Tuesday, 22 July 2014

"Roko's Basilisk"



I just now came across this quixotic horror via an article at Slate that I reached through my regular stop at Marginal Revolution for bits and pieces. I've often thought that, in fiction, the hardest thing to do well is horror because it demands the most from both imagination and deference to reality at the same time. Neo-calvinist singularitarianism was not something I was previously familiar with, and nor was "timeless decision theory". Fascinating.

Monday, 21 July 2014

First Trip To The Two Baoshan Reservoirs: The First Baoshan Reservoir (寶山水庫) & Second Baoshan Reservoir (寶山 二水庫)


Arrived in Hsinchu this morning (Sunday morning) a little after 8am and took the 120 south-east on the north side of the river before crossing over to Shangyuan then briefly joining the 122 before cutting off down a little one-laner (Xuefu road) which brought me out to the first Baoshan reservoir - as in the picture above. I expected it to be overcast all day with a chance of rain, but the first couple of hours until about 11am were fine.

Unlike most other major reservoirs in Taiwan, Baoshan reservoir does not stand out as a destination; there are very few road signs to direct traffic toward it and, despite the white name-column in the picture above, there is no entrance let alone a toll booth and ticketing system. Instead, the road simply runs across the crest of the dam entirely ignoring the reservoir as if it wasn't there at all...


The fencing which surmounts the parallel walls is unusual; presumably its function is to keep people from climbing over the walls and swimming in the reservoir - yet nothing like that exists at any other reservoir I have seen in Taiwan. Whilst I was stood upon the dam crest I made a mistake; instead of photographing the reservoir's vital features (dam, spillway, intake tower, drainage chutes etc...) whilst the weather was good, I took a detour to go and see the water treatment works downhill to the west of the dam. This was a mistake on two counts: there wasn't much that could be seen of the treatment works, and later on the weather would turn overcast and grey. It wasn't necessary to photograph the treatment works in good weather...



On the way back up however, I thought I might be able to find some vantage point from which I could get a good view of the downstream face of the dam, but this shot, largely eclipsed by tree-tops, was all I could get...


Reclimbing the little detour road to the dam crest, I headed back north-east the way I had came and found the (under reconstruction) entrance to a walking trail, so I parked the bike and gave it a go...


The tourist information panel showed the route of the trail (short; about two kilometers) over two suspension bridges and along the north facing edge of the reservoir's northern arm (there is a southern arm too, not included in the panel's image). The panel also describes the reservoir as a habitat for a common lizard species and the crested serpent eagle, both of which are described as "rare", which they are in fact not. As it turned out I saw only one eagle all day long, but not at either of the two Baoshan reservoirs.* The trail afforded some post-card type views out over the reservoir toward the distribution intake tower...



Further down the trail, the suspension bridge crossing the reservoir had been taped off as out of bounds for the public due to repair work. Naturally I ignored this and just walked across it anyway as I wasn't about to have my time wasted. The bridge appeared to be structurally sound and was only in want of replacement wooden boards, many of which were loose and rotten...


Whilst on the suspension bridge I was able to get some shots of the dam, intake tower and spillway...




I left the bridge and followed the trail eastward toward the second suspension bridge, but there wasn't much to see and at no point did I see any of the pipe-rafts which are ubiquitous down south where I live. A typical view of the trail around the 1K mark...


Unlike the first suspension bridge, the second suspension bridge did not appear to have any problems and was also somewhat wider than the first...


The view eastwards from the second suspension bridge up the reservoir's northern arm; the water disappears from view around a bend. One of the things I haven't worked out yet is whether the diverted water enters the reservoir from the northern or the southern arm. A question to be answered on my next visit...


After the second suspension bridge the road climbed upwards for a longer distance than I expected, but at the summit there was this view westward over a branch-off of the reservoir's northern arm toward the dam. By this time (about 10.45am) the sky was starting to cloud over as this image shows...


I walked back around to the bike and drove down across the crest again to photograph the reservoir's vital features, which I should have done earlier. First was the open-lip overflow spillway similar in design to those at Nanhua and Yongheshan reservoirs, though smaller than Nanhua and wider and more rounded than the one at Yongheshan...


You can see the problem I had; the light was now so crap that I had to choose between the spillway and the sky (I could have used filters on the 18mm to get around this problem, but I was balancing on the edge of the barbed wire fence so I didn't fancy fiddling around with them)...


After that, I climbed down the stairs on the downstream side of the dam to photograph various things...



The water distribution intake tower feeds water into this pipe (below), visible in several sections, which proceeds to the water treatment plant.


There was also the drainage chute, into which dirty water from the bottom of the reservoir could be released...


And I was also able to find an unobstructed view toward the downstream face of the baffled spillway...


After climbing back up the stairs, I drove off southwards and around the back of Baoshan reservoir to the east, eventually finding my way down to the southern end of Baoshan Second reservoir...


Like the first Baoshan reservoir, this one also has an open-lip overflow spillway, a bridged water distribution intake tower and a baffled spillway...




