Category Archives: New Taipei City, Taiwan

NTPD Technical PEP and my 3rd visit to Taiwan in 2013

I am very happy to say that I have been appointed as the Technical-PEP executive for New Taipei City Police Department.  I now have an even better excuse to go and annoy the team in Taiwan from time to time! 🙂

So, I was in the region in December, started in Seoul Korea, then on to Weihai and then Beijing in China and so I seized the opportunity and next stop was back to Taipei.

I ended up flying into Taipei just for one night instead of the planned two nights as I had to leave again for Korea and an urgent client meeting.

So I met with a client first thing in the morning which was a very good meeting, then had some business meetings back at the IBM offices, followed by a late lunch with the team and finally a dash to the airport for the flight to Seoul.

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All in all it was much too rushed, however, as always the team is taking care of me, for instance they have continued to look out for interesting items related to my blog on toilets! Please see my blog entries from March 2013! I will not embarrass her by telling you who supplied the following interesting photo!

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This interesting, but somewhat flimsy looking contraption is used to convert an “eastern toilet” into a fairly basic “western toilet” and is apparently commonly available in the stores in mainland China, who would have believed it!  I personally think this would be a somewhat risky proposition, requiring good aim and hopefully little “splatter.” However, the general availability of such an item does point to a fairly widespread need! I am sure that our engineers could come up with something more robust, if significantly less portable! Who knows, perhaps next time I will be able to write about the “new IBM Smarter Toilet” stranger things have happened!

By the way, they still have literally hundreds of new places to go and eat, amazing!

As always my time in Taipei was far too short, but hopefully I will be back for a little longer sometime in 2014.

Meanwhile, I continue to be in awe of the influence that those few weeks in March as a member of the Smarter Cities Challenge team have had on both me and my work. Until next time team, and there will be a next time!

#ibmcsc Taiwan #smartercities challenge

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New Taipei City Revisited

Well, it is now the beginning of September and 5 months since we finished our work in Taiwan, I am sitting in a hotel in Bangalore, India thinking back on the last few days which started with client visits in Seoul, Korea but which to my intense happiness included almost 3 days back in Taipei on my way here.

Firstly let me say that my time in Seoul (and Basun) was terrific, the client meetings went well and I look forward to doing some great innovation there, but also the Koreans were wonderful hosts and the hotel was outstanding, couldn’t ask for a better experience, except of course for Taiwan.

Now I don’t want to set up even more competition between Taiwan and Korea than already exists, however, to be fair the Taiwan team have an advantage, first they know me very well, as our team spent 3 weeks there in march, and secondly they know to tag team me, Anny, Lisa, Mandy, Tina, Valeria (alphabetical sequence) were all in on the act, with Lisa and Anny directing of course.

Now, I should say a few words about business, I was in Taipei to follow up with our client from march, there have been some changes mainly on the IBM side, the client rep has changed so we had to help bring Renee (a warm welcome to the team) up to speed and make sure we were all on track. So, we had multiple long internal discussions, Thanks Shaun and Vicky for keeping us grounded and on track in those, and I think we have a good plan of action to support this client.

Unfortunately the Commissioner was called to a meeting with the mayor, so didnt get to see us however the Deputy Commissioner stood in and was extremely kind and welcoming, he made some very appreciative comments about the report from our teams work in March and how they were making progress on several of the recommendations we made. We also had a very cordial and lively meeting with the CIO and his staff and I think have laid the groundwork for an extremely beneficial partnership for both the client and IBM.

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So, some long working sessions which went very well but of course the rest of the time we spent eating (and talking about toilets!)

