Monday, 22 December 2014

Newcastle 0 Sunderland 1


Watched the game on Sunday night in the pub, thought it had 0-0 written all over it until Adam Johnson scored in the last minute. Brilliant! And what a picture that is.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Another Sunday Trip Through Kaohsiung

I left the house in Tainan city at 9 a.m. this morning, same as last Sunday. Object for today was to drive up to Taoyuan village again in Kaohsiung county to look for a diversion weir leading water from the Laonung river into a tunnel on the western side. The location of this weir has been something of a mystery to me for a while now.

The gorgeous bend in the road in Liugui district a few kilometers outside of Baoli township...


The view northward tracing the Laonung river upstream into the mountains of Taoyuan district...


Just outside the village of Taoyuan, and the view toward the under-construction bridge. I'd gotten dust on the 10mm lens at this point...


Just after Taoyuan village, looking back downstream at the riverbed construction...


I crossed the suspension bridge over the river to find the view looking back westward from the eastern side of the river...


What is under construction here is a dyke and diversion channel. I suspect this is simply flood defence to protect the newly rebuilt section of highway 20 from the river by diverting some of its' flow away from the natural bend which the highway passes over and into the diversion channel protected by the dyke before rejoining the river further downstream...


A closer view of the dyke with the channel behind it...


No luck. The location of the weir to feed water to the trans-basin diversion channel leading to the back of Tseng-wen reservoir remains a mystery. I decided to head back south out of Taoyuan...


When I reached Jiaxian township, I turned right onto highway 29 and drove up to see the Xiaolin village memorial park...


Somebody called me just before the camera shutter went into action. I've been having fun on the new bike...


Where Xiaolin village used to be, buried under a five-year old pile of earth that now has bushes and trees growing out of it...


From the bridge over the Cishan river looking back upstream... The mountainside in the background is covered in trees to the left and to the right (and also somewhat at the top, though this is not so clear in this image), leaving a large, tree-less gap in the middle. That gap also appears to form a kind of recess in the face of the mountain...


Immediately beneath the gap is that extremely large pile of earth that entirely covers that side of the river just a short distance upstream. A gigantic tomb.

I am giving up on this search for the missing weir for now, as I have already spent two Sundays looking for it without success. Next weekend I will either go further south down to Pingtung county, or the short distance north to Chiayi county to take another look for something at Lantan reservoir.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Sunday Trip Through Kaohsiung County On Highway 20

I didn't sleep as well as I'd have liked to on Saturday night and consequently I slept through my 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. alarms and didn't wake up until 7.30 a.m. By the time I had taken the dogs out, eaten breakfast and gotten ready to leave it was about a quarter to nine, which isn't great time by my usual standards. My plan was to drive through Yongkang and Xinhua districts onto provincial highway 20, which runs eastward through Tainan county past Nanhua reservoir and over the hills down into Kaohsiung's Jiaxian district whereupon it turns sharply northward and then northeastward all the way up into Yushan National Park which straddles the extremities of Kaohsiung, Hualien and Taitung counties.

The purpose of the trip was twofold; first, I wanted to find signs of the infrastructure surrounding the trans-basin diversion tunnel channeling water from the Laonung river westward down to supplement the tributaries which feed the Tseng-wen river on its' way down to Taiwan's largest reservoir; second, I wanted to have a bit of fun on the new bike. It was three years since I had last driven along highway 20 that far north into Kaohsiung, and I was curious as to how the landscape may or may not have changed since my last visit in 2011.

Having left just before 9 a.m. I made good time and passed through Jiaxian township a little after 10 a.m. I made my first stop of awe-and-wonder on a bend in the road just before passing over into Ligui district...



There was a convocation of three or four crested serpent eagles circling over my head, so I went back to the bike to switch over to the 300 mm lens...




That last image is slightly zoomed in somewhat from the original. From this point on for the remainder of the trip I used only my phone camera for casual landscape shots - this was not a conscious decision to not use the real camera, but was just a reflex out of concern for time. I intended to take out the real camera again once I had found the apparatus for the aforementioned diversion tunnel. However, I now regret just using the phone camera as some of the images I captured would have been good enough to have blown up into prints. Here is how my phone camera rendered the view toward the Ligui mountains - the blur to the top left is one of the eagles...


On highway 20 winding gradually downhill through Ligui district toward Baoli township, famed for its' hotsprings and white-water rafting...


I passed through Baoli township stopping only at the 7-11 for water and a bathroom break. There were a few big-bike riders there taking a break from their Kawasaki red-plates. I left shortly after they did and arrived at the border between Ligui and Taoyuan districts just after 11 a.m. I noted that the district sign had been replaced - it had previously been misspelled as "Aistrict". My guess is that someone from the Highway Authority noticed it whilst in the area to survey the land for renovations to highway 20...


Much of the highway has been significantly renovated with new bridges since last time I was there, though two of them were still under construction further northward. A shot of the first one, again taken casually using the phone camera...


