Tuesday, January 6, 2009

San Diego Who?

Ok, you know you've been out the the U.S. for too long when you start forgetting what NFL Football ( as opposed to British Football, or what we call soccer in the U.S.) teams are in what locations.  For the most part here in China, sports news is gathered from Internet sites. Streaming video of NFL games are non-existent,  and for that matter, news coverage scarce.  The NFL hasn't caught on in China, although they are big fans of the NBA.

As it was, the movement of NFL teams was difficult to keep track of on a good memory day.  For example ChinaFubar was born and raised in St. Louis, which used to be home to the St. Louis Cardinals NFL franchise, before them moved to Arizona and became the Arizona Cardinals.  Then finally the Los Angeles Rams moved to St. Louis, and all was well,  until the officials would make a mistake and call a penalty against "Los Angeles"  during a home game in St. Louis.  

Then, after the Rams were in St. Louis for only one season, I moved to Los Angeles.  Sold my Ram's PSL's, and was again, with no NFL team to cheer.  Still cheered the Rams, especially to their 1999 Super Bowl Championship with Kurt Warner at QB!  Great stuff, unfortunately, I was traveling in China at the time and of course didn't see the game.  Does the NFL really know how many viewers it looses because of their rules?

Now I call Arizona my U.S. home, at least that's what it says on my driver's license, and I'm again calling the Cardinals my home team, except now they play in Tempe.  And once again, they seem to be playoff bound in no small part due to the efforts of the very capable Kurt Warner.  Does anyone see a pattern here?  Is Warner Canton bound?  Should be, and not Canton, China either. 

But I digress.

All this movement and lack of regular exposure to the NFL was brought home last night while watching NFL on Bensports satellite at the local British pub here in Dongguan, One for the Road.  Not quite the same as in U.S., lots of British accents, and the game was only on one TV, with British football (soccer) on the other, larger screens. Plus the game, being on delay, was time compressed, and that just screws up the normal rhythm of watching an NFL game, as they cut out all the goings on between the end of a play and the snap for next play.  Kind of like watching an hour and a half of a highlight reel.

So I'm watching the game, and through the Chinese subtitles I can see that the Balti---oops, Indiana Colts are playing...some team from SD with what looks like a yellow feather as a logo.  At least that's what it looked like on the bottom of the screen where they show the scores.  So I'm thinking   SD....South Dakota??  When did they get a team?  And what is it,  the Yellow Feathers?  That's what the logo looked like.  After all, teams aren't named after the cities they play in now, but the states they play in.  Tennessee Titans,  Indiana Colts,  Arizona Cardinals,  Minnesota Vikings, etc.

Then, they finally show a close up of the team,and I realize "Duh, San Diego!!!   CHARGERS!  Doh!!  That's not a feather, that's a bad drawing of a spark.

That's when it hit me, the old limited memory bug.  The theory that the human brain can only hold so much information, and as you get older, at a certain point your brain becomes saturated, and for every new bit of information you learn, you forget something.  So, I suspect that some bit of the vast amount of knowledge I've picked up in the last few months caused me to forget the San Diego Chargers actually existed, and were not in actuality a team called the South Dakota Yellow Feathers.

Problem solved.  Except now there's another problem.

What bit of information did I now forget because I've "re-learned" about the San Diego Chargers.

Maybe my wife, good old what's her name knows.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Very Strange Day

It's never a good day when you look at obituaries, and see someone you know, but it's really a strange day when you look the home town obituary and see that your father passed away.  And that's the only way you knew, because you happened to look at the obits that day.

So it seems that my father, whom I haven't seen or heard from since, Uh, maybe 1958 or 1959, passed away last Friday, ad the ripe old age of 78 or maybe 79.   At least longevity runs in my family, which is good to know.  Theoldman1

I don't know much about the guy,  just what I've heard through limited stories.  Served in the military in the late 1940's or early 1950's, MOS projectionist/photographer.  At one time I had a copy of his  honorable discharge papers, not sure what happened to those documents.  What little I do remember of him revolves around him running a hobby shop and playing with gas model airplanes.  I don't remember much interaction other than that. 