Even though the two reservoirs were built about twenty years apart, they appear to be nearly identical in design, differing mostly in their dimensions with the second reservoir being substantially larger than the first.


Baoshan Second reservoir is Taiwan's newest reservoir given that it was completed in 2006, and it shows in the design and appearance of the management office building. Sadly, this office is closed on weekends so there was no possibility of talking to anyone (though curiously there were several cars and motorbikes parked just outside the building).


I left the second reservoir and found my way to highway 3 through Beipu and then eventually onto the 122 running south-eastward into the mountains. I wanted to find the weir entrapment dam which brings water into the trans-basin diversion tunnel for the first Baoshan reservoir...


As with the weir and entrapment pen on the Nanzhuang river for Yongheshan reservoir, here too I need to get across to the other side of the river to take the best shots. Another task to be saved for later. Whilst I was taking pictures I noticed something that hadn't occurred to me previously; there were egrets all over the fish ladder stabbing their bills in to get the upswimming fish. I didn't have space to set the tripod for the 300mm lens to take a shot of this and I was getting tired and time conscious to bother improvising, so I left that for another time also.


After having found the weir and entrapment pen, I drove back the way I had came up the 122 and, by inference based on map memory (rather than the nearly useless GPS), I found my way to the sedimentation tank for the trans-basin diversion channel that feeds at least one of the two Baoshan reservoirs (and probably both, though I'm not yet sure about the other mechanisms). This is where the water enters - but notice the two channels off to either side of this shot below...


Turning around to face northward and the sedimentation tank with its' six channels. Note here that the division walls are not submerged, as they were at the Yongheshan tank...


Besides the six main channels in the centre of the sedimentation tank, there was something else going on: two channels split from the main one at the tunnel entrance with the one on the right being elevated higher and containing much faster moving water than the others...


This water did not enter the main six channels, but flowed under the road adjacent to the sedimentation tank...


A view (don't ask me how I managed it) from the crest of the entrance tunnel showing the sedimentation tank's six channels in the distance and the three entry channels in the foreground; the one on the left is the one at higher elevation (and probably therefore deeper) containing fast moving water that flows under the road; the central channel leads to the sedimentation tank as does the lower elevation right hand channel...


A view from the other end of the sedimentation tank looking south-eastward toward the tunnel entrance (invisible in this shot)...


The six channels culminate in broad-crested overflow weirs which lead the water into this large pen with a grilled exit at the northern apex...


A view from the eastern side -  notice the leftward, fast moving channel of water above the main penstock...


And here it is. The yellow gate in the background is a small, manual-operated irrigation gate letting a small amount of water out into an irrigation canal...


In this shot below, the fast moving water of the left channel contrasts clearly with the lower-lying six weirs at the end of the sedimentation tank...


Perpendicular to the aforementioned yellow irrigation gate, there is a wide channel off to the west into which most of the fast moving water escapes...


From that point it goes underground for a kilometer or so before re-emerging here to flow over another drop-structure before going underground again (at present my guess is that this diversion tunnel was originally built to enter the southern arm of the first Baoshan reservoir, but that it now enters into the second reservoir instead)...


There was also another little irrigation diversion from the main trans-basin diversion tunnel...


It flows into a concrete tunnel surmounted by a seemingly very old brick building of some kind whose inscription I'm not entirely sure about due to weathering...


I have a lot of work to do for my return trip...

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Appreciation Of A Great Scot: David Hume

That's me about ten years ago standing next to
the David Hume statue on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
Throughout my postgrad time at Edinburgh, I frequently ignored my ostensible subject (within-a-subject-within-a-subject) and just read whatever I wanted and attended whatever lectures I wanted. This habit became particularly strong in my second year; I remember frequently buying books online and finishing them off within a week or two of their arrival such that I almost completely neglected my actual studies for weeks on end. I read widely; archaeology, tax-reform, Islamic democracy, and I think there may have been a history of prostitution in there somewhere too. But mainly I read philosophy; in addition to a lot of little books (e.g. Matt Cavanagh's "Against Equality Of Opportunity") I bought a second-hand copy of David Hume's "Treatise On Human Nature" (1738) from a law student down south somewhere. The thing that immediately impressed me was the prose; it is immense. Although I read and re-read again and again the passage in the introduction wherein Hume lays out his famous "is-ought gap", I have to admit I did not finish reading the entire treatise before I boxed away all my books at my parents house before leaving for Taiwan. Having said that, the "is-ought gap" is not something to be ignorant of, and there is a not-inconsiderable aesthetic value in reading Hume's prose; it is a universe away from the 140-character limit of a Twitter account.

There is a brief but good discussion of Hume's significance here; I think I was wrong in agreeing with Paul Marks about Hume last year. The significance of Hume's law is institutional in that it provides probably the single most robust reason against coercion (the application is to institutional design rather than personal encounters - obviously one does not reason with those who are about to coerce you). I recall Karl Popper in one of his books remarking that it is impossible to write in such a way that you could never be misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misrepresented.

