Now We Know: It wasn’t a crash

News media, foreign and domestic, have been erroneously calling Friday’s event in Taiwan a “train crash”.  That’s not what happened.

The train was northbound at 9:30AM local time (UTC+8), on the eastern coastal line near the city of Hualien, along a cliffside.  The west side of Taiwan is mostly flat, more mountainous as you move east.  There is a roadway above the rail line.  A construction crane on the roadway was not parked properly (for lack of a better term) and rolled off the edge, onto the passing train below which then derailed.

This was not a train crash, and those operating the rail line are unlikely to face any backlash.  Several passenger cars were crushed and there are at least fifty dead.  No one I know of planned to take that train, and no one I know is unaccounted for.

This happened Friday morning, the first day of a four day long weekend (Tomb Sweeping Day on 4/3 and Children’s Day on 4/4).  The statutory holidays were moved to Friday and Monday, providing a four day weekend.  It’s likely many families were travelling along the line.

This happened with a TRA train, which travels roughly 80kmh.  This would not happen with the High Speed Rail line not only because the HSR is along the populated west coast, but because the HSR is protected from such events (elevated platforms and tunnels).

The Guardian: Taiwan train crash: dozens dead after express service derails in tunnel

Focus Taiwan: Scene of train crash like ‘living hell:’ Red Cross rescuer

Also from Focus Taiwan:

Crane truck driver questioned by police over fatal train accident

Local police are questioning the driver of a crane truck that is believed to have slid down a hillside and blocked the path of a moving train heading south in Hualien County on Friday, leading to an accident that caused the deaths of at least 48 people.

The driver, surnamed Lee (李), was still being questioned by Chungte police as of 4 p.m. Friday, according to the Xincheng Precinct of the Hualien County Police Department.

Police department commissioner Tsai Ting-hsien (蔡丁賢) said the crane truck was parked on a hillside road close to the construction site of a tunnel for the northbound rail line.

The road hovers above the southbound track, and authorities suspect that the driver parked the vehicle without engaging the emergency brake, Tsai said.

Let’s Backtrack: Gil Scott-Heron’s “Pieces Of A Man” turns 50

Gil Scott-Heron’s second album “Pieces of a Man” was recorded in April 1971.  The released date unknown, so now is as good a time as any to mention it.

The album is most famous for the opening song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, a Jazz/Rap/Scat poem laid of a funky, bass-heavy and flute-driven background.  This song is a sledgehammer to the face.  “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is more relevant than ever and could deservedly be the theme song of the Black Lives Matter movement.

However, it is not a “one hit plus filler” album, it is a personal and social statement, with one strong song after another, many of them timeless and still relevant today:

“Save The Children”, exactly what the title suggests.

“Lady Day and John Coltrane”, how music can save your sanity.

“Home Is Where the Hatred Is”, the POV of people with addictions.

“When You Are Who You Are”, a beautiful love song.

“I Think I’ll Call It Morning”, I can’t describe well:

     I'm gonna take myself a piece of sunshine
     And paint it all over my sky
     Be no rain
     Be no rain

     I'm gonna take the song from every bird
     And make em sing it just for me
     Cause why should I hang my head
     Why should I let tears fall from my eyes
     When I've seen everything there is to see

“Pieces of a Man”, when a man loses his job and can’t support his family.

     Jagged jigsaw pieces
     Tossed about the room
     I saw my grandma sweeping
     With her old straw broom
 
     But she didn't know what she was doing
     She could hardly understand
     That she was really sweeping up
     Pieces of a man
And many more.
I’ll admit I was only introduced to the album when it regained popularity thanks to the Acid Jazz movement of the 1980s/1990s.  But it’s such an emotional and powerful album that it makes an impact the first time you hear it.  The entire album is on a youtube playlist.

Show And Tell: It’s Trans Day of Visibility 2021 (part 1)

Part 1: Youtube videos

March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility.  2020 and 2021 have been the best and worst of times for the Transgender, Non-Binary and Gender Fluid communities.  Society’s awareness and understanding of who TNBGF people are is growing.  New TV shows and filmes like POSE and Tangerine are breaking the stereotypes about TNBGF people, showing us as human beings trying to live normal lives.  People are starting to get it, that the bigots are the monsters, not us.

