Apple and Foxconn

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An actor putting on a piece of stage drama that is essentially a polemic seems like a bizarre piece of theater to me. That CBS would feature that piece in its coverage of the story seems like questionable journalism.

The infographic at the bottom of the story paints a completely different story.

The eight-hour work day and 40-hour work week are products of the American and European labor movement. I fear that the global economy is slowly but surely destroying the gains that labor has made.

Ironically, I’m sure the Foxconn employees are members of a labor union. I believe its a requirement in China. But in the totalitarian Chinese regime, I’m sure they don’t have the bargaining power that American unions have (or at least had). I find that ironic too since American labor unions have always been accused of being communist in sympathy.

I worry about the effect of the global economy on the conditions of workers here and around the world. My basic belief is that the global economy is leveling conditions for the developing world at the expense of the developed world. I think over all, that’s fair. But I also worry about the lack of power that workers have in the developing world.

Is Foxconn a sweat shop? Probably–at least by western standards. Is the CBS (and other) coverage unfairly anti-apple? Probably. Are the workers there better off than the average Chinese worker? Probably.

I view this coverage (as I think we should view all news coverage) with a skeptical eye.

But I do have a bias: The Amazon Kindle is also manufactured by Foxconn in Shinzhen. As you know, I work for Amazon on the Kindle,

Will this recent negative publicity that Apple’s been receiving make a difference in Chinese working conditions? Maybe.


Journal of My Trip to Kenya


In the same year, (1990) that I traveled to Bangladesh, I also went (with my older daughter) to Kenya.

The two trips were quite different in purpose, but they had in common that I made a journal of each.  I recently finished copying to Bangladesh Journal from a printed copy, and I discovered attached to it a printed copy of the Kenya journal which I had thought was lost.

I have finished re-typing it into the computer and it may be read here.

See also the gallery of a small number of scanned images from photos I took on this same trip.


I slowly became conscious.  But I was so tired that I immediately drifted off again.  I must have done this two or three times before I became fully awake.

I immediately thought, where am I?  And then I remembered:  I was coming out of surgery.  I carefully and gently felt my belly.  Yes, there were the six round holes, each covered in a small neat bandage.  The holes through which the robot had entered my body.  The holes through which the malignancy had been removed.

I had several fears when I had walked into the hospital that morning.  One was that I would die in surgery.  The chances were remote, but still I worried.  Other people have told me they have had that same fear.  Why?  To me anesthesia is a little like death.  You feel nothing; you experience nothing.  But unlike death, you wake up (usually).  Of course anesthesia is a little like sleep too.   The difference is you don’t dream.  Most of us don’t worry about whether we’ll wake up when we go to bed at night.  I think it is because that happens frequently and we do survive;  anasthesia is much less frequent so we have less (or maybe no) previous experience to call upon.

I was also afraid they would have to convert from robotic surgery to conventional surgery.  But the holes I felt for assured me that had not happened.

I also worried about the pain I would feel, but as I lay there in the recovery room, I felt very little pain or discomfort.  I realized I was still in the lingering fog of the anesthesia.

I don’t think I fell asleep again, but I was in a kind of twilight.  I don’t really remember much of what happened there.  (I guess nothing much did.)  Eventually I was wheeled from the recovery room to an ordinary hospital room, and transferred from the gurney I had been on to an ordinary hospital bed.  There I was joined by my family.  I’m sure I have looked better.  I had an oxygen tube in my nose and an IV in my arm.  The doctor’s had warned my family that my face might be puffy because I had been in a position with my head lower than my body during the surgery.  But my wife said there was no puffiness.

My mouth and throat were incredibly dry and my throat was sore from the tube that had been there during the surgery.  I drank lots of water (which the nurses encouraged.)

Eventually Dr. Carroll had come to visit me.  The great Peter Carroll.  I had been told to find the best surgeon I could.  When I told people I had chosen Dr. Carroll,  “he’s the best” was the response I had generally gotten.  I was happily surprised at how well known he was to other doctors as well as other cancer patients.  (Even my ear doctor had heard of him.)   Of the three surgeons I consulted he was the only one who said he could spare the nerves that run along the sides of the prostate gland.

Now Dr. Carroll was telling me that he had indeed been able to “spare the nerves”.  He also told me that he believed he had removed all the cancer–there were no signs of it in surrounding tissue, and none on the edges of what was removed.

By evening I had progressed to eating jello.  In the middle of the night they brought me some yogurt at my request.

Also by evening they had me up and walking around the ward.

