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.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

January 2015 AKIC Notes, Thoughts and Observations

  • Having a wife who doesn't care one fig for western New Year's, I stayed home on New Year's Eve.

  • Mature people stay home on New Year's Eve. And I must say that I am fortunate to have a wife who is mature beyond her years.

  • I started 2015 with Jenny & Tony at the Lavit Mall which we can easily get to now that the Wuxi Metro Line #2 is in operation.

  • My first day of work in 2015 was spent organizing my work area at my school's new location. I taught my last class at the old location on December 30th. On December 31st, the move to the new location took place.

  • I didn't feel all that sentimental about leaving the old location even though I had spent ten years of my work life there. When I started there, I hadn't meet Jenny and Tony wasn't even a twinkle in my eye. Those events didn't happen at the school and in fact happened in spite of it. My years at the place really only served to further reduce my faith in the human race.

  • Our school's new location is not that far from the old location. In fact, I will be able to see the old location when I teach classes. We are located one floor down and across a lane from the old location.

  • The new school location affords all a great view of Zhongshan Road. We lost, however, nice views of the church, of a nearby park as well as of the Ba Bai Ban department store.

  • It will be my honor to be able to sit next to the redoubtable Edith, star of the school's commercials which appear on the Wuxi subway train video screens. [As it turned out, those commercials are coming to an end. They didn't do anything to increase enrollment at our school. Also, getting what I wished for has turned out to be a curse.]

  • I have a new computer at the new school location. My eleven year old Compaq Presario will sit on a shelf at Casa Kaulins. [I have three laptops now. The old Compaq, a three year old Dell, and a new MBP (my birthday present)]

  • One of the hosts of a podcast, I was listening to, said he celebrated his fiftieth birthday on Christmas Eve. So, I wasn't the only one.

  • I awarded myself the Wuxi Expat of the Year Award in 2014. Previous winners of the award included Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Gorzo the Mighty, my son Tony, and a blogger named Andrew Cowlinch.

  • Meanwhile, Paul Rudkin won the Shanghai Expat of the Year award for the second year in a row.

  • At the new school location, the foreign trainers and the Chinese teaching assistants are now in the same office, and so there will be a battle about whether to keep the windows open or not. Foreigners want the office to be warm, or not so cold, and so would like the windows to be closed. The Chinese want the windows to be open because they want fresh air. So, there has been an opening, followed by a closing of, followed by an opening of windows all the day long at the office. I have no strong opinion on the matter either way. If I am dressed for the cold, I want it to be cold.

  • Tony has been been saying s*** when he has an accident or mishap. He also has been saying WTF to express surprise at situations. Who has he picked up these bad habits from? From his parents and his video watching habits, I would suspect.

  • I did a commercial, for our school, in which I got to introduce baseball. I was filmed pitching a ball to an actual catcher and I didn't do so bad, managing to lob the ball over the plate with my unpracticed pitching motion. The players I was with were locals: one of whom told me his favorite player was Ichiro (who I have seen play in Seattle.) [The video is on my Youku Channel and will soon be on my Youtube Channel.]

  • In a Speaker's corner I did – topic Germany – one of the students said that the Germans shouldn't be ashamed of WW II. I immediately asked him why and he said they had apologized.

  • I boarded the 637 shuttle bus the same time as this old man, whose appearance made me think to write this blog entry. As he sat down on the bus, he looked at me and gave me a thumb's up sign. And so I studied his appearance. He was dressed in tightly fitting clothes. On his knees, he had strapped on these pads which e-bikers wear to keep their legs warm; on his feet, he had cheap thinly-soled cotton slippers that were ready for the trash heap. I reflected how he was a more interesting specimen of humanity than all the fashionable working and business types that I see on a constant daily basis.

  • I first heard about the Charlie Hebedo attacks when reading an email newsletter from the National Review. The reaction to the attacks has been intriguing and I have to admit that I can't give you a specific opinion on what I think about the attacks. But that won't stop me from trying. Here is a collection of thoughts that I do have about them:

    • I should say, right off the bat, that the murders were wrong.

    • I say that because, be that as it may, I don't join in with the "I am Charlie" crowd. This Charlie Hebedo magazine did things that bordered on bad taste. This doesn't mean I would want to suppress what they did, but I would heartily denounce them all the same. And from what I have heard, this magazine was France's version of South Park , a TV show which I mostly hate.

    • I also think the "I am Charlie" crowd are all hypocrites. They don't support unbridled free speech. They would gladly silence white right wingers. And they would probably not have the courage to put their lives on the line for freedom of speech. These hashtag gesturing folks are probably all pacifists.

