Planned Workouts and scheduled races

Every Wednesday: Bigfoot Cycle Workout (Dali) 5:15 am
Every Saturday: Bigfoot Swim Workout (Dali) 6:00 am

8/28 Vision Bigfoot Duathlon (Qingshui) 8:00 am
9/4 Taiwan P.E. University Cup 5000m 4:00 pm
10/1 Beauty of Taidong Triathlon (Olympic Distance) 8:00 am
10/30 Gaomei Wetland Marathon (Qingshui) - (Marathon distance) 6:00 am
11/5 NeverStop West Coast Bike Race (200km) 5:00 am *
11/13 Taoyuan National Marathon (Marathon distance) - TBA 11/20 Mizono Marathon Relay
12/18 Fubon Taipei Marathon (Marathon distance) 7:00 am (Boston Marathon qualifying attempt)

* reconsidering the NeverStop race due to the date change to November, which would result in four race weekends (perhaps five if the Supau Cup is on 11/27) in a row.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Strains in Taiwan-US Relations

Anti-U.S. beef cartoon at a Subway restaurant in Taichung in 2009

While Taiwan is generally a very pro-United States country, there have definately been strains between the two over the past few years. Both sides are to blame for these strains and it is certain that better communication and understanding between the two can help to cultivate what has generally been a mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries.

United States Meat Products

A couple of years ago, after Taiwan signed an agreement with the United States to resume most beef imports, local discontent led the legislature to essentially reneg on the agreement, banning most forms of beef on the bone due to concern about Mad Cow Disease. Reports in local media became rampant about problems about Mad Cow in the United States, despite the fact that the number of cases in the U.S. could be counted on one hand and restrictions on exports on the U.S. side would have prevented any possibility of export of Mad Cow beef to Taiwan. In this case, the government here in Taiwan did a very poor job of communicating the issue to the people, allowing opposition politicians (yes, I disagreed with them on this) and the media to hype it all out of proportion.

Paylean is an additive often used in U.S. livestock to allow the growth of lean meat before slaughter. Lean meat is preferred in many markets as it is generally considered healthier. However, Paylean uses a drug called ractopamine. Residual traces of ractopamine, however, is not permitted in Taiwan. This has long been the case. In 2007, ractopamine-laced pork was found to enter the Taiwan market and just a few months ago, ractopamine-laced beef entered the market. In both cases, local protests led to the government to continue enforcement of the law and to restrict the import of U.S. meat products.

The United States has put pressure on Taiwan regarding both of the above issues. TIFA (Trade and Investment Framework Agreement) talks has been put on hold by the U.S. side as it sees Taiwan as not being a reliable trade partner. While in the ractopamine issue, Taiwan is clearly within its rights as the drug is banned here (and in many other countries, including the European Union countries), Taiwan really screwed up on the beef import issue. Taiwan signed an agreement with the U.S. and violated that agreement. No wonder the U.S., whose Congress has very powerful members from ranching states, is a little wary of negotiating a TIFA and an FTA with the Taiwanese government.

Fishing Boat Death

An ongoing issue has to do with Taiwanese fishing boat captain Wu Lai-yu’s (吳來于) death at the hands of the U.S. Navy during an operation off the waters of Somalia. As everyone knows, Somalia has become a haven for pirates in the aftermath of the fall of the regime of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. What many don't know is that many believe that overfishing by some fishing nations (including Taiwan) were one of the reasons it started. Of course, it has taken on a life of its own since its very humble beginnings and now the western Indian Ocean has come to far surpass the Strait of Melaka as the world's leading pirate haven.

Numerous Taiwanese fishing boats had been taken. Wu's was being used as a mother ship by Somali pirates to attack other vessels. The United States Navy, under authority from the United Nations and supported by international anti-piracy laws, conducted an operation against the ship being used by Somali pirates. Unfortunately, Wu was accidently killed in the engagement.

Many Taiwanese were angry that: 1. Wu's body was buried at sea, something that is not constant with Taiwanese custom, and 2. the U.S. government seemed to take a long time to issue a report explaining the reasons for Wu. death. The U.S. government did seem to take an awful long time to issue the report, but this is pretty consistant with U.S. practice. The U.S. government often works slowly and in a case where something happens in the open waters with a naval detachment that is on active duty, it is not unreasonable for the length of time to be extended.

There is a Taiwanese call for an official apology and compensation from the U.S. government. While the official apology seems reasonable, I am not sure about compensation. It was a tragedy, but it was an accident. The operation was approved by NATO and the United Nations Security Council and had the goal of enhancing safety for all in the western Indian Ocean.


U.S. economic woes are a matter of concern to many in Taiwan. Both the unprecedented drop in the value of the U.S. dollar during the Obama administration along with the also unpredecented scare with a debt default is causing economic unease on Taiwan.

The U.S. is a major trade partner for Taiwan. Taiwan exports and imports numerous items from the U.S. This is generally a pretty complimentary arrangement as the two countries directly compete in very few areas. The U.S. imports Taiwanese high technology electronics, bicycles and other local manufactures. Taiwan imports large appliances and fruit/meat products, among many others, from the United States. The arrangement is good for both countries.

However, recent mismanagement of the United States economy (not all of it is the fault of President Obama) has resulted in a historic drop in the value of the dollar. While the Taiwanese government has worked hard to contain the damage, the U.S. dollar is at it's weakest against the New Taiwan Dollar in well more than a decade. This has made it very difficult for Taiwanese exporters in the U.S. market as this makes Taiwan exports more expensive for Americans to purchase.

Another looming problem is the U.S. debt situation. You may think what does this have to do with Taiwan. Well, as unlikely as it is, a U.S. debt default would almost certainly result in a further deterioration in the value of the dollar. Furthermore, as the fourth largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury Bills, Taiwan would be left holding a lot of questionable U.S. debt.

