Monday, August 1, 2016

July 2016 Notes

This is my longest entry in a while.


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July 1 should be Dominion Day in Canada. The fact that it is called Canada Day is the result of historical ignorance of present day Canadians and boneheaded Trudeau style Canadian nationalism.


Good Canadians should curse Trudeau every July 1st.


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I drove up beside some local driver, a guy, and gave him the one finger salute. His offense had been to make a right turn without looking, right in front of me, so that I had to brake quickly and take evasive action. I think he noticed me. As we continued on in traffic, I was beside him again and I repeated the gesture, but he was looking away, had a stoic look on his face and was wearing ear-buds. The latter sight might explain his crazy driving.


It just goes to show you the evil effect that cars have on people. This guy was very much in his own world in his car.


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No local driver I have talked to will admit to making a turn without looking, but they won't deny that other local drivers do this.


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The late part of June and the early part of July, it seemed like the rain would never stop in Wuxi and so I began to increase the threshold as to when the rain was heavy enough for me to bring out my umbrella.


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Along with all the rain in early July, I saw a couple aftermaths of e-bikes and automobiles colliding. One collision at an intersection, was the result of a bicycle and car lane being side by side. The car had made a right turn without looking for e-bike traffic. The other collision was surely the result of an e-bike running a red light on which the automobile had a green left turn light. E-bikers in Wuxi are always taking enormous chances at intersections. I have skirted many an e-bike ignoring a red light and trying to sneak through the intersection when having the green.


The level at the Xibei Canal, as a photo I have published to my wordpress blog will attest, was about two meters higher than usual on account of all the rain.


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Tony in early July:


Tony said he hated Japanese.


He expressed this hatred because he had been playing too many World War Two computer games.


He had also been watching some episodes of the famous World at War documentary: the one I grew up on in the 70s and 80s and featured the narration of Sir Lawrence Olivier.


One evening, I ordered takeout from Pizza Hut and Tony ate more pieces than me for the first time ever.


Tony was watching the World at War documentary about Pearl Harbour and getting upset as the Japanese were destroying American ships.


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July 4, Tony & I took the train to Shanghai for a daytime visit.


Upon arrival in Shanghai, I took Tony to a Mister Pancake House so he could have pancakes and bacon.


After that, he said he wanted to go right back home to Wuxi. He wasn't happy when I told him that our train would be leaving in six hours and I had planned to take him to two museums after the pancakes.


First, we went to the Shanghai Propaganda Art Centre, which was a trick to get to it. We had to take three trains, that is two transfers, to get to a spot where we could catch a taxi that would get us to the museum. Which was located in the basement of an apartment in the back of an apartment block on a long street in the French concession. After the taxi dropped us off, we had to do a bit of walking to find the exact location. I first started going in the wrong direction on a long street and didn't determine that I had done so until after having walked a whole block and made Tony even more upset.


All the trouble of getting there, however, was worth it for me because I very much enjoyed the museum. Though the museum was only three rooms big, the posters and other displays were incredible. I found it interesting that I was looking at posters denouncing American Imperialism on the fourth of July. I suppose if I was younger and in my full conservative phase, I would have felt extreme unction at the messages. As it was, I shrugged my shoulders. Much as I despised everything the displays stood for, I couldn't help but admire their style.


For his part, Tony thought the place was okay.


Tony was his whiniest, however, as we walked from the poster centre to the nearest subway stop from which we could then proceed on our way to the second museum I wanted to go: the Shanghai Metro Museum. I have to admit it wasn't a bright idea for us to walk five blocks in scorching Shanghai summer heat to get to the subway stop. We both ended up soaked with sweat. Tony was also soaked with his tears as he complained of sore legs and he repeatedly stated that he very much hated Shanghai.


The long trip to get to the second museum on our itinerary was a waste as it turned out. We took three subway trains (actually four because we got on the wrong train of a route that had branch lines) and got to the museum location only to learn that it wasn't open till mingtian, that is tomorrow.


Of Shanghai's 18 subways lines, we rode six that day. Combine that with the subway line in Wuxi we took to get to the Train station, and the trains we took back and forth from Shanghai to Wuxi; and you can say that July 4, 2016 was a nine train day for the Kaulins boys!


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An anecdote that I can finally relate to you:


A foreign trainer took a student to the pub for a period where he should have been teaching him a class at the school.  I found this out when the student in question came to my class, which was scheduled in the period after 50 minutes late, and told me and the other students where he had been.  I later learned I was the bad guy in this affair, the blade as it were, because I mentioned the strange incident to the other trainers.  The trainer who took the student to the pub confronted me the next day and said I was a blade because news of what he had done had circulated through the school. I was in fact not the reason that the news had circulated through the school, but be that as it may, the news did deserve to circulate through the school and I was astounded at the shamelessness of the accusation.


I was also said, by this so-called teacher, to not have a life because I choose to go home to my wife and son every evening instead of going out, presumably with the dissolute bunch of other unmarried adult thirty and forty something teenagers that he did.


Anyway, this piece of work is finally no longer working at our school.  Good riddance.


My only regret is that I should have told him it was good that he was gone when I had chance.  I would then have done the Christian and decent thing.


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Cars are the work of the devil.  They bring out the worst in people.  In China, they make the lack of consideration the Chinese have for other Chinese more dangerous and deadly.  In the West, they bring on Road Rage and an increase in the size of government oversight.


No libertarian should support the car.  Cars don't so much increase human freedom, as encourage a government-corporate crony relationship which reliably herds people onto freeways and traps them in car jams.  And this herding has the effect of separating people into solipsistic units, solipsistic sheep who can be relied to not mount opposition to the regime in which they have been herded.  Indeed, cars congregate and separate people.


And then there is the land taken up by parked cars.  Talk about ruining communities!


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Portugal won Euro 2016. They really did. And yet, it didn't seem right.


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Gun Control doesn't lead to a reduction in murder rates. It never has. It never will. In countries, where Gun Control laws have been enacted, the murder rate has not gone done. Why? Guns are just one of many ways we can murder people. We can use knives, car, explosives, poisons, arms, bottles or any blunt instrument. And in America, guns aren't the most popular way to kill people; knives are.


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Should Expatriates be missionaries? Depends on the cause for which they are proselytizing. Otherwise, they are a bunch of self-regarding egotists.


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As I have complained before, local drivers are notorious for stopping their cars anywhere without regard to the inconvenience they cause others. Be that as it may, they have their reasons, inconsiderate as their stopping is.


And then I saw a car stopped in a manner I couldn't complain of, but the driver and passengers where engaged in an activity that best would have not been done on the road at all, let alone on the side of the car which was close to traffic. What were they doing? They were assembling a piece of furniture, a mirror on a stand, on the driver side – the traffic side – of the parked car from which they had unloaded it.


I should have taken a picture.


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Obama was a real shit at the memorial to the slain Dallas police officers as he made a big rant about how America didn't have enough Socialism. Why can't Lefties just leave their ideologies at the door on solemn occasions?


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This ado about the South Chinese Sea is worrisome.


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On a Wechat group for Wuxi Expats, I posted a picture of a navy diver saying Happy Bastille Day!


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I was told of a reason, that I had never thought of, for the Chinese hating the Japanese. The theory is as follows: In WW2, the KMT did all the fighting against the Japs while the Commies lead by Mao hid in the interior saving their forces for the Civil War that was to follow. Chang Kai Shek, whose initial plan of fighting against the Commies had been to let them go on their Long March, so as to put them in an isolated area where they could be properly dealt with, had his plans ruined by the Japanese whose attack he hadn't anticipated. And so many Chinese hate the Japanese because they helped bring the Communists to power.


Interesting theory.


But later that same day, I was listening to a Radio Derb podcast. He quoted Cheng Kai Shek saying the Japanese were a disease of the skin and that the Chinese Communists were a disease of the heart. According to the Derb, this was what Cheng said when he was accused of not using sufficient of his forces to fight the Japanese.