    • Some of those Charlie Hebedo staffers who were murdered did have some courage. I have heard that they prophesied their murders.

    • Were The CH staffers martyrs? I would say not. They did immoral things.

    • One commentator, who I read regularly, said that the rally at Paris, where the leaders walked arm in arm, was another case of Princess Diana dying hysteria. I would have to agree. The mobs were responding to a media driven event. They may as well have been celebrating the victory of a Football team for the connection that it had to their life.

    • There is a clash here between Western Progressive Secularism and Islamic Fascism. But the Western Progressive Secularists don't seem to realize this. Or don't want to. Some of their first thoughts after hearing of the shootings were that they didn't want Westerners to hate Muslims and how they feared that nefarious right wing elements would even carry out reprisals. They were wrong of course. It was the Jews who had to worry about being attacked by these same Fascists who had attacked that magazine. The secularists are blind, probably willfully, to the nature of these Islamists.

    • Moderate Muslims have to worry more about being killed by extremist Muslims than by right wing westerners.

    • In fact, right wing westerners are the least of a moderate Muslim worries. Left wing secularists who are cowed by Muslim extremists are their biggest problem.

    • In another article I read, it was pointed out that the vast majority of Muslims argument used against voicing concern about Muslims in general would be akin to arguing that the vast majority of Germans weren't Nazis as a reason for not feeling concern about Germany in 1938.

    • The Bolsheviks were a minority of a minority in 1917 but look at the damage they did to the world in the 20th century.

    • For what cause were people going to the huge rally in Paris? Free speech? Secularism? Anti-terrorism? Pacifism? It's unclear to me.

  • Someone read my list of books read in 2014 and asked me where I got the time to read all sixty of those books, especially since I have a family to support. Well, I can say that I have a lot of down time at work thanks to preparation for classes that I have done over ten years. Also, I have a long commute at work which I take advantage of to read; and, as I said in my ten years in Wuxi article, I have abandoned the dissolute ways of the English teacher who goes to the pub every night or sits at home and plays computer games. [I read 60 books in 2014 and watched 61 movies. Late in January, I published the second list.]

  • I looked at my 2014 and lamented that I hadn't travelled much. The last time I got out of the Wuxi – Beixing corridor was in February.

  • Student working in a hotel was telling me how hotels will give discounts to people who don't want tax receipts.

  • To make some extra money, I have been transcribing videos of lectures. This month, I have been transcribing these journalism lectures from an Australian University, Latrobe. The lecturer is a fellow named Chris Scanlon. His Australian speaking patterns and his habit of saying "you know," "kind of" and "sort of" drive me crazy. This is the way that a modern university professor speaks?

  • A student tells me that she borrowed money from her mother to attend classes at our school. Another tells me that a teacher taught her the words "hung over," and "vomit."

  • From a classroom, I was able to look down and see a woman push an e-bike which had a pair of crutches propped on one of the handle bars. She pushed the e-bike to a parking spot, locked the bike up, and then took the crutches which she proceeded to use. One of her legs was bent at an angle. It was possibly broken.

  • I very rarely entered the squatter stalls at our old school location. Now that I have to use a squatter, I have seen some disgusting things. I hope I don't see anything more disgusting than what I saw one Saturday when someone had left a nine inch long, 1.5 inch thick piece of excrement behind the hole in the ground of the squatter stall. I couldn't close the door to the stall quick as I was quickly overtaken with nausea by the sight.

  • I mean like, who misses? I can say with full confidence that I don't, and I am a rank amateur.

  • I told a colleague[sic] about that sight. He went to take a look, said "wooo!" and quickly closed the door. He then went back to take a photo of it. We also got a Chinese staff member to look and he was disgusted as well.

  • So the mystery. Who is Long Dung?

  • Moderate Muslim is a patronizing term. The people who say such things would call any religious person who prayed constantly and gave off an aura of sanctity, an extremist or a religious nut job. [I get this thought from David Warren's blog.] These moderate religious types are in fact extremely religious. You have to be extremely religious to achieve any sort of sanctity.

  • I happened to see an old man at the 85 Bakery, grab a thick was of napkins, put them in his pocket, take a cursory glance at the cake display case, and then walk out of the store.

  • Seven police motorcycles, driven by a uniformed cop and a uniformed passenger, ride around the government building in the area near my apartment.

