Friday, March 25, 2011

Smoking Ban

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Effective May 1 of this year there will be an indoor smoking ban of sorts in China. The ban will include restaurants and hotels. There will also be an education push to try to get fewer people to smoke. This should be interesting.
If you are a man in China, there is a 68% chance that you are a smoker. Only about 4% of women smoke. Dudes like their smokes here. They smoke anywhere they damn please, in spite of signs posted. They don't follow traffic laws, what makes you think they are going to start obeying non smoking rules? I've seen them light up in hospitals, in elevators, on buses, and even in an airplane, although that guy got in a heap o' trouble. In fact you can tell you're on a Chinese airline because of all the coughing.
There are enough loopholes in this law to drive a cigarette boat through, and penalties are basically non existent. However, it is part of a fledgling effort by at least some parts of the Chinese government to at least encourage people to be non smokers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time...

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While searching for pictures of kids in a park in China I came across this photo and article. I didn't use it for my preschool lesson, but I thought it might make a good blog entry, especially if I want more traffic on this site!!!
This is an older article and I imagine the sculpture has long ago been removed, otherwise it could be worth a detour on my next trip to Hong Kong.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Squatty Potty Part 2

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This is so wrong. I can check on my stats page to see which postings get the most traffic and this subject is by far the biggest. Lots of people around the world seem to have a strong hankering for postings about the squatty potty. If I was getting money for the number of hits I get on this subject this entire blog would be dedicated to non seated toilets throughout the emerging and third world countries. Let me be accommodating. A commode dating service! (sorry)
My first squatty potty experience was as a lad camping. You dug a hole in the ground and tried to hit it.

Since I camped in primitive areas a lot this was no big deal. I was one with my ancestors. My first experience with a true squatty potty was in my college days when I was an exchange student in Japan. One of my host families had one and after only one miss on my maiden voyage I became quite the marksman.
Our apartment has two bathrooms. One has a western style toilet, suitable for a contemplative, book reading experience and the other has the squatty potty. The SP also has the shower, which is a hand held jobby. You hose yourself all over the bathroom with water going both down the loo and a floor drain. We mop up afterwards. It's actually very practical, both in space saved and cleanliness.
The squatty potty is a remarkable device. It can be flushed with a bucket of water, it is easy to clean, and does not require a plumber to maintain it. It is the main tool in most of the world for dealing with human waste disposal.
However, it is not the best system for overweight, constipated people with bad knees, so it will probably never find its way into the American bathroom. Americans will continue to use their thrones, suitable for a Trump or Forbes, as well as a Rodriquez.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Random Thoughts

I've been very busy since school has started again, but last night was very restful and I have enough energy to put semi coherent thoughts down again.

*There was a horrifying earthquake and tsunami this week in Japan. Adding to the already heartbreaking tragedy has been an out of control nuclear fiasco at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Japan gets a lot of credit for being a very smart country, but I have to take exception. How smart is it to build nuclear power plant in one of the most earthquake prone countries in the world? On top of that, they build it at sea level. What could possibly go wrong, right? Weren't they thinking about tsunamis? I read The Big Wave when I was a kid. It's about a tsunami that wipes out a village in (you guessed it) Japan! The word "tsunami" which we all use now instead of "tidal wave" is a Japanese word that has become a part of the world vocabulary because it happens a lot, and Japan is famous for them!

*The US has joined NATO in bombing Libya's loony leader in order to thwart him in his effort to maintain power in his oil sodden patch of desert. We are supporting the rabble whose membership is unknown to us but are reported to include anti American elements. We already have two wars going on, and we are laying off teachers, police and firefighters, but hey, Hat Trick!
Meanwhile in Bahrain, pro democracy protesters are being gunned down but it's OK because Bahrain is our ally.

*When I help our 12 year old with his English homework I am struck by how strangely they try to teach English here. There appears to be a deliberate effort to make it a lot more difficult than it should be. There are multiple choice grammar questions involving seldom used phrases that Will Shortz would happily include in the puzzle page of the New York Times. They also make it extra interesting by occasionally making none of the answers correct, so that you have to rely on your psychic powers to divine the intention of the scholar who was responsible for this brain buster. Meanwhile, no effort is made to actually teach the kids to speak English. Instead they are preparing them to take tests which consist of hundreds of questions just like these. Meanwhile I have sophomores in the top high school in the region who are challenged putting a three word sentence together. Job security for me!!

*When you think of the Cheap Chinese Crap that Wal Mart sells in the US, remember that the Cheap Chinese Crap that discount stores sell here is crappier. In fact, the stuff at Wal Mart here looks pretty good!

*I hope they don't use Cheap Chinese Crap when they build their nuclear power plants and high speed trains!

*iPods are made in China.


It's been a week since the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fiasco. Even though we are about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from Tokyo, it's still a lot closer than Oregon.
I've made it a topic of discussion in my middle school classes since I thought it might be an opportunity for the kids to reassess the rabid anti Japanese sentiment that is always roiling beneath the surface.
When Japan invaded China in WWII the army committed unspeakable atrocities on the civilian population. Much of China, including Zhanjiang, was occupied by the Japanese. The Japanese government's failure to properly atone for the countless atrocities committed throughout Asia during the war has caused deep resentment and hostility everywhere their bootprint was left.
A recent incident involving a Chinese fishing boat and Japanese Coast Guard Ships in some disputed islands revived these resentments among the Chinese citizenry, with large anti Japanese demonstrations, and lots of hostility in the Chinese press and blogosphere.
By showing pictures of the suffering and massive damage I was hoping that I could at least show the students that the people who are suffering are no different from themselves. They are not the savage brutes who invaded their country, nor are they the hamfisted government that has prominent members pay homage at the Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of fallen soldiers including those responsible for WWII atrocities.
Interesting discussions have followed, including some students who said that their history teachers have told them that they need not feel sorry for the Japanese. It appears I may have been a good counter to these teachers who dwell in the past.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Asian News

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After living in Asia a couple of years, I've started to pay a lot more attention to the news in the region, and I pay less attention to the news back in the US. The news here is more interesting anyway. When you border places like North Korea, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and all those other unusual places the news can be quite thought provoking.
Last month a tour boat sank while anchored in calm waters in Halong Bay in Vietnam, tragically drowning 11 young foreign tourists. The "captain" was 21 years old and the cause was a massive influx of water due to human error.
In India yesterday laid off workers from a steel mill torched a manager in his jeep, taking labor/management relations to an entirely more hellish level.
I often get my daily dose of the happenings in Asia on my phone during the bus ride to work, using Yahoo news, since it has the best service in this part of the world, and since it's based in Singapore, it has more candid coverage of events than we might get from China Daily, although as newspapers go, it doesn't strike me as all that different from USA Today, neither being particularly probing or thought provoking.
Anyway, I do keep up on the news from the US, although spend less and less time following the mind boggling spectacle of the wealthy criminal class going Scott free for destroying much of the economy with their illicit money games, while the rest of the country flails around trying to figure out how put things right.