2014年4月30日 星期三

Second Thoughts 反思 (中)


Shortly after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, I wrote an entry in Taitung Style about nuclear power.  In this entry I was quite strenuous in my objections to nuclear power, and also in my support for those protesting against the use of nuclear power in Taiwan.  福島核災以後, 我在Taitung Style寫了一篇關於核電的文章.  我在那裡強力反對核電, 也支持反核電的人.

In the years after Fukushima, Taiwan's anti-nuclear movement has gathered strength.  The protests following Fukushima were just the beginning.  Most recently there was another mass protest in Taipei, with smaller, corresponding protests around the island.  The government has responded to these protests by halting construction of a fourth nuclear plant in New Taipei City.  福島核災的幾年, 台灣的反核運動越來越興盛了.  福島剛發生時的反核活動只是一個起點而已.  最近在台北有個大型反核活動, 在別的地方也有些比較小型的反核活動.  對此中央政府也做出回應, 決定停蓋新北市的第四核電廠.

And while I congratulate local anti-nuke protestors on their recent success, I can't help but wonder if the anti-nuclear power movement in Taiwan is a bit misguided.  I realize that such a statement sounds strange coming from me, but I'm seeing the whole issue differently now.  當我慶祝反核夥伴的成功時, 我開始思考反核運動是否有點偏離主題.  我知道看到提倡環保的我說這樣的話很奇怪, 可是我現在對核電的看法有點不同了.

You see the problem for me is climate change.  Our planet is nearing a crisis point, and we are also nearing a point of no return.  I realize that such a statement sounds melodramatic, but it's true.  We simply must do something about climate change, and Taiwan's nuclear policy has some bearing on this issue.  我思考的問題是全球氣候的改變.  我們的地球面臨了一個危機, 我們正走向一條不歸路.  我知道這種話讓人很緊張, 但它卻是一件事實.  我們非解決全球氣候改變的問題不可. 而這個問題也跟台灣核電有關係.


In order to avert irreversible climate change, we must decrease our use of fossil fuels.  We need to be looking at alternative energy sources now, and not at some point in the distant future.  Nuclear power, despite the hazardous waste it generates, would be one one of these alternative energy sources.  I don't believe that solar and wind are adequate substitutes for our dependence on fossil fuels, and nuclear power could be used to supplement other methods of generating power.  為了要避免不可逆的氣候改變, 我們必須減少利用化石燃料.  我們需要馬上找到替代能源, 不能等到很久以後的未來.  核廢料當然是個問題, 可是核電也是替代能源的其中一個.  從我們現在使用化石燃料的狀況來看, 用太陽能還是風力發電真的不夠.  核能發電可以配合另外替代能源的計畫.

Central to this issue is the question of nuclear waste.  For one thing, newer reactors don't generate as much of it, and some reactors can even harvest energy from spent fuel rods.  The problem with Taiwan's existing reactors might not be the principles upon which they operate, but rather their age and design flaws.  Perhaps, with regard to the problems of waste and potential accidents, we might instead be talking about modernizing Taiwan's nuclear industry, and not simply doing away with it altogether.  Yes, there are some serious safety concerns with regard to nuclear power, but the only alternative seems to be a continued reliance on fossil fuels, and the continued alteration of our climate.  這件事的核心問題是核廢料處置.  最新型的核反應爐不會產生那麼多的核廢料, 還有一種核反應爐甚至可以利用已使用過的燃料棒發電.  台灣現在的問題可能不是核電的問題.  而可能是已有的核反應爐太老舊或是核反應爐不是最好的.  對可能的意外發生和核廢料來說, 不是除掉核電廠的問題, 而是該設備更新及讓台灣的核能產業跟上時代的問題.  核電當然有安全性的問題, 可是捨它而選擇化石燃料卻會讓全球氣候的改變越來越大.