After he and my mother divorced, he bailed, started a new life and broke contact with us.  Apparently he didn't want to be bothered with "old baggage"  we were told by his parents to stay away from his live and we weren't welcome.

So, how to process all this.  Feel sad, sort of angry at what I missed.  My wife told me I should try and find him to establish contact, but I felt that he was the one that was continually hiding.  Not hard to get in contact with me, bankers from Nigeria can seem to manage.

So far the obituary reads, "Szabolcsky, Robert A. Fri., Jan. 2, 2009. Visitation XXX., 3-8 p.m. Funeral XXX., 12 noon at xxxx So. County. Interment National Cemetery

No mention of family, relatives, survivors, etc.  Somehow I wonder if that's how he wanted it.

So long Pop's, I never knew ya.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!!

Already it's January 1st, 2009, geez, where did the millennium go?  For ChinaFubar it was a quiet New Year's Eve, spent snuggling with Mrs. ChinaFubar and watching the festivities on Hong Kong TV. 

Currently sitting at the local pub having a post new year's lunch, and catching up with the New Year's Eve happenings.  Apparently there was the usual antics,  foolishness in the bathrooms,  people drinking mass quantities, etc.  Seems, as in the U.S.  New Year's Eve is "amateur night" here in China also.   But, some expats tend to be professional drinkers, so those dedicated souls consumed much more than usual apparently.

The pub itself is still showing the affects of the party, bits of silver confetti on the floor, chairs, and cracks in the bar.  Currently the barmaid is trying to get the confetti from on top of the flat screen TV behind the bar using a pool cue.

For ChinaFubar, this year has held a strange mix of events.  New jobs, no jobs, and moving around the country.  Looks like next year will bring more of the same.

It's said that an optimist looks to the new year ahead, and from the sounds of things in the news, it's going to be an interesting year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Recession's China's Fault?

Just reading an article from New York Times,  "Chinese Savings Helped Inflate American Bubble" which attempts to make the convoluted argument the reason for the current recession, which was basically based on the party of binge borrowing coming to a halt, is not because Americans borrowed so much, but because Chinese saved so much.  Thus, there was an excess of Chinese capital that was made available to banks and lending institutions and was used underwrite American consumption.

The article goes on to talk about how the  trade deficit gave China so much U.S. capital it had to plow it back into the U.S. economy in the form of purchasing debt such as Treasury bills and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debt.

While the article has the basics of the picture painted pretty well, I'm not sure the conclusion is correct.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in Dongguan

Well, it's Christmas Day in Dongguan, and rather than presents under the tree and a scene from the movie "A Christmas Story,"  I'm typing away on the computer, the wife's sleeping on the couch, where she was when I woke up this morning, (no reason why so far) and the construction workers are banging away downstairs on yet another apartment redecorating project.

To be fair, apparently there was a bit of holiday spirit, dare I say CHRISTMAS spirit in the air last night around town.  Concerts, recitals, the local expat school had their Christmas Pageant, and the mall next door had a show of some sort.  Actually the show was put on by a local auto dealer trying to drum up sales for Geelys, Suzukis, Great Wall, Chevrolet, and some other brand with a Mini knock-off. 

The show also included dancers, who while we were watching were doing some sort of dance routine that I think was supposed to be "sultry" but instead they just had a look of general unhappiness to be there. 

The whole display was capped off by a giant Christmas tree made of Snow beer cans. 

At least the PA system wasn't blaring out what is apparently the one Christmas music CD that is available locally.  Cutsey-sounding kids singing Christmas carols.  First 100 times it was cute, and put one in the holiday mood.  Second thousand times,... you get the picture.  This one has been playing everyplace from the Carrefour, Dongcheng Walking Street, Trust Mart, and the Japanese Noodle shop.  Sales must have been in the 100's for this CD.

