No Heavy Lifting

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I teach a section of Academic Writing at Sichuan University, and this activity is rather interesting…

I’m convinced that many of these students, going for Masters in Translations and Interpretation (MTI), will be faced with endless requests to translate and edit Bio-Med articles. I’ve been grappling with a few of those lately.

So, I wrote a “sample essay” about a disease on the full screen – on rabies, something which I know about, having been given the shot treatment for a cat bite in Mexico. I wrote the essay as a model, but of course prompted the class to come up with certain words like “incubation period” (they got it) and others… Buhler? Buhler? (They got that, too). But everyone also appreciated that these were serious topics.

Then, I wrote out the names of no less than 40 diseases (or conditions) and placed them in a hat. Each student picked out one, tasked with writing a short essay, complete with a section on causes, transmission, symptoms, and treatment. These included Parkinson’s, Scurvy, Diabetes, Syphilis, HIV, Ebola, Mad Cow Disease, Malaria, and the list goes on. For fun, I even threw in Restless Leg Syndrome.

Next, we get to edit them all on the big screen, always a fun process. Seriously, teaching Chinese students is a luxury, as they combine studiousness with a great sense of humor.


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Fan from Tadjikistan


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Top left to bottom right, representing: UK, Australia, UK, Samoa, USA, Holland

UK, China, Vanuatu, China, USA (& Panama)


Off We Go

So about 7 of us Chengdu Pandas are going to Wuhan by train – a 12 hour overnight train.

This Saturday there is a rugby tournament, and teams from Beijing, Shanghai and I think Hong Kong will be there.

But because we lack the numbers for a proper team, we are combining forces with a dozen of the Chongching Conquerors, seeing as how that is a nearby city only two hours by train. The new team is “West China,” but I’m not sure a mascot has been picked out yet.

As much fun as it is, this might be my last season, since it takes a while to recover not only from the games but also from practice: Charlie horses everywhere, black eyes, strained tendons and the like. I’ve suffered from all of this, and finding myself recovering on the massage table, under the merciless elbows of the old blind guys, with cataracts, who dedicate themselves to massaging the injured.

I’m not sure which is more painful: a rough day of rugby or having one’s back and neck brutalized by massage.

Of course, one way to minimize injuries (short of not playing at all) is to throw oneself into the game recklessly, as if invincible. Photos next week, this time more of the actual game.


Scandal. That’s my latest binge, great for relaxing.  I suppose it is a bit like West Wing, but a bit more salacious, more scandalous. Quite similar to House of Cards, but sexier: Olivia Pope played by Kerry Washington will take care of that.

The scandals of the past few decades are compressed into one administration of Fitzgerald Grant: vote-rigging scandals, sexual scandals, assassination scandals, supreme court scandals, and the like, complete with references to the Patriot Act and the rest of it. Lots of political grandstanding. Lots of Heavies walking up and down the Halls of Power, bloated with self importance.

Amazingly, just as in House of Cards, the characters in Scandal conspire with one another over cell phones, implicating themselves in endless felonies, blissfully unaware that every word is being recorded by multiple intelligence agencies at home and abroad. So it’s all quite ludicrous but still good entertainment.

Post-Game Pics










Guest Posting

“Baseball in China”   By: Paul Schifilliti

The Peoples Republic of China is the world’s most populous country and recently has become the world’s largest economy. Since the economic reforms of 1978, this land of 1.35 billion people has obtained an exceptionally quick growing economy. This has opened bottomless possibilities in a myriad of markets, ranging from construction to agriculture, and everything in between. Among all of the emerging markets in China today, one that stands out to me personally is baseball.

After its creation in 1839, baseball slowly spread to the rest of the world, increasingly towards the beginning of the 20th century. This is even true when considering the communist nation of China, where today baseball is understood by few. In 1873, government officials of the Qing dynasty had sent 30 students to study in the United States, in attempt to gain knowledge on the western learning style. However, they would return with much more than merely our learning style, they would return with America’s past time. During their time at Yale, three of the Chinese students established Yale’s Chinese Baseball team. Upon their return home, they brought the game with them.

Again in 1895, baseball had made more congress at the Huiwen Academy of Classical Learning in Beijing. However, the first official game wasn’t held in China until 1907. Yes, baseball has been of existence in this foreign land for over 100 years, yet if you were to ask a random local citizen about the game today, chances are you would receive a puzzled stare.

What went wrong? There are many ways to go about answering such a vague question, but one must first take into consideration the ideals of Mao Zedong. Prior to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, baseball was a part of the national games. Although the game showed potential for progress, it had not yet caught the baseball fever as America had.

With the reforms of the country underway, Mao Zedong lead the communist nation. Beloved by most of China’s people, Zedong’s words were very powerful. When the subject of baseball was brought up, Zedong declared it was a symbol of the imperialist west, and should not be played in China. His feelings for basketball were much more sympathetic, explaining how it has become one of the more popular sports in China. The communist leader should not be held entirely responsible for the decline of baseball in China; it does not help that the game requires more land than other sports.