So were any Chinese fighting Japs in WW2? Or was everybody holding back? Even the Japaneses?


And thinking on the theory some more. It would mean that the Chinese also hate the Americans because, in a way, they also helped the Chicoms prevail by so giving the Japs an excuse to hold back their forces in China as well. By fighting the Americans in the Pacific and thus holding back their forces in China, the Japs allowed the Chicoms to hold back their forces and so come to power. So the Chicoms have the Americans to thank for this; and the Americans, like the Japs are hated by China.


That's of course if the Japan-China war even happened. With all sides holding back as I have shown, no one appears to have had a reason for fighting.


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On a Sunday afternoon, I went to a Starbucks to buy Mocha Frappucinos for Jenny and myself. There was no lineup when I made my purchase and when I got back to Jenny, she remarked how quick I had been. When I said there had been no lineup, Jenny recalled that the Chinese were boycotting American chains like McDonalds, KFC and Starbucks for some political reason: the South China Sea issue.


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Here is my two cents about the South China Sea controversy. I don't know much of the history of it other than it was the result of confused dealings at the end of World War 2 and the fact that it now has economic resources every nation craves. But since the Chicoms (or the mainland Chinese) are involved, everything that they have been saying about the issue has to be taken with a grain of salt. And seeing how the Mainland Chinese drive: they never fail to cheat in order to get ahead of other drivers, it is laughable for Mainland Chinese to talk of international law and fairness. When it comes to dealings involving honor and rules, the Mainland Chinese are devious and lacking in scruples. In a world where right would make right and not might makes right as it is, the Mainland Chinese and Chicoms would be entitled to about 10 feet of the sea that lies beyond their shore. What percentage of the South Chinese Sea would that be? Hopefully less than one tenth of one percent of it.


I type this rant after witnessing yet another annoying episode of Mainland Chinese aggressive driving. In left lanes which run up against a median, there will be a gap in the median for cars to make u-turns. Now if there is a long lineup in the left turn lanes so that the u-turn gap is not easy to get to, my inclination is to wait for traffic to move along and for the gap to become available. But some local drivers, will drive past the lineup, and then with their horns blaring try to cut into the lineup so they can get to the u-turn gap quicker. Witnessing this, I fume and find it hard to accept the fact that the local drivers drive the way they do. Blatant a-holery is hard to accept, coming from a culture that I do that insists on rules being followed and consideration for others when in traffic.


The day of typing this rant, I specifically witnessed a driver, who was honking his horn, cut in front of three other cars, including mine, that were trying to make the same u-turn he was. Typically, he was driving a BMW. Seeing this, I have to say that if this is the way the Chinese drive, they can't be trusted in business or diplomatic dealings.


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And yet, many of the students I talk to are darn well aware of the bad driving habits that their comrades possess.


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I am wearing my Dad's wedding ring along with my wedding ring all the time. Dad's ring does remind me of him and of all his faults and his seemingly simple-minded decency. And so I have to admit that Dad did more for me than I have ever done for Tony.


Be that as it may, Dad didn't ruin my summers by filling them with extra classes as Chinese parents do.


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I asked some younger students about their parents driving and they all replied that their parents were good drivers. Thinking about my line of questioning, I now think that I should have asked them if they would ever admit their parents were bad drivers.


I did ask them a more useful question about whether their parents got mad when driving and what it was that got them mad. Some students did tell me that their parents practiced this vice. One student told me how her parents hated it when they were going at a fast rate of speed, following another car and that car would unexpectedly and all of a suddenly stop on a stretch of road where they shouldn't be stopping. That I got. But then another student told me that her parents hated it when a car was stopped at a red light in a lane marked as a lane in which you can either make a left turn or go straight ahead, and they were behind that car and wanting to make a left turn. That happens to me sometimes but I never feel outraged about it because no rules are being violated and so there is nothing for me to do but wait patiently for the next green light.


I see I will have to ask more students what gets their parents mad when they drive because my reaction to the second complaint told to me by the student was incredulity. Of all the things to complain about, you complain about a driver who has done nothing against the rules and just happens to be in your impatient way? Leads me to think that the parents of these students are typical local drivers and thus not very good drivers at all.


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From David Warren's Blog:


One picks up one's habits from one's environment, and by condemning that environment, one condemns oneself.


Therefore: environmental change begins with not whining.


I say Warren has a point in most instances. That is, I see how that applies most of the time to life. But does it apply to my whining screeds about the driving habits of the locals? That is, I shouldn't whine about the driving here since I am part of it?


My initial reaction is no, but on reflection, saying that is how they drive and not getting mad about it is the proper reaction and in keeping with Warren's point. I am just going to have to try to be as courteous driver I can be and accept the fact that I will be – if you pardon the expression – pissing against the wind, be taken advantage of drivers who don't practice the courtesy I wish they would.


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I am for Ted. Ted Cruz that is.


Be that as it may, I am left having to hope that Trump prevails over Bill's wife in November. I hope despite the fact that Trump is a nincompoop; or as Peter Hitchens has said: a fake conservative yahoo businessman. But he has the single virtue of not being that woman.


After Cruz made his speech at the Republican convention, I had been scouring the Internet for reaction to it. I was particularly interested to see what my two favorite Catholic bloggers, they being David Warren and Mundabor, had to say:


Warren, as yet, has not published his reaction (he did later say he was ignoring the conventions), but Mundabor did. Mundabor, to my great disappointment, was very scathing of Cruz, calling Cruz a lot of words that I thought Catholics were above using. Mundabor's three main points in his screed against Cruz were that : 1) Trump's opponent was Hilary 2) Cruz had violated a pledge 3) Cruz should have ignored the insults against his wife and his father because a PAC that supported Cruz had started the squabble by publishing unflattering photos of Trump's wife. To the first point, I can say that one Trump supporter, I listen to regularly, the Derb, has actually said that Hilary is not all that bad. To the second, Trump has been recorded as saying before the convention that the pledge was off and he didn't care if Cruz supported him or not. To the third, I would say that Trump's wife did pose for the photos and it was bound to be public anyway, whether some Cruz supporter, who was acting independently of Cruz anyway, published them, or some supporter of that so-called woman did. And Trump showed he was un-presidential by actually tweeting, himself instead of relying on some minion, the uncomplimentary photos of Cruz's wife.


I have to wonder, how Mundabor would feel about Trump if instead of the Democrats nominating Hilary, had nominated Teddy Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan.


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Tony got mad at Siri.


What happened was that I was asking Siri to show photos of national flags, and Siri was doing a good job of showing me what I wanted. I would say "Siri, show me the flag of Sweden" for instance, and a flag of Sweden would show up on my IPhone. This impressed Tony, and so he tried to replicate what he had seen me do. But he keep mangling the syntax and grammar of his questions, and he couldn't get Siri to show him flags he wanted to see. He finished his session with Siri by repeatedly telling it (or her) that he didn't want to talk to her no more: to which Siri replied that she didn't understand what he was trying to say.


Tony must think Siri is human.


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Tony did a thoughtful thing: a little thing, but enough to make me proud of him.


We went swimming at a pool near the Xi Shan High School. The pool center had an outdoor and an indoor pool. Tony wanted to play at the outdoor pool because it had these plastic slides and floating props which he thought were fun. I accompanied him to the outdoor pool, and I watched him as he played and even hoisted him on the huge playthings. The outdoor pool was shallow which I didn't mind sitting in, as it was very hot, but I eventually decided to go to the deeper indoor pool. Doing that, I decided to leave Tony's and my flip flops outside. So, I swam in the indoor pool and waited for either 16:00 which was when we agreed that we would leave, or the off chance that Tony wanted to leave earlier. And so at about 15:30, I saw Tony come to the indoor pool and look for me. When we found each other, Tony told me he wanted to go home. As I got out of the pool, I saw that Tony had laid both his and my flip-flops by the indoor pool.


