Seeing Taiwan from abroad

I lived in lovely Taiwan for almost 30 years. Now, aged 50, I am retired from a career as an academic, diplomat and marketer and work as an educator and consultant for blockchain and smart tech solutions. For family reasons I have returned to my ancestral home in Europe. Expat privileges (and the unavoidable white privilege) goodbye.

I am having, to put it mildly, a culture shock. I miss nature, the food, the people, and my friends. I miss the privilege of an expat life and the quirky idiosyncrasies of the island nation. I miss the fresh fruit and gregarious gatherings over hot pot. I barely recognize my home.

But the most surprising thing is that Taiwan – seen here from the heart of Europe and European politics – really doesn’t exist in the minds of the people. Looking at Taiwan from abroad is turning out an exercise in frustration.

I have documents to renew, bank accounts to open, insurance policies to sign and a tax number to obtain. I have introduced myself to magazines and journals and contacted old acquaintances. The beautiful island of Formosa pops up everywhere in my CV.

Yet every step of the way, I encountered confusion and ignorance.

“Where? Oh, we were in Koh Sami”

“You mean China!”

“Taiwan? So you speak Japanese?”

And so on. Every foreign soul is familiar with this.

Taiwan, even as it is building an even stronger national and independent identity, has only itself to blame.

Decades of invisibility, in the shadow of China, dominated by the KMT, are hard to overcome. The use of China/Chinese in institutions and corporations is confusing and further muddles the waters. How hard can it be to rename the damn airline so people stop confusing it with Air China. Or take the China out of the countless associations, banks, and other businesses.

Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and enjoys full freedom of speech. It’s a beacon of light for marginalized constituents. Malaysia and Singapore imprisonments gays and Indonesia flogs them. Taiwan on the other hand has the best pride events ever.

And yet the only visible sign in the streets of Vienna is a tourism poster with the sun moon lake, which is special to Taiwan but sorry to say, compared to Austrian alpine a scenery, a joke. There are a million more things to advertise about Taiwan than a little mountain lake with overpriced hotels.

What Taiwan should advertise is bustling night markets, beef noodle soup, and indigenous cultures. Ever took a trip in an Amis canoe or worn a Paiwan head dress? Ever tasted their wonderful cuisine or joined in the flying fish or harvest festivals, combine that with a tour of one of the impressive massive chip fabs in Hsinchu and a trip on the HSR. That’s the real Taiwan.

But sadly, no one in Europe here has the slightest idea what the wonderful island has to offer besides Taipei 101 and Taroko Gorge.

Foreigners seeing Taiwan through a prism of expat experiences are doing a better job advertising the nations virtues than the Taiwan government. Winning medals at these curious COVID Olympics increases visibility too. And hats off to the journos who chose to settle in Taiwan after being thrown out of China.

During the COVID crisis, Taiwan did an excellent job on social media but when I asked around no one here in Europe was aware of the island’s success. Chinese diplomats are spreading infuriating lies on Twitter, promoting tweets and gaining thousands of followers. In comparison, digital marketing of Taiwan‘s achievements is a dismal example of an insular mind and misplaced modesty. Splash those posters of Raohe market, Jiufen, and the Rift Valley rice paddies over every gangway and airport waiting area!

Alas, there are none, even in Vienna, somewhat of a hub because both Taiwanese carriers fly here. Instead they should chose one and have daily flights instead of random 3 days a week.

When I was a diplomat I tried to help and say as much at meetings with the Tourism Bureau. But it wasn’t in my remit and my influence was limited. Now as an independent consultant retained by the powers that be, I can: update the tourism bureau, retire most of its bureaucrats and replace them with social media talent from every corner in the world. Have a proper Instagram feed, talks on Twitter and Clubhouse and proper outdoor advertisement.

Taiwan is so creative. It could do so much more to build a great image. The time to act is now!


Asian Century? Not Happening!

Recent trends show what a pipe dream it is and always was

When I was a university student in the 1990s, everyone congratulated me on my choices of languages (Chinese and Japanese) and subjects (economics, politics). The 21st century, everyone agreed, was going to be the Asian century. Chinese, my uncle told me, would replace English, because there were more Chinese than English speakers. Apparently he had never heard of India and the many other countries where English is spoken. Neither that Chinese isn’t an easy lingua Franca at all, being, as it were, full of culturally specific terminology and concepts. But, Uncle Karl was not alone.

In the stock market, when everyone agrees a stock will go up, it usually goes down. So it was with the Asian century. Demographics were often cited as a factor. They are working against it. The opening of China was noted. China never opened. Democracy in Indonesia turned into Islamic fundamentalism. Thailand has a new king, but the country under him is, as Thais like to say “same same, but different”. No progress has been made in Vietnam except for stronger economic ties with certain other countries. Then there is India.

Let’s look at these one by one.

1. Demographics

Asia is younger than the rest of the world, and older too. Countries like Japan and Taiwan are showing some of the oldest populations on the globe now. The youth of Hong Kong has been frustrated by a totalitarian superstate next door. Well, it says it’s within it’s rights to reclaim territory ceded in a treaty and legally, Beijing is probably right here. The youth of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, has been frustrated by bad jobs, Islamic tendencies, strict societal norms, a lack of foreign investment, and other factors. So no, pure population economics didn’t usher in the Asian century. In many ways, demographics are doing more harm than good.

2. Opening China

For a while it looked like the Middle Kingdom was really opening to the world. At the beginning of 2021 we find a terrifying balance sheet: re-education, work camps, forced abortions, organ trade; the list of atrocities against Muslims and Uighurs in particular have been terrifying. Dissidents continue to disappear in dismal prisons. During the COVID crisis, China welded millions in their apartments to let them starve. A mass genocide in the best Maoist tradition.

China’s leaders are decrying democracy as a Western evil. They have expelled thousands of foreign journalists. Many of them have resettled in Japan, even more in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, where rents are comparatively affordable, the people friendly, press freedom guaranteed, and the political discourse vibrant.

