Thursday, July 23, 2015

Crimes Against The Cute, Part 2: Shame On Chinese Zoos

Alligator at Beijing Zoo.  
David Castor/wikimedia commons
Over the past few years, there have been sporadic reports on animal abuses at Chinese zoos. However, if you've ever visited one, then you know that a Chinese zoo in itself is animal abuse. 

Back in 1998, I visited a Chinese zoo in Chengdu. It gave me nightmares for weeks. Elephants and big cats were rocking back in forth in their barren concrete enclosures, clearly suffering from "zoochosis". Monkeys sat in rotting metal cages, scratching themselves and masturbating until their skin was raw. Chinese visitors spat at the animals and threw packaged junk food into cages. Meanwhile, in the reptile exhibit, it was obvious that many animals were long dead. Their carcasses were already furry with mold.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The American Dream Of Not Being Here

In the next couple of years, my husband and I will have to decide whether to move to America or stay in Germany. If we move to America, we'd be in Berkeley, CA, where my family has its roots. 

But, even though Northern California ranks as one of the most desirable places in the United States, I have my hesitations. Because of one thing that I, as an American, just can't get over: America is ugly.

I don't mean the landscape; the amber waves of geographical eye candy turn every tourist into a hobby photographer. I don't mean the people, either. I mean that daily life in America is ugly, the drabness that we face because the little oases of architectural and civic beauty are choked off by parking lots and freeways. 

Take Berkeley, for instance. The legendary university town actually has a bayshore waterfront that boasts a million-dollar view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. If any European city were so blessed with this geography, without a doubt that waterfront would have been built into an appealing esplanade with cafes, boutiques, and tree-lined parks for the enjoyment of life. But we Americans? No. We built I-80 with 5 lanes of traffic in each direction. 

I-80 Eastshore Freeway/Minesweeper, wikimedia commons.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Because I'm Worth It


Throwing together a graphic is so much easier than writing an essay, I admit. That doesn't change the fact that I still want to put my longer thoughts into words. This is my black dog. I turned her into a L'Oréal model, because, well... she's worth it. She's so fabulous and I get to wake up to this lovely face every morning.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Breaking Baby Food

Food before one is just for motor coordination. 

That's been my discovery since I started my baby on baby-led-weaning, which is the alternative to spoon feeding baby food or puree. It's so exciting to watch that I can't imagine doing it any other way. Baby-led weaning (BLW) is "weaning" in the British sense of letting baby learn to feed herself, not necessarily stopping breastfeeding. BLW follows the natural pattern of what babies did for millennia before the baby food industry came along. 

And I see now that her grabbing for food at 5 months was the sign that she was ready to develop all sorts of motor skills for chewing, swallowing, speaking, moving the gag reflex back, protecting herself from choking, and using her fingers. Also, mashing her food with her tongue against the palate widens the mouth arch, making more space for future teeth to grow in. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I Love Öko-Test

Photo: Audrey Mei
For me, love in Germany has a name: Öko-Test.

Öko-Test is a German institution and monthly magazine that's been around since 1985. Öko-Test tests every product in the German market – food, clothing, toys, insurance, detergents, you name it – and gives it a rating. Products that are crowned with Öko-Test's highest rating "very good", as seen on the butter in the photo above ("sehr gut"), display it proudly because consumers in Germany will know that the product is really good. Öko-Test doesn't mess aroundÖko-Test means business.

Öko-Test Went to China. And It Got Awkward.

Öko-Test website, now live from Beijing.
You can read here about how I love Öko-Test.

Öko-Test is a German consumer-protection force that has been rigorously testing consumer products since 1985. As I've reported earlier, the Chinese respect German goods for their quality, particularly baby formula after the 2008 baby formula scandal in China that killed 6 babies and sickened 300,000. On May 15 of this year, Öko-Test launched their China branch website,, to publish test results of products sold in China. The joint venture team is led by Luo Chanping, a well-known Chinese journalist and recipient of the Integrity Award by Transparency International in 2013. 

In line with procedures for Öko-Test in Germany, the Chinese products are bought anonymously and sent to Germany by express mail for independent testing. But when their first test results came out, things got kind of awkward. For Germany.