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As I was saying, July 2016 in Wuxi started off wet; but then it ended with a heatwave. The plans I had to get a pedal bike were shelved as the weather wouldn't allow it, and the question of where to put the bike was not resolved.


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Tony says he likes America and wants to go there on a trip. Maybe, we will be able to go there next year.


I think Tony likes America because of the computer games and World War 2 documentaries he has been watching.


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I am not proud to admit it, but I think in Celsius. But I was listening to a podcast where it was said that the temperature was up to a hundred in Washington, DC where they still use Fahrenheit – God bless them! – and I wondered in temperatures were similarly as high in Wuxi. I found out, using the Internet machine, that 37.8 C is exactly 100 F.


So, temperatures are up to 100 in Wuxi in July 2016.


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Tony likes National flags and so Jenny ordered a bunch of small paper ones for him with which to play.


Tony, disconcertingly, given the nationalist furor over the South China Seas, has been walking around Wuxi waving his American flag, which I am thinking is his favorite flag of the bunch. [You may want to see the photo of Tony with his flags at either of the Tony Kaulins in China sites.]


Like with toys and drink packages, Tony is leaving his flags all over Casa Kaulins. You would think that Casa K was the UN after a riot.


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David Warren says Hilary Clinton is not a woman and that Donald Trump is not a man. Geez, the Derb thinks Trump is an alpha male. How to reconcile these two viewpoints? The term Alpha Male is applied to lions and apes. Both of which aren't men.


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I'm reading Kim by Rudyard Kipling. It is an enchanting novel and I rue the fact that I live in a post modern environment where consumption is all that defines anyone. How I long to meet people who possess some kind of religious sanctity.


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Listening to Mother Angelica and reading David Warren, I see there is no point to following the current US presidential campaign very closely. If politicians aren't particularly interested in saving our souls, there is no use in inquiring what the policies would be.


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Tony ends July playing with his flags, worrying about what he would do if his parents died, and expressing a keen interest in UFC.


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I explain to the students what it means to know something about heart.


I then ask the students what they might know by heart. I sing the Star Spangled Banner to demonstrate that I know a song by heart.


One student tells me he knows his friend's birth date by heart....


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Some English names that some students have given themselves: See Saw, Drinkwater, Nice.                                             

Sunday, July 10, 2016

June 2016 Notes

Another brief entry. Hopefully, I will have more to tell you all about my July, 2016.


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On a Sunday in early June, the K family took the family vehicle (our Citroen CRX3) to the Ling Shan area of Wuxi. We didn't go to the Big Buddha but we were able to see it while we drove around the shores of Tai Hu.


The drive was quite nice actually. The road wound through some hills and offered some picturesque views. However, when we stopped alongside Tai Hu at a spot that was seemed wonderfully lacking in people, we saw dark green water and nearly gagged at the horrible odor emanating from it.


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My son Tony tells me that he wants to change his name to Stanford Pines. Stanford Pines being a character on the cartoon series Gravity Falls that I have introduced to Tony. Tony has watched the two seasons of the cartoon series over and over again.


Besides this strange declaration, Tony has been saying a lot of other funny things and asking me all sorts of questions, most of which, thankfully, are from a discovery of facts about the world which in turn has spurred him to be further curious. For instance, he has been asking me about countries, their flags and World Wars One and Two.


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Differences are meant to be laughed at, said GK Chesterton, or so I seem to recall him saying. And if my memory isn't further failing me, I believe GKC was commenting on how English or European travelers would be disconcerted by being laughed at by the natives who thought their different ways were quite hilarious.


I mention this when I think of the stories I have heard by Chinese and Africans. Many Chinese would make jokes about the blackness of Africans skins, I have heard, that in this day of hyper racial sensitivity would be considered hate crimes or examples of extreme racism.


And so it was that the reaction to the detergent commercial, where a black man is pushed into a washing machine by a girl and comes out as a light skinned Chinese man, is big in the PC World but not in China.


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One student, the old engineer who I sometimes get to talk to on a Saturday morning, says he would to like see Trump win the US presidential election because he sees Hilary as part of a political dynasty and Trump as just being a more interesting personality. When I told him of Trump's attitudes on trade with China, the old engineer didn't seem concerned.


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For Dragon Boat Festival Day, the K family drove to Jenny's Hometown so Jenny could do some paperwork at the police station there. On the drive in, we encountered a bit of a traffic jam on the freeway; but had clear sailing on the way back. The other drivers didn't annoy me so much, except this one guy who rode my ass for thirty seconds.


In the evening, back in the Hui Shan District, where we live, we went to see the film Warcraft. The movie was alright but doesn't deserve a repeat view or anticipation for its possible sequels. More interesting than the movie, to me, was Tony's strong desire, which he expressed by sobbing and a few temper tantrums, to not see the film. Jenny suspected he was really mad at not being allowed to play on the Ipad to his heart's desire.


As we suspected, Tony who has before been known to express opposition in the strongest manners to things beforehand and then change his mind, calmed down as we took him to the movie and was in a good mood as the evening progressed.


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In June, We also drove to Suzhou and stayed overnight at a hotel. I hated the drive because the traffic was horrible, but I didn't mind Suzhou so much once the car was parked at the hotel and we were able to ride the subway around the city.


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I was ecstatic when I heard the results of the Brexit vote.


What I don't understand is why such a large proportion of people, 48 percent, wanted to stay in that God awful monstrosity that the EU had become. Were these people ignorant of history? Did they think that staying in the EU would bring on some sort of stand around the fire and sing kumbaya world? Did these people like have their life taken away from them at airports or government offices? (I say this because this is the world that would surely result if the EU ran more and more of people's lives) Did these people stupidly think that being in the EU could end bigotry or racism? Did these people stupidly think that the EU had been responsible for the peace that has existed, except when it hasn't, in Europe since 1945? Did they secretly want Canada to join the United States? (Canada's situation vis-a-vis the USA, will soon be akin to Great Britain's to Europe once Brexit is enacted) Did they think that acting like ignorant and arrogant dickheads was the way to convince their opponents to join their side?


There is nothing more ignorant than someone who thinks he knows better.


There is nothing more bigoted than someone who thinks he is lacking is prejudice.


Bravo Great Britain!


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I warned an Englishman that he should fear the match against Iceland at Euro 2016. And I was right.


It was the perfect opportunity for England to break their fans hearts and they naturally took advantage.


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My gig of teaching US History at Big Bridge came to an end. Just in case it hasn't, I will be reading a lot of history books over the summer.





Thursday, June 2, 2016

May 2016 Notes

My history teaching gig has curtailed my blogging, or I should say, has reduced the note-taking I have been doing for what has lately been my monthly blog entry.


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May 1, on WeChat, I posted the following:


Screw "Labour Day".


Celebrate the feast of St Walpurga instead.


This May Day holiday is a left wing holiday and thus not worth celebrating. Nice as it can be to have a holiday.


The Walpurga line I got from my favorite ranting blogger Mundabor. M is a Catholic and nothing is better than to adopt one of his rants when I am in a bad mood. The Catholicity of it takes the curse off something I said when I am in a mood to make ill considered statements.


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On May 1, we, that is the K family went to a tent camping festival in the countryside of Jiangying. Friends of Jenny invited us. I agreed to go despite a 95 percent certainty that it was going to be lame like most of our school outings.


And it was. Five minutes after arrivingI wanted to leave. As it was, I had eight hours of being the lone foreigner with 400 Chinese who've brought tents to a flat field in the middle of dull area. Jenny had initially raised my hopes by suggesting the camping site might be near a hill.


It would have struck the average camping Canadian as a very pale imitation of real camping.


Tony, who doesn't know how to hold back his thoughts, starting telling us that he was bored after two hours. Of course, he would rather have been playing iPad so I don't think real camping would have seen him less bored.


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I am afraid I am not a good guest to a typical Chinese event. I have the lost the ability to endure them stoically. I become very peevish and very impolite. My bad manners are indefensible of course which is why I hate these affairs even more.