Arms Purchases and the Military Situation

The Obama Administration seems to not be living up to its commitment to Taiwan. He spoke during the campaign of the need to provide more support to Taiwan. He also spoke strongly against China during the same campaign. I, like many others, took this as a hopeful sign that unlike past Democratic presidents, he would show stonger support for Taiwan. This hasn't been the case.

The Taiwan Relations Act obligates the U.S. to make available to Taiwan the military equipment needed to protect itself. China has armed itself to the teeth in recent years, facilitated in large part by the United States and other Western powers. Unfortunately, Taiwanese businessmen (who are generally pro-KMT) have also had a role in enabling this to happen. Obama has dropped the ball and now shown the strong commitment to Taiwan that he talked about in his campaign.

A recent episode in the Taiwan Strait further underscores the need for Taiwan to have access to advanced military equipment. A United States recon plane was operating legally in international airspace over the Taiwan Strait when Chinese fighter jets were scrambled and sent to investigate. Taiwan scrambled jets in response, but this notes that the Chinese are becoming more daring. Add to this increased Chinese naval activity in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea, it becomes increasingly clear that Taiwan needs to be able to increase its own deterrance capabilities.

On the whole, the relationship between the countries is good. Taiwanese generally respect the United States. However, it is clear that communication needs to improve between the two of them, a situation sometimes made difficult since the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979.

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Taiwan should make use of the ICJ

Taiwan’s status has been in limbo since the end of World War II. There is a common misconception that legal sovereignty over Taiwan was transferred to China following that war. However, there is ample legal precedent to show that in order to transfer territory from one state to another state, a legally negotiated, ratified, and binding treaty in which the legally recognized sovereign not only surrenders its sovereign claim but also transfers that claim to another state is clearly necessary.

The San Francisco Peace Treaty, the document recognized by the Allies, Japan, and the United Nations as the document legally ending World War II, provides no transfer of sovereignty from Japan to China. Its reference to Taiwan is rather brief, limited to Chapter II, Article 2, Clause b of the treaty, which reads:

(b) Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the

In this clause, Japan clearly relinquishes its sovereign rights to Taiwan, acquired in 1895 via the Treaty of Shimonoseki from the Qing Dynasty. However, there is also no mechanism for transfer.

The situation in which this left Taiwan is akin to two other territories in the last half of the twentieth century: Western Sahara and East Timor.

Western Sahara was a Spanish colony along the west coast of Africa, south of Morocco and west of Mauritania. Spain relinquished its authority over the territory in November of 1975, but did not declare another state to be the recipient of the territory. The Madrid Accords were signed by the governments of Spain, Morocco and Mauritania following an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice that neither of the African neighbors of the territory had a right to claim it following Spanish de-colonialization of the territory. Clauses two and three of the Madrid Accords read as follows:

· 2. In conformity with the aforementioned determination and in accordance
with the negotiations advocated by the United Nations with the affected parties, Spain will proceed forthwith to institute a temporary administration in the Territory, in which Morocco and Mauritania will participate in collaboration with the Djemaa and to which will be transferred all the responsibilities and powers referred to in the preceding paragraph. It is accordingly agreed that two Deputy Governors nominated by Morocco and Mauritania shall be appointed to assist the Governor-General of the Territory in the performance of his functions. The termination of the Spanish presence in the Territory will be completed by February 28, 1976 at the latest.
· 3. The views of the Saharan population, expressed through the Djemaa, will be respected.

There is no transfer of sovereignty. In fact, in clause three of the Accords, all three parties agree to respect the views of the Saharan population. Regardless, both Morocco and Mauritania illegally invaded the territory and fought a war over it. Local forces known as Polisario drove out the Mauritanians, but the Moroccans have been entrenched in most of the territory ever since. The Moroccan claims are recognized by the Arab League, but not by the African Union (a decision which resulted in Morocco leaving its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity).

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was declared in 1976, but is in effective control of only the extreme interior parts of the country, with the rest under Moroccan occupation. It is currently recognized by 58 states, most of them from Africa. The United Nations formed the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (UNMURSO), which was authorized by Security Council Resolution 690. To this day, the United Nations does not recognize Moroccan claims to the territory and recently extended to ongoing mandate of UNMURSCO in Security Council Resolution 1979.

East Timor was formerly a colony of Portugal. Portugal divested itself of most of its colonial holdings following the Rose Revolution in 1974. East Timor was one of those holdings. There was no transfer of sovereignty to any other state when Portugal decided to leave its East Timor territory. Indonesia invaded the country in 1975, an action widely condemned as illegal and violating the rights of the East Timorese people. This action was condemned by the United Nations Security Council in resolution 384 in 1975 and again in resolution 389 in 1976.

The United Nations regarded East Timor as a non-self-governing territory whose people had a right to self-determination. While the ICJ did not rule directly on Indonesia’s invasion of the territory, there is one ICJ ruling that is of interest. In 1995, the ICJ did rule on a case between Australia and Portugal arising out of a treaty signed between Indonesia and Australia concerning natural resource extraction in the Timor Gap. The ICJ refused to rule on the case because of the contentious nature of the Indonesian participation in the treaty and the fact that East Timor was regarded as a non-self governing territory.

East Timor was granted a referendum and independence in a United Nations monitored process that culminated in 2002.

How do these relate to Taiwan? Like Taiwan, both were surrendered by their prior sovereign without designating another state to assume sovereignty over them. In the cases of Western Sahara and East Timor, the United Nations ruled that both were entitled to self-determination. Why is this not the case with Taiwan? Well, in both cases, the United Nations Security Council was involved. Neither Morocco nor Indonesia have veto power in the Security Council as China does, so as China claims Taiwan as its territory much in the same way Morocco claims Western Sahara and Indonesia once claimed East Timor, the Security Council is unable to take any action. So, that is a non-starter.

