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I have been blogroll diving again! There is a new one in town Responsible China (No, it is not an oxymoron!) and it is worth your attention: Erica Schlaikjer, a trained journalist (She has had paltry internships at: The Chicago Reporter, Crain’s Chicago Business and National Geographic. But, she has never written for OMBW, so….) one of the producers for Entrepreneur Magazine’s online radio show, The China Business Show, hosted by WS Radio, is the author.

She has a bunch of great posts up now and I picked one to showcase that I thought was interesting:

The article is on Bamboo Bikes. It caught my attention because I helped a company create a prototype of a Bamboo baseball bat last year, but it proved too durable and they opted for something that Barry Bonds could break–even off the juice. But, I digress….

According to Erica, China is home to 450 million bicycles and 4.21 million hectares of bamboo and it make sense to combine the two into something good for the environment. And it appears that designers Liakos Ariston and Jacob Prinz, who started Daedalus Custom Bamboo Bikes two years ago after drawing up designs on a napkin, feel the same. The problem is the bikes will be for Laowai or well-heeled Chinese as they cost about $1,250 each. For $1250 a Cantonese would want it to float, double as a shelter, act as a fishing rod, stand-in as an eating utensil and play bootleg MP3s and DVDs. If the truth be known, I wouldLOVE to have one of these, but at my salary it would take three months of starvation.

“The raw materials are sustainable, so potentially make less of an impact on the environment, the designers say. But that’s not the only appeal.”

‘We’ve gained a lot more respect for the material we work with because we’ve had a few accidents on them and generally riders and bikes have come out unscathed,’ said Ariston, 25 . . . .” I get the unscathed bike part, but I wonder how the rider gets a break (no pun intended) from injury.

If it gets cheaper to make it could have a future in China as Erica reports that China’s Ministry of Construction wants to restore bike lanes to their old glory.
Here are some links she posted to bamboo related projects and designers:

Bamboo Bike Project
“The project aims to examine the feasibility of implementing cargo bikes made of bamboo as a sustainable form of transportation in Africa.”

Brano Meres Engineering & Design
“This is my second home-made frame. This time I used bamboo rods connected with carbon composite joints.”

Calfee Design
“Beginning as a publicity stunt in 1996, Craig’s bamboo errand bike evolves into a well-tested new model for the general public.”

Thanks Erica and welcome to the Sphere!

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And don’t forget to put the seat down….

I just got back from Phuket* where most things are suspect: The prettiest girls are, well, guys and the DVDs are more expensive, but still originally shot on a camcorder in a movie house projection booth. The one thing they could not fake was the pristine water surrounding Phi Phi (unfortunately pronounced a lot like “pee-pee”) Island. I could actually see to the bottom and nothing dead floated by me.

Upon my return to Guangzhou I really could not help notice that our city prostitute, the Peal River, who looks great at night still was not someone you would want to wake up to in the morning. To mix a metaphor, pun intended, during daylight hours it looks like payday in a five year old’s proud potty chair.

Last year I respsonsibly reported that China produced more than 12 billion tons of industrial waste-water in the first half of 2006. That was up 2.4 percent from the same period in 2005 according to The China Daily quoting a State Environment Protection Administration report.

A major index of water pollution called the chemical oxygen demand increased by 3.7 percent in the first six months, while emissions of sulphur dioxide rose 4.2 percent, the report said. Acid rain, which affects almost one-third of the nation, also remained unchecked, it said. The environment watchdog attributed the increased volume of pollution to the country’s booming industries, as the economy steamed ahead by 10.9 percent in the first half of the year. It said food-processing, paper-making and chemical plants accounted for more than 80 percent of the increase in the chemical oxygen demand level. The watchdog said only 30 to 40 percent of public industrial projects had undergone environmental evaluations before they went ahead, and criticized local governments for not implementing strict environment protection policies.” China may only wake up when it truly realizes the monetary value of its failed five-year plan for environmental improvement: pollution has resulted in economic losses of over 65 billion US Dollars–about three percent of its GDP.

Shortly after that the then Guangdong Governor Huang, Hua Hua (such a happy name, huh?) led three thousand apparantly blind and olfactory challenged people in a swim across the river to prove it was indeed cleaner than in previous years–this despite local hospitals publicly warning folks off of the adventure.

Hua Hua said the, “We hope everyone will join hands to protect the river so the day will soon come when Guangzhou citizens can swim in it every day.” I would think walking on it everyday would be a more attainable goal.

In recent years, local governments have spent 27.5 billion yuan ($3.6 billion) reducing and controlling sewage discharge into the river and you still cannot see the sun reflected in the murk on a good day. It is good to be a government contractor in China.