Having been to as many restaurants as we had I could not believe that the team went over the list of places we ate at in March and came up with a completely new list for this trip, I have to admit to being very partial to the food in Asia, particularly Korea and Taiwan (except for Stinky Tofou which I just don’t like I am afraid) but the team outdid themselves.

taiwan seafood restaurant

I did have lunch with one of the senior technical leaders I mentor here, the seafood was superb (see picture above) and I made the mistake of commenting on it to Anny, Lisa et al, I think there is now not only a competition with Korea, but inside Taiwan there is the team versus Julian, I thought I was here to help close some business yes, but also to promote teamwork and cooperation, do some mentoring and round tables, etc. instead I seem to be starting multiple regional wars!

To the rest of my SCC team, you have to get back to Taiwan, having started these competitions you are bound to have an unbelievable time!

So, in summary the work was great, the food even more outstanding than ever, but what really stands out is the lifelong friendships I have made with some of the most friendly, loyal, intelligent and welcoming people I have ever met, it made the 3 days go by way too fast and so it was a very bitter sweet experience, extreme happiness to see these friends again, share new photos of my family and theirs and so on, but extremely sad that it was so short and had to end so soon.

I can only imagine that their families heaved a sigh of relief that I was gone so quickly and didn’t disrupt their family lives as we must have done during the team work in March.

So, it is with a smile on my face, and a tear in my eye that I sit here and write another blog entry that I hadn’t anticipated writing.

I look forward to working with the client on projects that will showcase them as an example of the Smarter use of technology in the world, Renee where is that plan???

I miss the rest of the team and wish they had been able to be here with me, perhaps when we deploy some groundbreaking systems with the client???

But most of all, to the team in Taiwan, 谢谢

Xièxiè
“thank you” in Chinese

PC

ps: Team, I look forward so much to next time, and yes, I will try and bring my family with me!

#ibmcsc Taiwan #smartercities challenge

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Home Again!

Home again, yes, it is very very good to be home, perhaps in a few days I will get my body clocks back in order and will feel more rested, yes I have tried Melatonin and it does help some.

Now, as I sit here getting back into my day job I am spurred to write another blog, perhaps a little more serious than most of my previous entries, really a set of random thoughts and experiences that may be helpful to others who go off on similar projects.

1. You wont be able to do justice to the project and still look after your day job, 3 weeks is not enough time to do great work if you are not dedicated to it completely. Delegate before you start the project and stick to it, don’t expect to be able to do email or calls during the long days, you wont be able to keep up with them and it will impact the quality of the work you deliver on the project.

2. You need to get organized in the first hour or two, you need a “project manager” who will organize you and keep you on top of the schedule.  For us it was Felicity, working with us she created a “plan of record” each task had an owner, who else would be involved and a due date, and she managed to that plan.  She also had a first thing in the morning team meeting to run over the schedule for the day, who needed to be where and when, etc. Without this level of organization we would not have got done on time, incidentally, it also included planned time to have fun, we went for foot massages, visited Jazz bars,  and so on, all because we planned in time for these things.

3. Involve your hosts and the client in as many of the activities as possible, adopt a “no surprises” approach to the work, we did most of the discovery in week one, although we had some in week two and even one or two sessions at the start of week three, but later in week two we held comeback sessions with the different client organizations we had done discovery with, we showed them the data we had gathered and the conclusions we had drawn, we also gave them a preview of the draft recommendations for each area and had open discussion, this allowed us to refine our work and also gave the client a sense of participation and ownership. As soon as we were able in week three we went over our high level recommendations (big ticket items) with the client primary sponsor, again with open discussion, it made our recommendations better and allowed the client to prepare his management chain for what would be in the final presentation and ultimately the report.  BTW, our hosts were really helpful with cultural issues and sensitive wording, it made the conversations with the client much more productive.

4. Do as much discovery together as a team as is possible, you want all team members to know about all the different areas, then you can split the work on drawing conclusions, researching industry best practices, etc and the rest of the team can do productive reviews because they have been involved in the discovery.

5. Have someone be responsible for the overall picture, that person needs to attend every client meeting, discovery, comebacks and so on, and to really be responsible for the individual sections, except for the summary and overall recommendations.  I think it is really good to have someone do this, perhaps because it was me for our project, but I think it keeps the individual areas from becoming disjointed and has someone responsible for abstracting away from the details and putting together the 3 or 4 major recommendations that everything else feeds in to.