The other option is the International Court of Justice. The ICJ directly ruled on the Western Sahara matter and indirectly so on East Timor, and in both cases, confirmed the right of the two territories to self-determination. So, obviously, this is where Taiwan must look.

However, in accordance with Article 35, the International Court of Justice is only available to UN members who have ratified the Statute for the ICJ.

1. The Court shall be open to the states parties to the present Statute.

Taiwan is not a party to the statute as it is not a member of the United Nations. However, Article 36 provides some assistance, specifically clause 2:

2. The states parties to the present Statute may at any time declare that they
recognize as compulsory ipso facto and without special agreement, in relation to
any other state accepting the same obligation, the jurisdiction of the Court in
all legal disputes concerning:
a. the interpretation of a treaty;
b. any question of international law;

c. the existence of any fact which, if established, would constitute a breach of an international obligation;
d. the nature or extent of the reparation to be made for the breach of an
international obligation.

Both sub-clauses a and b to clause 2 are relevant here. The fact is that the result of the San Francisco Peace Treaty as regards Taiwan has never been judicially adjudicated. Any signatory to that treaty would have clear standing with the ICJ for an interpretation of Article 2 clause B of that treaty. Of the signatories of that treaty, eight (Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay,) currently have diplomatic relations with Taipei. Now, it is a sad liklihood that two of them will switch over the Beijing (Nicaragua and Panama) in the event of a Tsai victory, showing the disingenuousness of the so-called “diplomatic truce”. However, that still leaves six states with clear standing to request a legally binding interpretation of the San Francisco Peace Treaty as it regards Taiwan and its legal right to self-determination. As China is not a signatory to the treaty, it has no standing to object to such a consideration of the case as it should not be named as a party to the case.

Given that in the long history of territorial transfers between states, it occurs through the mechanism of treaties (and not through wartime communiqués and hostilities-ending armistices), it seems clear that the ICJ must rule in favor of Taiwan’s right to self-determination. The result of the recent advisory opinion confirming the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia (which frankly surprised me) gives even stronger credence that the ICJ would rule on Taiwan’s favor. While such a ruling is not likely to calm Beijing’s claims over Taiwan, it will give a significant boost to Taiwan’s efforts to win over the international community to support the legitimate rights of the island. This is the best way to ensure Taiwan’s long-term sovereignty in the face of an increasingly bellicose China.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dadu Ridge morning ride

Like many riders, the recent spate of afternoon thundershowers has put a damper on many a riding plan. I decided to get out early this morning and start the week with a little hills work. I went on a short course I had never done before to see how it would go. I started on Xiangshang 向上 Road and once it got past the expressway, it opened up pretty nicely and the climb up Dadu Ridge began in earnest.

Looking up the hill along Xiangshang Road

A little further on up the climb

It isn't a very steep climb, but it is fairly steady, lasting for a good five-six kilometers. Looking back, the view toward downtown and the Central Mountain Range beyond was quite nice.

Looking back from near the top of the morning climb on Zhonglong (Taichung-Longjing) Road

A small temple along Zhonglong Road

Lookout out over Taichung Harbor and the Taiwan Strait from the top of Dadu Ridge

I descended some after reaching the top of the ridge, but looking at the maps last night, I decided to turn on Zhongxing Road. I am not familiar with this side of the ridge, so although it wasn't as far down as I wanted to go today, I really didn't want to go into unfamiliar territory on a Monday morning. I will map scout further down and try it again another day.

Came back down on Zhonggang Road then Huanzhong to Shizheng. Usual morning traffic, but it moved nicely except for a couple of buses I had to navigate around. A great way to start the week.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

News wires and Taiwan's status

When one reads articles about Taiwan in international press outlets, including the major wires, they always seem to include a stock statement at the end of articles that in any way relate to China. These stock statements are devoid of information, facts, and understanding. They simply expect us to accept them at face value despite the fact that facts are not in evidence.

A recent example from this AFP article:

But China still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, although the island has governed itself since the end of the civil war in 1949.

This stock statement is not as bad as some, but the last part of the statement is gravely inaccurate. Yes, there was a civil war in China, but Taiwan was not a part of it. For nearly the entire Chinese civil war, Taiwan was a part of Japan and administered by the same. In 1949, when the Chinese Nationalists lost the war, Japan was still the de jure sovereign pending the peace treaty (which was signed in 1951 and went into effect in 1952). Republic of China forces were in belligerent occupation on behalf of the Allies following Japan's defeat in 1945. Sovereignty over Taiwan had not been transferred to China by 1949 (and in fact, never was transferred to either entity claiming to be China.)

The problem is that the island did not govern itself from 1949. Taiwan was governed by an alien regime in exile from China. The island was run by and for the exile population that came from China primarily in 1949. Chiang Kai Shek and his son Chiang Ching Kuo ran the island with very limited input from the local population of the island. The elder Chiang instituted a White Terror on the people of the island, targeting anyone who questioned the legitimacy of the KMT single-party rule of the island. The Legislative Yuan and National Assembly were comprised of people elected in China (not in Taiwan) and they aged through the decades in exile, leaving to the absurdity of shrinking numbers in both bodies as those members died, not to be replaced under the excuse that they represented areas that were controlled by "Communist bandits".

I will set out the legal explanation for Taiwan's status in a later post. However, a little honest research by the wire services would result in a better stock statement regarding Taiwan's historical relationship with China. Unfortunately, such news wires seem to be too lazy for the task.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Round Taichung Photo Narrative

This past Wednesday, I hit the road on my bicycle with the goal of riding through all of Taichung's 29 districts, in addition to a ride to Guguan, in one day. It was a beautiful morning when I set out, as you can see from the photo below. Seasonably warm, but not too bad with enough clouds to keep it from getting too hot, at least in the early going.