Well, the worst publiciy stunt since Bush landed a plane on an aircraft carrier is going to be repeated this year! Guangzhou’s top gun Zhang Guangning is leading the charge sometime in the next week or two. They will be celebrating the cleanliness of the Pearl River.

I think the boy-girls in Phuket are more believable. For a MARGINALLY work-safe photo of David and the “Boys” Continue Reading »

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Not with a Whimper….

china food

One of the worst phone calls I ever received was from a friend of 30 years who weeks earlier had phoned to ask my advice. The first call was to get my recommendation for a natural sleeping aid. She and her husband were facing big job changes and she wanted a non-narcotic alternative to counting sheep. At the time I was successfully using amino acids like tryptophan to help naturally restore chemical balance and chemically altered serenity to alcoholics and addicts. The best sleep aid available was tryptophan, the chemical precursor to serotonin and the substance that you find in turkey and milk. It is the reason, other than you have seen it 9999 times, that you never make it through that re-run of It’s a Wonderful Life after Christmas dinner without snoring. Back to the phone call….

She told me she had been in a wheelchair for weeks and had lost all strength in her muscles. She went on to tell me that she was the one of the lucky ones as several people had died and the Center for Disease Control had indeed identified a bad batch of Japanese tryptophan as the culprit. It did not ease my guilt for recommending the supplement when she told me that I was not going to be mentioned in the lawsuit being brought to the Japanese company responsible by pre-Simpson trial heavyweight Attorney F.Lee Bailey.

My friend recovered and the suit was settled quietly by a Japanese company flush with cash. Tryptophan was removed from Vitamin store shelves and I stopped suporting amino treatments despite believing the tryptophan incident was an isolated. They never found the real cause of the devastation and I never heard of a single individual being punished for a part in the debacle.

The Chinese have rightly been under the microscope lately for some terrifying incidents of pure greed. Drug manufacturers and food producers have been found to be cutting costs (while we want to up the value of the Yuan so now shrinking profit margins get even smaller) by using dangerous, cheap chemicals in place of the real thing. Hundred have died or become sick worldwide from a host of products: Antifreeze laced toothpaste, bad cat food, killer cough syrup, and bacteria laden eye drops are among the most recent problem products.

China, like most Asian countries, detests publicity and the resulting loss of face. And to show their resolve about cleaning up the problem they handed Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of China’s Food & Drug Administration, the death sentence yesterday. Swift Action 1, Human Rights 0.

It seems Zheng took $800,000 USD in bribes to look the other way as fake drugs, placebos and worse were exported worldwide. There is evidence that his actions were lethal: In one instance, an antibiotic approved by his agency killed at least ten patients last year before it was recalled.

Zheng Xiaoyu in living color

According to the New York Times, via China Digital Times, “The problems are more serious in China because tens of thousands of people are sickened or killed every year because of rampant counterfeiting and phony food and drugs. For instance, last year 11 people died in China after being treated with an injection tainted by a fake chemical. And 6 people died and 80 others fell ill after taking an antibiotic that was produced with a ‘substandard disinfectant.’”

About once a month some task force in Hong Kong is seizing millions of Yuan worth of bogus Viagra (it WAS all in your head) and even cholesterol fighting agents.

“The government also said it would crack down on food products that are being illegally exported, bypassing food inspections.”

Worried that many drugs may be substandard, China is now reviewing over 170,000 production licenses issued by his agency over the past decade. 170,000.

It is going to take a lot of policing to review 170,000 manufacturers. It is time to sell your stock in pharmaceuticals and opt for prison wear and weapons grade lead. This kind of behavior is rampant. I am against the death penalty for a number of reasons, but like Dezza (see comments on this post) I want to see this guy rot in hell, but only after being forced to use his own approved products.

The biggest issue with the death sentence in this case is that it is just a high profile face-saving jesture. Hundreds of vendors in Gongbei, near the border to Macau where thousands of police reside, will launder your money, sell you knock-offs of any watch, drug, DVD, or game that you want. Virtually every booth has i-Pod Nanos for 170 Yuan ($20 bucks) that look (but don’t behave) like real. One post long ago at Sinosplice had what was then a funny entry about “Nalencia” oranges. Several commenters remarked that the oranges were pretty good despite the fake inspection sticker which should read, of course, Valencia. I would think twice now about eating anything from a company that goes to that kind of trouble to give a false impression.

I am not parqnoidby nature, but I still travel to HK about once every two months to make a “drug run” where I pick up western medications and over the counter products I cannot get or safely trust in the mainland. The pharmacists there actually have legal degrees and a knowledge of medicine. I do not scare easily, but I have been afraid of mainland products for a long time. I have an infection from a recent dental procedure that will not abate and worry further that the antibiotics given me are really made of chalk or worse.

