Archive for the ‘Taiwan’ Category

I forget

16/10/2017

I forget what I’ve forgotten.

Seriously.

I just realised that I must have forgotten so much stuff in the last fifty-odd years, I simply can’t remember what I’ve forgotten.  Well, yeah.  Obviously.  The point is, I can usually remember that I’ve read a book or seen a fillum, but I know that I cannot remember the plot or the story or the characters or the ending or the star or the author or the director.  In this case, I can remember that I’ve forgotten, if you see what I mean.  However, just this morning, I realised that I am forgetting what I’ve forgotten.  My computer reminded me that two years ago I posted a comment about a Radiohead video.  Essentially, the comment stated that I had never seen the video before, albeit that it was made for one of my favourite songs by the band.  I watched the video again this morning and found that it was not familiar in any way.  Strange, because I think I would describe it as particularly memorable.  I now know that I watched it two years ago, because my PC just told me, but if you had asked me yesterday whether I had seen the video before, I would have denied all knowledge.

This bothers me, but it also reassures me.

I have been telling myself to pick up the writing once more, not least because I want my children to be able to find out about what used to make me tick (and laugh, groan, cry, shout, smile, and all the rest of it), and… oh, crap!  I got distracted by a baby.  I cannot remember what I was about to write.

On that note, I’ll bid farewell, but will be back shortly.  Unless… well, you can guess the rest.

Oh!  That video?  Yes.  This one.

 

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The Internet

22/06/2017

Or is it the World Wide Web?  I’ve no idea.

Either way, it’s great.  Isn’t it?

phones

Now, I should declare (rather proudly, like the grumpy old man you know and love) that I do not have a smartphone, but I can now listen to BBC radio wherever I happen to be in the world, provided I lug my laptop (or borrow an iPad) and can find a wi-fi connection.  This, for me, is undoubtedly the single most important thing about the Internet.  Let’s call it that.  The Internet.  No, I mean the World Wide Web.  Somebody, help me out here.

Without it (the WWW, not the BBC), I’d not be able to communicate with you all.  I suppose I could get a job as a journalist, or a writer, or a columnist.  You know, someone who is (hopefully) paid to write; someone who has to get past an editor, (perhaps); someone who has to display a modicum of expertise, with the requisite background reading and/or research.

Hang on.  I just sat down to write something.  Without the comfort of a specific theme or project (https://fiftytwoyears52weeks.wordpress.com/about/) I realised that I had no idea where to go with this.  What you just read is what popped into my mind after I remembered this line:  “[It is] better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”  According to Gooooogle (thanks again, Interweb), this aphorism is usually attributed to Lincoln (Abraham, not City) or Twain (Mark, not Never the … Shall Meet).  Who cares?  It is probably at its most pertinent right now.  Opinions are like arseholes, as that other saying goes.  Everyone’s got one.  The point is, my suspicions have been confirmed.  We are all pretty stupid, and FaceTwitInstaBlogs rather prove the point when they allow us to speak/remove doubt.  Ooooh!  That just reminded me of another favourite, courtesy of George Carlin.

stupid

Can you tell, I’m winging it, now?  There is no plan, no theme, no agenda, no purpose, other than the need to scribble some thoughts for my offspring to read in 2037.

