How a coronavirus snuck into the bathroom.

During the SARS crisis in Hong Kong, a housing estate called Amoy Gardens suffered a disproportionately higher number of fatalities than other facilities in the city. Scientists were baffled as to how the disease was spreading, as people on different floors and eventually different units were all coming down with the SARS virus without ever being in direct contact with one another. As they sought out a variety of solutions, eventually they discovered the problem lay on the floor of the bathrooms.

Many bathrooms in Hong Kong (and even the USA) have a floor drain: a small drain embedded in the floor to allow runoff water to drain off quickly. In the old days, a person could dump and entire bucket of water of the floor and swish it down the drain, quickly soaking and washing the floor in one fell swoop. Over time though people used mops to clean and started not to soak the floors with water.

Why did this matter? Because the floor drain in the bathrooms is a standard P-trap drain that relies on a standing amount of water in the drain to prevent smells and critters coming back into the bathroom. Without a regular soaking of the floor drain, the traps dried out and the pipes were directly exposed to the building sewers (i.e. the toilet runoff). When people would close the door and turn on the fan in the bathroom, it created a negative pressure that sucked up the virus from the sewage pipes of infected neighbors (who were incontinent) and into the bathrooms of healthy residents, thus spreading SARS through the Amoy Gardens housing project.

I must confess when I first read this in an after-action review of the SARS crisis, I immediately went around filling every drain with a bucket of water. Even today the Hong Kong government’s official coronavirus prevention guide calls on flooding these drains regularly.

If you want to read more check out these sites and remember to keep your drains flooded.

https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/personal-protective-equipment/sars-and-plumbing-role-sewage-plays-spreading-disease

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2003/04/18/in-hong-kong-apartment-tower-sars-virus-spread-through-plumbing/99bcd25f-de85-472a-b084-4f847e0dac9a/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16696450

https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2003/pr70/en/

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The Pig War: Japan and China and an island dispute from long ago.

While watching Zulu for about the bajillionith time, I was curious about the British military strength back in the 1800s worldwide. I did a quick search of Wikipedia and came across a list of all British military engagements over the centuries. One of them sort of stuck out, primarily due to the random name:  The Pig War San Juan island lays inbetween the US and Canada just up from Seattle.  In 1859, an American farmer shot a roaming pig that was owned by an employee of the Hudson Bay Company. The farmer offered $10 in compensation, but the owner demanded $100. And this led to military action. US troops (including George Pickett of Pickett’s Charge fame) landed on the island, and British navy sent in ships.  The US sent in more canons and the British prepared to deploy some Marines.  The orders from the Canadian governor was to a British Rear Admiral was to “engage the American soldiers” but the Admiral refused. “Two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig” would be foolish he is quoted as saying. Troops from both sides occupied the islands, exchanging insults and occasionally swapping alcohol and other goods. When word got back to Washington and London the leaders were flabbergasted that something like this was about to go to military action.  They agreed on binding arbitration which was eventually decided in favor of the US. Now, 150 odd years later, we have China and Japan fighting over another silly little island, this time not about pigs but about oil. So as to avoid the braindead QQ puppets and Japanese nationalists who pummel any posting about the islands with moronic jingoistic claims, I’ll forgo delving into the underlying claims of either country. But I will point out that a British Rear Admiral at the time had more sense than any number of politicians to keep things sane and under control rather than risk a battle between two superpowers over something as silly as a tiny island. Sadly I don’t think the players in either country in today’s battles has half as much sense.      ]]>

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How to Sign Up for Weibo in English

UPDATE: Through a little URL sniffing I found this English-sign up page. More and more I’m hearing folks ask me how do you sign up for Weibo in English, so I thought I’d make a quick little guide with the help of my translator (i.e. wife). The easiest way to do this is to download Google Chrome and get the translation extension that will translate, on the fly, any webpage.  Now the English-Chinese translations are never quite perfect, in fact, they’re usually quite a bit worse than say English-Spanish or English-French, but you can get the general idea of what is going on through those plug-ins that will do the translation for you. If you don’t have Google Chrome, here is what the first two pages say when you get started with Weibo. Goto http://www.weibo.com Click the Blue button at the top right.   That will take you to the details screen, where you enter the details as follows.  When you click the submit button at the end, you’ll get an activation notice saying that an email has been sent your email address.  Click the link there and you should be good to go.       Now, as for who to follow, I’m creating a list of English-speaking Weibo users on another site.  Will have that up shortly.  ]]>

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Corrupt Chinese railway official has a mansion in Los Angeles

The Chinese media has been digging into the finances of  Zhang Shuguang (张曙光), the engineer once dubbed “the grand designer of China’s high-speed rail.” Following the crash of two bullet trains that killed dozens in China, issues of railway corruption have been covered pretty heavily in some of the media in China.  This report actually did some digging into US property and tax records to discover that while he was working for $2,200 RMB a month (about $300 USD) he was able to buy an $860,000 USD house, paying cash. You can read the original article in Chinese from Caixin.cn or read a translated version from the China Media Project in Hong Kong.  ]]>

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Elephant Walk in South Korea aimed not only at the North, but all of Asia

    Over the past few years, we’ve seen the US play a more active role in Asia, primarily as a counter to China.  On July 4, 2010, the South China Morning Post, in a likely ‘leaked’ story wrote about three US Ohio-class submarines simultaneously appearing at ports throughout Asia.  In the last year the US has also decided to play a role in the South China sea / island disputes, and recently signed a new treaty with Australia on the positioning of US Marines down under. Is this just a coincidence this photo is out and on the net and getting talked about?  Possibly, but even if it is the case that this is just random, I don’t think the policy makers mind too much the connection of this photo with the other actions going in Asia today. Here is the full pic from Flickr:

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