The question isn't only: "Can we do away with nuclear power?" but also "What are we going to replace it with?"  When you think about it, when countries such as Germany eliminate nuclear power entirely, they are contributing much more toward climate change, for the simple fact that shortages in power supplied by nuclear reactors are often dealt with through the increased use of natural gas or other, more harmful sources.  Increased austerity isn't an option for a country foregoing nuclear power, since such austerity spells economic collapse. 問題不只是"我們是否可以不用核電?" 那麼簡單. 而是"我們用什麼能源取代核電?"  例如德國, 去除核電以後還是利用化石能源, 反讓氣候改變的問題更嚴重. 現實環境中,  這些不用核能的國家通常使用更多的天然氣或其他更有害的能源. 要求每個人降低需求並不是讓國家去除核電的好方法, 因為這反而會造成經濟的損害.

Those disagreeing with me might want to look into some of the more recent developments with regard to nuclear power.  Their issues with it often reside not with the technology itself, but rather with the public implementation of this technology.  No one wants nuclear waste in their backyard, no one wants another Fukushima, but the truth about nuclear power might just be bigger than that.  不同意的朋友應該研究一下關於核電的最新發明.  可能你們抗議核電的理由是因為公共政策, 而不是因為現今的核電技術.  沒有人希望類似福島的核災再發生, 也沒有人想把核廢料放在自己的後院, 可是核電的運用可能比這二項擔憂還有意義.

I, for one, am going to withdraw many of my objections to nuclear power.  I realize that this isn't a popular position to take right now, but given what I've read about the problems of climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, and global freshwater use, I'm seeing nuclear power a lot differently.  It might just be a way out of the mess we've unwittingly created.  我不會再反對核能發電.  我知道最近這種看法不是很受歡迎, 可是我想氣候變化, 海洋酸化, 生物多樣性的喪失, 還有全球淡水使用的問題太嚴重.  我想核電有可能幫人類解決這些自造的問題.


Related Entries 相關的文章:

The Near Future in the Present Tense
Birth of a Nation?
Semicoherent Thoughts on China
Taiwan by the Numbers: People

2014年4月18日 星期五

A Scriptural Exegesis of Longman 8*


In my school we use the Longman English textbooks for fifth and sixth grade.  The fifth graders study Longman 5 and 6, and the sixth graders study Longman 7 and 8.  I've been constructing lessons around these textbooks for nearly five years, so I have them just about memorized.

In the Longman 8 textbook** there is a weird little comic strip/conversation centered around the days of the week.  In this conversation the character Nett meets with "Dr. Good," and the two talk about Dr. Good's weekly schedule.  Dr. Good is portrayed as a godlike figure, sitting at a desk in the clouds.  Their conversation is as follows:

Nett: This is PET News.  Hello, Dr. Good!
[Nett is speaking to Dr. Good from a screen]
Dr. Good: Good morning, young man.  What's your name?
[Nett emerges from the screen]
Nett: I'm Nett.  Nice to meet you!
Dr. Good: Nice to meet you, too.
Nett: Dr. Good, what do you do on Monday?
Dr. Good: I go to see the sun and the moon on Monday.
[Dr. Good and the sun exchange greetings]
Dr. Good: How are you?
Sun: I'm fine, Dr. Good!
Nett: Cool!  What do you do on Tuesday?
Dr. Good: I exercise on Tuesday.
[Dr. Good is standing upon the Earth, lifting a weight in one hand and a storm cloud in the other]
Nett: Great!  What do you do on Wednesday?
Dr. Good: I buy food at the supermarket.
[Dr. Good is holding a basket of produce, and he is reaching for an apple]
Nett: How about Thursday?
Dr. Good: I have math class on Thursday.
[Dr. Good is wearing glasses and holds a book.  He is standing in front of a class]
Students: WE LOVE MATH!!
Nett: I don't like math!  I like PE class.  Do you have PE class?
Dr. Good: Yes, I do.  I play baseball on Friday.
[Dr. Good is the pitcher in a baseball game, and he hands the batter a home run]
Nett: That's fun!  I like baseball, too.  What do you do on Saturday?
Dr. Good: I make snacks on Saturday.
[Dr. Good is shown pulling several cookies from the oven, all of which look like Nett]
Nett: What do you do on Sunday?
Dr. Good: I don't go out on Sunday!  I'm too tired!
[Dr. Good reclines on a chair]
Nett: Me, too.  Thank you for your time, Dr. Good.  See you!