In fact, Taiwan is the only country in Asia with a true, albeit sometimes chaotic democracy and a free press, and the only country allowing for controlled immigration in large numbers. If you go to Taichung you are surrounded by Vietnamese for example. The is a huge Indonesian community. The indigenous population has found its voice. Scarred by decades of Chiang Kai-shek dictatorship, no country in Asia is now more tolerant.

However, all that does not amount to an Asian century.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative

As early back as 2019 some scholars sang the praise of Chinese value diplomacy.

Paragh at NSU in Singapore writes “The Belt and Road Initiative is the most significant diplomatic project of the twenty-first century, the equivalent of the mid-twentieth-century founding of the United Nations and World Bank plus the Marshall Plan all rolled into one. The crucial difference: BRI was conceived in Asia and launched in Asia and will be led by Asians. This is the story of one entire side of the planet—the Asian side—and its impact on the twenty-first-century world.” He is quoted with that view in a number of WEF publications.

What tosh! The author seems to belong to a dwindling group of scholars who actually believe the propaganda of the CCP.

The BNR turned out not be anything but a shining beacon of the Asian century — rather it is a tool to exert political control over weak countries and lure others with cheap loans to strengthen the influence of China in Central Asia and Africa. But European countries too are falling prey to Beijing. Serbia and Italy in particular have taken large sums of money and allowed the propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party. Somewhat unexpectedly, France is the home of the largest number of Confucius Institutes in Europe. Confucius Institutes are part of the CCP propaganda machine, to make sure the world sees China in a favorable light.

3. Indonesia and Malaysia

With Suharto gone, the most populous country in Asia was supposed to turn into a paradise. Instead it is a haunting nightmare for women, gays, and non-believers. It is well on the way to a government with strong Islamic tendencies. As an economic powerhouse it is a failure. A jungle of regulations, lack of productivity, but also bad infrastructure and unfavorable geography as well as lack of resources make the worlds largest Muslim country a bad choice for manufacturing.

In Malaysia, whilst not quite as bad, a similar trend towards fundamentalism is discernible. What’s more, the country is plagued by corruption in all levels of government and administration. Foreign investors report that it nay impossible to operate without constant payment of bribes.

The policies of the government favor Malays; politics and planning follow very local and narrow considerations without any greater vision. A gerontocracy is keener on looking after its own interests than the greater good.

4. Thailand and Vietnam

Two close countries, two different regimes, same outcome: stagnation. In Thai we call this “same same, but different”. That’s the same as “chabuduo” in Chinese. The monarchy even with its new king has introduced no reforms; no policies at all, when it comes to that.

Vietnam has opened somewhat and the Communist Party isn’t as visible. Thousands of Taiwanese companies produce there. But all the changes are superficial. People still leave in droves.

The other countries of Indochina, Cambodia and Laos, are basically Chinese vassal states anyway.

5. India and Japan

There is hope here. India has recently discovered a new basis of friendship with Taiwan. There is too much competition with China, too many border conflicts, (thankfully) too much indigenous pride in the virtues of democracy.

As poor as India may still be, it is the only country with the population size to match China. There are many problems to solve: manufacturing in China is easier, because a dictatorial regime and the work ethic of the Chinese appeal to exploitative business models.

The second glimmer of hope is Japan. It has such a rapidly aging population and aversion to immigration that it leads the way of innovation in many technological sectors. However, we are talking here about technology, not populace.

6. Singapore

As for Singapore, the model police state seems to see itself more as a conference venue than part of a larger continent. It has its own racial problems, its population and surface area are tiny, and beyond dominance in certain sectors like services and banking, an excellent school system, etc. the city state is arguably a success, but not a pillar of an “Asian century”.

6. Institutions

The cross-border institutions of Asia are almost universally either plagued by the dominance of China, or cronyism and infighting, or all three together. The financial ones are controlled by China to dole out loans, and the political ones like ASEAN haven’t achieved anything for the entire span of their existence.

The rest of the countries, like Pakistan, the Central Asian states, Mongolia, etc. are little more than footnotes. Turkey and Russia see themselves as European more than Asian. The Philippines are to this day an American outpost more than a part of an Asian heritage.

So if there is a Asian century, it’s only pillars will be India and China. And China has lost all respect after the Coronavirus crisis, suppression of dissidents, genocide of the Uighurs and slaughter and silencing of Hong Kong youths fighting for the freedom of their home.

If the world continues to stand idly by as China wreaks havoc on the world economies and our values of freedom and liberty, it may be a Chinese century and a very volatile one. An Asian century it is not.

Then Whose Century is it?

If the 21st Century belongs to anyone, it is America. But the truth, as always is more nuanced.

1. United States

With a young population, the best research institutions and universities, a vibrant, risk-friendly venture capital culture and generous immigration for talent, the U.S. will continue to dominate the world. If one country will set the tone for this century, it is the United States of America.

2. Europe

Despite the fears of Islamization, unfavorable demographics, and focus on conservative, risk-averse values, Europe is leading the way in many other areas, such as technology in certain sectors, research and development, and trade. With or without the idiosyncratic United Kingdom in it, Europe is a good choice when it comes to a focus for this century.

3. Corporations

More than ever it us becoming increasingly obvious that corporations not countries are dominating the world. From Apple so Elon Musk’s SpaceX, from Amazon to Zoom, if you look at the Nasdaq 100 you will find that most of the fuel that powers the world is listed there. Corporations like Google or Microsoft are under scrutiny for their dominance already. This will only get worse, but is too intricate a subject to be sufficiently thoroughly discussed her

4. Technological solutions

If its not corporations per se that dominate this century, it is technology in general. I now have a trading and banking solution that exists only on my phone. I actually closed the traditional brick and mortar bank account I have had since childhood. If you want to wire me money you can use any of 15 methods. There is no need for me to visit my insurance company, my grocer, my publisher, hire a translator, a lawyer, a shrink, and for most things, even a doctor. Most serviced now exist only in the digital realm. That makes them vulnerable to issues of cyber security, yes, but it also makes them a dominant force in the current century. Perhaps medicine is the only real service we need. Perhaps hospitals are the only really local institution that must cater to our physical needs. After all, you can’t undergo surgery on your phone yet. Everything else … reach for that smart phone or whatever gadget comes next.

