Flight to Shanghai: A Journey in the Plague Year IV

This is the forth, and the last article of Dr. Glenwood Irons’ trip to Shanghai.

  • Entry I
  • Entry II
  • Entry III
  • Entry IV (this page)
  • Entry 4, 12 May, 2003

    When Daniel Defoe came to the end of his Plague Year journal, he began to meditate somewhat on the horrors he had experienced over the previous year, even to consider why he had been spared the worst of the Plague. He had indeed contracted a severe fever and was almost certain that he too would perish along with the many other Londoners who had suffered the worst fate which the Plague could dish out. However, he came out of the experience, at least in his own opinion, as a much better person that he had been. Perhaps that is the essence of such a Journal ?the wish to share with others and experience which has made us better for having gone through it.

    On my second full day in Shanghai, I now felt ready for the best and the worst the city could dish out. Moreover, I felt well-armed against the vicissitudes of this modern plague, not least because I was having my temperature taken every morning before I ventured beyond the reception of my serviced apartment. So, right after the “digital check?which showed my usual 35.5 degrees (I was beginning to wonder if the thermometer actually worked!), I was picked up by a driver for the School where my meetings were to take place, and my colleagues (who had accompanied the driver) all headed off for Pudong, that amazing new centre, just across the river from Shanghai. As many readers will know, Pudong was little more than rice fields in the 1980’s, but now it is a place which rivals even the most modern Western city in its amazingly creative skyscraper architecture, its energy, and its financial power. And there is no doubt that Pudong is one of the reasons Shanghai is well on its way to taking over from Hong Kong as the “hub?of Asia.

    And as if to echo the wealth of Shanghai, I was being driven along in a sleek, black Audi A6, built in an automobile factory just outside of Shanghai. One of the colleagues accompanying me is a Caucasian American, so fluent in Mandarin that he has taught on CCTV for a number of years, the other colleague is a Chinese American, with a PhD in International Affairs from Columbia University. And all of this seemed to fit well with the vastly interesting architecture which spreads out before us as we cross the Nanpu Bridge on our way to our first meeting of the day. Amazing people in an amazing city.

    But of course the conversation turns to the SARS outbreak. I remark on the fact that the WHO seems to have given Shanghai a rather “easy?time of it in their report, especially as just about everyone mistrusts the low number of reported cases, and we expect the WHO to give an unbiased opinion. One colleague, recently arrived from Shenzhen, and just out of his quarantine period (all arrivals to Shanghai from hard hit areas must undergo a 14 day quarantine in their flats) suggests that his various doctor friends believe there are at least 200 confirmed cases in Shanghai, and more than likely quite a few hundred more “suspect?cases. In a city of 16 million, this isn’t surprising ?on a per capita basis, this number is still lower than Toronto — but the reasons for such “under reporting?are important to all of us. Shanghai is in fact the engine of the Chinese economy, experiencing double-digit growth in the past few years, and enjoying a prosperity which major cities in the West would envy. Under the present circumstances, with Beijing still reeling from the daily increase in SARS cases, Shanghai will likely be the only export window to the rest of world. It would be devastating to undermine that important conduit to and from the rest of China, especially right now and especially because of Shanghai’s ongoing importance as the new “hub?of Asia. So, we shall hear about a few increases in SARS cases over the next few weeks, but as Beijing eventually brings the caseload down, I suspect that Shanghai’s caseload will all but disappear from the world’s radar screen.

    In any case, I spent a very interesting morning in meetings and a visit to the construction site for the new private school, a US $40 million facility which will eventually enroll 4000 students, and then turned my thoughts to more important matters, namely lunch. In fact, I would like to suggest that it is here, in the restaurants and hotels of Shanghai and Pudong that one sees the most obvious influence of the SARS outbreak. On Tuesday and Wednesday I enjoyed four different meals at four different restaurants ?and no I’m not trying to become a Sumo Wrestler, but everyone knows that eating when on business in China is probably the most important function, other than ceremonial signings ?and I noted in each one just how few customers there were. Even though business lunches and dinners are in small rooms with a round table which seats ten or twelve people ?a very enjoyable way to eat ?one still passes through the main restaurant “en route?to the private dining rooms. I would say that patronage at restaurants is down by at least 50%, and that is the most obvious manifestation of the distrust which the Shanghainese have for the SARS-related reporting. As well, of course, all service staff in restaurants are wearing surgical masks, so they too are taking no chances with the “numbers?game.


    Nevertheless, I still immensely enjoyed those meals, and if the number of Qing Dao bottles sitting empty at the conclusion of each was any indication, I daresay my colleagues enjoyed themselves as well. In fact, like many citizens of the world, my Shanghai colleagues had a somewhat fatalistic attitude towards SARS, not to say careless or foolish, but one which tried to ignore the outbreak, at least while the important business of eating and drinking was underway.

    One other observation of note (before I take us back to Pudong Airport and the flight from Shanghai): I spent Wednesday and Thursday morning at meetings with the Dean of a well-known college in Pudong. I was immediately struck by the fact that none of the 4000 students were in evidence, and in fact I was informed that the college had been closed until the 12th of May, obviously in order to prevent the spread of SARS. This was perhaps the clearest indication of the deeper effect which SARS is having in many parts of China. In fact, I was informed that all meetings which involved “class-room?sized groups had been put in abeyance until at least May 12th. Nevertheless, or perhaps as a result of this, we managed to get a great deal accomplished, and in fact I might even have gotten more accomplished on this trip to Shanghai because of the restriction on large-group meetings.

    But, all good things must come to and end, so on Thursday afternoon, after a final temperature check at the reception ?still 35.5 — I was picked up for the long drive to Pudong International Airport. I say “picked up?because the Dean of the College I mentioned above had offered me one of his drivers, so I had happily accepted, not so much to save on the cost, but because I felt I could count on a “driver?to know precisely where to drop me off. Little did I know! This particular driver seemed rather nervous about the “route?he needed to take to get to the airport, frequently asking me in Chinese how he should get to Pudong (through the tunnel or over the bridge). I suggested the bridge, which he took, but then he proceeded to try various avenues in order to get to the highway. At one point, he almost drove past a sign indicating “Pudong International Airport? and when I pointed this out, he stopped right in the middle of traffic and backed up in order to get on the exit ramp. Amidst raised middle fingers, honking horns and screamed obscenities, we finally made our way to the highway entrance ramp. Still, this driver was uncertain about where to go, and even exited the highway twice in order to find another “Pudong International Airport?sign and get back on the same highway.

