Monday, 28 July 2014

Second Trip To The Two Baoshan Reservoirs








I'm too tired to write this up and probably won't get time this week, so this post will amount to no more than just a few pictures from Sunday's trip to Hsinchu. If what I wanted to do is considered as two puzzles, then I think it's fair to say I solved one but have not yet solved the other - though I do now have additional information that should help me to solve it another time.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

On "M13" & BaoBao

I had an anonymous comment early this morning (so presumably from someone across the Pacific) concerning the accidental death of M13's dog "Baobao". Apparently he was getting a lot of stick in the comments about taking his dog on a scooter with him. I used to enjoy watching M13's youtube uploads regularly some years back and I had since forgotten all about him. From the video description...
"BaoBao just finished doing a 1500km tour on my scooter....only to fall off unexpectedly and for no reason when I was buying lunch and while I was doing walking speed through an intersection. There was only one other vehicle anywhere near me....and its rear tire went over BaoBao's back crippling her and smashing her pelvis. She would have needed extensive surgery and with no guarantee of being able to walk ever again... she was almost 17. Over the next year or two she would have aged/worsened a lot. So I made the call to put her down while she was still "herself" and not in too much pain."
It's very sad of course, and I'd have struggled emotionally with that decision myself, but the rationality of it is clear. Sometimes you just have to take tough decisions, go through with them and live with it afterwards. That's life.

On the actual accident itself, I'm sure M13 will have his own thoughts in hindsight as to whether he could have done this or that differently. For my own part, whenever I take Tinkerbell with me on a longish trip somewhere (e.g. to the beach or the mountains), I use a harness and lead to keep her tied to the bike between my feet. With the other dogs I can also put both feet to the front of the bike to fence them in using my legs as makeshift "guardrails", though admittedly I cannot do this with Tinkerbell as she always stretches to see where we are going. There is no perfect solution though as all I am doing in effect is trading one set of risks (e.g. her falling off the scooter) for another set of risks (her inability to get clear of the bike should we suffer a collision and the bike take a tumble).

It seems natural to claim that putting the dogs in a car is safer than taking them with me on a scooter, since a car obviously eliminates the risk of them falling out of the vehicle and also offers the protection of a cage in the event of a collision. That is true, but again this may simply be the act of trading one set of risks for another; whilst the protective value of a car against small collisions is positive, its' value in the event of very large collisions (e.g. a freeway pile-up) may be negative in that escape is so much more difficult if not impossible. Another example might be parking; the small size of a scooter means that it is possible to leave the road and park on the relative safety of sidewalks and paved recesses in public parks; with a car, this is not possible and you are often left with no other choice than to open the tailgate into oncoming traffic - which requires more training for the dogs to wait and not leap out as soon as it's open.

Of course the other thing to bear in mind here is that safety is not the only value at stake. There are always trade-offs.

I walk my dogs at two local parks; the first one is a relatively short distance away, but rather than walk them to that park I prefer to drive them on the scooter; the second one is just behind my house so is even closer and I walk them to that park. I use the scooter to take my dogs to the first park because I want to minimize their exposure time to the road and because I want them to have as much time to run around freely in the safety of the park as I can afford. The reason I walk them to the second park is because the distance is very short meaning that there is almost no time-saving to be gained from using the scooter. However, I walk my dogs to the second park without leads; I have trained them to stay close to me and wait when I tell them to (there are two exceptions to this: Black & White, who was already mature as a stray dog before I adopted her and so has become accustomed to navigating the roads and alleys on her own, and Wanwan, who is so excitable that I carry him under one arm and don't let him walk on the road by himself). In both cases however, the values at stake and their evaluation are entirely mine and my responsibility only.