In short, the 21st century doesn’t belong to any one country or continent. It belongs to people who lead the way to a truly digital age.

Martin Hiesboeck

Unstructured data provides equal risk and opportunities for businesses

This article is originally posted on Nightfall.ai

Unstructured data is projected to account for approximately 80% of the data that enterprises will process on a daily basis by 2025. Data breaches and other security issues get a lot of attention in the media, but all businesses working with data, especially data in the cloud, are at risk of data loss. Preventing data loss can be difficult for a number of reasons.

IDG projects that by 2026, there will be 163 zettabytes of data in the world. To put that in context, one zettabyte is equal to a thousand exabytes, a billion terabytes, or a trillion gigabytes. The astronomical amount of data transmitting, living, and working in the cloud is just one of the complications that make securing data a tough task for businesses to manage. Of all the unstructured data in the world, most of it goes completely unused. According to industry analysts IDC, more than 90% of unstructured data is never examined. This means large portions of data float around unsecured and underutilized for many businesses.

That’s why it’s important to understand where unstructured data comes from, why it’s so hard to pin down, the risks of not securing unstructured data, and the rewards of bringing that data into a structured environment.

Hiding in plain sight

Unstructured data can come from almost any source. Nearly every asset or piece of content created or shared by a device in the cloud carries unstructured data. This can include:

  • Product demo videos on your website
  • QR codes for discounts and deals on an e-commerce app
  • Podcasts and other audio blogging files hosted on your website’s blog page
  • Social media messages on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Internal communications and collaboration platforms are major sources of unstructured data. Think Slack, Confluence, and other SaaS applications where many people do their daily work and communicate with colleagues. Most cloud-based applications like these allow unstructured data to pass through massive networks to be shared, copied, accessed and stored unprotected.

IDG Communications published an article written by then-Pitney Bowes Software Vice President Andy Berry in 2018. Berry commented on how the modern workplace approaches data and why these norms contribute to the data loss problem, citing one study that found enterprises using almost 500 unique business applications. SaaS applications generate data that can quickly become obsolete, unusable, and eventually inaccessible.

Data powers everything we do in our professional and personal lives, but with little to no oversight on data hygiene, we often miss out on key opportunities to improve security blindspots and maximize data performance.

A complex problem

The various sources of unstructured data show how complex data loss can be. Many problems with DLP start with the three V’s of data — volume, velocity, and variety. It’s hard for humans and manual review to keep up with the staggering amount of data, speed of data proliferation, and the many different sources of data.

Adding to the problem is the fact that unstructured data is very difficult to organize. It’s impossible to dump every piece of unstructured information into a database or spreadsheet, because that data comes from myriad different sources and likely doesn’t follow similar formatting rules. On top of that, finding unstructured data through manual processes would take more time than there are hours in the day. It’s not a job for humans.

Other roadblocks to unstructured data collection include increasingly stringent privacy regimes, laws that protect intellectual property (IP) and other confidential or proprietary information like trade secrets, and businesses communicating across different security domains between the cloud and traditional hard-drive based storage systems. Information security is evolving at lightning speeds, but some schools of thought are still based on older priorities that focus on preventing outsider threats. It’s important to protect an organization from malicious actors, but what about good-natured, everyday workers who don’t know what they don’t know? That can still hurt an organization in tremendous ways.

Unstructured data isn’t all bad news. It can also be an opportunity for organizations that can recognize two main ideas. First, that this data must be gathered, protected, and understood. Second, that there’s value in all the data that is currently going unused. Computer Weekly cited sources that estimate modern businesses are utilizing as little as 1% of their unstructured data.

Our world runs on data, and each person interacting with apps, platforms, and devices contributes to the growing data reserves. When organizations think about gathering data to help with marketing, business intelligence, and other key functions, they must also factor in the impact of unstructured data. Unstructured data presents equal risk and opportunity for business leaders. When that data lives in the darkness, its only impacts are negative. But when data is brought into the light, we can use that data to be smarter and better at work. 

Solving the unstructured data problem

Unstructured data is a major concern for organizations using cloud-based collaboration and communications platforms. Productivity relies on environments where co-workers can share ideas and messages quickly, without fear of exposing sensitive data. Nightfall, a data loss prevention (DLP) solution, provides much-needed security for today’s most used communications and collaboration platforms like Slack, Confluence, and many other popular SaaS & data infrastructure products.

Since these applications lack an internal DLP function, and each allows for the lightning-fast transmission of massive amounts of data, Nightfall’s machine learning based platform is an essential partner for many organizations handling sensitive information like PII (personally identifiable information), PHI (protected health information), and other business-critical secrets. Nightfall’s three step approach allows businesses to discover, classify, and protect unstructured data through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Our solution makes sense of unstructured data, while traditional security solutions solely rely on users to help categorize data through methods like regular expressions (regex), which have limited accuracy in unstructured environments.

Each step of Nightfall’s ML solution is critical to the process of DLP. Discover means a continuous monitor of sensitive data that is flowing into and out of all the services you use. Classify means ML classifies your sensitive data & PII automatically, so nothing gets missed. Protect means businesses can set up automated workflows for quarantines, deletions, alerts, and more. These three arms of DLP save you time and keep your business safe — all with minimal manual process or review oversight from you or your staff.

Helping businesses identify and access unstructured data

Data is a part of life, especially as remote work becomes an essential function for productivity and collaboration. Business leaders must understand the risk of ignoring unstructured data and the value of making that data work for the business. It’s a tall order to identify and bring in a mass of unknown data to the cloud, but the rewards come with a better understanding of your organization, your industry, and your customers. Good things can come from unstructured data — as long as you’re ready to approach the issue with a solid data strategy and a knowledgeable DLP partner like Nightfall.