Ungrateful bastard that I am, I will tell you what I hate about Chinese affairs:


  • There has to be constant entertainment. That is from start to end, there is a program of entertainment that is amateur and boring. I hate always having to endure singing children, belly dancers and wannabe hip hop dancers. I'd rather have time to read or mingle.

  • The food is lame.

  • People shove food towards you when your hands are full or you aren't particularly hungry. (how to stop them from doing this? I have to fight the instinct to tell them that this generosity is really an imposition.

  • No dancing.


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What was good about the trip to Jiangying was being able to visit our guest's apartment which is on the 16th floor and affords one great views of boat traffic and shipyards on the Changjiang, aka Yangtze River. However, I couldn't help but be disconcerted by the apartment's setting. The apartment complex is half a kilometer or so from the river's edge. So, in-between the apartment and the shipyard is a huge empty lot as well as a lot being used for farming. The two lots look desolate and forlorn because they are strewn with rubble, garbage and crumbling buildings. The desolation and forlornness is made all the more profound by how it contrasts with the apartment complex itself which has green areas that look lush and well tended.


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The Brandon Wheat Kings will play Seattle in the WHL final this year. The matchup is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First, Brandon and Seattle were the ends of my world before I came to China. It was a process of decisions I made early in my life that took me from Brandon to Seattle. From Brandon to Seattle I lived my adult Canadian adventures: adventures strewn with loneliness and an uncertainty of who I was and of what I was capable. Second, the contrast between Brandon and Seattle is quite profound to my mind. Brandon is a sleepy prairie town with incredibly cold winters and lots of mosquitoes; Seattle is a teeming metropolis is the dank western portions of the North American continent. Seattle is Starbuck's coffee, Brandon is Simplot and Mackenzie's seeds.


I attended quite a few Wheat King games when I lived on Queens Avenue in Brandon. The Keystone Center was a ten minute walk from our home. At the time of my attending, the Wheat Kings has the likes of Ray Ferraro, Ron Hextall and Kelly Glowa playing for them.


Of course, the one person I am in passing contact with from Seattle doesn't know about the final.


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In early May, Trump became the nominee for the Republican Party. While I was cheering for Cruz to defeat him and I did share a lot of the NeverTrumpers contempt for Trump, I wondered if this contempt for Trump could survive once he was matched up against Bill's wife. Reading the arguments put forth by John Derbyshire and Pat Buchanan for Trump, I could find myself being able rationalize cheering for him against that woman. Particularly on American foreign policy which I have found a tricky subject to have any opinions on, I think there could be something said for Americans just letting the world stew in its stupidity. But there is so much about Trump the man to dislike as my favorite blogger David Warren, who is very anti-Trump, has said. And then there was Trump saying Ted Cruz's father was somehow in cahoots with Lee Harvey Oswald and wondering if Cruz Senior was somehow involved in the Kennedy Assassination. Has anything as nutty ever been said by any other major party nominee for the US presidency? Even Obama was never this nutty.


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I first heard from Jenny that there was a huge fire in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Learning the fire was of the forest fire variety, I thought about how I had told students about the large forest fires that take place in Canada that normally don't make news unless they get near a populated area, or as I read in David Warren's blog, urban service centers. I thought it strange that a forest fire would be taking place in May in Northern Alberta. I would have thought things were too moist in Canada at this time of the year for massive forest fires. But my ponderings on this score were answered in David Warren's blog entry on the fire. Fort McMurray, said Warren, is in one of the concavities of Alberta, and thus a natural hot spot. From Rex Murphy, I learned that the political left in Canada is get a strange satisfaction from the fire because Fort Mac is in Tar Sands country.


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When it comes to this history teaching gig that I am in the midst of, I am learning as I go along. Thankfully the history reading I had done for my personal interest, before the thought had ever entered my head of teaching history, has served me well and I just have some blank spaces to fill in for my historical knowledge.


History is a forever interesting topic. I could think of anything that would be better to teach and so it amazes me that many students don't find it very interesting.


I suspect many Chinese students don't find it interesting because they have to memorise dates and what not.


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I was with Tony in McDonalds one Saturday evening. I ordered a cheeseburger for myself and chicken nuggets for him. I started eating my cheeseburger but Tony finished it for me. He has been rather strange about cheeseburgers. I thought he liked them about six months ago but then he swore off them until this Saturday evening where he suddenly ate half of mine.


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I watched the first two seasons of a series entitled The Fall. In it, Jillian Anderson plays a detective pursuing a serial murderer. The murderer is found out and apprehended and so the series is instead trying to focus on the psychology of the Anderson character and her relationship with the serial killer. I can't get into possibly because I am a male with no understanding of the female psyche, but more precisely because the Anderson character is as feminist third wave and anti-Catholic as a character can be: a self-important slut.


*


As it turned out, Brandon beat Seattle four games to one in the WHL final. The Wheat Kings won the first three games of the series in overtime with every one of those games ending with a 3-2 score.

I posted the result of this on WeChat. The one Chinese hockey fan I know of appreciated it.


*


Tony doesn't like his swimming classes anymore. The last two times when he was told it is time to go to the class, he sobbed and I had a difficult time convincing him to go. The first time, he did the class. The second time, he put on his swimming costume, went in the pool and then after five minutes told me that he wanted to go home. I got him to stay for thirty minutes but he didn't join his class. His instructors even asked him but he refused to join. I don't think he likes his classmates. But I can't get more out of him than that.


*


May 23, a Sunday, the Kaulins Family China went to the Ling Shan Buddha, aka Wuxi's Big Buddha. For Andis, it was a bit of a chore to battle the feeling of being a jaded fuck about it. After all, the Big Buddha is something newbies go to see, not veterans like myself. But it was the first time I drove there. Going out there, we took the toll road, 120 kmh speed limit and I found myself enjoying the drive. Traffic was light.


(There was an idiot in a van doing 50 kmh on the toll road who gave me a fright because I came upon a little too all-of-a-suddenly. Imagine you doing 70 kmh on a road and you all of a sudden come upon a man standing on the road. That was the affect the driver had on me.)


I saw a few foreigners at the Big Buddha.


To the Big Buddha site we had to go through a massive shopping area that was IKEA like in that you had to follow a winding path through all sorts of merchandise. I couldn't recall having passed through such a trail on my previous visits to the place


We then went to another tourist style village in Ma Shan. It looked for all the world like the ancient village that was recently constructed near Xi Hui Park and the Nanchang Bar Street.


It was nice to drive along Tai Lake.


*


May 28th was the fourth anniversary of my father's death.



Monday, May 2, 2016

April 2016 Notes

Another short entry. The history teaching gig at the high school ends in late June.


*


Early in April, the Kaulins Family China drove to Jenny's hometown to observe the Qing Ming Festival.


The drive out to Xinjie wasn't as bad as the one we experienced during the Spring Festival. Traffic did slow down by Jiangyin, but not so much. However, we did see a driver, in the jam, who was incredibly impatient. His swerving and weaving through traffic was of a person who was desperately impatient to the point of having lost his reason. When there wasn't a space for him to try to move ahead to, he would weave side-to-side like he was trying to get a better glimpse ahead for open space. He didn't miss a chance to show his impatience. We would should have taken a video.


Later, after having crossed the Jiangyin bridge, we saw a car doing 150 Km/h that was intend on not slowing down. How it didn't cause a collision was a miracle and an instance of cosmic injustice. Driving through a narrow gap between cars, it missed clipping one of the cars by inches.


Lots of idiots on the road in China. On the day before we drove to the hometown, Jenny told me there had been a thirty car pileup on a highway headed to Nanjing. I am almost certain that one or two idiots in a hurry caused the crash that had result in two deaths.


At the hometown, we stayed one night. In the afternoon of the first day, we visited four tombs. Three were located among crops on fields that the family used to own; one was located in a veteran's cemetery where dates of death on the tombstones were 1945 and 1947.


