They Didn’t Migrate: How do deal with an invasive species

The government of Chiayi county, Taiwan, is offering a (modest) reward for the capture of brown anoles, a species of lizard native to the Carribean.  The species is capable of destroying indigenous wildlife, and the snake population, while plentiful and dangerous, is not large enough to deal with the problem naturally. The anoles obviously got here because of human intervention (read: stupidity), but did they get here by plane or by cargo ship? I doubt they were smuggled in. [Read more…]

Music Rules: The pain came when Morphine was taken away

Mark Sandman was born September 24, 1952, and would have been 65 today. I say would have been because he died of a heart attack while performing on stage in Italy in July 1999, aged 46. He was the eldest of four children, three sons and one daughter. She is the only surviving sibling, three sons all dying due to illness.  Parents should never have to bury their children.

Mark Sandman was the singer, bassist and primary songwriter of the band Morphine which produced six incredible albums. Their “Low Rock” sound rode the wave of “alternative” music of the 1990s primarily due to their sound and unusual and minimalist instrumentation (two string slide bass, baritone sax, and six piece drum kit) though they have far more in common with jazz, beat poetry, groups of the 1970s and 1980s (e.g. Steely Dan, Two-Tone bands). The instrumentation sounds primitive, yet they produced a full sound. (Sandman would jokingly introduce Colley as the group’s “lead guitarist”.)  With incredibly strong songwriting, they performed live shows that sounded as good as their albums, and had a growing word-of-mouth fanbase. [Read more…]

Left To Die: Callous and cowardly cops are here too

In August, Taiwanese police were engaged in a roundup of foreigners working without legal visas (expired but did not leave, ran away from their jobs, etc.).  Slave labour has been a problem with arrests as recently as last spring.

During one of these raids,  Taiwanese police murdered Nguyen Quoc Phi, a 27 year old Vietnamese man who was being arrested. He tried to escape and was shot nine times. The police did nothing as he slowly and painfully bled to death. No first aid, no call for an ambulance, no attention at all as he lay on the ground suffering.

The video below is interesting not because of the content, but its source: the Hsinchu County Fire Bureau, itself a government agency. It didn’t require private individuals who happened to be there. (Something tells me there will be consequences for the person who released the video.) [Read more…]

Box Office Recedes: Hollyweird blames everyone but itself

Live theatre never thought movies would surpass it.  Radio never thought TV would surpass it.  Drive-in theatres never thought they would die out when “car culture” hasn’t died.  Movie studios never thought home video (VHS and DVD) would surpass theatres.  TV and movie studios never thought video games would outearn them or give a more immersive experience.  Blockbuster never thought it would go bust.  Et cetera, ad nauseum.

Movie studios never thought viewers would get tired of their awful movies.  And after a summer of overpriced failure, they’re trying to blame Rotten Tomatoes and bad reviews instead of their own poor product. A researcher has shown that bad reviews have negligible effect on box office success, but good story telling does. (The evidence showing reviews don’t affect revenues is just as predicable as movie and music piracy having no effect on their sales either.)

Data Analysis Exonerates Rotten Tomatoes for Hollywood’s Failures

Last week, the New York Times published an article about Hollywood studio executives blaming the influence of Rotten Tomatoes for its failures at the box office. This seemed silly, and it was practically an admission that the movies these execs are making suck. Well, now we have data that shows the critical consensus on movies is not killing profits.

Yves Bergquist manages the Data & Analytics Project at USC’s Entertainment Technology Center….


Bergquist’s data showed that there was only a 12 percent PMCC correlation between good or bad ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and the amount of money Hollywood raked in. When he just looked at how a film performed on its ever-important opening weekend, that number dropped to 8 percent. Narrowing the field further to the summer season (May through Labor Day), the number fell to 7 percent.

[Read more…]

Football Analyst Resigns: A crisis of conscience

Other NFL fanboys and talking heads (e.g. Terry Bradshaw) have openly said they would never let their children play football, but Ed Cunningham is the first TV commentator to walk away from his job as purveyor and salesman of a death sport.

ESPN Football Analyst Walks Away, Disturbed by Brain Trauma on Field

LONG BEACH, Calif. — If Ed Cunningham had not already seen enough, he would be back in a broadcast booth on Saturday afternoon, serving as the color analyst for another top college football game televised on ABC or ESPN. It is the work he has done each fall for nearly 20 years.

