Old Taiwan


February 8, 2015 10:24 PM

An old street sign in Tainan
An old street sign in Tainan

Taiwan is a developed nation that has managed to maintain its historic charm, especially outside of Taipei. These are some of the things that I saw and liked.

Jiufen is a good example of that old world charm. A former gold mine in the mountains just outside of Taipei (technically still part of the city), it takes two buses to get up there – one to the mid point, and then sanctioned shuttle buses that ferry visitors to the top. This is because the roads are narrow and there are very limited parking spots at the top.

What can you do up there? Eat!

This is a noodle shop.

A photo posted by Marcus Ooi (@real_mooiness) on

And the interior looks like this.

A steaming vat of tea eggs.

This is a street scene in Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan. What gives the entire place character is that most buildings appears to be no higher than 10 floors, allowing plenty of sunshine and views of the sky.

Of course, there are parts of Taiwan that are REALLY old. The Taroko National Park is truly magnificent.

Nature is awesome like that.

I intend to visit Taiwan again, and the plan is to focus more on the old stuff because I can’t get enough of it. :)

Urban Taiwan


January 3, 2015 12:12 PM

A
A “Help Wanted” sign outside a restaurant in Taiwan

As you might have gathered from my last post, I loved my trip to Taiwan. The people were friendly and outside of Singapore and Malaysia, I felt that they were the most culturally similar to my family out of all the Chinese speaking places that I have been to. And being an urban creature, I loved taking in the street scenes and buildings. Here’s a sample of what I saw.

I will follow up this post later with one showing the older side of Taiwan.

Until then, here’s me hugging a giant stone penis in Alishan.

No Fate But What We Make


December 30, 2014 10:46 PM

Anytime there’s a disaster of any kind, man-made or natural, I see a lot of exhortations to pray. I am going to be callous here and call bullshit on that.

I don’t believe in prayers because I don’t believe in God. If there is a God though, I don’t think He has a plan for us. God is like a kid and we are like ants in his ant farm. I don’t think He is benevolent because bad things happen to good people all the time. However, I don’t think He is necessarily evil either in the sense that a kid that uses a magnifying glass to burn the ants does not know that what he is doing is evil. For example, shitty and catastrophic weather is not evil – it just happens.

Whilst He may be fascinated by our freewill, one that He has so generously gifted us I don’t think He cares one way or another if any individual one of us lives or dies. But somehow He cares who gets to enter heaven? This brings up another bugbear of mine with monotheistic religions.

If good people die early so that they can join God in heaven, then God is selfish because surely a good person can do a whole lot of good amongst the living, right?

If good people, along with the bad, the not-so-bad and the occasionally naughty ones die together in the same random events, then God is not a just God.

And if babies and children die before they can even be deemed good or bad, and if they die in the womb or if their mother dies in childbirth, how is that a plan?

How are people being born into, and living and dying in war zones through no fault of their own a good plan?

No, there is no plan. If He exists, He doesn’t care. There is just chaos and randomness and whilst we all spin around together on a little blue planet in one of many vast universes, we have only each other. We try to enforce structure and order where we can and live the best that we can, and if we are good and most of us are, we try not to be evil assholes who ruin someone else’s life along the way. If we are really good, we go beyond that and actually help others live a better life too.

The natural state of the universe tends towards increased entropy, ie. randomness. Like all life on this planet, we live and then we die. Some of us are lucky to die old, whilst some are taken away too soon. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Where we do have control is how we live the life that we are given, once we are able to comprehend the difference between being a good person and a shitty one. Don’t do something because you think God would approve and you will get to go to heaven. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.

So next time there’s a disaster, don’t pray – do something more practical instead.

Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam
He sure has inspired a lot of awesome art though

Going home in three different places


December 2, 2014 8:49 PM

In November, my leave from work took me back to Perth for a week, Taiwan for 9 days and KL for 2 days. During this time, it felt like I was going home in three different places.

Perth

Snoop

Home is where my family is. I had not planned on going back to Perth this time as I was already planning to go back during the Christmas break. But Snoop’s surgery to remove some cancerous lumps compelled me to want to see him as much as I can. He is a 14 year old dog and our time together is limited, even more so now that I’m living in Melbourne.

I’m glad I made this trip back – seeing him bouncing around like nothing has happened put my mind at ease.