  • Tony & I got a ride home one day from a motorcycle cab (peddycab) driver who had MS. At the end of the ride, the driver asked me, in Chinese, where I was from. After answering his question, I told him that Tony was my son and that his mother was Chinese. The driver said this was good, and he seemed elated at meeting a foreigner. Dumb sentimentalist that I am, I decided to shake his hand.

  • After getting off the train one night at the Yanqiao station, I was walking to the shuttle bus stop and listening to music (Plastic Bertrand) on my Iphone 4, when I noticed a man beside me trying to get my attention. I wasn't sure what he wanted. I at first thought that he was someone wanting to practice his English on me. But the man said to me, as I took off my earbuds, that he was a foreigner too. He was from the Philippines, he told me, and was teaching math and English at the Xi Shan High School.

  • Jenny was moody this month. She has been alternately kind and angry with me. It has me on edge.

  • Much was made of Obama or any high-ranking American official not having attended that rally in Paris. The rally being so full of hypocrisy, self-congratulatory moral preening, and self-exultation, I won't hold it against any politician who did not attend. So I would give Obama a pass on this. Though from what I heard about Obama's motivations or lack of motivation for not going, it was a case of a broken clock being correct two times a day.

  • Obama is great at self-congratulatory moral preening.

  • I came home one evening from work (I work late four nights a week) to find Tony in bed studying a Lego catalogue. Seeing me, he asked me something about glasses. Not knowing what he meant, I asked him to repeat what he said. He asked if I had my glasses and I realized he wanted me to put on my eye glasses so he could show me something in the Lego catalogue that he liked and thus that he wanted me to buy him. He remembered another instance when I had told him I needed my glasses because I couldn't see what it was that he was trying to show me he liked then in the Lego catalogue. I told Jenny about this the next morning and she was amused.

  • A student told me that her company was holding a Chinese New Year Company Dinner for its senior level staff only. This company was too cheap to hold one(s) for their entire staff. The owner of her company, said the student, was Chinese and cheap. I was surprised to hear this because I had always assumed that companies in China hold Spring Festival dinners for all their employees as a matter of course.

  • Someone has broken into my blog sites and posted entries. The entries are spam like and not meant to be read but to make the site looked like crap. So, after having deleted the entries, I have changed passwords and whatnot to stop 'em.

  • A student tells me that the Chinese are the second most taxed people on earth after the Swedes. I don't believe that the Chinese are now, but I believe they will be when the government discovers that its stimulus won't be paid for by market forces.

  • The student also told me that businesses in our area are being broken into because the thieves need money to get back to their hometowns for the Spring Festival.

  • An aphorism attempt: Only two kinds of people are talkative: women and imbeciles.

  • I talked to a student who had more bathrooms than bedrooms in his apartment. There were three bathrooms and two bedrooms in the apartment he rented, he told me. Each bedroom was equipped with a bathroom and these was an outside bathroom.

  • As far as I can recall, he is the first student to ever have told me he was in such a situation. I remarked on his uniqueness to me and then told him I envied him. (In my apartment, there are two bedrooms and one bathroom)

  • Instead of taking the subway home, I took the 25 bus on the last Saturday evening of January. I did so for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to see how the area along the 25 bus route had changed since I last ridden through it. Secondly, I wanted to save some money and see if I could possibly save some time. For less than a yuan, I realized I could take the 25 bus and get to the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza, where the wife and my son were having dinner. Taking the subway to meet up with them would cost me at least 3 yuan and not get me directly to the Wanda Plaza. Once I got to the Yanqiao station, I would have to decide on one of three way to get to the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza. Firstly, I could wait fifteen minutes for a shuttle bus and spend another one yuan. Or I could grab a peddycab and spend another five yuan. Or I could walk to Plaza which would take about twenty minutes.

  • The area that the 25 bus went through didn't seem to have changed much other then that were more empty apartment buildings and more vacant areas being prepared for the construction of more apartment buildings.

  • I did a get a seat on the 25 bus and happily read a book on the Ipad while taking occasional glances up to do my survey of the area. I had planned to take the subway and incur the extra expense to get to dinner with the wife and son, if there were no seats to be had on the first 25 bus that pulled into the stop near my school. But there were. And my being on the bus did result in a few of the passengers saying laowei. And as luck would have it, the 25 bus was, as it took me home, for a brief instance, right next to– less than 10 feet from in fact – the subway train I could have taken.

  • On the #1 Wuxi Metro line, the point where the track rises above ground is just alongside Xicheng Road: a road I had been taking often to Casa Kaulins for many years before the Subway was operating and even being constructed.