Now of course after reading this conversation I start to wonder what this exchange might mean if "Dr. Good" was really "Dr. God."  If some future race of humanoids*** unearth the Longman 8 textbook from the archaelogical treasures that will come to represent our time period, what lessons will they draw from this text?  What ideas will they formulate about our species?

Let us say, for example, that the future humanoids unearth a very tattered, almost unidentifiable copy of Longman 8, with only Unit 2 in a readable condition.  If they are able to read its contents, won't they tend to view it as some kind of religious primer, some kind of introduction to a lost faith?

It is with such a possibility in mind that I now proceed to an exegesis of Nett's conversation with "Dr. Good."  I am writing this exegesis in the hope that these future humanoids will also have access to a few websites, or my laptop computer.  Perhaps they will even thank me, a voice speaking from several centuries or several millennia before the future present age, for my attempt to make their distant past much clearer.

[Future humanoids, you are welcome.]

Verse 1:
Nett: This is PET News.  Hello, Dr. Good!

[Nett is speaking to Dr. Good from a screen]
Dr. Good: Good morning, young man.  What's your name?

Theological Import: Nett is able to communicate with the godhead directly, perhaps with the aid of a quantum computer, or through the use of a hallucinogenic substance which triggers this vision.    Nett wishes to spread God's message (the "News") to the people of the world, and Nett wishes to impart the news that God is benevolent (polite).  

God appears to Nett as an older Caucasian male sitting at a desk.  But God could have just as easily appeared as a pillar of fire, as a boy like himself, or as any other referent drawn from Nett's consciousness.  God's appearance in this instance may only be a reflection of Nett's continued search for a father figure.

God is certainly an elevated being, but His ignorance of Nett's name is telling.  Or does the divinity already know Nett's name?  Perhaps He is only asking for the sake of conversation.  It is possible that God has known the substance of this conversation since the beginning of the cosmos - or even earlier - and that He is only "playing along,"  or finds it necessary to imitate human ignorance in order to facilitate communication.

The words that comprise God's honorific, "Dr." and "Good" are also significant.  "Dr." in this case refers to the exalted nature of the divine, and "Good" implies the beneficial nature of this knowledge.

Verse 2:
[Nett emerges from the screen]
Nett: I'm Nett.  Nice to meet you!
Dr. Good: Nice to meet you, too.

Theological Import: Nett is either able to transcend the original boundaries of his vision, or he is able to transport himself into higher dimensional space during the course of this interaction.  God affirms His benevolence by stating His appreciation of Nett's presence/existence.  From this we may determine that God takes joy in His creations.

Verse 3:
Nett: Dr. Good, what do you do on Monday?
Dr. Good: I go to see the sun and the moon on Monday.

Theological Import: God is in some sense bounded by time, or else he chooses to participate in the flow of chronological events.  God is moreover able to "witness" the sun and the moon as discrete objects, bounded by the same chronological flow that is one of the defining characteristics of Nett's existence.  And what are we to make of the verb used, "to see"?  I will leave future theologians to decide whether the verb used refers simply to the act of perception, or to the use of physical organs of sight.

"Verse" 4:
[Dr. Good and the sun exchange greetings]

Theological Import: The sun, imbued with consciousness, is able to communicate with the godhead.  Their method of communication is portrayed as a verbal exchange, though the artist may have engaged in a kind of iconography here.  As the sun is in a sense defined as a consciousness apart from humanity, one may theorize as to the existence of multiple deities, or of individuals operating at higher and lower levels of consciousness.

Verse 5:
Dr. Good: How are you?
Sun: I'm fine, Dr. Good!

Theological Import: Defining what the sun means by "fine" is tricky.  I am inclined to the position that the sun means "content," meaning that the sun is at peace with its presence and function in the scheme of things.  Again, one wonders whether Dr. Good's question implicates an imperfect knowledge of the universe, or a desire to engage in polite conversation.  If the former is true, Dr. Good may represent a lesser order of reality, set apart from the true source of creation.  If the latter is true, this might go some way to illuminating the nature of evil and Man's ability to "sin," or to transgress the bounds placed upon mankind by God.

