Travel Plans

All set with my travel plans:

3/2 Depart Taipei 23:30
3/2 Arrive San Francisco 18:20

3/2 to 3/5 in Santa Clara, CA

3/5 Depart San Francisco 07:15
3/5 Arrive New York JFK 15:42

3/5 to 3/17 in Milford, CT

3/17 Depart New York JFK 19:29
3/17 Arrive San Francisco 23:20

3/18 to 3/19 in Santa Clara, CA

3/20 Depart San Francisco 00:10 (Really 3/19 night)
3/21 Arrive Taipei 06:00

It’s gonna be a busy schedule this time, so if you want to plan anything get it set now!

Training Dates

Because of timing issues with getting my business formed and the renovations started, I had to push back training to the March 6-17 class. I’ll be posting my travel plans shortly. EVA Air’s online reservations system is broken, so I haven’t booked tickets to SFO yet, but am looking at March 2 arrival and March 20 departure. My other reservations is booked though: I fly SFO to JFK on the morning of March 5 and return the evening of March 17. If my other bookings work out, that’ll give me 2 days before and 2 days after in Santa Clara.

I’ve been a frequent flier with United for a while and have booked more than 400,000 actual miles flown on them. At the beginning of last year I stopped flying them from Taipei to San Francisco because they dropped the direct flight and cut back on their service quality, and I switched to EVA Air. I had still been flying them domestically, but this time I just could not get a decent fare for the times I wanted to fly to JFK. Everything was $600-800 round trip, and most of those were with connections. Even bad times would have cost about $400, and all of those were with connections. On the other hand I found direct flights at the perfect time on Delta/Song for $357 round trip. I could have gotten it down to $300 with connections, but it’s worth a bit more to go non stop. Anyways, United just isn’t giving me any reason to fly them any more.

Sun Moon Lake

Last weekend we went to Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County, central Taiwan for Lantern Festival, and also an early Valentine’s Day. It was me, Maggie, Emily, Bonita, Ilona, Stephanie, Roy, and Cherry. We rented a van and Bonita drove.

We didn’t get off to a very auspicious start. For some reason, someone had gotten the idea that we were to take Highway 2 down there. So we drove south across Taipei and got on Highway 3 and then transferred to Highway 2. I was in the back reading the newspaper, so I wasn’t really paying attention to the discussion about all this. About an hour in to the drive I look up and say, “Uh, why are we driving to the airport?” Highway 2 is the east west highway connecting Taipei to the international airport. Essentially we’d made a nearly 3/4 circuit driving around Taipei.

After a lot of arguing, and calling the hotel, we found out we were supposed to take Highway 3. I think the confusion might have been because Highway 3 is also called the second north-south freeway (second after Highway 1). It also didn’t help that the only map we had was a 10 year old tourist guide with a two page map of all of Taiwan that didn’t even have Highway 3 on it cause it didn’t exist back then. Not that a two page map had enough detail anyways.

At this point we were well west of Highway 3, and even west of Highway 1 before we turned around, so I suggested taking Highway 1 instead. Much discussion ensued and eventually we took Highway 1 south. Everyone was a bit frazzled so far so we stopped at the Zhongli rest area to take a break. Shortly after we arrive, a blue truck backed into our van and took out the right tail lights. To make a long story a bit less long, this added quite a bit to our rest stop, and while all this was going on, I decided to see if I could get a better map. Inside the rest stop the store had a wide variety of map books available. I picked the thickest largest Taiwan map book that had 2006 printed on the cover.

Back in the van I deciphered the maps to find that Highway 3 crosses Highway 1 just south of Xinzhu. We decided to stop at Xinzhu for lunch which we had at a market next to a big temple in the central downtown area. Back on the road, things proceeded more smoothly, much to our relief. With a good map in tow, we made it onto Highway 3 all the way to Cantun near Taizhong were we headed east on road 14 and then south on road 21 to finally make it to our hotel just past dark. (Road 14 has some HOT betel nut babes.) We stayed at Lingo’s Resort which is located on the south side of the lake in Sun Moon Lake Village. Emily took the opportunity to get car sick less than 1km from our destination.

We had a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant and walked around the village a bit. Emily had gotten a Corn and Butterflies lantern in Xinzhu which had a light inside the corn and the butterflies which moved up and down while a song played. She had been playing with it so much that the cheap batteries it came with had crapped out, so I went to help her buy new ones. The rest of the crew decided to get some ice cream to eat with some strawberries we’d bought at a roadside stand on the drive in. We took that all back to a pontoon cafe over the water attached to the hotel.

The next day we had breakfast at the hotel, then went over to the village where Maggie, Emily and I rented a row boat for an hour. I was expecting that rowing would make my arms sore. My arms were fine, it was my hips that got sore. Funny how different muscles get used for different activities in surprising ways. I also got three blisters on my hand, though they are almost healed up by now. We ate some snacks including some wonderful wild boar sausages and fresh squeezed orange juice slushies.

