Saturday, 18 April 2015

"Hump Them & Dump Them" : An Optimal Strategy?

I recently had a somewhat depressing experience. A woman I know offered to help me with something, and then invited me to dinner with another woman whom she thought I might find attractive. Fine. What followed was a "clerical error" of misunderstanding regarding transport arrangements. I was not rude, nor did I raise my voice, and I remained calm throughout. Nonetheless, the woman I know seemed to regard my misunderstanding as an open invitation to launch into a ten minute rant on how I don't listen to her and other topics which had the distinct echo of the ultra-feminist snarl about them.

After not being able to get a word in edgeways for what seemed an eternity, I simply hung up the phone and sent the following message:

"Forget it. I'm not going."

And nor I did go. Nor did I reply to her subsequent pleas for me to reconsider and her other messages and stupid smiley faces. And I haven't even mentioned her insolence in an earlier episode in which she asked me a serious question, and then blatantly didn't listen to and take in the considered answer I gave her.

Look darling, it really is simple: if you don't care about what answer I might give, then save my time and don't ask me the bloody question in the first place.

I am sick and tired of having to deal with ... not women... but stupid feminist women. And they are legion because that ideology is so prevalent throughout the culture. In reference to which, I thought I'd post two videos I just stumbled across on youtube...


I found this after watching the following video on Emily Pankhurst and the Suffragettes "white feather" campaign during the First World War...

The "Objective" Eye Of The BBC

"Because of course the BBC can’t tell the difference between an outlandish, obviously fake social-justice obsessed parody account and a normal member of the public."
That's hilarious! For a long time I've been wanting to say that it's very rare I actually "laugh-out-loud", so to speak, when reading things on the internet, but this is one of those times. One of the things I encounter every now and again here in Taiwan is the Canadian or American who regards the BBC as "fairly objective" insofar as political bias is concerned. They fill the world with facepalm.

Via Perry de Havilland.

Friday, 17 April 2015

On The Defence Of Taiwan

Following a discussion elsewhere recently, I thought I'd set to rethinking the question of how to defend Taiwan from a potential Chinese attack. As I see it, various strategies fall into one of two types; delay and deterrence.

For the first type, the underpinning assumption is that Taiwan would eventually be rescued by U.S. and possibly Japanese intervention. This assumption may or may not be valid. Given that assumption, a delay strategy would necessitate the targeting and weakening of Chinese military assets, including missile bases, ships and fighter aircraft in order to buy time for U.S. forces to intervene.

The second type of strategy - deterrence - makes no assumptions about U.S. intervention. Indeed, if it is instead assumed that the U.S. would not intervene on Taiwan's behalf, then a strategy of deterrence seems to be the only one that makes any sense given that the Taiwanese military is unlikely to win a war of attrition with the Chinese military.

How should the Taiwan government spend its' limited resources? Since the probability of (successful) U.S. intervention on Taiwan's behalf is unknown, it makes sense to acquire capabilities that could be used for either of the two types of strategy. If the U.S. does attempt to intervene in the event of a Chinese attack, then Taiwan would be in a position to try to buy time for them - whether successful or not. If U.S. politicians decide to cut Taiwan loose, and communicate this to the Chinese then Taiwan would nevertheless still have some means of attempting to deter any Chinese attack. Of course, it is very likely that there will be some substantial difference between those military assets Taiwan would need for the delay strategy and the military assets Taiwan would need for the deterrence strategy.

Of particular interest are diesel electric submarines and cruise missiles.

The stealthy characteristics of such boats make them excellent platforms for surprise attacks, as even with relatively advanced detection systems, locating them is notoriously difficult. Armed with cruise missiles, these boats could be deployed against Chinese vessels in the Taiwan Strait as part of a delay strategy, or else they could potentially be deployed in the littoral waters off China's eastern coast in order to strike at civilian/political targets in China's cities.

Two questions to be considered are whether cruise missile strikes on Chinese cities could do sufficient (perceived) damage to work as a deterrent, and whether in fact this could realistically be achieved with submarines and cruise missiles.

