Passive Aggressive Food Fights in the Workplace: Don’t f*ck with my biandang! + heart emoji

If you work in an Asian office, a biandang/lunchbox/bento warmer is a standard bit of kit. Lots of people have metallic lunchboxes which you can put inside to keep them warm until lunchtime.

There has been an escalating passive-aggressive argument lately in my office, as someone has been turning off the warmer as soon as they take their own lunch, leaving the remaining coworkers with lukewarm lunches, which is the eighth of the seven deadly sins (James 2:15-17).

I’m a microwave kind of guy, so haven’t been involved in the tussle, but the note was posted back in January without the highlighted text or scrawl down the side:

敬請最後一位使用者關掉即可,感謝!(想吃熱便當 heart emoji)
以上 2021.01.21
Please only turn off the machine if you are the final person to use it! (I want a hot lunch)
Yours Jan 21, 2021

Since then, while innocently waiting for the microwave to finish, I’ve noticed the door ajar and the machine off a few times with quickly cooling biandangs still inside.

This led to the escalation down the side and the addition of dots and highlighted text:

*不要再關啦!2021.2.8
Stop turning it off! Feb. 8, 2021

I’m sure the culprit is someone with good intentions but over-wrought anxiety about the biandang warmer never being turned off and consuming the whole building in flames, however, it does seem like a bit of a dick move to continue to turn it off.

Out and About with Variants in Taiwan

I’m always interested to see how variants of standard Chinese characters are still used in everyday life, whether it’s handwriting, signs or an author making a stylistic choice.

I spotted this beauty at a petrol station in Taitung. You can understand the reason for the simplification of the top of the character given the chunky font required by this kind of paint:

This character is 「嚴」(yán/strictly), but the top has been simplified along the same lines as the simplified version of the character 「严」. It retains the 「敢」 of the traditional character though:

You can look up these kinds of variants in the variant dictionary here.

Funnily enough there is a standard 「嚴」 on the sign to the left of the one circled.

Have you ever caught a p̶o̶k̶e̶m̶o̶n̶ Chinese character variant in the wild? Submissions welcome!

Year of the Ox: Door Dressing Guting

Walking around Guting, even though most buildings are apartment blocks, most were displaying couplets by their door. I’ve featured some of the more interesting ones below.

This doorway was funny because I imagined dueling households displaying couplets from President Tsai Ing-wen and Lai Ching-te vs. Ma Ying-jeou and his wife Chow Mei-ching respectively. President Tsai has gone with the classic idiom 「扭轉乾坤」(niǔzhuǎnqiánkūn) “to turn luck around” (literally, to upend heaven and earth). As 「扭」(niǔ to turn) and 「牛」(niú ox/cow) are near homonyms, the 「牛」 for the year of the ox stands in for it.

Former president Ma Ying-jeou and his wife, meanwhile, have called for equanimity and optimism in what was largely been interpreted as a dig at President Tsai‘s popularity with the words of the Hongwu Emperor 「心天之心平常心、樂天之樂金牛樂」. Ma’s explanation is that the son of heaven (read president) must respect the wishes of the people to rule properly, and that people need to be optimistic despite the pandemic and the ractopamine pork imports (video here).

I was (perhaps naively) surprised to see a Baptist church joining in on the fun:

「合體字」 compound characters featured heavily in a lot of the door dressings. The one on the right below is the same as the Presidential one above: 「牛轉乾坤」 with a stylized 「牛」.

There were even some compound characters from phrases in Taiwanese, like the one below: 「好孔來阮家」 hó-khang lâi góan ka (good things come to our family). Right beside it is 「黃金萬兩」 (10,000 taels of gold).

The banner below shows five different compound characters:
Looks like 「大利大吉」 (profit and fortune)
「日進斗金」 (a dou of gold enters every day)
「日日見財」 (every day meet with fortune)
「黃金萬兩」(10,000 taels of gold) (repeat of above)
「招財進寶」 (attract fortune and enter treasures)

The door below doesn’t seem to have been updated despite the fresh-looking colours, but the compound version of 「吉祥如意」 was cute enough:

There are a whole load more below!

The one above features 「犇」 bēn, made up of three 「牛」s.

It’s a sign! Softening Construction Work Announcements with English and Taiwanese (and a duck)

Sorry啦! Another post about signs.

I liked the code mixing between English, Mandarin and Taiwanese in this sign announcing construction work by the Hydraulic Engineering Office in the riverside park:

The Taiwanese reads: 「咱ㄟ卡緊呢」 lán ē kín ne which means “We will speed up” or character for character:

咱 (我們) we
ㄟ (會) will
卡 (加以) more
緊 (快) quickly/hurriedly
呢 (呀) exclamatory particle

The code mixing (as well as the PowerPoint style 3D characters at the bottom) are clearly aimed at softening the message of the sign which is an inconvenience to park users. The Taiwanese sounds much more down to earth and colloquial than the more formal 「造成您的不便,敬請見諒」 at the bottom.