After that we drove around the lake, stopping at a large temple on the east shore, then proceeding to the main town on the north shore where we stopped at The LaLu, the top hotel at Sun Moon Lake, where rooms start at US$500 per night. We were only there for the Tea Time buffet though, which was about $15/person and was quite delightful with a selection of western, chinese and japanese selections as well as a very nice dessert table. Emily played around and made a lot of friends.

It was getting late so we got back on the road to Taipei. This time the trip went smoothly and we only stopped once at a rest stop briefly. Emily started complaining that her stomach hurt as we got close to home, but we managed to make it there before she lost it again. Got back home again at about 9pm.

On Tuesday, Maggie, Emily, Bonita and Ilona headed out to Thailand early in the morning. I couldn’t go because of the new business stuff (reviewing the renovation plans and signing a new lease and various other stuff). They are in Pattaya the first 3 days, then 3 days in Bangkok.

Cheney Authorized Leak

Cheney ‘Authorized’ Libby to Leak Classified Information

Court documents have revealed that Libby was ordered by his ‘superiors’ to release classified information which led to Valerie Plame being identified as a CIA Agent in order to smear her husband Joe Wilson. Today Cheney was specifically identified as one of the superiors. Are the type of people who would risk national security to smear a critic the type of people you want running the US government?

Yellow Fever

There’s an interesting funny documentary called Yellow Fever about all those white guys picking up asian chicks. Any guesses on what the t-shirt says? The resolution is too low to read the 3rd and 5th characters.

EDIT: akibare has better eyes than me. She says it looks like “白人看不懂” which would be “White People Don’t Understand”. I’m pretty sure that’s the right 3rd character though the 5th character is still too fuzzy for me. But it fits the context.

EDIT2: Duh. akibare noticed that the credits show “Bai Ren Kan Bu Dong T-Shirt provided by“. (Who the hell reads credits?) Also the downloadable version on the Wong Fu Productions home page is much clearer than the version on Google Video and it’s very clear to see the shirt. I’ve updated the link above to point to the better quality version.

EDIT3: Comments provided a better translation: “White people can’t read this”.

EDIT4: Hey!


Today I started the process of forming a limited company. My first choice for company name is 建咪三明治公司 but I had to list out five in case my first choice is not available. As part of that process I had to go to the Taipei Local Court in Xindian to get a power of attorney notarized. Because I’m a foreigner, it takes a lot longer to process because I have to file with the Ministry of Economic Affairs for them to approve foreign investment.

Spinning of the wiretaps

There’s an interesting Washington Post article that provides some details into the current wiretapping controversy. Remember that the Bush camp is calling this terrorist surveillance and trying to give the impression that only those talking to Al Qaeda members would be monitored.

Let’s look at the process according to the above article and try to compare that to the claims:

1) First hundreds of thousands of calls, emails, etc. are automatically monitored by NSA computers.

2) Then intelligence analysts actually listen to or read the suspicious messages flagged by the computers. This reportedly numbers around 5000.

3) If the intelligence analyst also determines there is suspicious activity, then the message is passed on for further investigation. This reportedly was less than 10 per year.

So basically we have hundreds of thousands of innocent conversations monitored by computers, 5000 of these monitored by actual people, and out of this we get less than 10 per year (at best less than 45 since 9/11) that are suspicious enough to be investigated further. How many of these 45 actually turned out to be terrorists and not just a misunderstood conversation? We don’t know.

What we do know is that it took hundreds of thousands of warrantless taps to produce those 45 leads. That is what is called a fishing expedition. Such wholesale monitoring of communications in the vague hope of getting a few leads is the hallmark of a repressive police state. And it is so far from the president’s description of the surveillance that it would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.

Maxtor Sucks (Part 3)

You may recall that last year I had two Maxtor drives fail one after the other. Last week I started having one of my other Maxtor drives start locking up intermittently. I ran SpinRite on the two Maxtor drives in my desktop system and both of them came up with horrendous numbers of ECC errors. 2,681,123 on one, and 2,076,616 on the other. They both came with only a 1 year warranty, which ran out last May, so these end up in the junk pile. I think I have only one Maxtor drive left in operation at this point, the one that got replaced in warranty last year. I’ll have to run some tests on it too. It’s currently in a USB case.

Today I bought a couple of Western Digital drives to replace them. Since the problems with the other Maxtors last year, and the problems with the IBM/Hitachi drives a few years back, I’ve been buying Western Digital and Seagate drives and have been fairly pleased. I would have preferred to get Seagate since they sell all drives with a 5 year warranty, but Western Digitals come with at least a 3 year warranty in Taiwan which is not too bad. (In the US WD sells drives with as little as 1 year warranty, but you can extend the warranty coverage for a nominal fee on their website. This is one of the few times I would recommend getting an extended warranty.)