Friday, October 31, 2008

The wall of the damned and first contact

Albrecht Dürer, The Revelation of St John: The Four Riders of the Apocalypse, 1497-1498, Woodcut, 39 x 28 cm, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe. Image is in the public domain and was sourced from the Wikimedia commons.
Dear Gentle Reader,

Why not continue the theme of creepy crawlies in Asia for one last day? 

The other day, your humble scribe mentioned a past encounter with the death-dealing spiders of the apocalypse.

This is the story of the wall of the damned and first contact.

First contact was made in the kitchen of my new apartment in Taiwan, the one where the cockroach incident occurred. 

The kitchen was a long galley stretching the width of the apartment, just wide enough to walk down. The fridge was at one end, the sinks at the other, with the stove smack in the middle. 

The outer wall, above a concrete counter into which the gas burners were inset, was recessed and difficult to reach unless you leaped onto the counter. 

The outer wall was also a very strange colour, I'd call it radioactive taupe; it was beigey, taupey, and curiously luminous.

After the experiments in anti-cockroach chemical weapons, I cleaned the house starting in the kitchen. I stood on the concrete counter, on tippy toes, and rinsed the interior wall with water. 

I turned around to rinse the outer, luminous wall. The outer wall was more recessed than I had thought, and I lost my balance. 

I put out my hand, to steady myself, as I fell, towards and onto the luminous wall.

My hand sank into warm, wet, flesh pudding...


I frantically yanked my hand out of the wall... 

...and the wall followed my hand, sliding out of its vertical moorings, thinning as it stretched until part of the wall separated...

The separated flesh of that living wall struck the opposing wall, splattering thickly and pungently.

I later realized that the "wall" was a thick layer of rancid fat or semi-solid oil. There was no exhaust fan in this kitchen, so for twenty years the fat from cooking with the wok simply coagulated and congealed on the windows, never to be cleaned. It was just too hard to reach for people to bother cleaning it, I guess.

The beigey, taupey congealed fat, mixed with particulate waste, formed an opaque surface that was curiously luminous because it covered a bank of windows and it filtered diffuse, indirect sunlight through itself. 

All that I figured out later.  

At the time, all I knew was that the outer "skin" of a living wall had been breached and both the room and my hand stank abominably. David Cronenberg might have liked it, I did not.

How could I not have been aware of this when I inspected and leased the apartment? Well, the wall had had a perfectly smooth, even surface and colour. It looked exactly like a wall and it was too far back to reach easily. Still...

First, the cockroach legions of Beelzebub and now a moving wall of rancid fat.


Was this the Amityville Apartment?


I cleaned my hand, compulsively and continuously, while I tried to figure out what was going on here. I was never an exceptionally good man, so this could not be a Jobbian contest for my soul. 

This living wall was clear proof of a sentient, metaphysical, malevolent realm, or maybe this was the physical manifestation of the maya of existence and illusion that Siddhartha Gautama had broken through. No, that couldn't be right because I did not feel enlightened, I felt defiled. 

The reincarnationists must be right, and I had obviously been both very good, and very bad, in my last life. 

Criminy. Where was Virgil? I needed a guide.

I have a friend who espouses a Christian theology of grace. Just where exactly do these sort of experiences place me, I wonder, if his theology of grace is correct?

Despite scrubbing and wringing my hand, I could not remove the reek. 

I went to my little general sell-all store and bought a metal spatula that you use to apply plaster to a wall, a lot of paper towels, and more plastic bags.

With firm resolve, and a weak stomach, I started scooping fat off the wall and confining the stinking masses into a plastic bag. I swear I could hear it curse and scream as I carved pieces out of that wall of the damned.

I soon returned to my general sell-all to buy rubber gloves and cursed myself for not having thought of that on my first trip.

Kilos of fat later I was at the far end of the once luminous wall now transformed into a bank of deeply recessed, wooden framed square windows with grids of smaller 20 cm x 20 cm (8 inch by 8 inch) square windows inset into smaller wooden frames. 

The caulking that had kept moisture and drafts at bay had long since rotted away; fat had been keeping the windows sealed up till now. Now that the fat was gone the windows rattled easily in their rotten wooden frames when they were tapped or touched, no matter how lightly. 

The four, large window units were on sliders. I could and did open them a bit so that I could get a breeze going through the kitchen to help carry the rancid fumes away.

