Friday, February 27, 2009

December 8, 2008 - Taiwan High Court. It's a small island, and I sometimes forget that I'm in the capital city with the Presidential Office and the Supreme Court. For what that's worth. Aside from the Greek columns, I can't say it's a very distinguished building.

Not sure why I have two lomos of the building. It was the start of the roll, so maybe that's why.

I was in this area today, and I think I'm going to give up on learning Mandarin and any hope to become conversational. I'm going to continue studying the language, but just because I'm in Taiwan, have nothing better to do. I'll study it as an academic exercise, to learn the words and the grammar.

I was a block away from this building, waiting to meet up with my uncle, and a woman came up to me and asked me a question that she seemed to already know the answer to (the confidence of a lawyer maybe). I didn't understand right away, so I replied I didn't know. 5 seconds later it dawned on me that she was asking if the High Court 高法院 was this way.

Three words and I couldn't understand right away. That's just pathetic. It's kinda not in my programming to process language comprehension in a foreign language. I'll still work on undoing that programming, I think that's important, and impressive that so many other people can do it, but I'm keeping my standards way low.

iTunes soundtrack:
1. Netori (Watazumi Doso Roshi - shakuhachi)
2. Bad (U2)
3. Lonely Wind/Piano Solo (live) (Kansas)
4. Aurora no Sora Kara Mitsumeteiru (Chitose Hajime)
5. Half Acre (Hem)
6. Celebration Day (live) (Led Zeppelin)
7. Come See About Me (The Supremes)
8. Your Dirty Answer (Kristin Hersh)
9. Summertime (The Sundays)
10. Tell Me Why (Echobelly)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

December 27, 2008 - I tend to go on and on about the riverside bikeways and parks, but don't give enough love out to the riverside garbage trucks. They are a terrific stink to ride by if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction.

February 9, 2008 - Fortunately, I don't think there are any in Taipei city. The top lomo is along the Dahan River in Shulin, southwest of Taipei, probably, and the bottom is along the opposite bank of the Danshui River in Luzhou.

Speaking of garbage, I wonder why I haven't heard any commentary connecting the Madoff scandal and the Stanford/Antigua scandal with the global financial collapse. Could it be there is no connection?

Could be, how can the greedy acts of a few bad apples be connected to the global financial crisis/credit meltdown? Personally, I don't think it's a coincidence. It's just a gut feeling, since I'm no financier or econ major, but I think it may be indicative of a systemic fault in capitalism.

When things first started going south, Bush and Wall St. kept emphasizing that the fundamental basis of capitalism was sound. I find that an odd first thing to defend when people are just panicking about their money, not the basis of the capitalist system.

I look back at it now, and it sounds to me that they were just saying the equivalent of "capitalism still works . . . on paper". Of course, communism works on paper, too, but put it into practice and you need a repressive, authoritarian regime to implement it because people just don't live their lives according to communist ideals.

Maybe what's happening now is the completely logical outcome of free-wheeling, unregulated capitalist theory, and these scandals are also an inevitable and logical outcome. When you can juggle around money in a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't magic show, people are going to take advantage of it, people are greedy.

I do think the world economic system is on the verge of a revolution, and in several decades, we're not going to be gauging wealth and growth in the same way as we are now. The size and growth of the economy won't be nearly as important as sustainability. That will be the new key word for all industry. Enterprises won't start up on the basis of growth and profit, but they will need a plan for sustainability and longevity. And energy and environment is also going to play a key role.

How is this going to happen? Strict government oversight and regulation. Sound repressive? Sound authoritarian - the government telling you how to run your enterprise? In several decades, it may just sound smart and necessary.

iTunes soundtrack:
1. Soul Survivor (The Rolling Stones)
2. Turn Your Lights Down Low (Bob Marley & the Wailers)
3. Momen no Handkerchief (Shiina Ringo)
4. Ladyflash (The Go! Team)
5. Ai Suru Hito Yo (Sakura)
6. Weekends of Sound (764-HERO)
7. Out of Range (live) (Ani DiFranco)
8. I Can't Explain (live) (The Who)
9. Mission (Rush)
10. One (Sakura)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

December 31, 2008 - Taipei, Taiwan. New Years Eve show from behind the drumset. Starting from that show, each night we've played has felt like the last time. Tonight was another, and it may not be, but a last night playing there will come, and soon. I am sick of playing in this group. It's gotten old and boring, hopefully that's not saying something about me! It's not fun anymore, and that's the best reason to stop doing something. Anyway, once I get my citizenship, I'm hoping to spend a month in the U.S., which may be the time to make a clean break with the band.