    We finally did get to the airport, and I asked the driver to stop at the Thai Air sign, which he did, and so I quickly bid him farewell, hoping he would have at least some idea of how to get himself back to the College. Immediately, I could see I was back in “mask country? so I put a new one on, and walked up to the check-in. 30 minutes later, I was moving through Customs, infra-red temperatures checks, quarantine forms, etc. But this was all done very efficiently, and in fact I arrived at the Thai Air Lounge about 90 minutes before flight time. I found an internet hook-up (only one was working) and began to answer a long e-mail about a specific proposal I had received from a Shanghai colleague. Everything seemed fine up to that moment, and then I began to break into a rather strange cold sweat. I wondered if this was something I had eaten, or (more ominously) if I had “caught?something in Shanghai. I also wondered what this might mean once I arrived in Bangkok!!

    In any case, the boarding call came and I arrived at my seat. The steward came around with some juice or champagne, masked of course ?all flight crew on Thai Air were masked throughout the flight — and reminded me that drinking alcohol might raise my temperature. So I decide to drink water, especially as I was still sweating and still wondering why. Soon we took off and in fact I quickly fell asleep for much of the 4 hour flight to Bankgok. But when I awoke just before starting our descent, I still felt rather awful, and now I really began to worry about what might happen when I arrived for the medical check at Don Muang International Airport. Of course, the heat was as intense as always, and upon leaving the plane I felt as though I had been stuck inside an oven. In fact, when we did get inside the airport terminal, we were met by a small army of nurses and doctors, and each of us had a “strip?pasted onto our foreheads to take our temperatures. I anxiously awaited the outcome, and was told I was “okay? my temperature was 36, slightly above the average in Shanghai, but certainly “normal?

    So, my “ordeal?had ended well, and in fact I was now looking forward to the time I would spend here in Krong Thep, “the city of angels? However, as I left the airport with a university colleague who had offered to drop me off at my hotel, I noticed how few people were at Don Muang Airport. Normally, even at 9:30pm, the traffic would be awful, there would be throngs of people moving about, and the air would be stifling. But there was virtually no traffic, there were few people in the terminal ?and the air was still stifling. It seemed as though SARS had an effect in Asia that those in Toronto had already realized ?the perception is in fact much more fearsome than the reality.

    I already missed Shanghai.

    Glenwood Irons

    Written by Dr. Glenwood Irons. Published with permission.

    Usability Review for SARSWatch.org

    Tim from SARSWatch.org asked me to critique on his site for usability, since I did it for my own site. “Other people’s eyes see problem’s better than the owner’s eyes.” said Tim.

    Well. I am not a usability professional, but I am very interested in this topic. This afternoon, I just improved my site a little bit again with the help of the usability guidelines. SARSWatch.org is a easy-to-use website already with clear structure and nice visual elements.

    Tim is right that other people’s eyes see problems better. The problem is, I check SARSWatch.org everyday and my eyes are not fresh eyes already. According to usability principals, oppions from fresh eyes are more valuable to correct usability problems. Anyway, I will have a try to analysize the SARSWatch.org – I believe my comment are very subjective. Just for your (Tim’s and my readers’) information.

    Usability theory behind this review

    Jakob Neilson is the guru in usability world. In his famous Alertbox, he has specified top 10 guidelines for homepage usability. Let me use his framework for my comment since they are proven guidelines. Thanks Jakob!

    PRETTY GOOD: The Tagline and titles

    It is good that Tim has a tagline for his site: following Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome around the globe. It is a pretty nice one since it distingurishes his website from other SARS website by stating the site is focused on SARS around the globe – for example, I only cover the situation in Shanghai (sometimes in China). This describes the content very well. However, the format of the tagline emphasized on the wrong word. I think globe is the keyword in this tagline since it reflects the characteristic of the site. How about this one: “Following SARS around the globe” (it is not better one, just an alternative).

    It is good that every page on SARSWatch.org has a proper title – the title appearing on the browser’s window title. This helps search engine like Google to find the site more easily and the search engine result more readable.

    GOOD: Contact information

    Tim put the contact information right on the homepage on the top-right corner, with email address and the goal of the site:

    Find out about the goals of the site, read:

    Who Am I and Why SARS Watch Org?

    This is the first part people are interested, so it naturally comes first.

    PROBLEM: Discussion board

    I noticed the discussion board was added about one month ago (correct me if I am wrong). Unfortunately, it may be confusion. According to my personal experience of website designing,

    User’s attention is limited resource.

    Places on web pages are real estate.

    When you put something on to the page, you are placing the road block for the user to complete another task.

    So if you want to add something, think about replacing some existing element.

    The problem is, the discussion board is too similar with the comment functions for each article. People need to choose to post the question to the discussion forum (BBS) or under an article. They are two similar systems with two interfaces and two locations.

    This explains the relatively low volumn of post compared to the huge page view of this site – I believe the traffic for SARSWatch.org is huge, 10 or 20 times more than my site.

    Suggestion: consolidate the two system into one – maybe the comment system.

    PROBLEM: Search box

    It is good there is a search box (actually, a “find” box) directly on the homepage. The problem I see is, the text box is not wide enough and the background color (gray) is confusing.

    Search is an important part of any big website. When users want to search, they typically scan the homepage looking for “the little box where I can type,” so your search should be a box. Make your search box at least 25 characters wide, so it can accommodate multiple words without obscuring parts of the user’s query.

    Source: Alertbox

    The find box on SARSWatch.org is only 15 characters in width. It can be wider. The background of the search box is gray. It is not consistent with the search box on other web sites. Usability means easy to use (which implies consistency across all web pages). This will often hurt the appearence of the site, hurt innovation, even hurtfunctions. So we need to balance.