I finished cleaning the last window square at the end of the counter nearest the gas gauge. Behind me was the gas meter for the apartment, high up on the inside wall. The sinks were set in concrete, like the long counter, so I had a great footrest.

As I scooped the fat off the last window square, I made first contact. 

A massive spider of the apocalypse waited on the other side of that last, small window pane.

You need to know that, at the best of times, I am a bit of a baby when it comes to spiders.

As a small child (slave labour for the parents) I was painting a two story fence at our home (in Lethbridge, Alberta that year) when a spider pushed me backwards off the fence. 

OK, I had snuck out of bed and watched a movie called "Tarantula" the night before and was both overtired and a bit freaked out at the idea of spiders that day. 

Some people suspend their disbelief when engaged with fiction.  

I believe that my imagination banished disbelief from my life long ago. It might have been exorcised and cauterized, along with a few seared sheets, on the ceramic train lamp that I would sneak into bed, under the covers, so I could read through the night as child.

I'm sure some of you will suppose that I simply rolled backwards, in surprise, off that fence. I know, however, that that spider pushed me, and I have not trusted those eight-legged brigands and ruffians ever since, though I remain fascinated by them. But most of us are intrigued by the wicked and the fierce.

So, with that background at hand, you can better understand how horrified I was to have a spider of the apocalypse appear in front of my face.

This spider's body was almost as long as the inset mini-window set into the loose caulking. Lets call it about 17 cm (7 inches) long.

I was transfixed with wonder, staring into those hypnotic, multi-faceted eyes of death.

Its body was about 5 cm (2 inches) wide.

This was a substantial villain. Fearsome.

It looked, although much bigger, just like this...

Image of the underside of a spider with very long legs and yellow, red, black, and white colourationFortunately, the spider was on the other side of the window, which was why I could see his belly.


Gripped with the same unshakable impulse that leads supporting actresses in suspense films to answer the doorbell, or wander into the yard, when the background music smirks "danger" in a minor key... ...I reached my hand out tentatively, and tapped the glass right in front of the belly of the eight footed fiend.

Tapping the glass at his belly did more than irritate the spider. He moved from bellicose to berserk faster than my hand could twitch back.

Flexing his lengthy legs the spider of the apocalypse battered the sub-window as his fangs crashed against the glass, aiming to squirt his liquefying poisons deep into my flesh.  

This spider might have been the maleficent sprite of this living wall of fat, this wall of the damned, and was plainly seeking retribution. 

The spider shook the glass so violently that the pane of window glass shook and clattered in its rotten wooden frame.  

Actually, it was not just the small pane of window glass that clattered... No, the strength in the legs of this Schwarzaneggian Spinner was such that the entire wooden frame (one of the four main units) was shaking, and all the little glass panes inside that big wooden frame were tinkling in their loose, lesser wooden frames.


The malevolent spider, recognizing defeat, ceased his futile shaking of the window and his gnashing of fangs. He fixed me in his baleful stare. This was one angry spider. 

When I had seen a tarantula crossing the road on a trip down Route 66 in the US with my wife and another couple, I begged the driver to stop the car so that we could all get out and follow the tarantula.

That tarantula looked placid, gentle.  Why was the dance "the Tarantella" so named, I wondered? (I admit to being unwilling to be bitten to experience the alleged poison-induced frenzy from which the dance is named.) 

Unable to stop myself I tapped the glass again... 

That hateful hound of hell with a double complement of legs, on the backside of my kitchen window, dashed his feet against the glass in a frenzied hail-storm of fury. 

I now understood the Platonic ideal of the Tarantella dance.

Entranced by the savage beauty of that dance, I tapped the window yet again.

I kept tapping and aggravating the spider to make him move and shake the window. 

My hind brain realized that something had been changing with the picture in front of me. The barely contained vibration of hate, caught in the shell of a spider, had been slowly moving out of my field of vision; he was leaving the frame. 

The spider was now at the edge of the little window pane. 

And then I realized that this was the last window pane,
and that the window was open, 
and that those legs had reached around to my side of the window 
and were a hair's breadth away from seizing my wrist...

Startled, I leaped back, slapping my head into the gas valve poking out of the wall behind me.



When I regained consciousness, I was lying on the floor with my head under the sink.

