Sunday, May 3, 2015

AKIC's April 2015 Notes, Observations and Thoughts.


  • I didn't realize it was April Fool's Day till it was too late. I was working that day and I could have used it as a subject of conversation at school. I suppose that I was the fool.
  • At the beginning of April, I was following closely the Winnipeg Jets results as they were attempting to make the playoffs. As it was, they had the final playoff spot but only barely.
  • Temperatures shot up to the thirties (that's in Celsius) on the first Thursday of April.
  • I finished reading a Jeeves and Wooster novel.
  • I caught what I liked to call the 8:05 637 and was surprised to see the bus fill to SRO. The majority of times I have taken the 637, I have been the only passenger.
  • I get these emails updates from a blogger named Lloyd Lofthouse who writes about China. It seems he really hates America more than he loves China and that he is an apologist for the Chicom regime. In one entry, he suggested that the CIA had stirred up the students in Tiananmen Square in 1989....
  • I was bragging to a student that I always got a seat when taking the bus, and so she asked me if this was because people were yielding them to me on account of my being old. Ignoring the insult, which I took in very good stride actually, I told her that I always gave myself plenty of time to wait for a bus with available seats, even letting several buses I could take pass by because they had no seats.
  • Reading on the bus was a great thing, I said, and the student agreed. You can't read in a car if you are driving.
  • The day after we had a high of 31 degrees Celsius, the temperature plummeted to a high of sixteen.
  • The Kaulins family may soon be getting a new e-bike. The e-bike we have had since 2008 has so fallen apart – it's plastic body has been held together with cheap tape – that Jenny has finally bowed to my demands that we get a new one. The final straw was the breaking of the latch on the seat. The seat covers a storage area where we keep the charger and extension cord. The latch became out of whack over the years so that locking the seat required us to slam it down. This slamming eventually caused the latch to break in April. No longer latched in place the seat was sliding forward so that the hinge on the other end cracked and the seat now is out of place and very uncomfortable to sit upon. It isn't worth it to fix it, the repairman told Jenny. [We will get the new e-bike after we come back from our June trip to Canada.]
  • “What did you do this morning?” I asked a student. She told me she forgot.
  • I published a picture of a braying donkey on my WeChat App. It was very symbolic. My way of responding to an outrage. I don't know if anyone made the connection. Probably not.
  • All I can do in China is try to improve the level of English. I can't do much about its civilization because the one I come from gets more and more not worth mentioning or defending.
  • As the train was approaching Nanchang Temple station one morning, I got up from my seat and stood next to the door so I could ready myself to exit. And as I was looking out the window, I felt something brush against my knee. I looked down to see that a little toddler had cut in front of me. Perhaps the Chinese are born that way, I thought to myself. The child was accompanied by a man who I presume was his grandparent. Following the child, the old man got up from his seat and stood beside me and laughed sheepishly as I raised my glance upward from his grandchild, who was eager for the door to open, to him.
  • Do I hate Gays? To answer this question I would first have to say that I object to the use of the word gay in the question. Let's try to use that word in the old way. So instead of the word gay in the question, let's use the word homosexual. Now I will answer the properly formed question: Do I hate homosexuals? No. I hate their sin. And to say I hate them would be to say I hate myself because I am a sinner as well. I sin in different ways. And much as I disappoint myself because of this, I don't hate myself.
  • To disapprove does not mean to cast stones. That is, disapproving is not stone throwing.
  • Walking home one evening, I saw some sights that would seem strange in Canada. I first saw a man, wearing a housecoat and walking his dog. I then saw that a couple of men had set a fire on a street corner. I have seen the locals wear pajamas on public streets, so the housecoat wasn't a complete surprise although it was a first because it was a housecoat. The fire on the street corner was not a first either, but seemed to fall into the pattern I have noticed of things happening in pairs for me.
  • The last student I taught before the Easter/Qing Ming Weekend was mopey. She was determined to tell me that she didn't like anything and all that she wanted to do on the Qing Ming weekend was sit in a chair and be miserable. So, I attempted to teach her the word “mope.”
  • I never know how to take students who get in that I-don't-like-anything mood. Other then to run out the clock with them and at least get them to converse in English, there isn't much that I think can do. People who are determined to mope, are very imperious to reason and any attempt I would make to cheer them up.
  • This particular student was one whom I wrote about in a previous monthly entry. I mentioned that in a previous class, she told me that she wanted to be a doctor, following in the foot steps of her father. She then didn't know any of the vocabulary for that class's topic which was about going to the doctor's, and so I had to make her repeat the class. Despite her dourness in the Easter weekend class, I didn't fail her because, unlike the previous class, she knew the required vocabulary.
  • To make students happy is not my priority. My job is to make them improve their English.
  • One student was mopey; another I had to deal with was fidgety.
  • In a class about movies, I had one of the students say I was old because I told them I loved westerns and musicals. I then read Taki, in a recent article, say that he had his son cover his ears when he tried to play a Fred Astaire recording for him. Better to be on the same page with Taki than with anyone under the age of 35.
  • I went in early to the Hui Shan Wanda Starbucks one morning. There was no one there, I had a coupon for a free coffee and the worker told me that my son was very cute. I thought this was wonderful.
  • On Easter weekend, I stayed in the apartment. The weather was horrible: rain, sometimes heavy.
  • News that one of my aunts was moving and selling her old house in Winnipeg so she could move to an apartment near her daughter in Flin Flon (an eight hour drive away) depressed me. Back in the 1970s, Winnipeg seemed like such an attractive place to me because there were so many relatives there. Now, they are dying off and their children have moved to more interesting climes.
  • Tony told me that he wanted to do some trainspotting on a weekend – something we hadn't done in a while. I was glad to hear him voice this desire because it sure beat hearing him beg to play with the Ipad.
  • Scientism: the belief in the redemption of man through science. Hat tip to David Warren.
  • I saw this old woman, hobbling very slowly down the bike path alongside Zhongshan Road. She was walking with the aid of a cane – the kind with four short legs on the bottom – in one hand and a hip-high crutch in the other. She moved so pathetically slow that I had to wonder if she had any relatives to help her, and then I suddenly felt shame as I thought of my mother living by herself in Brandon, Canada. The old woman was going to cross Zhongshan Road at a crossing, near my school, that I was about to take myself. I got to the crossing just a little ahead of her and crossed very quickly and continued on my way to school, all the while wondering how the woman was going to be able to cross the road. In China, cars won't yield to pedestrians unless the pedestrians can get to the open space first, and so it a contest to see who can get through the intersection first. An old woman walking a snail's pace will have a hard time trying to cross a road where drivers are hell bent on not slowing down. I hurriedly entered my school and climbed the stairs to get to the reception area where I could then go to a nearby window to watch the old woman negotiate the crossing. I quickly realized that she wasn't so helpless and was actually a veteran at judging when to cross the street. I saw that she let some cars pass and then proceeded to cross the road seamlessly. A few cars swerved around her and I thought what bastards the drivers were for not yielding. But as she proceeded, cars and buses did come to a stop and she crossed safely.
  • I watched two movie musicals during the Easter weekend: South Pacific and Kismet. I enjoyed them both but alas, I had nobody I can talk about them. Are there some possible rare readers who may have similar tastes to me? No one in Wuxi whether among the teachers, the students or my family would appreciate my love for these kind of movies. If there is anyone, please email me!
  • I remember that, when I was a child and people owned vinyl records, my father had the soundtrack record album for South Pacific. I understand why people of his generation would have enjoyed these movies. What can be better than humming or singing a tune from a movie you just watched? What I don't understand now is why people in this day and age, with rare exceptions, don't enjoy it.
  • The other musical I watched, Kismet portrayed Muslims in a friendly light. While the overlords in Arabia are cruel, the simple folk have a genuine piety. Perhaps that is the way Muslims are today. It seems that it is the ones with the means to travel who cause the trouble. Anyway, Howard Keel, who was the star of the movie, was a genuine movie star. How is it that I hadn't heard of him before?
  • I am reading this book Sapiens, a history of homo sapiens. An interesting book that both David Warren and Jonah Goldberg mentioned this very month. The author asserts that the agricultural revolution was a big mistake. Instead of bringing humans civilization, the revolution instead, says the author, brought drudgery, disease, rapid population increases, and genocide and torture for many other species. Instead of making us free, agriculture enslaved many. The ideal life for humans, suggested the author, was that of the forager who in fact had shorter work hours and more leisure time.
  • Recently, I have eschewed taking the shuttle bus when I go home from work in the evenings. I have discovered that taking the shuttle bus only gets me home five minutes faster than if I walk. So I might as well save a little money and get some exercise. But walking home in the evening, I do feel the tyranny of the motor car. With so many Chinese now owning cars, I find there is little space along the path I take home for pedestrians.
  • Pedestrians are the most human of people on the pathways and roadways of modern civilization. Pedestrians truly have the human perspective on things. And as a proud pedestrian, I have to say that the world created by technology is inhuman. Freedom is an open plain, not a pathway overloaded with parked automobiles.
  • No one can accuse me of heaping praise on Chinese drivers. But if they tried, it would be to accuse me of lying, for Chinese drivers don't deserve praise.
  • One sunny morning, I looked out my apartment bedroom window at the road below and saw a car being passed by two cars, one on its driver's side and one on its passenger side. The road that I can see from our third floor apartment is a two laner. That is, it has a lane for traffic going one way and a lane for traffic going the other. The road also has a width of space for bicycles between the lanes and the sidewalk. This bicycle path is often used as a passing lane by automobiles. The car I saw passing on the passenger side by using the bicycle lane was probably doing about 70 km/h. The vehicle passing on the more conventional driver side was doing about the same speed but was about half a car length ahead of the passenger side vehicle. Traffic coming from the other way forced the driver side passing vehicle to accelerate to get back into the proper lane. The vehicle passing on the passenger side merged in behind it, but just barely.
  • I propose to revolutionize eating. I say we eat lunch in the mornings, dinner at lunchtime and have a nice breakfast for our evening meal. And instead of sticking food in our mouths, I say we eat it by trying to stick it in other places in our bodies.
  • One Friday afternoon, I took the train from school to a Burger King. Not having a seat, I had to read my Ipad standing up (a minor point, probably not even worth mentioning). One stop prior to when I was to get off, the train doors open, I heard some shouting and thought some people were arguing on the platform. But at the next stop I got off and made my way to the stairs when I saw that the shouting I had heard had come from on the train. There was a middle aged woman arguing with an elderly couple. I saw the woman, who stayed on the train, hiss and swear (shus-a-shus-something) at the old couple as they were getting off. The couple stood on the platform close to the door screaming some epithets at the lady while pointing their fingers at her. (Locals point their fingers in a stabbing gesture at people they are quarreling with) The closing of the train doors did not stop the mutual glaring and the couple only turned their attention away from the woman when the train pulled away. I wondered what they were fighting about.
  • And what was the swear word the woman was using? I have heard my wife say it when someone angered her. The girls at work don't understand my attempt at imitating the sound I heard the woman make. The locals can't even to begin to imagine to guess what I am getting at unless I sound a word exactly in the proper tone. The proper syllable said with the wrong tone will not be comprehended so there doesn't seem to be any hope for trying to approximate a syllable even if I try to tell them the context in which I heard it.
  • One Friday night, I decided to walk home in the dark from the metro station. Along the way, I saw a man practicing Tai Chi on a bike path. A little later, I saw a young man standing by himself near a fence blocking access to an apartment community. Before I could wonder what he was doing, I saw him perform a handstand and lean his up-stretched legs against the fence.
  • A taxi driver says that the Wuxi City government is bankrupt to the tune of twenty billion yuan. The reasons? Corruption and the subway system.
  • Out of the blue, Tony told me that he wanted to take the train to Shanghai to go to the train museum which we had gone to one or two years previously.  It was a great idea.  Unfortunately, it was not something that we could have done on an impulse.  I did try to take Tony to the Wuxi East Railway Station but it only served to raise his hopes so much that when I told him that we didn't have tickets to go to Shanghai, he got really upset.

