Sunday, November 05, 2017

Travels in Taiwan - Taking the Train

This is a new experience for me.  In all my years, I can count only three real trips by train.  Two in Canada when I was a high school student, and one a year ago through China to Tibet.

In Taiwan, all the main cities are connected by train.  One could probably go around the whole island in a bit more than a day, all on the train.  That was my route, just stretched into 3 weeks.

They are cheap.  A 4-hour ride will cost about $20 CAD.  They run exactly on time.  They are comfortable. You can pay by credit card.

There are different rates depending on the time of day, and one essential app for the traveler's phone is called "Taiwan Railway", adless train schedule, by DIN Lab.  The only thing you can't do (yet) is purchase tickets, although they say that's coming.

What I would do is find the departure time I wanted and just show that screen to the ticket agent.  Although most of the agents spoke some English, it seemed less confusing to use the phone app.

Trains in Taiwan - More comfortable than a bus and, in my limited experience, better views.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Travels in Taiwan - Furthest South

I arrived in Taitung 2 days ago and this morning the train will take me around the southern end of the island and up the west side to Tainan.  Tainan was once the capital of the city and is one of the oldest.  That means it has a history worth exploring.

The east side of the island is quite new so there is nothing particularly compelling about its cities.  It's more about the natural scenery here.

Yesterday, I took a bus north as far as Sanxiatai.  Since the train's route is inland, my ride from Hualien to Taitung showed me nothing of the coast this part of the country is noted for.  So I explored part of that coast by bus.

It was very windy on the coast, with huge breakers rolling in from the Pacific.  My walk at the terminus was out to a small island connected by a rather unusual bridge, one that looks like a dragon swimming out to the island, with 8 humps. 

It has another, more mythical, significance, something about the 8 Immortals. 

Steamed buns in different flavors comprised the meal choices I made during the day.  Two for breakfast and three for lunch.  Pork, red bean, bamboo... They were all good.  One town along the way has earned a reputation for theirs.  And there is always lots of fruit.

A quick trek to the city's Carrefour for supplies and the day was over.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Travels in Taiwan - Early days

I arrived in Taiwan early Wednesday morning (October 25th) after 12 hours on the plane from Vancouver.  It's now Sunday morning and I've spent 2 days in Taipei, took the train over to the east coast and am about to leave Hualien after 2 nights here.

Does this country have infrastructure.  And it all seems to work.  Two comfortable hostels so far, hot water, traffic lights that actually work, crosswalks that drivers sometimes pay attention to, traffic rules, advanced bus and train systems...  It's a long list.  This is certainly no 3rd World Country.

Things I've noticed so far, in this country of 23 million, based just on Taipei and now Hualien, a small city of about 100,000:

There are more 7-11 stores here in one small city that in all of BC, possibly.  From the park where I'm sitting, I can see two.  Correction, three. They are, literally, on every block.

Train and metro systems are easy to use.  There is just enough English to make it simple.  And it's cheap.  Metro rides are about 20 to 30 NT$, about $1 or so Canadian.  A 3-hour train ride cost me about $20 CAD. 

It's seriously warm here.  I'm just north of the Tropic of Cancer.  Anything more than shorts and a tee shirt is seriously overdressed.

So far, the place seems clean and well-maintained.  It's not that there's no garbage around, but it does seem to get cleaned up.

Small motor scooters are everywhere.  Thousands and thousands of them.  They carry everything from 1 to 4 people, sacks of produce, bags of recycling, pet dogs...

The SIM card  I got for my phone cost less than $50 for 30 days, although I only need it for 3 weeks.  It has unlimited data, a good credit for voice calls and gives me 4g coverage pretty much everywhere.  And it was all set up for me by a helpful woman at a kiosk in the airport.

I spent one day touring the Taroko Gorge, just north of Hualien. I got a day pass for the tour bus, drove up to the far end, hopped off, walked to a temple, walked down the road to another trail, hiked high up above the highway, back to the road, on the bus again...  Interesting terrain, although, being from BC, I'm probably less impressed than some might be.  I have to say, though, their roads go into some seemingly impossible places, with many tunnels.

I'm heading next to Taitung, just down the east coast of the Island.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Corporate Influence in BC Politics - Time to End It

News came out this past week revealing the kind of influence industry, specifically the Oil and Gas Industry, has had on government policy here in British Columbia.

The story appeared here in DeSmog Canada, based on documents released to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Apparently, the Climate Leadership Team hired by the BC Liberals made 32 official recommendations to the Liberal Government.  Not one of them was adopted by the government.  Now, we know why.

Secret, parallel. meetings with industry and corporate donors set the parameters for BC's climate action, despite Premier Christy Clark's duplicity in pointing to the recommendations of the Climate Leadership Team at the UN's Paris Climate Meetings.  Recommendations that were not adopted.  Not a single one.

This highlights the power that industry has in influencing government policy, particularly when those industries are major donors to political parties.

Fortunately, the "wild west show" here in BC is about to end.  The new GreeNDP government has introduced legislation that will end corporate and union donations as well as put a cap on individual donations.  It's well past time.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Hurricane Harvey - Another Chance to Connect the Dots

An opening caveat - I'm not saying that this summer's events were "caused" by climate change.  But there is little doubt that they have been made worse by human-caused climate change.  So, in no particular order....

