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Meat transportation in Taiwan (on a scooter?)

Spotted this guy driving through central Toufen in Miaoli one weekday morning.


Calm as you like, riding along with a tub full of chicken carcasses and what looked like pork on the back of his scooter. [Continue reading...]

Curbside Bamboo

Depending on where you are in Taiwan, one of the best times to head for a meal is the early afternoon.

People tend to follow a set routine here, and more often then not that gap between lunch and dinner is a lull.

On this particular occasion I’d just parked the scooter to the side of the road and was looking forward to a nice bowl of beef noodles.

I’d parked in backwards and once I was satisfied I was far enough away from the nearby cars, flicked the ignition and hopped off.

Pulling off my helmet I then noticed bits of yellow strewn out all over the curb.


At first I thought it was some sort of rubbish… then it dawned on me. I was looking at someone’s attempts to dry bamboo.


Shit just got weird. [Continue reading...]

Shimano Tiagra Triple Front Derailleur failure @ 24,400 kms


A few weeks ago I noticed my front derailleur had stopped working.

I rarely change my front gear but noticed that the cable looked a bit saggy. The derailleur was on the right gear (I primarily use the middle), but when I went to shift the lever it only slightly made a difference to the cable tension.

Looking down I then realised the derailleur tension had gone.

The chain held on the middle chainring so I put it into the “I’ll investigate this later” basket. That time came around last weekend, when I decided it was time to do my six-month bicycle cleanout/maintenance.

Not really familiar with the workings of a derailleur (flip the gear knob, it moves), it took me a while to figure out what had happened. [Continue reading...]

Zhunan Train Station, Miaoli

Zhunan Train Station is the major train station between Miaoli and Hsinchu stations.

Not quite a “city” station, it’s still a step up from the little township stations you’ll fly by if you’re not on a local train (and if you are, god help you – those things are slow!).

In the time that I’ve been here, the station has been renovated twice – they spent ages doing the front and then the back. The front in its original state was ok but kind of annoying.

Cars were able to drive right up to the entrance and you usually had chaos on any given day. They’ve since replaced that with a pedestrian area where you can meet people, wait to be picked up or just collect your thoughts (work out where you’re going) before heading off.


As you can see, cars (taxis) can still drive up to drop people off, but now they only have access to about half the are they previously did (the light grey area is curbed and only for pedestrians). Off camera the pedestrian area stretches off a bit (to the left). [Continue reading...]

Profanities on sale, never be caught out again!

Ever had one of those moments where you’re lost for words? Personal vulgarity lost its steam? Not quite the sailor you once were?

Never fear, Swear is here! [Continue reading...]

Hair problems? Hire a magician.

Touch wood, I’ve never suffered from a lack of hair. A few grey hairs here and there sure, but thankfully no thinning out.

I know at some point the inevitable will happen, there’s only a few of us who get to experience our geriatric years with a full head of hair.

And well, when the time comes… what would I do?

My eggs are riding on technology being advanced enough by that stage so that hair-loss isn’t a condition.

Failing that though, I suppose there’s always this guy: [Continue reading...]

Continental Contact Tire Review @ 18,231km (retired)

Typically I like to inspect my Long Haul Trucker once every six months. I usually check the chain, tyres, brakes and give the drive-train a clean-out.

This summer I’d been a bit lazy (who wants to work on a bike when it’s 30+ deg all the time), and paid for it with a recent trip into the city.

About ten minutes out of the house I felt the back tire go squishy and realized I’d scored a puncture.

Somewhat curiously, I had snakebite marks on the inside of the tube, near where the valve was. The rim and tape looked fine, so I was a bit stumped.

That’s when I noticed patches of tire bead showing through the tire.

Finally, my Continental Contact rear tire had completely worn out. [Continue reading...]

Crispy6 Freeze-dried Strawberries Review

I like strawberries, so when these came across my desk I was certainly intrigued:


Freeze-dried strawberries? Why the hell not.

The first thing that irks me about freeze-dried stuff in general is the lack of refrigeration required. I don’t care what anybody says, freeze-dried icecream is just wrong.

Strawberries on the other hand do have a limited shelf-life, so the ick factor isn’t as evident.

Still strange but. This particular box of strawberries had a manufactured date of 01/02/2014 and a best-before of 01/08/2015.

Manufactured by Crispy6 using Thai strawberries, the front of the box proclaims the product to be “100% natural” and only lists “strawberries” as an ingredient.

The serving size per box is 30g (freeze-dried stuff weighs nothing), and on the nutrition side of things you’re getting a smattering of vitamins and sodium. 40% of the RDI for Vitamin C and 20% for Manganese are the stand-outs.