Verse 6:
Nett: Cool!  What do you do on Tuesday?
Dr. Good: I exercise on Tuesday.
[Dr. Good is standing upon the Earth, lifting a weight in one hand and a storm cloud in the other] 

Theological Import: I believe the "exercise" referred to in this passage extends from the origin point of the creation to the end of days.  This is unless the universe is timeless, or if we are confronted by an endless succession of universes, each limited by a specific chronology.  God "exercises" or acts not only on Tuesday but on every day, right back to the beginning of the world.  The artist's rendering may represent a symbolic interpretation of Nett's transcendental experience, thus revealing the limitations of verbal or pictorial accounts of such experiences.

Verse 7:
Nett: Great!  What do you do on Wednesday?
Dr. Good: I buy food at the supermarket.
[Dr. Good is holding a basket of produce, and he is reaching for an apple] 

Theological Import: Nett rejoices in God's ceaseless activity.  God moreover reveals his ability to take human form and to engage in human activities.  The apple used is meaningful, and certainly points toward the fruit described in Genesis.  God, in taking the apple, advances into a knowledge of both good and evil, yet in so doing He limits Himself to the sphere of human events.

Verse 8:
Nett: How about Thursday?
Dr. Good: I have math class on Thursday.
[Dr. Good is wearing glasses and holds a book.  He is standing in front of a class]
Students: WE LOVE MATH!!

Theological Import: This might be the most important message to be found in this text.  In teaching His disciples to embrace a mathematical understanding of the world, God reveals that the universe also operates on such principles.  The students, in turn, celebrate God's revelation and seek to cultivate a better understanding of the subject.  A universe that proceeds along mathematical principles can be apprehended by human reason, though this apprehension must begin with the initial revelation provided by God.

Verse 9:
Nett: I don't like math!  I like PE class.  Do you have PE class?
Dr. Good: Yes, I do.  I play baseball on Friday.
[Dr. Good is the pitcher in a baseball game, and he throws the batter a home run] 

Theological Import: Nett, overcome by the intensity of his experience, rejects the knowledge offered by God.  In this context Nett becomes an apostate figure, or perhaps even a kind of fallen angel.  Even though God and Nett can share in the joy of physical activity (in this case baseball), Nett rejects a deeper understanding of God's plan.  

God, in allowing the batter a home run, demonstrates his compassion.

Verse 10:
Nett: That's fun!  I like baseball, too.  What do you do on Saturday?
Dr. Good: I make snacks on Saturday.
[Dr. Good is shown pulling several cookies from the oven, all of which look like Nett]

Theological Import: This section offers a powerful alternative to the creation myth seen in other faiths throughout history, though the implications are a bit unsettling.  In revealing His "cookies," God also reveals that He is Nett's creator and the author of other individuals like Nett.  Yet to whom is God offering the "cookies"?  Will God himself consume these "cookies"?  Is God drawing sustenance from his creation in this manner?  Such a scenario may explain the mortality of God's creations, in that He must reabsorb their spiritual energies in a continual act of (re)generation.  God, in this instance, is either not omnipotent or he has placed limits on his own omnipotence, and thus the size of the physical universe.

Verse 11:
Nett: What do you do on Sunday?
Dr. Good: I don't go out on Sunday!  I'm too tired!
[Dr. Good reclines on a chair]
Nett: Me, too.  Thank you for your time, Dr. Good.  See you!

Theological Import: God must "rest" on Sunday.  This use of "rest" in the text, like the use of the verb "to see" is problematic.  We might interpret "rest" as meaning either "taking time to replenish one's energies" or "to retire from the world."  I am inclined toward the second definition, given that it is in keeping with the apple presented in Verse 7.  God, in allowing his creatures a measure of free will, must remove Himself from either a certain percentage of physical space or a certain span of time.  In this He allows for the existence of evil, and the choice between righteousness and error.