There are the forest fires near Los Angeles, one apparently the largest fire in the city's history.  Hundreds of homes are at risk and many people have been evacuated.  A state of emergency has been declared.  Temperatures are in the high +30s Celsius.  Another story here.

The LA Times posted an editorial "Harvey should be a warning to Trump that climate change is a global threat", noting that perhaps if Trump were to consult the experts, he might get some information worth acting on.  Unfortunately, this seems to be the way knowledge is viewed these days.

Houston has been flooded.  This is the fourth-largest city in the USA and it's mostly under water.

But for some reason, the media is reluctant to even discuss the elephant in the room: Violent storms like this one are made more violent by climate change.

If you want some information about how hurricanes form and how warm water and air interact, it can be found here.

The Guardian carried an article wondering why crucial questions about hurricane Harvey are not being asked.

An all-time record heat wave is affecting California, the Weather Underground writes.

Here in BC, it's been a record summer for area burned.  The Southern Interior is in the grips of a record dry, hot, spell and fires are breaking out all over.  The Province has been in a declared a state of emergency since July 1st and it was just extended, for the fourth time, until September 15th.

And yet, in social media, it is STILL easy to find posts pooh-poohing climate change, sea level rise, carbon emissions.... anything, really, that has to do with what is so easily observable, if only these people would crawl out of their mothers' basements and look.

Is sea level rising?  Apparently, yes.

Are glaciers melting at an unprecedented rate?  Apparently they are.

Even the occasional climate change denier has had to admit that they misspoke themselves.  They lied, in other words.  In the UK, prominent denier Nigel Lawson has admitted that claims of temperature decrease were false.

Rolling Stone had a recent article pointing out, as many others have, that Houston should serve as a wake-up call for Global Warming.

Articles have been comparing Katrina, Sandy and Harvey.

And it's not just in North America.  It's in Europe and in Asia....

Claims that what we see happening is natural is simply "junk science", as the article points out.

In a lengthy article, What Climate Skeptics Taught Me About Global Warming, the ways that science goes about finding relationships between events.  One example, that of smoking and cancer, is examined along with climate change and global warming.

There is a backlash starting against "leaders" and civic officials who can be accused of ignoring facts and putting who populations at risk.  "Climate Change Denial Should be a Crime".  Apparently, about this time in 2016, the head of flood control: 
criticized scientists for being “anti-development,” and not only ignored but denigrated studies — even those conducted by his own department, one of which he called “absurd” — that suggested development was worsening flooding, or that urged him to leave prairies intact to absorb floodwaters.
Almost exactly one year later, Harvey struck.  They can't say they weren't warned.  And, as the costs are being added up, it is looking like Harvey could cost in the vicinity of $200 Billion.  Only a few days ago, the estimate was closer to $160B.

And it's not much better in Canada.  "We are Not Well Prepared..." states an article on CBC News. 

Insurance companies have been taking this seriously for a few decades now.

And this is just the beginning of what is already a very heated argument.  

Sanity needs to prevail.

BC Fire Season 2017 - September 4

The long weekend has mostly come and gone.  By this time of the year, the nights are usually getting cooler, the air is starting to clear, heat haze is disappearing, the tourists have gone back home and we start thinking about getting ready for fall hiking, cleaning out the garden....

Not this year.

This is what our province looks like today.  The intense fires of the Cariboo are still burning, new evacuation orders are bring issued daily, new fires have started in the the Southeast, some forcing more evacuation alerts and orders, the temperatures continue extremely hot and it's still very dry across much of the south of the province.

West of Cranbrook, a large, intense fire near Moyie Lake has forced the evacuation of the area near the lake, visibility has been reduced on Highway 3, no boats are permitted on the lake at all to make way for helicopters and water bombers tanking up, forest access has been completely restricted in the whole Rockies Forest District, no off-road ATV use is permitted anywhere, and no change in the weather is anywhere in sight.

Still, in the Kootenay Lake valley, we remain relatively calm.  There are a few small fires, some in steep terrain to the north and west and some to the south, closer to the US border.  There are a couple of evacuation alerts. We've had smoke every day for weeks now and the air quality is quite poor.  Some of our neighbours are being affected by it.  For us, we water the garden early in the morning, do what yard work we can before the sun comes up and then we mostly work in the shade or go inside.

Where we are, daytime temperatures are mostly just below +30C and at night it's not cooling off.  Last night, for example, it was still +22C at midnight.  It managed to crawl down to +18C by 6 am.  We have two fans running on the main floor so it sounds like a twin turboprop airplane taking off.

How much longer?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Either With Eyes Open, or Not

From the pages of the National Post (founded by Conrad Black - remember him?):

Andrew Coyne: After his Charlottesville response, no excuses possible for TrumpThe case against Trump is so voluminous that by this time argument is pointless. You either have the judgment to see him for what he is, or you do not

When normally right-of-center publications go this far, it's time to remind Houston that we have a problem.