But Cunningham, 48, resigned from one of the top jobs in sports broadcasting because of his growing discomfort with the damage being inflicted on the players he was watching each week. The hits kept coming, right in front of him, until Cunningham said he could not, in good conscience, continue his supporting role in football’s multibillion-dollar apparatus.

“I take full ownership of my alignment with the sport,” he said. “I can just no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot.”

Football has seen high-profile N.F.L. players retire early, even pre-emptively, out of concern about their long-term health, with particular worry for the brain. But Cunningham may be the first leading broadcaster to step away from football for a related reason — because it felt wrong to be such a close witness to the carnage, profiting from a sport that he knows is killing some of its participants.

“In its current state, there are some real dangers: broken limbs, wear and tear,” Cunningham said.  “But the real crux of this is that I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”

This is good to see, but we need to see more.

If other good news, enrollment in Pop Warner and high school football is down as much as 11% by some estimates.  Football teams are shutting down in various places (e.g. Maryland, California), something unheard of outside of economic hardships (e.g. rustbelt town closures, 2008’s meltdown).  This is a positive trend and I hope it continues.

Youth football participation declines as worries mount about concussions, CTE

The artificial turf outside Addison Trail High School was alive with action as a practice session of the Addison Cowboys youth football club got underway. […] The Cowboys are now down to four teams, a decline that mirrors the uneasy state of youth football in the Chicago area and beyond. One program, run by the Park District of Highland Park, shut down last month after only 11 kids signed up, down from a peak of more than 150.

Coaches and youth league officials say several factors are responsible for the drop-off. Sports such as fall baseball are attracting kids who once would have played football. A fickle economy is forcing dads who used to volunteer to focus on their jobs. And video games and smartphones are proving more of an attraction than helmets and tackling dummies.

But the big reason behind the slide, they say, is growing concern about head injuries. News stories about former NFL players diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease better known as CTE, have parents rethinking their children’s participation.


Birth Pains: Another woman denied control of her own body

This time, it’s not a “christian country” that killed a woman.  But like those “christian countries”, the denial of women’s bodily autonomy caused her death.

Pregnant woman in China jumps to death after allegedly denied caesarean section

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – A pregnant woman’s relatives and a hospital in Yulin, Shaanxi province, are blaming each other for rejecting the woman’s request to have a caesarean section, which allegedly led to her jumping to her death from the fifth floor of the hospital.

The 26-year-old woman, Ms Ma Rongrong, who was a week away from delivery, was admitted to the First Hospital of Yulin to give birth on Aug 30, the hospital said in a statement on Sunday (Sept 3).

Medical checks showed that the baby’s head was bigger than normal, suggesting higher risks during natural birth, the statement said.

Ms Ma’s doctor advised her and her family to have a caesarean section, but her family refused and signed a document at the hospital confirming that Ms Ma would deliver naturally, the statement said.

There has been no public statement on why the family refused a caesarian section, whether due to cost or a demand “traditional birth”.  Ms. Ma wanted a caesarian, but her wishes were ignored.

After all, “it’s not her body”.

A Life Seized: Driving privileges are not rights

A 12 year old child was killed this week in Kaohshiung, Taiwan. He and his mother were on a scooter stopped at an intersection.  They, along with several other people, were run over by an SUV that did not stop at the light. The driver claims to have had an epileptic seizure, yet was still allowed to hold a license and drive.

12 year-old Dies of Injuries After Driver Plows through Scooters

September 6, 2017

A 12 year-old boy has died of injuries sustained last Friday when the driver of an SUV smashed into vehicles stopped at a level crossing in Kaohsiung. Thirteen people were reported injured in the accident, but the boy, named Yang, was the only one to sustain serious injuries.

At 7:26am Friday, September 1, a woman driving an SUV plowed through scooters stopped at a the level crossing, crashed through the crossing barriers, then continued for another 400 meters before crashing into two cars and finally stopping.

A total of 17 vehicles were damaged.

The 45 year-old driver named Zhan claimed that she suffered from epilepsy and must have had a seizure. Zhan said she had no recollection of the accident.

In many countries, drivers with epilepsy must prove that, with medication, they have not had a seizure within a certain amount of time (as little as 3 months in parts of the US, as long as 3 years in the UK, with one year the average).  In motorsports, having epilepsy is a ten year or lifetime ban.

