Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Discriminatory taxi drivers!

This afternoon as I was leaving the Palace Museum, I saw a line of 10 cabs waiting out front and I tried to get in the first one. But the driver wouldn't take me -- he asked me where I was going and waved me off when I told him. Same with the second driver. And the third. Finally a lady driver came up from the rear and escorted me to her vehicle.

Turned out she spoke a good deal of English (something she didn't reveal till she'd tortured me in Mandarin for a while). Eventually I asked her why the other drivers hadn't been willing to take me where I wanted to go. She said it was a secret. I didn't press the point.

But then she volunteered that the other drivers only take Japanese passengers. Hmm, I said, where do they take them? Another secret, she said. And this second secret was one she kept.

I think I can guess what was going on, though somehow I'm hesitant to voice my theory. Still -- getting snubbed by taxi drivers! What an outrage!

Actually, I don't mind a bit. I'll take a lady taxi driver 10 times out of 10. They're always sober and they drive very well.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Here's an oddity I never get used to

The building where I work is next to a hospital, so you can guess what the street milieu is like -- emergency vehicles, dull-eyed attendants pushing invalids in wheelchairs, patients with IV tubes in their arms taking walks while dragging carts behind them...

Hmm. I don't believe that in the West I've ever seen a patient on an IV drip take a walk around the neighborhood. Down the corridor, sure. But through the market, where the dogs yap and the flies buzz and the organ meat is laid out temptingly? Over uneven sidewalks, among the dodging scooters? Odd, if you ask me.

Another oddity I never get used to is what happens when a group of Taiwanese people board a train or subway car and engage in that long silly pantomime of finding seats for one another. There's the scurrying, the pointing, the half-hearted defensive measures to prevent strangers from taking open seats.

Myself, I'm happy to help a companion find a seat -- if the companion is aged or pregnant or infirm. But in Taiwan it requires a massive coordinated effort to help Cousin Mei find the open seat that she can see and reach perfectly well on her own.

I think Taiwanese people find the charade a bit silly themselves. You can always be sure that when they play it out, the young women will smile sheepishly and cover their mouths with their hands.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

OK, so Hyatt asks me ...

to post on his blog and I pay a visit to see what it's about. It's called Rank and so I choose an appropriate handle. Now I go to look at previous posts and the first one I see after DogOfTheSouth's is about the RANKing of universities in Asia. Now I think I understand what blogging is about. I will begin.

Ranking of my favorite Taiwanese politicians:

1. Chiu Yi
2. Lee Ching-hua
3. Sisy Chen

I also like many rank-and-file politicians. Since this is Taiwan, I should say so-called rank-and-file politicians. Hyatt is sure to be wondering why he ever invited me to post. I just know my position is falling in his rankings. I'll try harder.
The lamest post a blogger can write

is the one in which he apologizes for not posting more. This is just such a post. But help is on the way!

Rank is about to undergo a major restructuring. Hyatt will very soon vacate Taiwan -- his poisonous influence will no longer taint the pure waters that otherwise flow through this blog. In Hyatt's place we'll see 1 or 2 or even 3 new bloggers, making it possible for the Rank crew to field a skeleton whiffleball team or mount an assassination squad. Suggestions for initial targets are welcome in the comment thread.

The identities of the new blogging candidates must be kept secret until security clearances have been issued. But I'll tell you this much -- one of them is literary, one is goateed, and one is English. Put the three of them together and you've got William Shakespeare.

That part of Rank that remains in Taiwan wishes Hyatt the best of luck in his new endeavor. Be very careful in New York City, my friend. A simple Arkansas boy like you can really get his pocket picked up there.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Taiwan's Universities compared with other Asian institutions.

This is interesting.
More on Bird Flu ...

Chinese authorities use human vaccines on birds, now the strain is far more resistant. More in this Washington Post article.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Long Goodbye ....

Many of Rank's diehard fan's already know why the site has been somewhat lackluster as of late. I'm making preparations to leave Taiwan, and in the course of trying to get things done to cross the Pacific again, I have little time these days to devote to the blog.