Okay, I give in.  I’m reluctant to go there, but these are difficult times.  Worrying times.  Astonishing times.  Let’s jump on the Trumpwagon.  I admit, I knew almost nothing about Trump until a few months ago.  Now, thanks to the wonders of the Webternet, or more specifically Twitter, I can be pretty confident that he is a buffoon.  I’m not sure I have heard him described as such, but I rather like the term.  “A ridiculous but amusing person; a clown.”  I’ve heard comedians and satirist complaining that their job is now much more difficult, because Trump comedy or satire simply writes itself.  Amusing?  No, not really, although the whole Mexico/wall/pay issue has made me laugh more than once.  Genuinely, I couldn’t give a toss about the orange one, but I am terrified by the thought that so many people actually buy into the ravings and ramblings of this clown.  In the same way, I am dismayed that so many Brit’s will happily venture forth to their local newsagent and walk out with a copy of their preferred offering from the vile gutter press.  I cannot even bring myself to name the rags in question.  Whatever.  For me, the PotUSA is not the problem.  Foolishly, I tip-toed into a Facebook debate, soon after the Election, and although I remember little of the detail, I do recall that one (of countless) apologists was ecstatic to declare that x million Americans voted for Trump.  Indeed.  If Wikipedia is to be believed, y million Germans voted for that monster with the dodgy ‘tache in the 1930s, and we all know how that worked out, eh?  Where are we heading?  Step back, for a moment.  Over eight years ago, our American cousins elected Obama.  Even more amazing (to naive little old me) was that they re-elected him four years later.  Absolutely remarkable.  In my life I’ve witnessed the Berlin Wall coming down, the collapse of the Soviet Union, peace in Northern Ireland, Pompey in the FA Cup Final, the British Labour Party having a Socialist leader, Brit’s winning the Tour de France, but ‘mericans electing a black fella?  Twice!  Wow!  Surely, we had entered a new era.

Surely the Trump era is simply a blip, right?  I’d say God help us, but therein lies the problem.  Too many Gods.  Too many beliefs.  Too many faiths.  I’ve always taken what I shall term the analysts’ view… too many people duped into thinking their’s is the One True God.  Ergo they must all be wrong.  Never mind “prayers for [insert name of latest location of terrorist atrocity here]”, just get on and be decent human beings.  Prayers to some mythical being, you know, a being which is slightly at odds with my mythical being, your mythical being or their mythical being, are surely futile.

I need to conclude with a tune.  Just a song I’d like my children to enjoy.  One day.

It’s all about the Tone

20/06/2017

This Tone?

Don’t be ridiculous.  A slice of late 8os hip-hop (or is it rap?) has no place here, although I admit it retains a certain je ne sais quoi.

No, I’m referring to the much-maligned tones in the Chinese language.  I say maligned.  I mean misunderstood, or misheard, or mispronounced.  It’s a minefield out there.

Anyway, I’m guessing that pretty much any foreigner who has studied Chinese lately will be familiar with this irritating little ditty.

Essentially, this revolves around the common problem of sleep and dumplings.

Sleep. 睡 (shuìjiào)

Dumplings. 水餃 (shuǐjiǎo)
[edit: the accents should be over the i and the a – can’t figure out how to get it to display it like that…?!]

I (now) understand the difference (4th tone and 3rd tone, respectively), but can I hear the difference?  Can I fu…

…nnily enough, no.  (Okay, I won’t use that again.)

On a more serious note, tone is rather important in English.  It can be very difficult to pick up on the intended tone of a Tweet or other written communication, and this is undoubtedly the root cause of much misunderstanding.  Sarcasm, among many other elements of language, has a heavy reliance on tone.  I’m looking forward to the day I am proficient enough in Chinese to *cough* compliment some of the more idiotic clowns in cars and on scooters.  “Hey! Nice use of the indicator, Coco!”

Back to sleep and dumplings.  I think this is why I feel more comfortable focusing my efforts on learning to read and write.

I think (我得, wǒ juédé) 睡 and 水餃 have nothing in common, so I needn’t fret too much about misreading and misunderstanding.
[Edit: as above, accent displaying in an odd way – should be over the o]

Oh crap!  The red characters, 我得 and 睡are written exactly the same way and have completely different sounds, tones and meanings.

Yeah!  Thanks a lot ancient Chinese scholars, or whoever it was who came up with this.  Learning Chinese is going to be so easy.

 

 

I Don’t Remember…

16/06/2017

I don’t recall. I got no memory of anything at all.