Don’t expect any great changes anytime soon just because they offed this opportunistic scumbag. It appears this issue, if it ever ends will do so, not with the whimper of a fleeced Japanese industrialist, but with a bang….

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Banana W.H.O.?

banana sars

According to Reuters the newest Chinese food scare is bananas. Literally!

Somehow word got out, via text messages on cell phones, that the bananas on Hainan Island (China’s Hawaii which is to Hawaii as Chinese checkers are to checkers) contained the deadly SARS virus . Hm. All I ever received were, uh, solicitations and illegal taxi service ads: “Is that a banana in your pocket or…?”

The agriculture ministry has been called the cops to investigate. From what I saw of the police stations in Hainan, well they may take a while to get around to interviewing local monkeys/goats about their involvement:

The rumor comes at a bad time Chinese products are under fire for poor quality and and dangerous substitutions of cheap material. Reuters says that we are on it though: U.S. health officials now “are checking all shipments of toothpaste coming from China, following reports of tainted products in the Dominican Republic and Panama.” Huh? Homeland security must be involved in this agricultural intelligence operation or Reuters needs a new editor. ( I am chiding the grammar here NOT the seious problems of late)

“The rumor about bananas from the sub-tropical island of Hainan had no scientific support as there had never been a case of humans contracting viruses from plants, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on its Web site (” The Agriculture Ministry DEFINITELY needs an editor.

I am not sure what Hainan bananas did to hack people off, but they have been getting a bad rap lately. Earlier this year there were rumors abounding that they caused cancer because they had contracted something called Panama disease. Eerie coincidence, that.

Thanks once again to David Michael Porter who must get the world’s weirdest RSS feeds.

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Happy Earth Day From China

Happy earth day

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My Kind of Chinglish

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The Great China Stock Market Whodunnit

Why did God create stock analysts ? To make weather forecasters look good says Dan Harris at China Law Blog.

I normally don’t comment on economic news. I leave that to the pros like China Law Blog, Due Diligence China and the others in my blogroll. Mine is a simple site where I hope you learn more about the Middle kingdom obliquely, through my ordinary and extraordinary experiences. Besides that, I am just a poor teacher with stories whose knowledge of is limited to saving enough money to treat my DVD addiction and park at Starbucks once in a while. So, here is my two Kilobytes worth on the recent China stock market slide that caused a worldwide ripple:

I was having dinner in the countryside with a couple of 20+ year China Expatrapreneurs who own a factory in China right about the time the Chinese stock market “corrected itself.” Man, I must have lost 5-6 bucks in that 9% fall. Hey, I told you: we teachers don’t have much to invest.

The market fell 9%, rebounded 4% and then slumped 3% again yesterday. It is like watching a financial rodeo…

Interestingly enough, the two men, at that moment, were talking about the coming collapse of the market. They certainly view this burp/hiccup as a an early sighting of the four horseman of China’s financial apocalypse. They see Shanghai as a propped up and desperately polluted credit bubble-economy build less solidly than a proverbial house of cards.*

Diligence China says “Don’t do something, just Stand there!” while others claim the end is near. The writer at The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid says Al Gore did it. A great new blog, Ich Bin Ein Beijinger speaks for the it’s an over-reaction contingent. I belong to the “keep a refundable plane ticket handy because huge change is coming, but what me really worry” school of expat thinking. My dinner crew is packing up to head for South America to buy up sugar cane reserves to capitalize on coming industrial starvation diets due for some countries when the oil crisis becomes insurmountable.

Here is what I do know: China lacks competent middle and upper management and the schools preparing the new ones are doing a mediocre job at best. I know, I have worked at several schools that graduate BBS, MBA, MPA and DBA students. Some, like mine, are waking up to the need for new cirriculum design and market savvy teachers.

It has been easy for China to keep growing because it has the cheapest lemonade stand on World Trade Avenue, but will now need marketing acumen they have not learned because they have been busy counting cash. I liken them to my teacher friend who has been here four years and has to wave a taxi driver to the rightor left because he is too lazy to learn the language: He is in for a shock when white faces are a less valuable commodity in this educational community.

Increases in labor costs, tightening of the housing markets, an artificially inflated market with too much American capital in reserve, yuan revaluations, still unbridled corruption, rising middle class unemployment, growing social unrest, WTO pressures, intellectual property rights and the government’s poorly thought out public speculations are a small part of why the economic outlook truly is darker than the Pearl River in Guangzhou.

I don’t claim clairvoyance like the author of The Coming Collapse of China, but I can sense a coming change of social and economic weather. Be it earthquake or famine I am in this for the long haul.

I suppose I am of a new, but less idealistic breed of, useful idiot. I am here to help as I can, but, I have no illusions, as many did during post-Maoist China, that reform is coming or that this is a superior social construct. I am just a teacher who would like nothing more than to see the lives of some of my rural students, who know and care little about politics and governments, improved by my efforts.

