Sunday, September 28, 2008

Penghu Trip: Pictures again

San Shui beach (山水沙灘) in my opinion, is the best beach Penghu has to offer. The sand is nice and fine and it is uncrowded. Also very importantly, it lacks the jet skis whipping people all around up and down the beach. We visited another beach that was said to be "the best" and found that you couldn't risk going out in the water because of the jet ski operators towing their guests everywhere - literally everywhere. They would take them out to deeper water, run them up on the beach and ride parallel to the beach. There was just no safe place to be in the water unless you wanted to walk half a kilometer. We decided to drive about 6 kilometers and return to this beach instead.

San Shui has some nice facilities as well. There are nice, clean (I will continue to stress these two aspects) changing rooms, bathrooms and a small park area with benches, a gazebo and fountains to wash the sand away. Nearby is a shop / restaurant / guesthouse ? (not too sure because I never went over there - one look at the place and I knew it reeked of dudes and broheims) where you can rent beach gear. There were plenty of Taiwanese grabbing surf boards, boogie boards and floatie things from this shop. If there is a busy time at the beach, it's around 4-5. Dad getting off work and taking the family out and the princesses avoiding the sun.

This is the SiYu lighthouse ( 西嶼燈塔). It started off in 1778 under the Ching Dynasty as a stone light. In 1828 it was upgraded to a lighthouse and in 1875 made into a western style lighthouse. Next to a military installation which asks that you park in front of the base - no one did - and that you not take pictures of it - no one listened to that one either.
From the wall of the lighthouse fort I continue to steal more military secrets. A local know-it-all informed us that the cannon can blast the island of ChiMei (七美), which you can see in the background if you enlarge it. I'm not sure why you would want to do that because ChiMei is part of the Penghu archipelago. Local guy also said that ChiMei was where one on Yamamoto's generals had an underground command bunker. Maybe they still harbor some ill will.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Penghu Trip: Pictures

This is the harbor at TongPan island, a 10 minute boat ride from MaGong city. It is very small and capable of being walked around in an hour. This was my wife's "The one thing we have to do!" until, of course, the next one.
TongPan is famous for its basalt columns that ring the island. The government had closed the island to tourists after two typhoons, but we unknowingly arrived two days after the ban had been lifted. The locals were not pleased as the government still had the restrictions posted both in TongPan and MaGong as well as continuing to broadcast the same. On a sea taxi crowded with residents, soldiers and fire chiefs, we were the only tourists to get off in TongPan.
This is the entrance on the Baisha (白沙) side of the Great Penghu Bridge (跨海大橋), connecting with the island of Siyu (西嶼). It's about 2.5 kilometers long and everyone stops to get their picture taken. Most stand in the middle of the road directly under the arch, which is really okay because another great feature of Penghu is the low level of traffic and the wide open roads. We had to settle for the side of the road. We had asked an elderly gent to help us with the photo and started walking to center of the road, directly under the arch. He started to pan along with us and when we stopped, he began panning back to the side of the road, leaving us out of the picture. We walked back to the side to regain his attention and walked back to the center of the road. Again he followed us with the camera and when we stopped slowly panned back to the side. I decided not to engage in a battle of the wills with this guy. Hell, I bet he helped build the bridge.

One of the many pillboxes scattered throughout the islands. Probably built by the elderly camera guy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

H a n g z h o u b a y b r i d g e

The amazing Hangzhou Bay Bridge is now open
One of the masterpieces of modern architecture, the fantastic Hangzhou Bay Bridge opened Friday May 2, 2008 to the public. The Bridge is an S-shaped stayed-cable bridge with six lanes in both directions and is linking Ningbo's Cixi county in the south to Jiaxing in the north.

The longest sea-crossing bridge in the world
It is the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world - 36 kilometres long - and shortens the distance between Shanghai and Ningbo by 120 km. This fantastic bridge crossing the Hangzhou Bay is expected to have a 100-year lifespan, and has a price tag of 11.8 billion yuan (US$1.70 billion).