I could feel a tickling movement under my neck.

I froze.

Time did not stand still.

Time kept moving, as did the sensation of a tickling movement...

With herculean force, inspired by terror, I rolled away from the spider under my neck, spinning myself straight into the wall.

I proceeded to jump up on my feet and kept pushing and rolling my back against the wall to crush anything on my back or sides. 

This was a contest between us both. Only one would emerge alive.

My feet started to dance a Tarantella to kill the spider, should it fall to the floor alive. What irony, I thought, if I can finish him off with his own lethal dance.

My hands came away from my neck sticky and wet.

Spider ichor! 

I slapped more feverishly until I realized this was not spider ichor, it was blood. My blood. 

I look carefully around me. No spider. No spider remains.


I have no idea where that spider went. 

There are some who say that he was killed and when he died he went back to wherever his kind comes from.

Some say he developed a taste for blood and waits for the one time each year when he can safely come out, Halloween, to taste more.


I have no idea. I shut that window and never opened it again. 

That was first contact, but, as you can see here (death-dealing spiders of the apocalypse), I found his relatives in Hong Kong. 

Be very wary is all I can say.

Tschuess and Happy Halloween,
Chris, Regina, and Pommes

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Giant cockroaches of Hong Kong... ...the siege

image of an oriental cockroach climbing the windowDear Gentle Reader,

You have already seen Hong Kong's giant spiders of the apocalypse, so now... these...

There must be something in the water here in Hong Kong.

Two days after I wrote about the cockroaches in Taiwan, I am faced with this behemoth blotting out the sun as it climbs my building...

As OxyJen commented on a previous post, things this big have to have a brain.  This one probably has been mutated by chemical waste.


A big-brained mutant cockroach that maybe eats animals, not the waste food of animals...

Maybe it "reads" the internet through its massive antennae too, and it read the previous post about the cockroaches in Taiwan.

That is it.

My life is in danger.  

This vast beast is seeking revenge on its smaller relatives in Taiwan...

Fortunately, all the windows were closed. Your humble scribe huddled at the computer, transfixed and terrorized.

Eventually, this one left.  But then, as the sun started to give way to the night and your scribe was hoping to leave the house, he caught sight of another fearsome warrior nimbly and swiftly leaping onto the ledge above the window. 

image of another fearsome, gigantic cockroach combing the outside of the building as the sun sets, looking for weaknesses to exploit in the coming attack

Preparing for an ambush perhaps? This leviathan threatened to overturn the entire building. 

Sorry, Gentle Reader, but I have to go. I have to check on food supplies.  I fear a siege has begun.

Wish us well, Gentle Reader.

Is this the end?

In peril, 
Chris, Regina, and Pommes

Monday, October 27, 2008

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb

Operation Castle, ROMEO Event - The 11-megaton ROMEO Event was part of Operation Castle. It was detonated from a barge near Bikini atoll on 26 March 1954. This photograph taken by a National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office is a work of a United States Department of Energy (or predecessor organization) employee, taken or made during the course of an employee's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.
Dear Gentle Reader,

Their forefathers on their family tree can be traced, through the rocks, back 354 million years.

They have been with mankind for all our short time on this planet.

They have co-existed with us and some claim they will outlive us.

Ancient Romans have at least this much in common with us... ...Ancient Romans would stamp them out in their kitchens, in their living rooms, and when they tried to climb their reclining couches.

(You have to really stamp hard to kill these beasties.)

Blatt. Blatt. BLATT!

The stomping would continue, and it is from that onomatopoeic word, "blatt", that your humble scribe, whose literary origins predate the Romans by a few thousand years, supposes that the name of these beasties flows.

They were called blatta in Latin from which that great organizing Swede Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) gave them the Order Blattodea, the Family Blattidae, and the Genus Blatta.

Blatt. Blatt. BLATT!

I call them a nuisance.


Others call them cockroaches.

Scientific image of Oriental Cockroach from an old drawing produced by Project Gutenberg eText and disseminated by Wikipedia commonsThese puppies can be 3 cm long, which is longer than an inch, and the males can fly up to 2 meters (6 feet); you should have seen how surprised our first cat, in Taiwan, was when the cockroach he was playing with flew away. Chips literally fell backwards onto his bum in astonishment.

