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A Taiwan Treat
Remember I reported being told by a co-worker that "everyone" in the test
lab outside my office was installing Linux? Freenix books and CDs are
indeed proliferating out there, and I'm pretty sure it was a Un*x console
display that an entire section of testers was viewing and discussing when
I passed through during the lunch break the other day.
It's hard to feel greatly encouraged by this after twelve years of
railing against Windows and being told complacently again and again, "But
it's the trend." With one exception, I've never known anyone on this
island to voice serious misgivings about Microsoft, other than to admit
to a vague dislike of the company's flagship product.
Until now, that is. I have seen another sign suggesting that maybe now I
can begin to take heart. A professionally drawn cartoon of unknown
provenance is circulating around the lab in GIF form, and if it speaks
for many people here, it is encouraging indeed. I will try to describe it
below. It involves a double-entendre based on the usual transliteration
of a certain English name into Chinese; I hope my rendering back into
English isn't too awkward....
The first panel shows the start of a cooking lesson on TV. Standing
behind a wok and cutting board, a jolly-looking chef greets the audience
and announces, "Today I will demonstrate how to make Rice Billaf."
Speaking off-screen in the second panel, he instructs: "First get these
ingredients ready." The panel illustrates and identifies two ingredients.
One is a bowl of freshly cooked rice. The other, represented by a
cheerful face sporting oversized glasses and an unmistakable haircut, is
labeled "One fresh Bill."
The voiceover continues in panel three: "Place Bill in pre-heated cooking
oil and slowly deep-fry until golden brown." Shown in the panel is a wok
full of furiously bubbling liquid; emerging from it at the tips of a pair
of chopsticks, legs locked in sitting position, torso hunched forward,
arms reaching greedily toward some never-acquired prize, is a still-
smiling (or is that a grimace?) miniature Bill. Golden brown.
"Place on top of rice and you're done." Wielding the chopsticks with a
deft touch, the chef delicately deposits the steaming morsel on its bed
It takes a lot to get people here mad. Bo Yang, a Taiwan author and
social activist of some repute at home and abroad, asks his compatriots
in the title of one work, "Why Don't You Ever Get Angry?" Wendy Goldman
Rohm writes in _The Microsoft File_ that in the early nineties, "...small
Far Eastern manufacturers... were known to sign anything Microsoft handed
them and often paid royalties of $70 to $80 per copy -- easily 10 percent
of the cost of a low-priced clone." And to watch Taiwan traffic is to
marvel at the indignities human beings can endure without complaining,
without even casting a sharp look or muttering a harsh word....
Everyone has their limits, though, and when people here reach their
breaking point, they don't fiddle-faddle with legal niceties like some
folks back where I come from. They don't make threats or issue warnings.
They just... get cookin', so to speak.