Corona vs. Corona

When a disaster threatens your brand value

It’s almost an unimaginable coincidence: A crown — corona — is a rather well chosen name for a premium beer, coincides with the name of a devastating agent of disease in reference to the shape of the bugger. How is the brand affected?

From a marketing perspective this is a nightmare. Think of search engines: over a year ago people searching for Corona were looking fire a liquor store; today they want the latest death toll.

It’s not the first time this has happened. The American brand Ayds Chocolate was caught off guard by the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. But at least the spelling was different.

How do you cope with that? What instructions do you give your marketing department?

The most radical and impractical way is to change your name. This is feasible for a product, but not for a brand like Corona.

Another way is a suffix. Impress it in your clients. Corona for example has started to refer to “Corona beer”. Ayds chocolate changed its name to Diet Ayds but that didn’t work either and the company went out of business.

Introduce a slogan. Corona has been trying out a few already including “the wonder with the lemon”

Localise. The conflict may not exist in certain languages.

Embrace the disaster. This is not feasible with Corona because the situation is too dire. But when over a decade ago red bull was denounced of containing cocaine the company made sure the world knew about it and sales rose.

Consistently watch your trademark for potential threats to its integrity stemming from both other businesses and cultural conflicts. Act quickly to change your brand name if need be!

Double check your brand name candidates for alternative meanings in other languages and cultures!

The African Pee Cola sounded great in the local language, where pee means very good. In English, not so much.

The best-case scenario: Choosing an unfortunate brand name may cause a few laughs.

The worst-case scenario: Choosing an unfortunate brand name may annihilate your company.

Of course a situation like Corona is very rare. The most amazing coincidence is that the last time it also affected a drink ( from “sarsaparilla”, a root beer and a coronavirus from China.

Curiously enough, the wonder with the lemon survived the first years of the worst pandemic for a hundred years with little more than a dip in the stock price of owner Grupo Modelo.

Corona still world’s most valuable beer brand despite namesake virus outbreak

17-Aug-2020 By Stuart Stone

Despite £112m dropping off its brand value in the past year and a name clash with a global pandemic, Corona remains the world’s most valuable beer brand according to Brand Finance. 


Horrifying honorifics

Thai and Japanese are just two languages that have countless ways of saying the same thing depending on who you are, who the other person is, their age, provence, job title or social standing. While those two are especially cumbersome, similar systems exist in Vietnamese, Korean, Malay/Indonesian, and to a lesser extent in Chinese.

These levels of speech are codified and identified by district verb forms, endings, and even choice of words and the languages are called difficult. It is often said that Asian languages are especially prone to this form of honorific speech due to societal norms, but that is not correct.

What’s more, many languages without these codifications do the same thing, as I found out moving back to Europe after 30 years in Asia.

In Chinese the more intimate you are, the more you can dispense with polite phrases. In German, if you do that with family it is considered uneducated. We too have different verb forms and choose different sentence patterns. If codified, “I have no clue” and “I am not familiar with” could be considered structural levels of politeness.

I was greatly surprised when I was addressed as Du (tu in French) vs Sie (vous) by strangers — a change that has happened long ago in post-Franco Spain (tu/usted) but it’s now common in more formal German. (It was always a feature of working class milieus and rural settings.)

Americans have greatly simplified their language but even there you express things differently when talking to your mates vs your boss.

In truth, it is not the honorifics that are different but the codification behind them, which in turn has to do more with language than with societal norms and politics.

Now that horrific part about is that these levels of speech don’t such propagate traditions, but enshrine power structures and class affinities. Despite Chinese Communists insisting that they have abolished class, these dividing honorifics are now making a comeback in the one-party state.

That they persist in monarchies, like Japan and Thailand, in emulation of court etiquette is understandable. That they are resourcing in Xi Jinping’s China is a threat to any glimmer of democratic reform, inasmuch such a glimmer has not long ago be extinguished.

Why Europe loves China

Liberals, Americans in general, people informed about the dismal human rights situation in China, historians – many groups and thinkers keep being amazed at how generously Europe treats China. Merkel and her ilk are called “lefties”, French politicians accused for selling out to the “fellow communists” in Beijing, and Italian politicians of ruining centuries of craftsmanship and tradition in the pursuit of profits.

Many of these accusations are true. The propaganda arm of the Chinese government, in the guise of the Confucius Institutes, is indeed operating freely and without much scrutiny on the continent. Compared to America, European China-policy is much more accommodating, and a socialist tradition in many European countries doesn’t make it look any better. But the real reason is much more pragmatic.

I used to be a diplomat for a EU country. A not very important country in the scheme of things. But even so, my movements and public statements always had to take into consideration what Beijing would say, how the CCP would react. Not because my government loves China, but because Europe is an aging continent, with many fewer young people spending, and many middle-aged technical experts invested in small and medium sized enterprises relying entirely on exports.

From 2000 to 2020, China quickly became the most important export market for these firms. European companies were not self-reliant. Their profits, from cars to machinery, came from China business. So when European politicians criticize China, they are imperiling their businesses, their constituents, and their own political futures. This is true especially for those countries where “export economy” is the dominant thinking, like in Germany.

The EU-China agreement to be ratified these days offers a lot more perks to Chinese companies than to Europeans, for a reason. An estimated 30% of profits of European industry is depending directly on China, another 15% indirectly. This doesn’t measure services and the financial sector.

For example, the agreement allows Chinese staff to work in the EU for three years while EU governments will not be allowed to impose quotas, other limits on the number of specialised workers that come into their country.

So if Europe seems spineless compared to a much younger, much more self-reliant America, that is true, not because of ideological reasons, but practical ones. It is because of Europe’s misguided policies that China could thrive and steal technology for decades. It is Europe’s conservative attitude to immigration that forces it to do business with states that ignore human rights.

As Europeans, we keep being “outraged” about what is happening in Hong Kong, and “concerned” about human rights in China. But we do not have the internal demand, the economic policies, and the political luxury to do otherwise. Europe has painted itself into a corner from which it will be hard to emerge.