5:06 am - First district crossing as I crossed into South District on Zhongming South Road.

The first hour was spent primarily in the urban core districts, so the going was rather slow. Some of the areas were in areas I don't normally go in, so I got to see things I haven't seen in a while and some new things that are being built in the urban districts.

Looking down the Liu River in downtown Taichung

Looking out toward the mountains from Ziyou Road. The tall building is the old Jinsha Building, the sight of a tragic restaurant fire several years ago. It is still closed.

The old city-hall built during the Japanese era.

The ram from the National Latern Festival a few years ago at Taichung Park

Construction of an elevated railray section near Taiyuan station in Beitun District

Han River in Beitun District

After about fifty minutes in urban districts, I was finally getting onto some relatively open road after the Han River. I rode through to Tanzi District, then through Fengyuan, Shigang, and Dongshi districts. It was turning out to be an absolutely beautiful morning for a ride and I was able to get going pretty well once not having to deal with red lights every two minutes.
The construction of a new elevated highway in Tanzi District.

Taichung branch of the Tzu Chi Buddhist Hospital. Too bad the elevated highway is going BETWEEN the two buildings of the hospital! That's Taichung's city government for you.

Temple in the distance seen from Route 3 in Shigang District

Mountains from the Dongshi Bridge over the Dajia River along the border of Shigang and Dongshi districts

Arriving in Dongshi (one of my favorite places in the city) marked the beginning of 34 kilometers on Taiwan Route 8 up to Heping District and Guguan, known for its scenic beauty and hot spring resorts. The ride is almost entirely uphill, but not really very difficult. It is just a long ride and if you are not fit, that is more of a challenge than the actual elevation gain.

There was some light rain going up in both Dongshi and Heping. While the light rain was actually rather refreshing, I was rather concerned about the possible effect coming back down. Speed and wet on a bicycle are not a good mix.

Beware of falling rocks

Clouds floating around the mountains

Clouds in the mountains over the Dajia River

More beautiful scenery along Taiwan Route 8

I reached Guguan just after 8 in the morning after riding nearly 70 kilometers. I actually felt really good when I got up there. None the worse for wear, which was a good thing as I had the most imposing climb of the day just one hour ahead. I stopped for a short while to get some photos and stopped at a local vendor (which seemed to double as a betel nut stand and a small local restaurant) to restock on liquids (Supau and water). After taking in the scenery, off I was back down the mountain. Fortunately, the sun had come out and pretty much dried off the road so I could descend at a reasonably brisk pace.

My turnaround point after the first tunnel in Guguan. Next time I come up here, I will climb much further.

The valley from Guguan

Looking toward Xinshi from Long'an Bridge

I descended to the Long'an Bridge in Dongshi which crosses the Dajia River. This was used by Stage Five of the Tour de Taiwan earlier this spring and the mountain climb to the "down"town part of Xinshi District was the main climb of the stage. I have to say, the climb went much easier for me this time than the last time I did this climb in April. I am becoming a better climber, which is good given that it looks like I am going to do the race in Nantou next month. It did rain during the ascent and when I got to the 'KOM' marker (still painted in the road), it was a feeling of elation. The climb isn't as long as the climb to Guguan, but it is much steeper with numerous switchbacks. Fortunately, the traffic was light and the few motor vehicles I did encounter gave me plenty of space to make my attack on the mountain.

Looking up at the hill to climb and the switchbacks in the road

1 kilometer to the top of the mountain


Overlooking downtown Taichung from Xinshe District

I got into downtown Xinshe at about 9:30. After four and a half hours of riding, I was ready to eat a second breakfast, so I stopped at a local breakfast shop for a Taiwanese-style breakfast sandwich. After eating, I made my descent down into Dakeng. Again, fortune shined on me as it was not raining on this side of the mountain so I was able to descend in the dry. There was a car in front of me, so I just paced off it, keeping enough distance for safety. Fortunately, the car behind me realized what I was doing and made no effort to pass me. The descent (also used in the Tour de Taiwan) is quite technical, but if you focus on the turns ahead and not the space immediately in front of you, it is actually quite a fun descent back into Beitun District.

Taiwanese-style pork breakfast sandwich

Overlooking the river on the boundary between Beitun and Taiping districts

Coming down into Dakeng, I stayed on route 129 through Beitun and over into Taiping and Dali districts. The traffic in these part of these two districts is much less than in the more urban parts of the districts. The ride went pretty smoothly, though I had a hard time finding my road from Dali to Wufeng districts. Just by luck and asking a local, I was able to stay on the road to Jifeng Elementary school in Wufeng and make the turn toward Wuri district and what I would come to call the "Southern Cross" from the mountainous eastern part of the city to the western side nearer the coast.

In Wufeng, I stopped at a betel nut stand to get some water and Supau. These places are great for cyclists as we don't have to worry about our bicycles. I was at a small locally-run grocery a minute earlier but he wouldn't let me take my bicycle in with me like most convenience stores do (and I had decided that I would avoid the convenience stores as much as possible on this ride to support local businesses) so I stopped at the roadside stand a minute later to refill on liquids.

A narrow road in Dali District which, while the correct road, almost caused me to get lost.

The same elevated highway under construction from earlier, this stretch in Wufeng District

World War II-vintage tanks under the Taichung-Changhua expressway in Wuri District. Pointed the wrong way though -- they should be pointed toward the west.