6. Don’t lose your sense of humor, we used the blogs as a way to change pace, laugh and let off a little steam, with Avril and I physically posted all our blogs all of the team had input to them and we would put aside half an hour periodically just to look at drafts and make comments.

7. Exercise, much of the time we spent in this project we were working long hard days, everyone on the team went to the gym each day and worked out to whatever level they were comfortable with. My observation is that it gave us the stamina and energy to deal with the challenges of each day in good humor.

8. Appoint a CFO, that is Chief Food Officer, from among your local support staff, we found that one of our support team loved doing this, planning which restaurants we would visit, what types of food, etc. It meant we never had to think about this, and it also meant that we went to places we would never had known about if it hadn’t been for the local knowledge of our CFO, Anny, thank you, between you and Lisa’s list we had a wonderful time, just lets not do the “Stinky Tofu” next time, OK?

9. Have some down time over the weekend, we designated Sunday morning and afternoon as personal choice time, we all did laundry, went shopping, etc. during this time, sometimes with one or two of the rest of the team, sometimes on our own, it gave us a break, a change of pace and an opportunity to take care of things we wanted to do on our own.

10. Chose a presenter, for all the main presentations we used the same person, and by the way not me.  For the comeback sessions each of the team members presented their own area of focus, and as the overall person I attended each of these, but for the main presentations, including the review with our client sponsor and the final presentation we used the same person, Avril has a calm and “regal” style and it worked very well indeed with our client.

10. Put some thought into the community service project, we went and read to elementary school classes that are learning English.  Each of us printed pictures of our families, and a few other things to share with the kids (and leave behind) to get them involved and interested.  These were very well received and paid dividends in connecting with the kids, we had a great time!

10. Coming back to your day job is hard, give yourself at least a couple of days to catch up on mail, sort out any issues, deal with dropping off laundry, etc. before you get back into the back to back to back call schedule.

Well I am sure I could keep going for ever, but that will do for now, perhaps the rest of the team will comment and add their thought on these and other lessons learned.

Now, back to the grindstone! 🙂

#ibmcsc Taiwan #smartercities challenge

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Media update from last day (March 29th)

Would like to update you the coverage generated from the Smarter City Challenge media session after the final presentation. We also found 1 coverage regarding our team doing a community service project at Tamsui Zhu-wei Elementary School on the website of Education Bureau, New Taipei City. We will continue to monitor if there is more coverage in the near future.

(Taiwan)March 29, Education Bureau, The Students of Zhu-wei Elementary School Speaking in English with IBM’s Executives
http://www.ntpc.edu.tw/web/News?command=showDetail&postId=273130&groupId=

The coverage of Smarter City Challenge final Media Session

(Taiwan)March 29, CNA, IBM Helping Diagnosis The Public Safety of New Taipei City
http://www.cna.com.tw/News/aSOC/201303290210-1.aspx

(Taiwan)March 29, Yahoo News, IBM Helping Diagnosis The Public Safety of New Taipei City
http://tw.news.yahoo.com/%E7%82%BA%E6%96%B0%E5%8C%97%E6%B2%BB%E5%AE%89%E6%8A%8A%E8%84%88-ibm%E8%A8%BA%E6%96%B7-091415816.html

(Taiwan)March 29, idn-news.com, New Taipei City Cooperating With IBM and Releasing The Blueprint Of Smarter City Challenge
http://www.idn.com.tw/news/news_content.php?catid=5&catsid=7&catdid=0&artid=20130329joanne005

(Taiwan)March 29, Yahoo news, New Taipei City Cooperating With IBM and Releasing The Blueprint Of Smarter City Challenge

http://tw.news.yahoo.com/%E6%96%B0%E5%8C%97%E8%88%87ibm%E5%90%88%E4%BD%9C-%E6%99%BA%E6%85%A7%E5%9F%8E%E5%B8%82%E5%A4%A7%E6%8C%91%E6%88%B0-3%E9%80%B1%E6%88%90%E6%9E%9C%E7%99%BC%E8%A1%A8-070346323.html

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#ibmcsc Taiwan #smartercities challenge

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Done and dusted!