The Loneliness of the Virus

One of the biggest problems created by the pandemic and lockdowns is hardly ever discussed at this stage.

We know about the economic impact: finding a job has become near impossible, going for a job interview even legally prohibited in some countries. The long-term medical effects of the disease are as yet unknown and even short-time treatment changes with every mutation we encounter.

Whole professions are under threat, from the beauty industry to hospitality and travel, from sex workers to even unexpected sectors like dentistry. The industry of much cheaper dentists for example that has sprung up across the border where I live, has come to a standstill. A former football player turned gay prostitute with whom I went to school is now working as a builder. Temporarily, for once the current project is finished, there is no new one on the horizon.

I myself am looking for a job. I quit mine just before the epidemic began to relocate to take care of my aging parents, now it turns out I cannot get a new one in the current climate. Unless I knew a programming language – a job easily done from home it turns out. Most of the jobs in my region and industry require onsite teamwork and all the job offers are from last year and currently on hold.

What we don’t discuss is the human toll of loneliness. My parents led a pretty isolated life in retirement but it turns out it was filled with lots of interactions that have since become impossible or even dangerous, from their card games at the seniors’ club to doctors visits, the friendly chat with the neighbors to weekend outings with the church. The three of us are now stuck – and have been for months – in a small apartment, and although not in financial difficulty yet, our days have become filled with isolation and frustration.

I am not the only one of course, and many are worse off. My mate in Zurich lives alone too and is getting worried about his job at the airport; my lover and friend in Malaysia, still a student in his final PhD year cannot find an internship due to corona.

There are, as of this writing, few places left where things are better, and it looks like much worse is likely to come. Life is screeching to a halt. Loneliness is encroaching. The realization is setting in that a pandemic kills not only medically, physically, but also psychologically, emotionally.

Gay men and young people in generally have relied on dating apps to meet up. That has become impossible. Chatting is nice but it’s no substitute for human contact.

It is also hard on the old and particularly hard on children, who, kept from attending school, are losing contact to their mates and the social circles that help form their personalities. Already threatened by social media and technical isolation, they are now physically isolated too. Not an easy lot to bear.

The crisis will take years to resolve itself, medically, economically, and personally. The actual scars may last much longer.

China continues to suck at PR

The new year started out as a victory for the PR, except it was a total disaster.

Three separate incidents occurred to show how bad the communists in Beijing still are at public relations.

Number one, a tweet surfaced by the Chinese embassy to the United States equating the genocide of the Uighurs and forced sterilization of Uighur women as progress and “emancipation”.

Second, the storming of the Capitol was celebrated in Chinese media and equated with the Legco unrest in Hong Kong. The former was a domestic insurrection against a democratically elected government. The latter was a protest against a tyrannical dictatorship.

Finally, China called out the United States for sending the UN ambassador for a visit to Taiwan, arguably a questionable move but one that makes Beijing once again like truculent fools who keep repeating the same protests over and over again as if they had some kind of diplomatic weight.

No doubt these were not all the blunders commuted. Calling the immuring and isolation of 11 million people around Shijiazhuang a necessary control of the epidemic when it is just the same callous disregard for human life as last year is in poor taste.

On Jan 9 China on issued a new order to prohibit firms from complying with foreign laws banning transactions with Chinese companies and individuals, effective immediately. Although within its rights to do so it is another misguided and petulant move.

The reason is China’s distorted self-image. The CCP genuinely believes the no sense it spouts. After so many decades of party control, generation after generation of apparatchiks has been indoctrinated to the level that the party can do no wrong and everything it says must be right. With a brutal dictator like Xi in power, this image has been amplified. Whatever he says is the final word and must not be questioned.

We can expect more for China, but one thing we cannot expect: meaningful change.

Hong Kong 2021

The year started on a shocking note. Distracted by Corona and US Senate elections, the world stood idly by as China continued her assault on democracy in Hong Kong.

The current political crackdown is not only limited to the winners of the 2020 Pro-Democracy Primary Elections, nor to the Resistance Camp formed after the Primaries. This is a large-scale liquidation involving 52 democrats across different political spectrums

This crackdown unmasked the regime’s intention to uproot the democracy of Hong Kong once and for all, restricting their rights to enter or leave Hong Kong, as well as their potential expression of opinions in the future.

According to Police, they believed the Primary Elections is to paralyse the LegCo. This further hints that every citizen who has organised, participated, and 600K citizens voted in the primary elections can be accused of “subverting state power”.

Every LegCo member enjoys the right to veto the budget as it is a right conferred by law, it is definitely not “subversive” by nature. The CCP is asserting that any future actions in the LegCo showing resistance and not complete compliance will be regarded as subversion of gov.

The CCP hopes to stifle all traces of democracy in the city. Hong Kong would only be left with “dissidents” who are loyal to the CCP.

There is no doubt that today’s crackdown is equivalent to the Formosa Incident. 2021 is the start of a decade, and this decade would only bring further crackdown from the CCP. Free World should support us and stop the CCP from encroaching our rights and liberal values.

At the end of the day (January 6) the police announced that there would be hundreds more arrests. Hong Kong has changed beyond recognition.

List of the #Hongkong lawmakers arrested and released today on bail

Day 2

Impressive flow chart from #hkpoliceforce briefing today involves both time travel from July to April and an infinite loop. It is a direct assault on democracy. Distracted by the events in Washington, the #CCP is moving in Hong Kong with shocking speed.

Chart also misses step of CE dissolving LegCo after first veto (BL 50). After that, CE can pass her own budget (BL51) or invoke Emergency Regulations Ord. Also, candidates in the 2nd LegCo election (if not delayed by ERO) could be DQ’d by Returning Officers.

Finally, if 2nd LegCo vetoes another budget, forcing CE to resign under BL52(3) and new CE election, then that’s how the Basic Law was supposed to work. It’s a feature, not a bug, unlike the flow chart’s infinite loop.

