Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Today's Random Observation:

Many shopkeepers have an "open/closed" sign in their windows. Some are closed during the 2-hour afternoon siesta; others are open at that time but closed between lunch and dinner.

There are a wide variety of these small signs, but the majority of them say "To run business" on one side and "drink tea" on the other. So which is which?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Election, part 7 1/2

It's election time again. Taiwan's legislative elections are December 11. The campaign season is blessedly short--only about 1 month. But, some candidates start putting up their billboards early. They've all got a big picture of the candidate, and a little circle somewhere on the ad. One month before the election, everyone draws lots to see what number they will be on the ballot. Then, magically, people go out and paint the candidate's number inside the little circles on every early billboard.

Two billboards I've seen have caught my eye.

One, #17, is a man posing, not with his wife, children, or a prominent politican, but his German Shepherd dog.

Another, #13, is a smiling woman. There's a bit of Chinese writing on the billboard, but only one English word: "Shiny." I don't know what to make of this, unless it's her English name.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Do you talk to yourself?

Yeah, you do. Do you do it out loud? How loud? Would you stop if there were others nearby? What if they probably didn't speak your language? How about if they already think you're crazy anyway?

Oh, and as a bonus aside...for some reason, the--uh--special people-- always seem to know a bit of English and want to practice while they grab your dog and squeeze just a little too hard.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Rules

In Taiwan, there are lots of shops and vendors that I've not seen in other countries. But there are two I particularly like:

1. Breakfast shops. Admittedly, they serve terrible coffee, if they have it at all, but they are all over the country, and they do lots of good breakfast food. Some is local, like the steamed bread rolls (mmm...chewy and tasteless!), noodles, dumplings, and the like. There are dan-bing, which are sort of like breakfast burritos, filled with an egg and whatever else they have on the menu. And they have Western-style things filtered through the local culture: i.e. "Hamburgers" with an egg, fried pork, cucumbers, and sweet mayonnaise. All in all, they aren't bad, but the only drinks they offer are hot or cold milk tea or warm goat's milk. This lack of drinks leads me to the other shops I like:

2. Juice shops. These are more straightforward. They have about 30 different fruit flavors, blenders, coffee-machines, and sweeteners. For about 75 cents, you can get a freshly-mixed cup of any imaginable combination of these things as juices, ice drinks, and teas. The drink menu for most of these places is well over 100 items.

And now, the problem.

Breakfast shops are open only in the morning. Every single one in the country is closed and shuttered for the day by noon.

Juice shops are open only starting in the afternoon. Every single one in the country is closed until at least 10 am.

So, if you want a nice refreshing juice in the morning on your way to work, you're out of luck.

And if you want some tasty breakfast-type food in the evening, you're out of luck.

Why? Those are just the rules. Everyone does it that way, because everyone else does it that way.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Election, part 6

Well, about 8 months ago, I started talking about Taiwan's presidential election. If you'll recall, the incumbent, Chen Shui-Bian, won re-election with a margin of about 20,000 votes out of about 13 million cast. The loser, Lien Chan, also ran against Chen and lost in 2000 (although that was a clearer victory because of a 3rd party split). Due to the closeness of the vote, and a mysterious--and still totally unsolved--shooting of the president and his running mate at an election rally on the eve of the election, Lien refused to concede. Lien, of the long-ruling-but-currently-bitter KMT, said that alleged voting irregularities and a sympathy vote for Chen in the wake of his shooting should cause the election results to be annulled.

Lien and the angry old men of his party have been chasing this case through the courts since then. They are helped by having a majority in their Legislature which has given them all kinds of sympathetic comittees, fact-finding investigations, and the like. The KMT have also basically prevented President Chen, of the Democratic People's Party (DPP), from getting anything done for the last four years. And the KMT good-ol'-boys network of county and city officials keep skimming the public's money off the top by the truckload, while the president goes around the country to ribbon-cuttings and twiddles his thumbs.

Despite all this, this week, the high court of Taiwan threw out his lawsuits. All of his allegations were totally unsubstantiated and a complete recount of all the votes still found in Chen's favor. At every turn, the KMT's Lien has simultaneously pursued every legal and legislative option available while slamming the legal processes as unfair and fradulent.

As President Chen, who is now 5 months into his second and final term, urged the opposition party to respect the results, Lien promised he would press on with his quest for the presidency.

So, the American eleciton has gone pretty well by comparison. Too bad about the winner, though.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Oh well.

Well, it's all over. America apparently has the president it wants. And for better or worse, it's the government it deserves. I've completely missed the first Bush term by living overseas, and if this Canadian immigration thing goes through, I'll get to miss the second one as well, though if I still have my U.S. citizenship in 2008, the Jeb Bush/Hillary Clinton matchup will warrant another absentee-ballot application.

My 7-year-olds have been very interested in this election since our mock vote last week. They were asking me all day yesterday who was the winner. It was still not over when I left at 5 p.m. (late Tuesday night in the states), so their homework was to watch TV and tell me the winner today. They all knew the answer. At one point, the kids were shouting "Bush" and "Kerry" at each other, and I told them that people in America were probably doing the same thing at that moment.

Best of luck to America, and by extension, the world, these next 4 years.