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The Man in China Archives
January 1 to March 31, 2009

March 25, 2009 Leveraging my Efforts to Promote Helmets

Today Edward came to see me to pick up two helmets that he has sold to other students.  He's decided to support my helmet promotion project by selling them himself.

Edward my helmet salesman.  Hope for the future of humanity.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

What a thrill this is for me,  to have a student take up this cause on his own initiative, with no prompting from me at all.  It gives me hope for humanity.

GouGou Finds a Friend

Last night our friend Elaine Silver invited us to dinner.  Delicious soup,  followed by "stodge",  a  word new to me which apparently means "sticks to your ribs meat and potatoes food" in some British vernacular.  A great dinner.

GouGou finds a new friend in Jack Hafferkamp, Ph.D. at Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

Joining us at dinner was Jack, Ph.D,  newly arrived from Chicago.  The above picture is an example of human-dog instant bonding.   Jack is a welcome addition to the teaching staff here and a fascinating conversationalist.

March 24, 2009 Helmets in the News Again

Today one of my students,  Edward Hou in my IELTS preparation class,  presented me with a copy of Lihu Magazine,  the all-student produced Jiangnan University news magazine.  It's a slick and professional publication.  More to the point,  this issue devoted four whole pages to me and my helmet campaign.

Edward delivers Lihu Magazine,  with a four page article on my helmet campaign.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China.  Edward asked for a helmet.  I knew this guy was smart.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China.

Wow.  Thanks guys.  I really appreciate the attention and recognition.  Most of all,  I appreciate that Edward came over to my home to buy a helmet.

Deadly Pontification

There are a lot of Catholics in this world.  My girlfriend's mother is a Catholic. My former mother in law is a Catholic. I know that the sheep are not in the habit of telling the shepherd what to do,  but I urge all Catholics to send a message up the chain of command all the way to Pope Benedict XVI,  who last week told the Catholics of Africa to stop using condoms.

Click the picture to speak to  Pope Benedict XVI

The Pope is undermining international efforts to combat AIDS,  and his "leadership" will cost many lives.  Please, all you Catholics.  Please,  everybody.  Ask the "voice of God" to listen to reason..

March 22, 2009 Hate Propaganda Unrecognized as Such

I have friends,  and good friends, who are fundamentalist Christians and will tell me that Darwin was wrong, evolution is just a theory, and the earth is really only a few thousand years old.  One close relative asked me,  rather plaintively, "But do you think we came from slime?"  To which I can only say, yes I do.  It's the only explanation that makes sense,  and has predicted all the discoveries of modern biology.  How anybody can look at us and decide that we are not animals,  and not related to apes,  is totally beyond my comprehension.
     Mostly I've stopped arguing with these people.  Why bother.  Their beliefs are based on "faith" and "revealed truth",  not logic,  observation,  the scientific method, or even common sense. They are good people,  leading good lives.  What do I care if they believe a few crazy things.  But last week a friend gave us a video to watch.  I hesitate to tell you about it,  because I have a feeling that the cynical producers included all the lies, distortions, and twisted logic because they know that an extreme position generates controversy,  which generates audience and money.  I don't want to contribute to their publicity.  But this is a hate film,  coming from the mainstream popular culture.  It needs to be attacked as a hate film.

It's not about freedom of speech. It's a hate film.

     Dressed up in sarcasm and rhetoric about freedom of speech and American values,  "Expelled",  the Ben Stein movie, claims that scientists are being black listed,  their careers ruined, if they so much as mention Intelligent Design,  which according to the U.S. courts is Creationism under a new name.  The support for this claim has been effectively refuted here so I won't repeat this effort, but Stein doesn't stop with an attack on science.  He goes on to connect Darwinism to Hitler and the Holocaust,  and to claim that a belief in evolution naturally leads to loss of faith and (gasp!) atheism.
     Atheists are one group that it is totally safe to attack, apparently.  It's okay to paint us as having no basis for morality, beyond salvation,  irredeemably evil, unfit for any public office. It's okay to claim that believing what we believe will lead naturally to the horrors of Hitler's Germany, Eugenics and genocide.
     Leaving aside the facts - there were pogroms for centuries before Darwin came along,  and the authors of most of our historic horrors were NOT atheists but religious believers (The German soldiers' belt buckles read "Gott Mit Uns" - God is with us.) - isn't it time we who believe in a naturalistic world view speak out against this kind of slander.  For a mainstream popular media release to call me a Fascist is simply unacceptable.  Ben Stein is not an amusing little man with a legitimate concern. He's an intentional  liar. He's a hate propagandist. 
     There is deep irony in a Jew making a hate film.  Of course Ben Stein probably doesn't see his work as hate mongering.  But calling me a Fascist, connecting me to Hitler and the Holocaust,  feels like hate to me. No different than calling Jews "Christ killers".  I take it personally.  I protest.