In Taiwan, when I moved to what became my last apartment there, I was delighted to have no cockroaches in my dream apartment.

The apartment was the top two stories of the building plus the roof top, front and back, with an internal, spiral cast-iron staircase. The front patio looked onto the river.

On moving day I was at the apartment to sign the lease so that I could take possession and move my belongings into the apartment.

I called a Belgian friend of mine who was helping co-ordinate the moving trucks. As a throw-away aside, he asked me what I had done to kill the cockroaches and to bring the population under control before I moved in.

"There are no cockroaches!" I said "It's a perfect apartment!"

My friend laughed.

He laughed a full belly laugh.

Then he laughed the short, sharp laugh of he who knows better.

"You have cockroaches." he told me authoritatively, "Everyone does."

"Go into the guest bathroom on the main floor" he said "and turn the lights out. Sit still for two minutes and then call me back."

"Try it in the kitchen, too." he added as a helpful afterthought.

I didn't last 30 seconds. I could hear them everywhere. When I put the light on, I saw them scurrying into the cracks. Yeucch. It was worse in the kitchen. When I looked under the sink and looked up, I could see a swarming mass.

This was not good.

This was bad.

This was not the way it was supposed to be.

I phoned my friend up to confess his superiority and to ask for advice.

With the tone of one who knows best he told me to go round the corner and find a little general sell-all store and to get a can of Bayer cockroach killer spray. I think it was called Baygon. "Maybe get a couple" he told me "because you have a pretty big place".

I followed his advice. I found a store, they had six cans, and I bought them all because I had a really big place.

I started spraying under the sink and cockroaches started forming a ball in the air. It was like they were coalescing into existence from the void; I have no idea where these cockroaches were coming from.

This was a horror film moment. It was like Beelzebub had been unleashed, which makes sense as that demon, called the Lord of Flies, is more accurately translated as Lord of Things that Fly.

I went up to the roof and collected 18 bricks from a stack on the patio.

I brought the bricks downstairs, setting two upright, alongside each other, in six rooms and I then put a can of anti-roach spray between the two upright bricks in each room.

Breaking the head off of each can of Baygon, I would stand it between the two upright bricks. Laying the third brick across the standing bricks, depressing the can of Baygon's release valve, I had made a bomb.

I had made my own roach bomb and, with the mist burning my eyes and throat, I would move to the next room to repeat the process.

Six bombs later I exited the apartment, jumped on my motorcycle, and went to the other side of town to meet up with my friend and the movers.

After everything was packed we all took off for my new apartment. I sped ahead by motor bike to open the windows and to air out the apartment for a half hour before everyone else arrived.

I also stopped to pick up a broom, a dustpan, and some plastic bags at the general sell-all store around the corner from my house to clean up the ball of cockroaches that had been forming in the kitchen when I left.

My first inkling that there might be trouble came from the fact that all the neighbours seemed to be out of their homes on the street.

There also seemed to be a shimmering in the air, five stories below my apartment, where the stairwell opened onto the street.

As I walked towards the open apartment door three things made themselves clear to me.

First, my new neighbours were angry; they started yelling at me as they recognized that I was the new tenant.

Second, the air tasted metallic and green. No, I have no idea why it tasted green, but that is what I recall.

Third, I realized that my ad hoc roach bomb was pretty powerful. There was a trail of dead cockroaches down the stairs.

As I stood there, taking in the devastation, a cockroach on the street passed by the open door leading to the apartment's stairwell...

...The cockroach on the street skittered quickly, at normal cockroach speed, stopped, wobbled, and fell over, feet up, and still.

Image of a dead cockroach lying on his back

This might not be so good.

I moved to the side of the shimmering, metallic air, took a quick breath, and ran up four flights of stairs, to my new apartment.

I went all the way to the top floor where the patio and my second level was, unlocked and propped open the door to my apartment, opened all the windows on the top floor of my apartment, and returned outside to the patio for more fresh air.

Venturing inside again I went to the first level, hit the lights, and stared.

The floor was littered with corpses.

I had wrought cockroach genocide. I could feel my eyes burning. Shame? No, just that metallic, green tasting air.

Opening the windows, I was grateful that there was a stiff breeze. The shimmering air started to disperse.

The air still tasted metallic, but not green as I swept up the detritus of the infestation from the stairwell and the apartment. I counted this as an improvement as I filled bags with dead cockroaches and shuddered as I scooped their bodies into the bags.