This bloke (albeit with his band) kicked off my blog (https://fiftyyearsandcounting.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/hello-world/), way back in 2012, and he was there at the launch of my year-long music project in 2014, so I suppose it’s fitting to have him here again.

I think I prefer the version from the album, so let’s have that as well.

The point is, my memory is failing.  Not quite to the level in Mr Gabriel’s little ditty, but it is failing.  Probably not to a level which should cause me or my doctor any particular concern, but it is failing.  The repetition is deliberate.  Once or twice… not a chance, but if I write it a third time, the chances of me remembering something increase exponentially.

Unless it’s Chinese, more of which in a moment.

Anyway, I was sat on the train the other day when it struck me that it was 105 years since my gran was born.  I wrote about her at the outset of this blog, but I found myself thinking about how little I know about her life.  Indeed, that led me to reflect on what little I know about my family.  Ancestors, parents, siblings, in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I hardly know anything, and even the things I do know are as nothing compared to what I have already forgotten about my own life.  Thus, as my 55th birthday approaches I’ve realised that I should do some more writing, if only to remind me what I was doing and thinking when/if I reach the next big one five years from now.

Actually, I rather hope that it will be something my children will find.  Yes, my children.  Plural.  In truth, I never imagined I’d ever have a son.  I certainly never imagined I’d have a daughter.  All things being equal, I am expecting to meet my baby daughter towards the end of September.  This delights and terrifies me in equal measure.

Did I mention that I am nearly 55?  George Clooney or Paul Weller I ain’t, but I’m going to be a daddy again at 55.  Frankly, I can’t really remember much of the last 6 years, simply doing my best to raise a boy in this crazy world, so I will try to retain a little more this time around.  Perhaps regular writing will help.  I never managed to sustain the urge to keep a diary, but periodic entries here seem like a good idea.  If I start to slip, please give me a nudge.

I forget.  I think I may have mentioned Chinese?

I’ve lived in Taiwan for more than 4 years.  I have managed to get by.  Sort of.  However, last year, I succumbed and enrolled on a beginners’ Chinese class.  Christmas Day, 2015, I was actually in class.  10am until midday, on Christmas Day.  Boy, was I motivated, eh?

Perhaps I’ll come back to that later, but for now let me conclude with the key theme.  Memory.  I really enjoy trying to learn Chinese.  Not so much the speaking of Chinese, if I’m honest, but I am determined to learn to read and write (and I do try to listen when I hear people talking, unless they’re speaking Taiwanese, in which case I’m screwed).  Herein lies the problem.  The only way to learn is to memorise the words.  That may sound a little obvious, but for a man of my age who struggles to remember what happened yesterday, this is a real issue.  Allow me to try to illustrate the reality of the problem.

Allegro

TAA 193P

Austin Maxi 1750 HL

WJT 29M

Ford Cortina Estate141 DBK

Some of my dad’s cars, the registration numbers of which I still remember, among others.  Yes, he really did buy a beige Austin Allegro Estate.  To be fair, my big sister did her level best to write it off, but we still had to be carted around in that thing.  TAA 193P.  How could I forget?

I remember my National Insurance number, even though I need it no more than once every 12 months, thanks to the support of HMRC.  Conversely, I cannot remember the number of my best mate’s house, even though he’s lived there for donkey’s years and I have visited countless times.

