothly along a road with no machinery noise, listening to the sounds of nature. Ha! Now that bicycling is the great fad in Taiwan, on any day with reasonably good weather, you can see dozens of bicyclers pumping their way along our beautiful mountain roads. I am astonished at the number of them that pump music into their ears.
People today are deathly afraid of quiet, calm, and introspection. Give me entertainment or give me death!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
There are billions of stars in our galaxy, maybe as many as a trillion: ten to the twelfth power. When astronomers talk about the number of galaxies in the universe, they say there are billions. Billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars: big.
Recently I have found a highly addictive website, Galaxy Zoo. You look at photos of galaxies, and sort out if they are elliptical or spiral. The main thing is, you get to look at all these photos of galaxies; on the one hand I think they are surpassingly beautiful; on the other hand, give your imagination free reign, to imagine all those billions of stars, with untold worlds.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
In general, Americans have longer legs and shorter torsos than Chinese. I am taller than average in Taiwan, and have long arms and legs, even for an American. When I first came to Taiwan, ready made pants weren't even worth looking at, because they would never come close to fitting. If the waist fit, the crotch would be down at my knees, and the bottom of the pants somewhere on my calf: like Porky the Pig. I tried having pants tailor made, because hand made was not much more expensive than off the rack in those days. In theory, great; in practice, the tailors in my end of town had no experience with foreign frames, and if you went up near the US Army base, you'd come out looking like a color-blind soldier on furlough, hardly what I wanted to look like. So I made do with what I had: a couple pairs of jeans.
Jeans wear out, you know? If you cross your legs a lot, the front of your thigh wears out pretty fast, so after a year or two, my jeans were deteriorating. I became quite efficient with needle and thread, first mending rips, then patching gaping holes with cloth scrounged from other sources, although I certainly hope Dan never figured out what happened to his nice denim jacket, sorry buddy.
By the time I was a junior, the seats on my jeans had gone, as had the fronts of both thighs. They had been replaced by a carefully stitched medley of patches, held precariously in place with the best stitching I was capable of. 好個百衲褲！
I remember very distinctly the day in November of my junior year when I was walking to class on the third floor of the Administration building and the wind came up to blow. It entered through the seat of my pants and exited through the knees, thoroughly chilling me on the way. Something had to be done!
I knew someone whose father was a tailor, and I begged her to help out. One Friday, wearing my dress slacks which I almost never wore, I gave her a bag with the two pairs of jeans that still held together, and on Monday she gave me a bag with the resuscitated jeans. Her father had replaced my collection of patches with one good, solid, windproof patch in each appropriate location, and from then until graduation, every time the cold wind blew, I mentally expressed my gratitude for his generous rescue.
About the time I graduated, my father finally sent me two pairs of Big Ben Gorilla on the Button workpants, thus solving the problem with finality. He had thought I was kidding when I told him I couldn’t get pants that fit.
About ten years after that, it became the very apex of fashion to wear jeans that have been carefully ripped and torn, a fashion that draggles on to this day. But after walking around for years like a ragged starveling, I have never thought very much of paying good money for ripped clothing.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Friday, February 06, 2009
垃圾車廣播，很重的泰雅口音：Lawa，不要站在那裡，我要倒車…. Nagat cikay, Lawa…好了，Lawa，妳現在可以來倒垃圾…Lawa, 我好愛妳!
Garbage truck loudspeaker, with a heavy Tayal accent: Lawa, don’t stand there, I’m going to back up… Just a minute, Lawa… Okay, Lawa, you can come over and toss in your garbage now… Lawa, I love you so much!
Thursday, February 05, 2009
My eyes filled with tears as I watched this scene unfold, my heart filled with sympathy. Poor children! In this day and age, why is it necessary for some underprivileged children to remain so deprived? If this boy and girl had a wii game console, they would not have to run along that path. They could stay in a closed room, safely away from any sunlight or fresh air, shaking their battery-operated handheld wireless controllers. Their parents, certainly guilty of irresponsible neglect, ought to consider whether it is advisable for children to hear wild birds chirping in trees overhead; they may even have been exposed to the sound of frogs croaking! If the children had wii and wanted to run a race, they could choose from a variety of colorful characters to represent their true selves, race (without moving) across a television screen to the accompaniment of cheering crowds, have their race timed to the split second with a slow motion rerun of the finish, and have the winner announced with a grand flourish.
Do you realize that those unfortunate benighted children I saw were running without music playing in the background? And what’s worse, they were not using any electricity, plastic, or other resources, and ~~ the meek at heart will wish to shield their eyes rather than read any further ~~ they were not consuming, they were not spending money! How could they possibly be enjoying themselves?
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Monday, February 02, 2009
Rambling about Taiwan in those days I frequently came across groups of ladies squatting over their laundry by the stream. Groups, never one by one, and they never worked in a row facing one direction. Each woman would face a different direction, and they were very alert to passersby. They said that during the Japanese Occupation of Taiwan, there were so many bandits that it was unsafe to leave a village alone or in small groups.
I gather that during the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese police kept the people in towns and villages under tight control with iron fists, but territory outside the villages was terrorized by bandits that the authorities cared little about.
In the 1970s, when I went camping, old Taiwanese Chinese would always try to dissuade me from going, telling me that bandits would murder anybody who slept outdoors in the mountains. Time and time again, I was told by old people to stay out of the wilderness, but that if I had to go, to be sure to tuck my chin into my chest when I slept, to make it harder for the bandits to slit my throat. I always asked where the bandits were. The old folks invariably said, Well, the wilderness was full of bandits during the Japanese Occupation; your life was forfeit the moment you stepped away from a village, and the Japanese police didn't care, just so no Japanese were killed; but after the Japanese left after they lost World War II, the bandits were all cleaned up. But old habits die hard, and old folks always tried to talk me out of going into the mountains or hiking in the wilderness.