Nett's phrase, "Thank you for your time" is also significant, again indicating God's identity as the source of time itself.  It may also indicate God's willingness to compromise Himself by existing in a temporal state.  The final phrase of the conversation, "See you later," might refer to future visions or conversations, Nett's mortality and ultimate re-absorption into the godhead, or an apocalyptic event removed from the present discussion.

...and lest you think I'm making mountains out of molehills, let us remember that in the very small we find the likenesses of the very large, and that God's own imprint can be found in the tiniest particle, or the most recent English textbook by Longman, whatever the case may be.  It is indeed a world without end.

Amen.


Related Entries:

There are no related entries for this one, because my mental collapse occurred only yesterday.  Mixing the sane and the insane is a dangerous business, and is apt to jeopardize your own well being. For this reason I will not refer you to anything written before this point, and I instead encourage you to go somewhere scenic, perhaps enjoy a coffee, and to erase from your mind the infectious musings of an unbalanced person.

End Notes:

* This is the abbreviated version.  The expanded version will appear in my 10-volume "Longman's Path to Salvation," to be released shortly before my death in a freak accident involving a hot air balloon and a busload of gerbils, sometime in 2094.

** Pages 18-20 in the newest version.

*** No disrespect to other lifeforms.  These future archaeologists and/or theologians might more closely resemble insects, or their chemistry might not be based around carbon at all.  They might instead work on an entirely different set of principles, and be viewing our universe from a higher dimension or an alternate spacetime.

**** By the way, science fiction author Philip K. Dick did a similar sort of exegesis after his "VALIS" experience.  The main difference being that Dick was, arguably, mentally disturbed at the time.  He wasn't seeing God in English textbooks, but he did at one point believe that an extraterrestrial intelligence was beaming signals into his brain.  Check out the books "VALIS," "Radio Free Albemuth," and "The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick" if you're interested.

2014年4月11日 星期五

The Near Future in the Present Tense

Every month or so we get a newsletter from the Taitung County Government 台東縣政府.  This newsletter is a platform for the County Magistrate, Justin Hwang 黃建庭 to announce his administration's recent achievements, and to discuss issues pertinent to the ongoing development of Taitung County.

Below are some points taken from this newsletter.  All of these points have to do with recent or soon-to-be-realized developments in Taitung County.  They might also serve as an outline of how Taitung will change in the near future.


Taitung's garbage incinerator

1. The Maintenance of the Garbage Incinerator 焚化爐

Some local history: as the landfill near Shan Li 山里 neared capacity, Taitung County began shipping its garbage to Pingtung County 屏東縣.  Pingtung County charges a fee for this service, and the county responded to this fee by charging private businesses a fee relative to the amount of garbage they produce.  This added fee has gone a long way towards reducing waste in the area.

There are many environmental concerns surrounding this incinerator, though it has never, to my knowledge, been used.  While this incinerator is NOT being used, the Taitung County Government is paying for its upkeep.  When you think about it, Taitung is paying twice to dispose of garbage outside the county - once to the Pingtung County Government, and once to maintain an incinerator that is not being used.

Tai Ping River and bridge spanning Jung Hua Road

2. Development of Areas Near the Tai Ping River 太平溪

Many sites have been developed, or are being developed for recreational use.  These sites include the riverbanks near Jung Hua Road 中華路, that weird beehive thing in the Seashore Park 海濱公園的國際地標, an ocean trail 太平洋步道, new sidewalks downtown 騎樓整平, the bike trail that loops around the city 通學步道, the sugar factory 台東糖廠, and the municipal swimming pool 湧泉運動公園.  While I applaud these achievements, some of them were completed so long ago that I'm not sure why they were included in this newsletter. 

Showtime Cineplex

3. More Jobs

There is a list of hotels and other businesses offering employment opportunities in Taitung County.  There are 36 businesses on this list, and the biggest employer (by far) is the Showtime Cineplex 秀太影城 downtown.  Almost all the other entries are hotels, with a KTV and a few (evil!) coral outlets thrown in for good measure. It should be added that many of these jobs pay extremely low wages. 