After tonight's gig, the band leader mentioned things coming up. I tried to come across as uncommitted as possible.

iTunes soundtrack:
1. Could We (Cat Power)
2. Andy Warhol (David Bowie)
3. The Employment Pages (Death Cab for Cutie)
4. 2nd of Feb (Engine Down)
5. Glory (Liz Phair)
6. Dewlaps (100 Watt Smile)
7. Stwisted (Edie Brickell & New Bohemians)
8. Magic Fingers (Bela Fleck & the Flecktones)
9. Asodaya Yunta (Natsukawa Rimi)
10. Cello Suite No. 2, V. Menuett (J.S. Bach)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 9, 2009 - I bought new tires with the NT$3,600 vouchers the government gave every Taiwanese citizen, or pending-citizen in my case. The tires actually only cost a little over NT$2,000 (about US$60), but I also bought a new cycling jersey for about NT$2,600. Damn, they're expensive! No wonder I've been using the same 2 cycling jerseys for, like, the last 8 years! Ones I bought at a discount at Sports Basement in San Francisco.

In all I spent about NT$1,000 in my own cash, which is part of what the voucher stimulus is supposed to do. The idea is that to get the full value out of the voucher, consumers need to buy things that are more than the face value, and cover the balance with cash. The vouchers came in denominations of 6 NT$500 vouchers and 3 NT$200 vouchers, so the full amount doesn't need to be used at once, like I did. So if each of the vouchers were used separately, it's possible that the amount of consumer cash injected into the economy might add up to about NT$1,000.

I hope I used the vouchers how the government wanted me to, in the best way that would help the economy. Environmental groups were urging people not to view the vouchers as a windfall, but to use the vouchers only for things they were going to buy anyway, but that doesn't help the economy by stimulating spending. If they were going to buy things anyway, their cash was going into the economy anyway. For the cash-strapped, that makes sense, but for people getting by, it undermines the voucher stimulus.

For me, I bought things I really wanted, but was on the fence about. The jersey was a total luxury item, and I did need new tires, but I could waffle on them and put off buying them for as long as possible. The vouchers put me over, and had me throw in the jersey for good measure.

The new Kenda tires (I'd never heard of Kenda) definitely are making a difference. I'm going more vertical on downhill turns, and much more confident my tires won't slip out from under me. I'm pretty sure these are natural rubber tires, whereas the stock tires Giant put on were probably synthetic rubber. Makes all the difference in the world for gripping. Now I just have to see how long they last.

iTunes soundtrack:
1. Expresso Love (Dire Straits)
2. We Do Not Belong Together ("Sunday in the Park with George" - Sondheim)
3. Candy Everybody Wants (10,000 Maniacs)
4. Rip This Joint (The Rolling Stones)
5. Make Tomorrow (Peter Gabriel - "OVO")
6. The Way a Leash Feels (764-HERO)
7. Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, Prelude #20 in Am (J.S. Bach)
8. Soul Daiji (Bubble Gum Brothers)
9. Long Way From Home (The Vaughan Brothers)
10. Cool Water (Talking Heads)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

August 5, 2008 - Outside the Taiwan Railway Authority (or Administration) on Bade Road. Train wheels turned into parking lot barriers. At sunset, so low light.

I read an article today about a woman motorscooterist who was killed several years ago when a taxi driver let his passenger out in a not safe place. The woman swerved to avoid hitting the opening door, but fell and suffered head injuries and died a couple weeks later.

It was in the news today because a verdict was handed down in the following court case. Both the driver and the passenger were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and face either jail time or stiff fines.

I agree with the verdict. Taxi drivers are a menace in Taiwan, and pedestrians aren't much better in their complete disregard of watching where they're going, or looking before they leap. Although, I do think the taxi driver had greater culpability - it was his responsibility to not let a passenger out if there was any danger to traffic, and even at a red light, a taxi driver should know that motorscooter and bicycle traffic continues around his vehicle. He has greater knowledge of what is safe or not, and he has mirrors to check whether his passenger can disembark safely. The only reason he would let a passenger out essentially in the middle of traffic is sheer negligence and disregard for safety.