Sources HKPF and others
Full text: https://www.basiclaw.gov.hk/en/basiclawtext/chapter_4.html #democracy #hongkong

Universal Basic Income Now or Never

The real cost of the pandemic may change the world

Like many others in 2020, I lost my job due to the economic upheaval caused by a global pandemic unleashed by an irresponsible hegemonic superpower which as early as 2013 experimented with bat viruses in its biochemical warfare labels.

I was a witness to some of these invents and at the end of it the ostracism of Taiwan which warned first about the Chinese experiments but was ignored by the WHO.

Thankfully, COVID-19 has a low mortality rate, although it is not the flu and the long-term health effect effects on the respiratory system, nervous system, heart and even musculature may take decades to become apparent.

The real costs of the virus, however, will be economic. Already, the hospitality industry, hotel and travel business around the globe are suffering. Even in countries with low infection rates, businesses are closing down due to lack of vIsitors.

Already pummeled by technological changes, many industries are automating no longer need the armies of workers that made the middle class rich in the second half of the 20th century. The skills needed today can increasingly be complemented or replaced by computers. Unemployment is not rising because we are creating low-pay jobs and those catering to the rich, not meaningful careers that guarantee a livelihood.

A pandemic ruins the travel industry but also the arts. Those dependent on live performances, real spectators rather than the written word or remote endeavors, are going extinct. In most countries museums and theaters are now entirely financed by states, something that cannot last forever. Medication is either unobtainable or prohibitively expensive an countries that have produced generics for e.g. cancer and HIV cannot be visited atm and are even shutting down medical tourism to keep their own citizens alive.

In this situation, the calls for a Universal Basic Income are becoming louder and its implementation inevitable. We can no longer rely on an arbitrary, complicated system of social benefits dependent on antiquated rules. We need to reform tax systems that have impoverished the middle class, diminished the chances of the poor, and is universally exploited by the rich.

A universal basic income is now more necessary than ever because millions will never get back on their feet. Especially for those over 50, finding a job has become near impossible. And if they do, it is a low paid meaningless work far removed from the skills they acquired over the course of a lifetime.

In order to save a generation, we must improve everyone’s life, not just those of the rich. Global decrease in poverty as measured by the UN or WEF is meaningless if millions of middle class citizens fall back into relative poverty. Poverty is measured by a certain amount of dollars per day someone needs to survive. That is nonsense. For worker in a low level income country, driving for Uber Eats may be a godsend; for a flight attendant who lost their job due to COVID, it is a brutal step down – in incoming, quality of life, and self esteem.

Let’s not forget the ailing population. Not ailing from any particular sickness, but ailing from that most trying of old conditions: old age, frailty, and simply the loss of ability to do what a 20-year old could do. Their skills and knowledge no longer have the same value as before. For every person retiring in security and safety, these is another one who lost everything, usually between 50 and 60, to unscrupulous banks, investment advice, loss of income opportunities, or the financial burden of taking care of one’s parents.

We can continue to muddle on, or we can make permanent changes to the way society is organized. Winner takes all capitalism is not the way forward.

Versatility in Creme

The French brought the millefeuille dough to Eastern Europe and from there is took on a life of its own.

It became the basis of countless variations in every European country, usually with a vanilla creme or pudding filling.

It is known by many names, most of which have stemmed from the German cremeschnitte, and literally translate to either cream slice or, in some cases, cream pie. According to Historical Sociolinguistics, it is believed that the origins of the cremeschnitte date back to the blend of two cuisines in the Austro-Hungarian empire.

However, its Polish name Napoleonka indicates that this dessert might have possibly originated from the French mille-feuille, which is also known as the Napoleon – another pastry whose exact origin is unknown, even though its modern form was said to be influenced by improvements of Marie-Antoine Carême, the famous French chef-extraordinaire.
Still, while the Napoleon is made up of three layers of puff pastry alternating with two layers of pastry cream, the typical cremeschnitte is made with only two layers of puff pastry held together by a hefty amount of vanilla-flavored pastry cream, which is sometimes topped with a thin layer of whipped cream.

Cremeschnitte is most often simply sprinkled with icing sugar, but it can also be topped with a glossy and smooth glacé icing, and nicely decorated with a traditional chevron design. Two of the most popular cremeschnitte varieties include the aforesaid Polish Napoleonka or kremówka.

Kremna rezina is a specialty of the Slovenian Lake Bled area. It is a luscious cream cake with a golden, crispy, buttery pastry acting as its base. The base is topped with flavorful vanilla custard, whipped cream, and a layer of thin, buttery dough.
The whole cake is traditionally dusted with icing sugar and served sliced in cubes. The story of kremna rezina (or Bled cream cake) began with the arrival of chef Ištvan Lukačević to Bled’s Park Hotel, where he modified the Hungarian cream cake by adding the right proportions of whipped cream into it, and in 1953, the hotel presented Lukačević’s invention to the public.
The new dessert was a huge success.

Tompouce is a traditional Dutch pastry consisting of a thin puff pastry that is filled with cream and topped with a layer of smooth, pink icing.

It’s almost identical to the Hungarian #cremeschnitte #kremes

The dessert is usually prepared in a rectangular shape. Around King’s Day in Amsterdam, the icing is traditionally colored bright orange in order to represent true Dutch colors.
It is believed that the dessert is named after a performing dwarf with the stage name of Tom Pouce. Tompouce is often served with afternoon tea or coffee, especially at festive events such as birthdays

christmas #desserts #holidays #recipe #rezepte #weihnachten ⁣#bakingfromscratch #bakingisfun #instabaking #baking #backvergnügen #ilovebaking #bakinglove #bakingfun #cakes #holidaybaking #homemade #bakinglife #homebaking #bakery #bakken #kerstmas #natale #navidad #noel #jul #dutchcake

Deceiving names

In the culinary arts very many dishes incorporate place names. Those names ase frequently random inventions (cf French Fries) or an attempt to differentiate a foodstuff from local traditions. (A Vienna sausage doesn’t come from Vienna). Rarely do they indicate a place where the dish is actually from and has a clear connection to a locale.