    It would to better if the search result page and the individual article page (example) have the same headers as the homepage. This is also about the consistency.

    PROBLEM: Navigation bars

    On the homepage, there is a navigation bar the at top.

    Home  Discuss  Recent Articles  Net Resources  Books  News Headlines  Contributors  Join  Archives 

    The first five links are the normal behavior of link – a new page is loaded into the current browser window. The problem is the next four. Try clicking “News Headlines” and I believe few people will find the headline at the first try – at least I was confused and asked “where are the headlines?” before I realized the headliens are at the right part of the page. It is the same for “contributor“, “join” and “archives“. I suggest to remove these since the content is listed at the right already.

    I will give you another example of confusing link. Try to click the link below:

    I suggest you to read SARSWatch.org for latest SARS information around the globe.

    A surprise? You expect the page to loaded but your mail client appeared. This is also confusing. I didn’t find this kind of error in SARSWatch.org, but it is common on other sites.


    I just roughly reviewed the site and give my comment. It is my “very humble oppion”. Critique is always easier than build. SARSWatch.org is among the best website emerges on the Internet. My best wishes to this site and thanks Tim for the great effort to provide SARS information for visitors around the globe

    Flight to Shanghai: A Journey in the Plague Year III

    This is third article of Dr. Glenwood Irons’ trip to Shanghai.

  • Entry I
  • Entry II
  • Entry III (this page)
  • Entry IV
  • Entry 3, 10 May, 2003

    In A Journey of the Plague Year, Defoe frequently walked about London, keeping up with his daily habits, but also he wanted to see firsthand how the Great Plague was affecting what he certainly thought to be the greatest city in Christendom. He often noted how certain shops were closed, how certain places seemed less habituated, and how Londoners often kept a careful distance between themselves and others. In other words, he saw his city as a much-changed place, one that had been deeply affected by all the fears one would expect from a Plague-threatened populace.

    Shanghai is no such place. Yes, it has certainly been affected by this modern Plague, and there is no doubt that business is down in many restaurants and tourist haunts. Even the horrific Shanghai traffic isn’t anywhere near as bad as during past visits. But the ubiquitous masks which grace just about every face on the news broadcasts from Beijing are, in fact, almost unseen here. Except for those who work in places which serve the public, hardly anyone else is wearing a mask. Perhaps this is simply part of the attitude which the Shanghainese often express as the main difference between themselves and Beijingers, but I originally saw the lack of masks as an indication that things are essential “normal?in this city of almost 16 million.

    As it turned out, the “normalcy?is rather more on the surface than anywhere else. The cab driver in my taxi from the airport to my flat at the New Harbour Apartments in central Shanghai didn’t wear a mask, but he also didn’t have the air-conditioning on in the car because, as he pointed out, the breezes would prevent SARS. And when we arrived at the reception desk for my “serviced apartment? both the receptionist and the chap who put my credit card through the electronic sensors wore masks. And without even a by-your-leave, one of the receptionists stuck a (sterilized) digital thermometer in my ear, and took my temperature. This was immediately logged onto a form which would be used to indicate my twice daily temperature reading. Also, I was placed on a floor which was reserved for those who had recently arrived in Shanghai (many of the flats are for long-term guests). Now I was beginning to feel the “new?SARS-affected Shanghai, but actually I found the daily temperature checks to be a relief, as I no longer had to worry, at least about my body temperature.

    In the morning of my first full day in Shanghai, I decided to walk over to the famous “People’s Square? about 15 minutes from 88 Yongshou Lu, where I was staying. I passed many of the small restaurants in my quarter, and noticed that they weren’t jammed with customers as they would have been at any other time. I thought perhaps that, this date being the part of the May Holiday which was still left by the Chinese Government, there were fewer people at work, and thus the “dumpling & dojong?houses were less than full because of that. So, I expected the People’s Square to be full of kite fliers, sightseers and others. Well, there were many people surrounding the beautiful fountain, and there were a few kite fliers, but there were also many outside workers from the Shanghai City Government spraying antiseptic on just about anything which didn’t move or grow. As I sat on one of the marble benches in front of the Museum, I immediately noticed one of the workers sterilizing a refuse container right beside me. Good for the Shanghainese, I thought, hoping that such sterilization on a mass scale might make an important difference to the economy of this city.

    Later that day, I had a meeting at one of Shanghai’s most important universities, and there I noticed the real difference which the fear of SARS had created, most of which “difference?would not be available to the average tourist. First, I wanted to get a picture of myself standing in front of the famous statue of Chairman Mao, in fact one of the few left standing on Chinese university campuses. But I was stopped at the University gates by an officious guard who asked me for my faculty card (in Chinese of course). I do have a rudimentary understanding of Mandarin, so I whipped out the business card of the Dean who had invited me, and that did the trick (with some help from a passing faculty member). But I noticed that every student was checked for id, and most of them were on bicycles, a mode of transportation which has only recently exploded in Shanghai (once again). So, I asked that same passing faculty member to take my picture in front of “the Chairman?(I’ve attached it to this file), and that made my day, not because Mao and I have about the same amount of hair, but because I thought there was a passing resemblance to the great man and myself (in all modesty, of course). Chinese readers will note that (as I’m often told by my Chinese colleagues), I also look a lot like Dr. Bethune, so at least there is a Canadian connection too!!


    Okay, enough of that. I crossed the main road to the building where I was to have my meeting, and noted a hastily posted Chinese sign in the window of the entrance doors. “As a result of the SARS epidemic in “the People’s Capital?and other parts of the “Middle Kingdom?(Zhongwa), and in order to maintain the health of our community, please use the rear entrance.? So of course I complied, and was soon accosted by another security guard who checked my documents (the Dean’s card had worked well thus far!!), and allowed me in. I noticed that students also went through this ritual, and one young female student was denied entry because she didn’t have her card. Now, I won’t tell you about the meeting (the details would simply bore you), but I will tell you that I was treated almost like a hero by the Dean and a few of his colleagues whom he had managed to round up. This was to happen many times during the next few days of meetings since, as it turns out, very few foreigners have had (what my colleagues called) the “courage?to visit Shanghai, much less other parts of China. I explained that there was nothing heroic about coming to this eternally interesting city, but decided not to push the matter, as it isn’t every day one “rises?to the status of hero!