Back in those times, many Chinese considered the game as imperialistic, but times have changed. With an economy growing as fast as theirs, China is no stranger to innovation. Big business is constantly looking for the next big thing, but what if the next big thing has been here all along. Baseball represents a world of opportunity for China, as it has for Japan and South Korea.

Some Americans have claimed that the talent simply isn’t there when considering Chinese ball players. That’s like handing the average American athlete a willow cricket bat and expecting them to be a superstar.

The game needs time to develop in China before players of the country can be comparable to that of a nation that has consistently played the game for over 150 years and turned the sport into a multi-billion dollar industry. That was done in a nation of 300 million people; imagine the potential in a nation of a whopping 1.3 billion people. I know this may sound cliché, but the possibilities are endless.


So a bunch of us went to Chongching in a rented bus, the rugby team, mostly UK and Aussie people, the rest Americans, mostly men but there were 7 women on the bus for their own team, also rowdy.

Our game was in an abandoned stadium that looked like the set of a zombie movie. But there were still some fans present, determined to enjoy the spectacle of foreign men, and then foreign women, pummeling each other. Of course, in a country 1.3 billion people, there are always just enough locals to join in whatever madness foreigners are up to. Our teams had 2 or 3 Chinese players on each side out of 15 and one scored a try.

Eventually, photos will appear here, if not of the last games then of the next ones.

We played the expats from Kunming, beat them, and then Chongching, losing to them barely. It was the first ever contact rugby game for me and a few other rugby virgins. An all out game, with uniforms, referees and the like, to put some order and respectability on the chaos that is rugby.

Compared to American football, rugby seems raw, more primitive, with groups of people chasing each other down, yelling, mauling each other, and of course a grounded ball is not dead. It’s an ongoing free for all, tribal warfare really. In rugby, absolutely everyone gets battered and bruised, but extreme injuries are rare, though a Kunming guy had to get 6 stitches.

My competitive advantage is that I don’t overly care about my physical safety and enjoy going into the rucks, binding into scrums, and sometimes (when I can pluck the ball from the rucks) running with it, just to see how far I can get before I’m slammed into the ground. Usually not very far, if I don’t pass it. I’m not fast, but I’m reckless, and that earned me a few toasts later that night from people half my age.

Last night it was hard to even roll over and sleep on my side. Every muscle ached. A bit later, walking to work in the sunshine, I felt strangely and unexpectedly renewed.

Results are In

Our class (US and Chinese students) deployed a survey (in Chinese) to over 100 people in public areas of Chengdu. Some of the questions are listed below.

The self-reporting was from 1 (minimum) to 5 (maximum), with the average responses (most aged 18 – 30) shown below for male and female respondents (of which there were more than 100 combined):

How important is it to care for parents in their old age?

Male     4.60             Female 4.54

How much pressure do (or did) parents place upon you to get married?

Male  3.53                Female 4.37

How much self pressure do (or did) you place upon yourself to get married?

Male  3.66                Female 3.86

How important is it for a couple to be romantically in love for marriage?

Male   4.38               Female 4.25

How important is it for children in China to learn English as a second language?

Male   3.86               Female 4.11

How present is western food and entertainment in your life?

Male   2.98               Female 2.98

Should the man be the breadwinner in a relationship?

Male  3.75                Female 2.89

How much say or power should a family have over a person’s career?

Male  2.75                Female 2.63

Remember the Code

There is a reason that the response to the Ebola virus is so frenzied, so driven by fear-mongering. There are profits to be had. More importantly, there is power to be siphoned.

With origins in the mass conditioning campaign that was the swine flu hoax, the present Ebola outbreak represents a “crisis” (read “opportunity”) for some governments and corporations to roll out mandatory vaccination campaigns. Perhaps certain NATO countries will even decide that the “international community” requires that Senegal, for example, be vaccinated – at gunpoint, if need be.

Hollywood has certainly played its part preparing the public for contingencies. It’s good entertainment, but on a deeper level, the half dozen pandemic movies of recent years tend to legitimize top-down and centralized responses to pandemics (simply bad medicine). In reality, localized and flexible responses provide the complexity  - the adaptability – that defeats disease.

Arguably, any vaccine or medicine less than a generation old is “experimental.” Certainly, an Ebola vaccine that is rolled out in these times would be “experimental,” and likely to produce harmful effects (or lethal ones, should such a vaccination program become a vector for more nefarious but long-standing interests).

Fortunately, humanity has on its side the Nuremberg Code of 1947, the first point of which is this:

“The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.”

Simply put, there can be NO mandatory medical treatment when it comes to the Ebola virus. Politicians, generals and pharmaceutical executives might contemplate otherwise, but perhaps they should think twice before engaging in these “crimes against humanity.”

After all, it would not be the first time that people pretending to save the human race would find themselves, a few short years later, handcuffed into the defendant’s booth, exposed as the criminals that they truly are.

The Long Way Home