During the week here, I also caught up with all of my friends which I thought was quite impressive (yes, I’m saying that I have a lot of friends :P). And I got to spend time with mom and dad and Marvin. I like my life in Melbourne but I will always miss my people in Perth. Thankfully Whatsapp and Facebook makes it feel like that they are just there.

Taiwan

Tainan old street

Home is where my cultural roots are. I have been to cities in China – Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Now that I’ve been to Taiwan I can honestly say that I feel more at home there than those other cities. Outside of Singapore and Penang, which also have an ethnic Chinese majority, I can now add Taiwan to the list of places that I feel very comfortable being in. I felt that the people are friendlier than those in China and Hong Kong, and it also helped that in addition to Mandarin, most people also speak the dialect that both sides of my family speak – Hokkien.

Hearing it widely spoken evokes memories of my family and childhood, and feelings of warmth. It was very intangible but very comfortable. The look and feel of Tainan especially, a city south of the capital Taipei, are very similar to the older corners of Singapore and Penang. And the street food is equally delicious.

Taiwan will deserve another post from me here, with more photos. :)

Kuala Lumpur

Here on a whirlwind stop and spotted this. #wheninmalaysia

A photo posted by Marcus Ooi (@real_mooiness) on

Home is where I was born and had spent 14 years growing up in. Although the racial politics depresses me whenever I read about it, and I don’t foresee myself ever living here again, there was still something making me feel at home here. It’s not the maddening traffic, nor the heat and humidity. I’m guessing that it must be the food even though we can get very authentic and very good Malaysian food outside of Malaysia these days.

There was something intangibly comforting about eating Malaysian food in Malaysia, and seeing Malaysians of all races enjoying each other’s food. That gives me hope that someday like the food, the politics will follow suit and be less divisive, and be more binding and uniting.

And I also quite like that upon seeing my place of birth on my Australian passport, the customs officials will immediately switch to speaking Malay with me. A few broken phrases of Malay from me, and they smile and I smile. :)

And the sun comes out


October 12, 2014 9:11 PM

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Sun shiny day.

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We have transitioned into spring in Australia, and the weather in Melbourne has gotten warmer but no less schizophrenic – the sun can be shining on you warmly and along comes a cold blast of air. The questions of whether to bring a jacket out, and when you are out whether to keep it on or take it off are persistent ones. I’m still getting used to it all.

During the winter months I’m certained that I went through a mild case of the SADs (seasonal affective disorder). I’ll be lethargic, and I’ll be depressed without knowing why or have a reason to. However, there was one legitimate reason in July and that was when we found out Snoop had multiple lumps on his body. Over the next few weeks after that, although I was not a mess I was not my usual happy self. And the way I usually handle my depression is not the easiest on myself as I prefer to deal with it on my own and at home – I don’t show it to friends and colleagues.

But good news is, our vet recommended a surgery specialist (yes, for pets!) and after two rounds of surgery we got all the lumps out – the first one cut out the obvious ones with an X-Ray taken to guide the surgeon to clean out the rest during the second one. I think I’ve mentioned the importance of pet insurance before because it’s really worth it. I ended up paying about $6000 and that’s roughly half of the actual bill. The price of unconditional love, right? And I will get to see him soon when I go back to Perth for a week next month. :)

July was also the month I started my new job and I’m happy to say that I’m really loving it. The work is varied, and I am trusted with and get to recommend IT-related stuff. Best of all the people are awesome. And I’m not gonna lie – the fact that there are more females in the office really livens up my work day. Only downside? Formal business attire means not-so comfortable shoes and more laundry and ironing. Small price for a more satisfying work life and a happier me during the work day.

Plus my social network has expanded and is still growing. So yeah I’m glad that the sun has come out – in more ways than one.

Sunny Melbourne

Well, this is awkward


September 7, 2014 4:02 PM

Well, this is awkward
(source)

As I age gracefully into my 40s, my skin has become thicker and I’m no longer mortified by situations that used to be awkward especially when they involve women. My reaction to them these days is always “fuck it” but back then, not so much. Here are some recollections that I have not painfully scrubbed from my mind … yet.

