Is it Thunder or Is it Farmer Wang?

It’s a clammy Tuesday afternoon here in Beijing and the thunder is booming and the rain is mercifully falling.  The past few days have been like living in a water-sopped towel that desperately needs to be wrung out.  It got wrung out yesterday afternoon and the resulting 2 hour downpour flooded the streets.  And now we’re starting all over again.  And given the fact that one of the things this city is known for is it’s squadron of peasants (Farmer Wangs) in the surrounding countryside who shoot cannons of some mystery chemical into the clouds to make rain. one can’t help but wonder if this is really thunder or if Farmer Wang is just shooting things into the clouds.  Either way, the rain is welcome.

For more information on Beijing’s mysterious rain, go here, and here.

Every Move You Make, I’ll be Watching You!

We’ve known for years that there are thousands of traffic cameras in this town, but now comes word that thousands more are going up all over the city to watch out for "suspicious acts or objects."   These cameras are to be managed by the municipal, district, and street level administration, and are not to be confused with those managed by the municipal, public security, and public utilities departments.  I love the final paragraph:

Intimate acts of lovers may be initially
categorized as "kidnapping" or "robbery" by the computers, which are
programmed to be sensitive to violations of "safe distance", and
reported to the command center. Policemen on duty will decide what
actions to take depending on whether there are real dangerous
situations or not.


Intimate acts of lovers may be initially categorized as kidnapping or robbery?  Something tells me that "intimate acts of lovers" is an unfortunate choice of words. 

Link: People’s Daily Online – Beijing to mark camera monitored zones.

Behind The Great Firewall of China

Sigh.  It’s happened again.  For some unknown reason Typepad sites have once again been blocked in China, which means that this blog is now inaccessible from within China.  Don’t worry, it’s nothing personal.  I haven’t written anything that would have gotten the Net Nanny’s knickers in a twist.  Someone else on some other blog may have, however, and so The Wall goes up for everyone.  It’s just how it is here.  It happened a couple of years ago, and as suddenly as the wall went up one day, it went down again a few months later.  I’m hoping that will happen again.  It’s just life in the Middle Kingdom.

Not My Favorite Headline

Sigh.  China’s having a bad summer, what with all the food scandals of late.  Too bad that a country with some of the world’s best food is now becoming known for some unsavory stuff.  Today there was yet another headline, the kind of headline that is slightly puzzling:  China Prohibits Poisonous Industrial Solvent in Toothpaste.  Is that implying that poisonous industrial solvent in toothpaste was permitted until this ban?

Two other recent headlines have caught my attention as well:

Beijing Steamed Buns Include Cardboard.  Yikes.  I love eating those steamed buns off the streets.  In fact, when my mom and her entourage were in town for the big birthday party in April, I took them to a hole-in-the-wall steamed bun eatery.  I don’t think we ate cardboard, though. 

Report: Fake Drinking Water Hits Beijing.  This one says that more than half of the bottled water sold for water coolers is fake.  Well, I have water delivered for my cooler every week.  I wonder if it’s fake.  Truth be told, I’m not too worried.  If it is fake water, it can’t be so bad, because I’ve been drinking it for three years and have never gotten sick.  Did somebody say hydrate?



Last week I was in Southern California to do some training session for a hundred or so college students who will be going to China for the summer to work in "English Camps" — providing an intensive English environment for Chinese high school students.   Instead of the usual t-shirt with the progam’s logo emblazoned on the back, this year all of the participants received one of those nifty will-not-break-even-if dropped-out-of-an-aircraft-at-30,000feet water bottles (logo on it of course).  Since it was hot in SoCal last week–really, really hot, they came in handy.  I’m not sure they needed any reminding, but it seemed that every few minutes the program staff was telling the participants to "hydrate."  I guess that’s modern-speak for "drink." 

I can’t help being a bit puzzled at this carry-a-water-bottle-at-all-times craze that has taken root in our culture.  Everywhere you look, people are carrying huge bottles of water with them.  I noticed it when I taught at a college here in the US a few years back as well and was puzzled then.  I know it’s imp0rtant to drink lots of water, but is it really necessary for us to carry it around with us at all times?   I mentioned my bafflement to some of the students at the training, and said that when I was in college ("the old days") there was no such thing as bottled water or titanium water bottles, and the look on their faces in response was clearly along the lines of "how in the world did you survive?"  Well, if we needed a drink, we went to the water fountain in the hallway.  Or went to the dining hall.  Anyway, we must have found sufficient ways to hydrate, because I don’t remember anyone of my classmates dropping dead from dehydration. 

When I first went to China, "hydrating" was a bit of a challenge.  At that time, the only drinking water available was in the "has just been boiled" category.  Room temperature water, or, heaven-forbid, COLD water was not available.  People in China simply did NOT drink cold water.  It was thought to be bad for the stomach.  But I and my teammates found nothing thirst-quenching about drinking hot water on a hot day, so we resorted to pouring the boiled water into a plastic jug and letting it cool down to room temperature.  Lukewarm was something we could eventually adjust to.

Bottled water first showed up in China in 1992.  I remember it clearly.  A friend and I were travelling in Xinjiang Province, and since it was July, the temperatures were between 110 and 120 in the deserts we were tromping around.  At one tourist site we spotted our first bottle of water (WaHaHa brand, of course) and nearly fell on the ground in worship!  It wasn’t cold, but neither was it hot!  We hydrated big-time! 

I’m in Minnesota now, and we’re having a bit of a drought.  We haven’t had any serious rain in a long time.  The ponds are drying up and the farmers are starting to worry.  Yesterday afternoon, as I and some friends came out of a restaurant after lunch, we suddenly noticed that there were big black clouds in the sky.  Serious ones, the kind that might actually hydrate the earth!  We were so excited that we all sort of did a jig in the parking lot.  And sure enough, within an hour it was pouring buckets of rain. 

The earth hydrated.  Too bad it doesn’t have one of those nifty bottles!!