Toll fee is 80 yuan
The toll fee is expected to be 80 yuan per vehicle. As the bridge has six lanes in both directions you can be quite sure that you will have a smooth ride.

600 experts spent nine years…
The first preparations for planning the bridge started a decade ago; close to 600 experts spent nine years on designing the Hangzhou Bay Bridge. Chief Commander of the Hangzhou Bay Bridge project is Mr Wang Yong. The bridge was linked 2007 and an opening ceremony was held on 26th June but first almost one year later, after several tests and evaluations, Hangzhou Bay Bridge was open to the public.

Goin places that I never been?

Sorry about that Chief!

American State Personality Research Results

Link to state personality rankings article.

Check out the interactive graph, or scroll down the linked web page and view the text.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


So tonight I'm walking around campus when I overhear this little tidbit, from one young lass to another:

Girl 1: Do you know she slept with two guys at that party Saturday?
Girl 2: No way!
Girl 1: Yep, she did one guy there and went home with another.

Needless to say I wanted to ask for the third girl's phone number, but I refrained.

The Difference between Taiwan & China

In China, you are woken up at 6:30 a.m. by the container trucks honking their horns.

In Taiwan, its the Matsu procession music that does the same thing.

Someone needs to inform the Taiwanese that the gods like to sleep in on Sundays, too.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

N i n g b o

On th road again?

A wet duck only flies at midnight.
The night is the devil's playground.
When the swallows come back to Campobello, there will be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Birthday wishes and Various tidbits

This year the law school at UM is under construction, meaning my classes are scattered throughout campus. This makes for ample coed viewing (very nice) and a host of overheard conversations whilst walking. In honor of Kevlar and his birthday, I present three eavesdropping lines truly worthy of our man:

1.Cute Girl: Oh my god, I've never peed so much in my life!

2. Cute Foreign Girl: Oh my god, that Professor is so hot. I just want to eat him!

3. Cute Foreign Girl (Asian division): I tired of here. I want sex but afraid American guy too big, will break me!

In response to J-Hole, no major damage. However, my father lost power for 4 days and 18 hours. Why so precise? If you go 5 days, FEMA sends you a check for $1500. I think they would have happily waited six more hours. My mother, who shares a birthday with almighty Kevin, is stuck. The bayous on either side of the neighborhood have flooded, meaning there is no way out for a few days yet. My eldest brother also lives in the Houston area, and apparently kept power throughout the storm, though he lost a big old oak tree in the front yard.

Beyond that, here's a nice pair of photos for all -- I spent last weekend up on the Canuckistani border (Montana side) hiking and fishing the Belly River. Good weather (after the Friday night snowfall that is), Good eats, Good fishing.

The second photo is of Chief Mountain. I've been up on top of it, where various artifacts are scattered (this mountain is the most sacred of locations for the Blackfeet and a place of spiritual pilgrimage).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Concrete people

4 abunga?

Ricardo Montalban hates tortillas

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


So anyways, the new Metallica album is out.

I bought the new metallica at Walmart yesterday and can pretty much guarantee a great price there. The price on the cd was 16.97 but the advertised price was 11.38. I asked the supervisor which was the correct price and she told me 11.38. So I asked her "how come the cd's say $16.97? She then looked at this fat kid who was working there (a little superbadish) and told him to go and take off all the price tags that say $16.97. She then peeled off the pricetag on my cd. I said to her, actually I wanted that pricetag on my cd and she went back to the rack to get me a new one. When she came back I told her I was just kidding and really didn't need the original pricetag on my cd. The fat kid started laughing so hard saying "that was awesome dude, awesome!" It was pretty funny! It should have been a scene from Superbad for sure!

As for the new Metallica, I told myself I was never going to buy another album. The last album was crap. Crap! Crap! Crap! How would a mega band like metallica come up with the idea to not include guitar solos on a heavy metal album? What a stupid idea.