  • So upset was he that I wanted to placate him by buying him a toy that would have raised budgetary concerns from Jenny, but Tony had his mind so set on going to the Shanghai Train Museum that even going to a toy store, with the possibility of buying a toy he wanted , could not raise his spirits.  He said "no!" to toy after toy after that I wanted to buy him.
  • It turned out that the toy he wanted to buy, a Takara Tomy Plarail train, could not be found in Wuxi Stores.  A few years ago, it looked like Tomy Plarail (a Japanese brand) had abandoned the Chinese market.  The range of products available in the stores became limited and it was no longer possible to find accessories in the stores.  They can be found on Taobao, the popular Chinese Internet site, and so Tony has his mind set on always visiting Taobao and looking for the trains he is now in the mood to buy.
  • The Wuxi East Railway Station had a White Elephant look about it.  The people whose idea it was to build the place hoped that they could create an area surrounding the station that was as busy as the squares around the central train stations of Wuxi, Shanghai, Beijing and Nanjing.  Instead, they seem to have added to Wuxi's glut of shopping malls.
  • The one interesting aspect of the station -- besides its vast emptiness -- was a building of glass and stairs that was meant to be an observation deck.  I wish all train stations had such buildings.
  • Monday is my day off.  When I am in Casa Kaulins during the daytime, it is quiet and Tony is at school.  One Monday morning, I was tidying up his toys which he is always leaving on the floor in the living room.  Bending down to put the toys in order (he had his toy fire and emergency vehicles parked almost in a neat row), I became emotional.  In the past, there was a moment when I had my toys in a house.  Lord knows what became of the toys or of the house.  But that was a moment in time, a fleeting one.  This moment with Tony's toys and this time when is Tony is a young boy full of innocent desires and amusements will be gone too I reflected.  This is a moment I would like to freeze.  
  • And I harken back to a moment that I can remember in December 1971.  My family was living in a PMQ in Valcartier, Quebec.  I was looking out the window at the snow in the courtyard of the apartment complex in which we were living and I said to myself to not forget this moment.  That moment has stuck with me.  I have tried to get other moments in time to stick in me but maybe because that was the original one – that is the first time I thought to freeze a moment in time, – that it has stuck.  In the mid 1970s, I would write the day's date on a piece of paper and thought to save them forever.  The scraps were discarded.  
  • I find it hard to believe that the time in which I was living was longer ago than the events which had formed my consciousness were from when I was young.  [Hitler died 19 years before my birth.  The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series over twenty years ago!]
  • I saw a guy who looked like Deng Xiao Ping.  He was short and wore Deng style clothes.  Sights like this are why I came to China.
  • At the Hui Shan Wanda Cinema, I saw a film in the 3D IMAX format for the first time. The movie, Fast and Furious Seven, was silly though full of great technical effects. There were cars flying in the air at great heights, cars on parachutes just happening to land on roads instead of in nearby forests, and cars rolling down mountain slopes without injuring their occupants seriously. The format for viewing the film didn't redeem it in my eyes. The 3D was annoying. The IMAX screen on which I watched the film was not as big as I had expected.
  • There weren't any characters in the F&F movie who were old. Kurt Russell, the oldest actor in the movie was acting young wearing an expensive suit, his hair greased back.
  • The Winnipeg Jets made the NHL playoffs. Hurrah!!!
  • Waiting for the 637 Shuttle Bus one morning, I saw a car weaving and swerving in traffic, driving very aggressively. I wouldn't have mentioned this but for the fact that the driver's car had mouth with sharp teeth decals on its doors. The decals certainly reflected his driving style.
  • What I would like to see more of on cars would be decals of pricks with arrows pointing toward the driver's seat.
  • Questioner: “How are you doing, Andis?” Andis: “Oh. I am still a boring white guy Canadian.”
  • I am getting old. I feel sore in the joints at times. As well, I feel chest pains.
  • I couldn't go back to Canada and do my old jobs because of my declining physical state.
  • I have to confess that I actually worked in Canada.
  • Three times I heard about a foreigner who peed on a bus somewhere in China. First it was from my wife, then from a student, and then from a teacher who read about it on the Internet. We all had to wonder if we knew the foreigner personally. Many foreigners who come to China are barbaric yahoos. And so every foreigner knew a possible suspect who could have been the subject of the story that was widely circulated in China.
  • A student tells me she doesn't like her job.
  • Another student tells me she doesn't like her female boss. “She is fifty and she is in the time of her life where she isn't happy,” said the student.
  • I asked a student to tell me which country he thought was China's best friend in the world. He told me Pakistan and I was initially surprised. But thinking about it, I realized there could be a case for it. China and Pakistan have never had a war against each other. And during China's war with India, Pakistan was a Chinese ally. (The student mentioned Pakistan because there had been news of President Xi paying the country a visit and giving them money.)
  • For the second straight weekend, I took Tony to a toy store and then left it without having bought him a toy. He had his heart set on TOMY Plarail trains which are no longer available in stores in China.
  • I was able to get the four leaked episodes (numbers one to four) of the fifth season of Game of Thrones. One student said she envied me when I mentioned this to her. But I told it was easy for me to get them.
  • Jenny is going to re-watch the first four seasons of Game of Thrones because she wants to keep the plot lines straight and she wants to better understand what the characters with their strangely accented English are saying.
  • I also watched the entire second season of Broadchurch. Jenny wondered, as I did, how there could be a second season. Didn't they find the killer in the first season? Turned out that the case had to go to trial...
  • Was it worth it for the makers of Broadchurch to have made the second season? I will say yes if only because the first season was so good that we wanted to be with the characters some more.
  • I watched the Serpico. Serpico should have been called Serpicool.
  • I just found out that the Ducks beat the Jets in OT. Shite!!
  • Tuesday morning, about 10 o'clock, I was standing at the 637 shuttle bus stop that is near Casa Kaulins. I saw, at vehicle entrance lane to, what I assume is, the Hui Shan District Police Station compound, a man staging a sit-in protest. Vehicles attempting to enter the District compound ended up backing up and entering the compound through the exit lane. The security guards were talking to the man, obviously wanting him to move, but the man then defiantly put his hands behind his head and laid down on the pavement. He was obviously aggrieved by something.
  • It was not the first time for me to see a protest at one of the many government buildings near Casa Kaulins. This Tuesday morning, I stood close enough to have taken a photo but was shy to openly do so. When the security guards looked the other way, I did try and quickly pointed my phone camera at the scene but that photo didn't turn out so well.
  • Later, after having seen the sit-in protester and then having made my way to downtown, I was crossing Zhongshan Road at the crosswalk near our school. I was able to get one vehicle to yield to me but another car, silver in colour, didn't and because it came so close to me, I got riled and decided to pound its back trunk with my fist. It was enough to startle the driver and I saw him slow down for an instance after he had passed me. “What the heck was that noise?” he must have thought.
  • I did a Speaker's Corner about old age. I got a good laugh whenever students prefaced their answers to my questions using "Depends." None of them knew that Depends was the brand name for adult diapers in North America: neither did many of my non North American colleagues.
  • The light turning green at a busy intersection leads to a competition for space between cars moving in opposite directions. I have seen not one, but two or more cars try to turn quickly in front of approaching cars and then narrowly dodge pedestrians (like me) who are trying to get through the intersection as well.
  • What to do about these screwed-up countries flooding their neighbors with their refugees? How about, colonizing them? If these people from screwed-up countries want to go to places that are administered by Americans or Europeans, wouldn't it be better, for them and for the established residents of the countries they want to move to, if the administrators – that is colonial administrators came to fix up the countries that are screwed up and fixed them? Places like Mexico, Libya, Haiti and Cuba maybe need to be looked after by people who know what they are doing.
  • Some of the goals I have seen scored in the current NHL playoffs are not very scintillating. Frequently they are the result of pucks, shot from the point, that manage to find their way in the net because of a broken stick or a freakish deflection off a body in front of the net. These goals not are the result of any great offensive initiative from the players involving great passing or buildups that allow the fans to anticipate the goal.
  • I had a student who had it in his head that sadness or disappointment were synonymous with boredom. Moments when you are very sad, elated, very angry, very disappointed are not boring. In fact, they may be too exciting.
  • I had a student who didn't know what fruit was, who should have.
  • I had a student whom I had trouble trying to explain vegetarianism. (Or should I say “ a student whom I was trying to explain a word to” or “a student to whom I was trying to explain a word”?) I wanted to have a discussion with her about vegetarianism. Not thinking she knew what the word meant, I explained to her what vegetarianism was before asking her to give me her opinion of vegetarianism. To this she said she didn't know vegetarianism was. And so I told her a second time that a vegetarian was someone who didn't eat meat and asked her if she would like to be one and she told me she had forgotten what the word “vegetarian” meant. I became exasperated but persisted. I told her I had already told her twice what the word was. And so I then told her a third time and she finally understood. I've got to tell the students to stop translating in their heads, and start listening and thinking.
  • I watched a video of a debate between the atheist Richard Dawkins and John Lennox. Dawkins is not a good evangelist for Atheism. While he seems comfortable on the doubters turf about religion, he doesn't have much to offer as a replacement for it.
  • I keep to myself as much as I can because I hate having to deal with stupidity. I have enough on my plate with my own stupidity, I will admit; and this stupidity of mine makes it hard for me to deal intelligently with others when they are being stupid. All I can think to do is say “oh” or say nothing at all. Try as I might, I overhear things that are said by people who are trying to be clever or even sound authoritative. One instance this month, I had chance to hear someone sound progressive about English grammar and forms...
  • A student attending a middle school which shares the grounds with Tony's primary school tells me that Tony is well-known, almost a minor celebrity, at the middle school. Many girls at the middle-school think Tony is very cute and like to take pictures of him. The student told me he had seen lots of photos of Tony.
  • At the end of April, I got hit with a bad cold.
  • A student Tom tells me that Hu Jiantao was something of a figure head leader. So, in fact the previous Chinese leader Jiang Zemin , despite giving up his position, kept his power. Hu was unable to dislodge Min supporters from the Chinese government apparatus. Current president Xi is trying to battle them, having recently arrested two generals from the Min camp for corruption.
  • At the end of April or near abouts, the Jets played in the playoffs and lost their series in four straight.
  • At 8:00 PM on the last Tuesday in April, I taught in the classroom of my school that had a great view of Zhongshan Road and downtown Wuxi. Unfortunately, it wasn't so great to see that scene that Tuesday evening because I see could a storm was brewing. It was all I could to do to hope for the storm to come quickly and pass through as quickly as possible. But instead the storm scene built up rather slowly and the heavy rain started falling at 8:45 just as I was about to go outside and make my way to the subway station and go home.
  • A fool can be someone who is living retarded on purpose.
  • A fool can be someone who has rationale for acting retarded.
  • I tried to watch a Yankees Mets game played in the year 2015 but found I couldn't stand the look of it. The players looked like boys, not men. The uniform pants they wore were cuffed (instead of stirruped)which I thought was abominably ugly. The Mets starting pitcher had a mop for a hairdo. The Yankees starting pitcher had a look of pot-induced insouciance and couldn't wear his cap straight. And the new Yankee Stadium looked like a shopping mall. I gave up watching after barely one inning.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