  • Less than a month and I have already gotten used to the new school location. I like it because it is a change and it has heating that works. I can't complain much about being able to sit next to the redoubtable Edith. My only complaint is the lack of western toilets. Worse than not having become anywhere near fluent in Chinese, I have not acquired a passable squatting technique.

  • Two English teachers walk into a bar in China. One says to the other: How was work? The other was mystified and asked what was work. The other teacher then went on to say that he had been drunk in his classes.

  • You know, I actually got a good thing going with this teaching in China gig. But I can't say that I take any pride in it.

  • The gig has made me cynical. I have become like Benjamin the Donkey, in the novel Animal Farm, who having seen it all, laid his head low and maintained a cynical attitude, not buying the bosch put forth by the pigs while at the same time not doing anything to rebel against it.

  • It snowed briefly in late January and the snow stayed on the ground in the Hui Shan district for a few hours. It just so happened that one evening I had to ride the e-bike home and thus had my first experience of riding a bicycle in snowfall. I didn't care for the sensation of having snow strike my eyes like cold pins.

  • After all these Chinese classes, I despair at the prospect of my ever being able to have a proper conversation in Chinese. I find that if I think about the tones of the words, I am not thinking of their meaning; and conversely when I think about the meaning of the words, I forget about their proper tones. My habit of speaking, in any language, I have discovered is to talk in flat but rising tones. The fourth tone in Mandarin, which falls quickly, requires my speaking very fast in a nattering manner to say it properly. I would find this hard to do in a conversation for even a minute without getting tired and annoyed.

  • The bus, I was riding, was three quarters of the way through the intersection when a car made a left turn in front of it. Incredible.

  • I then saw an e-bike do this to another bus I happened to be riding. Even more incredible.

  • Democracy went off the rails when they gave votes to women and the uneducated. There is no way of salvaging civilization as a result.

  • Thank God, I am married. If it wasn't for Tony and Jenny, I would do things that I would quickly regret.

  • At the Chinese New Year Dinner, it was the best that I could do, to keep silent. I didn't have an excuse to not attend it this year. [Last year, I was in Hong Kong.]

  • From now on, if anyone wants to make a comment about my blog they can email it to me. It is cowardly to insult me and not put your name behind it. That is something I have never done to other people on the Internet. Never.

  • If I must suffer in this life, I hope I deserve it. If I must suffer in this life, I hope it is for a good cause... To be honest, the first sentence is true of my life now. The second isn't. My right attitudes haven't translated into right actions. I am still too much of a secularist. My convictions haven't turned into actions and so my suffering is merely deserved without even the tiniest bit of righteousness.

  • I thought it would be amusing to put on my balaclava (which I had bought for riding my e-bike in winter) and pose for a photo holding one of Tony's toy guns. The idea was to use the photo for mock stickups on social networks. I am not completely at ease which having gone through with the idea.

  • I got an newsletter email that mentioned that Chairman Mao's Little Red Book was turning fifty years old. Rather auspicious for me I thought, having celebrated a similar milestone recently. So, I am older than or practically just as old as Mao's Little Red Book. No one I know of takes that book seriously now. It is considered a joke in the manner that North Korea is a joke. And yet during my lifetime, millions upon millions of people, in the land that I am in now, had to know this book or die.

  • On the last day of January, someone tried to steal our e-bike which Jenny had parked at the Wanda Plaza. The bike which we have had since 2008 is a piece of crap now. The thief while not being successful in stealing it, did succeed in breaking the only part of the e-bike that hadn't been broken: the back wheel lock. The e-bike is held basically together with tape. But the tape does have a second purpose. It serves as a sure means for us to able to spot the e-bike when it is parked in among hundreds of other e-bikes. Our e-bike is so distinctively ugly looking that I have to wonder why anyone would want to steal it. But someone did. Thieves, needing money for the Spring Festival could get 200 rmb for our bike, said Jenny.