Had I money to invest I, like my friends, would not be standing idly by. I would instead be researching the market for a safer home. I think the Chinese equivalent of the dot com bust is just around the corner.

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I was in mystical Yangshuo, China not long ago (post to follow in a day or two) and was deeply troubled by the unfettered growth in the region. Toilets emptied directly into the clear water of the Li River and I imagined it would soon be like the dark Pearl River in industrial Guangzhou. Last year 5 of my students were diagnosed with a variety of cancers; none of them is older than 22.

Close to Guangzhou is Dongguan. It is, like Shenzhen, a very new city populated by migrants from the North of China looking for greener, albeit toxic, pastures:

I was never so glad to get back to Guangzhou as the day after I visited Dongguan, China. And Guangzhou’s sky has an aversion itself to letting the sun shine. Dongguan is a huge city with natural and man-made amenities inversely proportional to the pollution. Even the countryside smells like the back-end of a bus.
Continue Reading »

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Solving China’s Power Problems–One Pint at a Time

With everyone up in arms, or threatening to be, over China’s unquenchable thirst for energy I thought a bathroom break was needed:

Remember the old joke about the fellow who was in an Irish Pub’s W.C. pouring his pint down the urinal? When asked what he was doing. he replied, “Cutting out the middle man.”

Well, you might want to hold that thought (pun, bad as it is, intended) for a while. There might just be a renewable energy solution for China. A company in Singapore has developed a credit-card sized battery—powered by urine! This biodegradeable power source is initially for use in for medical test kits that test for problems in, well, urine.

The Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering (now to be known as the Whiz Kid Reader) published the results. They describe the altered AA Battery as one that will last about 90 minutes and produce 1.5 volts–the same as a standard AA battery. When a drop of urine is added to some copper chloride paper, a chemical reaction takes place and produces electricity.

Researchers said the power, voltage, and lifetime of the battery can be improved by adjusting the geometry and materials used. . .And probably the brand of Ale.
That reminds me of a friend who came across an electric fence in the middle of the woods and….

But I digress….

–Thanks to

Reprinted from September 17th, 2005

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Panda Porn

Zoolologists worldwide have gone to a lot of trouble in recent years to ensure the survival of a rare and beautiful species. But, a couple of new projects make you wonder whether or not the zoo keepers have wee bit too much time on their hands….

China is still building a breeding “base” for giant pandas in another effort to save the endangered species from extinction. Wang (do not go there), the director, said that the base will contribute more to the research and breeding of giant pandas as well as to their training before their release in the wild. Males are rehearsed in panda pick-up lines and taught to smoke before being let go and a reunion is planned for sometime in 2006. Giant pandas are notoriously unproductive. There are only about 1,500 of the much-loved black and white creatures left in the wild in China’s the giant pandas living in the Qinling have been separated geographically for 50,000 years from those in Sichuan, experts said. “The giant pandas in Qinling is a more endangered sub-species of giant pandas,” the official said. I think I had him in one of my oral English classes. A recent survey indicated that the number of giant pandas roaming in the wild of Shaanxi has reached 340 thanks to effective protection measures.   The cake-taker though comes from Thailand.  According to National Geographic A Thai zoo is hoping that “panda pornography” will spark romance between its two giant pandas, which were married by proxy (monkeys stood in for them?) last November in an elaborate Chinese-style ceremony. “Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui have called Thailand’s Chiang Mai Zoo home for the past four years. Zoo officials had hoped that the warm Thai climate would spark the pandas’ hormones and trigger their desire to mate. Instead they are insisting to go to dance bars and the beach. But the animals, on loan from China for ten years, have yet to start a family. A first mating attempt earlier this year failed to produce offspring, and the pandas have remained platonic pals (But, the male doesn’t call or write or anything laments the female) since then—prompting officials to launch their unique plan.” Maybe one of them is just really ugly, or has a unacceptably colorful panda past? “They don’t know how to mate, so we need to show the male how through videos,” project chief Prasertsak Buntrakoonpoontawee (If you can say that three times REALLY fast I will send you the centerfold from the 2007 Panda Babes Calendar)t told the Reuters news service. Chuang Chuang, the six-year-old male, will view films of other mating pandas when scientists judge him to be relaxed and receptive—perhaps just after a tasty dinner. “If all goes well, the racy video will be both instructional and inspirational, showing Chuang Chuang the reproductive ropes and causing him to see five-year-old Lin Hui in an entirely different light. “Ya, but don’t pandas gain like 40 or 50 kilos on TV? The story goes on to say, their solitary nature could mean that even some wild animals are unsure of themselves with the opposite sex.

I think that maybe they just want a bit of privacy.

by Lonnie Hodge 

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