AKIC's March 2015 Notes, Observations and Thoughts.

  • Leonard Nimoy, the folk singer and host of the documentary series "In Search of", who made a name for himself by playing Mr Spock, died at the age of 83. He is just a little bit older then my father who would be 81 now if he was still alive.

  • My seven year old son Tony is into Star Wars. Having shown him some Star Wars Lego cartoons which he liked, I decided to download the first three Star Wars movies – that is the first three made – and show them to him. He likes Star Wars (a New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back, and has re-watched them both. He hasn't seen the Revenge of the Jedi yet.

  • Watching the Star Wars movies with Tony, I have to say that they now seem very insipid to me. The technology imagined is thoroughly silly. Who would built four legged lumbering machines that can be easily tripped by cables? I have to agree with this recent article I read in the archives of the New English Review which said that the Star Wars series movies were mediocre, and that the Tarzan movies and the old Flash Gordon serials were better.

  • I was walking down the street, Zhongshan Road, when I saw an old man riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. On his left and to the front of him was a female pedestrian. He decided to make a left turn just as he was about to overtake the pedestrian. His resulting maneuver startled the woman because he came within inches of touching her. Thinking about it afterward, I had to wonder why he hadn't slowed down and made his turn behind her. For he could have because there was that much space. After then witnessing this, I tried to cross Zhongshan Road at a supposed pedestrian crossing and had to yield to an Audi, with engine gunning, going through the intersection at 80 km/h. Yes. Traffic in China always gives me something to blog about.

  • On a Tuesday night, Tony vomited in bed. He hadn't been drinking: alcoholic beverages that is. He was sleeping in the master bed and so no one in the Kaulins Family China could go to bed till the sheets were changed. Jenny cleaned the old ones and I had to make an after-midnight run to the outside trash bin to get rid of the nanseous smelling refuse. I then supervised Tony as he took a shower and was impressed when he had the presence of mind to say that he wasn't going to have to go to school the next day.

  • TAON #7: There is more goodness in the kind act of a imbecile on the margins than in the good intentions of some politician.

  • PARRHESIA It is a Greek term signifying a willingness to speak openly, boldly, fearlessly, especially in contexts where it might be apprehended that some powerful person could turn nasty. I admire people who have this for I most certainly don't. But at least I can say I am honest. The people who imagine they have this, but really don't, usually are the people who talk of speaking truth to power and proclaim themselves to be in sympathy with Barack Obama. These days, the people who really have Parrhesia are reactionaries.

  • I visited someone's apartment. Next to the complex, where the apartment was, was a huge pit which was the start of another building construction. "What are they building there?" I asked the host. "A Shopping Mall, twenty floors high." she told me. "What!" I exclaimed, "They are building another shopping mall! They must surely be out of their minds!" My host agreed and shrugged her shoulders.