Laproscopic  surgery is one of the great advances in surgery in the 20th century.  It produces less blood loss, less pain, and allows patients to get out of bed sooner.  With lacroscopic surgery, small round holes are used rather than a large incision.  The surgeon uses fiber-optics to see what is being done.

Now at the beginning of the 21st century, robotic surgery is enhancing laproscopic surgery.  This technique allows the surgeon to remotely manipulate paddles that translate to finer movements of the robotic components.  Thus, the surgeon can make very fine movements.

It is impossible to sleep at night in a hospital.  Nurses are coming in every few hours to check your vital signs, and there are constant noises in the hallways.

The next morning I was given a meal of solid food.  I ate small portions of each dish:  scrambled eggs, sausage,  toast.

By noon I was pronounced well enough to go home.  I was transported in a wheelchair down to the front entrance where my older daughter was waiting with the car.

I had probably taken too little pain killer prior to leaving the hospital because the ride across San Francisco was probably the worst of the pain I had experienced from the surgery.  We dropped my daughter off at her apartment and then my wife drove me the rest of the way home.

From that time until now I have been recovering at home.  I returned to San Francisco once (a week after the surgery) to have a catheter removed.  Now I can drive again.  I walk around the neighborhood and probably eat too much.

In January I will have a blood test that I hope and expect will further confirm that all of the cancer was removed.

(For more on this subject, see my Prostate Cancer Blog. 

A Grim Day in Cupertino

Yesterday was a very grim day.

First my wife warned me, even before I left for work in Cupertino, that the road I normally take was closed because of police activity. Some wacko had shot up a cement plant where he worked, killing three people and wounding six others.

Then when I got to the office the story got scarier.  Completely across town the same guy shot a woman in the Hewlett-Packard parking lot trying to carjack her car.  Now people started getting really freaked.  He could be anywhere and his rampage didn’t appear to be
over.  They closed all the schools in both Cupertino and Sunnyvale. Where I work, they told us not to go between buildings.  They had lunch brought in so we wouldn’t have to go out.  (Sucks for the poor delivery guy, but nothing bad happened to him.)  They locked down the
elevators so we had to use our card keys to go from floor to floor.

There was no further news from the crazed shooter.

But in the late afternoon my iPhone beeped and I saw the message on the screen,  from ABC News, “Steve Jobs has died.”  Of course that wasn’t related to the shooter; Jobs had been sick with cancer for almost ten years.  He had resigned as CEO of Apple in August because of
failing health, so I guess we should have seen it coming.  But, still, it was a shock to me.  In a few minutes everyone had heard the news.  It brought work in our office to a complete stop, something the crazed shooter had not been able to accomplish.

Somehow the news of Jobs’s passing affected me, affected us all, much more than the crazed shooter.  It brought tears to my eyes then, and does again as I write about it.

I usually listen to music on the way to work but today I listened to the news radio station to hear of developments concerning the crazed shooter.  The police had shot and killed him.  The danger is over.

So now things can go back to normal.  Normal but not the same.

I mourn the loss of all those killed yesterday.  But somehow I mourn the loss of Steve Jobs more.  I remember hearing a long time ago, “Microsoft wants to rule the world;  Apple wants to change the world.”  Microsoft has not succeeded.  Apple–largely through the inovation
and drive of Steve jobs–surely has succeeded.  It is telling–and ironic–that I learned the news of his death on my iPhone.

Indian Journal

In 2006 I went to India to attend the wedding of a friend of mine.  While there I made a journal which may be seen here.

That journal contains some of the photos I took on that trip.  A more complete selection of photos can be found here.

Photographing Yosemite


We’ve just returned from a weekend in Yosemite.  What a challenging place to take photographs!  Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  Why should that be challenging?  Just look at the photograph above (taken on this trip).  Taken from the Wawona Tunnel Overlook, this must be one of the most often photographed locations on Earth.  What can one do that is not just another snapshot?

So I got the idea of doing a photo essay on close-ups of trees studying  their bark.

When we arrived we saw that the dogwood tress are in bloom, so I decided to shoot them as well.

And, no, I couldn’t resist photographing the usual spots.

Bangladesh Journal

In 1990 I made a trip to Bangladesh along with the group RESULTS to visit The Grameen Bank and its founder Muhammad Yunus.  (A number of years after my visit, Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize.)

I made a journal of that visit, originally handwritten into a notebook, and later transcribed and edited into a Macintosh MacWrite document.

I no longer have a Macintosh and that machine-readable document is lost.  I do have a printout that my daughter started transcribing into Microsoft Word.  The transcription was incomplete for several years, but I have finished copying it, and it may now be found here.