The accusations that M13 was "reckless" in taking his dog on a scooter with him seem to me to be impertinent. Accidents will happen, and none of us are infallible. We do not need laws to punish people who take their dogs to park on scooters on account of the reactions of a bunch of self-appointed banning-fannies. Without me (and my scooter - which I bought expressly for the benefit of Tinkerbell), all of my five dogs would likely have died painful deaths from disease or worse some years ago.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

On DPP Strategy & Taiwan's "Status Quo": A Brief, Tangential Response To Timothy S. Rich's Article At "Thinking Taiwan"

It is now after 8pm in the evening and typhoon Matmo has long since left Taiwan and is on its way to China. It has been perfectly safe to go outside since about lunchtime and I could have been working for at least the second half of today but there is an election coming and the city mayor felt it necessary to cancel the greater part of everybody's economic activity for the day. Lost earnings.

Anyway, I have been meaning to read some of the recent articles up at "Thinking Taiwan" for a while but have been too busy with work and my own interests. Now is an opportunity to do so. One of those articles is very brief and is entitled "Defining Taiwan's Status Quo". The context of the article is the DPP's electoral strategy for the upcoming local elections this year and the presidential and legislative elections in 2016. The foreground subject is the question of whether the DPP should continue its charter support for de-jure independence for Taiwan, or whether it should replace this clause with one favouring the status quo of de-facto independence in some form or other. The author, Timothy S. Rich points out some problems with the definition of "status quo". I found a couple of semi-interesting points in his article...
 "For others the status quo is just a game of wait and see, both in terms of what China may or may not do, but also as Taiwanese identity evolves." 
This was a strange point that I didn't understand. In as much as the stipulated context here is Taiwan's political status viz China, is not Taiwanese nationalism a simple binary? You either are Taiwanese or you aren't. Remember that the political point at stake here is a simple binary: Taiwan will come under direct rule from the government in Beijing or it won't. So in that strict context the only political implication of how people in Taiwan identify themselves is whether they are Taiwanese (and thus do not favour direct rule from the government in Beijing) or not. What else is there for Taiwanese identity to "evolve" to? How many bicycle trips they make, how many pictures they take of Taroko gorge and other such fluff is strictly irrelevant.

Other than that, if nationalism is going to affect Taiwan's political status at all, it will surely be the nationalism on the other side of the Strait, in that a less and less strident Chinese nationalism may reduce popular support in China for any aggression against Taiwan, though I don't think too much confidence could be placed in that even if it were to happen and besides there are many other factors that would affect a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

The second point I found interesting...
"While greater appeals in general to status quo identifiers benefit the DPP’s electoral chances, redefining the status quo — for example to focus on strengthening the quality of Taiwan’s democracy — may provide a better means to this end."
It is easy to see the logic behind that point; after all there does not appear to be anywhere else to go for a DPP intent on replacing its' charter support for de jure independence. All they can do is make noises about how China needs to change to become more like Taiwan before they would support unification.

However, I still think this is a mistake. If they are going to insist on something like that at all, it would be better to state the object at a higher level of abstraction as governance or systems of governance rather than democracy. The reason for this is that the term "democracy" necessarily implies electoral mechanisms, and these are not necessarily the best (and may in many cases be the worst) and certainly not the only means for establishing and sustaining social orders. Whilst a commitment to "strengthening the quality of democracy" sounds like a relatively safe substitute for de-jure independence as a means of articulating opposition to rule from the government in Beijing, it may also commit the DPP to all kinds of votist idiocies where alternative means of sustaining social order might have worked better. In particular, I am thinking of private property rights, optional purchasing agreements for major infrastructure projects and the despised Land Theft Act and the Urban Renewal Act which facilitate such projects by simply legalizing theft. The problem lies with the fact that both of those pieces of legislation rest upon the democratic, utilitarian premise that the many get to violate the rights of the few on the basis of contestable "public interest" claims. If I were asked what I would alter the DPP's de jure independence clause to, I would say "depoliticization" as I continue to argue repeatedly.

