Saturday, October 25, 2014

Green Island—relaxing springs, grueling prisons


To get to Green Island you can take a plane or boat from the Taiwan mainland at Taitung. It takes about 40 minutes by boat. Several of the passengers in my group felt nauseous from the choppiness of the ride. I felt fine.

After we arrived on Green Island most chose to take the diving tour,. I rode the glass bottom boat with my oldest nephew. After dinner and a bit of souvenir shopping, we bedded down early. In the morning we would watch the sunrise from Zhaori Saltwater Hot Springs.

We rode our rented scooters in quiet darkness half-way around the tiny island to the hot springs. There was a brief wait to enter the resort since a popular activity on Green Island is watching the sunrise from Zhaori Saltwater Hot Springs.

According to its website, Green Island is one of only three places on Earth where saltwater hot springs are found. We bathed in all three of the seaside pools, enjoying their different levels of warmth and salinity. Although there were many of us bathing in the pre-dawn light, people spoke quietly and I felt at peace.

The sunrise was spectacular, just enough cloud cover to ensure a richness of colors.

Before leaving Green Island, we visited its Human Rights Culture Park, parts of which formerly housed political prisoners. Opened in 2001, the park commemorates the many years Taiwan spent under martial law, and the many voices suppressed during that period.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Road to Mount Evans


We were driving up the bare, winding road that leads to the peak of Mount Evans. The passenger by my side was from another country, although her English was quite good. Looking at the granite boulders strewn all about us, I observed, “All this granite was imported from Italy.”

“Really?” she said before realizing that I was joking.

This wasn’t my first trip up Mount Evans. Although it’s familiar, it’s also unpredictable. It could be sunny, cloudy, or even snowing in mid-summer. You’ll probably see a marmot or two, but you may, or may not, see bighorn sheep or mountain goats.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The right attitude

Moving from one urgent matter to the next, it's easy to develop an inflated notion of self-importance.

Consider that the Earth was here long before you arrived and will be here long after you're gone.

Consider, too, that the Earth is only one of the Sun's planets, and that the Sun is only one star among the 200 billion in our galaxy. Our galaxy is only one among 200 billion galaxies.

I sat down on a rock to rest after a steep climb in Rocky Mountain National Park. A camera dangled from my neck. A ground squirrel stood near my feet and ignored me.

Perhaps it was too busy to be afraid of me. I'll never know. I took its picture. It neither knew, nor cared. Within moments it was called away on urgent business.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Israel 172, Hamas 0



In the latest round of fighting, Israel has scored 172 fatalities. Hamas has scored zip. It looks like Israel is winning. Hamas fires rockets. Israel shoots them down. Then they retaliate by bombing buildings.

Living space is at a premium in the Gaza Strip. The last thing the Palestinians need is fewer buildings. Yet Israel keeps knocking them down. Israel claims to defend itself in a humane manner. Hell, Israel even warns the Palestinians before they knock down their buildings.

But humane is not a word that fittingly describes life in the Gaza Strip. It's cramped, unemployment is high, travel is restricted, and goods are scarce. While the Palestinians are not blameless, neither are the Israelis. Knocking down buildings and killing innocent non-combatants is not helping things. Maybe it's time for Netanyahu to try something new—something constructive instead of destructive.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

For whom the bell (ringtone) tolls

Political pollsters phoned me five times in the last two days. So far, I‘ve refused to answer their questions. But they‘re starting to wear me down. I hope I can hold out long enough to deliver a warning.

One must not answer questions asked by political pollsters. Should you do so, they will hunt you down, brainwash you, and force you to vote for idiots. They may even get you to contribute to the campaign coffers of those same idiots.

If you feel you must answer their questions, then by all means, lie. The nature of their questions provides hints regarding what they want you to believe. Tell them what they want to hear. If they think you’ll be voting for their idiots, they may leave you alone. If you receive follow-up calls asking for money, tell them that you’ve already contributed the maximum amount allowed by law. They may believe you. If they don’t, ask, “Are you calling me a liar?” That always makes them defensive. No one likes to be called a liar, least of all liars. If you follow this advice, you may survive the next election. Good luck.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tastier than rhubarb pie

Legitimacy
M.H. Van Keuren
Fiction 650 pages
CreateSpace, 2013

At 650 pages, a story becomes too lengthy, unless it’s skillfully told. And this book is very skillfully told. The characters and the future setting are believable and the story is interesting.

Part of this novel is set in space, however no light sabers are drawn and no ray guns fired. Indeed, the only instances of violence occur not in space, but in a Bangkok boxing gym and over breakfast in a refugee camp. Large battles are planned and fought, but the action doesn’t occur on battlefields. And the enemies do not readily show themselves. They mostly lurk unseen in cyberspace.

In some ways, Teague Werres, with his robotic lemur, reminds me of an early William Gibson cyberpunk. However, Teague is very much his own man, not Gibson’s. Son of American missionaries and self-raised in Bangkok, Teague is street smart and ambitious. Presented with an opportunity to study far from Earth, Teague finds himself among the wealthy and influential. If he is clever and lucky, he’ll survive with his integrity intact and avoid becoming their pawn.

Compared to Teague, Rob is less complex. He is somewhat naive, under-ambitious, and loves liquor too much. Yet his heart is pure. Before the two are through with each other, Rob and Teague will interact in complex ways leading to unexpected conclusions for both. The book ends where it should, however there remains much to learn about the fate of the two men. I hope there’s a sequel, and soon, because I really want to know what happens next.

I liked Van Keuren’s first book, Rhubarb very well. However, I enjoyed Legitimacy even more. While Rhubarb is a satirical romp, Legitimacy is wholly serious. While Rhubarb describes a simple man’s desire for romance and escape from a dead-end job, Legitimacy is more fleshed out and philosophical. Both books involve conspiracies. The one in Rhubarb involves space aliens, while the conspiracy in Legitimacy involves humans. You can imagine which conspiracy is more frightening. That’s right, people can do really scary things. What’s worse is that they can be subtle in how they go about it. This was an intriguing book. Like rhubarb pie, Van Keuren is addicting.

About Me

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David Loeff (pronounced Lef) is an author and graphic designer. His freelance services include conversion of manuscripts into eBooks, photo retouching, book design, etc.

Dave worked domestically in the sewn goods industry, before he became a buyer in Taiwan. He subsequently worked as a mental health clinician, technical writer, computer technician, and graphic designer.

In addition to fiction, Dave writes about graphics, travel, and other topics. His website is  http://truthandtalltales.com.