No fairy tales for me!

I have always been a fan of children’s books that accurately portray women and girls. Of course I grew up with Disney, Barbie, and all other crap that told me to look at my body, that boys were smarter and stronger, and that women were not equal. As a kid, I really had no ideal role models about women. At least not until college. I had a mini childhood retroactive while in college during a children’s literature course and a women’s writing course where I had the opportunity to look at what messages we are sending children from an early age.

When Chris met me I already had a small collection of children’s books (think quick picture books, not children’s novels). Most of my accrued stack of books were more specific to a child feeling loved and good about themselves. Hmm, maybe a trend that I did not feel as a kid. However, one of my all time favorites was “The Paper Bag Princess” where a princess is to marry the prince when a dragon attacks the castle and kidnaps the prince. The princess finds the dragon, is smarter than he is (ah yes a book that shows little girls and boys that girls can be badasses). Yes, she rescues the prince. I mean, why not? Think about how many books and Disney movies have a princess or some “beautiful” distraught girl who is saved or rescued by their dashing prince (or maybe a beast). Beauty & the Beast, Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, oh I could go on, but you all know how the story goes.

When I read this New York Times article “Turn Your Princess Obsessed Toddler Into a Feminist in Eight Easy Steps” a huge smile appeared on my face. I will copy the first two steps to give you a gist of why you should take a moment to read it:

“1. Read the Brothers Grimm version of Snow White in which Snow White is asked to clean, cook, make beds, wash and sew for the dwarfs in exchange for shelter from the evil queen. Ask your toddler to imagine what might have been different if the dwarfs had been female instead of male, and instead of a tiny cottage in the Wood, if Snow White had stumbled upon Wellesley College.

2. Wonder aloud, what with Cinderella’s history as a cleaner, if she and Prince Charming are likely to share the division of labor in their home. Remark that, if the immaculate state of his white gloves is anything to go by, it’s difficult to imagine that he ever takes out the garbage.”

Somehow I am in a marriage where Chris’ white gloves would never be clean and the division of labor ebbs and flows, and if anything it flows fuller to his plate, depending on what is happening in our life. As my tiny baby niece grows up I hope she is surrounded by positive influences that allow her to decide that her brain and creativity are just as important as the boys around her, that she is not here to serve a man, and that her voice matters. I know whenever we have kid(s) of our own, I will be a strong proponent to let them play out whatever gender roles they decide are comfortable to them while also encouraging respect and understanding for the other gender.

Toilet Paper, Toilets, and Flushing

Over the past few days, after Chris has done his business in the bathroom he says: “Ah, how I missed nice toilet paper.” Oh how I know what he means. In China no matter where you were: a hotel, business, restaurant the toilet paper was tissue paper-thin. Actually thinner than tissue paper. Which baffles me because then you just need to use more of it. Most of the time it was one-ply instead of two-ply. So is two-ply toilet paper more of an American thing?

We saw a commercial this weekend for Scott toilet paper. Their Natural Tube-Free toilet paper. What a concept. The ad says that every year the US throws away enough toilet paper tubes to fill the Empire State building — twice. You then see an Empire State building made of toilet paper rolls. A good ploy for those that are environmentally savvy enough to care about the tube leftover. I am not saying I do not care, but I have to say this house is more picky about the paper on the roll!

So back to bathrooms in China. They varied. Chris warned me before my trip to always have kleenex with me and hand sanitizer. He was right. On one of the first days we were there, we were on a street that was stationary + pen store after another. My idea of bliss. The problem? No bathrooms, and well when I got to go, I got go. We found an old bookstore (one that had been around awhile, although the book titles were current.) I figured out that the bathroom was up this strange staircase and up I went. I get into the stall and found the toilet was in the floor and start to do my business as quickly as possible, only to look around and realize there was no toilet paper. Crap, I was screwed. There was only one thing I could do. Finish, go downstairs and ask Chris for the kleenex and hand sanitizer. (It also had no sink.)

Let me just say that when there was toilet paper it was thin, but my bathroom experiences were vastly different. My bookstore experience was probably the most primitive. Most other bathrooms where more mainstream. My hotel lobby bathroom was well in another era.

When I first saw this contraption in the bathroom stall I at first thought it was more bidet-like, and realized these were just the flushing options for the toilet. Pulsating, front cleansing, rear cleansing, drying (click the photo to see it larger). Quite the experience. This was for lobby guests only, they did not give hotel guests the option to test out the features in our room. Although I did have a telephone. Not sure these days who would use a telephone in the bathroom, I mean we have iPhones for that.

IMG_1605The last interesting bathroom adventure while in China was in a restaurant bathroom. Each stall had a “water flow sound sensor.” I was especially intrigued by this due to the nature of our conversations at work about bathroom etiquette. When you pushed the button, it made the loudest flushing sounds and would do it again if you pressed the button again. It took me a bit to figure out that the sounds were meant to cover whatever noises you were going to make while using the commode. What is not to like?

The world works in mysterious ways especially pertaining to toilet paper, toilets, and flushing.

Don’t make me think…

We have become a culture of easy, quick, right at your fingertips. The iPhone has changed the way we look at the world, what we expect, and how we expect to consume information, apps, and really anything that is easily accessible.

On my flight back from Shanghai I finished reading a book called: “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Klug. I love the title of his book as it is spot on. I would rather frequent a website that does not make me hunt and peck for the information I need. Obviously there are plenty of websites that you do not have a choice and have to use. Your banking, credit card, local water company or trash service website all mean you either call them or get what you get on their website.