On the other hand, a commitment to "strengthening the quality of democracy" might allow the DPP to pull an unexpected move or two. For instance, they could argue for dropping the nationality requirement for election to public office. That would allow Chinese and other nationality candidates to directly stand for election in Taiwan and to explicitly compete with Taiwanese politicians. The possible advantage of that is not that the foreign candidates would be better politicians and administrators, though in some cases they might, but that Chinese candidates may force Taiwanese candidates from the KMT to move closer to the DPP. Competition with the Taiwanese may in turn affect Chinese candidates and require them to adopt policies that more Taiwanese would support - possibly to the frustration of the government in Beijing. Imagine for instance a Chinese candidate in a Taiwanese election; in order to win election, he or she is going to have to make significant overtures to an electorate worried about annexation in order to garner votes. In so doing, the fact that the candidate is Chinese may mean he or she will have to go much further than a Taiwanese candidate would be willing (or able) to do. These may include things like more transparent oversight of trade agreements. The logic here is similar to the claim that Richard Nixon was able to carry public support in opening talks with Deng Xiaoping only because he had previously established anti-communist credentials in the U.S. media.

However, I am not in favour of voting on other people's values for basically the same reason I am opposed to cannibalism. I'd rather have competing and cooperating systems of private governance that tend to respect individual property rights and to produce more efficient outcomes. Of course that may be dismissed as unrealistic, but I don't see that I have any other acceptable choice than to support liberalization and depoliticization against centralized, monopolistic, Statist forms of governance whether of the red, blue or green variety.

Later...

I see J.M. Cole has published a piece about the DPP's independence clause at the Diplomat.

Typhoon Matmo & Vegetable Prices

Typhoon Matmo made landfall earlier this morning; I had to wait until lunchtime for it to pass and take the dogs out to the park. There is no significant damage, just leaves all over the ground and a few broken branches. There is however, an editorial in the Taipei Times complaining about the spike in vegetable prices over the last couple of days before the typhoon hit.
"Consumers obviously bear the brunt of the price increases, but farmers are not benefiting from it — it is the traders and wholesalers who are profiting, and the government seems unable to do anything about this."
The implicit premise is that income from vegetable sales should be split equally between traders and farmers or that farmers, rather than traders, should receive most of it - hence the squeal of frustration with the government.
"It is common in Taiwan for the prices of agricultural products to spike before a typhoon hits. Yet this is an unusual phenomenon in terms of supply and demand, as prices should either go down or at least remain unchanged when supply and demand rise simultaneously. In this case, while many consumers are eager to purchase more vegetables — fearing a price hike if the storm damages crops — farmers are also racing to harvest their produce before the typhoon hits. That means that although demand for agricultural products surges, so does their supply, hence prices should drop or remain unchanged."
The writer vaguely points to supply and demand, but doesn't really think about it. What is missing from this view is what happens to vegetable supply immediately after a typhoon. How are the farmers to produce more vegetables from waterlogged fields? Obviously there must be a temporary drop in supply following a typhoon to allow vegetable farms time to recover and start producing regularly again. In other words a fall in supply. Vegetable prices are set by traders in response not just to the immediate ratio of supply to demand, but also to the expected ratio in the short-term future. The reason there is a spike in the price of vegetables before the typhoon makes landfall is not that there is a brief increase in supply, but that there will be a comparatively larger drop in supply after the typhoon has made landfall.

This, after all, is the reason many consumers try to stock up on vegetables before the typhoon hits - they know there will be a drop in supply (or more accurately, there will be a drop in supply of local vegetables - foreign imports will still be available, which is what I will be buying (and in the case of broccoli, have been buying for the last few weeks long before the typhoon formed)).

Of course the other point to be made is this: if traders kept vegetable prices stable or even lowered them, then a surge in demand would result in shortages because each consumer would buy more vegetables when stocking up than they would if the prices were substantially lower. In the world in which the managing editor of the Taipei Times were tinpot dictator of Taiwan, many people would now have to go without vegetables until the local farms recover. As things stand, I should have no problem buying as many vegetables as I want at the market tommorow so long as I am prepared to pay a higher price. Alternatively (and this is what I will be doing), I can just go to the supermarket and buy foreign imports at prices cheaper than the post-typhoon prices for local vegetables.

So whilst prancing about pretending to support local farmers against wicked, "price-gouging" traders, what the managing editor of the Taipei Times is actually saying by implication is that he is in favour of food shortages.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

"Roko's Basilisk"



I just now came across this quixotic horror via an article at Slate that I reached through my regular stop at Marginal Revolution for bits and pieces. I've often thought that, in fiction, the hardest thing to do well is horror because it demands the most from both imagination and deference to reality at the same time. Neo-calvinist singularitarianism was not something I was previously familiar with, and nor was "timeless decision theory". Fascinating.