This is another good argument to establish taxi ranks in Taiwan, where taxis can only pick up or drop off passengers in designated areas. The way it is now, a free-for-all, Taiwan streets that are already overcrowded with taxis are made more dangerous by reckless taxi drivers competing for fares.

Negligence on the part of the taxi driver, obliviousness on the part of the passenger, I witness this everyday in Taiwan, and in this case it resulted in the death of someone who was innocently trying to get from one place to another. I hate to say it, but she probably would have survived if she didn't try to swerve and just plowed right into the passenger and the taxi door.

iTunes soundtrack:
1. Floating Dogs (Peter Gabriel - "Birdy")
2. Teentown (Kenwood Dennard)
3. D'yer Mak'er (Led Zeppelin)
4. Thunderstruck (AC/DC)
5. I Love You (Princess Princess)
6. Oh! You Pretty Things (David Bowie)
7. Tinfoil (live) (Rainer Maria)
8. Hinotama Jive (live) (Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra)
9. She's a Woman (The Beatles - Anthology)
10. Going to California (Led Zeppelin)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

July 7, 2008 - Xindian riverside bikeway near the Gongguan entrance.

December 20, 2008 - Same bridge, but from the south.

As they say in Taiwan, "Spring has sprung!". Oh wait, they don't say that here, that's what we say in the U.S., they say "春天到了", which means Spring has arrived, but to make it more interesting, the whole phrase is indicated by the character for "Spring" upside-down, since the character for "arrive", 到, is a homonym for "to turn upside-down", 倒.

Geddit? They sure go a long way to be clever.

So with nice sunny and warm days (before humidity and sweltering tropical heat kicks in starting around next month), I've been trying to get out on my bike as much as possible during the day. I'll switch to night riding once the daytime gets too hot.

Not that it's been that long since the last real ride, December - I usually stop riding during the Winter and have to train back up to form come Spring - but I'm doing a "training" regimen of 100 miles on the flat riverside bikeways, and then once I accumulate 100 miles, I start hitting the local hills, and then after that I'll start doing the longer rides and bigger mountains.

iTunes soundtrack:
1. We'll Let You Know (King Crimson)
2. Green (Throwing Muses)
3. Plane Crash in C (Rilo Kiley)
4. Free Four (Pink Floyd)
5. Kokuu (Katsuya Yokoyama - shakuhachi)
6. Want More (Bob Marley & the Wailers)
7. Long Knives (Rainer Maria)
8. Emerald Lies (Marillion)
9. No Language in Our Lungs (XTC)
10. Ritual Dance (Michael Hedges)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

August 1, 2008 - Construction in my neighborhood. I think a lot of this is done by now and the interiors are being done. Don't know who's going to live in them in this economic climate.

It's on the news now that the NY stock market just plunged after Geithner announced reforms in how the bailout package will be managed. Maybe it's too early to say, but it sounds to me it's a sign that Wall St. can't handle government regulation, even when it's begging Washington for bailout money. They think they should be able to receive the American people's tax money and use it without regulation and with impunity. They can't process that the way they've been using their own money without regulation and with impunity has caused the current global economic crisis.

I see it as a disease, a mental illness on Wall St. Like when AIG received bailout money and the first thing they did was take their top executives on a luxury spa retreat. They don't get it. It's the same as a compulsive gambler who doesn't realize there's a problem. There's no reflection involved, no urgency felt to act prudently. They receive bailout money and they use it the only way they know how - for their own selfish, indulgent interests. All of Wall St. is the same, and so it's no surprise that when Washington announces that they are demanding accountability, that if they are receiving taxpayer money, they have to report exactly how it's being spent, they go running like cowards.

I remember when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, some people proclaimed it a final victory for capitalism. One famous commentator even remarked it was the "end of history", which I not only didn't understand, but found short-sighted and arrogant, and right then and there I predicted that someday capitalism would likewise fail. I had no idea how or when, just that it would, and that some enlightened sustainable hybrid of socialism and capitalism would need to arise.

