Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fourteenth Post

Stinky Wallboard. What’s Next?

China exports its wares to the world. Virtually all the kitchen paraphernalia sold here is manufactured there. I bought a lot of it . . . unfortunately.

Let me explain. I have yet to see a dishwashing machine in this country and running hot water at a kitchen sink is a rarity. Consequently a less than rigorous dish washing leaves food clinging to nooks and crannies – right angles, even – formed by the manufacturing process. The food attracts mold and who knows what bacteria. I have containers that are unusable for milk products and I have a difficult time cleaning the blender pitcher to my satisfaction. I occasionally add a dash of chlorine bleach to the dishwater in hopes it will remove the bad news stuff I don’t want to ingest and, from time to time, I leach out glass ware with muriatic acid.

I’m not alone in my disgust with China’s Laissez Faire attitude toward their exporters.

Item: Thousands of American homes built or remodeled in the past few years had Chinese wallboard installed that now outgases noxious odors. Smells awful, makes some sick and tarnishes jewelry. Builders are in a hard way right now and those who are not already bankrupt will have a difficult time correcting the problem.

Moving right along, Ford is trying to clamp the lid on information it installed prone-to-early-failure tire valve stems in some of its 2006 and virtually all of its 2007 cars and light trucks. Guess where they got ‘em. Double bad guys here; Ford developed a legal strategy to answer the many lawsuits involving fatalities arising from the design faults in its older Explorers equipped with Firestone tires: Stonewalling and secret out-of-court settlements. They dusted it off for this situation. NHTSA under Republican administrations have demonstrated a rather toothless enforcement capability, so the problem goes largely unreported. If you have any doubts, get your valve stems inspected, better yet replaced.

Before that it was the tainted milk scandal which killed several and sickened tens of thousands – small children and infants, for the most part, and before that, there was the lead paint which prompted the recall of millions of Christmas toys, and before that was the imported pet food which poisoned several animals.

Not all the fatal foul ups in the world’s most populous nation were exported. They kept mum on the SARS outbreak to the detriment of their own citizens. They were also reticent on the number of avian flu victims until the central government was embarrassed by leaks.

Building inspectors overlooking shoddy construction practices – for a fee, most likely – contributed mightily to the death toll in the Sichuan quake on the eve of the Olympic Games in 2008. Tens of thousands of children perished in poorly built schools.

Some show trials have been held. If something is reported in the media as an embarrassment to the government, you can be sure executions will be dealt out liberally to the defendants. Several Sichuan builders and inspectors have gone on to whatever reward might be found in the afterlife. Only one of the executives tried in the milk scandal was not so sentenced. The sole survivor was the woman whose botched suicide attempt confined her to a wheel chair for life. She received a life sentence. Who said Chinese judges didn’t have a sense of humor?

Americans have largely graduated from the age of Caveat Emptor, but if you have a desire to purchase something, check the tag to see where it was manufactured. You might want to be skeptical if it is from the PRC

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thirteenth Post

Sunsets Unlimited

Seasons here are a little wacky when measured by norms of the northern hemisphere’s temperate zones. But then, too, from what I read on the net, I gather that seasons in the northern hemisphere are a bit skewed these days. According to some it is God’s punishment for the United States electing a liberal, while the liberals adamantly blame global warming.

On the other hand, weather here is governed by the trade winds. Generally there are two seasons; wet and dry. During dry season it gets scorching hot and rainfall is not nearly as plentiful as the wet season. There was almost solid rain from Christmas until early February. That went away, and nowadays we might get a brisk shower weekly. The end result is some outstanding tropical sunsets.

I came by a new Canon A470 not quite 2 months ago. I’m not a photographer by any elastic stretch of the imagination, but the folks at Canon really did right on this one. Even a klutz like me who doesn’t know F-stop from shutter speeds can snap good pics.

Coupled with the new camera is an interest in dining al fresco at a nipa roofed, open-sided establishment located way out past the ferry piers on landfill. (Yes, tree huggers, I frequent such establishments.) The view to the west is largely unobstructed. The next major island over is Panay with a smaller island named Guimaras between.

I try to time my arrival for dinner a half-hour before actual sundown and walk out on the man made spit. All sorts of things present themselves as photogenic in those lighting conditions. As a consequence, I shoot up a storm. I have begun having my jpeg files printed at a little photo shop across the way. They’ve caused quite a bit of commentary among the people who have seen them and I’ve had requests from friends to stop by and copy my files to their thumb drives. I, of course, am flattered and happy to accommodate.

The costs of printing and framing here are extremely modest, so I have begun adorning my nearly bare walls with 8 by 10 and 12 by 16 sunsets and sloe-eyed island beauties.

The vernal equinox is just passed. The sun should be at this latitude (11° north) around the beginning of May. I am looking forward to some more outstanding photo opportunities. I ride down to “Reclamation” once a week. (It’s a “two ride” trip. Seven pesos for the jeepney and 10 for the trisikad, which is a bicycle with a side car, Takes about 20 minutes for the entire trip.) On top of fabulous sunsets, a fresh seafood dinner for four can be had there for a bit over the equivalent of $15.

The building itself is a rather sturdy structure. Built on concrete pilings, floored with mahogany planks, open walled for the most part and topped by a nipa roof supported on six-inch diameter bamboo poles which are joined by a heavy duty baling wire. I asked my favorite waiter, Harmon, what damage was fetched up by Typhoon Frank. His answer was the building was unscathed, but they did have to carry the tables and chairs back in from the parking lot where the hurricane force winds had deposited them. Heck, I might get into shooting these amazingly enduring structures, as well.