Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Air Pollution In Tainan

A few weeks ago, on January 3rd, the Taipei Times carried this news item in which the air quality of Tainan was cited as being "unhealthy". In particular, the air quality in the rural north-east district of Baihe was said to be particularly bad...
"Air quality readings at the temporary monitoring station in the city’s Baihe District (白河) climbed to 156 yesterday morning, the third-highest in the nation, after reaching 155 on Sunday afternoon, which was the highest in the nation at the time."
Those numbers refer to the composite Air Quality Index scale used by the Taiwan EPA which  is used to measure the dosage of a number of air pollutants (likely to include sulphur dioxide [SO2], particulate matter [PM10], fine particulate matter [PM2.5], nitrogen dioxide [NO2], and carbon monoxide [CO] among others). But the important point here is that Baihe district is a rural area with few sources of air pollution. The apparent fact that a high level of air pollution was recorded there would therefore seem to require an explanation.

One possibility is that the level of air pollution in Baihe district, and perhaps the rest of Tainan, is dependent on meteorological factors such as wind and temperature gradient. What may be happening is that air pollutants from elsewhere (e.g. other areas of Taiwan such as Taichung or Kaohsiung), are dispersed toward areas like Tainan and Chiayi and these areas may have insufficient vertical mixing of the air through convection (e.g. due to atmospheric temperature inversion) and insufficient horizontal dispersal through poorly sustained winds. That would explain the unhealthy AQI values in rural Baihe district where the greatest source of air pollution is likely to be duck farts.

Of course however, the reporter did not even attempt to explain, and was content to merely quote a Tainan city councilor's apparatchik making stupid noises about "environmental injustice". Wouldn't it actually be quite wonderful to have somebody dig into what research there may be on the matter (there is surely some), and actually make a report about it in some form in order to actually enlighten us as opposed to fabricating constant faux outrage? This is yet another example of the way the media, in this case the Taiwanese media, seems to be failing the public every single day.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Second Trip To Neipuzih Reservoir (內埔子水庫) In Chiayi's Minxiong Township

Standing on the crest of the little dam at Neipuzih reservoir on the eastern edge of Minxiong township, with the red motorbike down below in the background.
Yesterday I walked the dogs at 8am and left the house at 9.30am for the drive up to Minxiong township, just north of Chiayi city to make my second visit to Neipuzih reservoir. I had had second thoughts about making this trip due to the weather; all during the week it had been sunshine and warmth until Friday night and Saturday morning. It was very cold and densely overcast with a near constant drizzle by the time I saddled up and left.

The drive itself from Tainan city to about Lioujia wasn't too bad, but from about Liouying onwards the drizzle became a little bit heavier and by the time I got to Chiayi city I was uncomfortable enough to make a pit stop at a 7-11 to warm my gloves on the engine cylinder and buy an extra pair of socks from a shop around the corner. I found my memory of the route to take to get to Neipuzih reservoir was foggy and so consulted google maps and found the route seemingly quite simple, and yet the inevitable Chiayi city confusion syndrome set in shortly afterwards about which road was which (the sign for "Dongyi road" was posted to be visible from north to south on one side of the road, but not from south to north on the other side - this kind of signage problem is fairly common in Taiwan).

Eventually I arrived and found that the overgrown grasses on the earth dam had been trimmed considerably since my first visit, but of course the weather and light was even worse now than it had been then...

A panorama shot from the top and center of the dam overlooking the reservoir. Notice the stitching flaws in the left handrail - I'm not particularly bothered because I plan to make a third trip on another day with sunshine and good weather.
I drove up into the hills on the east side of the reservoir to see if I could find an overlooking vantage point and by this time it was beginning to get warmer - so much so that I could take my jacket and gloves off. 
This was the best overlook I could find from the hills to the east. It is heavily occluded by foliage so much so that perhaps less than 10% of this image includes the actual reservoir itself
A telephoto shot toward the upstream face of the dam barely recognizable behind the betel nut trees.
A bridge for freeway number 3 over the reservoir's feeder stream. 
I made my way around to the north end of the reservoir with the intention of photographing the feeder stream entry point, but instead I found a farmer's road on a hill granting a fantastic view overlooking the reservoir straight to the dam at its' south end. On a better day with clear skies and sunshine I could get a really good shot from here.

At some point, possibly during Chinese New Year, I will make another return trip to Neipuzih reservoir to retake my pictures in better weather and light. This trip was just a chance for me to test some new kit in the wind and rain.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Memories Of The L85A1

On a quick break from work to eat, I ran across this blast-from-the-past via a youtube clip from the channel "Forgotten Weapons" of a bloke describing the workings and faults of the British Enfield L85A1, which was the rifle I was issued with during my time in the TA (which was late '90s, though we only knew the rifle by the term "SA80"). My chief memory of that thing was dismantling it and cleaning it basically all the time; seeing him pull out the guiding rods and then later the firing pin and retaining pin from the bolt housing was especially vivid. We all spent inordinately more time cleaning that thing than actually firing it, which sounds like a complaint, but it was actually good practice to familiarize ourselves with the weapon.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Saturday Trip To The Yunlin County Irrigation Canal Intake