March 15, 2009 What are the Odds?

What are the odds of us walking into a bar in Nantong and bumping into somebody we met four years ago on Hainan Island.  Given the population of China,  and the number of possible locations for both parties to be,  the odds against this happening seem astronomical to me.  But there you go.  When Ruth and I walked into the Tiger Bar last night,  we were greeted with shouts of recognition from none other than Xiao Hua,  one of our favourite people in the whole world

Xiao Hua and Patrick and David in the Tiger Bar,  Nantong,  China.  I never notice my size until I see a picture like this one.  I'm a giant!

Xiao Hua has recently returned to China with her Irish husband,  Patrick, after a couple of years of living in Ireland. We first met Xiao Hua in the Guangzhou airport when she introduced herself after hearing me practicing my violin.  Her family invited us to stay in their village, Ling Shui, on Hainan Island for what turned out to be the most memorable of introductions to Chinese culture, but we haven't seen her since that Spring Festival Holiday of 2003.  And there she was,  in the Tiger Bar in Nantong.  I'm Billy Bubble.* 
     We're back home in Wuxi after a great weekend visit to friends in Nantong.  That's a beautiful little city almost exactly two hours from here by bus.  Spring has come to this part of China.  Today was much warmer, and this coming week's forecast is for temperatures in the mid twenties.  This campus is going to be a delight.  I'll post some pictures soon.

*Here's the Billy Bubble story.  A bar in Tokyo put on a foreigner night every week,  offering cheap drinks to English speakers so that Japanese business men would come to the bar to practice their English.  All night long,  as the little clumps of foreigners talked, there would be a strange little man listening who would suddenly burst out with "I'm Billy Bubble."  Conversation would pause.  Everybody would say things like "Please to meet you, Billy." and then conversation would resume.
Late at night, well into his cups,  one of the foreigners slapped his forehead and exclaimed: "I've got it.  I know what he was saying.  "Unbelieveable."

March 13,  2009 Happy Birthday Victor

My son Victor turns 29 on the 14th.  So hard to believe - 1980 feels like yesterday. Happy Birthday,  son.  I'm proud of you.

Victor Dalen at his home in Nanaimo,  B.C., Canada
This is the self portrait Victor sent me a while back.

And my daughter Reba sent me her latest picture.  Gotta love this girl.

Reba Zee Dalen sporting her new hairstyle.  Too cool for words.

This term is going very smoothly,  and there's nothing exciting to post right now that I can think of.  Of course there's always something going on,  but... well,  same old same old.  I've just spent several hours reorganizing this site,  putting the learning Chinese posts together on the Studying Chinese page and putting a lot of student letters on the student letters page. So I'm a bit burned out with revisions. 

Tomorrow we're off to Nantong to visit a friend for a day.  So,  later folks.

March 10, 2009  new Erhu Teacher

Finally,  after years of suspended progress,  we have erhu lessons again.  I haven't had a lesson since Weihai,  and I sure was rusty.  But after a week of practice,  it's coming back fast.  Ruth is also making great progress.  Our new teacher,  Sun Hai, has her doing exercises that are improving her tone very quickly.

Sun Hai gives Ruth an erhu lesson.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

I'm also sponsoring my assistant, Jenny's, lessons,  though she doesn't have an erhu yet.  The lessons,  and the teacher,  were her suggestion.  She thinks it will come in handy when we start promoting our snake farm, and this will include her,  of course.

