Playing the Taiwan Lottery

I am greedy in my lottery picks doubling down on the Chinese unlucky number four.  I don’t want to share the jackpot and what Taiwanese person is going to pick four in a lotto game.  You need to have an edge in these games of chance.

Four is similar in some ways to the number thirteen in English except the origin of its bad luck is different.  Four in Chinese sounds exactly the same as the word death and people are even more superstitious of number four than we are of number thirteen.  One example of this is that people will avoid cellphone numbers with number four in them.

Of course everyone knows that playing the lottery is the equivalent to throwing your hard earned cash into one of those burning barrels of ghost money.  But every once in awhile it is fun to buy a lottery ticket and check your numbers after the big drawing.  There is the suspense as you look at the numbers with hopes of becoming a multi-millionaire.  And then your dreams are dashed and the lottery ticket is tossed into the recycling.

In the US I would play Mega Millions or Powerball about 10 times/year just for the silly thrill of it.  In Taiwan I check my receipts in the uniform invoice lottery every two months but I have never played the real lottery (yet).  As an aside the uniform invoice lottery was a brilliant tactic to get businesses to fully report (maybe not quite so fully) their revenue each month since customers want the official receipt that acts as a lottery ticket (drawing results).

One side effect of being a terrible Chinese student (I don’t study) is that I don’t try to do new things (like playing the lottery) that would be easy at home.  However my old roommate has stoked the hopes of the insanely longshot odds (1 in 22M) of becoming a multi-millionaire and I figured out how to easily buy a ticket and view the results.

I am not sure of the psychological difference between 1M, 10M, 100M and 500M (USD) but people lose their mind when the jackpot goes higher.  In the last drawing there were 7M tickets sold in a country of 23M people.  I am no different and I bought one because of the big jackpot.  I have no idea what I can buy with 100M that I can’t buy with 5M but the bigger the number the bigger the insanity.  So when my friend posted the expected jackpot of 2.4B TWD (about 80M USD) last weekend I was hooked immediately.

I have rules for playing the lottery though.  Gambling is a serious addiction and one that I can’t afford.  I already have camera and bicycle addiction.  My rules are that I only buy one ticket for a drawing.  I would also buy tickets as part of a group since this kind of stupid fun builds camaraderie.  DO NOT SPEND MONEY THAT YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO LOSE.  You are almost certainly going to lose but spending 100 TWD (about 3USD) is fine with me.

I have hidden the rest of my numbers just in case.  My mom or grandparents might be able to discover a few of the numbers though.

Playing the lottery is quite easy here.  They use lottery cards almost exactly the same as the US.  The important thing is that you know which card to pick and the basic instructions (only in Chinese) beforehand.  The lottery with the big jackpot is 威力彩 (drawing results).  To play you pick 6 numbers (1-38), a powerball (1-8) and pay 100 TWD (3 USD).  There are actually 2 jackpots.  Both are progressive (growing until there is a winner of that jackpot) jackpots.  The big jackpot is expected to be about 2.6B TWD (85M USD) and requires you to match all 6 numbers plus the powerball (split if multiple winners) and the smaller jackpot requires you to only match all 6 numbers but no powerball (1 in 2.76M odds).  The smaller jackpot was 51M TWD (a cool 1.6M USD) last Monday and could top 2M USD this drawing.  There are smaller prizes also that can be won.

Tickets need to be bought by 8pm Thursday night and I assume the drawing is held later that night.  Will doubling down on the death number pay off for me?  Or will I have to teach on Friday?


Typhoon Soudelor – landfall

Typhoon Soudelor has arrived and it has not disappointed. The storm has hit squarely on Taiwan’s east coast and is expected to track northward. It doesn’t really matter where the center of the storm is though since the typhoon is much larger than Taiwan and every part of Taiwan is going to be impacted. I probably live in the least impacted place and I still have no interest in going outside.

This is a radar image from 8am Friday morning. Taiwan is under all of that. Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau has the best radar for tracking current rainfall.