*


Mother Angelica R.I.P.


*


There is a square across a road from the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza. Alongside the square is a narrow road that becomes perilously narrower as local drivers, not wanting to pay fees at the Wanda's underground garage, park their cars on both sides of the road. Jenny & I don't park on that road very often anymore. We instead park in an area that is on the other side of the square. Though it means a longer walk to the Plaza, it is easier to get our car parked and to exit.


At the end of the narrow road that is right across from the Wanda, some drivers park their car on a corner space of sidewalk. One day, I enjoyed the sight of a car parked on that corner being blocked out by two cars that had parked at angles to it so that the space with which it could back out between the cars on either of its sides was agonizingly too narrow. Served that driver right though one of the other two cars shouldn't have been parked where it was either.


This parking that blocks strangers cars is not uncommon in China. It makes me shake my head when I witness it or hear of it. To me, these occurrences say this about Chinese society: People here don't give much of a care about other people. Also, one could say people here are very rude but tolerant of the rudeness.


*


Tony can now ride a bicycle without training wheels. He learned just all of a sudden, without a plan on Jenny's or my part. One day, we went shopping at the Hui Shan Decathlon. We were looking at bikes and Tony tried riding some around the store. He rode the bikes precariously and so we decided to get him to ride the bike he already had. This bike had been sitting by apartment door for the longest time. We took it a nearby bicycle repairman and had him fix the tires and take off the training wheels. Tony protested about this, but after five minutes of riding without training wheels, he got the hang of it and even began to brag of how fast he could go.


Tony is eight so I suppose he was a little late learning. But this is China and it is hard to find a place he can bike safely. Too many inconsiderate drivers and e-bikers.


*


Tony doesn't go back to school till September. That's four months as I type this and yet this it already starting to feel like the last evening of the weekend before one has to return to work. I don't want Tony to go back to school. I really don't. This period of home schooling has been wonderful. But like anything that is wonderful in this life, it is zipping by so quickly. And I can't escape the feeling of my impotently squandering the time away. Most of my plans for this time didn't and won't materialize. No great teaching experience of Tony and no trips.










Tuesday, April 5, 2016

March 2016 Notes

There isn't much in AKIC notes for March 2016 because of the History teaching I have been trying to do at the Big Bridge Academy that is located in the wrong part (for me) of Wuxi.


*


I have had to give up making notes for this blog and watching movies.


*


I have been reading more. I am still trying to read fifty books a year, but these books will have to be shorter. I have a few history text books with which I need to become very acquainted.


*


I am still avidly following the US presidential election even though it looks it will all come to tears with a Trump versus Clinton final. America is a great country, and so one has to ask: Is that the best it can do for Presidential candidates? A liar-slash-criminal versus a nincompoop?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

February 2016 Notes

In this entry I have nine days off in a row for the Spring Festival, I go to the bank to get cash, I observe and comment on the U.S. Presidential race, I buy cans of Liver Pate, I read an full autobiography of Napoleon, a students tells me a strange course she has to take in vocational school, I learn why there are lots of cats in monkey cages, I complain about parking, and I try to observe Lent for the first time.


*


One Sunday, I went to the ATM in a bank near Casa Kaulins. There was a row of ATM's and none of them would let me withdraw money. The part of the bank with human tellers was open and the greeting staff, seeing my annoyance, approached me. Miffed that I would have to go deal with the human tellers and the accompanying the time delay, I said the Chinese phrase: "wo yao qian!" which I take to mean "I want money!" The staff were amused by this as they gave me a number to wait for dealing with a teller who had a smile that I could tell was at my expense.


*


I am keenly following the U.S. presidential race and find myself hoping Ted Cruz wins. I am becoming more and more annoyed with the Donald as he keeps crossing lines of basic decency and logic, and yet I would hope that he would prevail against whoever the Democrat nominee would be if it came down to him being the Republican nominee. David Warren, who opinion on much is gospel to me, absolutely loathes Trump. Still, Trump is a far better choice than Sanders or Somebody's wife. Rubio, Kasich and Bush are too Rino-ish for my tastes but I would cheer for them too if they made it to the final, as the saying goes. Kasich is probably the worse of the bunch on the Republican side. He has the Jon Huntsman quality to him that I loathe.


*


While T&J were away in Taiwan, I didn't once drive the car. On my two days off, sans T&J, the weather was very wintry and I didn't want to chance taking the vehicle on the road with all the Chinese drivers in those conditions.


*


Spring Festival seems a depressing prospect this year. [I say this before the Spring Festival. What really happen you can see below] I will have to endure traffic jams to get to the hometown where I will be mostly bored. I don't believe Jenny when she says we will only spend three nights there.


*


Happiness for me is a store in Wuxi selling cans of liver pate. In my childhood, I loved the stuff. Nothing was better than my Mom spreading it on bread so I could eat pate sandwiches. And now, I can buys cans of pate, 8 rmb a can, at the Linco's supermarket in the basement of the Suning Plaza.


*


Riding the train home one evening from work, I saw a man openly counting the contents of his red packet. The large wad of money he had must have been his new year's bonus.


*


I had nine days off in a row for Spring Festival break.


Day One of the break, we – that be, Jenny, Tony & I – drove to Xinjie, which is Jenny's hometown, to spend the holiday with her family. I hadn't been looking forward to driving there. I had imagined that the usual one hour drive would take three hours because there would be lots of Spring Festival traffic. It didn't turn out to be as bad as that but the traffic did come to a near-halt about 5 km outside of Jiangyin (which is the city we pass on the way to Xinjie). Coming upon the halt in traffic was harrowing because it happened very suddenly. I had to strongly apply the brakes to get the car to come to quick stop from the 90 kmh I had been doing, saying "woh!" as I was doing so. At the same time, I saw some of the more aggressive drivers, the ones who like to swerve and verve when they pass all who are in their way, narrowly avoid collisions with cars that had already come to a stop. To deal with the jam, I stayed where I was in the left lane because I didn't see any point in changing lanes. I figure that the people who cut into other lanes in during a traffic jam only make it worse. As soon as we got pass the Jiangyin big bridge, the one that goes over the Yangtze river, the traffic was almost back to normal.


When we arrived in Xinjie, we had to get through streets clogged with cars and bicycles before we could get to Jenny's parents place. Everyone seemed to be getting ready for the holiday.


When we did arrive at Jenny's Parents, one of Jenny's brothers and his family were already at what I call the in-laws compound. The compound is walled. The two buildings inside are in a L-shape. In the open space there is a chicken coop and a garden. Jenny's brother was standing at the gate of the compound and I wished him a happy new year as I offered him my hand, but he made stern eyes at me and physically resisted my efforts to get him to shake hands. Shortly after, he and his family left the compound. It was a presage of trouble which I won't talk about.


Once we were settled in, our car unloaded, our luggage in the guest room, I took Tony to buy a toy gun at a toy shop that is near the entrance to the location of Jenny's old middle school. [Jenny has talked of the neglect she experienced in the days when she attended the school.] Tony likes playing with guns these days and has been expressing a desire to be a soldier when he is grown-up. Walking to and from the toy store, I saw that it was a good thing we had walked, instead of taking our vehicle, because there were traffic jams all over the place. And because it was China, the traffic was more chaotic than it had to be. I saw a woman on an e-bike, come to a quick stop because of a car cutting in front of her and lose a broom she had been carrying. A car following it ran over the broom with its front tires, ignoring her requests to stop. I was following behind all this and so I was able to pick up broom from the ground and return it to the lady. She thanked me and I basked in the feeling of having come to someone's aid.