  • For a salon class, topic: dreams, I read my class roster list and saw that I have a roster list of nightmare students. In teaching, there will be students who you can't help but hate. You have to hope you can tell them something that may sink in years down the line. You can't expect to change their attitudes quickly. You have to war with them in a war you can't expect to win.

  • "Goddamn the USA!" I gave credit to Obama's former favorite religious preacher for the quote. Why am I saying this? This evil idea of net neutrality is coming into being. Eventually, the Internet will become more expensive and you will only be able to access sites you would never have visited in the days when the Internet was not regulated. The Internet was too good a thing to last, alas. Surely, the Chicoms are looking at what the American FCC is doing and applauding.

  • Soso Jughashvili: Stalin's name when he was younger. Soso is what many students will say I ask them how they are doing.

  • Teacher: How are you? Student: Oh just a Soso. Teacher: Just a Soso Jughashvili?

  • You better not fret. You better not cry. You better not pout. I am telling you why! Soso Jughashvili is coming to town! He knows when you've been disloyal. He's got agents everywhere. So you better be good or else there will be a late night knocky knock knock.

  • From my cousin, who I mentioned has nine children, I got an email announcing that Little Evelyn Rose has arrived. So, that's number ten for her.

  • Good on her for having so many children. But I do have a couple of jokes I want to make. First, my cousin produces children the way Wuxi builds shopping malls. Second, she has almost as many children as Soso Jughashvili had produced bastards.

  • Contemplating a Wuxi sky dulled with smog I have to ask why any foreigner would want to live in Wuxi. I'd say for the isolation.

  • I will come out and admit it. If I see people I know as I make my way around Wuxi, my instinct to avoid them.

  • If I was a betting man, I would say that Hilary Clinton will be the next President of the United States. Too many voters in America are stupid these days (They re-elected Obama is proof of this contention) and the Republicans, the stupid party, will not take advantage of the fact that Hilary is so obviously unaccomplished and devious.

  • Words I would use to describe Bill Clinton: pervert, pedaphile, rapist, liar, politician.

  • Words I would use to describe Hilary: liar, cuckoldess, unaccomplished.

  • Briefly visiting the Toys R Us in the Hui Ju Mall, I got a copy of the 1/15 to 6/15 Chinese Lego catalogue and immediately brought it to Tony. As I expected, he was enthralled with it. He was, in fact, so enthralled that Jenny complained, the next morning, that he wouldn't eat his breakfast because he was so intently studying the catalgue

  • I am have been binge-reading Stalin, Volume 1 by Stephen Kotkin. A good book though it sometimes talks too much of the history of the time while not focusing so much on what Stalin was doing at the time. The author has pointed out that Stalin's rise to power was as remarkable as Hitler's. Hitler at one point in his life was living in penury, making money as a street painter in Vienna. Stalin, for his part, never possessed a real job for an appreciable length of time. After he left the seminary where he was a student, Stalin was basically a revolutionary and a thug. With no qualifications or any practical experience of everyday life, he became more powerful than the Tsars who had reigned Russia for three hundred years.

  • That the Bolsheviks ever got so much power was a result of their ruthlessness and a lot of luck. Some of their opponents lost their nerve at crucial moments when they could have easily rid themselves of the Bolsheviks. Thinking of the ruthlessness, I can understand why Pinochet did what he did in toppling the Marxist Allende who had been courting the likes of Fidel Castro. Pinochet pre-empted a civil war that would have resulted in a greater loss of life than the few thousands leftists he did kill.

  • In this blog, I mentioned my surprise at reading about the Russian exiles belief that the Russian revolution was the result of "Jewish brains, Russian stupidity and Latvian Rifles." With my previously very superficial knowledge of the Russian Revolution, which this Stalin biography is helping to rid me of, I would have understood the role that the first two parts, of the triplet mentioned, had played in that event, and been mystified by the third. But I understand the third reference now. The Latvian Rifles were a military unit, comprised of Latvians, who guarded the Bolshevik leadership during the early part of the Russian Revolution where anarchy truly reigned. Without the protection of these Latvians, the Bolsheviks could easily have been destroyed by the other factions.

  • I hate teaching Business English. Can anything be as boring as trying to teach and make interesting business management concepts like Maslow's hierarchy of needs or performance management or business lunch? Business English is often English used when trying to bullshit people.

  • One Thursday, I took the train from school to Ikea where I had hot dogs for supper. The trip took ninety minutes all told.

  • On a few other occasions, I took the train to the Maoye Burger King.

  • I have been following the Winnipeg Jets pursuit of a playoff spot in the 2015 NHL playoffs. As I type this, they are one point out of a playoff spot with the team in front of them having a game in hand. It looks very touch and go as to whether they can get that spot.

  • One morning, I got off the train at the Nanchang Station. As I was about to exit by the automatic turnstiles, I was amused to see a woman in front of me, pulling luggage and also exiting, do a dumb thing. She used her ticket to open the exit turnstile and then proceeded to try to go through the wrong turnstile, the one beside the one she should have gone through. (Probably something I have done myself, I will say now, to make the noting of it in my blog seem not so cruel on my part.) After getting through the turnstiles myself – I had to verve away from her and find an unblocked turnstile – I proceeded to the escalators but not before turning around to see that the woman was still stuck at the turnstile. At the escalators, a man and a girl stopped right in front of the escalators annoying me because I had to come to halt from a nice galloping pace I had built up. After five seconds of hesitating, the pair decided to not take the escalator. Idiots all, I thought to myself.

  • Wuxi Metro passengers ignore the injunction, of the Metro designers and the Metro PA voice, for them to wait for other passengers to have exited the train, before they board it. I tempted to kick them in the shins as I get off or put my shoulders down like an American Football player and knock them all to the ground or at least send them reeling.

  • They seem to issue driver's licenses to apes in China. Either that or Chinese humans turn into apes when they drive their cars.

  • People who drive cars become less civilized. Their actual horizons become smaller even though they can travel faster and greater distances on the Earth's surface. A driver in the City doesn't seen the stars. One, because the glare and the smog caused by the government built infrastructure to support cars obscures the sky. Second, because the driver is focused on himself. Even if his car doesn't have roof, he looks only the road ahead or his GPS.

  • The previous thoughts are a result of having read, on the same day, anti-car entries by both Peter Hitchens and David Warren. Hitchens makes the point that the infrastructure set up for cars is not something that libertarians should be supporting. Car companies are in cahoots with governments in a crony-capitalist way, says Hitchens, and he contents that car manufacturing would not be profitable save the subsidies given to auto companies by governments. It is an interesting point and I wonder if research done by economists would bear this out. Warren's piece was actually more about trains – which he adores – but he did find opportunity to reiterate his opposition to car. The aspect of automobile infrastructure that he found to be anti-libertarian, and thus crony capitalist, was the government regulating of urban parking spots.

  • Local: "Is that your lunch?" Me: "No it's so-and-so's lunch. I stole it from him or her!"

  • Everybody, I have been told, likes the taste of their own urine.

  • Local: "Did you have lunch?" Me: "No. Lunch had me."

  • One morning, as I was walking out of my apartment complex, making my way to the shuttle bus stop which would take me to the subway station and to the train that would take me downtown to work, I was sideswiped by an e-bike that had come from behind. I felt the hard metal of the e-bike as it swiped me. The e-bike was ridden by a mother who was taking her son to school. I was not hurt in the least but I was briefly annoyed, standing for an instant in exasperation before continuing on my way and making a mental note to myself to mention it in this blog.

  • It was not the first time that I had been hit by an e-bike that was cutting it a little too close to me as I was minding my own business.

  • I did a demo class for a company located in the Taihu New City area of Wuxi where there is another huge shopping mall (called Coastal City) and lots of colossal and tall office buildings that surely can't be more than twenty percent occupied. The company I went to was located on the 18th floor of one of these buildings. There, the corridors were wide enough for two lanes of traffic and the lobby by the elevator was an empty space that was probably bigger than Jenny's apartment.

  • Some quotes from David Warren's blog: 1)"Real men" are usually unknown, as I have seen in many other situations. They do not make spectacles of themselves. 2) ...real men are not rapists. They are in control of themselves, and they do not do what they must not do. This pertains of course to everything, not just "sex," which is the first thing everyone thinks of in our disgracefully sexualized culture.

  • In 1926, four doctors did a thorough medical examination of Stalin and they found so many things wrong with him. Soso had diarrhea, dormant TB in his lungs, and a withered arm that was becoming more atrophied. By today's standards, you would say he wasn't a well man. And yet he became so powerful.

