Thursday, 30 October 2014

Comment At "Thinking Taiwan" Article On "LGBT Rights"

Link. My comment as below...

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This kind of conflict arises because there are far too many areas of private and social life that are politicized. What good reason is there for the State to be involved in certifying marriages in the first place? Why can't marriages be certified by private institutions for both - or either - heterosexual and homosexual marriages? Let the market work; without the legitimizing monopoly of the State, this issue would wither away into irrelevancy.

The same point goes for education. Absent the political interference of State monopoly, parents could have greater choice over how their children are educated. Parents who wish their children to be informed about sexuality issues from a certain age could have their wish granted. Parents who wish their children not to learn about such issues until they are much older could have their wish granted. Everyone would be happy.

A necessity for this however would be the right to discriminate. The owners of a private college should be free to discriminate against homosexuals; but only if they refuse to accept politically-acquired funds. Similarly, the owners of other private colleges should be free to discriminate against certain Christian sects, but again, only if they refuse to accept politically-acquired funding. The owners of a gay bar should be free to ban all heterosexual people if they want, though this would almost certainly be a catastrophic business decision and one made in poor moral valuation. Similarly, commercial discrimination against minority groups may be in poor moral valuation and would likely also be poor business sense (not because of the outrage of the minority group in case, but because of the outrage of the friends in the majority).

People who discriminate unfairly against others - on their own limited powers - must face the consequences of their actions. People who seek to discriminate against others using the immense leverage of political power are inured from these consequences. It is the involvement of political power that is the real problem, not the existence of a few nutters who believe in fire and brimstone for "sodomites".

It is only by allowing discrimination that you will get less of it. The biggest obstacle to marriage freedom and educational freedom is the anti-rational passions of those who seek to use political power to restrict other people's choices.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Sunday At Mingtan Reservoir (明潭水庫) & Minghu Reservoir (明湖水庫)

I took the midnight train up to Ershui again on Saturday night and then the 4.45am train into Nantou county. I was slightly concerned that the motorbike might have been towed away given that I had parked it in a different place two weeks ago, but I needn't have worried - it had been moved, but it was still in the same approximate area I'd left it in. I took it down to Shuili to change the oil and get a coffee out of the 7-11 before getting started. This train trip to Nantou is beginning to wear on me; it is difficult to get any sleep either on the train (they keep all the lights turned on), or at Ershui station. I had wanted to sleep, but couldn't - usually, I am the only one at Ershui station at that hour, but this time there were a couple of sketchy looking characters loitering about so I kept myself awake.

After a while it turned out to be a brilliant morning. The first thing I did was take a back road down to the bridge crossing the western stream that fills up Mingtan reservoir; it is more than a regular farmer's road as it gives access to the second stream filling up Mingtan reservoir from the east side. Along the way it offers views back around the mountain and over the reservoir toward the dam...


The road passes through a short tunnel toward the eastern stream and as I drove slowly through it, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye - a largish snake that had been run over. I stopped and walked back up the tunnel to have a look but it was pitch black and I hadn't brought the tripod with me (I had something else with me instead). So I put down my bag to balance the camera on whilst setting it to a 6 second exposure, but with it being so dark it was very difficult to get the focus right...



The tunnel brought me out to a viaduct across the eastern stream (this is signposted earlier on the road as a "water bridge")...



I stopped to explore a now long-since collapsed road on the other side of the stream, but it wasn't possible to follow it too far. However, there was a parallel road above it, more than likely its' replacement, but I didn't follow it as I had other things I needed to do. On the way back I stopped briefly to try and get a picture of one of the many small monkeys climbing all over the hillside, but it was difficult as they were eager to get out of my line of sight...


Before I left the access road to return to Shuili, I took a brief detour to see the only other tourist attraction that was signposted along the road: a disused railway tunnel...



After leaving the access road at the back of Mingtan reservoir, I headed back down to Shueili for a quick break and stopped there to take a downstream shot of the secondary power station down from Mingtan dam...


Then I headed back upstream to Minghu reservoir but the view toward the dam and over the reservoir is east-facing - directly into the sunlight. There is no other obvious point from which the dam or reservoir can be viewed, and I already have pictures from that view so I decided to head further upstream to see the feeder stream check dam and have a look at the other farmer's roads nearby. First, the check dam...


It is about eight meters high by thirty meters across and it is silted up to the crest. There must be a collapsed corridor within the silt through which water is finding its' way down on the eastern side. Here is the silted up, highly eutrophic stream...


Coming back through a tunnel on the 131 south toward Mingtan reservoir and Checheng...


I stopped in Checheng for a toilet break at about 9.30am and decided I couldn't be bothered to do much more and just wanted to sleep. So I decided to call it off early and wait for the 10.20am train back to Ershui with an 11.30am connection south. I strolled around Checheng for a while and walked up to the dam and up to the crest and back down again to take some more shots. Here's a shot looking east from the toe of the Mingtan dam...


And a later shot overlooking Checheng itself from a small pavillion. Note the tiny train platform in the center with the rooftops of various shops jumbled all around...


