Tuesday, 25 April 2017

France: Too Early Or Too Late?

Although I predicted the U.S. election of Donald Trump and was delighted by the Brexit referendum result, I am reluctant to make any predictions about the outcome of France's second round of voting in their presidential election.

Much though there may be to disagree with her on, Le Pen is the only candidate who is taking the threat of Islamic terrorism seriously. I do however, suspect that there is far more moral, intellectual and financial corruption in France than there is anger and sorrow over the innocent people murdered by Islamic terrorists. 

The French political and academic establishment are probably much more resistant to change than in the U.S. or Britain, as evinced by their history of recurring bloody revolutions. Eventually, the French will probably elect someone from the Right who is prepared to take Islamic terrorism seriously. 

Two questions occur to me: whether it is too early for them to elect Le Pen, and whether it will be too late for them to solve the problem of Islamic terrorism without recourse to bloody revolution if they don't vote for her?

Monday, 24 April 2017

Leave The Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) Statues Alone

Among the news this morning is that a DPP legislator, Pasuya Yao (姚文智), has proposed a bill to remove all statues of Chiang Kai-shek to a mausoleum in Taoyuan county. Two reasons are given for this: first, that symbols of Chiang are reminders of Taiwan's anti-democratic past so should not be on public display, and second, that the decapitation of these statues (and that of the Yoichi Hatta statue at Wushantou reservoir) is the government's fault for not having removed them.

This is disturbing.

First of all, there is a deep stupidity in the decapitation of these statues; the crimes of which Chiang is accused are already deep in the past and cannot be undone. Chiang is a part of Taiwan's history and to seek to eradicate the cultural memory of him is a dangerous mistake, as this memory should serve a reminder of how far Taiwan has come in becoming a modern, liberal country. There is only the future and so the impulse to purge symbols of Taiwan's past portend the arrival of a dangerous sectarianism. I have long thought that the most likely threat to Taiwan is not military assault from China, but the shoots of domestic tyranny growing out of the cultural undergrowth and fertilized by the political system. The best answer for the government is not to acquiesce to the demands of these sectarian pathogens but to keep the statues on public display where they are and use existing laws to punish those who vandalize them. For the people, the best response is probably mockery of those who vandalize these statues.

You're a bit fucking late aren't you?

Second, the vandalism of these statues is obviously not the government's fault, but the fault of the people who actually perpetrated the vandalism. This is just basic common sense and the necessary principle of justice that individuals be accountable for their actions. To blame the government for these acts of vandalism, as Pasuya Yao is doing, is grossly irresponsible as that blame can only mean that individuals have no control over their actions and are subject to unattributed and unexplained social forces, which is the evil gibberish of the Left used to excuse any criminal behaviour they find useful to excuse.

If the motives which led people to decapitate statues are continually indulged by stupid politicians, then we are going to move step by step closer to domestic sectarian conflict. The people who vandalize statues, whether it be a statue of Chiang Kai-shek or of Yoichi Hatta or a statue of any other historical figure, should be publicly ridiculed and punished under existing laws.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Three Recent Irritants

I want to quickly write down my thoughts on three recent things in the news. 

First, a friend sent me news of the decapitation of the Yoichi Hatta statue at Wushantou reservoir the other day. Here's the Taipei Times report. I agree with the writers in their suspicion that this was the work of stupid kids in retaliation for the vandalization of Chiang Kai-shek statues elsewhere in Taiwan by college students. The question to ask is whether this kind of thing is happening now due to increasing political polarization as seen in the West? It's possible, and I have written before about the asinine function of Taiwanese politics in lionizing Hatta, whilst ignoring the legacy of those engineers responsible for Taiwan's other reservoirs (this is important: Wushantou reservoir would be nowhere near as effective as it is today without the construction of Tseng-wen reservoir between 1967 and 1973 during the martial law period). The complaint is not that Hatta doesn't deserve praise and memory for his excellent work, but that other engineers do too for their work not only at Taiwan's other reservoirs, but at other critical infrastructure projects (e.g. the massive power plant in Taichung). Yet instead of praise these men are purposefully ignored almost certainly for political reasons related to the ethnic and ideological divisions in Taiwan.  