  • My Hui Shan local contact is a businessman who deals internationally. He told me that starting after the spring festival, the Chinese central government decreed that all banks closely monitor all transactions, no matter how small, involving changing rmb to US dollars. He said it was making his business very difficult because of the amount of paperwork it involved. I said these capital controls weren't a good sign. And thinking about it, I recalled I had had another businessman tell me that he was thinking of exchanging his Chinese savings for other currencies.

  • There is a foreigner in my neighborhood. Jenny first told me she had seen him and then I saw him. I noted his scruffy appearance, and mentioning this to Jenny, she agreed and said the fella looked like a "junkie." I couldn't have described it better.

  • I went to the Hui Shan Tesco to buy some groceries. I was in the checkout aisle and it was just about my turn to be served when this old woman queued up behind me, getting a little bit too close to me for my liking. Just as I finished putting my groceries on the counter for the clerk to scan, the woman annoyed me by placing her purchases not behind mine, but basically all around my purchases. My ire raised, I thought "the old hag" was trying to have the clerk scan some of her things onto my bill. I didn't bag my things until I was sure the clerk had finished scanning them and hadn't scanned the hag's. Was I being paranoid? Yes. Why? I haven't shed my Canadian habit of being discomfited by people standing close to me in line.

  • Tony had gotten into the habit saying "s***" when things displease him. One Sunday afternoon, Tony & I were at the Hui Ju Mall. Tony was in a hurry to go home and didn't like it when I told him that I had to take some time to take a pee. "S***," he said when I told him this. "I want to go home."

  • A student told me she had gotten a one thousand rmb speeding ticket. An expensive fine but comparable to the fines you get in Canada where the rates are surely set for maximum extraction. The student was doing 91 in a 60 kmh zone and was caught by a camera. She told me that a taxi driver told her that cameras in traffic lights generate over a million and a half rmb in fines per month.

  • The fine rates for speeding in Canada are surely the result of a continual process of upping the fines 25 to 50 dollars a time, many times, over many years.

  • At the bus stop near Casa Kaulins, I saw an older man sitting on the bench, his feet out of his shoes so that his white socks could be seen by all who passeb by him.

  • The death of the former leader of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, generated interesting blog entries by Theodore Dalrymple and David Warren. The Singapore leader created a Singapore that was certainly well run and hygenic, the writers admitted, but they both had qualms about the leader's methods and thus ultimately his final results.

  • David Warren compared Singapore to Hong Kong, and said that the Deng Xiao Ping was inspired by a the Singapore model of development because it showed how the Communists could keep their hold on power without the anarchy of the HK colony which had been benignly neglected by the British.

  • Interesting, I asked one of my better informed students, Tom, about whether Singapore was an inspiration for Deng, and he more or less agreed. But he discounted Deng being primarily inspired by Singapore's authoritarianism. Tom said Deng was inspired by the fact that the Singapore of Lee Kuan Yew was a Chinese creation while Hong Kong was British.

  • Tom told me he preferred Singapore to Hong Kong. And so I asked him how it was that Wuxi's level of orderliness and cleanliness was so low. Things happen on Wuxi roads and sidewalks that would not be tolerated in Singapore, I told him. To this, Tom told me of a survey if cities in China that ranked Wuxi at a low level of civilization. A high level of civilization presumably being a place like Singapore. It was Tom's contention that Wuxi scored low on the civilization ranking of Chinese cities because it was filled with people from the countryside. Wuxi local people, he said, knew to stop at red lights. He told me he was baffled by the ignorance of traffic rules in Wuxi and took the time once, near his factory, to see who were ignoring traffic rules and lights. He saw that it was the machine operators from his factory, all of whom were from the countryside. He theorized that these people were often in a hurry to get to another place where they were also working or that they were under so much pressure to make money for their families back home.

  • What did you do last night? I asked Tony. He told me he did his homework and then watched TV.

  • Here's what it's like with the computers at school. I cannot install or save anything on the C drive or the desktop because the next day, it will all be gone. Software I like, which is not supplied by the system we are on, has to be installed on a Z drive. I found this all out the hard way after discovering that everything I had installed on my computer the day before was gone.

  • Forgot to give Tony his lunch one morning and so I had to go to school to give it to him. I was quite the sight for all the kids who saw me. A foreigner walking their halls could just as well be a panda. Tony attends a local school, not an international school because I can't afford it and the snobbishness in those places would make Tony's life hell.

  • I was reading this article entitled 33 Ways to Boost Your Career When You're Bored at Work. Many of the 33 things mentioned, like learn to code, read a book, learn a language, and write a blog, I had thought to do already. Where is my career boost? Ha!

  • Is a racist someone who has ill opinions of other races or someone who wants there to be genocide of the races of people he doesn't like? If a real racist is strictly the latter then I would posit that the number of racists in the world is very small. This is very inconvenient for Leftists who need the supply of that kind of racists to be bigger in order to justify their world views and political stances.

  • Sunday, March 29, the temperature was warm enough that I could take off my jacket. Unfortunately, the sky was dingy on account of smog and everywhere seemed covered in a thin film of dust. Best to stay home and read a book, I thought, but Jenny didn't want Tony to stay indoors because all he was going to do was play with Ipad, and so I had to take him somewhere, out of the apartment and away from the Ipad, like a park. Tony very much didn't want to go outside but he had a good idea. He said he wanted to play Ipad on the subway. I was amenable to this idea because I thought of a scheme of my own to pull on him. So, Tony & I went by e-bike to the Yanqiao Metro Station. I let Tony play with the Ipad on the train, but after just four stops we got off at a station that had a nearby park. The park was, considering the niceness of the day, very underutilized. It had a look of being built with a build-and-they-will-come hope that had yet to pan out. It boosted of a shopping area with all empty store fronts and fixtures that were still in good condition because of limited use. I enjoyed myself there but Tony was wanting to return to the station and get back on the train and play Ipad. I delayed doing this by telling Tony that as soon as we got to another sight in the park we would turn around. And then Tony had another bright idea. He suggested that we walk on to the next subway station (Tianyi) instead of turning around and returning to the station where we had disembarked (Xizhang). The Tianyi and Xizhang stations seemed close together and I suppose it was but a ten minute walk between them. So to Tianyi we went. There, we got on the train. Tony then played Ipad and we returned to Yanqiao. I had managed to satisfy both Tony and Jenny, thanks to some thinking on my and even Tony's part.

  • On the train with Tony, I had this shy young man approach me to talk. He told me he was attending #6 High School and that he lived in Jiazhouyangfang (my apartment complex). He said he wanted to talk me so he could practice his English. When I told him I was impressed with his efforts, he thanked me and said I had given him confidence to continue to learn to speak English. I was touched by what he said, especially because the day before I had to spend two hours with a pair of students who I very much would have liked to have pummeled and who, to even think of afterwards, filled me with rage. (As it was, I had to spend the classes thinking of ways to insult them) It was so wonderful to know that there were some students who very much want to learn English. They do help me deal with the fact that I have to be stuck with spoiled brats (how is this possible in a country that is Marxist? Hmmm?).

  • On the way back to Casa Kaulins from the Yanqiao Metro Station, Tony & I passed through the Hui Shan Central Park. Tony was disappointed to see that the slides and climbing fixtures had been taken away. I thought the fifty foot tall climbing fixture was remarkable because it certainly could not have been erected in the safety-facist West.

  • With no fixtures, I was able to get Tony to walk up a hill and look at the scenery. While there, I thought it remarkable to see this woman wearing a short dress, black pantyhose and high heel platform dress shoes picking flowers from a bush. She had put the flowers in her hair, and her daughter's as well.

  • I rode the 25 bus on the second last day of March. It was wonderful to see poor people. The rich people in Wuxi are boring in the way that people with newly acquired wealth always are. The better off in Wuxi look like Westerners and are not in the least exotic. The poorer ones on the other hand seem closer to being what I imagine authentic Chinese to look like.

  • On the second last evening of March I booked my flight tickets for my trip in Canada. (Jenny had booked the tickets to Canada last month). We will spend about three nights in Vancouver: enough time for me to get my driver's license renewed and for us to get Tony's Visa so he can get back to China.

  • The high temperature on the last day of March in Wuxi? 27 degrees Celsius. Too hot already!


Monday, March 2, 2015

February 2015 Notes, Observations and Thoughts

So here are my February 2015 Notes, Observations and Thoughts:


  • I watched Super Bowl XLIX at Casa Kaulins on a Monday morning local time. I was so disappointed to see the Seahawks lose that I stayed from the news for 24 hours because I was upset at the Seahawks manner of losing and I didn't want to see the headlines with photos of celebrating New England Patriots.