  • What do I believe? The Nicene Creed.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Books AKIC Read in 2014

Book Author
The Rise of Modern China (Part 1) Immanuel CY Hsu
Canada under British Rule 1760-1900 Sir John George Bourinot
Our Culture, What's Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses Theodore Dalrymple
The U.S. Civil War John Keegan
Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics Charles Krauthammer
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells Sabastian Faulks
Lord of the World Robert Hugh Benson
Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America Mark R. Levin
With Lee in Virginia: A Story of the American Civil War G.A. Henty
Macbeth William Shakespeare
Richard II William Shakespeare
The Niomachean Ethics Aristotle
The Man Who Loved China (Audio Book) Simon Winchester
All's Well That End Wells William Shakespeare
The Orphan Master's Son Adam Johnson
Homage to Catalonia (Audio Book) George Orwell
Outer Limits of Reason Noson S Yafonsky
Travels in West Africa Mary H Kingsley
Antony and Cleopatra William Shakespeare
Johnny Carson Henry Bushkin
Under the Skin Michael Faber
American Gun Chris Kyle
Infinite Ascent David Berlinski
Beauties of Tennyson Baron Tennyson
A Concise English Grammar for Foreign Students C.E. Eckersley
The Politically Incorrect to Western Civilization (Audio Book) Anthony Esolen
As You Like It William Shakespeare
The Comedy of Errors William Shakespeare
The Seven Storey Mountain Thomas Merton
Jesus Christus Romano Guardini
The Tyranny of Cliches (Audio Book) Jonah Goldberg
Everyday English Michelle Finlay
Coriolanus William Shakespeare
President Me Adam Carolla
The Story of the Greeks (Yesterday's Classics) H.A. Guerber
Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China Ezra F Vogel
Twilight of Abundance David Archibald
Routledge – Teaching English as a Foreign Language Many Authors
I am Pilgrim Terry Hayes
Cymbeline William Shakespeare
Alexander Hamilton Charles A. Conant
Prayer in Practice Romano Guardini
Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson
The Passing of the Turkish Empire in Europe B. Granville Baker
The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays Simon Leys
Prayer Joseph Ratzinger
The Story of Magellan and The Discovery of the Philippines Hezekiah Butterworth
Learning the Virtues That Lead to God Romano Guardini
The First Circle Alexander Solzhenitsyn
People's Republic of Amnesia Louisa Lim
The God of the Machine Isabel Paterson
Among the Believers V.S. Naipaul
Silence Shusakiu Endo
& William Johnston
Interview with History Oriana Fallaci
Please Stop Helping Us:
How Liberals Make It Hard for Blacks to Succeed
Jason L Riley
Leisure the Basis of Culture Josef Pieper & Alexander Dru
Breakfast with Benedict: Daily Readings Joseph Ratzinger
The Blessing of Christmas Joseph Ratzinger
True Grit: A Novel Charles Portis

December 2014 AKIC Notes

December 2014, I did the least amount of writing for this blog since I started it in 2005 (2006?). Why? I had been occupied with other things like my son Tony and whatever my wife Jenny wanted me to do, so there wasn't time to sit down and type my attempts at observations and thoughts. When I had spare time – actually a lot despite what I just typed – I was studying Chinese and reading books. I finished reading my 60th book of the year just after Christmas because I had decided in late December 2013 to keep track of the books I was reading and was as a result, wanting to achieve a milestone number of books read. The 60th book was the novel True Grit that had been the basis of two movies of the same name including the one starring John Wayne. The novel was amazing. It was a simple enough story but was so well written: a good way to end a list of books read. I also read the blog of my favorite living writer David Warren who became amazingly prolific in December, publishing a gem of an essay every day. Warren is a traditionalist Catholic, who despises Liberalism, Capitalism, and other Materialist philosophies. Instead of trying to find a middle way between the competing materialist ideologies of Socialism and Capitalism, Warren tells of how Catholicism properly practiced, transcends these false choices and did so before the Enlightenment. Warren writes so well that I have practically given up any desires I had to be a writer. Good writing is re-writing I have learned from another favorite writer of mine and Warren is always tellings his readers how he is junking entries or always rewriting them. I find the time that I have for rewriting for even one monthly entry is not enough.

So the following is a series of recollections of things that happened near me or to me in December 2014. Some of them were made close to the event in question, but I didn't write anything from the middle of December till after Christmas. The writing about these times may not be in chronological order. I am typing them as they come to me.