I use this rainfall map all the time to decide what waterfalls to visit. The only bad thing is that they only publicly display the last 3 days and don’t archive these online. The little red dot equals 600-800mm’s (24-32 inches) of rain since midnight last night (12am – 8:30am). There is a good chance that all of the northern part of Taiwan exceeds 600 mm’s of rain by the time the storm is finished. Some mountainous areas will get well over 1000 mm’s today.  These amounts are not unusual for a typhoon in Taiwan and usually occur 1-2 times/yr.  You can track the daily accumulated rainfall at the CWB site (click for link). This is weatherunderground’s wundermap (satellite image). The marker is Kaohsiung and the little typhoon icons are 12 hour increments so it should be gone by tomorrow morning. I grew up in Minnesota and snow days were a reality of winter. Typhoon days are a reality in Taiwan. We usually only get 1-3 days off every year. Last night the government remained conservative and canceled classes well before the weather got bad. During my first couple of years in Taiwan they wouldn’t make typhoon announcements until the kids were in school, the parents at work and the typhoon had arrived so I can’t complain about being a little too conservative. We had some insane weather to go home in back then. Now the government has to make a decision the night before so parents can make plans for the next day.

Here is short video from my apartment balcony. This is certainly bad but Kaohsiung isn’t seeing heavy rain like the northern parts of the island and according to online comments it is much windier up north also.  Note that there are people driving cars and riding scooters in this weather.  Living through a typhoon is like having a 747 parked on top of your house preparing to take off.  It isn’t that dangerous if you remain inside but it is quite unnerving.

The gusts have become much more powerful and there are many tree limbs and small signs down. I will be adding videos periodically throughout the day so check back.

Another satellite image from

This is a really cool animation (yes, it’s an animation and you should click the link) from It shows a second typhoon but that one is smaller and it is headed northward to Japan.

Stay safe Taiwan.

Typhoon Soudelor

Typhoon Soudelor is being hyped as the strongest storm of the year and it is headed directly towards Taiwan.  I moved to Taiwan just months after Typhoon Morakot devastated the islands leaving over 600 dead or missing.  I wasn’t able to really appreciate the full level of destruction and how rare it was until I had traveled to many of the places affected by the storm.  It took years to rebuild many of the areas.  Some are still being rebuilt.  The great irony about this typhoon is that it is also expected to make landfall on 8/8 (same as Morakot).  8/8 is baba in Chinese so it is father’s day since father is baba (like papa).  Hopefully this storm is nothing like Typhoon Morakot and is more similar to other large typhoons that have hit Taiwan but have mostly been forgotten.  For example Typhoon Fanapi was my first typhoon and it is just a footnote.

Typhoon Soudelor reached category 5 status for a couple of days near Guam but has been reduced to a 4 and the predictions expect it to make landfall as a category 3.  It is still a few days away but most of the computers models predict it to hit somewhere along Taiwan’s east coast.  This is a huge storm but it isn’t terribly rare for Taiwan’s east coast to be hit by typhoons and it is probably one reason that the east coast was never as populated as the rest of Taiwan.  It has been a few years since a big storm has hit Taiwan though.  We have had several stay south and not directly hit the island and we have had a few impact the northeastern part of the island but they quickly passed through.  Each year I used the term “the forcefield held strong this year” since we were threatened but avoided direct hits.  It looks like Taiwan will get a direct hit this year.

What does this mean for Taiwan?  The good news is that most are expecting the typhoon to pass quickly over the island.  The worst destruction from a typhoon typically is not the landfall (can be very destructive still) but rather the 1-2 meters of rain that can fall in an area.  My favorite part of Taiwan is the 3000+ meter mountain range that runs down the center of the entire island but that is really bad news during typhoons.  Sometimes typhoons (like Morakot) hit that wall and stall over an area for 2 or more days.  This will be one of the things that I am watching most closely about this storm (accumulated daily rainfall at Taiwan’s CWB).  Of course I will also be watching any of those insane storm chasers (not recommended) taking videos.

What does it mean for me and most of the foreigners that live in the main cities?  Not much really.  Everyone should stock up on a couple of days of food and plan an indoor weekend of watching movies, reading books and writing blogs (probably just me for the last one).  Construction in Taiwan for the most part is rock solid and there is very little to be concerned about inside of your house.  The danger mostly comes from those that need to make trips somewhere since tree limbs are blown down, large metal signs are knocked down and all sorts of small debris can become airborne.  The other danger is from flooding and every year there are a couple of drowning deaths during typhoons.  The biggest impact for most is going stir crazy while boxed into an apartment with the wind and rain swirling and whistling all around you.