  • What was the Seahawks QB thinking when he made that pass at the one yard line? Or what was the coach thinking when he made that play call? Surely, the Seahawks with their great fullback Lynch could have easily have pounded the ball into the end zone. When watching the play, I was wondering as the quarterback stepped back to pass, why he wasn't just giving the ball to Lynch.

  • Is American professional football fixed? When the score was 24-14, I knew that the Patriots were destined to come back and take the lead. At that point in the game, it seemed so inconceivable that the game was going to be clinched with seven minutes to go. And my premonitions turned out to be right.

  • Doing the January 2015 edition of AKIC Notes, Observations and Thoughts was agony. I edited the entry, reading it over and over again and was never satisfied with the writing. I marvel at the likes of Theodore Dalrymple and David Warren who write so well and write so much. I marvel at the minds they have and at how wonderful it would be to live in their heads.

  • A girl at the office is pregnant. Her pregnancy, judging from the amount of pouting and sighing she is doing, is remarkable. And so I have given her the nickname Octomom.

  • What is an adjective you would use to describe 22 to 39 year old woman? A young male student said "tall." Not the sort of sex-specific, aka gender-specific, word I was hoping to hear.

  • The lesson plan for that particular salon class suggested teaching the students about gender-stereotyping. I didn't bother with that left-wing tripe and decided to stick to trying to teach English.

  • I have done something historical. That is, if you can say my doing something out of character and/or against my reputation is historical. For the first time ever, I have actually purchased apps from the iTunes store. I bought a table hockey game (so I could play against my brother Ron on our iPads across the globe), a Python 3 compiler, and Mine Craft Pocket Edition (for Tony).

  • After I loaded the Mine Craft app on my iPad, I tried to play it and found that I couldn't figure it out. Tony then tried the app and was easily doing all sorts of things with it and finding all sorts of options on it that I didn't know were possible. I assume he learned how to do those things by watching Mine Craft game play videos on Youku and Youtube. It was, after all, because of watching Youku that he saw the game and then asked me to find it for him.

  • I would like to spend all of 2015 watching nothing but Hollywood Musicals. So far, I have watched two. The Bandwagon and Funny Face both starring Fred Astaire.

  • Jenny tells me that when she got off the train at Sanyang plaza, she saw an old man steal a brush that the subway station cleaners had put down. Jenny was staring right at the man when he put the brush in his jacket. She said he smiled when he noticed that she was staring at him. I assume that he smiled in the weaselly way that the Chinese do when they are caught red-handed or when they have been shamed or embarrassed. [The Western way of weaseling out of things involves either bold rationalizations or becoming red faced.]

  • A week after buying the Stitcher Table Hockey League App, my record was nine wins, eleven losses, four OT wins and five OT losses: 13-16 overall. [At the end of February, my record is Fifty Eight wins, Twenty Two losses, Eleven OT wins and Nine OT losses: 69-31 overall.]

  • On a Friday evening, I had a student who came 54 minutes late for a 55 minute salon class. That is, he came in at 8:54 for a class that was to end at 8:55. There were other four students in the class who had showed up on time for the class; and like me, they were surprised when he came in and sat down like he was only five minutes late. The tardy student's strange perception about time was on account of the fact that he was drunk. I learned from him that he was so late because the teacher, he had for a previous class he had scheduled at 7:00, decided to have the class away from school and buy him beers.

  • Are most of the people who teach English in China alcoholics, ******s or mountebanks?

  • Jenny & Tony went to a Thailand for a week in early February. Tony was on his winter holiday from school and so there was a group of parents and children from our apartment complex that they could go with while I had to stay in Wuxi and work.

  • So while the wife & son were away: I did the following:

    • Had all three of my laptops in use for various purposes.

    • Went to the Lavit Mall (on the Wuxi #2 Metro Line) where I went to Ikea to eat hot dogs (as well as to bring some frozen dogs home), and had flame-broiled goodness at Burger King. [This Lavit Mall is called Juhui by the locals.]

    • Walked to the Hui Shan Wanda Mall from the Yanqiao Subway station, by going through a courtyard of a plaza which seemed very forlorn because it contained many empty stores and had fading signs that had been built before the Wanda Mall.

    • Went to a toy store to get another copy of a Lego catalogue for the Tony boy.

    • Read in bed.

    • Used the family e-bike to go to the subway station on some of my work days.

    • Felt very lonely.

    • Felt happy to hear that Tony was having a good time.

  • When I went to the Lavit Mall (again, known to the locals as the Juhui Plaza), I decided to take the Wuxi Metro Line #2 as far as I could westward and noticed the following things:

    • The line went past a lot of empty fields: maybe more that the Line #1.

    • Three of the stations on the line weren't open yet. So I had the sensation of the train going on past two dark stations.

    • One station, by an apartment community under construction, felt very forlorn. I was the only person to board the train there. And I had only gotten off the train at that station out of interest.

  • I read in David Warren's blog that Canada now has legalized physician-assisted suicide. Warren, a traditional orthodox Catholic, says Canada is now a much less humane country. I agree with him. As someone who left Canada eleven years ago and may some day have to go back, I expect a lonely and depressing time when I do. Canada is a land of high taxes, hard-to-get government service, large fines, preening Leftists, reflexive anti-Americanism, easy divorce, easy to get drugs, irreligion and intense cold, as well now as being a place where it is hard to get any sympathy. You're just unnecessary, please kindly permit us to snuff you off. First legalized abortion, now this.

  • I was happy to see Jenny & Tony return from Thailand. A picture in which Jenny was wearing a bathing suit made me particularly excited to see her. Tony I suspect was happy to see me because he could again play Mine Craft on my iPad Mini.

  • Tony told me he loved seeing elephants and playing on the beach when he was in Thailand.

  • Jenny had a few observations: 1)Thailand was poor and had squalor that was worse than her hometown. 2)Shopping in Thailand was inexpensive. 3)There were Chinese tourists everywhere.

  • I have never had a hankering to go to Thailand. If I had a chance to go, I would look forward to it. But as it is, I think of it as place for the kind of tourists who get shepherded around. I believe that there are also two other sub-categories of modern tourists who go to Thailand that I don't want anything to do with: the partier and the sex tourist, aka pervert.

  • I had a chance to go off-site for the school. I was taken to a company in the new district to judge in a speaking competition. While the taxi was taking us – that be me and the handlers – there, I was appalled by the smog. It was dull gray with tinges of brown, and was slightly obscuring buildings that really weren't that far away.

  • Obama, I heard, got on his high horse to warn others to not get on their high horses to complain about a barbarity or barbarities recently done in the name the Prophet. When a progressivist of Obama's ilk says this sort of thing, what he is really saying is that only he and his ilk are allowed to get on high horses and that others, not of his ilk, dare not.

  • Why is it that sometimes when I try to edit text, the cursor won't advance but instead seems to go backwards deleting what I am trying to write?

  • Three kinds of people teach English in China: alcoholics, ******s and dipsticks. How I wish this wasn't so, but there it is. If there are places in China where this is not so, I want to know about them. I wanted to be proved wrong. And by people who are honestly not alcoholics, *******s, dipsticks or at least possess a smidgen of honesty. [There isn't any fourth category for which you may think I have placed myself. I put myself with the dipsticks.]

  • The following is the journalizing that I did on my iPod Touch Note App from a few days before my week long CNY holiday to the sixth day of my CNY Holiday. (It has been edited.)

  • Fish sucking feet. Near Casa Kaulins, in the Ramada Plaza, there is a spa, of sorts, which the K family went to on the last Monday before the Chinese New Year. The place has an indoor hot pool and outdoor hot spas. Two of the spas have these small fish that will suck on your feet if you stand still. I stood for a long time in both those pools to let the fish suck my toes which are disfigured because of funguses that I have plagued me since my days in the Militia.

  • Jenny tells me we will be spending six days in countryside. Why so long I? I asked. Jenny said that was the earliest her mother could buy us a return bus ticket.

  • Demise of the Sun News Network. From David Warren's blog, I learned of the demise of an attempt at a Canadian right wing news TV channel. That and PAS, gives me another reason to despise Canada. [Television it seems is a Left Wing medium. This is because television emphasizes surface appearances and rapid presentations of topics. It has no time for long drawn out meditations or thinking on any issues. Radio it seems is a Reactionary or Right Wing medium because spoken dialogue does involve thinking and use of the imagination that television does not.]

  • VPN clampdown in China. So I have heard but so far, my VPNs are still functioning fine.

  • Grandfather Mao. I was talking about Chairman Mao to a young student of middle school age, and he asked me who Chairman Mao was. I was baffled as to how to explain who Mao was to him because it seemed so dumbfounding that he wouldn't know who I was talking about. So, I thought to tell the student that Chairman Mao was the man whose face was on all Chinese paper money. When it finally did sink in to the boy who it was I was talking about, he told me that everyone in his class referred to the Chairman as Grandfather Mao.