    On the return trip to my “New Harbour?flat, I also noticed the lighter traffic on the expressways into Shanghai centre. This trip would normally take me 45 frustrating minutes, listening to the cab driver curse all along the way, honking his horn and speeding up whenever a break would come. Not this time. We made the trip in just over 25 minutes, almost half the normal time it takes. Which was a blessing, as I was looking forward to a brief afternoon nap before getting back to my e-mail and other work-related business. But not before my afternoon temperature check at the reception, the reading for which was essential the same as the morning reading.

    I had planned for a relaxing evening in the flat. However, I was pleasantly surprised by a call from a colleague who wanted to take me out to dinner. He wanted me to meet his charming new wife, and also to talk a little business in preparation for our meeting at a brand-new private school the next day in Pudong. When we arrived at the famous “Zen?restaurant, situated in (I believe) Shanghai’s Duolun Lu Cultural Street, I was immediately struck by the fact that we didn’t need to stand in a half-hour queue to get into the place. I had walked by “Zen?on other occasions in Shanghai, but I had never been willing to put up with the wait. There was no wait that night, and in fact we enjoyed a wonderful meal with very attentive service (actually service in Shanghai restaurants is always attentive), surrounded by the most interesting all-black furniture and décor. The windows were all open, and my friend was extremely generous with my favorite beer, Quing Dao Gold, so who could possibly complain. In fact, my colleague suggested that he almost enjoyed the restaurant better like this!

    Next time, I’ll complete my entries for this “Flight to Shanghai?story. In that entry, I will briefly describe my final days of meetings, my departure from Pudong Airport, my flight to Bangkok, and my arrival at Don Muang Airport itself. I will also venture a few meditations on the present state of travel and the economy in Asia, primarily as a way of affectionately completing my “Journey?

    Glenwood Irons

    Written by Dr. Glenwood Irons. Published with permission.

    Shanghai Quarantine – Mandatory

    Breaking news for those who are planning to travel to Shanghai:

    All people returning from SARS affected areas will be required to take a two-week mandatory quarantine at home and their body temperature will be taken by inspectors twice every day

    This has affected a lot of persons, including my reader Caroline and Annie. They are living in Shanghai but happen to be in Hong Kong right now.

    Reaction from the public

    In the 36 comments followed the news on Sina.com, more than half of people thought highly of this regulations, with only 3 – 4 negative comments. Here are some samples:

  • Very good actions! IP:218.22.254.*
  • If it is rolled out 3 months ago, the situation will be better. IP:218.80.61.*
  • We should do it earlier! IP:210.22.128.*
  • It seems a lot of commenter come from Shanghai :-(


    I think the reasons behind this rule are the four new SARS cases recently found in Shanghai. Although the government is suggesting people not to travel, especially those who are in SARS affected areas, people are still attending meetings, visiting friends, sightseeing… The four cases are two couples coming from Beijing and visited a lot of places in Shanghai and causing 200+ people be quarantined.

    Now, with the order, a one day meeting will become a 15 day meeting. This will greatly discourage travel. I believe a lot of meetings will be cancelled for this reason. I believe the goal is to reduce the travel itself, instead of really quarantine people – the quarantine is too long and I don’t think any company spend the 14 days for a meeting – it is the most expensive meeting possible.

    Now, anyone who return or arrives in Shanghai need to stay at home/hotels for 2 weeks.

    Will it be carried out

    My doubt is, whether the rule can be carried out? Who will audit if the travelers are following the rule? It is a big concern – I am not against any traveler, just wondering if the rule can be implemented.

    The daily color label for taxis gave me a surprise because I have never seen a rule carried out so well in Shanghai – better than the traffic rules. I have never seen a taxi failing to stick the new label yet. On the contrary, the other rule, like the “no spitting” rule seems to be just rules. The fine has been increased to 200 RMB, but no body is monitoring it – I don’t know who will issue the fine ticket yet – it is still a question in my head but there is no body to ask. People are still spitting everywhere as before.

    According to the announcement, all people coming back or visiting Shanghai need to report to the local resident committee or CDC within 24 hours of arrival and an inspector will be assigned to take your body temperature twice a day – If you ask me, I guess it is very likely this part will be implemented very well. Why? Because Shanghai has a very solid resident committee organization in any xiao qu (residential area). Whenever there is strangers in the area, they can feel it. I see the posters stating: “For safety of yourself and for your family, you need to report any suspected new comers to the area to the residential committee”. This is a very unique phenomenon in China.

    For Hotels, I think it is even easier than the residential areas.


    I will keep tracking how well this rule will take effect. My guess is, this rule may works as well as the daily-color-label rule for taxis.

    Emails and Privacy Policies

    Suggested by Xin, I am going to remove the email address from the comment display page. I added show_email=0 attribute to the <$MTCommentAuthorLink show_email=”0″$> tag.

    The email address of the author will never be displayed. The logic then becomes: if the author has entered a URL, the author name will be a link to that URL; if no URL, display the author name without a link.

    Source: MovableType manual

    I was using spam_protect attribute before so the email was encoded. Instead of someone@someplace.com, it is actually written someone&#64;someplace&#46;com. Anyway, there may be other spammer using the translation tools to converted them back to @ and ., so I decided to remove emails at last after Xin notified me. If you want others to contact you, write your email into the content of the post. Meanwhile, in case I need to contact you, the email field is still required.

    Privacy Policy of this Site

    • Your Email will NOT be shared or sold.
    • Your email will NOT be used other than sending this newsletter.

    As you may feel from this site, there is a real person with a name and a physical location behind this site. I will guarantee that your email is safe to the largest possible extent (while, what if someone robs the administrator of the web server at the ISP company and read my site in the file system level??? I cannot say your email is absolutely safe.)

