2016-06-21

In Search of Incredible

What a thrill to be a Wright brother! Thanks to my colleagues for a memorable day. Congratulations to Jonney Shih and everyone at Asus on the achievement.

Wrights
0:00 - 0:44
4:13 - 4:33


Big tip of the newsboy cap to Orville, Wilbur, 'Leo and Neil. I'm forever a fan.

https://youtu.be/V7mG5Y_FO1U

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2016-05-21

Taiwan jaiyou!

In Taiwan the expression Táiwān jiāyóu! (臺灣加油) is analogous to Vive le France! in another country. It is a rousing cheer, an exhortation to dig deep and step up, and a summons to victory.

Newly elected Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) first greeted the Twitterverse with 'Taiwan jiayou!' And it's a cheer that regularly greets Taiwan's athletes when they enter the arena of world competition.

The word jiayou is probably best left untranslated. It gathers all the meanings we convey in English exhortations like 'onward', 'forward', 'go', 'good luck', 'fight', 'win', 'hail', 'long live', and 'forever'. Jiaoyou is viva and vive and a bit of über alles. It does all this work for individuals and teams as well as countries. And, like 'rah', it's an easy word to get your voice behind.

We've been hearing this greeting often in the past week as this country marks another peaceful transfer of power in celebration of its first twenty years of democracy.

Taiwan jiayou!

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2016-05-20

President Tsai


Once again, the people of Taiwan have shown the world through our actions that we, as a free and democratic people, are committed to the defense of our freedom and democracy as a way of life. Each and every one of us participated in this journey. My dear fellow Taiwanese, we did it.
I would like to tell you that, regarding the results of the January 16th elections, I have always had one interpretation only. The people elected a new president and new government with one single expectation: solving problems.
[....] I would also like to tell you that the multitude of challenges before us require that we face them honestly and shoulder the responsibilities together. Therefore, this speech is an invitation. I invite every fellow citizen to carry the future of this country.

Today Dr Tsai Ing-Wen was inaugurated as Taiwan's fourth elected president. The full text of the president's speech is available online in English translation.

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2016-04-15

Of Bohemian and Bourgeois, or, Can we sell out yet?

A series at NewMusicBox is exploring the ways artists address the tensions of art and commerce in their personal lives. It's a fascinating and candid discussion and I encourage art lovers to check it out.

One paragraph in an article by Bonnie Jones caught my eye. In it, the acclaimed composer pauses in sharing her personal reflections to pose a set of questions.

So why then, does it still seem novel when artists talk transparently about the money they make from art or other jobs? I wonder if talking about the very unsexy ways we make a living threatens some myth of the serious artist? The serious artist doesn’t sell out. The serious artist only cares about the art and everything else is false. The serious artist never compromises their authenticity for money. The serious artist never considers themselves part of the nasty capitalist game where many fight for what few resources are available. The serious artist’s success is based on a meritocracy. Who can actually live like this? Where did this myth come from? Did capitalism create the myth and ultimately make fools of us all?

These questions do loom large in artists' lives. And history shows that these questions have answers. Time has set art upon a journey that as artists we necessarily join in mid-course. Taking account of the route art taken so far can help us get our bearings and, if necessary, make course corrections.

The admonition against 'selling out' was the brainchild not of 'capitalism' but of artists determined to resist its pressures. It's a signature of the bohemian movement—a cultural beat that still goes on after a century and a half.

Add caption
The ideal of the bohemian is to stay true to one's vision, even if doing so obliges the artist to live in poverty (or do some disreputable moonlighting).

The unthinkable alternative: to compromise one's creativity in the manner of the shopkeeper who tailors each creation to the customer. That approach, says the bohemian, marks the bourgeois—the person wedded to convention who values superficial respectability and material comfort over a life of passion, originality and vision.





The bourgeois stands utterly against the creative life, says the bohemian. Creativity requires authenticity. One must be as one is, do as one does, mean what one expresses. The only crime in Bohemia is pretending to be something you're not.




No one can deny the contributions of the movement to the world of art and the world at large. Still, no philosophy is beyond a second guess. If we now must apprehend for questioning the perpetrators of the 'myth' that treats with indifference artists' need to pay the rent, we will find the usual suspects sitting at their usual table in the Café Bohème.