  • A student pointed out that it was ironic that Google OS would be on many Chinese android phones, given how the Chinese government was doing everything it could to block Google in China.


  • Now beginneth my CNY entries:


Pre CNY night

  • I try to speak some Chinese to Jenny's brother who had come to pick us up and take us to the in-laws compound in Beixing, a small village outside of Taixing and just north of the Yangtze (Changjiang) river.

  • Jenny's brother was relying on GPS to get him through streets of Jiangying city.

  • We arrive at compound at night.


Day 1

  • Morning. Noise all around the compound: shouting, talking, dogs, chickens, horns, vehicles racing by and fireworks.

  • Read some Evelyn Waugh to pass the time.

  • Go for a walk to a nearby street.

  • See a fellow with a ponytail. Too cool for the countryside I thought.

  • See lots of wares for sale on street.

  • See Aihao pens in a shop which was good. The shop just didn't have the Aihao model I wanted.

  • See trash everywhere.

  • See old an squat peasant woman and so I say to myself, as a reminder, that I am in an exotic locale.

  • Buy Tony a set of three toy plastic fire trucks for 20 rmb.

  • Andis! Chi! [Andis! Eat!]

  • Old man, frail and hunched, feebly shovels trash into his bicycle wagon.

  • Drivers instead of slowing down press on their horns.

  • Get stares being a foreigner and all.

  • The garbage everywhere in the countryside depresses me.

  • Have this vague plan to make a film for this week but my heart isn't in it.

  • Mother-in law has bike. I think I should go for a ride. [It turns out I don't.]

  • Public shower. We can't take showers in the in-laws home. All they have is a bath with no hot water tap. So we usually bathe with basins and hot water that they have boiled and put in thermoses. But this time, we can go to a public shower place. The place however is icky. It is near a polluted canal. As well, the area around the place is full of rubbish. The showers have no drains. Water goes out via troughs that surround the shower floors.

  • Early to bed for me. I have a headache.


Day 2

  • Xin nian kuai le! Xin nian hao! Happy New Year!

  • Late to rise.

  • Forced out of bed by mob coming to visit.

  • J's Brother then drives us to some relatives houses.

  • The man of each house hands me a smoke.

  • I remember the houses from previous CNYs.

  • I xinnianhao everyone.

  • No video. I won't make one. I will instead just record my thoughts in the iPod Touch Note App.

  • I didn't wear new clothes and so Baba chastises Jenny. I dress like I am going camping whenever I am in the countryside.

  • (I have gotten new clothes but I don't want to wear them in the countryside)

  • Thought I had while sleeping: There are Catholics who vote Democrat because of this moral calculus they employ where they figure that by doing so, they can reduce abortions. They reason that by compromising with pro-abortionists, that there would less abortions than if they opposed abortion outright. If that is their logic, I think that they should as well advocate terror tactics – that is killing abortion doctors – in seeking to reduce abortions. If it can further reduce the number of abortions then why not? The terror tactics employed by Muslims to achieve their goals have worked: for they have frightened the West. Look at airport security. A few murders of abortionists would be similarly effective wouldn't they? Look at Western Leftists. They, who are big abortion advocates, are scared to say tickety-boo against Muslims. And really, there isn't that much terrorism and the number of terrorists is few anyway. So, what's wrong with advocating that only a few abortion doctors get shot? Do the math as Catholics for Obama say. Sure, there is killing, but overall there is less killing. [BTW, I don't advocate killing abortionists. I think they should be shamed in stopping what they do.]

  • Everybody seems to have an iPhone 6 in Jenny's family.

  • It's afternoon: everyone hanging out. Visitors come in. Kids have been dragged along: one specimen, a young boy wearing a green and white sweat suit bearing Apple logos seems particularly put out. He sits and slopes down the chair so that the bottom edge of it supports his back.

  • Tony won't share his potato chips with me.

  • I am at near the end of Decline and Fall, a novel by Evelyn Waugh.

  • I want to buy some shaving cream. Two days of growth having me feeling like a bum.

  • Tony has kids to play with. I suppose I should be glad. But I only see Tony getting in trouble.

  • There are two adult dogs in the compound. One is a puddle: very active, jumping all over everyone in the compound. It always has to be hushed out of the living quarters. The other dog has three puppies which are not old enough to scamper about yet.

  • I finish D & F.

  • Tony is hard to reason with. I wanted to make a deal with him where all he had to was walk with me for ten minutes and he could have played with the iPad Mini to his heart's content. But he was absolutely insistent on not going on the walk and playing the IPM. He is not yet mature enough to reason.

  • I am in bed at 6:00PM.


Day 3

  • I am up at 8:00 AM sort of.

  • Someone is letting off fireworks at 8:00 AM. Why?

  • Last evening, I watched 80 percent of the Godfather on my MBP.

  • Tomorrow, we will go to Jenny's real mother's place.

  • Today, no plans except to watch the end of the Godfather, watch a musical and start a book: possibly GKC.

  • I'd like to get Tony outside but he's not interested.

  • I'm not interested in going outside today either. It's grey, windy and cold.

  • Change of plan: we will go to Jenny's natural parents this afternoon.

  • It has started to rain. I wish we didn't have to go out.

  • J's sister drives us out to Jenny's natural parents. Interesting ride. The roads were paved but became narrow. Cars approaching each other have to slow down.

  • J's sister's driving is not great. She stalls her manual transmission car about three times. Still, she navigates her car successfully through the narrow roads and tight turns to get to the house.

  • The house where we pay a visit is big, but basically a concrete shell with stone tile floors. There is lots of space but the place is chilly. It has a courtyard and a second floor. Kitchen is on one side of courtyard. They tell me it was built in 1994.

  • I see these twin brats for the second time. When I saw them during the last Golden Week holiday, I nicknamed them Lenny & Squiggy. If only they could be as interesting. As it is, they are chubby, wear glasses and have the pallor of sedentary types. No apparent awareness of my presence when I xinnianhaoed them.

  • The twins, another boy and Tony watch TV.

  • The TV is in a bed room. The boys sit on a bed to watch it.

  • Tony wants the iPad Mini which I had brought along.

  • No Internet. No a/c. But they have cable TV.

  • I nibbled at supper there which is my habit when in the countryside.

  • We didn't stay for long thankfully. The rain didn't allow me to have a wander so I felt very bored.

  • I have read one Father Brown Story.

  • Went to the public shower by myself: I see that it costs10 RMB.

  • I watch the musical film Anchors Aweigh, starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, on the MBP. Kelly has a great screen presence, an aristocratic manner.


Day 4

  • Tony wanted to go home on the second day. And he is saying again that he wants to go home.

  • I've read a lot. A bit of GKC, Shakespeare, Wallace Stevens, Robert browning, Confucius, Romano Guardini, and Sigrid Undset

  • One minute, I am under the covers; the next, there are people in our room.

  • I have been lazy this holiday. Ashamedly so.

  • The weather: cloudy and cool.

  • On TV, some kids dressed in bunny suits dance to Gangnam Style. There seems to be a whole channel dedicated to this and other sappy kids programs. Does the one child policy cause this?

  • I am desperate for thoughts.

  • After lunch, we walk to a nearby grocery store. Its selection is passable. I get Jenny to buy me five cans, all different brands, of beer.

  • Tony wants to buy a toy. There is nothing to buy at the grocery store, so I take him to nearby shops where we had bought that set of toy fire trucks. At one of them, I am accosted by a worker speaking pidgin English to me. I then go to a shop with an interesting selection of pens, including Ai Haos, and continue my quest for a particular model of Ai Hao that I have been craving to get more of. Tony, however, wants me to rush out of the store. He says the toys at that shop are stupid. After much squabbling, we leave the pen shop and we settle on a set of airport rescue toys for me to buy him.

  • I can't get Wifi and the WeChat social app on my phone but Jenny can on hers. Her IP6 has 4G.

  • I learn that the 2013 and the 2014 Shanghai Expat of the Year, Paul Rudkin, has a bad case of pneumonia. This stuff happens to other people. Not to me. In my over ten years in China, nothing has sidelined me.

  • Hot pot at 330 PM! Too early if you ask me!

  • Countryside is not for the squeamish. And yet I admit I squeamish. And yet, I am in the countryside. Why? It is what the love of a good woman requires. So, I am forced to become less squeamish.

  • Thought Apropos Of Nothing. A TAON!

  • TAON #1: A teacher has got a middle school student to teach and doesn't know what to teach the boy. I tell him to take the student to a brothel. Why? He had taken another student to a pub in lieu of having a class. If you want to be a legend, you gots to do legendary things.