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes.  Chinese.  This is my wife’s name (well, the abbreviated name we use) and the Pinyin spelling:  (Ming, meaning bright).  As you may notice, it is a combination of and .  The Pinyin for 日 is ri and for  is yue.  There is nothing to link the pronunciation, although the combination of the sun and the moon would be bright, so there is a little help there.  Meanwhile, the road on which we live includes the word for sea (Hai), which bears a remarkable similarity to the word for each/every  (Mei), differing only in the absence of three strokes on the left hand side.  However, there is absolutely no connection between the two in terms of sound or meaning.  There is no phonetic alphabet to help buffoons like me.  I note that this character  (yan?) appears at the beginning of many words (not to mention elsewhere in many characters), but do they all begin with the same sound?  Do they fu… nnily enough, no. Yes, I know English is a daft language (and I’d hate to have to learn it now), but I shed a tear as I tear up my recipes for mince pies and reminders to buy beef mince, when I live in a country that doesn’t have live cricket on the telly.  Trust me, however.  I am struggling to learn a new vocabulary.  Some words I have now written down well in excess of one hundred times.  Seriously.  Here are just a couple of pages of hundreds like this, and I still cannot recall either the sound or the meaning or the tone (did I mention tones?) of many of them.  Genuinely.  I cannot remember the bloody things.

WIN_20170615_15_10_36_Pro

I have realised that there is an opportunity here.  If I could simply devise a foolproof system to allow people to easily memorise all 600 billion Chinese characters, I’d be set for life.

Just for the record, I have had a few minor successes.  Here’s an example.  This word (chang, 2nd tone) means often.  In this character I see David Bowie’s face.  He had a song, Changes.  I’ve heard it very often.  Simple, innit?

This is going to take some time, methinks.

再見

Right on cue for jumping the queue

01/01/2015

I know I keep banging on about this kind of stuff, but someone (preferably a Taiwanese local), please please tell me what the fook is going on in the minds of these selfish, ignorant bellends who keep ignoring the majority?  There we are, sat waiting patiently at the lights and, as sure as eggs is eggs, some clown or three will slide up the inside/outside/down the middle of the queue so they don’t have to wait so long at the next set of lights.

I know it’s a different culture, and nobody seems to give a toss about anyone else, but why do they think we are all sat there waiting?  Frankly, I take it as a personal insult, as the only explanation I can think of is that they think I’m an idiot.  Perhaps I am, but why is it that none of the local drivers seem to give a damn either?  They hate their time being wasted, and here are all these arseholes wasting this precious commodity by the bucket-load.

To add insult to injury, on the road this evening there was a police car slowly drifting down the hard shoulder while numerous cars and trucks undertook two lanes of traffic by using the scooter lane.  Of course, the police did absolutely nothing.  Why are the police so impotent, so uninterested, so blind to such selfish, dangerous road behaviour?  The net result is that the scooterists end up buzzing cyclists in the cycle lane.  Brilliant.  Thanks a lot car drivers.

As an addendum, we just witnessed a very lucky escape for a scooter rider.  He was cutting across in front of us through a junction (risky) while the car behind me was overtaking me (yes, through the junction) and clearly didn’t see the scooter until the last moment.  Cue tyres screeching.  Cue scooter rider hardly batting an eyelid.  He was 70 years old if he was a day.  How the hell he’s survived that long is beyond me… he was not looking at the oncoming traffic.  Must have burnt a hell of a lot of paper money at the temple last night.  Lucky bastard.

Lucky bastard indeed, and there was me thinking I would have my moment in court as a witness.

Oh, and a typical taxi incident for your perusal.

Taiwanese authorities…  what is your plan to deal with this kind of stupidity?!?

Fuckwits

25/12/2014

Fuckwits – accelerate at a red light, then slam on the brakes.

Fuckwits – undertake you 50 metres from a red light (see above).

Fuckwits – overtake you as you are crossing an intersection (crossroads).

Fuckwits – wear masks while their 2-stroke motors belch oily blue smoke.

Fuckwits – wear helmets while their children ride pillion, helmetless.

Fuckwits – park on a red line on a corner on a pedestrian crossing by a fire hydrant.

Fuckwits – carry on as normal as an ambulance approaches, lights and sirens on full.

Fuckwits – start scooters before reversing out of their parking space.

Fuckwits – pass you with inches to spare before braking and turning in front of you (or stopping).

Fuckwits – ride at you on the wrong side of the road.

Fuckwits – attend one of the best universities in the land but still cannot understand where to walk/ride (see above).