At the same time, rightwing and religious hate speech and violence is also rising.  At least eleven Transgender people have been murdered in the US in the first three months alone, a rate that will make 2021 the worst year of mass murder in that country.  Keep in mind the Trans and Non-Binary people account for only 1/300th of the population, so 45-50 deaths is akin to about 14,000 murders in the general population.  If it were any other group, this would be called genocide and a crisis.

The endless attempts to criminalize and demonize TNBGF people (“bathroom bills”, lies about sports, their attempts to murder Trans children by denying health care) are also on the rise, and will only by stopped by people fighting back.  Be an outspoken ally, not a silent collaborator.

Enough of the sad news.

Over on youtube, there are a plethora of videos on Transgender people.  Our history, how things have changed for the better, how things still need to improve.  Enjoy the show, there are many more links below the fold (but only a few more embedded videos).

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A Question Posed: When Did This Happen?

This is partly a happy personal note, partly commentary on how Transgender people are portrayed in the media and pop culture.

Last weekend, my little sister by choice Katisen (we’re both Trans, she’s Taiwanese) invited me over.  She wanted me to sit and watch “POSE” with her.  I was dreading it.

In early 2011 (I forget the exact date, but almost ten years ago), I slipped and fell while walking in the rain.  I suffered a “mild” concussion with permanent effects like memory loss, noise sensitivity, outburts of anger, inability to sleep, among others.

One of them is the inability for the brain to be quiet.  By that, I mean that I can’t just sit there and do nothing, I cannot be a casual observer.  “Passive participation” became impossible.  Watching TV and movies or sitting for prolonged periods without stimulus would make me fidgety and take a “fight or flight” response.  For three years until 2014 the only TV I could or did watch was sports, because that involves the viewer: tracking stats, strategy and play, thinking about possibilities that could happen.

Kat sat me down on her couch and we watched.  I didn’t know how long it would be before I started freaking out.  But the strange thing was, I didn’t freak out.  My mind stayed calm throughout the two hours we sat and watched.  Somewhere along the line (how long ago, I can’t guess), my brain stopped overreacting.  I don’t know when it happened, since for years I have actively avoided any such situations.  I’m just glad that it did go away.  Testing on Sunday, I found that I can sit through longer videos (movies and downloads) without disruption.  This doesn’t mean I’m going to go buy a TV, but maybe I can enjoy slow and relaxing activities again.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Regarding “POSE” itself, I liked it a lot, and not just because the cast are Transgender or the storylines.  Every character brought something to the show that held my attention.  Even Elektra, who is defensive and overbearing, is sympathetic and clearly damaged.  I cried when Angel cried (after she realized all that the expensive things mean nothing without a relationship).

Commercial entertainment has always portrayed Transgender characters in appalling ways.  Until the last few years, EVERY Trans character you saw fit into one of four stereotypes:

  • serial killers and sociopaths
  • “tr*ps” and sexual predators
  • comic relief
  • corpses, dying as a plot point

“Orange Is The New Black” portrayed Trans people as regular criminals, but that’s just another stereotype, not an improvement.  Where are the TV shows and movies that portray Transgender people as doctors, teachers, parents, people with regular jobs and normal lives?  Until “POSE”, you never saw that.  For the first time, we’re shown as human beings who just want to live and be happy.  THAT is an improvement and groundbreaking.

This reminds me of another show that was as groundbreaking: “The White Shadow”, which ran from 1979 to 1982. “The White Shadow” was about a coach and players on a high school basketball team.  It starred Ken Howard and a cast of young actors, several of whom have gone on to be major directing talents in hollyweird (e.g. Thomas Carter, Kevin Hooks, Tim van Patten, etc.). It suffered from “white saviourism”, but the show accomplished some very important things.

First time ever on US TV, Black actors and the characters they portrayed were NOT comic relief, criminals, drug dealers or servants.  They were students, teachers, parents, PEOPLE in a normal urban neighborhood living everyday lives, not stereotype characters.  It was also one of (if not the) first shows to discuss subjects like STDs, pregnancy and abortion, casual and systematic racism, gang violence’s effect on schools, among other topics.