  • I was born in December 1964. Do the math.
  • The first thing I witnessed of interest in December was the public safety bully boys of the Hui Shan District surrounding the driver of a three wheeled pedicab taxi. They had used two pick-up trucks to corral the pedicab so that it was against curb on the side of the road. Five of the black uniformed men stood around the pedicab driver as he stood, his head lowered, beside his vehicle. I have heard that the pedicabs are illegal but I have used them on numerous occasions. They are cheaper than a car taxi on a rainy day.
  • Within a period of twenty hours, I had two men come up to talk because they had seen me appearing in those short commercials for our school on the Wuxi Metro television screens. One of the guys was gushing and said that I was handsome. He also said that he saw from the commercials that I was teaching pretty girls English. What he meant was that I was appearing in these commercials with the redoubtable Edith who is a very attractive girl. Anyway, this kind of celebrity recognition seems strange to me because I find I am in the midst of a spiritual crisis and mostly feel isolated in my life. Really, this “fame” I have does nothing for my soul or even my earthly self-esteem.
  • It is early December and I am befuddled as to what I should buy Tony for Christmas. It had been an easy and enjoyable task to do this previous Christmases, but in 2014, I find it very problematic. I can't think of a toy that excites me, and now Tony has suddenly changed his mind about what excites him. He had been on a Ultraman kick but it suddenly ended when Jenny bought him a yo-yo in late November. He now doesn't want more Ultraman toys for Christmas and wants a yo-yo, even though he can play with the thing properly (I can't either I must confess). He doesn't care for Matchbox toys anymore. I would buy him Plarail accessories or even more engines, but the toy stores that I frequent don't sell them anymore. (Has Takara TOMY Plarail given up on China?) I would buy him some Lego but Jenny opposes the idea because Tony's habit is to play with toys and not put them back when they bore him. What Tony really wants is an Ipad but that would be like buying a drug addict cocaine for Christmas – not done.
  • A lot of our students have the Iphone 6.
  • With so many Chinese having cars, there will of course be fighting about parking spots. At my apartment building, the people living above us bought a Suzuki Swift and seem to be zealously trying to keep the parking spot in front of the building. On many occasions, they have parked their old e-bike in the spot as a way of trying to hold it. But for a few days, a white Toyota has taken up the spot and I can certainly detect the look of consternation of the face of the owner of the Suzuki Swift. One Saturday morning, I could hear screaming in front of our building and I looked to see a woman pointing in the direction of the parking spot. Jenny tells me that the owners of the Suzuki Swift have not paid for the parking spot... Which explains why they bought a Suzuki Swift.
  • I was with Jenny & Tony riding the subway when I noticed that these young women, who were sitting down from us, were looking at Tony. I could have sworn that one of them got on her phone and called some other friends, who must have been sitting in another car on the train, about Tony. Tony sensed that the girls were staring at him and looked away. The girls, eight of them, as a group, then came over and asked Tony & me if they could take a photo with Tony but he ran away into the corner of the car and looked away. I had never seen him so shy and scared. [I took video which can be seen on the Internet.]
  • David Warren's description of Saint Nicholas was inspiring. The son of a rich person, Nicholas was not a rich spoiled brat (like some of our students). He lived simply and gave his inheritance away, anonymously tossing bags of gold coins into people's houses. Sometimes, he even sneaked down chimneys to deposit the inheritance. He was also so orthodox that he decked the leader of the Arian heresy, who was really an enlightenment (we can figure it out all on our own) type. A very un-bishoplike thing to do but it was something he did for the love of Jesus.
  • Do you have a form showing you changed your passport? I was asked this question by a bank worker. I suppose she meant, or maybe my recollection was wrong, to ask if I had proof that I had updated or renewed my passport. My thought at being asked that question was incredulousness. Could there be such a form? My next impulse was then to say sarcastically, that here was my current passport: all the proof I needed to show I had changed my passport.
  • I had to go into the bank and be served by human beings and deal with the bureaucracy because our school had told us that the bank was updating their plastic cards, making them more high tech and all that. If it would improve our service, I had in theory no objection to going to the bank and getting the card updated. I did worry about the time it would take – especially if I had to wait in line longer than it would take to have the card all changed and updated. I was told it wouldn't take that long, just bring the old card and the passport, and all would be looked after.
  • But of course, I had to deal with the bureaucratic curse. To get my new card I had to make two trips and spend nearly two hours in the bank.
  • On the first trip, the process seemed to be going along smoothly enough. (I did forget my password, having transposed two digits of it in my memory, but a phone call to Jenny set me right.) The clerk – or I should say one of the clerks – noticed that the passport number they had on their records did not match the number on my current passport. This, I told them, was because I had gotten the account over ten years and – as I would later discover – two passports ago. It was then that I was asked if I had any other identification I could show them or proof that I had changed my passport. That ended my first trip to the bank. I was to go home and find my old passport.