Do we now suspect that the shopkeepers had something to offer the discussion after all? Is it easier today to imagine no hell below us for those artists whose paintings match the sofa? If so, it makes sense to explore our suspicions.

But it doesn't do to blame the bourgeois for the inconvenient ideals of the bohemian. When those ideals were born the bourgeois was just standing nearby, minding the shop.



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2016-02-15

Open to All: Communities and the Arts

Free societies will be more richly served the day they see the value of performing arts organisations as akin to the value of great libraries and museums. All these things are resources in advancing culture, and in opening the achievements of culture to all.

Open societies get off on the wrong foot when they think of the performing arts by thinking of them not as resources for sharing culture, but as niche forms of commercial entertainment, best left to make their way according to the rules of the marketplace as commercial products must.

The flaw in this habit of thought appears at once when we turn the subject from the arts of music and dance to the arts of literature and painting. Everyone understands the need for libraries and museums. Most people understand that the experience of commercial best sellers and cute posters cannot substitute for the experience of Woolf's books or Wyeth's paintings. They understand instinctively that it would be a profoundly unhealthy thing for society overall if all the works of Woolf and Wyeth were to be sequestered away in private collections, accessible only to those wealthy enough to buy everything or to those influential enough to get invitations to the owner's mansion for a glimpse.

Yet on the subject of the performing arts, that is what many people advocate. 'Let those who want symphonies pay for them themselves,' they say. What this means, in effect: 'Put the experience of live symphonies away in a place where I and my neighbours will never find it.' Worthy achievements of Beethoven and Copland are pushed aside as worthy achievements of Woolf and Hemingway are not, for no apparent reason other than the artistic medium.

And the reality is that most people who want symphonies can not pay for access to them entirely on their own. This should not surprise us, as most people who want access to the complete works of Hemingway cannot afford to stock everything in their own personal libraries, either. Access to all: that's why communities build concert halls and theatres, libraries and galleries.

Inequality may linger in the world of material things, but great music, great literature, great art and the wonders of science are, and should be, open to all.

– Franklin D Roosevelt
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2016-01-31

Another birthday?

Yow. Quickcue music.


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2016-01-16

#Taiwan2016

Tonight I’m remembering a moment from my first year in Taiwan. It’s winter 2005. I am riding in a bus with colleagues from my university. The news program on TV shows a press conference with Condaleeza Rice.

The professor in the next seat turns to face me. ‘Men in your country don’t really listen to her, do they?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Men in your country don’t listen to that woman on TV, do they?’

‘She’s Secretary of State. Why wouldn’t they?’

‘I know, but she’s a woman. Men in your government... they don’t really take a woman seriously as their boss?’

I’m startled, but the answer is immediate. ‘They do if they don’t want to get fired.’

My colleague’s expression turns grim. He sits back. The rest of the ride is quiet.


Tonight I am thinking of that conversation. I wonder where that man is now, what he makes of today’s events in his own country. The times are a-changing . . . ah, but aren’t they always.

Congratulations to my Taiwanese neighbours of all political loyalties. You’ve again achieved the kind of peaceful transfer of power that for many people in the world remains a distant dream.

Congratulations, Dr Tsai Ing-Wen, president-elect of Taiwan. You won the confidence of millions and, in the process, realized a dream of your own.

And to all the young women I’ve seen brandishing banners in recent weeks for your Mingkuotang and your New Power and your People First and your Democratic Progressives and your Nationalists and your Taiwan Solidarity . . . congratulations to you, too.

Jaiyo.
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Sandy’s Dream

A Short Story about a Speech


Today is the day of the Freshman English Speech Contest on a college campus in Hualien, Taiwan.

I enter a classroom with a window at the back and a cleared area at the front. Students have wedged themselves into every available space, talking in Mandarin and in Taiwanese, jostling and laughing. Calligraphy on a red banner draped at the front of the room proclaims the occasion.

One student prepares to manage the stopwatch, another to send signals, another to announce, another to calculate scores. I am guided to the adjudicators’ section, to the middle seat of three. I recognise the judges on either side, both Taiwanese, as colleagues. A student gives each of us a cup of tea, pens and a sheaf of blank score sheets.

The club’s president, a compact young woman wearing glasses, steps to the front with a no-nonsense air. The conversations cease. She explains, in Mandarin, the purposes of the club. She introduces the judges and explains the rules.