On the first question, the obvious answer is nuclear warheads, though it is unlikely that Taiwan would restart any such program. Perhaps more realistic would be the targeting of high-salience civilian buildings with great symbolic value, such as skyscrapers and government buildings. Other warhead types are possible besides conventional explosives and nukes. Assuming Taiwanese submarines could actually launch cruise missile strikes against such targets in China, would this actually work as a deterrent? It is hard to know.

On the second question, of whether this could be realistically achieved with submarines and cruise missiles,three objections occur to me, the first two of which were raised by others at the earlier discussion. The first is quantity; that it is unlikely that Taiwan would be able to develop the boats and missiles in sufficient quantity to do any serious damage. The second is timing; that the Chinese military would wait until they had located all Taiwanese boats before launching an attack on Taiwan. The third is distance; Shanghai lies approximately 1,000 km away from the Zuoying port in southern Taiwan where Taiwan's current submarines are based. Beijing is nearly 2,000 km away. Modern diesel electric submarines have limited endurance, with a submerged range of maybe 400 km. Taiwan's current cruise missiles have a range of less than 200 km.

The first objection, on quantity, could perhaps be overcome by simply spending more money which would almost certainly necessitate serious budget cuts elsewhere in government spending. But it would be very expensive, as it requires not simply building a large number of boats but expanding existing ports and building new ones in which to base them. The second objection, on timing, is a murky one in the sense that current anti-submarine warfare in noisy littoral waters searching for small and very quiet boats is extremely difficult - even with the best equipment. The third objection seems to me to be more serious. Either the endurance and range of any future Taiwanese diesel-electric submarines must be vastly improved, or the range of the cruise missiles must be improved. However, the latter option would be unattractive if it resulted in a significant increase in circular error probable. On a somewhat optimistic note, the French shipbuilder DCNS has recently built an advanced diesel-electric submarine with a much larger displacement than typical and a range of more than 10,000 km. So a much improved diesel-electric submarine is at least technically possible.


Perhaps however, this discussion is dangerously short-sighted. The conflict between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (i.e. Taiwan) is basically an ideological one centered on notions of collective identity. Let's say that China launched an invasion of Taiwan which was eventually repelled by U.S. intervention - would that be the end of it? Of course not. Barring an ideological change within China itself, they would doubtless repeat the attempt again sooner or later.

Let us then consider the central ideological aspect of the conflict, and two ways in which Taiwan might seek an "ideological defence" against Chinese irredentism. The first way is the development of a collective identity specific to Taiwan, and defined in contrast to Taiwan's largely Chinese-origin culture, Taiwanese nationalism. This already exists in Taiwan, perhaps in its' strongest form here in the south of Taiwan. So far as I can tell, the argument for this is that in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and a coup d'etat of the government in Taipei, the Taiwanese will attempt to resist Chinese rule by means of organized protest with the Taiwanese identity serving as the focal point for such rallies. This doesn't exactly fill me with confidence, especially when it is recalled how the Chinese leadership ordered the Tiananmen Square protests to be brutally suppressed by the military back in 1989. It may be admitted that the internet and the ubiquity of trivially cheap photography/video may mean that it will be even more difficult to hide any violent suppression than it already was for the Chinese in 1989, yet government monitoring and censorship of the world wide web is a growing concern - not just in China, but also in erstwhile "liberal" countries such as the U.S. and the U.K.

A second way in which Taiwanese people might seek an "ideological defence" against Chinese irredentism is to shift focus away from notions of collective identity altogether and to instead reshape the economy of political power. As I have argued previously, a strategy of depoliticization, in which vital functions currently under the centralized control of the State, are relinquished to the free market would fundamentally alter Taiwan's political situation vis-a-vis China in several ways. First, it would remove the incalculable advantages of existing centralized control structures that China currently stands to inherit upon a successful invasion of Taiwan. Second, with the dissolving of State imposed compulsory education, any collective identity to be exploited for political ends would be fatally undermined. Unless a new centralized education system was reimposed at immense cost and political difficulty, the central Chinese aim of promoting Chinese nationalist identity in Taiwan would become almost impossible. Moreover, the Taiwanese might still feel themselves to be, and identify as Taiwanese, but this would no longer be a political instrument. Third, even if the Chinese did invade and take over Taiwan's government, then so long as the costs of re-establishing the current form of massively centralized State power remained prohibitively high, then there would be little to fear from unification with China anyway, as they would not be in a position to change anything.