I don't know if we're facing the collapse of capitalism, but as commentators are arguing that the fundamental basis of capitalism is intact, and that this crisis is an exception, I would suggest that this crisis is the natural result of free-wheeling capitalism. This is no exception.

iTunes soundtrack:
1. Johnny Too Bad (Taj Mahal)
2. Ceremony (Rainer Maria)
3. Workin' for T.V. (Southern All-Stars)
4. Electric Relaxation (A Tribe Called Quest)
5. The World at Large (Modest Mouse)
6. Boogie With Stu (Led Zeppelin)
7. Pledging My Time (Bob Dylan)
8. As Long As He Needs Me ("Oliver!")
9. Capacity (Deadweight)
10. Workin' Man (Stanley Clarke)

Monday, February 09, 2009

July 30, 2008 - Taipei, Taiwan. Tayou Road to the left, Jiankang to the right. Taipei 101 in the distance. This is not far from where I live, so it's my neighborhood. Half mile away. Those overpasses come off a bridge that crosses the Keelung River behind me.

So it's February and the weather has gotten into a drizzly/overcast pattern, but at least the cold has lifted. It's still chilly, but at least it's not cold. It's a relief on the sinuses. I haven't gotten out on my bike since I got new tires with my free NT$3,600 coupons that all Taiwanese got from the government.

My boss at work had a retirement ceremony on Friday, so he's definitely on his way out, but he's still in control for about another month until the new editor-in-chief takes over. I figure I'll really quit about then, too. I tried quitting in November, and I've only stayed on for weekend shifts my boss. I figure I'll be moving to Kaohsiung in the foreseeable future.

iTunes soundtrack:
1. Cities in Dust (Siouxsie & the Banshees)
2. Wonderland (XTC)
3. Pug (Smashing Pumpkins)
4. Surly Demise (Shannon Wright)
5. Lazarus Raised (Peter Gabriel - "The Last Temptation of Christ")
6. Fly Me to the Moon (Phase II Steelband)
7. weak (Kaela Kimura)
8. Kouzou no Koushin (Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra)
9. Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1, Prelude #24 in B minor (J.S. Bach)
10. Messin' with the Mekon (Robert Plant)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

July 19, 2008 - Taipei City Hall and Taipei 101. I always thought that Taipei City Hall was probably one of the ugliest city halls in all existence of god and man, but I recently realized there was a symbolic reason for its architecture. If you note the features in the lomo, you can see when I say that from looking at the building from above it looks like two plusses attached together: ++.

十 is ten in Chinese, so 十十 is ten-ten, which refers to October 10th, which is Taiwan's National Day. How 'bout that? Clever folks, them Chinese - even in Taiwanese form, at least here in Taipei. I'd better watch it, I'm going to be one of them in April, when I'm supposed to get my citizenship. Even though my family is from Kaohsiung and Taiwanese not of the sort who brought mainland culture with them several decades ago, I won't be considered anything like them, who always speak Taiwanese, and only speak in Mandarin when I inconvenience them enough to make them have to communicate with me.

Who am I kidding? Citizenship or not, I'm always going to be American, never to be confused with being Taiwanese, even if I did learn the language.

iTunes soundtrack:
1. Seen and Not Seen (Talking Heads)
2. Corpse Pose (Unwound)
3. Fun World (Mission of Burma)
4. Soul Singer (live) (Rainer Maria)
5. Sulk (Radiohead)
6. An Everlasting Love (Andy Gibb)
7. M1A1 (Gorillaz)
8. Last Exit (live) (Pearl Jam)
9. Dig Me Out (Sleater-Kinney)
10. Pennyroyal Tea (Nirvana)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

July 15, 2008 - Renai Road, in front of Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. I rode past this bunch of reporters, and then I thought that whatever it was, it was public, cameras were everywhere, so I turned around to snap a lomo.

With the toweringly high standard of media in Taiwan, they were reporting on the addition of these bike lanes alongside the crosswalks, I found out. Right. Bike lanes for crosswalks. They're about as useful as bike lanes on sidewalks, like they have on the blocks surrounding Taipei 101. And as I've said before, "What do you get when you put a bike lane on a sidewalk? Answer: A sidewalk!"

Useless, but on the other hand it's good for bike awareness, so I can't fault it too much.

iTunes soundtrack:
1. Rah! Rah! Replica (Bikini Kill)
2. The Mayor of Simpleton (XTC)
3. Red Light (U2)
4. My Blue Heaven (Smashing Pumpkins)
5. Colder (Throwing Muses)
6. What Crime Is It? (Victor Wooten w/Bootsy Collins)
7. The Chamber of 32 Doors (Genesis)
8. Rhyme & Reason (Dave Matthews Band)
9. Good Day Sunshine (The Beatles)
10. Dance the Night Away (Van Halen)