But cmon, who the hell eats freeze-dried strawberries for their nutritional value. Freeze-dried anything is straight up gimmicky so let’s get right into what this is all really about.

As per the back of the box:

Freeze-dried is one of the latest technique (sic) in food preservation.

This method is preferred by NASA to preserve food for the astronauts.

It works by extracting moisture from food by vacuum at subszero condition (-40 deg C).

As well as locking in all of the essential nutrients, neither heat nor oil is used which meant being healthy can be done without being compromised.

This initially struck me as odd as I first recalled hearing about freeze-dried foods back when I was a kid and some two-minute noodle companies were experimenting with the technique.

Some basic fact-checking revealed that

in planning for the long-duration Apollo missions, NASA conducted extensive research into space food. One of the techniques developed in 1938 by Nestlé was freeze drying.

In the United States, Action Products later commercialized this technique for other foods, concentrating on snack food resulting in products like Space ice cream.

So uh, not really a “latest technique” then hey.

Anyway, I can forgive Crispy6 that – provided the strawberries didn’t taste rubbish.

So what did they taste like? [Continue reading...]

Is eating food in Taiwan going to (not so) slowly kill me?

taiwan-facepalmWhile I get the concept of “you get what you pay for”, how far does that extend when you’re talking about supposedly reputable food-supply chains?

In a country where it’s cheaper to eat out than in (unless you have hours at your disposal to spend at local markets haggling and socializing each day), the effects of tainted food entering mainstream supply chains is disastrous.

From the earlybids hitting the breakfast shops from around 5am to the late night social owls who might grab a hotpot in the early hours of the morning… pretty much round-the-clock there’s people eating out in Taiwan.

It’s a part of the daily culture here, a long-standing continuation of the importance of food and the social interactions it brings with it.

For me that part of eating out isn’t so much of a big deal as the convenience. I don’t have any family here, but given the prices of raw materials I’d be hard pressed economically speaking to match my own cooking with what’s available on even the shortest of walks.

And if the hoardes of people who flock to the streets around dinner time are any indication, I’m not alone.

So why is it that the state of food here feels like it’s steadily deteriorating? [Continue reading...]

Ergohuman v2 Plus Office Chair Review

ergohuman-v2-plus-chairI don’t know if it’s old age catching up with me or perhaps years of neglect, but this year in particular I began to feel my lower back.

Like a lot of people these days, I find myself spending stupid amounts of time sitting infront a computer screen. I’d recently updated my desk and laptop and now I figured it was time to look into getting a better chair.

Trouble was the old one was so damn comfortable.

I’ve sat in hich-backed leather/faux leather office chairs my whole life. My latest chair was about a year old and whilst slightly lower than it should have been for my current desk setup, was comfy as to sit in.

There was one problem though… the heat. I spent most of my day topless in summer with no AC and god damn, even with two fans pointed directly at me there was nothing I could do about my back getting sweaty.

I’d previously been using a mesh lowback chair for a few years, but was missing high-back reclinability. So stupid me went off in the middle of winter and bought a $100 or so chair from Carrefour.

Now my lower back was hurting and it was time to investigate ergonomics.

I set my upper budget at $500 USD or so and hit up Google for some research. After an hour or so I’d narrowed my choices down to a Herman Miller Aeron, or an ErgoHuman V2.

Without having sat on either I knew right off the bat the Aeron was likely to come in at roughly double the price of the ErgoHuman. And with the ErgoHuman already coming in at around five times what I usually spend on a chair… I was pretty sure it was the ErgoHuman I’d be taking home.

And if it sucked and was massively uncomfortable, sure I’d have to save up a few months but I’d probably be then taking home the Aeron.

I’d had a gutful of squirming around in my current chair trying to get comfortable (think a few hours in an economy-class airplane seat), so being comfortable was pretty much do-or-die. Yeah I’d be eating two-minute noodles for a while but damnit, at least I’d be eating in comfort.

We managed to track down a retailer for ergonomic chairs in Taipei and on a sunny Saturday morning off I went to butt-test some chairs.

The Ergohuman on display was sexy black mesh. I’d had it with leather sweat so was set on buying a mesh option.

I plonked myself down and immediately felt the back-support. Mmmmhmmm I thought to myself as I sat there in the store.

Wanting to replicate sitting at a desk I moved the chair over to one of their display desks and got to work pretending I was tapping away on a keyboard.

Twenty minutes or so later and I was sold. I didn’t try the Aeron… partly because I couldn’t fault the ErgoHuman and partly because if it did feel better – financially it would’ve been a world of hurt.

Unfortunately they didn’t have any black mesh chairs to sell (next shipment was a month or so off), so instead I opted for a reasonably dark grey. The other colors were gaudy (bright orange, pink, white etc.), with dark red really the only other sensible option. [Continue reading...]