Speakers have a time limit. They get one signal when a minute remains and another when time is up. All contest material comes from a source chosen by the club. Today’s source is an anthology: Selected Works in English Prose for Oral Presentation.

The president steps away. The announcer reads out a name. The judge to my right leans toward me. ‘This is our first contestant,’ he says. ‘Her English name is Sandy.’


A young woman steps to the front. She is tall, long-limbed and broad-shouldered. She turns to face us and waits, her posture straight but relaxed. Her mouth turns up at the corners in a suggestion of mischief.

She wears a plain shirt and black slacks with Nike shoes. A phone is clipped at her hip. One wrist is adorned with a jade bracelet and a small pendant at her neck bears the figure of Guanyin. A large medallion, made of multi-coloured construction paper and draped around her neck, displays the numeral 1.

I recognise this student from conversation practice sessions. Sandy is captain of an intramural basketball team. She has three younger brothers who play basketball. The family has a beagle puppy named Obama.


The timekeeper gives the signal. Sandy leans toward us slightly, as if preparing to tell a secret.

‘I say to you today, my friends...’

The voice is intimate, engaging, almost conspiratorial.

‘...even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.’

Her eyes meet ours.

‘It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’

The island of Taiwan is a mountain range thrust up from the ocean by the collision of two huge crustal plates. Its peaks are the highest in Asia east of the Himalayas and some of the fastest rising mountains in the world. The loftiest peak is Yü Shan, Jade Mountain—a wedge of metamorphic rock that cuts into the sky nearly 4,000 metres above sea level. Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples have regarded Yü Shan as sacred ever since their ancestors first sighted it over 6,000 years ago.

Yü Shan can’t be seen from our campus but Sandy can see, through the window behind us, the peaks of Taiwan’s Coastal Mountain Range framing a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean beyond. Today the waters shine under drifting puffs of white cloud. Palm trees and stone ridges gleam and gloom on the mountainsides.

‘I have a dream that one day, on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.’

She takes care pronouncing the consonants. Slaves. Slave owners.

Sandy’s mother tongue is Taiwanese. It’s the common language in her home. She began speaking Mandarin in pre-school and English at age six. In high school she began studying Japanese. She first grew curious about the language as a child when she heard her grandparents speak it. Japan had ruled the island when they were children.

When her family watches television, Sandy sits in the center. She translates Japanese dialogue in samurai movies for her parents, Mandarin phrases in talk shows for her grandparents, and English slang in Hollywood movies for everybody. Sandy hopes one day to work as a translator in an international organisation such as the WHO or the UN.

‘I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi’—she dances crisply across the syllables—‘a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.’

Taiwan is not a member of the UN. China does not allow it because it claims the island as its own territory. The claim, though spurious under international law, keeps many doors of official recognition closed. China’s government passed a new law several years ago authorising ‘non-peaceful actions’ should Taiwan ever move to make its self-governing status official. Over 2,000 Chinese missiles, packing nuclear warheads, are aimed at Sandys island she speaks.

‘I have a dream,’ she says, ‘that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.’

Sandy learned a few years ago of an uncle she had not known she had. He disappeared during the White Terror when Taiwan was under one-party Kuomintang rule. Her parents never conducted a search, never called the police, never held a funeral or openly grieved. They never dared. The family simply stopped talking about him. Pictures of her uncle were hidden away with all of his belongings. Sandy and her brothers, born later, were never told he had existed.

After Taiwan became a democracy, events like this in its history began to be openly discussed. Sandy knows now about her uncle. She and her brothers light incense for him every Ancestors Day. She knows now that he was a literature major at a university, that he won trophies in sports and public speaking.

‘I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.’

Sandy’s class includes international students, including a student from China. She doesn’t know the Chinese student well. She has remarked, though, that he seems to watch a lot of television. Every time she sees him he is asking classmates about Taiwan’s television shows.

‘I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.’

Sandy recently got her driver’s license. She plans to buy a scooter. Soon she will also register to vote.

She can remember Taiwan’s first elections. She was a small child. Buses were packed with Taiwanese people who had returned to from overseas to vote. China launched missiles overhead. America sent an aircraft carrier. Taiwan voted. Since then she has seen three presidents elected. She has seen women elected to national and local office. A woman is running for president now.