This second looked spectacular when viewed from across to the west looking east; it will span the ravine and enter directly into Taoyuan village itself when completed. I regret now having taken this shot with the phone camera. I really should have taken out the DSLR for this as the sunlight was streaming through the clouds...


I drove straight through Taoyuan village to find that the ensuing section of highway 20, which had previously been under reconstruction was now long since complete - until I turned the bend after the little village across from the Xiaonianxi waterfall, as just a short distance up the hill it reverted back to the rock-strewn dirt trail I had remembered from three years ago. Still, it was a little joy to recognize the landscape once again and the huge sprawling chasm between the mountains claimed by the Laonung river...


Finally, what I had waited for - the "big cliff". Three years ago, highway 20 skirted over the lower shoulders of this vast cliff-face, affording spectacular views both up and down and to either side though entry to this stretch of the highway was being carefully managed to allow time for anti-erosion work to be done on the immense slope. Now, however, that lower shoulder has completely collapsed taking the highway with it. Instead, the Highway Authority has extended the dirt trail downhill so that it runs precariously between the toe of the giant cliff and the furious rapids of the Laonung river. It was a disappointment, but not entirely so as it is still a real awe-and-wonder moment...


Standing by the edge of the road, about halfway along the length of the cliff looking upstream along the Laonung river with the northern slope of the cliff ahead. At this point the river is probably only a few feet deep at most and moves at such speed that I wouldn't want to wade across it without a rope...


A short distance up from the end of the "big cliff", I found the enlarged cavity in the river bed to be still extant; when full during the summer of 2011 this area of the river formed a lake about half a kilometer in length. Now however, since it is winter (Taiwan's "dry season") it is barely more than a slight bulge in the river's girth...


After the "lake" the dirt-trail continued for several more kilometers, all of which I undertook very slowly and carefully in first or second gear to avoid putting too much pressure on my new tyres. I paused once to take pictures of the trail, and thought it'd be better to include myself in the shot. I had brought with me the "selfie-stick" I was recently given, but had forgotten to bring the tripod for the real camera. As can be seen I haven't yet figured out how to get these kinds of shots in focus with the camera phone...


The dirt trail finally ends at the entry to a little village called "Fuxing". Immediately after this village, the road very briefly reverts to the dirt trail and crosses a bridge over a large tributary before the proper asphalt surface resumes.


The road runs steadily uphill through several more villages after Fuxing before reaching Meishan village, after which lies the entry to Yushan National Park. I forget what time I arrived there, but I suspect it must have been about 12.30 p.m.


I was disappointed to find that the highway was closed for repairs from that point on, so I spent some time in the police station talking to the on duty cop. He had a few displays of the local wildlife in the park, including this poster of various kinds of birds of prey most of which I've never seen in the wild...


After leaving the police station, I briefly drove down a side road toward the valley to have a look around. I drove across a narrow suspension bridge, passed by a small watering hole, and eventually crossed paths with a local Aborigine lad who, assuming that I wanted to get across to Taitung county on Taiwan's east coast, told me that there was an alternative road to highway 20 - a small farmers' road - that wound all the way up the mountains and back down the eastern side into Taitung. I humored him and thanked him for the advice, but since I wasn't aiming for Taitung I didn't give it any further thought and returned back the way I had came before stopping for a rest at the Yushan National Park visitors' center.

The visitor's center is very thoughtfully laid out and seemingly well designed but I was too tired to give it much attention and instead I sat outside on a wall drinking a can of red bull and stretching my joints. After a while, a small group of professional photographers arrived and carried out their camouflaged kit from the back of their Suzuki, including this guy, who had one of those giant telescopic lenses. They were heading off to set up shop in a little purpose-built landscaped garden...


After resting for a short while at the visitors' center, there was nothing further to be done but start on the return journey all the way back to Tainan city. It was probably about 1.30 p.m. when I set off...


On the way up to Yushan National Park and the de-facto end of highway 20, I had not seen anything resembling what I was looking for with regard to the trans-basin diversion tunnel. Looking at the maps, however, I suspect that the weir I am looking for is next to Taoyuan village itself. Driving back along highway 20 and crossing the bridge over the large tributary just before Fuxing village...


I started back on the dirt-trail from Fuxing village at about 2 p.m. and it took me half an hour to cross the thing in first gear. Here is a shot looking back south toward the "big cliff"...


And another shot somewhat further along...


Looking westward from the foot of the "big cliff" toward the valley carved out by another of the Laonung river's mighty tributary streams. The view down toward this was the shot I reposted last Saturday and was one of my favourite shots from 2011...


Finally, back on asphalt again and no flat tyre nightmare as I had endured the previous Sunday...


On the way back from Taoyuan district following the Laonung river downstream on its' approach to Baoli township in Liugui...


Eventually I left Kaohsiung behind and headed back across the hills from Jiaxian into Tainan. I had only stopped briefly in Baoli for something to eat and drink and then once again in the hills of Ligui to feed a couple of stray dogs. By the time I got back down into Nanhua and well past the reservoir, I stopped to see this...