The new Exercise Machine - five for five

I told the students in my oral class that I was afraid of buying an exercise machine,  and asked them if they could guess what I was afraid of.  The only guess I got was that I was afraid of hurting myself.  And of course that isn't it. 
     I've known too many people who have spent a lot of money on an exercise machine that then sits unused,  a silent reproach,  making them feel bad every time the look at it.  I was afraid that if I bought an exercise machine,  I'd actually have to exercise.
     I'm happy to report that we've both done half an hour on the elliptical trainer each morning for the past five days.  I can't see any difference in my flab level yet,  but I sure feel the difference in my morning energy.  I just feel so clean and awake after my shower.
     They tell me it takes about a month to turn an activity into a habit.  I hope this is a habit I can develop and keep,  because it feels pretty good.  Having our own machine really beats going to a gym.  It's good to be able to get on it with no transition time,  no travel,  no locker room or shower questions.  Best of all,  no thumpa thumpa bass beat rock and roll that the clubs almost always inflict on me.  Exercise without Nelvana.  Why didn't I think of this earlier.

March 5, 2009 Getting in Shape in China

One of the nice things about having a working partner is that anything we mutually want costs each of us half as much as it would if we were alone here. This morning I had my first 20 minutes on our brand spankin' new elliptical trainer.  The thing really works.  I was at the fifteen minute point when I noticed the pulse in my ears and decided to slow down for a while.  I break a sweat at about the twelve minute point,  and get off the machine feeling more awake than I've felt for weeks.

Delivery was 100 RMB (about $20 Canadian) but well  worth it for the assembly.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China  Ruth Anderson tries out the new elliptical trainer.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China  Note the classy runners.

Half an hour every morning should get the spare tire off my belly.

Second Childhood - More Fun than the First One

We bought the exercise machine at Decathlon,  a big box style sports store in the New District.  It's the only place in Wuxi that has runners in my size,  and on this visit they had great prices on roller blades.  I've been thinking of getting a pair for a year now,  and finally gave in to the impulse. 

Winkle,  my roller blade 老师。 Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China  The roller blade group.  They meet on Wednesdays and Fridays in front of the library.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

My young friend,  Winkle,  has offered to teach me how to do tricks.  Yesterday she came over to escort me to the library where a group of students work on their skating twice a week.  I was a bit shaky at first,  not having been on skates for years.  But I was feeling more confident by the end of the session. 
     Winkle told me one of the tricks to trick skating.  You have to have smaller wheels on the front and back of your skates,  so that they will turn in the middle and not just on the ends.  A young man was sent off to his dormitory,  and returned in fifteen minutes with four wheels a tiny bit smaller than the ones my skates came with.  He installed them for me,  and they really made a difference.  Suddenly I could turn on a dime.  But by then I was feeling tired and even more shaky,  using muscles that haven't been called upon for years, so it will have to wait a few days before I really get into this.

Running on the spot on roller blades,  first step to feeling confident.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China   The roller blade mechanic.  Apparently he keeps all wheel sizes in stock in his dorm.  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

You'll notice in this picture that I'm wearing all kinds of protective gear, unlike the young skaters.  I figure my bones just may be a bit more fragile than theirs.  But I NEVER fall down.  At least I haven't fallen down for as long as I can remember.  (I think the last time I fell down was on the dance floor in Bella Coola,  or was it Bella Bella*, in the late seventies,  back when skates had wheels that were side by side.)  So when I got home I put my skates on to check them out in our living room,  ignoring my new bag of protection,  and promptly fell down.  I'm very lucky I didn't break my wrist.  Actually,  I'm not sure I didn't break it, because it's still pretty sore.  Lesson learned,  I hope.

*Since you can't get to Bella Coola or Bella Bella other than by boat,  I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who has ever danced on roller skates on the dance floor there.  It's a small claim to fame,  but I take it where I can get it.

February 28, 2009 A Legend in His Own Mind Part 2

On Wednesday of this week I was interviewed for an article in the Yangtze Evening Post,  the most popular Chinese language evening paper in Jiangsu Province.  Yesterday the article came out. It was better in the actual paper,  because that included a picture.  But at least it's here. Here's the picture that they didn't post with the online article.

Click to see the article in the Yangze Evening Post. David Scott and student with bicycle helmet,  Jiangnan University,  Wuxi,  China

It's really encouraging to see how the Chinese media is picking up on the bicycle helmet idea.  Now I think I need to talk to the doctors in China who deal with brain injuries,  and get them on board this campaign.

