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::

Saturday, July 18, 2009



Thursday, July 16, 2009

Something funny we have noticed is that on the bus down from the mountains, generally the tourists, who may visit Wulai once in a decade or a lifetime, pay little attention to the spectacular scenery along the way; rather, it is Chao and I, who live here, who have our noses glued to the window and take in every view. The tourists who drive race along the road as if they were afraid of seeing something.

Chao has lived here for over a year now, I for over twelve years. I have been up and down that road thousands of times and never get enough of its beauty. Every day we feel very lucky to live in such a wonderful place.

I love living in the mountains. I can't imagine ever living in a city again, knock on wood.

However, before you sell your apartment and head to the high places, allow me to remind you that living in the mountains is not only about sitting comfortably drinking good tea. There’s a lot of work involved. Sometimes I joke that if I didn't do any yard work for two months, I wouldn't be able to find the house. Only it's not really a joke.

飲水思源. When you turn on the faucet, water comes out. Do you know where it comes from?

I can tell you exactly where my water comes from, and know every step of the way from the spring to my house. In Wulai, you find your own water. Ours (I share water towers with a neighbor, Mr Fu) comes from a spring a ways up the jungle.

Sounds nice, but it does have its inconvenience. From time to time, I come home all sweaty and dirty, step into the shower, turn on the faucet, and … and nothing. That means I have to go find where a pipe burst or fell apart or whatever. (Which explains how I got lost in the jungle one night: there's an earlier post::)
The other day Mr Fu told me that although we had some water coming in, we had trouble with our pipes, so yesterday morning we set out. We found the problem and decided that a section of pipe had to be replaced. Fortunately, Mr Fu had a length of pipe, but he injured his hand recently, so I had the honor of dragging it to our worksite. It's not particularly heavy, but doing something like that gives you an appreciation of drag.
But when you've done work like that, a victorious shower is especially sweet. You've earned your water.

To reach our house from the road, we have a flight of over a hundred steps up a ravine. During the strong winds last Friday, one of the trees with a light attached to it blew down, so I had to replace it. I am afraid of electricity, so I did not relish the prospect of those wires, but it had to be done. I selected another tree and a spot to attach the light to, climbed up, and put the light in place.

In the winter, the work would be enjoyable, but in the summer, don't even mention the heat and humidity: the mosquitoes eat you alive. I sprayed repellent all over myself until I repelled myself, but the mosquitoes managed to find every cell of skin that was not smothered in repellent.

Of course, over time you do develop some immunity to mosquito bites, but caterpillar poison is still very noxious. So you may not want to live in the mountains full time. But when you come, at least keep your eyes open and look at the view.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I've always thought so myself

Ditzy teen on cell: Why can't they, like, have two footballs instead so both teams could score?

Overheard by: Robert Gleyberman

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another witless musing: somebody from Virginia is a Virginian, somebody from Georgia is a Georgian, somebody from Hawaii is a Hawaiian, somebody from New York is a crass loudmouth oops I mean a New Yorker, but what do you call somebody from Nevada? A Nevadan? Is there such a thing as an Illinoisian? An Ohioan? A Vermonter? A Massuchusetter? An Arizone? An Oregoner? My spell checker has some of these words, but I don't think anybody uses them.

Chicagoan, Los Angelean, Bostonian, San Franciscan. We name people from cities more than from states.

Don't ask me what it all means.

Saturday, July 11, 2009




Thursday, July 09, 2009

ciboq Yukal Kayu
"I went to LA and they all speak English there. I couldn't understand a word, so what could I do? I used our tribe's aboriginal language to talk to them, and they just ignored me? What could I do? I wanted to find an Indian and see if I could talk to them."

Actually, in LA, I think they were speaking Spanish.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009






Originally uploaded by Yugan Dali

後來線條較直,三星不見了。(星或許代表王星記,我不清楚。當時說代表共匪. Click here::)






Taiwan is horribly muggy in the summer. I wouldn’t have survived so long if not for my good friend, Tam Gibbs, a student of tai-chi master Chen Manching. Tam introduced me to Hangchou Black Fans.

As the name implies, the fans come from mainland China. In the early 70s, the Cultural Revolution was raging, and the PLA was swearing they would wash Taiwan in blood. All products from the PRC were strictly forbidden, with severe punishment for importing or selling them… unless you really needed something, something innocuous that did not threaten the stability of the government or the lives of the people or officials. You could always find what you needed.

Tam took me to a stationery store near the train station and we bought me a fan. It cost about NT$50, in those days US$1.25. The boss carved my name on it, for free.

Ever since then, I have had a fan clutched in my hot little hand every summer. Some have broken, some have worn out, some have been lost, but give me a fan for a c0ol breeze and summer survival.

For more fans, please go to my flickr and take a look back and forth.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I understand that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has resigned, and is looking around the internet for ideas about what to do in the future.
Hey, Candidate Palin, if you read this, the word you want is HERMITAGE. Find a nice isolated cave somewhere miles from the nearest microphone, computer, or telephone, and take a vow of silence.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

I have told before on this blog that the sibekay, 臺灣藍鵲 Taiwan Blue Magpie (Urocissa caerulea), was rare when I first moved to Wulai a dozen years ago, and visited our neighborhood only in the winter. Now they have become more common, and may be seen year round.

This morning my attention was attracted by a strange call. Apparently there was a juvenile sibekay in the tree out front, practicing its song, learning how to sing. I posted several clips on YouTube.

Another clip HERE:::

In the background of this clip :::CLICK::: you can hear cicadas and a byahoq 五色鳥 Muller's Barbet (Megalaima oorti).

Another clip

In this clip, the sibekay has learned its song and sings like an adult. Hurrah!

This morning at one minute after 3AM is

Stayed tuned to this blog for more vitally fascinating information!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Overheard on 高鐵 the Taiwan High Speed Rail


4 year old girl: "I've got a day off today, but tomorrow I have to go back to work."