I thought about the opinion held by some that cockroaches could survive the aftermath of a nuclear blast; well, they obviously couldn't survive my roach bomb.

About half an hour later I was finished, short of breath, and I waited on the roof. I was a bit too self-conscious to wait downstairs where all the neighbours were still congregated, looking up at me, and talking.

I thought that the worst was over.

Then the movers showed up.

By now, I had visited numerous factories throughout Asia for work, including a couple dozen in Taiwan. I knew the conditions that workers work in. I fancy that I was one of the pioneers of social audits which I conducted on behalf of some of my clients.

When the movers exited their trucks they talked to the neighbours. The movers smelled the metallic green air and decided that they were not moving things into my apartment. They considered my apartment toxic and dangerous.

At this pronouncement I knew there was trouble because Taiwanese workers routinely worked in what I considered very toxic surroundings.

After 45 minutes of arguing, the movers agreed to move my goods upstairs, onto the back patio, under the back roof.

But these workers refused to set foot inside the apartment.

They tried to avoid breathing in the stairwell.

My Belgian friend thought I shouldn't have used six cans ("SIX cans? Are you crazy? I don't even know if that stuff is legal anywhere else but here! Leave your stuff outside overnight. It will be covered from the rain and the fumes will keep the cockroaches away!" said my friend, and he was right).

That night I slept in a hotel instead of my apartment. I woke bleeding and stayed away from my apartment for two more days.

When I returned there were no live cockroaches in my apartment, although there were a few new dead ones on the patio... Great.

I decided to chemically wash the apparently strong toxins out of my apartment. Remembering organic chemistry courses and laboratory classes from undergraduate studies, I washed my apartment with water, then with bleach, with water again, and then with a weak acid. For my weak acid I used crates of Japanese rice vinegar that were deeply discounted at a grocery.

(The owners of the nearby grocery must have thought a crazy western sushi maker (Japanese rice vinegar makes the rice sticky to make sushi) with obsessive compulsive cleaning tendencies (the bleach) had moved into their neighborhood.)

I would throw buckets of the various cleaning solutions onto the walls and then swab with a mop. Backing up to throw water onto one wall in the main hallway, I recoiled violently.

I had gone through the opposing wall that I had wet down previously. I did not go far through the wet wall, but I had heard a sound I knew well--cockroach carapace crunching.

Whirling around, I was appalled.

A tiny sub wall had been built about one cm, or a third of an inch, deep on some of the walls on the house to hang the most recent wallpaper upon.

Cockroaches had filled the gap. They must have been living, eating the glue on the wallpaper backing, dying, eating each other, and building up for years.

Image of a dead cockroachFortunately, my chemical cocktail had killed them all, too.

In the end, I cleaned everything up, had new wallpaper put up, including on the ceiling, and I had a fantastic apartment.

No cockroach entered that apartment for 14 months. By then your humble scribe and your Heroine, who had also moved in, were owned by their first joint cat, Chips, who took it upon himself to eradicate all cockroaches unwise enough to enter.

And we never had to worry about cockroaches again.

Thank goodness there are no cockroaches here in Hong Kong; your hero Pommes is untested still when it comes to cockroaches and I do not want to make another bomb, although I learned to love the bomb in Taiwan.

Chris, Regina, and Pommes who is lying on my forearms looking at me in wonder

Friday, October 24, 2008

Meta-factories and mega-production in China

Image of a piece of machinery in a factoryDear Gentle Reader,

This article looks at one reason why the "the China price" has moved from low-value manufactured goods to high-value manufactured goods.  Your scribe credits what he calls the meta-factory with allowing "the China price" to move up the value chain.

"The China Price" refers to the lowest possible manufacturing price that China's manufacturers are famous for.  

When China joined the world of global commerce, the country produced low-value products that required a large input of low-skilled labour.

It was the cheap price of Chinese labour, combined with high volume outputs, that allowed for "the China price", but now "the China price" is moving up the value chain.

The rise of the meta-factory, a virtual factory with a contributed inventory of manufacturing production units, is allowing "the China price" to impact more and more production markets.

My thesis is that mega-production has been brought about by the rise of meta-factories.  Let's look at mega-production first before I define meta-factories.

