Thursday, January 21, 2016

Squatty Potties and Exploding Balloons

This year was kind of mundane, or at least as mundane as a life in Bizzaro World can be.  I guess I mean that my own personal experience here has been less than thrilling.  Work is good, and we moved to a nicer flat.
Flat.  Since I haven't lived in the US for a while now, and have a few friends from the UK and Australia, I've started to use a few British words that roll off the tongue a little better than words like "apartment".   It doesn't really matter whether I use the word "lift or "elevator" when describing how the locals use this conveyance.  What matters is the lack of decorum involved.  When waiting for a lift, people jostle each other and gather right in front of the door.  As soon as it opens, they attempt to get on before others have a chance to get off.  It's an impressive fustercluck of humanity with one crowd trying to fill a full space while the other tries to get out so there is place for the outsiders to go.  Eventually, they manage to get to where they need to be, either out of the elevator, or inside it.  This mob rule method of entering and exiting a lift is something that is also found at least half of automobile drivers and is the number one cause of traffic jams.
The new flat is nice.  It's only on the third floor, and was designed by a person who utilized "logic", and had some notion of aesthetics. It also has a squatty potty.  

Our old place had a western toilet. Western toilets are generally preferred by Westerners, since that is what they grew up using, but I'm more of a "traditionalist" when it comes to this matter (traditional in a hunter-gatherer kind of way). I've never been one of those take a magazine into the loo kind of guys.  I like my business done in a brisk, efficient kind of manner, and I have good knees, so squatting works to my liking.  
There's also the matter of Western toilets adapted to Chinese infrastructure that makes them less appealing.  For starters, when a throne is installed, it's usually just plopped on top of an existing squatter with some silicone sealant around the bottom to more or less secure it to the floor.  This makes for easy clogging, which is made even more adventurous, since plungers are a scarce commodity here.
The second drawback is the fact that everywhere I've lived has been in a somewhat older building with shoddy plumbing.  Rust particles end up clogging the fine little valves and fouling the other moving parts in the tank, which result in slow fillings, faulty flushes, and more clogging. I've had enough of this pathetic attempt at trying to introduce unnecessary modernity to a basic biological function.
The Western world is becoming more attuned to how using a throne to poop is not necessarily the best way to get the job done. An American company has come out with a simple device to put you into a more "natural" position.  It's called "Squatty Potty".

That's the high point of my year, getting an authentic Chinese toilet, but things have been much more eventful for the country itself.
There has been the less than thrilling ride of the stock market, a massive chemical explosion, a massive mountain of construction debris collapse, and horrific air pollution.  None of that happened where I live, but I don't really need that kind of excitement in my life.  We get some smoggy days, although the level of pollution on a bad day here would be considered OK in Beijing.

There was an unfortunate local incident that happened at an event for preschool kids that happened nearby at the end of the year. The company that I used to work for, that has several kindergartens, had a big sports event involving all their schools.  It was held at a high school sports field a block away from here.  I was invited, but due to laziness I opted out.  Look what I missed!  (You can use Google translate to get the gist of what happened).  Apparently there were a bunch of balloons filled with hydrogen that exploded when they were ignited accidentally by a father, who was smoking.  It's bad enough that the guy was smoking around a bunch of preschoolers, they do it all the time here, it also caused a bunch of people to get burned.
After much inquiry, I discovered that filling kids balloons with hydrogen is a common practice here because it is cheaper than helium.  It also does this:

Needless to say, the few bucks saved using cheap gas is dwarfed by the medical and legal bills ahead, as well as the damage to their reputation.
During holidays and at festive venues you often see someone selling balloons.  I'm giving them a wide berth in the future.