One of those is the inimitable a Salzburger nockerl, invented there and representing the mountains around the city.

Salzburger nockerl are light and delicate vanilla-flavored dumplings which are, due to the method of preparation, often labeled as a soufflé. As the name implies, the dish was invented in Salzburg in the 17th century, and as an ode to its place of origin, when preparing these sweet treats, the airy mass is arranged on a baking tray in three mounds, representing the three hills that surround the city.

The dish is always served warm, either as a dessert or a main dish, and it is traditionally dusted with powdered sugar and paired with various fruit sauces.

Heat the milk with the cut-open vanilla pod and lemon juice. Remove from the stove and leave to sit. Remove the pod. Smear an oval-shaped, ovenproof form with butter and pour in enough vanilla milk to cover the bottom.

With a hand mixer, mix the cooled egg whites with a pinch of salt and a third of the sugar until very stiff. Slowly add the rest of the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is thick and creamy.

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 428°F. Add the egg yolks, lemon rind, vanilla sugar, flour, and cornstarch to the egg white mixture and fold three or four times with a whisk (the mass mustn’t become homogenous). Make 4 pyramid-shaped nockerl, placing them next to each other in the baking tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown..

Dust with icing sugar and serve quickly so that the Nockerl don’t collapse.

christmas #desserts #holidays #sweets #nachspeise #postre #pudding #süssspeise #süßes #rezeptideen #rezepte #noel #weihnachtsbäckerei

Why Human Translators Have a Future

Around fifteen years ago I sold my last batch of share in my translation company. I sincerely believed that machine translation was around the corner and my company had limited earnings potential.

While I was right on some ways I was wrong in others. The standard documents, business correspondence, and software manuals dried up for sure. But other things came along. Prices for translation actua lly went up in some areas.

Literary translation was always the exception. It requires years; of skills and writing talent, familiarity with the author and his genre, not to mention the ability to tread a fine line to make a book commercially viable. It also pays very little.

Other areas that will never be replaced are scientific or medical documents and most certainly political content. As a translator for some very important figures in politics I was sometimes old that “ the minister doesn’t like that word “. A machine will never catch those nuances.

But it is in my food blog I started http://instagram.com/worldfooduniquethat I found a much more mundane reason not to rely on Google translate and other systems.

Take pepper for example. In German or French, Pfeffer; or poivre are always black pepper corns, which are Scotch bonnet in the Caribbean, where peppers and chilis, like in English (the plural) and bell peppers are dried paprika in German or Hungarian, and so on.

Some meat products have entirely different names in different regions. A tortilla in Mexico is a different food than in Spain. How would an artificial intelligence ever know what you mean, given the fact that most people are not aware of denominations outside their local traditions?

We have a long way to go before machines will replace humans in most areas. Some are obvious, others less so.

How To Name The World

I am writing a blog about global food marketing http://www.instagram.com/worldfoodunique and find myself troubled how to refer to regions of the world. Almost any terminology is biased, racist, egocentric and just plain wrong.

We speak of a first world but Europe was hardly the first. What’s first then? The economy? Research? Technology? Hardly.

We talk about East Asia but when you are in “The East” everything important is westwards. Towards east is but a huge ocean and a few forlorn islands.

Asians in the UK are Indians. Asians in California are people from East Asia. Inhabitants of “East Asia” hardly think of Indians when they use the term “Asian”. In Latin America, we have a similar situation with “Asiaticos”.

Ah, Latin America. What’s Latin about it? Because their official languages are related to Latin? So are English, German, and many others. Aztec and Mayan are definitely. What’s a “Latino” then?

When the inhabitants of the southern American continent say “America” they mean everything from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska. When Americans say “America” they mean the home of the free, the United States.

We think of “Chinese” as one cultural and racial entity. It is most certainly not. The Han Chinese are the most populous but China has more than 100 other tribes, languages, races and ancestries, from Mongol, Yi, to Manchuria and Viet.

So yes, I have difficulties describing regions in my blogs, not to mention races. If find this problem more pressng than gender issues like He/She/They Cis/Trans etc. Those arejust personal issues. The country and race terminology affects journalism world-wide, disenfranchises minorities, perpetuates stereotype and Euro-American centrism.

I believe we need a new terminology and I a^m trying to come up with one that is less harmful than what we are using now. It’ll be along way.

How a world-class airline missed the bus

Amidst the Coronavirus crisis, when huge airlines like Lufthansa are struggling and others are already close to bankruptcy. Airline and airport rankings are reshuffling.

The local competition for Eva Air are weak; Cathay Pacific whose survival is also in question is struggling. At least with Hong Kong’s identity destroyed by the Chinese Communists, it has lost its former shine.

China Airlines suffers from association with Taiwan’s neighbor and is often confused with Air China. Thai and Singapore Airlines operate from expensive and touristy hubs.

As of the time of this writing, the only hub carriers active are Turkish and Emirates, both Islamic and with ridiculous transit times in Dubai and Istanbul.

Eva Air had an excellent safety record, first class onboard cuisine — see my food blog Instagram.com/worldfoodunique — and locked in cheap oil prices. New planes offer great flexibility short and long haul and it has a neutral name not associated with any country or religion.

And yet, the airline as axing flights and seemingly retreating from profitable routes as well as loss making ones.

Eva Air would be a fantastic hub carrier for East Asia with great connections to US, Europe and Australia. It serves all major cities in Southeast Asia, Japan and China. Due to the time zone, connecting times are short. Cross Pacific routes are profitable due to the big Taiwanese diaspora in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

The tech industry employs thousands of Taiwanese and Taiwanese companies like TSMC or Foxconn are setting up new production sites.

Eva has a profitable cargo network in high demand, integrated maritime connection and a new and partly refurbished airport at its disposal.

So, why is it not expanding like mad and dominating the market like the Middle East carriers do?

The reasons are not entirely obvious but they have to do with Taiwanese risk-avoidance, a conservative management style, lack of government guarantees and most of all a certain lack of confidence in cones own abilities — a core element of Taiwanese business culture and not surprising in a country that has lived under the shadow of its huge neighbor and internal political strive for decades.