POSE does many of the same things.  For the first time ever on TV, Transgender characters are portrayed as everyday people just trying to live their lives and be happy.  The question I ask is, WHY did it take this long to treat Trans the same as everyone else, not as “threats” or jokes?

More To Say: How I wish I could calculate Pi

On Tuesday (two days late for Pi Day), Veritasium posted the video below about calculations of Pi, from the days of Archimedes to the present.  Some methods of calculation and approximation can be done on pen and paper, but like many things in mathmatics, massive breakthroughs were purely 20th century solutions made possible by computers.

“How I wish I could calculate Pi.” 

3 . 1 4 1 5 9 2

How have I never heard that before tonight?

 

Ten Year Passed: Japan’s 8.9 earthquake of March 11, 2011

I intended to do this sooner but life intruded.

It was on March 11, 2011 that the Touhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011 happened, the second 8.9 earthquake in less than ten years after the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami which measured 9.1. I’m sure some thought the same as me, that these might become regular events.

By comparison, the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 (Oakland-Santa Cruz, the “world series earthquake”) was a 6.9 on the Richter scale. Each order of magnitude is a 31.6 increase, so the Sendai earthquake was a thousand times bigger than the Oakland quake. (I used to mistakenly believe each order of magnitude was only a ten fold increase.)

Below the fold are a few news and documentary videos from youtube both from 2011 and made since then.

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Let’s Play: A guessing game for you

A mass murder happened in Atlanta, Georgia.

Eight women were murdered, including four of Asian descent.

The cops “arrested” the shooter uninjured, treated with kid gloves.

Can you guess the shooter’s skin colour, gender, and sexual orientation?

Atlanta spa shootings: 8 killed at 3 Georgia spas; suspect arrested


This in the same week that a UK cop is finally arrested for the murder of Sarah Everard – but only after women protest over inaction, and cops resort to violence against unarmed peaceful protesters.  Protesters reported cops talking about physcially violating the women.

The UK cops have the ludicrous idea that putting more cops on the street will stop the violence and murder when a curfew for males and cops would do so much more.


Back to the shooter, some people on social media have been saying incel, but white trash supremacist is just as likely an explanation.  And likely, it’s both.

I Hurt Everywhere: New tattoos for yous

International Transgender Day of Visibility takes place on March 31, this year on a Wednesday.  (Good!  I’ll be able to attend Student Night at the bar!)  I’m still stuck working “male” in the day, but what can you do when no one will hire me as a woman?

I previously mentioned getting tattoos (a dogwood flower, P/G from Rush’s “Grace Under Pressure”, a goat last month).  Today I got my sixth and seventh tattoos, though I haven’t yet booked an appointment for the next one.

Just in time for TDoV, I got two Transgender tattoos.  First (VERY painful) is a pink and blue variation on Black Flag’s black flag.  Second, I finally got the Transgender Warrior tattoo, created by the artist Caspian Sea Monster (found on Deviantart).  She gives permission for non-commercial use of her art if used for tattoos.

Pain doesn’t even begin to describe the flag.  This pic was taken before it started bleeding.  You can’t see it well, but there are gaps between the bars.  My only disappointment about this?  I can’t see it with my own eyes.

 

 

The Trans Warrior is on the outside of my right calf.  This one didn’t hurt much, I dozed off a couple of times while the artist worked on it.

 

 

You Know What I Would Like To See?

I would like to see George Floyd’s family hold the politicians and the cops over a barrel.

Minneapolis may have agreed to pay a settlement to Floyd’s family, but that’s not good enough.  Convictions and life sentences are in order, not payoffs and pardons.  Cops who commit crimes should get stiffer sentences because they violated their trust to uphold the law.  Cops who break the law are the worst criminals.

I doubt Floyd’s family would be as ruthless as I am, but I would love to hear them tell the politicians and the cops:

“If Derek Chauvin pleads guilty to first degree murder and gets life without parole, we’ll return $2 million.”

And while we’re at it, make the cops’ union pay the $27 million.  Don’t force taxpayers to foot the bill for this.

Minneapolis Will Pay George Floyd’s Family $27 Million To Settle A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The city of Minneapolis agreed to pay $27 million to George Floyd’s family to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed last July.