A depoliticized Taiwan is an interesting option because it could act either as a deterrent to an invasion (large costs of re-establishing centralized political control), or as an incentive to a peaceful take-over (the Chinese get to save face by having Taiwan accept itself as a "province" of China, but without actually changing anything). If a strategy of depoliticization could save Taiwan's people from the political depredations of the Chinese State, then why not also the people in the existing provinces of China - many of whom have undergone much worse treatment at the hands of State authorities there than have people in Taiwan.

I have written on this topic of depoliticization many times previously, and though it is obviously and drastically unrealistic, it may nonetheless be Taiwan's best hope. Or it may not be; as always I look forward to well-put criticism, even though I am usually disappointed by its' absence.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

A Brilliant Morning Across Tseng-wen Reservoir

A week ago today (Sunday April 5th), I returned to Tseng-wen reservoir on a gloriously bright morning to take some more observations and get better photographs than I did last time out. These days I'm often too busy to write up blog posts about my reservoir work until it's getting a bit late (this has been especially true of the last couple of weeks and will probably be the case for the next month or so). As it is I can't even remember what time I left Tainan city and what time I arrived at Tseng-wen reservoir - it was probably around nine in the morning when I arrived judging by the light in the picture below...

This is the southern quarter of the reservoir which runs up against the actual dam and as you can see from the treeline along the banks (and the waterline along the dam), the water level has fallen some good fifteen to twenty meters from its' maximum extent. This was also my last day with the recently regrown beard before I shaved it off...

The first of the new data this trip yielded (which was impossible last time out due to the dense fog) was an observation of the new sluiceway construction work being undertaken to the south of the water intake tower...

In profile: the dam with two of the three spillway gates off to the right, the dam, the water intake tower to the left and the the new construction for the sluiceway modifications off to the far left.
Close up of the water intake tower and the new sluiceway construction.
Close-up on the new construction itself.
Overlooking the approximate centre of Tseng-wen reservoir from the east (image taken with phone camera); the little bay in the foreground is where I was headed and there were already people camping and fishing there.
Arrival at the little bay.
The little blue truck at the end of the bay belonged to a couple of locals sat there fishing.
My take-off point: notice the wooden raft I had swam back with a month ago lodged up on the rocks to the top left - the water has fallen some five meters or so since then.
The same rocky shore taken from further back to provide more context - back in February, half of this was still submerged.
The lower water level meant I had an easy time of following the "road" down to the water's edge to get my boat ready.
Footprints in the mud - possibly mine and those of Gary and Howie from our trip two weeks previously. Those footprints indicate the area where we would have entered the water with our boats. Note the distance from those prints to my kit at the end of the "road".
Finally, back out on the water: looking northward just off the eastern shoreline.
A curious thing happened after a short while of following the eastern shoreline northward; a Black Kite descended to just a few feet or so above me to circle me overhead again and again, checking me out. However, because my usual encounters with these birds require the use of the long lens - that is what I had attached to my camera and as a result I could not get a single shot off because the bird was actually too close! Had I had the 10mm wide-angle lens attached, I might have managed something decent. This is the first time this has happened.