Monday, 21 July 2014

First Trip To The Two Baoshan Reservoirs: The First Baoshan Reservoir (寶山水庫) & Second Baoshan Reservoir (寶山 二水庫)


Arrived in Hsinchu this morning (Sunday morning) a little after 8am and took the 120 south-east on the north side of the river before crossing over to Shangyuan then briefly joining the 122 before cutting off down a little one-laner (Xuefu road) which brought me out to the first Baoshan reservoir - as in the picture above. I expected it to be overcast all day with a chance of rain, but the first couple of hours until about 11am were fine.

Unlike most other major reservoirs in Taiwan, Baoshan reservoir does not stand out as a destination; there are very few road signs to direct traffic toward it and, despite the white name-column in the picture above, there is no entrance let alone a toll booth and ticketing system. Instead, the road simply runs across the crest of the dam entirely ignoring the reservoir as if it wasn't there at all...


The fencing which surmounts the parallel walls is unusual; presumably its function is to keep people from climbing over the walls and swimming in the reservoir - yet nothing like that exists at any other reservoir I have seen in Taiwan. Whilst I was stood upon the dam crest I made a mistake; instead of photographing the reservoir's vital features (dam, spillway, intake tower, drainage chutes etc...) whilst the weather was good, I took a detour to go and see the water treatment works downhill to the west of the dam. This was a mistake on two counts: there wasn't much that could be seen of the treatment works, and later on the weather would turn overcast and grey. It wasn't necessary to photograph the treatment works in good weather...



On the way back up however, I thought I might be able to find some vantage point from which I could get a good view of the downstream face of the dam, but this shot, largely eclipsed by tree-tops, was all I could get...


Reclimbing the little detour road to the dam crest, I headed back north-east the way I had came and found the (under reconstruction) entrance to a walking trail, so I parked the bike and gave it a go...


The tourist information panel showed the route of the trail (short; about two kilometers) over two suspension bridges and along the north facing edge of the reservoir's northern arm (there is a southern arm too, not included in the panel's image). The panel also describes the reservoir as a habitat for a common lizard species and the crested serpent eagle, both of which are described as "rare", which they are in fact not. As it turned out I saw only one eagle all day long, but not at either of the two Baoshan reservoirs.* The trail afforded some post-card type views out over the reservoir toward the distribution intake tower...



Further down the trail, the suspension bridge crossing the reservoir had been taped off as out of bounds for the public due to repair work. Naturally I ignored this and just walked across it anyway as I wasn't about to have my time wasted. The bridge appeared to be structurally sound and was only in want of replacement wooden boards, many of which were loose and rotten...


Whilst on the suspension bridge I was able to get some shots of the dam, intake tower and spillway...




I left the bridge and followed the trail eastward toward the second suspension bridge, but there wasn't much to see and at no point did I see any of the pipe-rafts which are ubiquitous down south where I live. A typical view of the trail around the 1K mark...


Unlike the first suspension bridge, the second suspension bridge did not appear to have any problems and was also somewhat wider than the first...


The view eastwards from the second suspension bridge up the reservoir's northern arm; the water disappears from view around a bend. One of the things I haven't worked out yet is whether the diverted water enters the reservoir from the northern or the southern arm. A question to be answered on my next visit...


After the second suspension bridge the road climbed upwards for a longer distance than I expected, but at the summit there was this view westward over a branch-off of the reservoir's northern arm toward the dam. By this time (about 10.45am) the sky was starting to cloud over as this image shows...


I walked back around to the bike and drove down across the crest again to photograph the reservoir's vital features, which I should have done earlier. First was the open-lip overflow spillway similar in design to those at Nanhua and Yongheshan reservoirs, though smaller than Nanhua and wider and more rounded than the one at Yongheshan...


You can see the problem I had; the light was now so crap that I had to choose between the spillway and the sky (I could have used filters on the 18mm to get around this problem, but I was balancing on the edge of the barbed wire fence so I didn't fancy fiddling around with them)...