Puppies locked away in cages under a bridge. They had water, but it was stale so I tossed it and gave them mine. But they had no food and I had none to give - nor could I just open the cages and take six or seven puppies back home with me. It may be that the puppies are being raised to be sold for meat, which is illegal, but still happens in Taiwan. I may be able to stop it in this particular instance.


The new bike waiting for me after seeing the puppies. I arrived back in Tainan city at 5.40 p.m. and was back home just before six. The 12 litre gas tank had taken me all the way to Yushan National Park and back again (a distance of well over 200 km), and yet the gauge read one third still full. Not bad at all...

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Up In The Mountains Again...



I'll be leaving early tomorrow morning and shifting gears on the new motorbike up in the mountains of Kaohsiung; I'll stop at where Xiaolin used to be once more, but my main objective lies farther north up in Taoyuan district. It's been a very long time since I was last there...

Thursday, 11 December 2014

New Motorbike


That's my brand new Kymco "Grand King" motorbike outside my little house yesterday, with the old Sanyang "Legend" in the background.

What happened was that last Sunday, whilst bombing around up in the mountains of Namaxia and Jiaxian on the old bike, I got a flat rear tyre. Since the old bike uses tyres that require inner-tubes, this meant that I could putter along in first gear for about ten minutes before the tyre completely gave out - after which I was left pushing the thing along. As it was I was stranded about twelve kilometers outside of the main town of Jiaxian and with it being Sunday and well out in the sticks, it was highly unlikely I'd find any repair shops open. Luckily, a couple  of delivery guys who were coming back from Namaxia with a broken fridge in the back of their truck saw me and gave me a lift back to Kaohsiung city. I left the bike at a repair shop that was open Sundays (hard workers!) and took the train down on Tuesday morning to pick it up.

However, I had been thinking about getting a new one for some time and I made the decision and put the order in on Monday morning. The new bike was delivered on the Wednesday (yesterday) and I picked it up in the afternoon. The chief advantage of the new bike over the old one is that it has tubeless tyres, meaning that even with a flat I can keep puttering along in first or second gear until I get to somewhere, rather than risk getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. Other than that, it is a somewhat larger and stronger bike with a slightly bigger engine (a 150cc as opposed to the 125cc) and double rear suspension; the previous models of this bike are widely used in Taiwan and have been popular with farmers, postal workers and delivery companies for decades. Like most bikes of this design (i.e. modern variants of the shape popularized by the Honda CB in the early 1970s), it is relatively simple in design though it does have the now government-mandated feature of a fuel-injection system rather than a carburetor. I prefer the carburetor for a number of reasons but I'm curious as to how this bike will handle at altitude with the colder, thinner air.

First impressions: the seat is higher up than on the Sanyang and the handlebars lower down which means that your riding position feels very different - much higher. Unlike the Sanyang, the new bike's handlebars are also curved inwards to a greater degree meaning that your arms are not stretched as much as they are on the Sanyang. I'm not sure if this is an advantage or not as at the moment it just feels weird, though I expect I'll get used to it. The double rear suspension probably also makes the new bike more comfortable, but the comparison is not entirely fair because the Sanyang is old and its' suspension is not quite as good as it used to be.

This is the sixth bike (and third motorcycle) that I've bought in my time in Taiwan, and the second one (after my white scooter) that I've bought brand new from the store. Four of the other bikes I've had were all second-handers. What I'll do with it for now is keep it in my garage and take it out on weekends around southern Taiwan. Eventually, I'll start driving the black Sanyang north again to take on the northern reservoirs once more. I'd rather leave that one parked outside under a flyover somewhere since it is much less likely to get stolen than the new one. In the meantime, I'm going to have the big green scooter scrapped or sold for parts.

Friday, 28 November 2014

"The Life Alternative"



This has long been my favourite Zappa track, and finding this audience recording kicking about on youtube just made my day. It is magnificent.

Comment on "Elections In A Time Of Democratic Malaise"

Posted here and here as below...

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Regular elections are not a "remedy" for the contentiousness of politics. In the first place, the electoral mechanism - when combined with a universal franchise - incentivizes the growth of State powers and the expansion of politics into heretofore untouched areas of social life, and thus far from "remedying" contentiousness, democracy can actually (and I think usually does) exacerbate it. Secondly, the real advantage of regular elections lies in the promise of a future election for the losers and is in this sense a safety valve to avert break downs in the social order. How effective elections are in that function is tested every time one is held, because... policy is war by other means. To bemoan the negativity and mudslinging of elections is thus to miss the point. The relevant contrast is not that between a high-minded policy discussion and irresponsible sniping, but between mere irresponsible sniping and an outright breakdown of social order on the streets.

Whilst it may be true that elections are the least bad way of substituting one set of political rulers for another, it is not true that elections are the least bad way of "remedying" political contentiousness. Since political contentiousness arises through disagreements over policy and legislation, then a society in which policy and legislation were confined to a few narrow areas would plausibly suffer much less from political contentiousness. That society is not Taiwan, unfortunately and nor is Taiwan likely to become that society any time in the forseeable future.

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