May 23, 2008

Rumble guts

I had the rumble guts a few days ago. It's always interesting to try and pinpoint the cause of mild food poisoning. It can take a few days for the symptoms to surface, and there are a lot of things you've eaten during that period. I tend to be more skeptical of fresh, uncooked foods and look to those as the probable source of any gastrointestinal illness.

This time, I think it was one of either:
  • Cold tofu (腐竹) mixed with carrots and celery. When I was eating it, I was thinking that perhaps that it was sitting out in their display case for longer than is healthy.
  • Hong Kong style chef's salad (厨师沙拉). In a busy restaurant, it could be easy to not wash the lettuce and other vegetables as well as they should be.
This time, my rumble guts were pretty mild. I think I must have already grown accustomed to the germ spectrum in China. In fact, I've been purposely trying to train my gut to handle questionable food.

One of the anecdotes in Kitchen Confidential is that Rasputin was reported to have regularly ingest arsenic to build tolerance and to protect himself from poisoning, and that this logic could be loosely applied to eating questionable food in general. It seems reasonable to me.

The main thing I do is eat at a conveyor-belt sushi joint. Some expats in China are exteremely skeptical of any kind of uncooked fish in China, and the convey-belt variety is the fast-food of the sushi world. So far I've not had any problems eating there. I think it's been gradually improving my immune system over time.

May 15, 2008

People you meet in the gym

It doesn't matter if you go to the gym in California or China, you end up meeting the same dysfunctional personalities. Same malfunctions, different names. Take a look.

Mr. Sweaty Smith / 楚汉先生 (出汗先生)
The guy who sweats all over the equipment and doesn't wipe it off.

Mr. Lazy Lewis / 蓝舵先生 (懒惰先生)
The guy who takes long rests between sets on the squat rack, on the leg extension machine, on the ab machine, or any other piece of equipment he feels like. It seems like Mr. Lewis can pick the specific piece of equipment you plan to use next to lounge about on for as long as possible.

Mr. P. / 撒尿狂先生
The guy who takes a pee in the shower because he's too lazy to walk over to the urinal. Remember this Seinfeld dialog?
ELAINE: Why couldn't you just wait?
GEORGE: I was there! I saw a drain!
ELAINE: Since when is a drain a toilet?!
GEORGE: It's all pipes! What's the difference?!
ELAINE: Different pipes go to different places! You're gonna mix 'em up!
GEORGE: I'll call a plumber right now! (Goes for the phone.)
JERRY: Alright, can we just drop all the pee-pipe stuff here?
Mr. Pubic Blow Dryer / 电吹风毛狂先生
The Chinese guy that uses the blow dryer to carefully dry all of his nether-bits in full view of the other men in the changing room. To be honest, I never met this guy in California, but I've seen many, many of them in the gym locker room in China.

Mr. Grunt / 陆先生 (咕噜先生)
The guy that must shout and grunt during each and every repetition, regardless of the weight involved. He wants everyone in the gym to know how hard he's working.

Mr. Unracked Weights / 拒绝把铃片放回原处先生
The guy that thinks his mother, wife, or maid works at the gym and is going to return the weights and other equipment to their original place. He's done using them and can't be bothered to put things back in their original location so other gym members don't have to look around for them.

Mr. Stinky Pits / 臭杰伦
The guy who must select the treadmill right next to the one you're using, and then works up a sweat like a pig, thereby releasing all the odor particles trapped in his pores. Some people need to shower both before and after they work out, which Mr. Pits doesn't realize. I met this guy a lot more in California. Must be all the animal style In-N-Out Burgers. (By the way, I can't figure out why Jay Chou chooses to transliterate his surname as "Chou", which means "stinky", rather than "Zhou", the standard way of transliterating his surname, 周).

Ms. Pants Suit and High Heels / 长裤西服装高跟鞋女士
Yes, there are actually some females that come to the gym and walk on the treadmill (at very slow speeds) and do some Nautilus exercises (with very low weights). They look like they just came out of a board meeting, and they never break a sweat. Again, this is a phenomenon I've seen only in China.

Mr. Dumbbell Collector / 收集哑铃狂先生
This reclusive character only appears once and a while. He likes to sit on a bench or chair and have at least three sets of dumbbells spread out on the floor before him. Apparently he does shoulder presses with one set, and then moves on to another set. I think he's the gym equivalent of a male peacock, trying to attract female gym patrons with his spectacular tail.