After the "Southern Cross" I made my way over to Taiwan Route 1 (I know, Michael Turton would kill me for this decision) and made my way through Dadu and Longjing districts, in both cases veering off route one to go through the downtown sections of the districts. By the time I got into Dadu, it was getting pretty hot. I had put on some sunscreen in Wuri and it was getting a bit uncomfortable. Then, some light rain in Dadu which cooled things off just enough to help out. Slow going due to lights, but was feeling pretty good. I proceeded to through through Shalu and Qingshui (the sight of a duathlon I will run next month) to go to Dajia district in the northwest part of the city.

I was looking for a local shop to buy some more water and Supau, but seeing none, I had to break down and stop at a 7-11 for re-supply in Qingshui District.

Welcoming sign to Longjing District - the first character in the district name means 'Dragon', hence the dragon motif

Leafy greens in Shalu District (ignore the pink clouds - color on my camera was messing up)

Bridge to Dajia District over the Dajia River

Fieldside temple guarding the crops in Da'an District

From Dajia District, I took a side road over to the northwestern-most district in the city, the rural Da'an District. I saw several small fieldside temples which are common in rural areas of Taiwan to protect the fields. Along with Mazu and other spirits that help sea-farers, such spirits are very important to the traditions of Taiwan and its rural populace.

Bowl of noodles in Dajia district

I then rode back into Dajia. It was about 1:30 and I was ready to eat. I wanted fried noodles, but I was having a hard time finding it. I found a little local shop next to the train station and while the bowl above is not exactly what I was looking for, it was actually quite good. Anyway, I love fresh noodles. Just keep those instant noodles from 7-11 away from me thank you very much.

By the time I finished lunch, it had started raining lightly outside. This was not unexpected, but at 2:00, it was a bit earlier than it had started the past few days. I was hoping it was stay light for a while, at least until I got down the ridge in Houli after climbing it in Waipu. Looking toward the east, I say that wasn't likely and then as I entered Waipu, I heard thunder and saw lightning. I put my camera in the plastic bag I brought and prepared for the worst. About half way up the hill in Waipu, the heavens simply opened up. It wasn't raining 'cats and dogs', it was more like 'blue whales and large dinosaurs'. We have had some intense storms the past few days, but I think this was the most intense storm of the year so far. It didn't affect the climb at all but once I finished the climb and crossed into Houli, I had to be careful on the descent. No problems and made it to Taiwan Route 13 to begin the final push for home.

Sign for Waipu District

Rain on Houjia (Houli-Dajia) Road just after passing into Houli District

In reality, rain doesn't bother me all that much, especially at this time of year. I was more worried about the slippery white lines and the effect of the rain on my brakes more than on me, personally. I did limit my picture taking, though, as I really did not want to take my digital camera out of the bag.

I proceeded southward back to Taichung on Taiwan Route 13, but I had to take a short detour once I got to Fengyuan. I took Fengyuan Avenue over to Taiwan Route 10 to get in two more districts - Shen'gang District and Daya District - before getting onto Taiwan Route 1-C back into the old urban part of the city to finish my ride. By the time I got into Daya, the rain had stopped again. Even though I had ridden more than 200km at this point, I was feeling pretty good. The only thing that kept me from picking up the pace at this point was the wet roads.

The new city hall in Xitun District

I got into Xitun District and road past the new City Hall. It opened up last December with the merger of the city and county into a "provincial (sic)-level municipality" (not going into the political implications of that here). I haven't been inside it yet, but from the outside, it looks pretty impressive.

I then got onto Wenxin Road to get in my last district, and while it was a little out of the way, you have to get the Wanhe Temple into any historical itinary of the city, so I took the short ride down there. Just as I crossed Shizheng Road into Nantun, it started pouring again. Didn't bother me at all. I was already soaked anyway and it wasn't like I was going to push the pace in this part of the city.

Wanhe Temple in one of the oldest parts of the city. Great for history buffs like myself.

As I was approaching the Wanhe Temple, I heard an explosion behind me as I was waiting for the light at Nantun Road. I knew an IED wasn't exactly likely, but was able to identify what it was immediately on looking back. Some local eatery's stove had just exploded. Smoke was billowing out from it. While it scared the crap out of me, I am sure it was more startling to the proprietor of the business. Fortunately, based on how he was frantically putting out the smoke, he seemed perfectly all right.

After getting a shot of the temple, I rode home. I made my obligatory stop at Mr. Wish to get some delicious, fresh, Taiwanese green tea.

230.5 kilometers; 29 districts; total time: 11 hours 40 minutes

On this trip, I got so see some areas I had not been to before. The two districts I had never been to before (Waipu and Da'an) saw their first visit by yours truly. For all of my complaints of the local government, I love Taichung and its people. As always, I met wonderful people on the entire trip. The scenery, especially in the mountains, was first class. Really a wonderful day which I punctuated with a 2 1/2-hour nap after getting home.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Government of Reaction - not Proaction

The problem of government reacting to problems rather than being proactive to prevent them is a global phenomenon. All around the world, we see governments respond to problems of law and/or enforcement only after tragedy has struck and innocent lives have been lost that could have been prevented.

Earlier this year here in Taichung, innocent people lost their lives in an illegally operating nightclub that was registered as a restaurant. These type of businesses have been an open secret in Taichung for years, yet the government did little or nothing to address the problem. That changed with the high profile deaths of innocent patrons and the decreasing popularity of an already relatively unpopular mayor.

This morning's Taipei Times addressed the topic in this morning's editorial. Compass Magazine has also commented on this situation, both showing considerable sympathy to the bar owners. Unlike those media outlets, I have absolutely ZERO sympathy for those business owners.

The Taipei Times claimed that "(the) pub owners, who in some cases had been operating openly for 10 years or more, used a legal loophole set up by the government". Factually, this is not the case. The pub owners did not use a legal loophole. A legal loophole is using provisions within the law in order to circumvent the spirit of the law. This is not what happened. Many of these pub owners actually violated the law. They registered as restaurants but operated as pubs. This is in contravention to the law, not exploiting a loophole. There is a fundamental difference. The fact that the local government overlooked it for many years does not change the fact that they were operating illegally.