It is a tiny little place. It was a relief to be taking the 10.20am train as there was only a handful of passengers leaving. The obscene pushing and shoving that goes on when the 2.20pm train arrives had annoyed me last time. I still have things to do here, but it was a nice change to get back to Tainan early and take the dogs out. Still, I would like to think about shifting the motorbike back down south to Douliou station in Yunlin county to go and see the new reservoir there. The logistics of getting up to Checheng and back again every weekend are tiring.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Weekend Lull

No reservoir trip this weekend. Instead I helped friends with various things yesterday night and this morning I went on a hike with my landlord and his family before signing a new contract for next year; I love the little house I am renting due to its' location and convenience for walking my dogs. We went up to Baihe and hiked Jilongshan(基隆山), which is the smaller of Tainan County's two largest peaks, the other being Dadongshan (大凍山). On the way I learned that I had been in error about the name of the smaller mountain in front of them which overlooks Baihe reservoir - apparently it is actually called "Zhentoushan" (枕頭山) whereas I had confused it for Dadongshan. It's always good to get error correction.

No pictures today I'm afraid - although there was plenty of sunshine, the atmospheric haze was quite bad - and because I am not an experienced hiker (and because I have laid off the exercise routine for two weeks now), I had anticipated struggling with the climb and so I chose to leave my camera behind. I had only my phone camera and the GoPro. That was a mistake - both because I spotted a resting sparrowhawk in a tree just before the hike began, and because the hike itself was much easier than I had thought it would be. The extra weight of the camera kit wouldn't have been a problem. From the sounds of it, the hike up to Dadongshan and across to Tseng-wen reservoir and back again would probably have suited me better physically.

Next weekend I may take one or two people out to a reservoir here in the south, before heading up to Nantou myself to continue where I left off there.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Double 10 Weekend Trip To Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) & Toushe Reservoir (頭社水庫)

Me on the 21 up to Sun Moon Lake from Shueili at about 6.30am.
I arrived in Nantou before dawn Saturday morning with the aim of having a little look at Sun Moon Lake and making a visit to neighbouring Toushe reservoir, which is something of a dwarf compared to the lake. I am conscious of the fact that there is an awful lot for me to see and learn about at Sun Moon Lake and that there are limits to what I can accomplish on a day trip; I don't know how many trips I will have to make here, but there will have to be several more at least. On the way uphill to the lake on highway 21, I noticed these drainage pipes sticking out of the retaining walls...


So I thought I might as well stop to photograph them so as to compare with those I had seen earlier at Wu Jie adjustment pool. Here's a close-up...


Although dawn had come and there was a bit of sunshine, it was very cloudy and the air was still hazy when I arrived at the inconspicuous turn-off for Toushe reservoir to the south-west of the lake...

The sign for Toushe Reservoir is so small that it is easy to miss, even if you are looking for it.

The public signs have been rendered into fairly good English, but as usual there is an awful lot of romantic "padding" and precious little actual information...


Rather than enter the boardwalk approach to Toushe reservoir immediately, I hopped back on the bike and drove up to the lake as I needed to go to the bathroom and get something to drink. I stopped briefly on the way back down to Toushe to photograph the other photographers. I didn't know what they were trying to do, since the air was still dank and misty and there was barely any sunshine at all; it was an awful morning for taking pictures...


I quickly got back down to Toushe and the boardwalk entry to the reservoir...


It's a brief stroll before you see the first check dam on the stream...


A central channel passes out from the dam to the lower reach of the stream; there is no control-gate...



Around the corner, there was another information panel proclaiming the "fine stream ecology" and then predictably saying nothing substantive about the actual ecology. Instead there were a few airy remarks about aesthetics...


Around the corner I got my first view of the reservoir as the stream widened out to enter it...


The view looking back toward the little suspension bridge from atop a spillway exit...


The spillway exit is formed from three grilled boxes beneath a bridge...


It leads into a small, overgrown gully which, for some reason, has a wooden staircase leading down into it but has been cordoned off to the public. Perhaps there had formerly been a trail leading through it that has since been neglected...


Looking out onto the reservoir itself; it is very small with an area of about five hectares and a storage capacity of less than 300,000 cubic meters...


There was a promising-looking hollow concrete box on top of the reservoir which I climbed thinking there might be further information signs as it was an obvious place for people to stand around looking and taking photographs. However, there was nothing there but a wrought-iron fence so I'm at a loss as to what its' purpose is. Behind me to the left of the image below, there is a small pavilion which could also serve the functions I had supposed for the hollow concrete box...


A look back toward the suspension bridge...


Just up from the concrete box and before the pavilion, at last, I found a real information panel though it was in Chinese...


There was also a large marble tablet about the reservoir...


... and an accompanying marble stele...


From further around the circumference path, another look out over the reservoir with the pavilion off to the right hand side...


Several little holiday chalets sat alongside the reservoir's bank with a somewhat larger holiday complex of sorts behind it up on the embankment levee surrounded by betelnut trees...


A couple of shots looking back out toward the pavilion and concrete box from the other side of the reservoir; by now the sun was starting to get a bit stronger and one or two clouds were dispersing...