I've discussed keeping Rank open, and keeping it centered on Taiwan by trying to mollycoddle or goad a couple of people who are sure to make this blog even more interesting and pertinent than it has been during my tenure.

The idea of talking the blog with me strikes me as counterintuitive. The readers we have come here because they want to keep up with events in Taiwan and read a bit of punditry while they're here. Because I'm still obsessed with the medium, I may very well start up another one when I get settled in the states. And perhaps I'll insist that Rank list it in the blogroll. I'll keep you posted.
Excellent ...

Feiren saves the otherwise blogless day by bringing this link to our attention! Thank you sir!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Regarding blue trucks...

...I'm going to make one observation and pose one question. Answers to the question are welcome in the comment thread.

Observation: The guys who drive Taiwan's blue delivery trucks make taxi drivers look like corporate chauffeurs. I've never seen such large vehicles driven with such abandon, and it's an unwise pedestrian who doesn't give them a very wide berth.

Question: What are the damn blue trucks? I ask this knowing that the trucks are required by law to be blue, and that they all seem to be engaged in delivery. But not all delivery trucks must be blue -- the convenience stores have their own fleets of trucks, and blue they are not. So to what special category do the blue trucks belong? Must only delivery trucks with homicidal drivers be blue?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The stink

All big cities get smelly in summer. New York, for instance, may have the highest urine-to-pavement ratio in the world, and the rancid ammonia gets right powerful in July. But at least New York has a fully-functioning sewer system, which allows people who go to the toilet IN the toilet to keep their personal odors to themselves.

Taipei's got its share of street-pissers, but that's not the problem. The problem is that Taipei's sewer system -- which, as I understand it, has been under reconstruction for a dozen years while the city has veeeeerry slowly replaced what the Japanese built in about 1915 -- is still not getting the job done.

You learn over time to feel less disgusted. You realize that much of what you're smelling is just mud-odors released by rain-water runoff. Not human waste per se.

But. There's a stretch of sidewalk on my way to the MRT, directly in front of a glitzy emporium selling high-tech gizmos, that for the last week has just flat-out smelled like feces.

I wouldn't mind it so much except that the stinky stretch falls in my path just after the bakery where I often get my morning nosh. A real appetite-killer, that is.
To the dogs.

Media coverage of dogcathers in Keelung has prompted an uproar from animal rights activists. The wire "collars" and the cavalier methods that the catchers use often result in injury or death for the animals. Public pressure and education for county and city employees that deal with animals would be a good way to begin addressing these problems.

Sometimes earnest efforts fail to convey the gravitas intended. In a letter to the Taipei Times, a writer asks the central government to address the problems with national reform. The flourish is at the end of the letter when we find it comes from the "International Alliance for Taiwan Dogs, Sante Fe, New Mexico."
Any suggestions?

Here's US President George Bush at a recent press conference talking about Taiwan and China: "China is a -- obviously, there's tension on -- about Taiwan that we have to deal with. And I made my position very clear and very consistent about Taiwan. The Taiwanese understand my position; the Chinese understand my position. So, in this case, the relationship is one of helping to solve that problem, is to keeping stability in the region so that eventually there will be a peaceful solution to that issue."

Now my question is, do we understand his position? I thought I did during the beginning of his first term when he said on ABC News that he would do "whatever it takes" to protect Taiwan. Now, however, after Colin Powell's remarks in China last year, one is led to believe that the US and the State Department are reevaluating the Taiwan issue. I guess we're back to clear and consistent studied ambiguity.

That was a fright.

Around 12:30am we had a good shake from moving tectonic plates. A 6.0 on the Richter scale, but only a 3.0 here in Taipei city. More here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The opposition makes political hay out of gang leader's funeral.

Legislators are upbraiding government officials for allowing the massive funeral for one of Taiwan's most notorious crime figures. Click here. (The site is counterintuitive, so you have to scroll down to get to the story.)
Best Farkin Blues Band in Town.

Okay I need a refresher course in how to be cool. I'm getting old. Nevertheless, check out the Muddy Basin Ramblers. In the links section you toads.