The aged gates which block the Zhuoshui river's flow and divert water into the penstock for the Yunlin irrigation canal. The long, low-lying hill in the background is Baguanshan, which overlooks Changhua county.
Looking downstream (westard) from the top of the gates.
The view upstream (eastward) from between the fourth and third gates; the blue grilles for the entrapment penstock are on the right. 
Looking upstream (northeastward) along the central axis of the massive penstock with Baguanshan visible on the horizon. The left chamber is full of still water and sediment, whereas the right chamber contains flowing water from the entrapment pen above.
Looking downstream (southwestward) as the water from the right chamber flows into a secondary, octagonal penstock.
Panorama of the eight-sided penstock from the southwest. There are five channels connected to this almost circular body of water, two of which contribute water and three of which take it away. The two tributary channels arrive from the north east, and an east-north-east direction. Both are from the Zhuoshui river, but the second one, arriving from the east-north-east direction derives from an entrapment structure on the Jiji barrage. Of the three channels which carry the water away, one carries the lion's share of water and this is the feeder for the Yunlin irrigation canal which empties out into the Beigang river just north of Chiayi county, as per last week's blog post. Of the other two channels, one carries water to a treatment facility (presumably in preparation for residential use) and the other seems to be directed toward a large incinerator plant further downstream on the Yunlin side of the Zhuoshui river.
The Jiji channel bringing water into the octagonal penstock from the entrapment structure at the Jiji barrage.
The main outlet channel with two concrete dividers carrying water out of the octagonal penstock and into the Yunlin irrigation canal on its' way to a final conclusion at the Beigang river.
The next channel takes water out westward toward an incinerator plant. This is the upstream view of the gates.
The last channel feeds water northwest into a treatment facility. Here, the water passes through a slightly narrowed channel aperture and over a treble-crested weir before reaching the gates.
The first of, I think, three gates into the treatment facility.
The second such gate with what look like aeration basins in the background.
The facility houses an agriculture and irrigation museum, which was closed. Yet curiously, there was no shortage of visitors to the site even though there was nothing particularly to do, no vendors and no food or drink. There may have been as many as a hundred people or more just milling about taking selfies. I had expected to be the only person there.
A model waterwheel on display, though the water level in the channel was too low for it to operate. It turned only with the breeze.
Public notice that the Water Bureau is constructing a water treatment facility for Hushan reservoir (湖山水庫) just over nine and a half kilometers to the south.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Anthony Brian Logan On The White Handicapped Teenager Tortured In Chicago By Black Racist Thugs

Anthony Brian Logan is doing pretty good work on his youtube channel, and I have now become a regular viewer. This appalling crime does nothing to quell my opposition to the concept of "hate crimes", but I agree that from a judge's perspective, this obviously qualifies as such. My comment on his video as below...


I find the concept of "hate crimes" disturbing to begin with but it's obvious that, from a judge's perspective, this should qualify as such given existing legislation. These sorts of crimes could already be punished under pre-existing legislation, and the sentencing could be adjusted without introducing an entirely new category of crime called "hate crime". Several problems with the concept... 1) It's not clear what, if any, additional deterrent effect is obtained by additional "hate crime" legislation. 2) The definitions of "hate" or "abuse" are so vague as to introduce a dangerous degree of subjectivity into the law, whereas something like "battery" can be objectively assessed. 3) The relevant categories (race, gender, sexuality, disability etc) of "hate crime" legislation directly contradict the idea of "equality under the law", as they (theoretically) raise the legal status of certain people, but not others. 4) "Hate crime" legislation requires that motive be established, which in many cases may often be difficult (though obviously not this particular case), and this may invite a watering down of judicial standards in order to increase conviction rates. All that being said, this particular case is still disgusting and the black thugs who carried this out should be punished severely. A final point might be that there are four perps involved in this case, only two of whom were male. The two female perps should not get off lightly just because it was the two males who did most of the physical "work". Those points aside, I think you're doing good work in this video. Keep it up, man.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Steven Pinker On The "Fundamental" Importance Of Free Speech

Whilst I agree in general with Pinker's defence, I think his description of free speech as "fundamental" in its importance is not quite right, but that it is close enough for the purpose of emphasizing the political importance of freedom of speech.

Of yet more basic importance is conceptual thought and its' expression and formation through language. Political correctness imposes at least two restrictions on conceptual thought. The first is the direct restrictions via social or legal censure, and it is these restrictions to which Pinker is largely addressing his defence of freedom of speech. However, the second type of restriction is the corruption of language, of which the very term "hate speech" provides an illustrative example. Simply putting the two words "hate" and "speech" together absent context would seem to integrate the two concepts so as to mean all speech that contains expressions of hatred when in fact it is only intended as a tool for control of social and political discourse via stigmatization and punishment. A white, heterosexual male who says something rude to a black, homosexual female may be guilty of "hate speech", but never the other way around. The tool of "hate speech" has not only a social and legal aspect, but also an anti-conceptual, anti-epistemological aspect. This becomes apparent when we think not of those using the term "hate speech" as a political tool of discourse, but of those people (perhaps young students in their formative years) trying to use the term "hate speech" as an actual concept with which to think and understand the world around them; since the term is not intended to integrate all expressions of hatred, it is wide open to contradiction and thus likely to lead to confusion, misunderstanding and rancour. But then, that's almost certainly what the originators of the term intended.


Incidentally, I once attended one of Steven Pinker's lectures at Newcastle University many years ago when I was an undergraduate student at Durham. I was one of the few who partook in the Q & A session at the end, and though I can't now recall what my question was (I had just read his "Language Instinct" and a couple of other things), I remember him being very good in answering both my question and those of others who were there.