After that, I climbed down the stairs on the downstream side of the dam to photograph various things...



The water distribution intake tower feeds water into this pipe (below), visible in several sections, which proceeds to the water treatment plant.


There was also the drainage chute, into which dirty water from the bottom of the reservoir could be released...


And I was also able to find an unobstructed view toward the downstream face of the baffled spillway...


After climbing back up the stairs, I drove off southwards and around the back of Baoshan reservoir to the east, eventually finding my way down to the southern end of Baoshan Second reservoir...


Like the first Baoshan reservoir, this one also has an open-lip overflow spillway, a bridged water distribution intake tower and a baffled spillway...




Even though the two reservoirs were built about twenty years apart, they appear to be nearly identical in design, differing mostly in their dimensions with the second reservoir being substantially larger than the first.


Baoshan Second reservoir is Taiwan's newest reservoir given that it was completed in 2006, and it shows in the design and appearance of the management office building. Sadly, this office is closed on weekends so there was no possibility of talking to anyone (though curiously there were several cars and motorbikes parked just outside the building).


I left the second reservoir and found my way to highway 3 through Beipu and then eventually onto the 122 running south-eastward into the mountains. I wanted to find the weir entrapment dam which brings water into the trans-basin diversion tunnel for the first Baoshan reservoir...


As with the weir and entrapment pen on the Nanzhuang river for Yongheshan reservoir, here too I need to get across to the other side of the river to take the best shots. Another task to be saved for later. Whilst I was taking pictures I noticed something that hadn't occurred to me previously; there were egrets all over the fish ladder stabbing their bills in to get the upswimming fish. I didn't have space to set the tripod for the 300mm lens to take a shot of this and I was getting tired and time conscious to bother improvising, so I left that for another time also.


After having found the weir and entrapment pen, I drove back the way I had came up the 122 and, by inference based on map memory (rather than the nearly useless GPS), I found my way to the sedimentation tank for the trans-basin diversion channel that feeds at least one of the two Baoshan reservoirs (and probably both, though I'm not yet sure about the other mechanisms). This is where the water enters - but notice the two channels off to either side of this shot below...


Turning around to face northward and the sedimentation tank with its' six channels. Note here that the division walls are not submerged, as they were at the Yongheshan tank...


Besides the six main channels in the centre of the sedimentation tank, there was something else going on: two channels split from the main one at the tunnel entrance with the one on the right being elevated higher and containing much faster moving water than the others...


This water did not enter the main six channels, but flowed under the road adjacent to the sedimentation tank...


A view (don't ask me how I managed it) from the crest of the entrance tunnel showing the sedimentation tank's six channels in the distance and the three entry channels in the foreground; the one on the left is the one at higher elevation (and probably therefore deeper) containing fast moving water that flows under the road; the central channel leads to the sedimentation tank as does the lower elevation right hand channel...


A view from the other end of the sedimentation tank looking south-eastward toward the tunnel entrance (invisible in this shot)...


The six channels culminate in broad-crested overflow weirs which lead the water into this large pen with a grilled exit at the northern apex...


A view from the eastern side -  notice the leftward, fast moving channel of water above the main penstock...


And here it is. The yellow gate in the background is a small, manual-operated irrigation gate letting a small amount of water out into an irrigation canal...


In this shot below, the fast moving water of the left channel contrasts clearly with the lower-lying six weirs at the end of the sedimentation tank...


Perpendicular to the aforementioned yellow irrigation gate, there is a wide channel off to the west into which most of the fast moving water escapes...


From that point it goes underground for a kilometer or so before re-emerging here to flow over another drop-structure before going underground again (at present my guess is that this diversion tunnel was originally built to enter the southern arm of the first Baoshan reservoir, but that it now enters into the second reservoir instead)...


There was also another little irrigation diversion from the main trans-basin diversion tunnel...


It flows into a concrete tunnel surmounted by a seemingly very old brick building of some kind whose inscription I'm not entirely sure about due to weathering...


I have a lot of work to do for my return trip...