(I’m posting under the assumption that the driver was telling the truth.  There are many incidents in Taiwan where drivers have ploughed right through pedestrians and scooters, committed or tried to commit hit and runs.  I’ve seen a few with my own eyes.)

Many people mistakenly believe that “driving is a right”.  It is not, it is a privilege that can be revoked, and it should be revoked more often.  Pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers have a right to be safe, and that right trumps the privilege of any and all drivers.

The most common response to this is “What about personal freedumb?” as if one person’s mobility were more important than the risk they pose to others.  “What about commuting to work?”  If the government is going to ban drivers, then it should accommodate them in some way – mass transit, help renters move, etc.  But the safety of others – the right to safety – has to come first.

Drivers should be retested annually.  Not relicensed (pay a fee without a test, get a new card), I mean retested, forced to prove they can drive safely, and if they can’t, they lose their license for a specific amount of time (3 months to a year).  Too expensive or onerous?  No more than insuring every car.  And if getting retested drops your insurance premiums by 10%, it pays for itself.

Drivers with road rage and arrogant attitudes (“I’m a great driver!” as they cut off other cars) are often more dangerous than drunk drivers because they are always that way.  They develop bad habits over years or decades because they are never retested, only relicensed.  Taking away their privilege is the only way they will learn.  Drivers should be removed from the road if they can’t drive safely, whether due to aggressive driving, poor eyesight, a loss of mental faculties (temporary or permanent) or any other reason.

Music Rules: Steely Dan, one against inevitability

Walter Becker died on Sunday, aged 67.  Life goes on, and life ends too.

I’ve stopped getting upset about musicians dying and bands calling it quits. The only thing that does upset me is the lack of any new groups to replace them. That’s not a “get off my lawn” rant, but I don’t have to like them because they’re popular.

If you can’t play live, I’m not interested. And wow, Steely Dan could play.

In memory of Walter Becker, three of my favourite Steely Dan tracks: “Aja”, “Bodhisattva, and “Gaucho”.

I (Can’t) See: How myopia becomes a pandemic

A recent item in the Taipei Times newspaper really stands out and scares you, if you stand close enough to read it.

Ninety percent of kids in major Taiwanese cities have myopia

Thu, Aug 31, 2017

Myopia is increasingly affecting young people in Taiwan, with close to 90 percent of children in Taiwan’s major cities suffering from nearsightedness. If myopia is not controlled and a child’s vision worsens, their eyesight could be damaged, even with treatment. In these cases, it could cause complications such as degeneration, detachment or tearing of the retina, macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. In serious cases surgery may be required, and the complications could even lead to impaired vision.

I have jokingly told my students in the past, both in South Korea and Taiwan, “You should spend more time in the big blue room,” then had to explain what the euphemism mean. Maybe I should be and have been more serious about it.  Emphasis mine in the snippet below:

Myopia (Nearsightedness) from the American Optometric Association

Nearsightedness, or myopia, as it is medically termed, is a vision condition in which people can see close objects clearly, but objects farther away appear blurred. People with myopia can have difficulty clearly seeing a movie or TV screen or the whiteboard in school.

Myopia occurs if the eyeball is too long or the cornea (the clear front cover of the eye) is too curved. As a result, the light entering the eye isn’t focused correctly, and distant objects look blurred.

Myopia affects nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population. While the exact cause of myopia is unknown, there is significant evidence that many people inherit myopia, or at least the tendency to develop myopia. If one or both parents are nearsighted, there is an increased chance their children will be nearsighted.

Even though the tendency to develop myopia may be inherited, its actual development may be affected by how a person uses his or her eyes. Individuals who spend considerable time reading, working at a computer, or doing other intense close visual work may be more likely to develop myopia.

Generally, myopia first occurs in school-age children. Because the eye continues to grow during childhood, it typically progresses until about age 20. However, myopia may also develop in adults due to visual stress or health conditions such as diabetes.

Myopia may also occur due to environmental factors or other health problems:


People who do an excessive amount of near-vision work may experience a false or “pseudo” myopia. Their blurred distance vision is caused by overuse of the eyes’ focusing mechanism. After long periods of near work, their eyes are unable to refocus to see clearly in the distance. Clear distance vision usually returns after resting the eyes. However, constant visual stress may lead to a permanent reduction in distance vision over time.