‘With this faith,’ she says, ‘we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.’

Sandy plays Mah Jongg, Uno and Super Mario. She likes night markets better than shopping malls. She says she spends too much time on Facebook. Her favourite beverage is sweetened green tea with kumquats. Her favourite food during a typhoon holiday is instant noodles.

‘This will be the day when all of God’s children will sing with new meaning: My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’

Sandy recently started a blog. Posts discuss athletic events and outdoor hikes. Photos show friends, family members, and a beagle puppy exploring mountain trails and riverbanks.

‘If America is to be a great nation this must become true.’

She sees the signal. She draws a deep breath.

‘So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

‘But not only that.’

Her eyes go to the window, then, sparkling, sweep the room.

‘Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.’

She makes no grand flourish. She confides, in words now hers.

‘When we allow freedom to ring,’ Sandy says, ‘when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will speed that day when all of God’s children will be able to join hands, and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’

Cheers erupt. Sandy bows and comes up beaming.


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2016-01-02

Thanks, Natalie

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2015-10-23

NASA's New Old Rocket

NASA press officials announced this week that the new heavy lifter for crewed missions will sport an unpainted main stage, giving the rocket a rust-orange look we've seen before in shuttle launches. From Space.com (emphases mine):

NASA's next-generation rocket has a new look.
The space agency has revealed a reworked color scheme for the Space Launch System heavy-lift booster, removing the paint from one major component . . .

Later the article states: 


Billed as the most powerful launch vehicle ever built, the SLS is NASA's first rocket to be specifically designed to support astronaut-crewed missions beyond low Earth orbit since the Saturn V that launched astronauts to the moon 45 years ago.
And it was with that iconic booster in mind that NASA first represented the SLS with a similar black-and-white motif when it announced the rocket in 2011. Now, the design is exposing its more colorful core.

An image published by NASA this week shows the 'new look'.



But how new is it? The image below, released by NASA in 2005, shows the Ares V, the heavy lifter planned for the deep-space missions of Project Constellation.



















Look familiar? The SLS is the Ares V. The Ares V is the SLS.

We heard much from Washington DC in 2009 about Project Constellation being 'cancelled'. The reality turned out to be otherwise. What really happened was that the pace of the project was slowed while its main components continued with development. These components included the heavy lifter (Ares V/SLS), the crewed spacecraft (Orion). The goal, an international mission to Mars, likewise remained the same.

Project Constellation components were simply assigned new names and logos. Amnesiac press releases then pretended no important innovations for the future of human space flight got started between 2001 and 2009.

Press patter and politics aside, the heavy lifter now said to have been 'first announced in 2011' was first announced in 2005. As the artist's renderings above illustrate, the original concept endures and has been carried forward.

The Ares V/SLS concept is a heavy lifter for deep-space missions that that re-uses familiar technology from the shuttle launch system while configuring the stack so that payloads are mounted on the top rather than the side. The liquid-fuel main stage incorporates the same type of engines used on the shuttle orbiters. This is augmented by strapped-on solid-fuel rockets that are also familiar from the shuttle launch system. This main stage supports, as needed, a second liquid-fuel stage. Depending on the configuration, a crew-rated second stage can assist in lofting an Orion spacecraft with astronauts and support systems on a direct ascent mission into deep space (shown in the 2015 image), or loft a heavy payload without astronauts into earth orbit (as shown in the 2005 image) as part of a flight plan involving earth-orbit rendezvous. The vehicle is adaptable to a variety of other missions as well. Designs for the second stage would vary as needed.

The Ares V was so named to invoke the goal of reaching Mars (the Roman name Mars corresponds to the Greek name Ares) while the V pays homage to the Saturn V moon rocket. As NASA engineers fully anticipated in 2005, the Ares V / SLS heavy lifter will sport an unpainted main stage displaying the orange colour of its insulation material.

SLS is Ares V. Project Constellation endures. Just don't call it that.

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2015-10-21

Welcome to the Future, Marty

Marty McFly and Dr Emmett Brown are due to arrive from 1985 today at 04:29 USA Pacific time.

Added by edit: Ah, they got here!
And both appear to be as baffled by 2015 as the rest of us . . .

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2015-08-01

Taiwan Beauty Snakes

Just a quick logo for a fantasy team. Pay no heed. I had to post it somewhere so we could link to it.