Of course, not a lot of the local population really understands what Christmas is all about, mostly an excuse for a party and maybe exchanging of gifts, and an excuse for the vendors to run around to the customers giving day planners for next year.  I've also gotten a ton of e-mails from executive recruiters wishing me a Merry Christmas, and if I know of anyone looking for a new job to refer them and I'll be entered in a chance to win a 3000HKD gift certificate to some high end department store or another.  About as much chance of that happening as one of said recruiters actually placing someone in a job.

To be fair, seems this year there is an attempt by some folks here that actually understand the true meaning of Christmas to try and get the word out,  Even the local government sponsored English language news website "Dongguan Today" had an article about the story behind Christmas.  I'd link to it but it's been taken down already.

I know this all sounds cynical on my part, but for some reason the Christmas spirit has yet to descend on your able writer. Had a brief encounter with it sitting in Starbuck's a couple of weeks ago, but still waiting.  Maybe the sub tropical weather, palm trees and beer can Christmas trees has something to do with it.

I do have to say, as cynical as it sounds, from what I'm hearing back in the states there is more Christmas Sprit in our little atheistic city of Dongguan than there is in most of U.S.  Of course the current economy is playing a part in the reduction of holiday cheer in the states, but I'm hearing that political correctness has about wiped out the whole celebration of Christmas. I was in the states last year for Christmas, and I do have to say, more holiday spirit and "Merry Christmas" - NOT "Happy Holidays" here in DG land.

'Tis a shame really, 


And May Peace be With You and Your Family


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Cat's in the Kettle

Used to be an old China Expat Urban Legend about the expat wife shopping in the fresh markets in Guangzhou.  She comes across a vendor selling live cats destined to be someone's dinner later in the day.  This particular vendor's practice was to pick out the cat, break it's neck and plunge into boiling water to remove the hair.

Expat wife is horrified at the process, and takes it upon herself to at least save a couple of the cute little kittens from their inevitable culinary destiny.  She offers to purchase 2 of the more "cute'" kittens, but requested the stall owner to not boil them.

Stall owner complies and pulls the cats out of the cage, wrings their little necks and holds the now dead cats out to the expat wife.  Rumor has it she fainted.

Courtesy of Danwei, we received news that cats have now again become a popular dining staple,  Seems that stray cats from Nanjing province are rounded up by "cat fishermen" and shipped to a market in Dongguan, where they are sold to smaller vendors, and eventually wind up in Cantonese restaurants in the area:

According to Southern Metropolis Daily (Chinese Language):

At 3:37 on December 10th, the K25 train arrived at Dongguan East Station. About 1,500 cats had been sent on the train from Nanjing. Eight men wearing camouflage got on the train and started to move off the cages crammed with cats. Every time a cage landed on the ground, cats screeched in pain.

The invoice showed that this shipment contained 1,500 cats, and included a sterilization certificate and an animal quarantine certificate issued by official veterinerians.

The cats were loaded to trucks and sent to the Guijiang Three Birds Market, which is the biggest wholesale poultry market in southern China. Every day, more than 100,000 animals are sold here. From that market, the cats were distributed to other cities in Guangdong.

Around ten wholesale vendors are involved in the dog and cat trade. One of them, known as "Big Boss," spoke Mandarin with a Cantonese accent, while the others spoke different dialects.

Cats here are sold in cages to smaller vendors for 4 yuan per kilogram, which includes the weight of the cages and any dead animals. For smaller-volume trading, the prices are 9 yuan per kilo for medium-sized cats and 14 yuan per kilo for the bigger ones.

Following a man who bought some cats, the reporter arrived at a Cantonese food restaurant where cat is priced for 36 yuan per kilo. In the restaurant, customers ordered a dish called "braised cat," which cost 147 yuan. Describing the dish, the waitress said that cat meat has the medicinal property of "nourishing yin and boosting yang." The customers said that they wanted to try it because they were curious.