After a scorching hot hour in the crossing I eventually arrived at a point well to the north of previous landing spots on the western shoreline.
This large gap in the western shoreline admits a small feeder stream into the reservoir. It is very popular with both the kite and the egrets which either means that there are more fish to be had here, or just that the water is shallower and thus the fishing that much easier for the birds.
The Kite who had circled me overhead during the crossing; I hoped to get more and better shots of him.
The hot sun necessitated that any waiting around must be done in the shade, which I found beneath a massive boulder.
The stream mouth.
My friend the Kite returning to the stream once more; I was to be unable to get any better shots of him.
The western shoreline this far north forms a short, steep cliff down into the water. 
The same view as above but tilted slightly further to the north - the peak in the distance stands over the bend in the reservoir toward the east whence it is fed by the Tseng-wen river winding down out of the mountains further east in Chiayi's Alishan district.
Myself, with the lens looking directly north. Behind me in the distance the mudflats are just visible, as the first part of the reservoir opposite the village of Dapu has already dried up.
The start of the "mudline" in the distance.
Looking eastwards to the area just south of Dapu village; I was curious as to what the crane is for (and remain so as later on I forgot to check it out on my way back).
Small residences in a village across the reservoir from Dapu.
Back on the boat, I initially pushed further northward to take a little peek up the tributary stream.
On the boat looking directly southwards; it was a brilliant day.
Looking eastward on my approach back toward the eastern shoreline.
Looking back northward.
Finally, I rounded the edge of the eastern shoreline and returned back into the bay. When I had swam back across the reservoir on March 8th, this rocky outcrop was submerged, and I had briefly stopped swimming to stand on it and take a break before completing my swim by crossing the bay.
Looking eastward down into the bay. The tree-clad cliffs opposite are where the road (provincial highway 3) overlooks the middle of the reservoir with spectacular views.
Once I was back on dry land and into a change of clothes, I headed off further north to Dapu to observe the extent of the drought right at the back end of the reservoir...

Looking down into an empty reservoir bed from a height of twenty meters or so. When full, that is a vast amount of water.
Looking northward across the eastward bend in the reservoir; there is a tiny little hamlet on the other side.
The road that leads down into the reservoir from Dapu; I have previously been here when the water level was so high that the lamp on top of the lampost was only a few feet above it.
Following the road down into the reservoir's bed.
The mudflats on the bed. The further across them you walk, the moister and squishier they become and the more you sink.
Looking back at the road down into the bed from Dapu.
When the water level is this low, what water remains becomes concentrated in two little streams on either side of the kilometer-wide bed. This one is on the eastern side, but the one on the western side is too far away to be visible in this shot.
Looking back westward around the bend.
I stopped in Dapu for something to eat and drink before heading out again; naturally I wanted to do everything, but there simply wasn't time for that. Once out of Dapu and across the bridge, I turned left rather than right. This meant that I did not get to see the big weir during the drought. It also meant however, that I was to obtain new data: the structures at the back of the reservoir which I had previously thought abandoned were clearly not. Even though they had been there for a couple of years, it seems that the Water Bureau people were waiting for the drought to lower the water level to such an extent as to allow construction to recommence. The coffer dam has been extended and a third structure (a second tower) has been added...

Three structures now, rather than two. I suspect that this is going to be a weir of some kind intended to trap sediments brought down by the river during typhoons.
There are now steel cables running between the block on the south side and the first tower in the middle, and there is also a steel latticework structure between the first tower and the second tower on the north side.
Pleased with this new data, I drove on up the road and followed a little detour to take me to the hamlet opposite Dapu. Long before I reached that hamlet, I was greeted with this view out over the reservoir from the north looking directly south...

The village of Dapu is off to the left, and you can even see the curves of the little road that leads down from Dapu into the reservoir bed.
There is another tributary river which feeds the reservoir and which must be crossed before you can reach the little hamlet opposite Dapu. It has an unusual weir to check its' flow during typhoon season...

A parting view overlooking the little bay in the middle of Tseng-wen reservoir late on in the afternoon.
Pleased with the new data, and the experience I had out on the water again, I headed home feeling quite tired. I can't wait to go back again and learn more.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Comment On Language Policy Article At "Thinking Taiwan"

The article was written by the lengthily-named "Marie-Alice McLean-Dreyfus", an honours student in Australia. My comment as below...


The two premises of this article are that local languages are in some sense valuable and should therefore be preserved.