Tacos everywhere

Seldom has a food item conquered the world like #tacos. Most food makes it around the world due to the efforts of marketers, emigrants, multinationals, specific products, and more than often it is altered gravely.

The meatballs in Azerbaijan are different from Swedish ones which taste differently than American meatballs or Chinese lion heads.

Sushi have been adopted to local tastes. In California you find avocados in them, in Central Asia lamb and yoghurt, and in Europe sausages.

The taco however remained largely unchanged and apart form a choice of meat or fish and the preferred sauce exists in its country of origin exactly the same as in the rest of the world.

Every effort to industrialize it had failed. Taco sauce from the supermarket is disgusting, taco shells and tortillas easy to make at home, guacamole is fun to make and so most of the associated products and their marketing remain American.

For more visit Instagram.com/worldfoodunique

Changing Habits

Our eating habits are all different. From country to country, region to region, city to city, but also person to person and from decade to decade it seems.

Much of the advice and recipes given on the internet are unsuitable for a large portion of readers. Many ingredients are only available in certain places. Young people can eat much spicer than older folks. Caucasians moving to Asia often have trouble digesting the round corn rice, and Asians moving to Europe tend to miss it. Bread in Germany is dark and hard; in Asia its soft and sweet, and so on.

Then there is age. My habits certainly have changed. I used to wake up hungry and have massive breakfasts. Now at 50+ I need a few hours before I feel well enough to eat. Simple breakfasts or just coffee will do.

Oddly enough my selection of foods changed too. I used to travel the world and enjoy local cuisine, as you can see on http://www.instagram.com/worldfoodunique

Now I tend to take much greater care in selecting ingredients, I have gone vegetarian almost and tend to make the same dishes all over again.

How have your habits changed over time?

Simple Pleasures

In the times of a pandemic I am daily discovering the simple pleasures of life. Many come from my garden.

Ever since I studied in England, I’ve developed a taste for the simplest sandwiches 🥪 in the world. When returning to Austria 🇦🇹 I showed my mom and she was amazed. Although we grow red #radishes #radieschen #onions 🧅 and #cucumber 🥒 in the garden and use them in various recipes, my family never thought of putting them on toast. So here is how I make them.

A) Radish sandwich

Use toast or rye bread #ryebread #pumpernickelbread #vollkornbrot and smother it in #ricottacheese #frischkäse

Salt one side of the radish slices and lay them. Garnish with any herb 🌿 you like.

B) Cucumber sandwich

I use soft toast here in handy strips and put #mango 🥭 #chutney followed by cucumber thinly sliced.

C) Onion Sandwich

This one is the loveliest

Try to find an onion 🧅 the size of the glass will use to #stencil the #toastbread. Cut out a round shape and smother in home-made mayo.

Slice the onion, salt lightly, and top with a second round toast also brushed generously with #mayonnaise. Cover the sides like a cake with mayo and roll in herbs 🌿- or cayenne pepper 🌶: paprika powder or beetroot powder for visual effect

#sandwiches #easyrecipes #homemade #healthyfood #healthyeating #vegetarian

Purple Carrots

The SARS-Cov virus with all its mutations is wreaking havoc on planet Earth. The economic impact for some countries and industries is enormous. Italy spends billions of Euros a month on help for all industries, other countries are helping airlines and hotels. The travel industry is of course most affected with all the lockdowns. Some smaller nations might never fully recover.

I lost my job twice in 2020 and most teaching engagements were cancelled. The I had major surgery from which I won’t fully recover for another 6-8 months. I spend a lost of time in bed resting and writing.

I am writing a book about the effects of colonialism on Asian languages and one on marketing in the food industry which allows me to do a lot of research not just into products but also recipes, traditions and the history of food.

You can find the results for now on Instagram. http://www.Instagram.com/worldfoodunique.

I try to answer questions such as why are carrots orange (The Dutch!), who really invented Pan de Jamón, where do doughnuts come from, but also how industrial processes and products have changed the way we cook (cue Heinz ketchup).

You are welcome to follow me on my journey on all my channels.

How experience trumps brand

The illusion of brand value in hospitality

In the old days, when travelling to foreign lands, with languages one did not speak and food one could not eat, transportation systems one could not navigate and people one could not trust, it was generally safer to stay at a hotel chain property. A name one knew and a brand one could trust.

Unsurprisingly, it was the Americans who invented the concept. Their salespeople and executives now could go anywhere in the vast United States, even the world, and trust the hotel they stayed in would offer the same facilities and quality they already knew.

How times have changed.

Staying at a hotel is no longer about minimum standards and basic expectations, but about one word: experience.

The Internet in particular has changed what is possible. We now have hundreds of pictures and opinions available to guide us. In a world of increasingly differentiated hotel concepts and the tyranny of customer reviews, we can safely select a different property and take the risk of being disappointed. Because we now have a voice: one review on Tripadvisor and the property may be tarnished, even ruined.

Why I Never Use TripAdvisor – Or: The Curse of Reviews

It was the cursed millennials who have created these new rules, booking.com and ubiquitous smartphones which enabled them, Instagram and Tripadvisor which enforced them

Influencers are now more important than brand value. A good brand must be able to influence, inspire, innovate, and tell a story; it should be charismatic and absolutely unique.

Hotel chains began to snap up iconic properties and integrate them into their offering while fully preserving their unique character. All which, as a designer of luxury hotels and designation F&B suits us just fine.

The erosion of brand value also means a redefinition of what a brand is. A motley collection of luxury properties can now be a “brand”. A bar, a restaurant, a spa can now be the reason why someone chooses a particular property.

That is why unique luxurious interiors are now more important than ever. Customers crave novelty, and overall, uniqueness, and only good architecture and design can offer that.

Read more: My Journey Into Interior Design

The author is director of global business development for luxury interior design house AB Concept in Hong Kong, Milan and Taipei. Follow the author on LinkedIn


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