Fuckwits – turn out of a side road with nary a glance to see what’s coming.

Fuckwits – keep on colliding with each other (see above).

Fuckwit – A person who is not only lacking in clue but is apparently unable or unwilling to acquire clue even when handed it on a plate in generous portions.

I despair.

Happy Christmas.

 

Safety First

20/11/2014

A quick one today.

Next door to where we live they are building a 24 storey apartment block.  There will be three basement levels so they are still digging a massive hole.  On the gate there are a few signs, one of which I photographed this morning (sorry, it’s a bit small – click for a larger version):

DSC00632

 

Admirable.  Well done that construction company (Cathay something or other).  There’s another sign nearby telling workers to wear a hard hat before entering the site.  Fair enough.  I wonder if there’s an equivalent of RoSPA out here?

The problem is, it all falls apart when the workers (and management?) simply ignore the advice.  Not long ago, and I kid you not, workers from the construction site were sat on the roadside drinking Heineken at 9.30am.  I wasn’t surprised; a few months before I had seen workers on the beer, and one on the Vodka, at the building site adjacent to the park where I take my son to play.  Heavy machinery, working at height, concrete and steel.  What could possibly go wrong?

There’s obviously a gag in here somewhere about Health and Safety Gone Mad, but it doesn’t really seem appropriate.  The proper time to prevent an accident is before it happens.  Brilliant.

 

There’s Simply Not Enough Room

17/11/2014

Here’s a picture of a fairly typical road around here.  At least, it’s typical of the roads outside of the city.  You’ll note that it’s wide and it’s empty.  Surprisingly empty!  Perhaps that’s what you are thinking, but this is effectively out in the sticks and there really isn’t a high volume of traffic, which is why we choose to cycle out on such roads, even after dark.  It’s flat, it’s fast (wind permitting) and the road surface is generally pretty good.  There are a few dogs lurking here and there, but most don’t bat an eyelid as we pass.

Road

So far so good.  I’m not complaining.

However, and it’s a rather specific however… Why is it that so many scooter riders want to pass within a few inches of my left elbow?  Look at the road layout: there are two lanes for cars, vans and lorries, and two lanes for scooters and bicycles, and there’s even a generous shoulder on the right.  Bear in mind that this is looking north.  It’s the same heading south on the other side of the central reservation.  There is plenty of room.  Ooodles of room, in fact.

Dear Scooter Riders

Why, when you have all that road to play with, do you need to pass me within a matter of inches of my left elbow?  What exactly are you thinking when you see all that empty road and a cyclist ahead?  I’m genuinely curious.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Lots of love

Colin

In case you think I’m deranged, here’s another example.

Road1

This is a slightly busier road, and the eagle-eyed among you will note that, in addition to the car and scooter lanes, there’s even a cycle lane to the right.  You’ll also note that it’s being used by scooterists.  Perhaps they should be allowed some slack.  Why?  Well, because dozens of impatient drivers will generally be using the scooter lanes because they simply have to be undertaking all those slower vehicles using the correct lanes to ensure that they get to the next red light just a few seconds sooner.  What is the point of all that paint, when absolutely nobody gives a flying fook about lane discipline?  Seriously, highway authorities if you’re reading this, what exactly is the point?

Here’s a lucky chap:

It’s a Scandal

12/11/2014

Recently, there have been scandals about contaminated cooking oil in Taiwan.  The people of this country seem to have been really excited about this.  I’m guessing here, but I’d be willing to bet huge sums of money that the actual damage caused to the health of the people of Taiwan by this dodgy oil has been negligible compared to the damage being done to their lungs by filthy air.