To question the first premise - valuable to whom? As the author herself admits, there are both students and teachers who regard local languages as an unnecessary distraction. If education is to be regarded as instrumental for later economic activity, then it is hard to argue that local languages are of greater import to a student's future than mathematics, the sciences and the two predominant languages Chinese and English. Perhaps, on the other hand, there are some students who would like to learn these languages for their own sake but are discouraged from doing so due to the demands of compulsory State education.

That brings us to the second premise - how should the preservation of local languages be attempted? The author's answer is to use institutional power in two ways: first, at the "macro" level in the implementation of nationwide language policies, and second, at the "micro" level in the transfer of greater power to local teachers to implement their own local language policies. Yet contrary to the author's leader statement for this article...

"A bottom-up approach to language learning and acquisition is necessary to halt the decline of local languages in Taiwan."

... both of these ways are in fact top-down approaches in which policies must be designed for the "encouragement", if not explicit coercion, of students into using local languages. A truly "bottom up" approach would presuppose that students are the ones making decisions about whether and which local languages they want to learn, but that requires freedom of choice which is something students do not enjoy in compulsory State education.

Homeschooling, unsupervised by the State, and supplemented by parents hiring independent local language teachers might offer a way in which students could gain that freedom of choice - not just for the learning of local languages, but for the development of their natural interests in other subject areas too.

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Second Of Two Chiayi Trips

Following on from the previous weekend's trip to Chiayi, I returned to Chiayi on the subsequent Friday (April 3rd) via the train and picked up the motorbike to try to finish my work in tracing the feeder stream for Lantan reservoir. On the train up from Tainan city, I got talking to a couple of Mormon girls who were over here from Utah on missionary work for 18 months; neither of them had smartphones and when I later sent one of them the link to my blog, she told me that they were forbidden to have internet access during their 18 month mission in Taiwan (except for family communication), which is something I didn't previously know about the Mormons. Unlike other foreigners in Taiwan, I hold neither fear, annoyance or hatred toward the various Christian sects that come here - not because I sympathize with any of their theologies (I'm an atheist), but just because they are basically peaceful in their methods and in their attitude and demeanor - at least compared to the puritanical control freaks that I find almost everywhere.

When I arrived in Chiayi, the black motorbike started up again without hitch (due to the new battery), but the tyre pressure had fallen. I took it to a mechanic and had the tyres pumped up and the oil changed (note to self: at 18,500 km). I paused briefly on the uphill road that passes by Lantan reservoir to the north to take some shots as the weather was glorious...

Overlooking Lantan reservoir from the north; as the weather was spectacularly good, the mountains were visible in the distance; the first of which is "Pillow Mountain" which overlooks Baihe reservoir in the north of Tainan.
I followed the main road straight ahead to take the farmer's road I had come across previously down toward the freeway and the stream. I presume that this is the feeder stream for Lantan reservoir largely because it seems to be in approximately the right location, it has concrete walls and contains baffling blocks to check the speed of the water's flow. It is however, hideously encumbered by the overgrowth of the local bush to the point at which it is barely visible...

The possibility of following the stream in a north-westerly direction toward Lantan reservoir was made difficult by the presence of abandoned or semi-abandoned (and hence especially dense) banana plantations. Instead I followed the stream in the opposite direction toward its' presumed source (Renyitan reservoir) and along the way I noticed something odd - a crayfish suspended from an electricity cable by some kind of thread. At first I thought spider web, but looking at it again the threads seem to be too thick to be those of the common golden orb weaver, and they are also oddly arranged - as if by repeated loops over and over the cable from which they hang. It looks like human rather than animal work, though quite why anyone would want to catch and hang up a single crayfish to dry in the sun is not obviously clear...

I once again lost track of the stream among the betel nut farms (and private land) and arrived at Renyitan reservoir without finding what I was looking for. Since the weather was so much better and brighter than it had been on my previous trip, I decided I would take more pictures. I started with pictures overlooking the northern tip of the reservoir from a hill to the west...

The higher apartments in the building in the background must give excellent views out over the reservoir; indeed a Taiwanese woman I know offered to sell one of them to me (they are not particularly expensive either, considering prices elsewhere).
I briefly wandered a short distance down a steep farmer's path on the northern side of the reservoir which eventually opened up to this view south over the depleted reservoir...