Time also published an item in 2012 saying the same things:

Why Up to 90% of Asian Schoolchildren Are Nearsighted

May 07, 2012

Scientists say an epidemic of myopia, or nearsightedness, is sweeping through Asian children, and is likely due to students’ spending too much time indoors studying and not enough time outside in the sunlight.

It has long been thought that nearsightedness is mostly a hereditary problem, but researchers led by Ian Morgan of Australian National University say the data suggest that environment has a lot more to do with it.

Reporting in the journal Lancet, the authors note that up to 90% of young adults in major East Asian countries, including China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, are nearsighted. The overall rate of myopia in the U.K., by contrast, is about 20% to 30%.

Myself, my lousy parents never got me proper glasses until I was in my mid teens which meant I did a lot of squinting and sitting close to things.  It makes me wonder if it played a role in how my own vision changed.  My left was dominant as a child, then gradually equalized in my late teens.  Optometrists here haven’t told me to get bifocals, but I suspect those in Canada would.

They Willingly Comply: Why the democrats oppose voting rights

Despite all their rhetoric, it’s easy to tell that the US democratic party leadership are uninterested in protecting the voting rights of citizens who are poor and not white.

The US has federal elections every two years.  And every two years, just before the elections, the republicans engage in tactics designed to prevent, deny and harass large numbers of US voters from participating.  And every two years, the democrats do nothing about it until the last minute instead of taking pre-emptive measures to protect voters.

The republicans want “voter ID”?  Then spend money getting people ID.  Help people obtain driver’s licenses or anything else that will suffice as legal ID for voter registration.  (Most Canadian provinces offer provincial ID cards.  The US ought to have something similar.)

The republicans try to enact “voter ID rules and laws” WEEKS before an election?  Then enact your own legislation A YEAR before an election.  Do it now, make ID easily available a year in advance of the next election cycle.  (They should have started in January, but better now than Fall 2018.)

The republicans make it difficult for people in isolated places to register? Then GO TO THEIR HOMES and get them registered, i.e. the “mountain and mohammed”. Elections Canada (a non-partisan agency) visits the home of every citizen not on the voters list.  If the US doesn’t have one, the democrats should start one.  MTV did, with their “rock the vote”.

Raise and spend money to get these people on the voting lists.  It worked before with the “50 state strategy”.  It’s laziness, indifference, ignorance and even stupidity that the democrats aren’t preparing for 2018 now.

Or just as likely, it’s complicity.


Fork Tongued: I love me some Canadianisms

A highly amusing item appeared this week:

This is How Canada Talks

Spread across a vast landmass, Canada’s roughly 30 million anglophones speak something called Canadian English. The stereotype often goes that Canadian English is a lot like American English in terms of both vocabulary and pronunciation, with significant influence from the British Isles, resulting in words like zed and spellings like colour and centre. A subtle Canadian accent that affects the vowels in words like about and write, and a collection of characteristic Canadian vocabulary like chesterfield, toque, poutine and bunnyhug, add to its uniqueness.

Wait, bunnyhug?

It is a survey of “Canadianisms” and regional differences. Being a lifelong British Columbian (until 2001), these are mostly true for me (exception: supper, the British influence in my home which called lunch “dinner”). Pop, toque, chesterfield and pencil crayons were as ingrained to me as saying “zed”, and it shocked me that neither the English speaking world nor the US (O_-) says them. (My home and others’ homes never had garbage disposals, so I never heard “garburator”.)

But if one word surprises me as being only Canadian, it’s runners, as opposed to “sneakers” or “trainers” as others call them. We run in the shoes, we don’t sneak, although people in sports might train in them.  I never understood why it was only in Canada.

One very noticeable thing about the maps are the two small pockets of resistance: the southwest British Columbia (Vancouver and Victoria) and “Upper/Lower Canada” of Ontario and Quebec. Ontario and Quebec are the oldest legal regions of Canada, so it doesn’t surprise they retain a separate identity. But to those outside of Canada, the Lower Mainland has an odd history akin to that of Boston and New England, but even more pronounced (pun definitely intended).

UVic prof studies Victoria’s British accent

The University of Victoria linguistics professor is on a mission to uncover just how much Victoria lives up to its reputation for being “More British than the British,” at least when it comes to the way we speak.


From 1850 through 1920, 30 per cent of Victorians immigrated from the British Isles.

