Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Darwinism: Survival of the Cutest?

CNN should be paying me for promoting so many of their articles. Just read an interesting opinion piece proposing that Endangered animals are more likely to be protected based on how cute and personable humans find them to be.


My first reaction was"duh, that totally makes sense. Why would I want to save an animal I hated?"

My second reaction was, well that's rather foolish of us humans. This mainly reminds me of my most recent visit to Sichaun's Giant Panda Breeding Center. Panda's are struggling to survive for two main reasons.
1. Bamboo, their main source of food, is also endangered and rapidly becoming extinct.
2. Pandas' digestive system is terribly inefficient. Only a mere 30% or so of the bamboo they consume is properly converted to useful nutrients and energy. So if you think pandas are lazy because of their eating and sleeping habits, it's not laziness, they're really just an inferior species.

Sure they're cute and very cuddly looking, and also made a great movie character thanks to Jack Black and Dreamworks, but that's about it. I'd be just as willing to support and encourage the survival of mosquitoes, who contribute a bit more to our ecosystem. However, due to my feuds with malaria, dengue fever, and bug bite infections, I'm equally in support of re-legalizing DDT to kill all those demon creatures.

But hey, I'm no expert environmentalist. I'm just a lowly TEFL teacher...

Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

Friday, May 4, 2012

One Activist Sparking a lot of Heat

You may have heard on the international news by now about a man named Chen Guang Cheng. However, if you're a Chinese citizen living in China, you may have never heard of him.


Basically, this is a blind human rights activist who spent the last 4 years in prison, and recently escaped house arrest and fled to the US Embassy in Beijing. These events have sparked a lot of interest as it's slowly uncovering the Chinese government officials' behavior and treatment of prisoners and activists. It's also interesting as this is a crucial challenge with US-China human rights, international relations, Clinton's current visit to China, and Obama's reelection campaign.

All politics and international relation concerns aside, Chen is an important voice speaking out against the government's treatment and behavior. Despite his international fame, many people in China haven't even heard about this guy because the government is trying hard to suppress and hide this news.

So, please read up on Chen, his story, his actions, and continue to spread the word. The more international attention this issue gets, the more the Chinese government will be pressured to make wise and appropriate decisions. That's all I can (and should) say.

Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Second Hand Shopping

Regardless of the country and language, the reasons for going to the second hand store are universally the same: have fun haggling, try (but usually fail) to save some money, and make yourself unnecessarily exhausted and frustrated. Well, thanks to this weekend's events, mission accomplished.

I went shopping with a buddy for a used fridge and fan. Unlike the US, there's no real store or building, merely a collection of dark and wet alley-ways with equally dark and wet salesmen. We settled on fan pretty quick, but I asked if I could lower the price and the lady recommended another fan that was 20 rmb cheaper. After inspecting it, I settled for the cheaper one as it had relatively the same wind speed and functions. But "you get what you pay for" and we discovered once home that the middle shaft and adjustable height screw was just held together by a big wad of tape. Hmm...

The fridge took a bit more work. Once finally finding one we wanted at a good price, we plugged it in just to check (ALWAYS test your products in China - even the "new"ones). Not so "cool." So we finally got another one. Unfortunately, the salesman refused to deliver the machine for us so we flagged down a giant rickety motorized tricycle (no really that's what it was) to take us and our electronic goods home. It was a squishy and bumpy ride home. It was a challenge to figure out whether to use my two arms to keep the fridge from flying out of the vehicle, or to hold myself from flying away.

After finally getting home, and finding some help to take the fridge up to the 4th floor (luckily it wasn't my apartment on the 7th floor), we both took much needed showers and cooked a lovely dinner. Ironically, we were so hungry that we ate all of the food, thereby not needing to use the newly purchased refrigerator to store any leftovers...

Byron Yee
TEFL English Teacher - Shenzhen, China