In the civil lawsuit, Floyd’s family alleged that former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin and the three other officers involved in Floyd’s death violated his constitutional rights by using “unjustified, excessive, and illegal, and deadly use of force.”

The lawsuit also accused the Minneapolis Police Department and the city of acting with “deliberate indifference” in condoning unconstitutional police practices, which were the “moving force behind George’s death.”

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted to approve the settlement during a meeting Friday, five days into jury selection in the ongoing criminal trial for Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder for Floyd’s killing last May.

Influenza Influenced: What ‘flu season’?

In the northern hemisphere, October through March is flu season (流感  or “liugan” in Traditonal Mandarin).  Almost every year, a new variant appears, new flu shots are developed, and millions inoculated in hope of preventing a mass outbreak.  Most years, they’re successful though once in a while they aren’t (e.g. SARS, MERS, H1N1).

Then along comes the 2020-2021 flu season.  And nothing happens.  Flu has been so rare this year that it’s not even being deemed a health concern by the governments of many countries.  I’m sure that some of the less educated (e.g. COVID deniers and anti-maskers) will say, “flu is fake, just like COVID!” while others will wrongly guess, “COVID-19 replaced the flu!”

No.  Flu has been a non-issue this year because measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are exactly the measures needed to prevent the spread of flu: masks, hand washing and sanitizing, and social distancing.  It shouldn’t surprise anyone paying attention that the number of influenza cases and deaths is at near record lows.

How low?

Here in Taiwan, the 2019-2020 season saw 75 deaths and hundreds of cases.  This year, Taiwan’s Centre for Disease Control reports one hospitalization and zero deaths for the entire island of 24,000,000 people since October.  That’s unheard of.  (The link above comes from this site, the two images below taken from the PDF.  The “express” is a weekly report.)  We had more cases of and deaths from Dengue Fever than this last summer.

More below the fold.

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The Tape Stopped: Lou Ottens, June 21, 1926 to March 9, 2021

Lou Ottens was born in Bellingwolde, Netherlands in 1926.   An employee of Philips, he developed the compact cassette in 1963, an important format of both audio and data storage for more than 50 years.  Ottens died on Tuesday, age 94.  [Corrected.  I had a brain cramp.]

Inventor of cassette tape Lou Ottens passed away

In the 1960s, Lou Ottens, then head of product development at the Belgian Hasselt branch of the Eindhoven company Philips, developed the cassette tape. In previous years, Ottens was annoyed with green and yellow tape recorders with the large reels and felt that something more user-friendly and especially something smaller should be replaced.

Ottens’ invention was a great success worldwide. More than 100 billion cassettes have been sold since its launch in 1963. But the bands disappeared after the release of the CD, which was developed twenty years later by the same Ottens together with a team of engineers. The CD also became a hit.

Here is another news link, in Dutch.

Ottens wasn’t only responsible for creating the cassette.  He was part of the team at Philips that developed the Compact Disk. Here is a news item about Ottens in Dutch (sorry, no subtitles available).

In 2013, Time magazine did a 50 year retrospective on audio cassettes.  The full article is no longer available, only the introduction.

Happy 50th Birthday, Cassettes!

The trusty audio cassette was introduced to the world in August of 1963

In August of 1963, the world met a new piece of technology that would go on to change the history of music: the audio cassette tape. That means that this month marks the 50th anniversary of the cassette.

As cassette inventor Lou Ottens, now 87, tells TIME, it was “a sensation” from day one.

More below the fold.

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Why Bother?: Two in one news day

Local news contained two “You’ve got to be kidding” stories in the same weekend.

First, the “travel bubble” (read: Taiwanese tourists have cabin fever).  Taiwan and Palau (a country with zero cases of COVID-19) a preparing a travel corridor between the two.  Considering the countries involved and their GDPs, this is solely about giving Taiwanese tourists a safe place to go, plus only a five day quarantine on their return.  I highly doubt any Palauans will be coming here, even if their per capita is over US$14,000.  This is primarily a tourist thing, not business. Or maybe jobs are part of the deal.