I much prefer the 10mm to the 18mm for shots like this where there is substantial sky reflection in the water...


At the far-end of the reservoir standing upon the crest of the dam; in the background is the major spillway arrangement and in the foreground is the water tower to take water out of the reservoir for irrigation...



The spillway design is somewhat unusual in that it lies diametrically opposite the dam, but it suits the site. It is an open overflow ogee-crest weir leading into a curved channel oriented at a slight angle and surmounted with a concrete flood wall...



I left Toushe reservoir at sometime around 10am and headed off to Sun Moon Lake again, this time pausing at the impressive and architecturally striking visitor center...


It's an interesting and visually impressive building, and the architects must have made an absolute fortune off it, but the visitor's center itself and the available information is very poor. Basically, there is a lot of advertising for local "industries" (e.g. rice-wine and tea), and a few leaflets about what to see and do in and around Sun Moon Lake and elsewhere in Taiwan (and Taipei) - it is all obviously aimed at tourists from China. There is nothing substantive about the history of the lake or the Japanese-built hydroelectric schemes at all.


Whilst I was there however, a woman who worked at the visitor's center approached me to ask if I needed help, I didn't but she gave it anyway; she sounded like she was regurgitating an English language script. She would say things like "...it costs only three hundred and sixty dollars" and you could sense that she had remembered on purpose to include the word "only". She had been talking about the cost of taking a tour boat as an alternative to driving the 21_A up to the hilltop pagoda to take pictures. She had said that the road leading up to the pagoda was too far and difficult to drive on a motorcycle. To be fair to her, she had no idea of the kind of driving I usually do or that my combined train fares to get here from Tainan city had cost less than the boat tour she was trying to sell me. She was only trying to be helpful, but I found her presumption that the 21_A was too difficult to be ridiculous. Still the building itself is worth it...


This is what it is all about really...


Hotels in the distance, on the other side of the lake...


People milling about taking pictures to show their friends and families where they have been. It is a perfect place for this with the water-terraces reflecting the skies and prefacing the view over the lake...


I left the visitor's center somewhat disappointed, and immediately headed for the 21_A up around the surrounding mountains on the east side of the lake. It had one or two switchbacks, but it was an easy and pleasant ride. It didn't take me long to find the turn-off for the pagoda and associated temple, but when I got up there it was wreathed in mist and I couldn't see a thing which rendered the whole object - taking pictures of the lake - pointless. I came back down again and drove further along the 21 hoping to get a few mist-free glimpses of the lake. However, it was by now mid-morning and though the sun got stronger and the mist clung only to the east-side mountains, the air over the lake was still hazy...


Looking up at the cable cars passing through the mist which clung to the mountains all morning...


I drove the entire circle of the 21_A and 21 around Sun Moon Lake, stopping only to buy some souvenirs for work-colleagues (I decided to save money and just buy cookies instead) before I headed back downhill into Shueili township. At the gas station the girl who served me had been the same girl (I think) who had served me there two weeks previously. I wasn't sure that she remembered me but she seemed keen to talk to me for some reason - the usual questions: what country I am from, what do I do, whether I am married and so on. Yet when I reached for my wallet to pay her - nightmare! - it wasn't there. I checked all my pockets and bags in vain. The last place I had handled it had been the souvenir shop up at the lake, so I took out their cookies, got the phone number off the back and called them. The number wasn't to the shop-floor but to a manager's office elsewhere, which I hadn't known, and so when I introduced myself as the foreigner who had bought some cookies half an hour ago, she immediately presumed that I was calling about cookies, but once I got her to shut up about cookies and explained that I thought I might have left my wallet there by mistake she got onto the shop floor girl and called me back two minutes later to say that the shop floor girl had found it and was holding it for me. So that was forty minutes wasted - driving back up the mountain to the lake to get my wallet and back down into Shueili again. By this time the combined weight of all my bags, plus the helmet was giving me muscle strain and I was tired. I left Shueili for Checheng stopping only to photograph the Chukung hydroelectric power plant from across the river...



Coming back into Checheng, I took a few at-distance long-lens shots of the Mingtan reservoir dam using the 300mm...



But once I had parked the bike I was too tired to climb up to the dam for more photographs, and so I settled on waiting around an hour or so before the 2.20pm train (there was an earlier train at 1pm which I could have taken had I been a bit quicker, but it was pointless as there was no connecting train from Ershui in Changhua until 3.12pm - and the 2.20pm train would get me there for that connection). So I sat around drinking a beer and then a tea just so I could flirt with the tea girl who had been eyeballing me. She liked it. When the train came there was the usual chaos of about 500 passengers trying to alight onto a tiny little platform itself holding another 500 people waiting to board the train. Then there was the usual crush of everyone pushing and shoving to get on the train as quickly as possible to get a seat. I hate that. I just stood back and waited because I refuse to push my way through a crowd of old people and families with small children. That stereotypically British attitude nearly cost me my trip however, as I was the last person to board despite having been one of the first people on the platform with a ticket. I almost didn't make it.

For the next trip, I might look into leaving Checheng station and parking further down the Jiji line.