On the next day, which was New Year's day, we drove our vehicle, for the first time ever, around for the holiday's custom of visiting nearby relatives. (On previous New Year's, it had been one of Jenny's brothers who had driven us.) We visited these particular relatives, who I have mentioned before in this blog, who have grandparents living in very primitive conditions in a small concrete hut of a house built partially above a concrete ditch. These grandparents asked us to stay for lunch, but Jenny wanted me to decline the request. (I wish we had accepted in retrospect). We then went a bigger house, across the lane from the poorer relatives home, where we were served tea from what looked to be a deluxe and traditional tea set. Its cups and teapot were set on a table in the living room which also had a projection television. Enjoying the tea, I ate a shelled peanut from a dish on the table. The hosts seeing this, decided to give me a bag of peanuts as a gift. "Please, please, please, have some!" they said to me as I was reproached by Jenny. Meanwhile, Tony watched, with rapt attention, on the projection TV, a show about PLA soldiers because of that desire he has in his head now to become a soldier.


The man who served us tea later let me drive his Ford sedan. I was impressed by its power and had the thing doing 100 km/h on the narrow countryside roads. I didn't like the car's size however. It was too long. We would call the car a boat in Canada. The owner of the Ford told me he loved Fords. I didn't know what to say other then Ford was good at making trucks.


We than went back to the compound for lunch. There was trouble.


On the brighter side, the in-laws' neighbor let us park our car in front of his house under shelter and off the road. Parking in front of the in-laws compound would have meant parking by a busy road as well as exposing the car to fireworks debris and passing vehicles.


Every night in Xinjie, we went to bed early: 9:00 PM. There is no night life in Xinjie.


On Day three of our holiday, as part of a two car convoy, we drove to Jiangyan: a city close to Xinjie. Jiangyan is not to be mixed up with Jiangyin which we drove through to get to Xinjie. We had to take a two lane road to get to Jiangyan, and so there were many instances impatient local drivers taking great risks and performing maneuvers I wouldn't have dare tried in Canada. Some of the drivers passed by forcing a slow moving car to the right so that I encountered, on more than one occasion, the strange sight of two cars driving seemingly side-by-side in one lane. [Another colleague told me of witnessing crazy passing on a similarly wide road going winding through hills near Yixing.] Once we were in Jiangyan, the roads widened so that were three lanes going each direction. Some of the intersections had the left turning lane in the middle of three lanes. I had a what-the-heck moment the first time I came upon this but I quickly figured it out. [ Jenny mentioned that a friend of hers came upon this middle turning lane set-up in Hangzhou, was confused, and earned herself ticket by making a left turn from the left lane.]


In Jiangyan, we ate pizza at Pizza Hut, drank coffee at Starbucks, and walked around the city core where there were outdoor shopping mall areas and a newly built area meant to be trendy by having a sort of ancient look: this new area reminded me of the ancient town recently constructed near Xi Hui park in Wuxi as well as the Nanchang Jie bar street. [Jenny would like it be known what she had to stand in the lone lineup at Starbucks to purchase coffee while we found a seat and waited for her.]


Mama and Baba – that be Jenny's parents – came with us to Jiangyan, though they rode in the other vehicle where they could smoke. I wondered what they thought of Pizza Hut. It seemed to me that they didn't care for it, and maybe felt out of place in an American style chain restaurant.


I didn't see any foreigners in Jiangyan. Tony & I walking together earned the stares of many of the locals. I was pleased to see that the pretty young girls liked staring at Tony.


I liked Jiangyan although I think I would go to insane if I had to spend any amount of time there.


All the while we were in Jiangyan, I felt anxious about where we had parked. We hadn't parked our vehicle in a parkade or on the side of street but in a sidewalk sort of area. I worried that we would get a ticket or find cramped parking conditions when we returned. As it turned out, I was right to worry. Someone parked their Mazda perpendicular to where we had parked. The Mazda didn't block us but it did block the car that had parked next to us. Fortunately for the people who had parked beside us, we happened to return to our car just as they came to theirs. We weren't planning to leave then, but were letting Mama and Baba sit and relax in one of the cars of the convoy. Seeing the plight of the people parked beside us, I backed our vehicle out of our spot giving the them enough room to maneuver out. We parked our car at the spot for another two hours , and when we left, the Mazda was still parked in its offending position. This kind of inconsiderate parking and spotting occurs all the time in China.


We stayed three nights in Xinjie. Each evening, after supper, we showered at a public shower place that was down the road from the in-laws compound. It wasn't an ideal place because it was located beside a foul canal and a bridge foundation, and its shower rooms were damp with the only ventilation being holes in the ceilings; but the water was hot and we were cleaner for having gone.


Returning to Wuxi, we got stuck in another bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-creep-slowly-forward traffic jam. I saw many drivers who cheated by driving on the shoulder. I was in the left lane but I imagined that if I had been the right lane, I would have pulled my car slightly on the shoulder to stop the cheaters. [Another foreigner told me that he was in the right lane during such a traffic jam and that he put his car a little onto the shoulder to block a cheater. The result was that the driver he blocked was not very happy at all and took to be affronted instead of being chastened.] The tensest part of the jam occurred at the toll gate area before the Jiangyin Big Bridge. There are at least ten toll gates before the bridge. Three lanes of traffic turning into ten is chaotic, especially in China. But it gets worse when after the toll gates, the ten lanes have to merge back into three. I hadn't let the jam get to me until then. Why don't Chinese drivers merge alternately instead of cutting each other off in a battle to get ahead? 5,000 years of Chinese civilization? Hah! 5,000 years of stupidity seems closer to the truth. [To be fair though, the great Chinese civilization was destroyed by greedy foreigners and Communists.]


Back in three lanes and out of the cutting-off nightmare, I thought the drive went swimmingly. Traffic was back to a normal pace. I had suggested to Jenny that we take a freeway exit before Yanqiao and see if it could get us to Casa Kaulins more directly. When we had taken the bus back in previous years, we were annoyed to be on the freeway driving past our complex, and only then, to actually get there more than an hour later. Now with the car, we wanted to take a different route home, take a scenic drive as it were, but I didn't think it would be a good idea to do so until we got over the bridge. So when we were on the bridge, Jenny put on the GPS app on her phone and found an alternate route to take us back to Casa Kaulins. The app said it would take longer than using the normal route, but that didn't make any sense because driving on the freeway with our car did involve us still having to drive pass our apartment before could approach it. As well, the different route we were taking would take us directly to our apartment. Whether I was right or wrong wasn't of paramount importance then because we were going to take a scenic route. And as it turned out, getting off where we did proved to be an excellent idea because the traffic was light and it didn't seem to take any extra time to get back home.


The first thing we did when we were back in Wuxi was to take off all our clothes and wash as much of our dirty clothes as possible. The countryside leaves them smelling of smoke.


Our time back in Wuxi was spent in a rather desultory fashion. The first morning back was spent in bed. We didn't get up till 11:00 AM, and by the time we had showered and dressed, it was too late to get out of the house.


The other days, we did manage to get up a little earlier. Two days, we did find the gumption to go out. One of these days we went to the Hui Ju Shopping Mall (the mall near the Wuxi Ikea); the other day we went for a drive in the Three Kingdoms Park area in the afternoon before ending up downtown in the evening.


While Jenny did her own thing at Hui Ju, I took Tony to all the Mall's toy stores where he looked at the Star Wars toys and the toy guns.


The Three Kingdoms Park was packed. We weren't planning to go to the place anyway but the traffic and all the parked cars around the site was annoying. But it then became a pleasure to drive as we passed beyond the park and we were on roads that were relatively empty that passed scenery that was nice; perhaps, the best in Wuxi.


*


One thing I accomplished during the holiday was to read a full-length biography of Napoleon. He had an interesting life but he was no saint.


I also happened to listen a podcast about Zhou En Lai where I heard the Mao's great right hand man used to go to restaurants in an in cognito commoner and would criticize the restaurant's manager and staff if the food was lousy. In the Napoleon biography almost in every chapter, it was described how Napoleon would concern himself with matters great and small, and I posited I was seeing a parallel between the French emperor and the Chinese communist. Thinking further about this, I wondered if the fact that China looks good from ten meters away but not close up, could be explained by the centralization of power in the Chinese state causing the visual focus of the micromanagement to be of of an eye that can only see things from ten meters away. A micromanagement that can focus on little details is thus inhibited by a central power that is gigantic and not able to look closely at anything. I believe in the Subsidiarity of Catholicism.