Now, just imagine for a moment that some boffin at NCKU measured the exhaust emissions from a scooter ‘reversing’ out of a parking space (I wrote about the phenomenon the other day here: http://fiftyyearsandcounting.wordpress. … n-reverse/ ) and then calculated the amount of such additional and entirely unnecessary emissions for a day/month/year. Imagine this then made the news as a scandal because it could be affecting everyone’s health, (with relevant comparisons to the recent oil crisis). This is the kind of joined-up thinking that is lacking, as far as I can see. Get this kind of information out there to start a shift in the mindset of Joe Public. I’d be willing to bet large sums of money (again) that not one of these scooter riders who reverses with the motor running has given the slightest thought to such a minor action. Why would they? Put it to them as a national scandal and they might, just might, begin to make some progress towards thinking about change for the better.

Okay, it’s a pretty odd example, but it is precisely the kind of thing that makes no sense. Absolutely none.

In a similar vein, I often wonder about the almost pathological reliance on the scooter and the corresponding failure (of vast swathes of the population) to walk or cycle anywhere.  Ever.  Allow me to elaborate.  Our neighbour takes her daughter to some kind of class after dinner every evening.  They go on the scooter, wrapped in face masks, of course.  Mum and daughter leave together and mum is back within approximately two minutes, so I figure they go about one block away at most.  They could walk it within five minutes each way, I reckon.  Similarly, my in-laws head out every morning to buy breakfast.  I can’t be sure, but as far as I can tell they go approximately a quarter of a mile to the market.  Again, it would take them about five minutes to walk there.  Let’s face it, it’s entirely unlikely that these are the only two cases of such minor scooter journeys on the island.  Indeed, I’d suggest that this is happening in every town and city on a colossal scale.  Just imagine the difference in the air quality if such journeys were eradicated and people took to their feet or used a bicycle rather than burning more fuel.

Where are the movers and shakers of Taiwan brainstorming this kind of thing and mobilising some kind of publicity campaign? Think of the long-term savings to the health service. Think of the children. For God’s sake, think of the children!

I’ll end with another film clip.  Even by Taiwanese standards, this one takes some believing:

 

Thinking ahead

07/11/2014

Yesterday was heads.  Today, I’m curious about the concept of thinking ahead.  It’s a fundamental skill which seems to be missing from the armoury of so many drivers out here.  Let me describe an incident I witnessed a couple of weeks ago.  Nothing too serious, but a perfect example of what I find so interesting.

I am driving along a typical city centre road behind one other vehicle.  It’s a two lane road – i.e. each side has two lanes – and I’m in the offside lane, with the car in front of me in the nearside lane.  Unusually, there is nothing else around of any consequence.  Nobody up my chuff, no scooters weaving in and out, but up ahead there’s a traffic cone in the middle of the nearside lane.  I see it and ease off so that the car ahead can move into the offside lane, which it does.  So far, so good.  Why was the cone there, you’re thinking?  Why indeed.  Most probably because not more than 30 metres ahead, a mixer is parked in the road off-loading its concrete.  That would be a concrete mixer; a large thing with a big barrel-like container spinning round on the back, with a tube deployed to the side to dispense the load.  What did the car ahead of me do next but move back into the outside lane before slamming on the brakes and then moving back into the clear lane.

Dear Car Driver

The other day when you saw the cone and moved over in front of me, what exactly were you thinking as you then moved back into the nearside lane, closing rapidly on a stationary concrete mixer which was clearly delivering its load?

While I think of it, perhaps you could also explain what is going on between your ears when you are approaching a traffic light which you can clearly see turn from green to red.  What exactly are you thinking as you continue to accelerate towards the red light and all that stationary traffic?

I am interested in learning about these particular thought processes, so a full explanation would be really helpful.

Many thanks.

Colin

For the visual today, I have another gem for you.  It kind of fits rather well with today’s theme, too.

In case it isn’t clear, the cars on the right should not be in that lane; they are simply trying to cut in front of the lorry that is waiting to turn right at the lights at the end of the road, probably to save themselves a few seconds while delaying the lorry in the process.  More diesel pollution, but that’s okay, isn’t it?  Time is money.