I certainly won’t be going there.  Palau is over 70% christian as socially conservative as it gets.  Sex between men was decriminalized, but it’s still very homophobic (e.g. no PDAs), and forget about being Transgender.

Taiwan, Palau close to opening travel bubble MOFA and CDC confirm

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), and the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) have confirmed that tourism travel will soon be possible between Palau and Taiwan.

Various media outlets are quoting tourism industry sources saying that President Surangel Whipps Jr will visit Taiwan to make the announcement March 15.

MOFA confirmed today, March 7 that it welcomes the President of Palau to visit Taiwan after the launch of the “safe travel circle,” but refused to confirm date for the visit. MOFA will officially announce the date in due course after the relevant planning is completed.

Second, a Taiwan gang member shot at the cops.  I doubt he’s going to get only eight years this time.  Wanhua is 3km from my home as the crow flies, 5km by road and 15 minutes by bus.

Unlike the US, cops here actually seem interested in capturing suspects alive, often shooting tires and engines multiple times to disable vehicles and as warning shots before firing directly(Side note: Are all Mercedes drivers jerks?)  Why do they do it?  It never ends well for them.

Gangster fires on cops in Wanhua District, Taipei City

A gangster with a history of firearms offences fired one shot at police in an attempt to evade arrest after being ambushed in Wanhua District, Taipei City today, March 7.

Banqiao District police went to Wanhua District to arrest the 47-year-old Four Seas Gang member, named Chen, after receiving intelligence that he would be visiting friends at noon today.

[. . .]

According to statements made at a press conference this afternoon, police had been after Chen for a long time. Chen was described as “a habitual gunman” with a long history of firearms, and drugs offences.

In 2004, Chen confronted police in a 7-hour-long armed standoff, during which he held a grenade. Chen served a prison term and was released in 2012.

No offence to readers and fellow bloggers, but I am really tired of the murricans in Taiwan who whine about “gun freedumb” and wanting marijuana legalized.  Do I need to tell you many of them also gripe about wearing masks?

Batteries Not Needed: After 270 years, it still works

In February 2021, an object was found amongst boxes donated to an organization.  At first, it was mistaken for a folding ruler.  But after consultation with the American Oughtred Society, it was determined to be a slide rule made in 1753, one of only five in existence.  It’s a truly amazing find.

Prior to electronic calculators invented in the early 1970s, slide rules were the portable calculators of the world that powered the Industrial Age.  Steam liners, aircraft, skyscrapers, NASA and Soviet space missions, etc. were all built using slide rules.  A slide rule was on the Apollo 13 mission, how they did the calculations to get themselves home safely.

270-year-old rare Universal Slide Rule discovered at Canberra Green Shed

A rare 270-year-old artefact, which may be one of just five left in the world, discovered in a Canberra warehouse was first dismissed as just a ruler.

When Sandie Parkes from the Green Shed stumbled across a 270-year-old slide rule, used for mathematical calculations, she first thought it was a foldable ruler.

“We get a lot of foldable rulers come through, so I thought that must be what it is,” she said.

The historic artefact was dropped at the Mitchell warehouse sometime late last year and made its way to the Civic store when Ms Parkes decided to get to the bottom of what exactly the bizarre item was.

[. . .]

She came across the American Oughtred Society, a group “dedicated to the preservation and history of slide rules and other calculating instruments” and United Kingdom Slide Rule Circle, who said the item was one of just five of its kind in the world.

The slide rule is believed to be designed by John Suxspeach and called a Catholic-Organon or Universal Sliding Foot-Rule.

[. . .]

According to the Cambridge University Whipple Museum, Suxspeach was a London schoolmaster who decided to make the slide rule widely available to the public and got the first Royal Patent for it in 1753.

Slide rules are like 18th century microscopes.  People may not use them on a day to day basis anymore, but everyone should know how to use one.  Asian countries still learn mathematics on abacuses.  It’s important to understand how the science progressed from one tool to another.

On a side note, related to a prior post about Napier’s Bones, slide rules will turn 400 years old in 2022, first built by William Oughtred in 1622.  (I wouldn’t say he invented it because he merely combined other people’s discoveries into one device.)  Also, Genaille-Lucas rulers turn 130 years old in 2021.