    I will NOT sell, rent, disclose or publish your email under any circumstances. If you don’t trust the site enough, enter a fake email is also OK.

    You can also subscribe Wangjianshuo’s Blog Update, an email will be sent to you when new items becomes online. I will not automatically add you to the list even if you leave your email address with your comment. Then help yourself.


    At any time, reply the email of Wangjianshuo’s Blog Update with Unsubscribe will remove you from the list. Due to the limitation of the current MovableType function, it is automatic. I will manually remove you from the list after I get your mail. So give me one day before it is done. I will also typically send you a confirmation for that.


    As you can see again, there is a comment system on this site. I value everyone’s post and it is part of the blog – actually, it is very large portion of this website.

    As of today, 206 entries were posted on this site while we have 957 comments (4.6 times of blog entries). Some readers posted more than 20 comments per month.

    The comment entries provide very informative and updated content to the readers. I have my principle on comments (check the My principle on comments section).

    I insist not to delete any comments as long as it is readable. However, I cannot bear anyone writing flaming comment against my other readers.

    Regarding SARS, I have to update my principle to add one more rule:

    To ensure accuracy of information, if you post any data or report, please include the original source (URL or page number). If you post any unconfirmed information, please note it explicitly. I will have to remove some content if it does not support itself or obviously seems rumor.

    I hesitate to do it since I smelled a little bit censorship in this rule. This is against my original principle to create an open and censorship-free forum. Unfortunately, there are too much rumors via emails and MSN chat on SARS recently. If not verified and posted, it may cause unnecessary panic among the readers (about 4k page view everyday/1.5k unique IPs). This site must take the responsibility to fight against SARS instead of causing trouble to the society. I hope I will remove this rule when the SARS is under control. After than, some rumor will not hurt anybody. :-)

    Do you believe in the official news?

    Some friends are asking me why I only quote official news – “do you believe in the official news/figures?” Well. I have my own justification. When SARS was reported under control, I didn’t believe in that so I posted some entries, doubting the report. When some western media are doubting the SARS case number in Shanghai, I also posted this entry (two cases in Shanghai section) stating that I believe in the number. I am trying to report the fact only. I cannot confirm whether my friends are telling me is true or false, but I can definitely confirm that people are talking about it. If there is something I cannot verify, I will put red font warning – this page contains rumor, or treat it as rumor only. I hope by distinguishing the facts and guess, the information will be more helpful. Anyway, every single word I wrote only represents my personal perspective to the city and should not be treated as the view of majority.

    A little bit update on SARS

    Today, Shanghai has its first death of SARS. It is reported to the victim, 68 in age, is the second SARS case – the father of the first SARS patient. I am very sorry for that. The newly-added four cases make people nervous since it is reported that one of the couple has visited Shanghai No. 1 Department Store, the largest store in Shanghai (in terms of revenue), and took the metro. I suspect the number of SARS cases will rise in the coming week.

    The new regulation requires all people coming from SARS-affected areas to take two-week quarantine. Body temperture will be taken twice every day. (update: Caroline have too stay at home for two weeks when she return from Hongkong.)

    Today, 146 cases (94 from Beijing) were reported.

    6 SARS Cases in Shanghai

    6 SARS cases in Shanghai now. It is an alert. Althought there is only 4 new cases, it is 200% increase in the last few days by simply mathatics calculation. With the new cases, the alarm level of Shanghai increases to the new level after the level increased in April 21. (the level of precaution measured are judged purely by my personal feelings of the city, instead of any official numbers or announcement).

    The club of the residential garden closed today. I am not sure if they are taking proactive actions to prevent SARS or take reactive actions when there is no customers.

    At the same time, I heard that the College Entrance Examination will continue to be held on June 7, 8 in Beijing and the date for the exam country-wide will not be changed. That means millions of middel-school gratudate student will take the exam in the two days. It is a hard decision to make.

    At the same time, TOFEL, GRE and HSK were postponed already.

    Pictures about the city

    Here are some more pictures about the cities in SARS. (Chinese sites)

    Top Usability Mistakes of Wangjianshuo’s Blog

    Since I have plenty of time, I reviewed Jakob Neilson’s Top Ten Web-Design Mistake of 2002. I am very interested in usability and even delivered training and speech on usability in some events. I had paid a lot of attention in usability of tihs site, but still find 6 mistakes in my current design. Read the article – the cartoon pictures are so cute!

    PROBLEM: Horizontal Scrolling.

    Yeah. I made this mistake. Even on 1024×768 resolution screen, there is still a little horizontal scrolling bar. It will be worse on 800×600 screen. It is because of some long titles. According to usability guidelines, the “Also on this site” section (with a lot of photo icons) are not effective as “Related Entries” section, since the later offers more content related links, instead of links in each category. I finally decided to remove this section from the individual article pages. So say good by to this section and the annoying horizontal scrolling bar.

    To continue to remove the horizontal scrolling bar, I have deleted two cells from the search bar.

    In addition, I added the category page to the end of the “Related Entry Section” as the following bullitins:

    • Read other 23 articles in SARS category, or
    • Return to the homepage of Wnangjianshuo’s blog

    This is the sample to provide the user the information they need at the right time. It makes sense to tell the reader to look at the home page or other similiar pages after they have completed reading the page.

    WELL DONE: JavaScript in Links

    I didn’t use any JavaScript in links in this site. I seldom use “TARGET=_BLANK”. So most of the links will load the content in the current window. Press Shift key when clicking the link will load the target page in new browser.

    NO RATE: No Prices

    I didn’t make this mistake since I don’t sell anything on this site. Everything is free so I don’t need to put a sticker to every article to say: “Hey, the price for reading this is $0!”. However, inspired by the idea of selling T-Shirt on BigWhiteGuy.com, I may try to put some printed pictures online – with price about $12 – $15. How do you think about it? It is sure that no people will buy, just for fun!