Using Characters to Detect Chinese Phishing Threats in Taiwan

Image by ShiiftyShift

OK, I swear I didn’t click anything… but had to sit through a cyber security lecture on phishing at work. The most interesting part of the largely common-sense lecture though was how you can spot social engineering emails through the accidental use of irregular hybrids of simplified and traditional characters and terms more commonly used in China and not in common use in Taiwan.

In the video they say some of these hybrids are “simplified characters” but many of them attempt to disguise themselves as traditional characters unsuccessfully.

I thought I’d point out some of the examples used below:

「大家可以登入健康信息統計系統提交……」

So in Taiwan you rarely here the term 「信息」 at all, and even less in the context of personal health data, whereas 「健康資料」or 「健康資訊」 are much more common. The term「健康訊息」 is also common but refers more to information about health, rather than one’ s own health data. One way to check this is to Google the terms in quote marks and check out the sources of the web pages and the context in which the terms are used.

“健康信息” returns mostly articles from Chinese media, like Xinhua and the People’s Daily in a context very similar to that used in the Phishing email:

Whereas with “健康資料” the first results you’ll see are from Taiwanese government’s health app and Taiwanese universities. The first one is also a 系統 like we saw in the Phishing email:

Continue reading

Taijimen Tax Protest

Since I started working near Taipei Main Station there have always been tax protests outside the Control Yuan, but over the last few weeks, there has been a much bigger presence and the mention of Taijimen 太極門, which is (in name at least) a qigong institute.

太極門無罪無稅 – Tai Ji Men NOT GUILTY NO TAX EVASION – Unlawful Auctions and Serious Persecution by the Government

Hung Shi-he (洪石和), the leader of Taijimen, who goes by the alias Hung Tao-zi (洪道子), was fined NT$28 million for allegedly failing to pay over NT$10 million in taxes on income from 1991 to 1995. He appealed the fine with the National Tax Administration and his appeal was denied. He then launched an administrative appeal against the National Tax Administration decision at the Taichung High Court (104年度訴字第228號), which was rejected. He then appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court (107年度判字第422號), and the original verdict was overturned and it was sent back to the Taichung High Court and the case (107 年度 訴更一 字第 19 號和解筆錄) was subsequently settled. He has also been involved in a series of other cases, which you can search for by entering his name 洪石和 into the court verdict database. It’s actually quite fun to trace back all of his re-appeals to his appeals.

And the topic is still very much alive, as this article in ET Today suggested that 52 pieces of real estate in his name in Miaoli were being auctioned off at the end of last month.

There was a modest protest outside the Control Yuan yesterday with people handing out flyers like the one below:

Caption reads: Why do we pay taxes to keep these officials in house and home. (Names has been censored by me).
A timeline of the Taijimen case according to Taijimen
An appeal to Tsai Ing-wen
Rhetorical questions posed by Taijimen to the public.

According to their leaflets, all the tax owed has been adjusted to zero, except for 1995. I haven’t had time to sift through all the cases on the website to verify the info yet.

Neighbourly Notes: Don’t Drive the Light

My note-writing neighbour (you can see their doctoral thesis here) has been at it again, although, to be fair, this doesn’t rank up there with their more passive-aggressive notes (although I would have appreciated a 「請」 thrown in there somewhere). I almost identified with them on this note, as it represents a phenomenon I often encounter when learning other languages, the tendency to assume that a specific usage of a multipurpose verb in your language can apply to all the usages of the verb in your target language, illustrated brilliantly below:

111223

壞了,一直在閃、很危險、不要開。 Don’t drive.

Broken, it keeps flashing, it’s dangerous, don’t turn it on.

「開」 in Chinese means “to start” or “to turn on”, in conjunction with 「車」 it can also mean “to drive”. So I’m guessing they googled “不要開” and got “Don’t drive.” I guess the solution is to always search for the terms you Google translate to see if it matches the idea you were going for and is used commonly in the target language. The only example I can think of going the other way is the tendency of foreigners to use 「是」 for adjectival phrases in Chinese, 「我是熱」, for example, as an overly literal translation of “I am hot.” Can you think of any examples that fit the brief more accurately?

My neighbour clearly hasn’t been taking notes since I corrected their previous note which was either on door closures or dog euthanasia:

964051_10100980437878409_70601197_o

選舉

我在台灣沒有投票權,跟政治人物的接觸也頗為有限。我們里的里長出來拜票的時候,看到我,一直貼在嘴巴上的僵硬微笑會一時鬆開。有時候某些候選人一不留意就會伸手過來要跟我握手,一抬頭看到我的白臉就會立刻把手收回來。但是當一個外來者也有好處。其一是朋友之間或在工作場合,不用跟人表達你家的政治立場,就算你想要告訴別人,也沒人要聽;同時你的政治立場也不會在潛意識的層面上,被同事或朋友察覺出來。簡而言之,台灣人不會以他們一般的標準來對待你,因此你可以很自(白)由(目)地詢問他人的政治色彩。不過久而久之,你不用問也多少會感覺到。

 

