It is the fifteenth and, I devoutly pray, the last day and night of nonstop firecracker explosions in Beijing, to welcome in the Year of the Rat. This promises to be the most intense evening since Fifth Night. If my calculations were correct and that night I heard several hundred thousand detonations ... well, there are going to be more tonight.

By the way, "firecrackers" does not quite convey what's going on here. "Little sticks of ammo" is more like it.

Anybody who thinks that the Chinese populace does nothing but toil in factories to produce low-cost goods for exports -- well, that idea needs some refining. Unless maybe we're talking about mini-ammo factories, for domestic use. And if anybody is ready to give another little lecture about how economic modernization makes cultures the same all over the world -- hey, shut up. I couldn't hear you over the din anyway.

新年快乐, and now let's get back to work. By the way, today's cheery skies were officially classified as "lightly polluted" (pollution level 152) by the official air-quality bureau.

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