Second, I noticed a few articles (e.g. here) arguing that should the Trump administration offer to sell F-35Bs to Taiwan then the Taiwan government should refuse. Among the arguments used to justify this was cost and lack of effectiveness and I think both of these are flawed, although the argument from cost is more serious. 
    The F-35 B is very expensive obviously, but the argument from cost was that Taiwan's Airforce would have to retire its fleet of F-16s in order to pay for the maintenance of the F-35s, and I think this indicates a misunderstanding. The point of the F-35 is to augment existing military assets by means of its' superior situational awareness capabilities, not to replace them. Funding the procurement and maintenance of the F-35 might require a reorganization of how the military is funded, for example by (long overdue) budget cuts to education and increased debt. Those possibilities were not considered, and I would think a serious budget cut to education would be a very good thing on its' own as the universities and high schools are bloated and it should be increasingly obvious that much of what they purportedly achieve can be shifted online for a fraction of the cost. 
    The argument from lack of effectiveness is that in an all-out military assault on Taiwan, China would eventually prevail by destroying not only runways but also airbases and their logistical support facilities. This is a specious argument for several reasons. First it is not specific to the F-35 but to Taiwan having any sort of airforce at all and discounts entirely all other scenarios in which Taiwan might want to deter Chinese intrusions into Taiwanese airspace short of all out war. Second, it does not take into account that runways and airbases are fairly easy to repair - the high value targets are the expensive jets themselves, not the cheap runways and office buildings. Third, the F-35 has probably the best aircraft radar in the world at the moment - the AN/APG81 -  as well as a suite of sensors that provide the pilot with a very great advantage in situational awareness and one which is communicable to other military assets such as other fighter aircraft, surface vessels, land-based missile defense systems and submarines. Instead of regarding the F-35 B as just a fancy jet capable of short take off and vertical landing, it needs instead to be seen as a force multiplier.  

The third thing I wanted to note was my yawn at the recent legislative "landmark step" of amending the Animal Protection Act to double the punishments for cruelty to domestic pets. What angers me about this is the idiocy of using legislation as symbolism to "send messages". It's fucking stupid and has nothing to do with the actual problem. The problem is a moral one which has cultural and economic ties - cruelty to cat and dogs arises from personal irresponsibility, not from a lack of legal deterrents. It was only a month or so ago that I found yet another abandoned puppy in the park and adopted her - why always me? It's either that I'm a sucker who is soft on dogs, or because I'm the only person who is willing and able to assume the responsibility of looking after these animals. A big part of the problem as to why Taiwanese mostly do not adopt stray dogs is aesthetics. They typically want either a "cute" toy breed, or they want a relatively exotic, large breed dog (e.g. a Siberian Husky, or an Irish Setter) that is unsuited to the hot and humid climate. Another aspect of the problem is the old people, because old people in Taiwan typically view dogs as dirty pests to be either eaten or regarded with fear. Yet another part of the problem is women, because - in general - women are the ones who want to get dogs, but in general they only want a cute, toy breed and aren't capable of looking after a larger, more robust and energetic Taiwanese mongrel. I could rant about this all day, but it should suffice to say that this legislative change is not going to magic the problem away and will achieve little beyond making lazy, irresponsible people feel better about themselves - that instead of taking action on their own personal powers to address this problem, they successfully lobbied the government into pretending to give a shit. It's not that laws against animal cruelty aren't necessary, it's that the problem can't be solved without a bottom-up effort that involves individual people assuming responsibility. A prediction: there will be a decline in the stray dog population in the cities, and an increase in the stray dog population in the countryside, where many of them will fall sick, get injured and run over by trucks in the middle of the night. That's what Taiwanese people do: they drive the dogs out to the mountains and abandon them because they have a fucking Narnia-like view of nature.

I am going to be busy making videos for a while between work and other responsibilities, but I need to get back to my reservoir work soon. I am nearly finished my field work, but it is already the middle of April and I've done very little since the end of last year.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

An Update On Several Developments

I've written a lot less here recently, but I'm in the process of working out and planning a new YouTube channel for which I'll probably spend more time on in the future. Political events in Taiwan continue to cry out for a response, but I can't bring myself to do that here any longer. I need a new venue and a new approach. There are a lot of variables to be set, including interviewees and possible partnerships and it is going to take time. I have a friend in Kaohsiung who will be involved from time to time in some capacity, and I am thinking about recruiting some help. We've already done some videos, but a recurring difficulty has been the technical quality (picture and sound). New equipment will have to be bought, but I am also thinking about redecorating a spare room upstairs and getting some new furniture from which to make the videos, as my dogs are a distraction in the living room and my current coffee table and sofa combination contributes to bad posture. I should probably add some pictures in the background of my various reservoir trips, birds of prey I have photographed, and my dogs.