    WELL DONE: Inflexible Search Engines

    I used to use master.com’s search engine – it is a great service with very quick update (interval of 72 hours by default). It even the “Look and Feel” customization. Very cool!

    However, I finally decided to switch to Google Free Search. Although the search interval is about 1 month and there is no template based customization, it offers flexibility of typo correction (try search for goverment? It will offer the corrected search term government) and the order are prioritized by Google’s magic algrithm. So, nothing will change.

    Flight to Shanghai: A Journey in the Plague Year II

    This is third article of Dr. Glenwood Irons’ trip to Shanghai.

  • Entry I
  • Entry II (this page)
  • Entry III
  • Entry IV
  • Entry 2, 5 May, 2003

    In A Journey of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe was very keen to keep a day-to-day account of all the ways in which he saw the Great Plague affecting his fellow countrymen. He often noted grisly details of how an individual would seem quite normal one day, then suddenly the next day, the same person would begin to cough violently and within a few short days after would die, usually at home. There were, of course, individuals, even in Defoe’s time who contracted the Plague, but who survived by some miracle, and Defoe himself was one of those.

    But, luckily for Defoe, air travel was completely unheard of in the 18th century, so that particular fear wasn’t on his list of concerns. Such is not the case for those of us who wish to travel anywhere these days, and for those of us who wish to visit China, even Shanghai, there is great concern with respect to air travel. But, as I mentioned in my previous installment, my two flights to Shanghai from Toronto and then Vancouver, seemed rather less of concern than I had thought at the outset.

    So, as we began our descent into Pudong International Airport, I was filled with the usual excitement I have upon arrival in this very interesting part of the world. It was great to see the rice fields (not that there are very many left out there), and also to see the ships heading out to sea. Pudong Airport is almost an hour drive from the downtown area of Shanghai, so it almost seems rural when one views it from the window of a Boeing 767. Besides that, after twelve hours in a metal tube, even the Business section starts to become rather claustrophobic. Suffice it to say that, despite all the concerns about SARS in China, I was more than a little excited to be returning to this most amazing of places.

    As we taxied to what is called the “bridge?in airport terminology, we were informed by the Chief Flight Attendant, a rather dapper Hong Kong Chinese with a stern way of putting things in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, that the Chinese Government required us to stay in our seats until our temperatures were taken by a Customs Nurse. If we didn’t conform to this rule, we would be kept on the plane and sent back to Vancouver!! Needless to say, this made some passengers apprehensive, but when the nurse arrived, I could see that this wouldn’t take terribly long. She pointed an infra red light at our wrists, and then read out the number to the Flight Attendant, who in turn wrote the number on our Chinese “Quarantine?Report. These Reports have been required for years by Chinese Customs, but they are taken quite seriously these days.

    Well, as luck would have it, my reading came up at 32 Celsius, about the temperature of a recently deceased body! The nurse simply laughed at this, observing that I was indeed alive and kicking, and simply moved on to the next passenger. I told the Attendant to write ?5?on the form. This isn’t to say that I hadn’t wondered a little bit about my own health at this point. The chap in front of me, a Shanghainese who had been coughing and sneezing throughout much of the trip, also had the nasty habit of spitting into a plastic bag whenever the spirit moved him. Having traveled on trains in China, I have often sat beside people who felt themselves inclined to, as we say in English, hork themselves silly throughout a three-hour train ride, but I hadn’t had yet had this particular pleasure in the Business section of an aircraft. In fact, the Chief Flight Attendant (I mentioned he was Hong Kong Chinese) was very irritated by our resident horkmeister, not least when he frequently offered his spent tissues to the Attendant, in the hope (I suppose) that the Attendant would actually put the things in the waste for him.

    Okay, so the fun was over, and we were now all healthy enough to leave the plane. A rather long walk later, we found ourselves passing through an infra red temperature screening device, with a number of medical staff watching as we passed through. I would have liked to see what I looked like on their side, but of course we were all ushered towards the Customs queue. I was actually a little nervous about this, as my visa had expired a couple of days before my trip, but I couldn’t renew it because the visa offices in Canada had been closed for the May holiday week, and I had only reorganized my trip at the last moment when the SARS outbreak was announced in Beijing.

    As luck would have it (bad luck, I supposed), the Customs Officer decided that my note (in Chinese) explaining the visa problem simply wasn’t enough for him, so he sent me over to the Visa desk, back through the infra red screening. I managed to find a chap sleeping in the office behind the desk, and I showed him the letter of invitation from a colleague here in Shanghai. He disappeared for about ten minutes, returning to tell me he was waiting for a fax from my colleague, affirming I suppose that I had indeed received such an invitation, and if he didn’t receive it in five minutes, I would be “deported? Well, I have a through ticket to Bangkok, which I had booked in Business for just such an eventualilty, but my colleague managed to get the fax into the Visa Office in time, and the chap behind the desk was even kind enough to take my picture and put the visa right into my passport.

    So, about an hour after I left the plane, I was in a taxi, heading to my flat near the People’s Square. Now, almost everyone (including me) had been wearing masks when we left the plane, but I noticed that few people were wearing masks once we got outside to the taxi stand, and in fact the cab driver who picked me up wasn’t wearing a mask. I felt a little foolish at that point, especially as the driver had both front windows open, and at 120kph, there was a driving gale inside the care. So I took the mask off, made some idle chat with the very little Chinese I had learned since my last trip, and sat back to enjoy the mask-free environment inside the car.

    Eventually we crossed the amazing Nanpu Da Qiao (Nanpu Bridge), and I surprised myself by actually reading the characters which announce that incredible structure ?and we were suddenly into downtown Shanghai. And there were virtually no masks, no bank-robbers?convention of white masked people, as one sees in the newscasts about Beijing. In fact, downtown Shanghai looked, sounded and smelled much like it had on my last trip in February of this year. The fact that my arrival was on a Sunday made Shanghai seem a little quieter than normal, but that was the only change I noticed.

    Until I arrived at my newly rented flat here in the New Harbour Service Apartments, near People’s Square in Shanghai. Not that the “difference?was particularly startling, but the chap at the reception asked me to fill out one more form than normal, a form which requires that my temperature be taken every day, at the reception, and that someone there witness the number which is filled in.