This definately makes up for the last three shit albums put out by this band. A mix of And Justice for All meets the black album. Tastes of the past combined with vocals only of the new. Lars lays down on the drums and the free flowing thrash/metal guitar work destroys anything put out by the band in recent years.

I 've grown away from this type of sound over the last few years, but the radio track got better with every listen and lured me to the store to purchase the album. I'll give it a solid B

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Tonka XIV issue, vol 13


I asked you not to tell me that!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

China Report

So far no luck figuring out how to watch NFL here, but I have assigned this task to our secretary.

I drank some nice micro-brews from a Shenzhen hypermarket, and I found some more at one of my locals: Brooklyn Brewery and some Rogue ales.

I had my feet washed everyday for 5 days straight because my customer likes to do this. Its actually more of a massage than just washing the feet. In any event, my feet were squeaky clean, to the point that my hands started feeling jealous.

I tricked a kid into trying to eat the slice of lemon in her coke at Pizza Hut. Ha ha.

Should be coming back next week-end, if the typhoon ever decides to leave.

KHOU torches Galveston

Reporter: I heard there were a couple of blocks on fire?

Galveston Fire Chief Mike Varela: We did have that earlier...I don't know if they're still on fire. Again, that was when hurricane force winds were in place and the water was so high we couldn't even get the fire department vehicles in the areas.

I know this because I have a lot of family in the Texas Gulf Coast area and was checking on the status of Ike and saw this report headline from KHOU: Galveston fire chief: Entire neighborhoods are burning. Fifteen seconds from a seven minute report, coming three minutes and fifty seconds into the report, I finally learn that it is not as serious as the headline states. The damage is great and possibly there have been more fires since that report. However, I do not appreciate the tenor of their headline when that was clearly not the concern of the fire chief. His main concern was the damage of the water and the problems it created in rescue attempts. He gave Ike a 10-out-of-10 for its damage.

To test if I was overreacting, I tried it out on my wife. I told my wife, "The Galveston Fire Chief says entire neighborhoods are burning." Her eyes widened and she got a very worried look on her face. I then repeated the question to the chief and his answer. Her face slowly came back to a relaxed state, she started to grin a bit and then she said, "Reporters."

So far we have heard of no incidents involving family. One cousin stayed at home in Dickinson, between Houston and Galveston, and another and his wife who were on a cruise ship due to arrive Galveston on Saturday. Bread, I know you have family in Houston. Any word from them?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Penghu Trip: Two Airports

Penghu County lies off of Taiwan's southwest coast and consists of about 64 islands - more at low tide. My wife and I recently went for a 4 day-3 night trip. Before I get to the gist of this post, spend some time checking up on Penghu (the link above is a good starting place) and get your tickets. I loved the place. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin recently went to Boston and New York to study, among other things, waterfront development for cities. I suggest he spend a few thousand NT$ and take a trip to Penghu.