Oh yes,  and a Happy Birthday to my daughter Reba.  1986 feels like yesterday to me.  She was born on February 27th,  so it's still her birthday back in Canada as I write this. 祝你生日快乐,亲爱的女儿

February 20, 2009  Ruth's new Pictures up on Flicker

I can't believe that our first week of the term is over already.  Maybe I'll get around to posting something more,  later this weekend.  But for now take a look at Ruth's pictures.  This time she's posted a few of mine as well, all from our Spring Festival holiday.

February 18, 2009 The Erhu Factory

This morning,  Jenny arranged a visit to a local erhu factory.  If Phil Borsos were alive today, he'd want to make a sequel to "Cooperage".  It's just so interesting to see a factory where most of the work is done by master craftsmen. So much atmosphere.

Erhu factory,  Wuxi,  China

Erhu factory,  Wuxi,  China  Ruth commented that seeing these together really points out the snake pattern. Erhu factory,  Wuxi,  China

I learned the names of four different styles of erhu,  and I got to try out one of their best instruments,  which unfortunately I can't afford at the moment,  and wouldn't buy if I could afford it because they are all made with the skins of endangered species.
     The big surprise to me was how much this factory pays for a snake skin.  Up to ten times what I expected. No wonder poaching and illegal importing  is so hard to eradicate.

February 15, 2009  Simon Yang's New Apartment for Jiaozi

Last Sunday,  Simon Yang,  one of the deans here,  arranged for his associate,  Mr. Cheng Fang, to pick us up and take us to his new home where we had a jiaozi feast. 

Dean Simon Yang in his elegant new kitchen.  Wuxi,  China

Ruth had a jiaozi making lesson from two real experts - Li Tao, who teaches literature and Xu
Lan Juan, who teaches intensive reading literature. Both are obvious jiaozi experts.

Ruth gets a jiaozi folding lesson from a master,  Wuxi,  China   A perfect jiaozi,  and Ruth folded it herself.  Wuxi,  China

I'm afraid I talked everybody's ears off about my snake farm project,  but maybe that was okay.  They are very supportive.

February 16,  2009  The Hainan Bike Rider

I'm cleaning up stuff from our vacation but it will take me a while to get it all posted.  Plus I'm doing a massive reorganization and facelift of this site,  so expect big changes soon.  But it all takes time.
     On our way back to Wuzhishan on the mountain highway of Hainan Island,  Ruth spotted a bicycle rider coming toward us.  "Hey, somebody in China wearing a helmet," she said.  "That's great."  We're always on the lookout for Chinese bike riders who wear helmets.  We're hoping that the idea is catching on and spreading.
"He looks American or European," I said.
"No,  I think he looks Chinese."
     The next day,  getting ready to board the bus back to Sanya,  we saw him at the bus station with his bicycle.  He's a serious bike rider from Boston,  Massachusetts. He spoke excellent Mandarin, and he needed it to convince the bus driver to load his bike into the baggage compartment of the bus.

American bicycle rider,  Wuzhishan,  Hainan Dao,  China.  Note the bandage and the road rash. If it wasn't for his helmet,  he'd be toast.

I noticed a bandage on his nose and some road rash on his face.  "Where's your helmet," I asked.
"I broke it this morning," he said.
"Wow.  Imagine what you would look like if you hadn't had the helmet."
"Yeah.  I'm a firm believer in helmets.  Probably save my life this morning."
     Somebody had removed a manhole cover, and there was grass around it that hid the open hole from view.  That's what he hit. Fortunately, he was wearing a helmet.  If he'd been a Chinese rider, without a helmet, he'd probably be one more reason why the bicycle fatalities are seven times higher here than in North America. 

February 11,  2009 Home after a Fantastic Holiday

There is too much here to put up on the home page,  so I'm making it a separate link.  Just click on Our Incredible Spring Festival Holiday of 2009.  What an adventure we've had.

And with incredible news:  We Have a Location for the Snake Ranch

The Snake Ranch takes a giant leap toward becoming a reality.  Remember my snake farm project.  I first posted about it back in September of 2008 and it went on the back burner until I could do some research.  Well now it's back.  We've found Chinese partners and a fantastic location on Hainan Island.  Read all about it and see the pictures.

Warning: An ATM Gave me Counterfeit Money

I always try to keep this website upbeat,  and don't like to complain about anything in my host country.  I like it here.  Injustice can happen anywhere in the world.  But this is something you need to know about: Check your money before you leave the ATM booth.  If you find a fake,  you must hold it up to the security camera so that you can prove you got it from the ATM machine.