I used to live in a building with one of these illegally operating pubs on the ground floor. Such operations are illegal in residential buildings for a reason and it caused no small amount of problems for us, who had a newborn infant at the time of our residence there. One morning, we were all awakened at 5AM to a pub fight in which the front facade was shatterred in a drunken rage. At that point, we moved out of the building. This business was allowed to keep operating despite many calls to the police and despite the clear fact that it was operating illegally.

Who do I blame? I blame the business owners for operating illegal businesses in residential buildings/areas. I also blame the local government and Mayor Jason Hu for a lack of enforcement of laws designed to protect the legitimate rights of residents of the city. I feel no sympathy at all for the business owners or the patrons of these illegal establishments. They made lives miserable for thousands of residents for many years. It is too bad that it has taken a tragedy to get the local government to enforce the law, but I fully support the efforts of the local government to do this, as belated as it is.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Round Taichung Ride - Timeline

Mountains from route 8 riding from Dongshi to Guguan

This is the timeline for today's bike ride - total of 230.5 kilometers

photo narrative will be posted tomorrow and friday

4:00 Wake-up and eat breakfast

5:00 set off - start in West District (1)

5:05 enter South District (2)

5:11 re-enter West District

5:20 enter Central District (3)

5:25 enter North District (4)

5:28 enter East District (5)

5:35 enter Beitun District (6)

5:52 enter Tanzi District (7)

6:00 17.9 kilometers

6:02 enter Fengyuan District (8)

6:25 enter Shigang District (9)

6:42 enter Dongshi District (10)

7:00 41.6 kilometers

7:19 enter Heping District (11)

8:00 65.9 kilometers

8:05 enter Guguan

8:09 turn around

8:16 get Supau at local shop

8:56 re-enter Dongshi District

9:00 92.2 kilometers

9:08 enter Xinshe District (12)

9:21 reached King of the Mountain marker (from Tour de Taiwan)

9:39 stopped for second breakfast in Xinshe

9:48 set off again toward Dakeng

9:49 re-enter Beitun

10:05 112.9 kilometers

10:12 enter Taiping District (13)

10:38 enter Dali District (14)

10:47 enter Wufeng District (15)

10:58 get water and Supau at local bing-lang stand

11:00 131.1 kilometers

11:12 enter Wuri District (16)

11:57 enter Dadu District (17)

12:00 149.9 kilometers

12:17 enter Longjing District (18)

12:30 enter Shalu District (19)

12:43 enter Wuqi District (20)

12:48 enter Qingshui District (21)

12:52 stop at 7-11 for water and Supau

12:58 resume after filling up bottles

13:00 168.4 kilometers

13:23 enter Dajia District (22)

13:29 enter Da-an District (23)

~13:40 re-enter Dajia District

13:50 stop at local noodle shop for lunch

14:04 resume trip

14:18 enter Waipu District (24)

14:40 enter Houli District (25)

14:52 cycle computer died in the rain at 198.5 kilometers

15:04 re-enter Fengyuan District

15:08 enter Shen-gang District (26)

15:15 enter Daya District (27)

15:32 enter Xitun District (28)

16:00 enter Nantun District (29)

16:30 re-enter West District

16:39 stop at Mr. Wish for tea

16:40 HOME!!!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Round Taichung Ride - Preview

Map of Wednesday's planned ride

Wednesday - I have a rather ambitious challenge planned. Make a bike ride through each of Taichung's twenty-nine districts. I plan to set off at about 5:00 am and with an optional ride up to Dakeng (a decision that will be made once I reach Heping depending largely on the weather as if it is raining, I will have to lengthen my trip to get down from Xinshe) will total about 242 kilometers.

Here is the planned route with kilometer estimates. The route is subject to change.