Train for the new Puyuma line

4. The Completion of the Puyuma Line 普悠瑪號 and Improved Rail Service

With the completion of the new Puyuma line, travel time between Taipei and Taitung will be reduced by about an hour, from 4 and 1/2 hours to 3 and 1/2 hours.  The Rift Valley 花東鐵路 and Southern Cross-Island 南迴 sections of the railway will also switch to electric power. 

Da Wu Fishing Port

5. Promotion and Infrastructure for Local Industries

There will be a new system for ordering local goods online.  In true Taitung fashion, no web address for this "system" was included.  Smaller access roads have also been built in agricultural areas, improving transport of local produce.  The Taitung County Government has also been working to improve several fishing ports in places such as Da Wu 大武, Chang Bin 長濱, and Fu Gang 富岡. 

Deconstruction of the Kai Feng Bridge

6. Other Projects

Other projects include the widening of the Kai Feng Bridge 開封橋, improved bus service to tourist areas, improved waste water treatment in Jer Ben 知本, a new library and athletic center (Where?  It doesn't say!), a new center for aboriginal crafts, a new park/recreation center at the present location of the Railway Art Village 鐵花村, an emergency medical center on the Southern Cross-Island Highway 南迴公路, free wireless internet service at select locations, and several other projects.

And that, my friends, is what the near future holds for Taitung.  As for the distant future, your guess is as good as mine.

Related Entries:

Nightlife in Taitung City 台東的夜生活 (中)
Not So Festive Lanterns
Goodbye to San Shang 三商再見 (中)
Water Running Up 水往上流

2014年4月6日 星期日

A Boat and Many Oysters 在台南坐船及吃牡蠣的旅程 (中)

We had a good time in Tainan two weeks ago.  After I ran the Tainan "Old Captial" Marathon we drove up to Chi Gu, north of the city, and took in some of the sights.  我們二個禮拜前去台南玩得很開心.  我跑完台南的古都馬拉松後, 去台南的北邊七股看風景.

I have also discussed this area in the Historic Tainan 台南 1 entry.  As you can probably tell, I'm quite fond of this area.  我在Historic Tainan 台南 1那篇文章中討論過這個地區.  我對這個地區很有興趣.


This is the place where we took the boat tour.  There are many such places in the area.  A boat ride, and all the oysters you can eat within 30 minutes costs 330 NT a person.  這是我們坐船的地方.  七股還有其他類似的地方.  每張船票和30分鐘內吃到飽的牡蠣是330元.


My younger daughter on the boat, just before we started our tour of the bay.  No, she doesn't usually look so much like a squirrel. 這是船要開前照的.  她是我的小女兒.  她平常不是長的那麼像松鼠的.


On our way down the river.  A couple of local fishermen.  船行時在那附近的漁夫.


Docking at the island on the other side of the bay.  船到河口另外一邊的小島.


Small stand selling seafood on the island.  It's nice to have fish here, but many of the customers leave their garbage all over the island.  島上賣海鮮的小店.  在這裡吃海鮮是滿好玩的事情, 可是吃完以後很多顧客亂丟他們的垃圾.


View from the beach, looking east.  The other side was prettier, but the sun there was too bright for my camera.  從小島的沙灘往東邊看.  小島的另外一邊比較漂亮, 可是那邊的陽光太亮.  我的照相機拍不出來那邊的風景.


One of our tour guides pulling up some oysters.  The oysters are grown on long wires suspended from the bamboo.  我們的導遊正要拉幾串牡蠣上來.  牡蠣是串在竹子下面的線長大的.


After our boat ride, barbecuing oysters.  After this it was back in the car, and also back to the city.  It was a good trip, and I look forward to going back to Tainan someday soon!  坐船結束後就是烤牡蠣了.  之後我們開回市區.  這一次的旅程玩得很盡興.  有機會, 我還想去台南.

Related Entries 相關的文章:


Mixing Memories
Hengchun's "Old City" 恆春古城 (中)
Nightlife in Taitung City 台東的夜生活 (中)
Not So Festive Lanterns