Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winding down in Taipei

Since the end of the Taiwan book fair Monday, I've been able to be more of a tourist. One highlight was riding the Maokong gondola at the zoo, up over three mountains in the rain and fog. Through the clear floor of our "crystal" gondola, we could look down on the tropical foliage and tea plantations. Later we plunged down the steep slope in darkness toward the city lights.

Another day the Tumblehome team took the fast train to the industrial city of Hsinchu, where we visited the national space agency and Ritek, a manufacturer of industrial diamonds for use in the semiconductor industry and elsewhere,as mentioned in my upcoming book, The Desperate Case of the Diamond Chip. Dr. James Sung, the brilliant Ritek founder, gave us a seminar on diamonds and graphene, their properties and their links to the origins of life. All fascinating stuff that I may write about more once I finish reading his book.

As for the space agency, with a small budget it has created a leading-edge system of six weather satellites circling the globe, measuring heat and density in the atmosphere to assist in the prediction of typhoons and other phenomena. In partnership with the US, Taiwan is now building twelve new, even more sophisticated satellites. In our informal visit we saw where the components are tested for stability in a vacuum and while undergoing rapid and violent temperature changes.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak at Intel Taiwan, where I showed slides and told stories about my father, some of the other Intel founders, and my memories of Intel's earliest days. Actually I think the most popular part of the lecture was when I told them I had eaten the local specialty, stinky tofu. I also gave out a number of copies of Lost in Lexicon's first edition and Advance Reader Copies of Tumblehome Learning books left over from the book fair. The audience was warm and enthusiastic, with questions ranging from what we talked about over dinner in my childhood home to how to raise children to be adventurous yet safe. At the end, Rachel Liu from corporate relations presented me with a cute blue Intel robot-like figure in a bunny suit.

After Intel, Barnas took me to the Long Shan (Dragon Mountain) temple, quite an eclectic temple in the heart of the city. It has a fantastic curved roof, carved ceilings, a waterfall, and lantern figures around the edges of the courtyards. I didn't buy incense or pray to any of the deities, which may be why I got the following fortune when I drew a stick from a pot: "You have failed. Change your boss or change your ways." Since I'm my own boss, I think the message is pretty clear about where the problem lies.

From there we went on to a couple of night markets, ending up at a very authentic, drippy (it's still raining) local one in Houshanpi. There I ate more tso doufu (stinky tofu) and a kind of oyster omelet. However, I avoided chicken rump, large intestines, bin lanh (betel nut), turtle, frog, or snake. Maybe next time.

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