Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Technology and Me

I have a bad habit: my attention wanders when I'm reading. It's especially a problem if I'm reading off a computer screen, and that computer happens to be connected to the Internet. Hello, Source of All Distractions! This is the main reason why I dislike reading long articles or stories off a computer, and I couldn't even begin to imagine reading a novel that way. In the past, when there was a nice long chunk of Internet-based writing I wanted to read, I would go so far as to print it out so that I could peruse it later, when the distraction of the whole world wasn't just a mouse-click away.

Another bad habit I have goes back to the days before I knew the Internet existed. I tend to get impatient when I'm reading, even if it's a piece of fiction that's really sunk its barbs into me. My eyes insist on skipping ahead a few paragraphs; my fingers insist on flipping ahead a few pages, just to get a glimpse of what's going to happen. It's incredibly distracting.

Technology to the rescue! I own an iPod Touch now. It's got WiFi but not 3G/4G; its screen is big enough to display one or two paragraphs of text but not more. I think it may be my saviour.

Even when I'm in a place with free wi-fi, the Touch interface (the same as the iPhone interface) makes it awkward to have several windows open at once, which I view as a feature, not a bug. It reduces the temptation to go check Facebook when in the middle of an eight-thousand-word article. And the screen size focuses my attention on the current paragraph or two of text.

I've already downloaded the Instapaper app (well worth the five bucks) which saves online articles locally on your device. Only caveats are that it sometimes does minor odd things to the formatting (for example, section headings might become indistinguishable from ordinary text), and occasionally I've accidentally saved only a fragment of a long article rather than the entire thing (you gotta be careful about sites breaking an article across several pages for the supposed convenience of the reader). Otherwise it's been a fine little investment for me. Instapaper plus Longreads equals Good.

Now to await my check from Instapaper in return for shilling their product.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Dust Has Cleared

So what actually happened in those Taiwan municipal elections?

BEFORE THE ELECTION, I believed Su Tseng-chang had a real shot of knocking off Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin, and in any event the race would be close.

WRONG. Hau demolished Su by 12 percentage points. There are rumors that Su's unexpectedly large loss has ended any realistic shot he may have at winning the DPP presidential nomination in 2012, though I think it's a bit too early to tell.

BEFORE THE ELECTION, I thought the KMT would achieve a better performance in Sinbei than in Taipei. I thought Tsai Ing-wen could only hope to win election if she rode a nationwide DPP wave.

MOSTLY WRONG. Tsai lost, but she made it close, winning a greater percentage of the vote than Su.

BEFORE THE ELECTION, I thought the Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung mayoral races would not even be close, with the KMT winning easily in Taichung and the DPP taking the other two.

PARTLY WRONG. Tainan and Kaohsiung voted pretty much the way everyone expected them to, but Taichung mayor Jason Hu got a real scare on Election Day when his opponent, Su Jia-chyuan, came very close to unseating him. Now Su's getting a lot of praise in the DPP and people are talking about him as a real 2012 presidential contender.

The day before the election, people told me they expected something surprising to happen on Election Eve. Sure enough, that evening a prominent KMT politician (not a candidate for anything, but a famous face), Sean Lien, was shot and wounded in an assassination attempt in Yonghe, not far as the crow flies from our apartment. Lots of famous and non-famous people have theorized that the KMT got a good deal of sympathy vote as a result, which may well have denied Tsai Ing-wen and Su Jia-chyuan victories in their respective cities.

As a result, of course, we're already hearing the conspiracy theories.

The sad thing is, unsuccessful attempts to assassinate politicians the day before elections, causing people to argue over whether it skewed the results, is something of a tradition in Taiwan. Hopefully it won't happen in 2012.