Wednesday, November 21, 2007


THE MUSHROOMS OF UNDERSTANDING CHINA


There I was the other day - a fine day - with 40 beautiful, fresh shiitake oak logs tapping their feet waiting to be inoculated with that fine megashiitake spore I'd copped at the farmer store along with a special shiitake-inoculating drill bit, but by the time I got home from the store it was too dark.

Then after a next day in the office doing one-after-another-after-another of just a few of all the things that are distinctly unrelated to the task of inoculating shiitake logs (there are approximately 10 trillion such things), early the next morning I stacked up the already ongoing shiitake logs for the winter, then did some editing of mere words, saving the late afternoon hours to inoculate about 10 logs.

Then a little more than an hour before dusk I plugged in the long extension cord for the old 100W drill and began, got about 6 logs drilled and inoculated, when on the seventh log the tired little drill said Nope, no more, Bob; this is it pal, see ya in heaven, then darkness fell exactly the way it does after your drill gives up. Then I was in the office again among the 10 trillion things.

In time I managed to reach the shore of another weekend and went off to the farm store once more, this time in search of a bigger, better, more powerful drill, and found one I wanted, a Japanese brand-name 400-Watter, for about 120 dollars-- and then another I wanted more: a 430-Watter with an extra sidebar handle for about 160 dollars, but I didn't want to spend that much, since I'll mainly be using it just to drill shiitake logs once or twice a year as the old logs get used up and become great compost.

As I stood there pondering a solution to my econoshiitake dilemma I noticed some other, differently colored drills lower down on the tool display shelf-- way down there, in fact, sort of pushed to the way back of the way bottom. Their price was too low for the kind of drill I was after, but I hunkered down there anyway, since I wasn't going anywhere at the moment, reached in and pulled out one of the boxes, noticed that it was in fact the same kind of drill, except that it was a 480-Watter, had one of those great sidebars, and cost about 30 dollars! And was made in China-- probably using fine, Japanese-made electric parts.

One-fourth the price of the higher-up drills of less power and more costly utility, Japanese drills that only a moment ago had gleamed in my mind's eye as equipment of the highest standard, prestigious and priced out of reach; they now looked a bit forlorn, their luster dimmed, their true price now apparent (approx. 80% markup over labor cost, since they too were assembled in China, I'll bet).

So of course I bought a bright and shining miracle Chinese drill, took it home, plugged it in and finished five logs like a dream, in a tenth of the time. It was the Ferrari of drills, as far as I was concerned. And as I drilled on efficiently into the dusk I suddenly saw first hand what China was really about to do to (and at the expense of) the developed world and its laborers, apart from vastly increasing my shiitake crop.



3 comments:

Tabor said...

Just please do not put that thing in your mouth as it is probably covered in lead paint. (On an even more depressing note you should listen or view "Plight of Chinese Workers" http://www.pbs.org/newshour. The links is on the lower right of the page.)

Mary Lou said...

is the Makita the one you just bought? We consider those PREMIUM!!

Bob Brady said...

Tabor, I haven't yet heard of toxic drills from China, but I'm not about to chew on that baby anyway, good as it looks. And thanks for the PBS link (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/july-dec07/china_11-20.html). I'm aware of the plight of many workers in China and elsewhere in Asia, but above the bottom level in many cases the new plight is at least a step up from the old one, and hopefully the whole will steadily improve in light of and under pressure from growing foreign markets...

No, Mary lou, that's the one I didn't buy; the one I bought is prettier, all the more so for the price...