Well we are done, we have one more banquet tonight!

The team is weary but happy, we have shed plenty of tears today with our support team, it is great to be going home, but I think each of us will agree that we are leaving a little bit of our hearts behind.  Enough said, thank you for the opportunity to be here, it was indeed a life changing experience, and for you, our readers thank you for sticking with us.  Goodbye.

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#ibmcsc Taiwan #smartercities challenge

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Are you full yet?

The only person I know that eats as much as the Taiwanese is my son. Angus – this one is for you!

We are only just getting used to the quantity of food that is served in Taiwan. Everywhere you look there is another restaurant, cafe or street stall. People eat out here all the time. Many times, when the team have been ‘stuffed’ and can’t eat another thing, more dishes start arriving and we realise we have only had the starters. It is not uncommon to have 13 different dishes or to refill a hot pot 4 to 5 times during a meal. Our hosts have been making sure we sample all the different dishes available – too many to remember.

Some of the things we have eaten . . .

Beef noodles, stinky tofu, oyster noodles, sticky rice, chicken roll, spring roll, sushi, spinach, sweet potato leaves, 1000 year old egg, omlette, steamed buns, pork dumplings, vegetable dumplings, shrimp dumplings, white fungus and lotus seed soup, three times cooked duck, spicy tofu, bubble milk tea, duck hotpot, spicy hotpot, milk fish, shrimps, fish soup, squid, baby squid, octopus, tripe (yes tripe!), beef, pork, chicken, shellfish, spinach soup, beef noodle soup, pasta, pizza, pinenut and truffle risotto, bagels, lavender jelly, soft shell crab, silly noodles, deep fried chicken, duck blood jelly, clams, cockles, rice burgers, thai curry, spicy aubergines/eggplant, rice, cauliflower, mushrooms, beans, strawberry soup, pumpkin, grilled eel, chinese sausage, red beans, shaved mango, mango icecream, green tea icecream, strawberry icecream, tofu dessert, almond jelly, all sorts of tofu dishes, baked bread, chicken soup mulitple ways, lots of different stir frys  . . .

Two more banquet dinners to go! Chopstick certification completed.

Tomorrow, we have another busy day – the final presentation to the mayor and distingished guests, press interviews, group photo, lunch at city hall, handover to the local team, joining an english class at Zhu-wei Elementary School in Dansui District to read selected books to the children and  . . . . . another banquet.

#ibmcsc Taiwan #smartercities challenge

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Talking to Taiwan Toilets or Losing the Loo!!

The more my team tell me I shouldn’t write this particular blog, the more, for those of you who know me well this will be no surprise, the more immediately I will do exactly that, so here it is, by the way, in common with lots of kids, mine seem to have a built in appreciation for toilet humor, so girls, this ones for you, love …. Dad!

Toilets, now why would I decide to  write about them, besides the discussion above that is.  Well Toilets in Taiwan come in interesting configurations, be warned, from this point forward expect dubious jokes, puns and general content that is probably best not read at meal time!

Firstly there are two main classifications of toilets, for convenience sake I will call them Western Style Toilets and Eastern Style Toilets, although to be fair those classifications, as you will see are not strictly correct. Firstly we have the Western Toilet Category, this includes 2 basic types, “bog standard” USA and UK style toilets, I am assured these exist, I just haven’t seen many …… yet!

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Second in this category is the Japanese/Taiwanese style toilet, see I told you the categories didn’t strictly make sense! The toilet shown below is a model of high technology and convenience, and happens to be in the bathroom of my apartment!