0.0 HOME – 精誠路 西區(1) West District
0.2 Right onto 忠明南路
1.8 Cross 南屯路 南區 (2) South District
2.2 Left onto 三民西路
2.7 Cross 美村路 西區
3.4 Right onto 自由路 (136)
4.9 Left onto 民權路 中區 (3) Central District
5.2 Right onto 三民路
5.9 Cross 公園路 北區 (4) North District
6.0 Veer right onto 精武路
6.4 Right onto 雙十路
6.8 Left onto自由路 東區 (5) East District
7.9 Left onto 南京東路
8.8 Cross 自強街24巷 北屯區 (6) Beitun District
10.8 Right onto 東光路892巷
11.1 Left onto 東山路50巷
11.2 Right onto東山路
13.1 Left onto 軍功路
14.8 Veer right onto 豐興路 潭子區 (7) Tanzi District
18.4 Becomes 鎌村路 豐原區 (8) Fengyuan District
19.8 Becomes 田心路
20.2 Right onto 豐原大道
23.9 Right onto 台3線
27.0 Crosses into 石岡區 (9) Shigang District
33.6 Cross 大甲溪 東勢區 (10) Dongshi District
33.8 Right onto 台8線
48.6 Crosses into 和平區 (11) Heping District
67.6 Optional ride to 谷關
67.6 Turn around
84.7 Back into東勢區
91.0 Left onto 龍安橋
91.1 Cross大甲溪 新社區 (12) Xinshe District
91.7 Right onto 豐埔產業道路
93.4 Veer right onto 興和產業道路
109.4 Left onto 協中街
114.2 Merge into 東山街 (129)
114.4 Becomes 東山路 (129) 北屯區
122.5 Veer left onto 中興巷 (129)
122.9 Becomes 部子路 (129)
123.8 Veer left onto 部子巷
124.4 Veer left onto 北坑巷
125.2 Merge onto 太原路 (129)
125.3 Becomes 廓子巷 (129)
125.9 Becomes 大興路 (129) 太平區 (13) Taiping District
127.7 Turn left onto 中山路 (129)
129.7 Left on 東平路 (136/129)
130.2 Cross 一江橋
130.4 Right onto 光興路 (129)
135.0 Becomes 健民路 大里區 (14) Dali District
135.4 Veer right onto 健東路
137.1 Becomes 民生路(小溪後) 霧峰區(15) Wufeng District
137.4 Right onto民生路 (國小後)
140.0 Right onto 萊圓路
140.3 Becomes 四德路 (127)
144.2 Becomes 太明路 烏日區 (16) Wuri District
145.4 Veer right onto太明北路
146.2 Merge into 溪南路 (127)
149.6 Veer left onto 溪南橋 (127)
150.2 Left onto 環河路
156.5 Right onto台1線(沙田路)大肚區 (17) Dadu District
162.2 Veer left off 台1線 to stay on沙田路
164.5 Merges back onto台1線
165.3 Cross river into 龍井區 (18) Longjing District
165.6 Veer right off 台1線 to stay on沙田路
170.4 Turn left onto 中興路(136)沙鹿區 (19) Shalu District
170.5 Cross river into 龍井區 (136)
170.7 Cross river into沙鹿區 (136)
171.1 Cross river into 龍井區 (136)
171.6 Turn right onto台1線 (中華路)
171.6 Cross river into 悟妻區 (20) Wuqi District
175.1 Cross 大勇路 清水區 (21) Qingshui District
179.9 Merge onto 中山路 -台1線
182.4 Veer right off台1線to stay on中山路
183.9 Merge back onto台1線 –大甲溪大橋
185.0 Cross 大甲溪 大甲區 (22) Dajia District
185.3 Becomes 中山路
185.7 Left on 東安路
Becomes 中山南路 – 大安區 (23) Da'an District
188.9 Right onto 中松路
191.4 Left on 大安港路 (132)
192.5 Right on 南北七路
192.6 Right on 東西八路
193.8 Cross 南北五路 – 大甲區
196.6 Cross on台1線 – 新大安溪橋
196.6 Turn right on中山路
198.9 Left onto 民生路
199.0 Becomes 甲后路 (132)
199.9 Crosses into 外埔區 (24) Waipu District
205.1 Cross 高鐵 – 后里區 (25) Houli District
211.2 To 后里火車站
211.2 Right onto 圳寮路
211.4 Left onto 梅里路
211.6 Becomes 大山路
212.6 Left onto 台13線 (三豐路)
215.4 Cross 大甲溪 豐原區
217.8 Right onto 圓環西路 -台13線
219.4 Right onto台10線 – 中正路
220.7 Becomes 中山路 – 申岡區 (26) Shengang District
222.1 Veer left onto 民生路 - 台10線
223.1 Becomes民生路四段 - 大雅區 (27) Daya District
226.7 Left onto 中清南路
227.6 Becomes 中清路 – 西屯區 (28) Xitun District
229.7 Right onto 環中路
233.3 Left onto 青海路
233.7 Right onto 黎明路
234.3 Left onto 中港路
235.9 Right onto 文心路
236.7 Cross 市政路 南屯區 (29) Nantun District
238.2 Right onto 向心路
238.5 Right onto 五權西路
239.0 Left on 萬和路
239.3 Left on 南屯路 (136)
240.9 Left on 精誠路
241.5 Cross五權西路 – 西區

242.4 HOME

USA fights off Brazil, refs to make semis

Soccer is a great sport played by great athletes - male and female. However, the sport has long been marred by controversial officiating and decisions. The U.S. men's national team has been the victim of horrible calls in recent years - the uncalled German handball on the goal-line in 2002, the uncalled foul on Ghana which led to elimination in 2006 and the two disallowed goals in 2010 on awful offsides calls. However, what happened in yesterday's Women's World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil just well may take the cake.

Red Card and Penalty Retake

In the 65th minute, with the USA leading 1-0, Brazilian striker Marta is pushing into the penalty area with Rachel Buehler apparently having position shielding the ball. Both make contact and there seems to be jersey pulling by both. Should have clearly been a no-call. Yet, not only is a penalty called against Buehler (resulting in a Brazil penalty kick), Buehler was shown a red card, forcing the United States to play short-handed for the remainder of the match.

Then, Hope Solo made an amazing save on the subsequent penalty kick. However, she was called for coming off her line before the kick. It should be noted that some have claimed that an American was called for encroachment. It is true that one American player entered the box a fraction of a second before the kick, but have you ever seen that called? It happens all the time. (Without the referees report, we don't really know what was called) There was slight movement on her part before the kick, but was actually very modest, something that in decades I have never seen called. Solo was given a yellow card, the kick was retaken and made, tying the match at 1-1. Both plays can be seen on this YouTube link.

Thrilling Game-Tying goal

Abby Wombach scored a thrilling goal in the second minute of extra time added time to tie the match at 2-2 and send the match into a penalty kick tiebreaker. This despite the stalling and delaying tactics that have become such a hallmark of Brazilian football over the past twenty years. We have become used to cynical football from the men - fake injuries and diving - but this is the first time it has been seen from the women who were desparate to keep a short-handed American team off the board. To the delight of most outside of Brazil, it failed.

Spot kicks

Hope Solo is the superior goaltender and Brazil's chances of winning this was never good. However, there was one controversial moment which really reveals the farce of Solo's yellow card on the first spot kick. You can see how little she moved before the kick on that penalty.