    So, after a very short night sleep (I always find it difficult to sleep through the night for my first few nights in Asia), now I am ready for my meetings at colleges and universities in Shanghai and Pudong over the next few days.

    Once I have had a chance to see the city over these few days, I will write my third entry, as that will give readers a true sense of how this amazing city is reacting in this year of the Plague.

    Glenwood Irons

    Written by Dr. Glenwood Irons. Published with permission.

    Flight to Shanghai: A Journey in the Plague Year

    Editor’s note: I am very happy to have invited Dr. Glenwood Irons to write about his journey from Toronto to Shanghai. He arrives in Shanghai today and will stay here for four days. What he sees during his trip and his stay will definitely be very helpful to thousands of people asking the question “Shall I cancel my trip to Shanghai?“.

    “People will get an accurate sense of how things are going…. I’ll do it in a few installments, one on the plane, one after I go through Customs and arrive at my flat near the “People’s Square”, one during my four-day stay in Shanghai, and then one last one, when I arrive in Bangkok from Shanghai.”, said Glenwood.

    I’d like to thank Glenwood for spending the time to record the journey and share with us his observation. Dr. Glenwood Irons is Director of ESL & Testing Services in Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, CANADA L2S 3A1 Web: http://www.brocku.ca/ielp

  • Entry I (this page)
  • Entry II
  • Entry III
  • Entry IV
  • Entry I

    First of all, I must make an apology to Daniel Defoe, the great English writer of the 18th Century. Defoe is probably most famous for writing Moll Flanders, but I’m thinking at this moment of his Journal of the Plague Year, in which he describes in some detail the horrors of living in England during one of the last Great Plagues. Defoe had a rather practical approach to the mayhem which surrounded him some 300 years ago, so I will try to keep some of his narrative interests in mind.

    I live in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, a small city of about 130,000 people, situated about 15 minutes by car from Niagara Falls, and about 60 minutes from Toronto. St. Catharines and in fact the Niagara Region as a whole have no cases of SARS. However, Toronto, is at present the North American city which has been hardest hit by SARS. Most readers will know that the SARS outbreak in Toronto began when a Chinese Canadian woman returned on the 23rd of February from a trip to Hong Kong, unknowingly infected with the virus. She entered a Toronto hospital, and spread the virus to numerous medical staff, finally expiring herself soon after. The virus is now said to be under control in Toronto. Nevertheless, it seems I am traveling from one SARS affected city to another.

    I left St. Catharines on a Saturday morning, 3rd of May, in this year of the plague, 2003. My early departure from my wife and two daughters was uneventful, save for the fact I had to leave at 6am, and after only about 5 hours sleep. Driving to Toronto was rather enjoyable on a cool May morning, as the normally heavy traffic was in fact nowhere to be seen. Upon arrival at Toronto International Airport, I parked my car and proceeded to the ticket counter to pick up my prepaid ticket for the long journey ahead. There were the usual check-in formalities, along with the strict security which is now employed at all airports, and as luck would have it, I received my earlier-requested upgrade to Business Class at the last minute, just as I was about the board the plane.

    The flight from Toronto to Vancouver was uneventful, and in fact there was no sign of the ubiquitous masks which one sees in television footage of airports in Canada and most particularly in Asia. On the other hand, there were many Chinese on the flight, as Vancouver and Toronto are home to hundreds of thousands of Chinese Canadians. In fact, all passengers seemed as comfortable as I during the five hours it takes to get from Toronto to Vancouver, and I soon found myself leaving the plane and heading straight to the Star Alliance lounge to wait for my flight from Vancouver to Shanghai. There were a few more masks in evidence as I walked to the gates which display flights to Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and other parts of Asia, but there seemed to be no other indication of the virus which has made life miserable for much of the Chinese-speaking world.

    When I arrived at the gate to board the flight to Shanghai, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself upgraded to Business Class again. I do a great deal of flying in the business I conduct for my university, so I normally request upgrades well in advance, but there is no guarantee that such upgrades will be given out these days. However, at the boarding gate, while waiting for my upgrade to be processed, I also noted that many more of the passengers, that is to say Chinese passengers, were wearing the heavy N-95 masks which I had learned are the benchmark mouth and nose covering for most travelers. However, the real indication of difference between this and previous flights I have taken to Shanghai, was the reduction in passengers, particularly in the Business section of the Boeing 767. Rather than the normally full Business section, there were only 10 seats out of a possible 30 which had passengers. I asked the Chief Flight Attendant about this, and he said that the Air Canada flights to Shanghai, Beijing and of course Hong Kong were being reduced considerably, and depended on whether there were enough passengers to make the trip. Up until the SARS outbreak, there were daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai (on Air Canada), daily flights to Hong Kong, and some days even saw two flights to Hong Kong. The fact that flights are being cancelled, however, should not surprise anyone, as there is a great deal of concern on the part of everyone who watches the news coming out of China.

    If lower number of passengers wasn’t in itself disquieting enough, the Captain announced that we should be ready to have our temperatures taken before leaving the plane in Shanghai. One hopes that one doesn’t pick up a cold or fever during the 12 hour flight, but on the other hand, such a precaution is probably warranted under the circumstances. The Captain also announced that we would be taking a very northern route on this flight, past Nome Alaska, down through Siberia, then over a bit of North Korea, Japan and finally into Chinese airspace. This seems to be a rather convoluted routing, but the headwinds (we’re told) would make this necessary. I think I’m more concerned about flying over North Korea than I am about the risk of SARS.

    That will probably change when I get to Shanghai, but it is worth noting that there are very important issues here, many of which seem to go unnoticed in the larger discussion of the virus outbreak in Asia. Viral outbreaks are not, of course terribly unusual, particularly in China. This one has received a great deal of publicity, and it certainly is a cause for concern and extra precautions, but the nose-dive which China’s economy is presently experiencing is also of very real concern. In the past few years, Shanghai itself has experienced double-digit growth, while China as a whole has also experienced extremely high growth. If the perception as well as the reality of SARS is not soon brought under control, then China and much of the rest of the world, is likely to find that the problem of SARS has gone much deeper than any of us have been able to observe so far.