The little spits of land on either side are not sediment build up, but are actually part of the reservoir bed's natural contours.
From there I drove back down to the reservoir itself for more photography...

Overlooking Renyitan reservoir from the west end with the monitoring station just below. The mountains in the distance mark the beginning of Chiayi County's Alishan district. 

From the west end looking northwards up to Renyitan's westernmost corner following the curve of the dam.

Standing on the main section of the dam at its' western end gazing eastward; after Agongdian reservoir in Kaohsiung, this is the longest dam in Taiwan.

The mountains to the east can only be seen on a clear day. 

From the south-west corner looking northward toward the apartment buildings that overlook the reservoir. 
After a short while I left the impressive views over Renyitan reservoir behind and resumed my search for the feeder stream among the betel nut farms. Without physically getting into the stream itself, it is difficult to follow it directly. However I did find a recently reconstructed road and culvert in approximately the right location for it to be a "semi-plausible" candidate for the feeder stream; somewhat south and only a relatively short distance west of the control tower for the "monk" shaft. On a two dimensional map the location is approximately correct, but nonetheless this is not what I was looking for...

The water runs off from a natural rill in the hillside into this concrete culvert...

There is also a step to allow excess flood water to overflow onto and over the newly constructed road.
The water rill in the hillside which feeds the culvert, with the flood opening in front of it.

Looking up at the culvert from the loosely packed soil on the hillside below.
I wasn't about to start tramping all over somebody else's farm looking for something for which I have no culturally-plausible excuse to be looking for, so I left. A Taiwanese friend wanted to meet me, and with the weather being so good, I decided to take repeat shots of important features I had photographed on previous occasions. I began with the source water sedimentation tank, which filters sediments out of the water delivered to the reservoir by the Bazhang river...

The water in the sedimentation tank was now static, as the level was insufficient to provide flow over the broad-crest.
I then went on around the corner to look again at the river intake structure which is ultimately responsible for the water content of both Renyitan and Lantan reservoirs...

The people from the Water Bureau had carved two channels into the river bed to ensure maximum water flow toward the entrapment pen during the dry season.

Looking eastward upstream toward the Bazhang's source in the mountains of Alishan district.
Further downstream can still be seen the remains of the previous water intake point constructed by the Japanese to source water for Lantan reservoir...

Note the square-shaped "door" cut into the cliff to the center-left of the image, with rubble piled up beneath it.
I then headed back to Renyitan reservoir to take some shots from the east end. On this side the water level has fallen so low as to expose the reservoir's bed to the sun. Channels appear to have been dug through the reservoir's bed to transport water over to the western side...

Like most of Taiwan's reservoirs, Renyitan is shallow: the depth here is about ten meters or so. 

The small stepped-dam on the east side which separates the reservoir from its' feeder stream entry point further to the east. It was presumably built as a means to check excessive flow rates from the feeder stream into the reservoir in times of flood.
Once I left Renyitan reservoir, I stopped briefly to take more shots of Lantan reservoir, including this one from the little one-lane vehicle bridge atop the spillway aperture...

I've always loved this view across the downstream face of the Lantan reservoir dam with the mountains in the distance.

Looking over the little reservoir in a north-easterly direction from the south-west.

Looking directly eastward across the upstream face of the dam; there is a height of about two meters before the first grassline appears on the dam, which will be the usual high-water mark.

Looking directly northward over Lantan reservoir from the south end.

Probably my favourite view of Lantan reservoir; looking eastward from the water intake towers toward the spillway aperture with the little bridge running across it.
Having finished taking pictures at Lantan reservoir, I then drove off into Chiayi city to meet someone and get something to eat before heading off to the train station. On my next trip up to Chiayi, the plan is to either have one more look for tunnel mouth or pipeline exit point to the feeder stream and/or drive the bike further north up to Douliou city in Yunlin County. Eventually, I hope to have the bike parked somewhere convenient up in Taipei later this summer.