On the final kick, the U.S. needed to score to win the match and advance to the semi-finals. Watch this video. Look at all of the movement off the line by the Brazilian keeper. The ref made no move to call her for anything, though the movement was blatant and with how early it was made and how far forward she jumped, clearly illegal. No call. Not biased? You be the judge.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Taichung's East Asian Games' hurdle

Taichung Intercontinental Stadium - 2007 Asian Baseball Championships

Taichung is a Candidate City to host the 2017 East Asian Games . I am sure that I speak for many sports enthusiasts who would absolutely love to see East Asia's largest quadriennal sporting event to be hosted in our wonderful city.

However, there are three major obstacles to Taichung being selected as the host city. The first is that while we have numerous sporting facilities in the city, many of them are aging and will require significant renovation to upgrade them to facilities worthy of hosting an international event.

The second obstacle is transportation. Taichung has a horrible transportation system. We have no rapid mass transit system (nor will the line supposedly under construction be ready by then) and traffic can turn many roads into long parking lots several times a week.

The above two obstables are surmountable. The third may not be. That obstacle is China. There are eight voting members who participate in the Games (Guam also participates, but as it is not a member of the Olympic Council of Asia, it does not get a vote.) Four of those votes are throught to be controlled by China. China, Hong Kong, and Macau each have a vote. It is also widely believed that the DPRK vote is also controlled by China. So, China is the king maker. And thier recent record regarding international sporting events and Taiwan is not encouraging.

In 2006, Taiwan hosted the IBAF Intercontinental Cup. Despite qualifying as the bronze medal winner of the 2005 Asian Baseball Championships, China was a no-show. The same is true in 2010. China qualified, but was a no-show. China was a no-show for the 2007 Asian Baseball Championship despite winning the bronze in 2005 (played in Japan). They played in 2009, again in Japan, finishing fourth.

Taiwan hosted two important international sporting events in 2009. China sent delegations to the World Games in Kaohsiung and the Deaflympics in Taipei, but in neither case did China send a full-strength delegation.

Our mayor, Jason Hu, is currently on the tail end of a trip to China and Japan in which he hopes to lobby with Chinese sports officials to support Taichung's bid. Japan will likely be far more sympathetic to a Taiwanese bid given the goodwill that exists between the people of the two countries, but China will be a much tougher sell.

It is a reality of the region that China has so much undue influence. The 2005 and 2009 Games were in China's SARs and the 2013 Games will be in Tianjin. The other two candidate cities are Jeju in Korea and Ulan Bator in Mongolia. It would be great for Taichung to get the games, but given the undue weight China has in choosing the host, don't hold your breath for the region's best athletes to be making a visit to our wonderful city in 2017.

Jieren Cup Marathon Relay

2011 Jieren Cup National Marathon Relay

July 10, 2011 - my first relay with Bigfoot, though running with a team that was a composite set up by one of our leaders.
Warming up before the race

I really didn't know what to expect as I had not run in six weeks due to a tender ankle. The ankle was still tender and I had it wrapped up in an ankle brace. I was mostly concerned about how it would hold up on the back part of the course, which is downhill - quite steep at times.

Receiving the baton at the start of the second leg

I ran the second leg of the right leg race. Right after getting the baton, I passed a runner who was in front of me. While I got out of the gates quickly, it was a bit of a struggle as, though my fitness was pretty good, I had gotten in no running in six weeks.

Off onto the roads of the Donghai University campus

I shot off. I was already pulling away from the first guy I passed on the leg and it would only be another hundred meters before I reeled in two others. Though I had to force myself on legs that really were sluggish, I was able to get a good pace going.

About 500 meters into the leg is where the long 1300 meter climb hits. Fortunately, my running legs had made an appearance by then, but I was slightly winded. I really had to work hard up the hill to both maintain my pace and keep the breathing going. I was able to do this, and pass a handful of runners in the process.

After the crossover on the top of campus came the downhill part. My ankle was holding up nicely and while I did take it a little easier than normal, I was still making good progress. I was still shadowing the kid from the university division that I had been behind since about 300 meters into the leg (the only person who passed me and stayed ahead of me the entire leg) and ran down with a high schooler who came up on me from behind. Together, we passed a handful of runners and ran nearly stride for stride on most of the downhill.

A little more than 4 km into the leg, it got relatively flat again and I was able to keep my pace going. Legs were feeling good and my breathing was fine. I also was able to pull away from the high schooler (good runner, though) and get past a couple of guys in the company division.

Coming near the 5km mark - about 300m to go

I then came in near the finish. I was feeling good, but with the humidity and the fact that short distances are really not my favorite, I was ready to get the baton on to the next runner. I have become a much better finisher over the past twelve months and was able to get into a good kick by this point.

My cheerleading section

Of course, seeing my two beautiful little angels (and my better half taking photos) also helped me to drive toward the finish line.
150 meters to go with the university student (in blue) who passed me early in the leg and who I was shadowing for most of it.

I put into my final kick to try to give my teammates every second possible. While I have never been a great sprinter (that is why I am a distance runner), I have picked up some speed lately. Still, not a lot today due to lack of speed training. I was still able to hold my position. I was really please to get that baton off to the third runner on the team.

I felt great about today's run. It is a tough course for such a short distance and the lack of training really did not help. Still, great to know that I can still generate a good pace and hang in there at the end. Shows that I don't have that much do to to get back race-ready for the fall season.

Hui-Wen Elementary School team bringing in their last runner

The group that impressed me most today was the 5th graders from Hui Wen Elementary School. There is no elementary school division, so they had to run with the middle schoolers. They were definately getting the support of everyone out there and while they finished last in their division, they did not finish last overall and they were on the top of the standings for the respect they gained today. Congrats kids. Well done.
"I am not afraid, I am very brave"

This is my favorite team name of today's race. I have no idea how they finished and it really doesn't matter. Their team name deserves first place in my book.