Of course it  isn't wise to be hanging around in a dimly lit ATM booth late at night,  taking the time to inspect every bill the machine gave you,  and advertising to potential thieves that you have fresh cash.  That's scary.  I didn't do it,  and never will.  So maybe a hundred yuan hit now and then is just part of the price of living in China.  I guess I can afford that.

I know for sure that my fake bill came from the ATM machine at a major Guilin branch of the China Industrial and Commercial Bank.  But I didn't discover that one of the 100 yuan bills was 假的 (jiǎ de,  fake, counterfeit) until I got to Shanghai.  So my branch of the bank will do nothing.  They didn't even seem interested enough to contact the branch in Guilin to let them know they are employing a criminal,  as they must be because this bill is so obviously phony that whoever loaded the ATM machine knew it.  All I got was, "Sorry."   The young man in the elegant dark suit suggested I pass the fake on to a cab driver or store keeper. 

If you've got any money in the China Industrial and Commercial Bank, my best advice is to take it out,  and check every single bill when you do.

Another Wonderful cross-lingual pun:  Happy Niu Year

I've mentioned before that I love a pun that requires a person to know two languages in order to get it.  Two such puns that are used in Chinese text messages are 88 (ba ba in Chinese,  which sounds like bye bye and so is used to end messages.)  and 3Q ( "sān Q" in Chinese, "thank you"). 

On New Years Eve we received a number of text messages wishing us a "Happy Niu Year".  "Niu" is pronounced roughly like "new",  but means ox or bull.  And this is the year of the bull.  Cute, huh?

January 7, 2009 A Legend in His Own Mind - The China Daily article.

For those who check in on this site on a regular basis,  my apologies.  There's been too much going on and I've been away.  Ruth and I just returned from a long weekend in Beijing,  where we visited her old friends from high school, Doug and Ken,  ate the famous Peking Duck at the famous Beijing DaDong Roast Duck restaurant, bought fur hats in the famous Tiananmen Square,  inspected the famous Birds Nest and Water Cube at the Olympic site, and marveled at the architecture of the new and instantly famous National Center for the Performing Arts.  Beijing is simply incredible.

Doug, Ruth, and Ken,  the gang united in Beijing with the Birdsnest in the background.   Santa's house at the Olympic site,  with the Water Cube in the background.

     For me the big ego kick was being in Beijing when China Daily came out with a full page spread telling all of China about my bicycle helmet campaign.  Wow.  Thank you Patrick Whiteley for doing such a great job on the article.  My hosts were impressed.

A clear day in Beijing.  Guarding the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.
Check out that Beijing sky.  That isn't Photoshop,  folks. It was a clear day in Tiananmen Square.

The New Fast Trains

One of the mysteries of China is the availability (or lack thereof) of train tickets.  We tried to buy soft sleeper tickets back to Wuxi,  but were told that none were available.  Doug offered the services of his assistant,  who has some connections and pull with somebody,  and tickets were found for us.  When we boarded the train,  we discovered that we were the only occupants of a four person compartment.  Two empty beds above ours.  Go figure.

Ruth Anderson sleeps the miles away on the fast train from Beijing to Wuxi,  China.

We had seats on the fast train on the way to Beijing.  They are comfortable seats for an hour or two,  but for the nine hour ride they still were torture for me,  with my long legs,  and even Ruth found her seat uncomfortable.  By contrast,  the trip home was decadent luxury.
     I can't speak too highly of the new fast train.  Fast, smooth and almost silent.  Spotlessly clean,  with a pretty uniformed attendant assigned to each car, spacious and odor free washroom facilities,  crisp white linen on the beds,  a pot of flowers and a thermos of hot water waiting for us on the cabin table.  In all, a reminder that travel can still have elegance.

 David Scott well rested arriving in Wuxi on the fast train from Beijing.  Ruth Anderson well rested arriving in Wuxi on the fast train from Beijing.
A gentle knock on our cabin door at six in the morning got us out and ready to disembark.

Time to archive again:  So soon.  So much has happened in the past few months.  The really good stuff is in the archives,  folks.  I hate to bury it back there,  because I fear that nobody will ever click on the links.  But you should.  Really.  I promise.

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