Classically, mega-production would be understood as a very large factory output of a particular product to achieve economies of scale.  ('Economies of scale' refers to the idea that if you produce a lot of something, eventually you can produce that thing for much lower cost than someone who produces less.)  

Historically, it has been economy of scale outputs by Chinese factories combined with exceptionally low labour costs and regulatory costs (historically lax environmental and safety regulations, and later lax enforcement, for example) that helped China develop "the China price".

The new reality is that meta-factories allow for mega-production in the sense that vast ranges of products are capable of being produced, not just vast output of a single product. That is what I mean by mega-production in this article.

In the meta-factory a number of businesswomen or men bring together the various manufacturing production units which they own (the machines which are used individually along a factory production line).  

These owners contribute to each other the potential use of idle manufacturing production units, or the potential use of manufacturing production units which are not being used in an optimal capacity.

These meta-factories are not grounded; they are ephemeral, and, as production opportunities coalesce into production contracts, the needed units are combined at a location to produce a "classical" factory production line. 

These classical production lines produce all the goods that the "Factory to the World" produces.

When I read the phrase "Factory to the World" these days it references the reality that China produces almost everything that anyone in the world would want to consume.  

Further, people buy from China because China's businesswomen and men produce goods the world can afford--they produce goods priced at "the China price".

To me, the epithet "Factory to the World" has become a reality due to the rise of the astonishing meta/mega-factories found in both the Pearl River Delta beside Hong Kong and, to a lesser extent, in the Yangtze River Delta beside Shanghai.

A classical factory might look like this. 

Image of an activated carbon factory in Datong, China
A factory like this is purpose-built and designed to produce a thing, a product, efficiently.

Raw materials, coal and energy, are brought to the factory, transformed by manufacturing production units, and a finished product, activated carbon, leaves the factory.

Meta-factories are different because they are an inventory of manufacturing production units available for differing configurations and combinations. These combinatorial possibilities allow for a tremendously broad range of potential output products.

The meta-factory arose as businessmen and women in China started contributing their unused pieces of machinery, the manufacturing production units, into ad hoc joint ventures. 

This allowed the component pieces of factories to become mobile, and the manufacturing production units themselves became "inputs" to other factories.

New factories would be assembled from unused or idle pieces of equipment.  As manufacturing production units were need for higher value applications, they could be swapped out.  

Soon the Pearl River Delta became a meta-factory, so that it could produce mega-factories (from an output perspective).  

Consortia of friends/business owners could assemble their own manufacturing production units to create virtual factories to bid on contracts.

Factory components could be set up anywhere.  When an important person like a buyer or an inspector comes to visit, the manufacturing production line for a specific product can be set up in the pretty factory listed on the contract or pictured in the sales brochure.  

When the important person is gone, the manufacturing production line can be set up in another location, maybe an idle section of another factory, and the glamour site is ready for the next visiting buyer or inspector.

This is the marvel that allows China to be the factory to the world.

It's not just that China can and does produce everything that people in the world could want to consume due to huge, cheap labour pools.  India has massive labour pools, but India is not (yet at least) a factory to the world.

In China, as production and demand opportunities shift, the manufacturers and the owners of units of production can shift or swap components around.

These businessmen and women can bid on tenders to produce anything, almost, without having to buy any, or at least many, manufacturing production units prior to bidding.  

The bidders know they can go into the circle of owners, the meta-market of the meta-factory, and get manufacturing production units to do almost anything. 

For these bidders, the cost of entering new industries drops. The Chinese "meta-factory" owners can now bring "the China price" to new industries that were previously immune to "the China price".  Correspondingly, the Chinese business class moves up the manufacturing value chain.  

Greater wealth also allows for greater state wealth, through taxation, and much of that state wealth is being re-invested in infrastructure projects. Improved infrastructure benefits all factories, but especially the meta-factories as it allows the manufacturing production units to be even more mobile.

There is, however, one thing that these meta-factories cannot swap production around to accommodate...

That one thing is reduced demand.  This whole system still requires exactly what it allows... continuous use of the units of production.

When a global downturn drops sales and production, then unit costs rise and these meta-factories are in trouble.

When credit becomes more expensive, or, worse, inaccessible (see the China opinion post on the credit crisis), then further problems occur which these meta-factory owners are not insulated against.

And that is what your humble scribe sees happening now.