*


Lucy, a student, told me that in her vocational school in the forthcoming term, she will have two classes a week about Chairman Mao thought. She said the class was boring and that many of the students slept through it. I got it out of her that the class was taught by some old man who had studied the subject. Lucy didn't know if he taught anything else at the school.


*


Monkey questions. Sam, a student, works at the new Wuxi Zoo with the monkeys and I had lots of questions to ask him about it. I recalled to him that when I visited the monkey compound at the old Wuxi Zoo, I saw many cats among the monkeys. Sam told me that this was the case at the new Wuxi Zoo as well. Asking why this was so, I learned that the cats came to be there naturally. That is, the cats snuck into the cages and it was determined that it wasn't necessary to evict them because they did no harm to the monkeys and there was the added benefit of the cats eating mice. So as soon as the new Wuxi Zoo opened, there were cats immediately coming from around the area to live with the monkeys.


*


One day, near the bus stop at which I wait to catch the shuttle bus to get to the Metro Station, I saw an Audi parked that had a flat tire. Two days later, the car was still parked there; it's tire still flat. Was this because the car was being parked there long term or the driver did not know how to deal with a flat tire?


*


The local drivers are inconsiderate parkers and stoppers. I told you about the Mazda parked in Jaingyan. I will tell you some other sights I have seen:



1) The White House, near the Yanqiao Metro station, is a place where subway riders can park their cars. It has been my habit to park there on Saturdays which is the only day of the week I take the car to get to school. On Saturday the 20th, I had a hard time getting out of the White House parking lot because a driver managed to park his car right in the middle of the entrance to the parking lot. The parking lot entrance is wide and is bounded by hedges. Local drivers who will park anywhere will park beside the hedges. They did so that day. Other drivers will then push the envelope some more by parking beside the cars that are parked by the hedges, and even then, they leave a big gap for cars to exit and enter the parking lot. This happened on the 20th. But then a driver pushed the envelope into ludicrous by parking in between all these cars and leaving barely a car width on either side by which to exit and enter the parking lot. And because it was cramped in the parking lot, it wasn't easy to turn into the now tight lanes. What the hell was that driver thinking? Did he not realize that he was parking in the entrance and exit lane? Or did he judge that there was enough space for others to get by? Or was he blind or inconsiderate or both?


2) From my desk at school, I can see a side road that join up to Zhongshan Road. Near this intersection, I can always see a car stopped at a point on the road where cars making u-turns often finish their turns. Because the car is parked at that point, a car making a u-turn has to stop and back up a few feet before it can then complete its turn. In the this case, the stopped car's driver is being inconsiderate and unaware. When the car stops at that point in a traffic jam, it forces all the cars behind it to have to try and merge into the other lane and thus there is further clogging of traffic. And the clogging is further exacerbated by a car trying to make a u-turn and then being forced to try to back up on an already clogged road. In this case, both the driver of the stopped car and the driver of the vehicle trying to turn around are both being inconsiderate.


*


As February comes to an end, it appears that Trump is going to win the Republican nomination. I don't want this but that's the way it is. Ideally, I can only hope that Ted Cruz can find a way to change the minds of Trump voters and Rubio voters. I can't see Cruz and Rubio allying in a bid to stop Trump. Cruz, if he did ally, would lose his claim to be anti-establishment. If it did come down to Trump versus Rubio, I would waver between who to choose. Rubio is said to be a solid conservative but he doesn't seem to have the stomach for confrontation whether it be with the likes of Trump or Clinton. Rubio doesn't seem to be the guy who, when push came to shove, would bring limited government to the USA. Trump, for all his inconsistencies, just might. And besides he has been endorsed by the likes of Anne Coulter and Sarah Palin: two ladies I admire.


*


For Lent, I am trying to abstain from chocolate and coffee.



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

January 2016 Notes

In this entry, I answer the question of whether Taiwan is a part of China, I respond to a query about the strength of my Chinese, I survey the students who have seen SW7, I visit Xinjie, I talk to Shilo(h) and Brandon and Fiona, I react to SP's endorsement of the D, I watch SW7 for a second time, Tony watches Spaceballs, I drive in Wuxi late one night, and I witness a driver and a pedestrian do dangerous things.


*


Kiki, a study advisor at my school, asked if I thought Taiwan was part of China.


I told her that I thought that China was part of Taiwan.


*


How is my Chinese? Someone asked me this on Facebook, and I would loved to have responded but my VPN (Tunnel Bear which I had paid for) hasn't been working. China's been working hard on blocking everything on the Internet I have been told.


So I will answer here.


不好!


I can read a few characters. I can understand some phrases here and there, but I dare not speak it because my tones and pronunciation are horrible.


*


Most students who have seen SW7 told me they found it boring. They are within their rights to say such things, and so I haven't and I won't tell them where to go.


[Later: I have had some students tell me they liked the movie very much. One girl even told me that she found B-B8 to be cute.]


*


Xin Jie. That is now the name of the place where my in-laws live. It had been my understanding first that my wife's parents hometown was called Taixing, and then that I was incorrect and that it was called Beixing or Beixin (I was never sure about the spelling.)


I became aware of the change to Xin Jie when the K family China drove to see Jenny's parents for one day in January. Approaching the freeway turnoff to Jenny's hometown, I noticed that the town name on the exit sign was Xinjie(新街).


Xinjie? I asked Jenny. She told me then that was the new name of the town. When did this happen? I asked. A couple years ago, said Jenny.


I wasn't told.


So it was to Xinjie that we were driving to and where we would spend part of a day. I set the trip odometer back at Casa Kaulins and by the time we returned in the evening, I saw that we had gone 191 kilometers. Not that far but I didn't enjoy the driving at all. Because the many other vehicles on the freeway went at all sorts of speeds (60 to 120 kmh); and because the rule of slower vehicles to the right and faster vehicles to the left wasn't followed, I was not able to just cruise in one lane. Instead, I had to weave through traffic, passing slow moving vehicles on the left or right depending on the lane they were occupying. And at night, on the drive back to Wuxi, I found the driving was stressful because my frequently being passed on the right meant I could never be sure that there wasn't a car in my blind spot when a slow moving vehicle in my lane forced me to change to a right lane. Some of these cars passing me on my right would be going 30 kmh or more than I was so that they would seem to come for nowhere.


The main purpose of the trip was for Jenny to bring a bunch of stuff to her parents and for us to bring a bunch of food, including rice and eggs, back to our home. And we had to stay in Xinjie long enough to have lunch and supper; after which, we could go.


When I balked that we were taking so much stuff back, Jenny said that this would lighten the load that we would have to bring back when we visit again at the Spring Festival. We'll just have to see about that, I thought.


Between lunch and supper, we had no plans. So, we sat around. When Tony let me, I read the Brothers Karamozov on my Ipad.


The K boys got bored of this sitting; and so I went for a walk and Tony went to the in-laws' next door neighbors house. I followed the usual paths I take on my Xinjie strolls. I walked through the back lanes and took the bridge which lead me to the main street of Xinjie where I noticed the following: that the number of cars parked on the road and the offerings in the stores had increased since my first visit to the place in 2007; that a lot of construction was still taking place, possibly in preparation for the Spring Festival; and that I was still a sight for a few of the locals as I walked passed stores. I chose to ignore a bunch of kids saying "Hello!" in the grating way that Chinese like to scream at passing foreigners. Despite the kids, I enjoyed the walk because I was very much impressed by the weathered looks of the older locals.