May 13, 2008

KFC cheese fries

Recently, KFC has been pushing their new cheese fries at local franchises here in China. Check out this TV commercial:

I've got to tell you, I'm not that impressed with these cheese fries. The fries themselves are over salted, and the cheese is a liquidy variation on Cheez Whiz and Easy Cheese mixed together. The whole thing looks much better in the commercial.

Give me some Coney Island-style chili cheese fries, please. This inferior fast-food imitation doesn't come close to the real thing.

May 7, 2008

Misuse of nomenclature in article "Olympic torch lit on top of Everest"

Just saw this article about the Olympic torch on Mount Everest. Here's an excerpt:
An Olympic flame reached the top of the world Thursday.

Live television footage showed a Chinese mountaineering team holding up a specially designed torch — separate from the main Olympic flame — along with Chinese and Olympic flags on the peak of Mount Everest.


The 19-member final assault team was comprised of both ethnic Han Chinese and Tibetan members and also included university students. The team captain is a Tibetan, identified as Nyima Cering, while the deputy is Chinese, Luo Shen, CCTV and the Xinhua News Agency said.

I've highlighted a portion of the quoted article above to show the non-politically correct text. If and when the mainland Chinese press get a hold of that article, it'll surely be held up as another example of Western news bias against China. "Chinese" is supposed to refer to the nationality, and then there are terms for the individual ethnicities, such as "Han", "Hui", "Manchu", and so on.

In this case, the author, who surprisingly enough seems to be of Chinese descent, used "Chinese" when she probably meant to use "Han" or one of the other ethnic groups in China. If a news article in China utilized ethnic group names in the way this article did, it would surely be picked out as not politically correct.

When the article is interpreted in this context, it gives the impression that the news agency has a definite stance on the Tibet issue. Perhaps mainland Chinese reporters will start reporting stories like, "Even overseas Chinese news reporters are anti-China", and then they'll refer to this reporter.

Having been subjected to endless messages of how to be politically correct in both China and in the US, I'm happy to have bridged more understanding.

May 5, 2008

Longqing Gorge

Over the long weekend for Labour Day (note the extra "u", since we get two extra days, not just one like regular Labor Day), we got the chance to go out to the Beijing suburbs for some outdoor activities in Longqing Gorge. It's a very nice scenic area, and of course everything is adapted for the local Chinese tourist market, meaning it's developed and touristy, rather than very rugged.

After taking a powerboat for a 20 minute cruise down the river, you can rent row boats and go exploring in some of the narrower parts of the gorge. The water looked to be pretty deep. How deep remains to be seen. The estimates I got from the workers ranged from 30 meters to 100 meters, and I'm sure it's much closer to the low end of that range. One thing's for sure, the water was as cold as glacial runoff. We rented a row boat, but although I had my Speedo on under my cargo pants, and a pair of Swedish goggles in my bag, I couldn't justify jumping into an ice cold river. Maybe in the middle of July or August it would be better.

The rowboats come with oars made from a thick dowel bolted to three foot board. (Enlarge the photo below for a close look.)

They had some really great lamb kebabs at the scenic area, better than I've had anywhere else in China or elsewhere. It's a shame it's so far away from where I'm living. I stayed away from this place below with the "hot-drink beer". I'll take my beer frosty cold, thank you.

Here's a photo of a pit-stop our bus took just a few clicks away from the gorge. Rumor has it that the Beijing city goverment tried to abate the Spring sand storm problem by planting trees out on the northern and western borders of the city. The thing is, those same trees shed a ton of puff balls. You can get a better sense of how many of them there are if you enlarge the photo.

A sneaked a photo of this piece of paper sitting behind our crotchety bus driver. I've blurred out the surnames to protect the accused. Apparently the bus driver was also pulling duty taking snot-nosed kids from the Beijing international schools on field trips.

Check out the report. It looks like Estella's been throwing shit out the window and not respecting authority. Apparently she has a history of throwing shit out the window. I wonder if Estella had to wear the dunce cap and sit in the corner, or if having rich parents that pay international school tuition exempted her from punishment.

I liked our bus driver. After the first potty stop to Longqing, before he got back to driving, he craned his neck around the seat and gave a speech in Beijing-inflected Chinese to the whole bus. It went something like this:

"Make sure you clean up all your garbage. Normally, there's no eating or drinking allowed on this bus, but I'm fine with it as long as you clean up after yourselves. Don't leave any rubbish on board when you get off.

"It would be like if I came to your house during Chinese New Year and threw a bunch of rubbish on the floor. You wouldn't like that, would you? So let's make sure to take care of our garbage."

Then he turned back to the steering wheel and got back to driving. Great speech. It turned out to be the cleanest, least garbage free bus I've seen in China so far.