On liberty, hate and conscience

Since most of you don’t subscribe to the Taipei Times you probably didn’t see the editorial On liberty, hate and conscience in today’s paper.

“[W]henever people demand the silencing of others, it is a form of tyranny. And when a person calls for violence against another because of something they have said, ultimately it is an expression of fear, exposing facile beliefs and a deficiency of reason.”

Water Heater Repair

Our water heater has been flaking out for the last few months. You may recall from previous posts that like most Taiwanese houses, we have a tankless water heater, also known as an on-demand water heater. Most American homes have the big water heater tanks. With a tankless heater, it only runs when there is water flowing through the hot taps. With a tank heater it keeps a big ~40-60 gallon tank heated constantly.

Usually when our water heater flakes, it is because the battery is dying. We have a gas heater with electronic pilot light. The ignition is powered by a D size battery. When it runs down then the pilot light may not light all the time. This time the battery was fine. The problem was that the water flow wasn’t triggering the heater to turn on.

The tankless heater uses a water valve on the bottom of the unit. When water is flowing, it is supposed to raise up a plunger with closes the pilot light contact and starts the flow of gas. This plunger is also regulated by a thermocouple which raises and lowers the gas flow as the proper heat level is attained. The problem was that this plunger was barely moving up any more.

I’d been able to put off repairs by adjusting the heat and water pressure settings so that the plunger would rise up just enough to turn things on, but over time it got worse and worse. And if anyone turned on another tap while you were taking a shower, that’d be enough to trip it off again. Over the last few days it got especially painfully flaky.

So yesterday I decided to read up more about how these tankless heaters work. I couldn’t find an English manual for my particular model since it is a local brand, so I looked at some manuals for some Bosch models that were similar. I found out that the water valve innards have an expected service life of 2-5 years.

While I like to do repairs myself whenever possible (at least so I understand how things work if nothing else), this repair was getting a bit too complex, so we called the manufacturer’s service line yesterday and they sent out a service guy this morning. I showed the guy what was going on and he immediately pulled out a rubber diaphragm and said that’s what was broken.

I watched as he pulled out the water valve, disassembled it, and pulled out the old rubber diaphragm which had a nice 2 cm gash in it. He put it all back together with the new one, and reassembled the water heater. Went to turn on the hot water tap and the plunger shot straight up to the top immediately. Voila, it was fixed. After he left, I readjusted the temp and pressure settings so that the shower would run hot water for the entire upper half of the dial.

I was happy that I had mostly figured out the problem myself, happy that I could speak enough Chinese to describe the problem to the repairman, but most of all I was happy to be able to take a shower this morning without twiddling the hot water off and on to get it to turn on, and without it randomly turning off in the middle.

The estimated repair they told us on the phone was TWD1000 (about USD31.00), but it ended up being only TWD400 (about USD12.50). It’s really nice that repairs like this are so cheap here.

More Idolatry

There’s a very interesting Depictions of Mohammed Throughout History which provides an historical perspective to the current debate. It shows the various depictions of Mohammed made by various groups at various points in history.

(Also in my previous post I mentioned that one of the fake cartoons showed a Muslim being sodomized by a dog while praying. Other sites claim that this is meant to be Mohammed, so I have corrected that entry.)

Down With Creamy Danish Butter!

Why are Muslims staging violent protests against Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed? Would you be upset if the cartoons depicted Mohammed as a pedophile, or drawn as a pig, or being sodomized by a dog while praying? That’s what one group of Danish Muslims is showing to protesters in the Middle East to inflame the protests. Just one problem: these three cartoons are fakes that may even have been made by the Muslim group themselves.

The actual cartoons while they can be offensive are somewhat milder. Perhaps the most offensive one depicts Mohammed wearing a bomb as a turban. Many of them only run afoul of the prohibition of depicting Mohammed because it would promote idolatry. The original reason for the series was in response to the problems in making a children’s book about Mohammed, and the fears that such a book would result in complaints of idolatry. The cartoons were meant to satirize how a simple image of Mohammed could spark violent protests. It is ironic that some Muslim groups have reacted to cartoons about violent protests over drawings by staging violent protests over drawings.

So in case you were confused about the reasons for the protests, that’s it in a nutshell. For more:

Muhammed Caricatures by tailen

Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy on Wikipedia


Boy, the malls sure are crowded during the holiday. When we went to Taipei 101 there were lots of people wearing tour group buttons. I guess for some people, making a trip up to Taipei for the holidays is a big deal. Anyways, I’m somewhat phobic about big crowds, so going out at times like this can be kinda stressful.

Here are some notable activities of the last couple of weeks:


Ikki (Corner of Dunhua North Road and Minsheng East Road)

When we first arrived I had a lot of misgivings. The entrance was a stairway leading down to a fountain and a bridge going over the water to a large black door. Outside was a hostess waiting to take our names and lead us to our tables. Inside the hallways are painted black with red lights glowing from the floors. Individual dining rooms were found behind sliding doors off the main corridor. In other words, it looked really, really nice. But my experience here is that the more flash there is, the less substance there is behind it.

I was pleasantly surprised however to find that the food was quite good as well. Ikki is a Japanese restaurant, and offers a choice of set meals with various options you can choose from. Every dish I had was top notch, and the sashimi selection was quite fresh and good quality fish. Especially interesting were tempura shrimp which were battered in what appeared to be some kind of dry noodle.

Diamond Tony’s (Taipei 101 Mall; also in Tianmu)

I’d noticed this Italian restaurant a few times while visiting Taipei 101 Mall, but had never had a chance to go in. The food and service here turned out to be top notch. The food is authentic Italian. I started out with Prosciutto e Melone, one of my favorite antipasti. It’s basically parma ham with cantaloupe, but the two flavors go together surprisingly well. Then had a Caesar Salad which was spiced up a bit with the addition of some smoked cheese. For the main course I had veal with ham and cheese which was also quite good.


霍元甲 (English Title: Fearless)

This is Jet Li’s latest movie, and also rumored to be his final martial arts movie. If you’re a fan of this genre it’s worth seeing, but it’s only OK, not great. The story line involves Jet Li’s character Huo Yuan-Jia (霍元甲) who followed his dream to become the top martial artist in his town, suffered a crisis, was redeemed by the support of a blind country girl and then went on to compete to be the top martial artist in China. There’s a decent story in here, but it seemed to be a mishmash of fairly standard story lines. The fight scenes were pretty good, so edpark will probably enjoy it. The showing we saw was not subtitled in English, so I got a real workout trying to follow along. This one is not yet scheduled for US release.

Memoirs of a Geisha

I hadn’t know what to expect going into this one. I’d heard mixed reviews of it going in and never read the book. All in all, I quite enjoyed this one. The story was fascinating, both tragic and at the same time inspiring. Though it was well over 2 hours long, it did not seem long to me at all, unlike my experience with King Kong which seemed to be a tedious 10 hours long. There seems to have been a lot of controversy about many of the leading roles being played by Chinese instead of Japanese. I did not think this detracted from the story at all though. Anyways, I highly recommend seeing this one. This movie was done mostly in English and was subtitled in Chinese. The few parts that were in Japanese were simple enough for me to understand though.