Besides that, I am also getting fit again by running, cycling, working out with my jump-rope and by lifting weights in my garage. I have a bar with two pairs of weights which I use for deadlifting and curls, a couple of little 16 lb dumbbells and a pair of heavy 44lb kettlebells. The aim is not to lose weight as such, but to reduce my body fat whilst increasing strength and stamina at the same time. In addition to the cardio and weight lifting, I'm also doing various calisthenics both with a mat in the garage and on the pull-up bars and benches in the park. I have even reduced my alcohol and sugar consumption to the point where I am going day after day after day without a drop of beer and maybe only one cup of coffee. I've already lost an appreciable amount of body fat and added some muscle mass, but the aim is to keep improving until I eliminate the beer belly entirely.

In addition, I have been trying to get more work outside of my three main gigs and figuring out how to do that on a largely trial by error process, which is time consuming (it basically eats up about 70% of my mornings before I go to work). The aim is to add another three to four gigs to what I am currently doing, but keep the time limited to mornings. If I can manage that, then eventually I may be able to add a few more and think about a few other changes. 

And finally, about a week ago I adopted a new puppy. I was going to say reluctantly, and whilst another dog is an additional expense in time and money, I couldn't really say no once she was looking up at me with nobody else willing to take her in. The poor little thing was abandoned by her owners in the park and left there to either be adopted or eventually run over by a car once she strayed onto the road in search of food. All the other people who visit the park trotted out the usual excuses as to their unwillingness to adopt. So again it was left to me to pick up the pieces and assume the responsibility. And other than an episode yesterday in which she pulled the plug out on my laptop, she has been a delight and my other youngest dog Erhjen has taken to her much better than I expected. One surprising thing about her is how little she has urinated and defecated in the house - almost not at all, save for a few "squirts of excitement" from time to time. She already seems to know to wait until she goes to the park, which is great for me.

I'm calling her "Fresno". I have no idea why; it was simply the first proper noun that jumped into my head, for reasons I could only speculate on.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Last weekend trip to Nanhua Reservoir to observe the construction work on the new sluiceway...

Downstream from Nanhua reservoir; the riverbed is split into sections by small dams designed to slow down the flow rate in order to alleviate soil erosion further downstream from fast-flowing discharge waters. To the left you can also see a series of silt traps downstream from the exit point for the new sluiceway tunnel.
That sluiceway tunnel exit mouth. Once the tunnel is completed, a channel will be dug to direct the water into the silt traps before entering the main course of the river downstream from the spillway.
The spillway; it has a discharge capacity of 4,332 cubic meters per second all of which is entirely uncontrolled due to the open overflow design of the lip-shaped sill.
The dam; 4,991,000 cubic meters in volume; which is fairly large for Taiwan.
Looking over to the higher of two adit points giving construction access to the new sluiceway tunnel.
The lower adit point with the twin-boom Fairchild C-119 in the background.
Profile of the sluiceway exit mouth from up on the hillside.
The additional, short dams downstream from the spillway's stilling basin. They double as silt traps in their own right but their primary function is to slow down the flow of water when the spillway is in operation.
The silt traps for the sluiceway.
Artificial wharf at the reservoir's southern end. This platform is used for loading equipment onto barges so that they can be sent northward (left) to the construction site at the upstream mouth of the new sluiceway. The reservoir is approximately half-full at the moment, and you can see from this image that there is a distance of about eight to ten meters between the water and the bridge. When the reservoir is full with the spillway in operation, this bridge is entirely submerged.
The construction site for the upstream point of the new sluiceway. If I am correct, then the tunnel mouth you can see is actually another adit point to allow workers' access to the sluiceway via a gallery, not the actual mouth of the sluiceway itself, which should be situated at a somewhat lower elevation.
Looking out northward over the management center from the public viewing platform with the curved arch dam in the background.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

First YouTube Video



My friend Nathan Novak and I are starting up our own part-time video series talking about various topics related to Taiwan. Hopefully, this is the first of many videos to come, though as this is our first one there are problems with the video and audio quality which we'll get sorted out as we go on. Also, in watching it back again I cringe when I realize I used the word "county" instead of "district" when referring to the areas around Agongdian reservoir. Arggh! And my girlfriend says the laptop is too low and should be raised higher so I can look into the camera. Lots of little details to improve for the next one...

Friday, 3 March 2017

Juan Browne's Reporting Work At Oroville Reservoir



I've been following his videos from the beginning of the Oroville crisis and he has been doing splendid work reporting on what is actually happening, where other folks have been sat at home doom-mongering and speculating about what might happen. The words "reality check" are particularly apt to describe this man's work.