Will there be a typhoon day?  It isn’t expected to hit until Saturday but I expect that things could get very exciting (in a bad way) Friday night for those on the east coast.  It is possible that the government could remain cautious and make Friday a typhoon day but the chances are lower if you are in Taipei, Taichung or Kaohsiung.  I remember my first couple of years in Taiwan (2010 and 2011) where the government waited until the last possible minute to call a typhoon day.  By the time they called a typhoon day the conditions were already awful and the kids were in school and the parents at work.  Now they have to make a decision by the night before and it has greatly improved safety although occasionally the typhoon misses us and we get a nice day off.  It is almost for certain that Saturday and probably Sunday would be typhoon days if they weren’t on the weekend.

Here are some satellite images and possible tracks taken on Wednesday morning.  This isn’t a complete listing of all computer models and satellite photos but it tells a pretty good story of what is going to happen.  In the last 6-7 hours since these screenshots were taken most of the models have shifted southward more like the 2nd screenshot. is my go to site for forecasts and this is their Wundermap.  It isn’t perfect but it gives me a good idea what is going to happen.

This is a nice looking image from a site that I haven’t used before.  This is from and shows the storm landing further south.

This is a new site that I started using this year (sponsored through FB) and it is really cool.  It is an animated (go to the site) map showing wind speeds (other info also) from

Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau has the most boring models and satellite images.  However they have the best (possibly only) good radar for monitoring current rainfall and they have a great accumulated daily precipitation map (only past 3 days).  I use these all of the time for current information.

I rarely go to The Weather Channel anymore but this was a really cool satellite image.

This is from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC)

There are a lot more resources out there and I have seen much cooler satellite images in news articles and on forums but I don’t know where the source is so I won’t use them here.  My hope is that this storm reduces in intensity before making landfall and is able to pass over Taiwan quickly.  There will definitely be some damage but hopefully it is limited to uprooted trees, superficial building damage, minor flooding and no deaths.   It is possible that this could be much, much worse though so everyone stay safe.

Photo of the week #52 – The Drought Ends

Water is becoming an increasingly critical resource in various parts of the world.  A strange thing happened this winter in Taiwan though.  Almost the entire country of Taiwan faced water shortages.  This is almost inconceivable in a country that gets 1500-2000 mm’s (60-80 inches) of rain in almost every part of the country every year.  There is a seasonal drought in southern Taiwan where it rarely rains between November and April every year but it still seems impossible to run out of water.  It reached a point where the government was implementing a 5 days of water and 2 days of no water policy to reduce usage.   This lead to many class jokes about stinky students (and stinky teachers).  By May many reservoirs were down to 15% of their capacity.

A picture from Dadi Gorge in April.  Every year the reservoir empties enough that you can cross the inlet river to a small gorge.

Outside my apartment a couple of weeks ago.

In late April the seasonal monsoon (The Plum Rains) usually relieves 6 months of drought.  This year however the rains didn’t come in late April for southern Taiwan.  Northern Taiwan received some relief but southern Taiwan went as far as planning but never implementing the 5/2 water outage schedule.  Finally in late May the rains came in southern Taiwan.  When it rains in Taiwan it really rains.  Many of the mountainous areas in southern Taiwan received 1000 mm’s of rain in a week.  Now most of the reservoirs are at 50+% capacity (link).  It will take a couple more storms to completely fill up the reservoirs to avoid this situation next year.

But why did this even occur?  Michael Turton covered part of this on his blog earlier this spring.  One of his main takeaways is that water is really, really cheap in Taiwan.  This brings us to one of the great ironies in Taiwan.  Taiwanese individuals are amazing at recycling, reuse and are usually very conservative with resource usage.  Yes, there are some instances like plastic bag usage where there is excessive waste but overall individual Taiwanese do very well at conservation.  One area where they don’t even try is water consumption though.  One of the frustrating things that we saw when the 5 on/2 off water outage was scheduled was the mad dash to buy 100 liter tubs to store water that they would likely never use.  Maybe it’s just my camping background that didn’t cause me to panic at the thought of being without tap water for 2 days (less because of storage tanks) though.  Another issue is that Taiwan has an aging infrastructure and loses 18% through pipeline leakage (link).

I have heard many talk about building new reservoirs or using state of the art technology (desalination for example) to solve Taiwan’s water problem but that is just silly in my opinion.  Those are very expensive options and much easier solutions in a country that receives ample rain even during dryer years.  This will be an interesting situation to monitor over the next decade for Taiwan since shortages in the future are expected to continue.