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This is a TOILET, heated seat, yes ladies you heard me right, built in shall we call it Bidet capability, one for men (blue button) and one for women (pink button) ….trust me it took me a couple of times to figure it out…..and an emergency stop, Orange button! It makes me feel flushed just to think about it!

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Frankly the first time I pressed the “boy” button, who could resist trying it out, it scared the crap out of me, of course that is sort of its primary function, a jet of perfectly warmed water, wouldn’t do to be cold after warming the seat would it, attacked me from below, thank goodness I didn’t jump up or I might have had a fountain in the bathroom!  BTW, yes of course I did try it, the women’s button produces a gentler spray but how do we say this, covers more area in the north-south orientation so to speak!  The rest I will leave to your imagine, what rest I am not sure but anyway.

In rather stark contrast to the impressive amenities of the (Japanese/Taiwan) Western toilet there is the Eastern Toilet.  I should have been warned when, in our first acclimatization briefing there was a chart on this topic, yes, this is not a joke, and in a formal briefing to boot.

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Now one of our team who should remain anonymous (Craig) seems to have more funny lines about toilets than anyone should have, so, I acknowledge his extensive contributions to the (hopefully) funnier parts of this particular blog (in Arkansas, Craig is used to doing his business in a hole in the ground. He was much impressed to see a tiled outhouse!)

Even one such as this:

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And so, when present with this kind of “commode caper” Craig, in his usual quiet and unassuming manner took one look and declared
“the urinal fell over” by the way, in case you are wondering, you squat facing the raised portion, see chart above if you didn’t before! Evidently, it took Craig awhile to master this – evidenced by his shrieking, echoed by the porcelain and heard by the team from a 100 feet away. (He really had to pull his head out!)

Now, I am a strong supporter of our corporate “open door policy” but this was too much!

The next chapter of this weird and getting weirder blog has to do with access to the facilities and privacy in the privvy.

Privacy, yes, well the Taiwan government recently enacted new privacy legislation, it does not apparently encompass the topic of rest rooms.

It seems that one of two situations are prevalent here, first and probably most frequent is that the ladies restroom is adjacent to the men’s restroom and that the ladies have to walk past the doorless men’s restroom to get to theirs while (at least this is true for the Ladies on our team I am assured) trying to not look at [hopefully only] the backs of the men standing at the urinals, a situation that our hosts seem to barely notice, in the spirit of collaboration it does ensure that our team remains close both in business and while doing our business. It does occur to us to wonder what the proper etiquette is in this situation, bowing could have disastrous results and if we just salute, which hand should we use? For those of you who are type A, the answer is of course, you wave with the other hand!

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The second situation is if anything even more embarrassing for my poor teammates, some rest rooms are co-ed, this would be OK, the stalls are enclosed floor to ceiling so some level of privacy is ensured, there is one small design, dare I say it, either flaw or feature depending on your outlook.  That is that there are also urinals in these mixed facilities, and inevitably the ladies have to walk past them on their way to and from their specially marked stalls!

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Finally, only finally because my creative juices are running dry, there are a couple of features that are actually quite good, firstly using the urinal in one of the buildings we have been working in is an education, they try to improve employees command of English by mounting a joke on the wall above the urinal that is presented in both English and Mandarin, and a joke to boot, that gives everyone incentive to read it.

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Secondly, if you get bored with seeing the same joke every day for a week or two, you can watch out of the wide open window that is right beside the urinal, extending from around my knees to above my head, out of which you can see not only the fairly small grounds that the building in set in, with a few trees and associated wildlife, and maybe 5 yards further is the main road where I can watch all the passers by and traffic, and, if they happen to glance up, they can see me, but as far as I can tell, they never do, for which I am eternally grateful.

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And so I am out of ammunition for this entry, our return home is getting ever closer, I may be able to do one more blog before we leave, you are probably hoping that it doesn’t happen, but then again perhaps this view of the lighter side of life came as some relief!

#ibmcsc Taiwan #smartercities challenge

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