  • I phoned Jenny about this and she told me that I should have just gotten a new bank account. I felt dumb at first after she said this and wondered why I hadn't thought of doing this myself. And so for a short time I was committed to getting a new account at the bank. But then I wondered why the bank workers hadn't suggested this either.
  • One of the reasons to not get a new bank account was that it was a stupid and bureaucratic and onerous process that was best avoided. So, in the evening after my first trip to the bank, I got Jenny to retrieve my old passports. She in fact realized that I had to bring two old passports – not one – to the bank because I had in fact renewed my passport twice while in China.
  • So the next morning, having no classes at school, I went to the bank with my old bank card and three of my passports: two expired and one current. (I have another old passport at home but that had expired in the 1980s.) It took them one hour to change the passport number in their computer system. The clerk who was processing this change didn't want to make any mistakes and evidently, had never seen a Canadian passport before. She continually asked questions of other clerks and supervisors (there was one supervisor whose job it was to stick her finger into an electronic fingerprint reader in order to authorize whatever it was the clerk was doing. I saw the supervisor stuck her finger in the machine four times.) The clerk was confused with how to enter my name (Andis Edmunds Kaulins) because she was wasn't sure which name was my family name and which name was my given name, and she didn't know what to make of my middle name Edmunds. (This confusion is a result of a differing practice of placement of family names in the West and in China. In the West, the family name is the last name; in China, the family name is the first name.) When asked to print my name, I caused further confusion by printing “Andis Kaulins” and they made me change it to “Andis Edmunds Kaulins.” A further delay was caused by my not knowing my address. They had to ask around to get the address for my school. Yet another delay occurred and I was then asked it there was an address on my passport. Having gotten annoyed at this point by the clerk's constant questioning of her co-workers and her evident confusion at looking at my passport, and her further studying line-by-line some kind of page-long directive she was consulting which must have dealt with how to change passport numbers in the system, I told them there wasn't. The clerk who spoke English – not the clerk who was processing the passport number change – told me that they needed a Canadian address in their system because five letters, not three were require in the system's computer data base. I told them that I had been in China for ten years and would have to make address up. I then swore at them, saying that I had been told that this card change that I was told that I had to do would take no longer then ten minutes. I can't recollect whether it was before or after the swearing bout that I noticed a back log of people were waiting to be served. So, I decided to make a show of it for them and got up and started pacing, my hands on my hips. This caused one of the people who had been waiting a long time because of me to approach the window I was being served at and to ask what the delay was. Mercifully for them and for the clerks and for me, I finally got my new card and was able to go on my way. With a sense of relief that the process was finally finished, I thanked the clerk and sheepishly apologized to her for my swearing.
  • I had hoped to get my Christmas shopping done the day I had my bank card changed. I wanted to buy Tony a Tomica Parking Garage. There was one at the Sunning Grocery Store but it was 599 RMB. So, I thought I would ask Jenny to see if she can buy it on the Internet. I also looked at Lego toys. Tony would love them but Jenny had expressed strong opposition to buying them – Tony would be leaving the pieces in every possible nook and cranny of our apartment. [Jenny vetoed my wanting to buy the Garage on taobao saying it was a stupid idea.]
  • When I go to 85 degrees to buy coffee, I always have to tell the clerk to not put my take out coffee in a bag. When I go to McDonalds to buy a meal, the drink gets put in a bag because I can't be bothered to tell them to not bother. I mention this little detail because it is a cultural difference between China and the land I had lived over a decade ago.
  • What is the point of me following news or politics? Having a view on it does necessarily make me a superior human being. Having the proper view of President Obama or even Prime Minister Harper is easy to do and requires little effort on my part. And really they don't matter a fig to Jenny or Tony or anyone else I come into contact with.
  • In a Speaker's Corner I did about the topic of blindness, a student said that the United States had been discovered to have tortured some people. Later, this same student then understood what I meant when I when I talked about how blindness was not only physical and involuntary, but could be willful and chosen. However, he managed to show he got what I meant about this kind of blindness while at the same time demonstrating he was blind in this way. “The Japanese,” he said, “were blind to the truth about the islands.” He was referring to those disputed Fishing Islands.
  • Every once in a while, a student embued with political emotions will expose himself to me and the other trainers bringing up issues of political controversy in the midst of a discussion. I sometimes choose to parlay with these students but mostly I don't bother because I can't speak in a manner about these topics that the students could understand. In the case of the student at my Blindness SPC: I had taught him in a the class the evening before, and I saw that he loved to talk, but had poor listening.