Getting There
For us Taichungians, it starts with a taxi ride to the state-of-Kwik-E-Mart Taichung Airport. It's actually outside of Taichung City proper, in Shalu Township. On the way to the airport we plan to stop and put our dog, Tassy, in a kennel. Our taxi driver arrives and hesitates getting out when he sees me with Tassy. He says he is "sensitive" to dogs. I ask "sensitive" or "allergic?" He says "sensitive" and refuses to take us. He calls another taxi and I call him a word that starts with a p and ends with a y, and it wasn't pansy. Here is the scary beast.
Our second driver has no problems with Tassy and tells my wife he plans to wave the $500 NT note in Mr. Sensitive's face and laugh at him. I like this guy. As we near the airport, we pass the entrance to the air force base adjacent to Taichung Airport. We continue for 3 more kilometers and we are there. Check-in takes two minutes. Crap. We have an hour to kill. The facilities consist of the counters for the two airlines serving the airport, an information desk and a Frog restaurant concession that I mistook for a beverage counter. I stroll around picking up brochures and stop at Mandarin Airlines (華信航空公司) and find they fly to Saigon. Neato.
Boarding the plane is done old school. Walking out on the tarmac and up the steps. Mandarin uses new, clean Embraer 190 jets and are pretty comfortable. On board the flight attendants announce everything in 3 languages. We start our taxi to the runway. 3 kilometers of taxiing. The same 3 kilometers we journeyed from the air force base to the airport. We are taxiing onto the air force base's runway. Yep, it's a shared runway. And shared not only by the military and the city, but also farmers who are planting something in different spots around the runway.
The flight is quick - about the same as our taxi ride to the airport - 30-35 minutes. We are offered a choice of water or Oolong tea. The captain tells us in Chinese and English that we are cruising at 8,000 feet. It's perfect sightseeing height. The jet quickly flies to the ocean, turns south and parallels the island until it's turn west to Penghu. So, the left side of the cabin can look at the coast and the right side can look at the beautiful waters, islets and fishermen. The aisle seats can look at those looking (me at my wife).
Only 35 minutes and we are there. This does not look or feel like the Taiwan I know. The airport is also a shared military / civilian airport. But this airport looks...nice. Turns out that it is. Our landlady at our guesthouse later informs us that it is only 3-4 years old. The old airport still stands next to the new one and I never noticed until she pointed it out.
Coming Back
I am sure that there are taxis, but I just can't recall seeing one. Every guesthouse and hotel has shuttle service. Our shuttle was our landlady's old, grey Mazda. Petra, my wife, called her as soon as we reclaimed our one bag. The landlady was waiting outside by the time I used the restroom and walked about 30 steps to the outside. She explained by saying that she likes to drive fast. I guess she only likes to drive fast to the airport, because on the way from the airport to her guesthouse we maxed out at 40kph. That's about as fast as me on my Banana Peeler bike going downhill.
On the return to the airport, we were shuttled by the Mazda MadLady, even though we didn't stay at her place for the last night. She had been reading some of the tourist brochures that we had picked up at the Taichung airport and said that the one for Penghu had a better map than the ones Penghu itself put out. I tend to agree. We stocked up on maps and info for Penghu, Jinmen and Matsu. We chose a different airline for the return, Uni Air (立榮航空), part of the Evergreen group. The tickets were about $200 NT more expensive than Mandarin. Another difference was the aircraft, a Dash 8-300, part of Bombardier. This one had seen some wear and tear. A turboprop, it was much smaller than the Embraer with only 4 seats to a row, and less legroom. This time I made sure I got the window seat. The announcements were made in Chinese only and I don't even think they used the intercom. This flight offered us the choice of water or no water. I chose the latter. Getting ready to enjoy the view I noticed that looking out of my window I was staring right at the prop. I spent most of the time alternating between not looking and thinking that if it did fly off, it would kill me too quickly to be scared and looking out the window anyway.
More later.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

H u i z h o u

Bout 3.5 hrs drive from Guangshou..........

Salt Lake City

Friday, September 05, 2008

Honey, this beer's for us!

Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor has a Mid Autumn Festival promotion lasting until September 30th. For all TTL 600cc beer products (Regular, Gold Medal, Draft) with the red bottle cap, there is a chance to win money and prizes. Peel off the underside - not easy - and check.

There are 5 prizes of $100,000 NT, 100 of $10,000 NT and others such as a free beer or money off your next beer.

Correction: There are now only 4 prizes of $100,000 NT. A Tainan woman has become the first to win one of the big ones.

The chairman of Air China (commie) doesn't need to play the old name-of-your-first-pet-and-your- mother's-maiden-name game. Try to put Mr. 孔棟 in Pinyin. Here is the answer for those of you who want to cheat.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

G u a n g z h o u

We r ready?

Is the wind fair to Java?
All clear, no storm on the horizon...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Almost home

Late for dinner?