  • TAON #2: This ****** says he never would go to ******land for a holiday. I think to myself that his girlfriends would want to..:

  • TAON #3. Does anyone read this? (I will publish it in the blog) Not being Catholic but wanting to be, I have no other means of confessing.

  • TAON #4: If I knew how to write with style, I would write a D&F type novel about my life written from the perspective of Pendergrast. (He was a teacher who wore a wig, I have seen teachers who dye their hair. I have a constant battle to keep down the excessive facial hair.)

  • Not a TAON: I drink a can of Suntory beer. A beer that shouldn't be drunk by Lefties. Perhaps, they should drink Suncommie.

  • Go for public shower tonight and the proprietor gives me a cigarette.

  • I watch the old film Annie Get Your Gun on my MBP. A great film but politically incorrect by today's standards because it portrays the Indians as passive.

  • Tony & I sing a show tune together from that movie. Anything you can do, I can do better...

  • 950 PM: I play on my MBP and Tony plays on my IPM.


Day 5

  • One more day here. The bus takes us back tomorrow.

  • We're the only ones in J's circle of relatives who don't have a car. I don't want a car, for the most part, but I can see why others do. And so I do sometimes wish I had a car. But in 24 hours, it won't matter because I will be able to ride the bus and train.

  • Last night J talked of going to Taixing today. If it was sunny, she said, we would go. I wasn't enthusiastic about it. This holiday couldn't be salvaged, I figured.

  • Tony had another "I wanna go home" fit last night. The third if I am counting right.

  • I caught a bit of British PM Cameron's CNY address to China. It seemed craven.

  • Jenny tells me that a skunk snuck into the compound one night ago and ate one of the chickens kept in the coop.

  • In the afternoon, I lie on bed and read GKC.

  • It wasn't sunny today.

  • TAON #5: I would like the monks life. I wish I had thought of theology as a field of study. No money in it, I suppose, but what the Hell?

  • Another poor performance in the countryside by yours truly. I did nothing to help anyone.

  • What is the difference between this holiday and a beach holiday? Not much. Either here or there, I would suffer the same feeling of impotent restlessness.

  • I read the following in the evening: Shakespeare. Nicholas Gomez Davilla, and the Salisbury Review (entire autumn issue)


Day 6

  • Last night, midnight fireworks kept us from falling asleep and scared Tony so much that he was crying and plugging his ears. The puppies could be heard to whimper once the fireworks had subsided.

  • On the fifth (or is it the fourth night?) day, the tradition is to go crazy with fireworks to welcome some god of wealth.

  • If I had kidnapped someone from Canada and brought him here blindfolded last night, he would have thought that he had been absconded to a war zone.

  • Last night, we talked about what we would do once we were back at Casa Kaulins. Pizza for supper?

  • TAON #6: Is practical good for the soul? The practical, that is, of this world?

  • 9:00 AM and the whole crew is up. First time this holiday.

  • I look at the tickets and see that the bus is leaving at 11:50 AM, not 11:30, as I had thought. That's another twenty minutes that I have to be here.

  • Can we be back at Casa K by 3:00 PM?

  • Bus leaves at 11:50. Tony asks for the IPM. A little later, Jenny returns it. I thought she was taking it from him because he had had played too much, but she said he was going to sleep.

  • J&T sit together. I sit across the aisle, a young gentleman sits beside me occupying the window seat.

  • I read more Father Brown detective stories. I will have read two folio books – not e-books – this holiday. I brought them along because I hadn't expected Tony to let me read books on the IPM.

  • Before I know it, we're on the freeway. Traffic is stop and go.

  • We arrive home at 2:30 PM.


  • The first thing we eat when we get back to Wuxi is pizza.

  • Tony ate a lot of pizza on his return to Wuxi and Casa Kaulins. In the evening of his first day back, he ate four pieces. The next day, he ate a whole medium pizza by himself. Before CNY, he would eat two pieces.

  • My first day back to work was dismal. It was rainy and cold and thus so depressing.

  • A student told me that during her CNY holiday, she spent six terrible days in the countryside without Wifi.

  • On my first day back from work, I took the subway home in the evening. I got off the train as has been my habit and went to catch the 9:40 PM shuttle bus from Yanqiao station to Casa Kaulins. But to my disappointment, but not my surprise, I looked at video screen indicating shuttle bus departure times and noticed that the next bus was leaving at 10:00 PM. Not wanting to wait twenty five minutes, I walked home. Unless I can use the e-bike or get a pedal bike, it looks like I will have to, on my work evenings, be walking home from the station to our apartment.

  • This 637 shuttle bus has not been very successful. I often have been the only passenger riding the bus for a whole run of its route. I don't doubt that the bus has driven the route many times and not picked up any passengers. Many times as well, people who get off the subway and want to take the shuttle bus, find that they have to wait a long time for the next bus to leave. A few times, I have seen the shuttle bus just leave its station as the train has arrived at its nearby station: stupid timing on the part of the bus route planners because the bus should wait for the passengers who are getting off the train. One time, I tried to run from the subway station and flag down the shuttle bus as it was beginning its route, but the driver ignored me as well as some other potential passengers. It is the sort of thing that will make people decide to not use the service ever again. And the maddening aspects of the route don't stop there. I have complained before about how the route will take the bus right by the stairs leading to the subway station but not stop; instead the bus has to drive around for another kilometer before letting off the passengers.

  • So it doesn't surprise me that the 637 bus is curtailing service in the evening. Clearly, it is wasting money.

  • The shuttle bus seemed like a good idea when it was started. If there was a bus at the Yanqiao station, you would think that many people would take it to get to the subway station. But it hasn't panned out. It seems that many people who are not very close to the subway station thought to use their e-bikes or bikes to get to it.

  • In a blog entry, David Warren wrote the following about English Butlers: ...the ancient English butler (who survives only in old movies), [is] a man of dignity; and of a wide knowledge, at the disposal of those who politely ask. He knows what is possible and what is not. He gives respect to the respectable; and he demands respect in turn. It makes me ask: who do I know that is worthy of respect? My answer: I don't know. It also makes me ask myself: Am I worthy of respect? My answer: probably not. Conclusion: I got to get myself out of the morass.

  • I will allow myself only one swipe at Obama this month. [I had just thought to make another one but desisted.]

  • On the last Friday Morning in February, I went to the McDonalds, that is nearby the place that employs me, for breakfast. I was queueing up and had this young gentleman cut in front of me and yell at the clerks. I was annoyed and noticed that the not-so-gentleman had a tattoo on the back on his hand below the gap between his thumb and forefinger. [Thinking about it, I can say that I was surprised to see that this not-so-man had opposable digits.] I assumed with the tattoo and his leather jacket that he was a gang member of sorts. I was then disappointed to see that my standing my ground at a spot in front of the clerk did not prevent the clerk from serving this person before me. It all goes to show that China 2015 is not a civilized place with laws and etiquette, but a place where brute force determines what happens.

  • Walking from the McDonalds, near our school, to the new location of my school, I had to check myself from turning towards the old location of the school. It's hard to shed a ten year old habit.

  • I failed a student last night. The topic of the class was going to the doctor, and it just so happened that the student's father was a doctor and that she planned to be a doctor herself. Having had this student in many classes, I had become resigned to her lackadaisical and bored manner. The younger students have our English classes piled on top of everything else Chinese students have to do, so I try to cut a little bit of slack. But I lost any semblance of sympathy for the girl when I realized that she just blithely assumed that she was going to be a doctor and that she could comport herself in her study in the manner she had been. [I failed the girl not because she morally disgusted me. I had to fail the girl because she didn't know any of the lesson's vocabulary. And it had just so happened that the vocabulary was from a profession that she tells me, rather smugly, that she is going to a be member of.]

  • The next evening – the evening of the day I wrote about there being no 9:40 PM shuttle bus – there was a 9:40 shuttle bus. I suppose it is not easy to modify a dumb government idea or a mediocre government implementation of a seemingly good idea.

  • I won't delete my rant about the shuttle bus.

  • One day, I had classes with students whose English names were Caesar and Kaiser. Caesar, a middle school student, wore pink basketball shoes. I assumed it was the fashion, though I had fun demonstrating the word "absent-minded" by saying he had mistakenly put on his mother's basketball shoes.

  • Kaiser, who was in fact a student at this school, was in fact not present. I mixed him up with the student who did show up and whose name did prompt me to make this entry: General. General is a good kid. His English is not great but he tries hard.

  • Students should only apologize when they haven't made an effort, not when they have made a mistake.

  • From David Warren's Blog: People who tell you lies are not your friends.