Cats are packed in cages (from Nalan Jingmeng's blog)

The reporter traced the source of the cats to suburban counties of Nanjing, where some people make a living catching cats and selling them for about 10 to 20 yuan each to wholesalers. These cat thieves are called "cat fishermen." A fisherman can catch about 20 cats in one night. A Nanjing-based organization which is committed to helping stray cats confirmed to the newspaper that there are far fewer stray cats in the city this year than normal.

In Nanjing, there is also a market specializing in the cat trade. Local police said that the market has been around for over ten years and that it doesn't violate the law.

Of course the Netizens in China are responding, with no small amount of anger, as China.org reports. In part:

Many people have condemned the eating of cats, claiming they are human beings' friends.

According to an online survey conducted by the website of Southern Metropolis Daily yesterday, 661 out of the 886 netizens who voted considered dining on cats "ruthless", while 207 said it was okay.

Almost 400 said they have never eaten cats, while 170 said they have or want to try.

"Tears cannot help welling up whenever the scene occurs to me that a pitiful cat is drowned in boiling water and torn apart as delicacy for someone. I just can't imagine how brutal people can be," Tang Xiyuan, a volunteer for an organization for stray animals in Guangzhou, told China Daily yesterday.

"Don't those who dine on cats remember that they used to play with cats in their childhood, and don't they remember how cute and friendly the cats are!" she said.

However, many other citizens seem to be more tolerant.

"I myself don't eat cats; but I don't think eating cats should be forbidden or condemned as long as the behavior is legal and does not cause diseases," Lin Jiaqian, a high school teacher in Guangzhou's Tianhe district, said yesterday.

"All the poultry and livestock are lovely when they are small; and it's equally cruel to kill them," Lin said.

The article goes on to mention:

An official with the animal hygiene supervision institute under the provincial health department, who preferred not to be named, told China Daily yesterday that his institution supervises chickens, geese, ducks, horses, cattle, sheep, donkeys, mules, pigs and dogs, but not cats.

"Unless they (the cats) are suspected to have caused an epidemic, I don't think we are in a good position to interrupt the business," he said.

Both the police and industrial and commercial administrators said they will not interrupt the business as long as the businesspeople can produce all the permits and licenses required.

"Eating or trading cats does not violate China's law," Zhang Yuanlong, a lawyer with Guangdong Fucheng Law Firm, said.

China Fubar wonders, with the lack of hygiene supervision of cats as food, will we be subject to the same sort of disease outbreak similar to SARS, which, if you remember, was caused by infected Civet Cats out of Guangzhou.

China Fubar can't also help but recall the parody of Harry Chapin's tune, "Cat's in the Cradle"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Neat Shoes

During this morning's perusal of the news,  a multimedia article from New York Times,  "Fashion on the Street - Some Imagination".  It's a multimedia slide show, so may take some time to load all the photos, you may see blank screen while the narrator/author Bill Cunningham describes what he sees.

While everyone's expecting a down year in the footwear industry, it's interesting to note that some companies are experiencing record sales or up years. Again, the key is to produce something that people want.  Fashion shoes are by and large an emotional purchase, and how those shoes are designed and marketed plays a big part in a brands success.

Those of us in the footwear industry do tend to complain, you rarely hear a person say "It's been great, never better"  always "Business is tough, hard to make anything"

And I've never met a factory owner who didn't complain the factory was loosing money.  Even when the factory was at capacity.

My feeling is, now's not the time to get too conservative. You're product becomes a commodity,  Every one's knocking off 9 West's pointed toe pumps, Expect to see all the mass market retailers with the same silhouette next fall.  How about using some imagination and trying something different?

Sure the consumer is in "pullback and retrench"  right now, but human nature being what it is, I suspect by this fall the consumer will get tired of being tight fisted, and splurge a bit. 

The past is done, the present is here, now it's time to look to the future. Wether we look at it positively or with an attitude of gloom and doom, can influence what happens next. Sort of the self-fulfilling prophesy philosophy.

My rant for today, thank you very  much for listening.