Archive | August, 2012

Not just a pacifist

12 Aug

Am recently reading The End of Major Combat Operations by war correspondent Nick McDonell. He covered the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations. In popularized media lingo, the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan is that Afghanistan is considered a ‘just’ war, while Iraq is not. I think it’s certainly unjust to the American people for a government (that does know better) to say: “There be terrorists in Iraq….oops, our mistake, it was Afghanistan.” …. Despite linguistics, McDonell’s experience of the two invasions has been similar. A bookstall owner in Afghanistan said that he would join the insurgents in a heartbeat. Why? The reason he gave was “What if it was your country that was invaded?”

Below is an excerpt from the book:

Later (…) back in Brooklyn, I reconsidered his question. What if the bakery down the street had been destroyed by katyushas? What if the traffic cops didn’t speak English and were scared enough of you to pull a gun if you ran a stop sign? What if when my father had a heart attack, the hospitals were too full of gunshot casualities to treat him? What if my brother, being younger, was less likely to compromise, and became radicalized, and imprisoned? Remember the way your fist clenches and your heart speeds when you see your child fall down, or sprain his ankle playing basketball? What if the small tragedies were constantly large, and mortal? How long would your heart continue to speed, before it slowed permanently, and you, having lost so much, wanted vengeance, some kind of justice, vicious balance? What if it was you who popped up from behind a wall of sandbags, and it was your best friend, the nineteen-year-old to your left, the one you talked about your girlfriend with, who got shot in the neck, in the same place where you sang along to the radio as you drove to work?

What if it was your country that was invaded?

In a January TED talk this year, Norwegian Foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre made the argument that there would never be peace if we consistently refuse to talk to people we classify as ‘terrorists’. (The utility and special interests involved in classifying people as terrorists is another topic that deserves scrutiny: What if Mubarak had successfully classified the Egyptian revolutionists as ‘terrorists’? And according to anti-terrorist measures in NYC now, if you try to stage a protest on Brooklyn bridge, you’d be knocked down and charged so fast you wouldn’t get a chance to tweet ‘Eeep’!) Støre believe that in order to achieve lasting peace, it is crucial to treat people as people. Below is the link to the talk:

 TED talk: In defense of dialogue

As geekish as it may sound to some, I believe Newton’s 3rd Law would apply here: When there is an action, there would be a reaction. The best intents of systems can go askew. War is sold as a system : We will enter, we will kill only enemies, we will retreat and leave the people a sanitized, reasonable, effective democracy. The only effective way the US can achieve this is to classify every single person in Afghanistan as an enemy, kill them all, and settle displaced people who will be grateful to the Americans there. Because every time you ‘accidentally, collatorally’ mess up some innocent persons’ life, that person becomes an enemy. Also listed in the book is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of The U.S. Army/Marin Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (Field Manual No. 3-24):

Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency Operations

I-148. These paradoxes should not be reduced to a checklist; rather, they should be used with considerable thought.

Sometimes, the more you protect your force, the less secure you may be

Sometimes, the more force is used, the less effective it is

The more successful the counterinsurgency is, the less force can be used and the more risk must be accepted

Sometimes doing nothing is the best reaction

Some of the best weapons for counterinsurgents do not shoot

The host nation doing something tolerably is normally better than us doing it well

If a tactic works this week, it might not work next week; if it works in this province, it might not work in the next

Tactical success guarantees nothing

Many important decisions are not made by generals

For those who have been following news about the new methods employed in the invasion (working with community leaders on infrastructure projects, having women in the army to communicate to women…etc), it is interesting to note that almost all of them are socialistic measures, none of which armies are traditionally trained in. Which puts me in mind of the paradox of the Chinese government: Communist but Capitalistic. With no more justification for it’s oligarchy. What is the meaning of an ‘invasion’, when all the methods that is proven effective do not involve an army?

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Home dying fabric in Taiwan

1 Aug

I’d been looking for fabric dye for a while in Taiwan. Apparently such is not easily available on the web, that I could find.

So I lucked out the other day when I came across a hand woven Taiwanese basket shop in the streets behind Taipei Main Train Station, and asked them if they knew a dye shop. They did, and their kind shop owner even took me there directly, though I didn’t buy any baskets from them.

It was a very old dusty store that you wouldn’t have noticed really. So I was really grateful for the directions. In my experience, stores like this either charge exorbitant prices (to make up for their years of under-performing foot traffic), or the same price they charged decades ago when they opened up, which would be considered more than reasonable in today’s market.

This store had the latter.

An old gentleman came out behind a desk and showed me a booklet of sample swatches when I inquired about dye (for plant based fabrics, like cotton). They were good basics, with lighter and richer tones based on the percentage of dye you put in (powder based). Each small container was 50 NT/per. He was patient with me as I looked over the colors. I got 4 colors this time. Here are the instructions (translated from Chinese):

  1. First decide portion of water to fabric ratio
  2. Water to fabric is about 20:1, If you don’t know this, let the water cover the fabric about 3 cm.
  3. The small bottle of dye can dye richer colors of about 0.5kg fabric. For lighter color, use about 0.5%~10% of fabric weigh.
  4. Use a pot and add water, soak fabric wet first then place aside.
  5. Heat water and allow to boil on medium-low fire
  6. Dissolve dye completely in hot water before putting in pot (not directly in pot to prevent inconsistencies)
  7. Add fabric in pot and allow to simmer for 20 min, stirring for even distribution
  8. After 20 min, add salt (same amount as dye used). Notice do not directly add on fabric, but brush fabric to side of pot to add salt in liquid.
  9. Allow to simmer for 20 more minutes, stirring.
  10. Take out of pot and wash with water, until fabric doesn’t wash out with color. Dry (can be in washing machine)
  11. To set color, clean pot, add water (over fabric height), water temp slightly lower than a hot shower (about 35 degree Celsius), add in dye set (about 4 capfuls for 1 shirt), soak for 30 min and dry without washing.

So where is this store I found?

Jiin Bo Dyestuffs Company

Address: 274, Chan An West Rd, Taipei, Taiwan

Tel: 02-2558-5828, 02-25586303, 02-2555-2936

The store owner doesn’t speak English, so you should probably point and purchase. Good luck crafters in Taiwan!