    In my next installment, I will describe the trip through Customs in Shanghai, and I will also give a “foreigner’s?glimpse of life in that city on a Sunday afternoon and evening.

    Glenwood Irons

    Written by Dr. Glenwood Irons. Published with permission.

    Send a Post Card to Your Friend Today

    Update Seasonal Greetings December 23, 2003

    I have added some great pictures that you can also send your own greeting card to your friend.

    <End of update >

    May holiday is a long vacation for me – vacation at home actually. Last October, I went to Daocheng in southwest part of China and recorded in the trip in Daocheng category of this blog. Today, I created postcard gallery so you can send the pictures I took at the amazing Shangri-la to your friend, along with your greetings and wishes.

    More photos can be found here (in the article) and here (as slide show). You can send any of the photo to your friend as a greeting card by pressing the “Send this Greeting Card using this picture” button.

    Note: All photos are taken by myself. Commercial use is forbidden before my written permission.

    Tibet said “no” to travellers

    Recently, the National Tourism Administration has forbidden any foreign tourist to enter Tibet. Later, domestic tourism groups are forbidden to enter Tibet too due to the spreading of SARS. I don’t know when it will resume so we can go to the dream-like Tibet again.

    East China Normal Universtity closed its door for the whole May

    According to cotton:

    ECNU made a rule that all the students (including shanghai students) should stay in school the whole May. No one can go home.

    Universities in Shanghai have took a lot of actions to protect their students from the risk to get infected by SARS.

    Appendix: SARS Daily Report 10:00 PM, May 3, 2003 (source)

    New:181 (Beijing:114, Shanghai:0) Total:3971

    With SARS, All We Have is Time

    This moring, when I chat with my friend Willie Liu of CultureXChina.com on MSN Messenger, he quoted:

    With SARS, All We Have is Time

    He is absolutely right.

    Long holiday, no outting

    May holiday used to be called “Golden Week”, millions of people goes out to their dream travel destinations. With SARS, all travel lines to outside Shanghai paused, including the nearby areas (Chinese site).

    What would you do?

    If you have a long vacation of 5 days and you cannot go anywhere outside the city, and you need to avoid any public places in the city, what will you do?

    Willie bought a bicycle and rode it for 5 hours yesterday – well, a very nice way to recreation. My wife and I went to the near by Kangjian Park and flew a kite for the whole morning on the large grass land. In the afternoon, we walked to IKEA – it is about 20 minutes’ walk and bought some new chairs, tables and lamps and set them up in the Yangtai. (we regret that we went to IKEA since 40% of the customers were wearing masks – so we also put on our masks – it is really uncomfortable.)

    With so much time, we tried lots things we have never tried before. We even wandering on the nearby streets and finally reached many new territories. We discovered some new stores and new parks near our house, really surprising.

    The city is very considerate. I heard the Finance Channel of Shanghai TV even changed all their scheduled finance programs and began to broadcast soap-opera continuously for the who afternoon, just to entertain the boring people staying at home.

    The government is suggesting everyone to stay at home and read books. I read almost all the advertisement on my newspapers. Then I begin to read some books that were bought years ago – well, it is all because we have nothing to do.

    What is S.A.R.S

    S.A.R.S. means Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

    Now it also means





    Quoted from Peking University News Net via Xinhua Net via KLOGS.

    Check out the pictures of the doctors fighting with SARS on the first line (via KLOGS).

    Appendix: SARS Daily Report 10:00 PM, May 2, 2003 (source)

    New:179 (Beijing:96, Shanghai:0) Total:3799

    First Day of May Holiday

    Recently, most of the days are sunny. The spring comes to Shanghai. It is exactly the best time for outing. If there were no such SARS disease, millions of people should have started their travel to various tour destinations. Now, most of the plans were cancelled.

    I have get used to the impact of SARS

    The anxiousity will release with time passing by – the situation didn’t go worse in Shanghai. The disinfection and precautions are confirmed while the rumor did get confirmed (which means they are rumor in fact).

    Taxi disinfection confirmed by other sources

    I talked with taxi drivers to get first hand information about the city. Today, Arwen told us that “two managers have been fired due to their careless and ignorance of disinfection”.

    Luo’s dinner in Hongkong

    I focused more on Beijing and Shanghai than on Hongkong. My reader Luo shared with us about his dinner experience in Hongkong.

    As with Shanghai, all the waiters and food handlers are required to wear surgical masks. They are suppose to keep the dishes covered until they are brought to your table.

    Leaving China

    These days, many expat leaves the city they live in China. Anna, our top commenter in April, has decided to return to Phlippines. It is tough because they need to give themself a 10-day quarantine before they can see their relatives and return to their own home. But I appreciate their actions. This is the attitude of responsibility to others.

    Caroline, another active reader, has decided to send her kids and hubby back to U.S.

    I believe they are not the only two expats who decided to leave (or ask family to leave). I hope the SARS crisis will end very soon so they can come back again.

    SARS Epidemic Map in China and Beijing

    Today, DigitalBeijing gave two diagrams of SARS epidemic.

    Appendix: Top 10 commentor of the Month – April

    I have posted the top 10 commentor (from the Sept 11, 2003 to April 3, 2003) at the begining of this month. One month has past. I want to post the list of top 10 commentor for April, 2003.

    anna 29

    Caroline 23

    Luo 15

    Shanghai Knight 9

    Mainlander 8

    Zhao 7

    yo 7

    Hao 7

    Tim 6

    Totally, 157 persons (distinguished by display name) posted 437 comments in April. Thanks for everyone to participate in this website. I have decided to give Top Commenter of the Month award to the top 3 commenters of every month.


    So the April’s award winners are anna, Caroline and Luo.

    Appendix: SARS Daily Report 10:00 PM, May 1, 2003 (source)

    New:187 (Beijing:122, Shanghai:0) Total:3638