I am still always in awe of how quickly smartphones, the web, and apps have made it that we do a zillion things all within a tiny little device. I remember maybe 5 years ago, I was still using an old school flip phone that did not even have a camera, while Chris had a Razr phone. At the time the Razr was so slim and such a big deal. Eventually I upgraded from my old school phone to an iPhone 3 and well, my life was just never the same. Klug explains this well in this comment:

“Just consider how many things the smartphone allowed you to carry in your pocket or purse at all times: a camera (still and video, and for many people, the best one they’d ever owned), a GPS with maps of the whole world, a watch, an alarm clock, all of your photos and music, etc., etc.” page 144

Think about how much you do on a daily basis on your phone. How many people do you communicate with daily, hourly, each minute? How many pictures and videos do you take and share? How often do you check your stocks? The news? How many games do you play? How often do you interact with social media? How much do you manage your finances right from your phone? Do you check the weather daily? Get directions to that new restaurant? Listen to music? Track your flight? Surf the Internet? Do you manage your life, grocery, and errand lists on your phone? Oh, and the old school part of it all, how often do you even use your phone to talk to someone?

Later Klug says:

“And think about the fact that for most people in emerging countries, in the same way they bypassed landlines and went straight to cellphones, the smartphone is their first—and only—computer.” page 144

It would blow my mind if my cellphone was my first computer. That would be like driving from zero to 100 in seconds. We have become so picky about user interface. We want easy, clean, and simple. The great part is that most of the time we have access to so many options. The even better news is that our options are only going to get better and better. Allowing us to do so many things on autopilot without having to think. With great design our lives become that much easier. My only concern is that we do not lose our capacity to think critically.

Pooping at work

Yes, I am talking about pooping at work. Yes, you might feel uncomfortable, but you are most likely slightly curious. Come on, you are. You are curious. From time to time, I have shared poop stories, but this one came directly from Fast Company. How could I not share? The article is titled: “How the Most Successful People Poop at Work.”

I will tell you it is often a conversation in my office. Maybe not pooping directly, but the office bathroom is often a topic. For one there is a fascination for what the men’s bathroom looks like, does it have urinals? Is there any privacy? The women’s bathroom has recently had a range of smells. Sometimes it smells like men’s cologne and other times it ranges to the rankest of smells. We continue to call the direct line to someone who might be able to help rectify the smell, but we think the culprit is the drain in the floor bringing back some foul odor.

Does it tell you something about office culture that we can talk about pooping? Or farting? If you look back on my blog posts, I have frequently mentioned farting on an airplane, speeding because I have to poop, the squatty potty, poo-pourri, and much more. So as you can see it is a topic I feel quite comfortable discussing, but do we all feel comfortable with the topic? No. Yet this article talks a lot about the food we intake and how that interacts with our bowels, and the etiquette we find in work bathrooms. You know what I am talking about: those that hover waiting for you to leave so they can finish their business. Those that talk to try to mask the noises coming out of their bum, or as the article mentions throwing toilet paper into the bowl to try to mask the sounds. Whatever the method, we all try to mask the bodily sounds and noises that come from whatever food is wrecking havoc on our bodies.

So…why is it so taboo to talk about it? Why do we all shy away from it? I think my team has become mostly transparent about it, we laugh about it, and discuss what we can do about the rampant changes in the bathroom odor, but are we unique? Are we normal, or do most workplace environments quickly hike the stairs or rapidly push the buttons on the elevator in order to escape to a bathroom on another floor?

What do you do? Be sure to read the article I shared — it will add a chuckle or two into your day.

I heart SH

Shanghai skyline

Shanghai skyline

Shanghai has my heart. I cannot tell a fib. I am a bit smitten, but at the end of the day Portland is still my favorite. Every time we travel somewhere new we always compare it to Portland, and every single time Portland wins. While I am still smitten with PDX, that does not mean I cannot allow a bit of a few other cities into my heart. There are quite a few things I want to share about Shanghai, so I will split it into a few blogs over the course of the next few weeks. So, where should I start?

We walked. A LOT.

Crazy number of people in the street

Crazy number of people in the street

Every day. In some ways it is like New York City in that there is a great subway system, buses, and cheap taxis, but somehow when it is nice out and warm enough why not walk? You find the great hidden gems in a city on foot. We found amazing food, funky shops, random neighborhoods, and loads, and loads, and LOADS of people. Our first day ended up being over their National Holiday, so the people that we saw were actually potentially from another part of China on vacation (of course I did not ask them, but that is what we were told). The photo below shows how many people are coming towards us as we cross a street. Hundreds at one time.

One of the things that stood out to me the most, is how genuinely nice everyone is to you. Of course maybe that is because you are a guest in their hotel, store, or restaurant, but hell I am a guest in hundreds of places a year in the United States and no one has ever treated me with such kindness. There is always a smile on their face (and maybe it is part of their job, but if it is they do not make it look painful). I found myself on the plane trip back saying: xie xie (said syeh-syeh) only to realize I was on my way back to the United States. Xie Xie is thank you in Mandarin. I got so used to saying it to everyone all the time, maybe because they have such an amazing service culture. The US could really learn something from their patience and poise.

Guy carries handbag

Guy carries handbag

A few funny things.  We often would see men carrying their spouse, partner, girlfriend, what-have-you’s purse/bag. You rarely see that in the states. Chris will ONLY do it when I am trying on clothes and do not want to leave my bag in the dressing room. Does that make men in Shanghai more carefree, egoless? Is there another word that describes it?

Mobile pet store?

Mobile pet store?

This I guess is a mobile pet store? We saw bunnies, gerbils, a dog, and a few other animals. I did not want to stay long enough to find out, but it was a busy little portable pet store located on the outskirts of a park.

Open 25 hours?

Open 25 hours?

There are other things that perplex me, like this shop that is open for 25 hours.

More to come in a future blog on my favorite food in Shanghai, taxis, and bathrooms (what is not to love about potty talk in a new city)?