  • All the best restaurants in China serve white rat meat, I was told.
  • December 13th was a solemn day in China, especially in Nanjing where the anniversary of the Nanking Massacre was marked.
  • December 15th, I went to the underground of an apartment building in our community – that is, not our building – to retrieve our e-bike which was being recharged, and discovered that the extension cord we had been using had been stolen. We had had the charger for six years. Likely culprits? Some other e-bike owner or maybe some worker who needed an extension cord very quick and knew that e-bike charging areas are a great place to find one quickly.
  • Refer to the first bulleted item of this entry and you may guess my feelings of bemusement are the fact that I may be going to the 60th birthday Party of Someone's grandmother this month.
  • Tony's Canadian grandmother had cataract surgery done on one of eyes this month. I have confess that I feel guilt that she is living by herself in the harsh climate of Brandon, Manitoba while I am here in China. For 24 hours, her eyes were bandaged and she had to pay someone to look after her for that time. [Tony's Canadian grandfather had similar surgery done on his eyes. He had to go to Minnedosa (a hour's drive from Brandon) to have the surgery done. There were no local operating rooms available. Mom had her surgery done at the Hospital where Dad had died.]
  • The Damnedest thing. Some buildings in Wuxi are heated. You would think this was a good thing and that I would love going into those buildings, but I in fact hate them. I don't mind cold weather because I can dress for it. What I really hate is being overdressed. So when I go into a heated building when I am dressed for a cold building, I suffer.
  • One of my students works for a company that designs satellite dishes. The users of his products are in the poor and rural parts of China that don't have access to cable or internet. I asked him if he could point his satellite dish at foreign satellites and he told me “it was forbidden.” [How often students tell me something is forbidden.]
  • The Wife is on the ball. Jenny is already thinking of booking a flight to Canada in June. I have floated the idea of her and Tony staying in Canada for an extra week. I only have three weeks to spend in Canada. She wants to spend a month.
  • Someone gave Tony a Lego Fire Rescue Helicopter toy. It took an hour for me and Tony to put the thing together. When I say “me and Tony,” I mean to say that I tried to get Tony to help in the building but as it got to the end of the process, I lost patience and did the finishing assembling touches myself.
  • With the two cops being shot in New York, I can't help but be tempted to say the Left in the United States, starting at the top with Obama and working down to De Blasio and Sharpton and the hash-tagging mobs have blood have on their hands. For they have all been propagating a lie that the police are out to kill young black men every chance they can get. So big a lie it is that has been advanced, that you would have to think they were crazy, like the cop killer was, to actually believe it. In their sane moments, the Left, from Obama on down, surely does recoil from the assassination of the two cops. So it probably is over the top to say the American Left has blood on its hands in this particular incident, but it doesn't excuse the stupidity or willful blindness of the irresponsible rhetoric the Left has advanced in their stupid lie-filled campaign against supposed violence of cops against black people.
  • Before Christmas, Tony spent many an evening leafing through the Lego catalogue I had snagged from a toy store in the Hen Long Plaza.
  • For the secret Santa exchange held at our school’s Christmas Party, I bought a Lamborghini.
  • A toy Lamborghini.
  • On December 27, Tony & I rode the Wuxi Metro Line #2 for the first time. We took it to the Ikea station where I bought much needed shower curtains and was gladdened to see that Tony liked eating Ikea hot dogs.
  • I walked past what looked like protesters at the big government building near our apartment complex. As I was approaching, I decided to cross to the other side of the street and get as far away from the scene as I could.
  • Stupid man walks into elevator entrance blocking those trying to get out. I swear at him and turn around and give him the evil eye as the door closes.
  • I worked Christmas Eve. Thoughts of the modest circumstances in which the nativity happened made me enjoy the fact of it.
  • I buy Tony a lot of Lego toys for Christmas.
  • Tony watches the Lego movie twice.
  • On a Saturday morning, I parked the e-bike in front of our apartment building for Jenny and I later learned that it had been knocked down so that both its mirrors had been smashed. I suspect that a car may have backed into it.
  • Part of the Wuxi Metro Line #2 runs above ground along empty fields which are surely going to be developed.
  • Christmas Day was a day off for the Kaulins Family China. We slept in late, did some chores around the house, and then had a big supper at a Japanese restaurant in the Hen Long Plaza. I did post a lot of nativity scene paintings to a social app to try to impress upon my Chinese contacts, the real reason for the holiday. Most of the students I talked to however, told me they weren't going to do anything to celebrate Christmas. They saw it as a foreign holiday that had nothing to do with them. Feeling somewhat annoyed at one student who said this with a smirk, I said that Spring Festival was a parochial Chinese celebration that had no significance, no positive message for humanity in general.
  • Come to think of it, almost anything Chinese is only of significance for the Chinese, not humanity in general.