講到這一點也不是很準確,因為你可以大概從一些細節,猜測他人的家庭是藍是綠是紅,但這也不代表在投票箱前,他們就會聽話地投給父母要他們投的那位候選人。我待過不同「顏色」的學術和工作單位:藍的綠的大學、綠的科系、紅媒體到白的公司,後來也算是回到一個(還帶一點藍的)綠色單位。在每個單位都需要看很多宣傳品,也因此很容易被洗腦。在藍的單位時也許會覺得綠營做事不踏實,不懂得妥協;在綠的單位時也許會覺得藍營只有在看錢、沒什麼原則。可能都有;可能都沒有,不過也許都是因為我們以不同框架看,所以會有不同的印象。

 

講到框架,我以前一直對柯文哲有一種說不太出口的反感,可能是略受媒體的影響,說他恐同、親中、自我感覺良好等等。媒體最近也有報導他父母在最後時刻替他到中選會登記連署,最後卻遲到了。媒體報導這則新聞的大方向帶有一點幸災樂禍的意味。但就算深綠的人看到這則報導,儘管讀起來很爽,應該也很清楚這大概不是真相。柯文哲若真的想選,不會拖到這時候,還派老人家幫他登記。剛好我最近在看柯文哲寫的《白色力量3》,柯P對民進黨很失望不是因為民進黨對他的直接攻擊,而是他們在明明知道一個污衊他的假新聞報導是偏頗的情況下(如器官移植的葛特曼案),還去煽動爭議。 

 

也許當一個選民最重要的,是能夠離開同溫層,用不同的框架反省政治立場。

 

ㄟ對啊,我忘了……你上次總統大選是投哪一位?

Gone to sh*t! 走鐘(精)

For anyone keen on keeping up with current affairs in Taiwan but with a funny edge to it, I really recommend ‘Stand up, Brian’ (博恩夜夜秀). It takes its cue from Western late night formats and isn’t afraid to take the piss.

The show was crowd-funded and is run by young comics, so there’s a lot of contemporary slang and references which is quite fun to parse.

In this short clip, they’re taking the piss out of Taiwanese diet supplement advertisements. A woman says she’s lost her figure completely after having seven kids, but she uses the phrase 「走精」 (tsáu-tsing), commonly represented by the characters 「走鐘」 (presumably because they are pronounced the same in Taiwanese 「精」 (tsing) and 「鐘」 (tsing) ).  The phrase can be roughly translated as “losing your former lustre/losing your sex appeal”. The sentence starts at 0:39 in the clip below:

 

(Mandarin: 我的身材在生完第七胎以後
After having my seventh (child),
Taiwanese: 著(就)規個(整個)走鐘(精)去啊啦
My whole figure has gone to shit.

著規個走精去了 tio̍h kui-ê tsáu-tsing khì ah lah

Forget Chiang Kai-shek’s Progeny – Shit Hits the Fan for Hongwu Emperor Scion

29339872_10103778881070819_7716906575541043200_o-e1521423475983.jpg

Saw this poster on a traffic box on the way to work. Someone went to a lot of effort just to mock this guy.

The picture on the top left is the Hongwu Emperor (朱元璋) and the one on the right is the former head of Da’an’s Guangxin Li (smallest administrative division in Taiwan) Chu Hsueh-chang (朱雪璋) who claims to be the great^19 grandson of the Hongwu Emperor, the founder of China’s Ming Dynasty and his wife Wu Pei-hua (吳佩樺).

(Guangxin) Li Head Chu Hsueh-chang is the descendant of an emperor! So he can’t be guilty~! There is nothing wrong with protecting your wife. Chu Hsueh-chang is innocent

After the”not guilty”, “喔!” an empty particle used to add emphasis, and which is often used in advertisements in Taiwan, is repeated six times, which adds to the sarcastic tone of the poster.

He was sentenced to six years (105,訴,207) for “Destruction of or serious damage to the function of one or more limbs” (See Criminal Code Article 10 Clause 4), when he and a group of other men allegedly assaulted martial artist Kenny Wang and two other men. Chu was the manager of the Tiger Martial Arts Fitness MMA Club. The alleged events, according to the court documents are as follows. In January of 2016, Kenny Wang (王毓霖) and Tsai Chao-chuan (蔡櫂全), both of whom were martial arts practitioners, live-streamed themselves outside the club picking their noses and sticking up their middle fingers on Facebook. Chu was angered, and under the pretense of inviting them to compete in a martial arts match, he invited Wang and Tsai to the club on February 16, 2016. Wang and Tsai arrived with a referee they’d designated for the contest and some friends. The door was then locked from the outside. When Wang, Tsai and the referee entered the club their phones were taken by force. A gang of men entered from the fire escape and beat the three men with a range of weapons, including aluminium bars, wooden bats, as well as with punches and kicks. Chu has appealed the verdict to the High Court.

It’s not the first time Chu has been in trouble. During a dispute over parking in Danshui, he got into a scuffle with a crowd of onlookers, after which nine people were hospitalized. After being arrested, he’s reported to have told police “I know Hung Hsiu-chu!”, referring to the then vice president of the Legislative Yuan, now the KMT chair (and who was briefly the KMT candidate for president in the 2016 election before being replaced). He’s also alleged to have been involved in other unsavoury incidents, including a dispute with a resident of his li, an incident where he “confiscated” the passport and mobile telephone of a Thai Muay Thai (Thai boxing) coach.