When I arrived back at the in-laws compound, Jenny told me to check out what Tony was up to next door. There, I saw that he was wandering around the house. I decided to do the same and went up the stairs to explore. The next door neighbour's house was three stories high with an attic and a roof upon which I could walk and look down on the surrounding lanes and roads. But the eye-opening sight for me was how these people lived. Despite all the space, these people looked to be living in poverty. The house had no interior décor. All I saw was all dusty concrete including the floor and the walls of the bedrooms. It looked like they were living in the hallway of a typical Chinese apartment instead of in an apartment. If I hadn't seen that the bedrooms did have beds in them that had been slept in, I would have thought that the place wasn't a residence at all. The other rooms were filled with junk; and I couldn't see a living room or even simple decorations like pictures.


I commented on this to Jenny, and she told me she was as disturbed as well by how they lived and their circumstances. The father was deaf on account of an accident he had been in three years ago. He was still working and was renown through the village for his carpentry skill. But because of his deafness, the wife was doing the wheeling and dealing for their business; and so she was never around. And so their home was a dump.


That was the extant of what I did in Xinjie. As soon as we had dinner, we drove home.


*


In January, I had some interesting conversations with students about things political and Chinese.


First though, I will mention a coincidence that happened. One afternoon, I taught a student whose English name was Shiloh. I told her that for a few years I lived in a town in Canada called Shilo. Shilo is twenty kilometers from a town called Brandon where my mother lives. Brandon is also an English name that was chosen by one of our young male students. Because of Shiloh, I thought about Brandon and how I hadn't seen him in a while. Well, the very evening of my class with Shiloh, I got my list of students I would teach the next day. One of them on the list was Brandon.


[Bad Joke: I suppose for some other teachers, I have heard of, having students with the names of Jack and Daniel in the same class or on consecutive days.]


The next day, Brandon and I had a conversation about China being the manufacturing hub of the world. There were three points from that conversation that I wish to pass on to you:

    1)Brandon talked about some of the ill effects for China of being a manufacturing hub for the world. Having a lot of American currency now, China has to worry about America devaluing it.

    2) Brandon said that there was a lot of talk about China needing to stop copying Western technology and being more creative. When I asked him how this could be accomplished we got onto to the third point.

    3) I told Brandon that it was hard to have a marketplace of ideas in a one party state. (I should have said atheistic as well, but that point would have been lost on him, I am afraid to say.) Brandon replied to this but prefaced his answer with "It shouldn't be talked about but..." He then talked about Xi Jing Ping's campaign to rid China of corruption and how it was marred by the fact that Xi was corrupt himself. Brandon offered the example of how Bo Xilai, who was brought down on corruption charges by Xi, was really just the loser of a power struggle with Xi.


After the class with Brandon, I had another business class with a woman named Fiona. She said a couple of items of interest to me and perhaps my rare readers. First, she told me that she was planning to go to Shanghai Disneyland when it opened this year (July 2016). I couldn't imagine myself going – even if I had the chance – because the crowds and lineups would be sure to make the experience very unenjoyable. Fiona, it turned out, had some connections including a contact who was going to open a KFC outlet near the Disney site so she had reason to go. Second, it seemed to me that she believed that the government had great ability to control market forces. She told me how the government was planning to deal with high real estate prices in Shanghai. They were first going to cancel the policy of only letting the students living near a school be able to attend that school. The government believed that this policy had been causing prices of apartments near good schools to rise too high. In addition, the government believed that the policy elimination would encourage people to buy apartments in outlying suburbs of Shanghai where there were excess apartments. I then tried to ask Fiona if the government would let the market set the prices and she told me that all the government wanted to happen in Shanghai was no rise in prices as well as no fall. Trying to tell Fiona that governments can't manipulate prices any way they wanted, she bluntly told me that they could.


*


Sarah Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump disappointed me when I first heard of it. Only a few days before, I had just become very down on Trump when he used the 9/11 card against Ted Cruz. While speaking of the suffering and the response of New Yorkers to 9/11 looked forceful at the time it was used, Trump defied logic and didn't answer the point that Cruz had raised: that Trump was a product of notorious left-wing New York values. I thought it was even dirtier and insulting to many Cruz supporters for Trump to say he was insulted by Cruz's line of attack and to imply that Cruz was insulting New York firefighters and policemen.


It most certainly true that good economics is not good politics. I guess that the same can be said for good logic.


In an interview later, Trump defended the mendaciousness of his attacks against Cruz by saying he was doing what he had to do. Doing what he has to do, he seems to be reading the politics correctly at the moment.


Perhaps, Palin is too.


Democracy, democracy, democracy. My God! David Warren is right to say that people would be better off with a monarchy.


*


I took Tony to see SW7 for a second time; this time at the Hui Ju (Livat Mall) cinema. Jenny bought us the tickets using an Iphone app and she got us, what Tony called, sofa seats where two or more can share a seat that is two persons wide. Couples, in these seats, can not only hold hands but rub thighs. The sofa seats were located in the two back rows of the cinema. Along with providing lots of space, the seats were separated from each other by partitions so that you couldn't see the people seated beside you and you knew which cup holder was yours. It was a great way to watch a movie.


With the privacy, Tony & I chatted the whole film. Thus breaking rules that I had been so adamant about all my life. Blame it on being in China! Anyway. Tony expressed much admiration for the Finn character. "Finn is a black man. I like him!" he said.


I enjoyed watching the movie a second time though I couldn't escape the notion that the story could only move along because the bad guys were doing very illogical things. But that's the way it has always been with the SW series. For instance, in SW4, which I think of as the first Star Wars movie, the decision of the Imperial gunners to not fire at the escape pod containing C3PO and R2D2 because it didn't contain life forms was so idiotic. But then there wouldn't have been a movie! In SW7, the decision of Kylo Ren to not continue searching for B-B8 because they had captured Rey also defied logic. Why didn't they delegate a search party to keep looking for him!!!! But then the movie wouldn't have had a happy ending.


The film ended at 10:00 PM. Before we were to go home, we had to drive to downtown Wuxi to pick up Jenny. This gave me my first chance to drive the Wuxi streets late at night and I saw there were a lot of taxis. I would say that half the traffic on the road at that time of night consisted of taxis. Despite the taxis and their mad drivers, I enjoyed driving late at night because the roads were wonderfully not crowded.


When we did arrive home, Tony told me he wanted to watch "his" Spaceballs movie. (He picked up this from my saying that I wanted to watch "my" TV series, which I was doing to try to preempt him from asking me to put on his show on my computer.)


From Spaceballs, the Mel Brooks Sci Fi spoof, Tony picked up the curse word that is close to "ice hole." He would mutter that word at strange times like when we would be walking in a public place. After watching the famous comb the desert scene, Tony, in trying to quote the punch line, said "we found shot" or something to that effect; and I corrected him. "We ain't found shot!" I told Tony before immediately realizing that I was teaching him to say "ain't." (Shot! I suppose that the cursing he will pick up one way or another, so might as well get it over with.)


*


Jenny & Tony went to Taiwan for six days. They flew there from the Wuxi Airport. I couldn't accompany them because I had to work.


I maintained constant contact with them thanks to the WeChat App.


For my two days off without them, I had a vague notion that I would go for a drive in the nearby countryside; but the weather was cold and it snowed. It seemed prudent to keep the car parked.


*


Stupid drivers and pedestrians:


  • Jenny & I went to the Tesco nearby Casa K and used the underground parking. While looking for a parking spot, I was horrified to see another car enter the parking area through the exit tunnel! Now the tunnel is not one of those tunnels that is twisting – it is a ramp that goes straight down – but it would scare my pants off to be going up the tunnel and have a car heading straight towards me.


  • Zhongshan Road doesn't have a center boulevard to separate opposing lanes of traffic. So with Chinese drivers being what they are, the authorities have placed fences on the center double yellow line. However, Chinese pedestrians, being what they are, will sometimes walk along these fences in the middle of the road instead of on the sidewalks. I saw one old man, who dressed like he came from the sticks, walk the whole length of Zhongshan Road in this crazy manner. He had to hug the fence to avoid vehicles coming head-on towards him.