D’Arcy is currently combing through audio records at the Royal B.C. and the UVic archives in search of key words and phrases that distinguish British and North American speech in Victoria. Subtleties include the word “news.” Brits pronounce it as “nyooz,” whereas North Americans say “nooz.”

And a 2015 interview with Professor Alexandra D’Arcy, author of the study:

The West Coast’s “Victoria Dainty”

This week’s interview involves a discussion of the English of the West Coast—and in particular that of Victoria, British Colombia. We often have a hard time distinguishing people from most parts of Canada (Quebec and the East Coast aside), and from Ontario to BC, the accents may appear on the surface to be roughly the same.

However, Professor Alexandra D’Arcy studies Victoria English, and she has found that the similarities we see today weren’t so similar in the past. She studies the language diachronically, which means over a period of time—in her case a long period of time.

While discussing the item with a friend, I pointed her to a classic Canadian TV ad (re: the pronunciation of caramel).

Borders Crossed: Third Gender passports aren’t enough

The Canadian government has announced they will now offer Third Gender passports (marked with an “X”) to citizens as of August 31st, 2017. Call me cynical for being unimpressed, but the Canadian government has a long and sordid history of refusing to admit its mistakes, never mind fixing them.

Transgender and non-binary Canadian citizens have been demanding a Third Gender option for years, yet have been denied access to it. The lie told by Trudeau and Harper’s mismanaged regimes was that “it will require an act of parliament to get a Third Gender passport.”

No, it did not. Canada is a signitore to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreement on passports, which guaranteed a Third Gender option, the same one that the UK and Australia abide by in issuing their Third Gender passports. The Canadian government was legally bound to do this, so it didn’t need “parliamentary approval”.

Equally annoying, I doubt that Global Affairs Canada or minister Ahmed Hussen will have the spine or decency to replace currently issued passports at no expense to the holders. Those who have previously asked for a Third Gender passport and were denied are not the ones who failed who live up to their legal obligations. (Yes, I’m being a little self-serving here.)  How else did we get or renew our passports? This was a failure of government to provide what it was already legally bound to do. Citizens should not have to pay to fix the mistakes of government.

Canada advances LGBT equality by offering X gender option on passports

The Canadian government is taking another step in national LGBT progress. Canadians will now have a third option when identifying their gender on their passport.

On August 24, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced the federal government will work towards creating an X option in the sex field on Canadian passports and other documents issued by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The X option will provide an alternative for those who identify as neither female (F) nor male (M).

Beginning on August 31, IRCC will offer interim measures (until documents can be printed with the X option) to allow individuals to add to their passport that their gender should be identified as X.

The sex field is mandatory for all travel documents according to International Civil Aviation Organization rules.

WHY is gender still placed on passports when it is irrelevant to verifying a person’s identity? The name and photo are all that are required.

Music Rules: Highs and Lowe

Cool trivia of the day:

On August 14, 1976, Stiff Records released Nick Lowe’s “So It Goes”.  It was the legendary label’s first ever single, recorded by a legend in his own right.

At 68, Lowe continues to record and tour, transforming himself from the high energy rock/pop artist of the 1970s and 1980s into a dignified elder statesman and troubadour.


Heat Waves: Roll out those lazy hazy crazy days of summer

Today has been interesting (in the sense of “may you live in interesting times”). Human error at one of Taiwan’s nuclear power plants caused widespread power outages across several cities. In a massive overreaction, the Economic Affairs Minister has resigned. I don’t see how he would be directly responsible for the actions of one person….

By itself, a power outage wouldn’t be a problem. But in the midst of an extended heat wave (it hasn’t been below 32°C since June 19, and high humidity all the while) and a power shortage that has led to some rationing, it makes for a potentially dangerous situation. Eighteen months ago, Taiwan had unusually cold temperatures that killed nearly a hundred people. (The country builds for earthquakes and typhoons, not cold weather.) Now there’s the potential for heat exhaustion and death.

The deniers will have to remind me again why climate change is a fraud. [Read more…]

You Might Have Guessed: August 13th is Left Handers Day

As you might guess by the plethora of posts all at once, Sunday August 13th is International Left Handers Day (see also the facebook page).  I would rather have planned ahead and posted these once per day, but the oldest of today’s posts will explain why I didn’t.

For those who are left handed, read on.  For those right handed, find out why you should care.  And for the 1%ers, come to the better side permanently.  Isn’t it better to be an underdog?