Saturday, December 19, 2009

Well Over A Foot...

...And it's still coming down...

~Steve, Desi. Julie, and Z

Friday, December 18, 2009

At The Ready!

Bring it on!

~Steve, Desi, Julie, and Z

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Regulating The Silent Killers

A few months back, I had an infamous encounter with an electric scooter on the streets of Beijing. That fender bender led to a physical altercation and some bruises on my forearm that linger slightly even today. (The accompanying picture was taken about a week after the incident.)

So it was with a bit of personal interest that I read the news this week that China's State Standardization Administration intends to stiffen regulations pertaining to electric bikes. Contrary to what my wounds might make you think, my take is that tougher regulations on these vehicles is not, on balance, a good idea.

First off, what exactly is the government proposing to do? Two main things. Riders of electric bikes will have to apply for driver's licenses and pass requisite tests. And electric bikes will have to be ridden on streets, rather than on sidewalks (as is common in the current environment).

The upside of these regulations is obvious. Sidewalks in China are a mosh pit of pedestrians, bicycles, and electric bikes. In the midst of this chaos, Desi, the kids, and I were always especially on the lookout for these so-called "silent killers." Electric bikes are as quiet as their pedal-powered cousins, only they travel at several times the speed. Without warning, a scooter is right on top of you...Watch out!

In the end, though, the new regulations will not, in my estimation, make the sidewalks of China any less chaotic. With an estimated 120 million electric scooters in operation, enforcement is likely to be a joke. In a society known for its enforcement difficulties, I would think that keeping scooters off sidewalks is a practical impossibility.

Even if the new regulation were to work, ordering that many electric bikes to the streets is bound to create other safety and transportation problems. Riders of electric scooters would go from being the hunter to the hunted. My sense is that the inevitable accidents between scooters and big, heavy cars will be much worse than those involving pedestrians. Plus, China's roads are clogged up enough already.

China's transportation system is dangerous. There is no doubt about that. But there is, it has to be acknowledged, a method behind all of that chaos. All people in transit, whether on foot or bike or in motor vehicle, know that there is one basic mantra that governs everything...Keep a close eye on all the action around you and do not give an inch....ever! For most people most of the time, this system works just fine. Introducing piecemeal reforms like the one being proposed by the State Standardization Administration is likely to accomplish, if anything, nothing more than the creation of confusion in an environment where confusion can be deadly.


Monday, December 14, 2009

DCFC Challenge

Yesterday was the DC Fencing Club tournament. Kids from all different classes and age groups congregated to fence each other for the gold medal. From my class, there were four of us there to fence. When the clock reached 10:00, our instructor gave the parents a quick briefing. Then, the contenders warmed up with a national champion fencer.

After this , we were separated into age groups. In our group, there were five people; the four of us from our class and one other boy. Our coach, the national champion, told us that we would have a round robin tournament. We were each given a number and the first pair got hooked up to their wires. I was on deck for the second bout.

When the first bout was over, I hooked myself up to the wires and prepared for our bout. I saluted the other fencer and referee and then put on my mask. This first bout was quick and the final score was 5 to 0. After this bout, I rested while the next bout was going on and then prepared for my second bout. In this bout, I was fighting a lefty. This time, I did not win as quickly and the final score was 5 to 2. I waited two bouts before I was on again. This bout was against a teenage girl. I was worried about this bout because the girl had long arms, but the fight was soon over and I won 5 to 1. Finally, I had my last bout in the round robin against my friend. He proved to be a challenge as his confidence grew. The final score was 5 to 2. I was still undefeated.

We took a quick break and watched the younger kids fight. I had a drink of water and then waited as the other contenders fought to go to the championship and to face me. Since I was undefeated, I got a free ticket to the finals. I observed the techniques of each fencer and watched as my friend advanced to the championship. So, I ended up having to fight my friend for the gold medal.

"Ready, fence!" The referee began the bout. We advanced at each other. Our swords collided and "BEEEEEEEEP." My friend won the first point. That got me jazzed up and I fought back harder. "BEEEEEP," "BEEEEEEEP," "BEEEEEEEP", I won the next three points. Then, something stopped my roll. My friend landed a hard hit to my shoulder. I winced in pain as he won that point. Looking in my shirt, I saw a gash with some blood. I shook out my shoulder and walked back to the starting position. The referee asked me if I was OK and I just nodded. The bout began again and I landed a quick jab to my opponent's stomach. It was over. I had won!

The instructor then announced that it was time for the awards. He called up the three gold medalists (from the different age groups) and gave us our medals. Then, he called the silver medalists and gave them their medals. Everyone cheered and took pictures. Then he called up all the fencers and gave them all bronze medals. Then, we all gathered and took pictures. The instructor finally released us and we went to Mamma Lucia's for lunch. That is the story of my first ever fencing tournament.