England To Scotland Is NOT As China To Taiwan

"Looking ahead, the Scottish vote will be keenly watched in Taiwan, home to a strong independence movement."
Richard Halloran in yesterday's Taipei Times. I shall say only this: England and Wales do not threaten Scotland with over a thousand ballistic and cruise missiles should they vote for independence. Although I myself am English, I lived in Edinburgh for over three years as a postgraduate, and though I still sometimes miss Edinburgh in some respects, I am glad I am not there now. I cannot stand the Scottish Nationalists.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Three Counties Field Trip: Taichung To Miaoli To Hsinchu...


I did a lot of driving today. That's me at Emei Lake just before heading off to the HSR station in Hsinchu.

First, I took the early morning HSR train to Taichung again, jumped on the little black motorbike and took the 125 ring road around Taichung city's western circumference out to Fengyuan to rejoin highway 13 going north through Miaoli. Two noteworthy points about the 125: first, it had a lot less traffic than any of the other roads I've driven through the city, which is obviously good; second, it is not actually a single road but is rather a route stitched together across several distinct bits of other roads, and that makes it confusing because at times it is a dual carriageway, and at others it is a daft little single-lane back road running through small industrial estates. Nevertheless I made pretty good time and was lucky enough to find a repair shop just outside Fengyuan that was open (with it being Sunday most of them were closed) so I could get an oil change. If I recall correctly I reached Miaoli city at just after 9am, and headed off straight to Mingde reservoir to retake some earlier shots from my first visit two years ago. I've always liked this view downstream of the spillway...


What was only being built back in July 2012 is now complete: a refurbished water treatment works just downstream from the main dam and spillway...


One shot in particular I had wanted to re-take was this one below. Two years ago I had only my 18mm available but not enough space to back into to properly frame the shot. This year I have the 10mm lens to help cram everything into one shot...


I followed the little road around the southern side of the reservoir and, at its' back end, I caught a small party of people out on a motor-boat; they were heading back downstream into the reservoir from somewhere further up the river...


There was also a new bridge which had been built at some point over the past two years...


Another shot I had not been satisfied with two years ago, was a shot of a rather steep weir I had taken with the 250mm. This weir lies on the river that feeds into Mingde reservoir. This time with the 10mm I was able to get it into context properly...


I left Mingde on the 126 off to highway 3 and headed south-east only to switch to the 124 and wind my way ever so belatedly up east into Nanzhuang district. That was a much longer drive than I expected, and I occasionally ended up getting stuck behind a small convoy of car drivers taking each bend at speeds of no miles an hour. Frustrating. At the eventual inflection point on the 124, I initially headed south thinking that was where I had previously located the weir and sedimentation tank for the trans-basin diversion channel that feeds Yongheshan reservoir. However, the steepness of the surrounding mountainsides quickly persuaded me that I was wrong and so I turned back. On the way I stopped briefly at what seemed to be a popular swimming hole to just dunk my head in the stream to cool off. The locals thought I was hilarious.

I soon found the weir intake and sedimentation tank, with which I was very pleased. I get a good feeling from finally arriving in person at places I'd previously only seen on google earth or streetview. Compare and contrast. The obvious difference is that I had fantastically hot weather today, whereas the shots taken for google were done on days that were a bit drab and grey.



The first interesting thing I noticed about the tank was that, at its' entrance, the water current veered off to the right for some reason I wasn't quite able to fathom, unless there is a slight asymmetry in the layout and spacing of the tank walls...


At the other end of the tank, there is just a single exit prefaced with an iron grille to keep out driftwood and the like, but what was interesting, as always, was the weir design. You can see below that it is actually composed out of four main parts; an initial crest (producing an aerated nappe) followed by a bevelled edge sliding into a flat surface, which is in turn followed by a smooth, non-crested slope down to a raised edge which produces a hydraulic jump just before the exit...


Here is a front view of the weir, with the initial broad crest and bevelled edge clearly visible...


I was also able to get a partial shot of the outside river weir gate, but ideally what I want are shots taken from the other side of the river. Those will have to wait until another time...


Eventually I headed off to Sanwan and from there to Emei Lake, which again is one of those places I've only ever seen on maps and elsewhere online before...


The fat Buddha is extremely large and ostentatious. My aim was just to get a brief look at the lake and get a sense of how to approach it another time...


The dam at the front of the lake (which is, unusually in this case, the south). This was, I believe, the first reservoir in Taiwan to be built by ROC engineers without drawing on U.S. support or previous Japanese designs. I think Baihe reservoir was the second. Note that one of the tainter gates appears to have been crushed and blocked up...


The view looking downstream from the dam. I don't yet know much about Emei Lake and will have to come back for several more visits to get better photographs and possibly ask questions in the management office.


From the bridge (visible in the shot above) looking back toward the dam with the fat buddha in the background...


I was pretty tired when I finally rolled up at the Hsinchu HSR station. I believe I actually fell asleep for five or ten minutes on the train back because I don't remember the train stopping at Chiayi station. When we arrived back in Tainan, there was a building of some sort on fire in Guiren district. Either that or perhaps some unknown hero has slain Sauron, who is also euphemistically referred to as the Secretary General of the National Security Council...