  • As boys are wont to do, we behaved strangely with girls that we like. We might tease them more and be more mean towards them than normal. I was like that with a girl until she caught me in a stairwell one day and asked me straight up, “what’s going on?” I reacted with feelings of incredulity (how can you not know?!) and yelled “because I like you!” Till this day, I remember this because lightning cracked and the skies started pissing themselves laughing. I’m not kidding.
  • I once said to my crush at the time, “so I heard you got a boyfriend now”. She looked at the guy next to her and said, “yeah this is him”. Ermahgerd. Where’s the nearest hole I can crawl into?
  • I made the error of breaking up with a girl on campus instead of off campus because I then had to walk back into the lunch hall and catch the death stares from her and all her friends. The breakup was pleasant in comparison to that.
  • Happily arranged a dinner date with a girl that I thought was interested, and then showing up to the place to see her sitting with two male friends. At least one of them was sympathetic. He said to me, “this was meant to be a date, huh?” Thanks for feeling me, my brother.

Yes, some of the women above may read this but I would like to think that they will be able to laugh with me about it. Otherwise, well … this is awkward.

Why pirating movies and TV shows in Australia is easier than doing the right thing


August 2, 2014 2:00 PM

The World's End movie poster

In the news lately there was this item about how the government is contemplating how it can reduce and prevent instances of copyright infringement, most notably when it comes to TV shows and movies.

Australia floats website blocks and ISP liability to stop copyright thieves The Register.

As you might know, Australia is the biggest offender when it comes to doing the torrent thing:

Who's Pirating Game of Thrones, And Why? | TorrentFreak.
What Those Breaking Bad Piracy Statistics Actually Say | Lifehacker Australia.

So i recently conducted a study on why this is so using a very definitive and comprehensive sample size of one: me trying to rent and stream the 2013 movie “The World’s End“, and my only criteria is to be able to quickly rent and watch it when I want to watch it. That is, RIGHT NOW.

In Australia currently, these are the ways that you can watch a movie legally online or on your TV:

  • Free-to-air. Downside: erm, how long do I have to wait after it was released? Next.
  • Subscribe to Foxtel. Downside: pay a monthly bill of at least $74 to get their movie package which gives you access to other channels too granted but you cannot pick and choose which channels – they are bundled together, whether you want them or not. And you can’t rent just one movie. Next.
  • Subscribe to Quickflix. Downside: having to pay $14.95 monthly whether you wanted to watch a movie or not; can’t rent a single movie or pay as you go. Next.
  • Bigpond Movies. This looks more promising – you can rent individual movies without monthly access fees or charges. Bonus if you are a Bigpond customer as the download/streaming will not eat into your data allowance. This goes on the shortlist.
  • iTunes. Also promising – movies can be rented individually. Added to the shortlist.

A comprehensive read:
Australia's Best (Legal) Online Movie Services | Gizmodo Australia.

Now the fun begins. I went onto Bigpond Movies and this movie is not in their catalogue. Son, I’m disappoint. So then I went into the iTunes store and found the movie. The movie is available to be purchased but the “Rent” option was not available for it like it is for other movies. More disappoint.

What is the deal here? I’m sure I’ve read this somewhere before but I couldn’t find something online to back this up so this is purely how I remembered it – movies are released to the cinemas first, then to DVDs and DVD rentals, then to pay-per-view/Foxtel and then to free-to-air TV.

I do not know how online rentals figure into this but I suspect that here in Australia at least, it is after Foxtel has squeezed all revenue potential out of a movie first. So theoretically, online rentals are available before free-to-air but only after Foxtel has aired the movie. For how long, I don’t know.

And just to confirm that this is the case, I searched for another movie that was released around the same time, “This Is The End” and found the same thing – I can buy it but I couldn’t rent it.

Frustrated, I typed in “the world’s end torrent” and BAM – options aplenty. I can neither confirm nor deny that I then proceeded to torrent the shit out of it, but instant gratification was achieved albeit with a short delay of about an hour while it downl … *ahem* I said nothing, you saw nothing, move along now.

Yes I know that I could have possibly rented the movie by walking into an actual video rental place (remember those?) but:

  1. I have to find one near my place
  2. I have to get out of the house
  3. I will have to look around the shelves for it – it ain’t a new release so it would be tucked away somewhere not obvious
  4. FFS, I’m tired already.

So I’m very glad to hear that Malcolm Turnbull agree that the content providers are making it all too hard for people who want to do the right thing in Australia.

Turnbull to Big Content: Let your movies RUN FREE … for a fair price The Register

One last thing: sorry Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost, I really wanted to give you $5.99 to enjoy your movie.