Saturday, December 31, 2011

At midnight....

  • The K family was all in the Casa K living room.  A New Year's Eve television show featuring pop stars was on the television.
  • Daddy K was still reeling in horror from having seen Avril Lavigne perform on a Chinese Television show.  He was shamed to be Canadian.  What a horrible performance! thought Daddy K who thanked his lucky stars he was old to follow Pop music.
  • Tony K was playing on the Ipad.  He said "Happy New Year!" when coaxed.  He took his attention away from the Ipad to watch the New Year's countdown.  The fireworks display at the stroke of midnight amazed him.
  • Jenny K sat beside Tony.  She received kisses from both her boys a little after the stroke of midnight.
  • None of the K's sang Auld Lang Syne.

Wuxi mayor sacked?

A student mentioned something happening to the mayor of Wuxi during my last English Corner of 2011.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Some end-of-the-year random thingie-wingies

  • Western--December 31ish--New Year's isn't a big deal in China.  None of the students have told me that they would be doing anything interesting that evening.  They get primed for the Lunar New Year.
  • We have a Japanese student.  Yes!  I hope he likes baseball so that I can tell him of my hatred of the MLB wildcard.
  • I love Jenny's new hairdo, but she is having second thoughts.
  • I am not going to do anything special on New Year's Eve.  I will hang out at home with Tony and Jenny.  The boys will admire Mom's new hairdo!!
  • Divisions of people in Wuxi.  They divide on long lines of income, their liking of KTV, their liking of basketball, whether they are Wuxi locals or not, their liking of computer games, and their keenness of school study.
  • For the first time I had a student who goes to the gym to workout.  I asked him why his type -- Chinese who work out -- seemed so rare.  He said they were too busy doing other things.
  • Someone else says he isn't going to a pub on New Year's Eve.
  • Someone told me that after eating street food, he was having strange dreams.
  • If you want to find out who AKIC's 2011 Wuxi Expat of the year is, you can visit here or here.
  • One of my students says he is doing inventory on New Year's Eve.  I told him that while others will be counting 5,4,3,2,1, he will be counting 1,2,3,4,5,....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bumper Cars in Wuxi, China

Where's Jesus?

The Christian Church, near my school, put a curious sign about its main entrance.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wuxi Tony opens his first ever Christmas Present

Recent Photos of Andis and Jenny

Who will be the 2011 Wuxi Expat of the Year?

For regular readers of my blogs, this should be a no-brainer.

Still, I will hold you in suspense.

Who will win the coveted 2011 AKIC Wuxi Expat of the Year award?  Previous winners have been President Barack Obama (2009)  and my son Tony Kaulins (2010).

You will want to be the first on your block to learn to news, so visit this blog frequently over the next week or so.  I will not give your the exact time and date of the announcement.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Birthday

  • December 24th is my birthday.  I tell myself to be reticent about the fact.  So, other than to my son and to my rare readers, I haven't mentioned it.  
  • But by mentioning it here, I am making a confession of sorts.  It is a struggle to not think about it.  If I said it didn't matter to me that it was my birthday, I would be lying.  And yet I know I should shut up.
  • Here is an interesting birthday tribute to me on my WCE Blog.  Thanks Harry!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pre-Christmas Random Observations

  • Merry Christmas to the rare readers of this blog.  Christmas in China is better in the sense that it doesn't overwhelm one.  However, the forlorn feelings that the holiday gives one are still as intense as they would be if one were in the West.
  • I was adding on Trains, Cars, and Routes to my Microsoft Train Simulator (MSTS as those who like this sort of thing call it) on my last weekend before Christmas.  It was all to make Tony happy.  Now, Tony can choose from jet-engine trains and boats to run on all the routes.
  • I saw a report somewhere on the Internet that atheists are doing ads depicting happy atheist families.  Wonderful!  I thought.  The atheists are trying to tell us they are really like Mormons.
  • Confucius say "He who farts in church, sits in pew."  Will some people find that joke offensive?  I find it a cute play on words myself.
  • I hate stop-and-chats (that is term I picked up from Curb Your Enthusiasm).  I am so used to just listening to my podcasts and thinking my irate thoughts, that running in somebody throws me off my routine.
  • What to do if students give one-word answers.  I make a sentence for them that they need to respond to with a full sentence.  e.g. Do you have a girlfriend?  If they say just "no!", I will then suggest that they have two or three girlfriends.  To which they will often respond, in a full sentence, that they don't have a girlfriend.
  • Having to put on a Santa Claus costume, I take on an intense hating for Santa Claus.  The Birth of Jesus story would make for more interesting costumes, I think.
  • What to do Christmas Day?  My wife Jenny wants to go for a nice meal at some restaurant.  I prefer to stay home but then Jenny would have to do some cooking, and I don't want to burden her.  But the thought of getting out of the house and taking a bus downtown is a burden as well.  I like the idea of Tony and I playing with the train set and the compter trains on Christmas Day.
  • The school will take us to a hotel on the evening of December 23 for a Christmas Dinner.  Jenny and Tony won't be accompanying me, so I will be free, but I will surely have to deal with questions asking about their absence.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Photos taken in the Hui Shan District of Wuxi, China: December 19, 2011

After I had to take Tony to kindergarten yesterday, I walked back to Casa K.

I took the photos below. You can see the progress of Subway Construction on Hui Shan Da Dao, and the looming towers of the Olympic Park Apartments.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My last weekend before Christmas

  • Not much Christmas shopping going on in Wuxi, China -- that is the impression I get from asking the students.
  • Employees at Carrefour, I learned, have already had their annual Chinese New Year company dinner.  They have to because CNY is a busy time for them!
  • A man tells me that his wife asked for a divorce after their daughter was born with congenital heart problems.  He looks after the child but has to pay 25 percent of his salary to his wife.  Sad.
  • My favorite article by Christopher Hitchens had to be one he wrote about partisanship -- he was for it. If I remember correctly, he said politics was meant to be partisan and there was no point in holding back in discussions.  I believe, he saw, like I did that talk of bi-partisanship these days has the stench of authoritarianism associated with it.
  • The World is all that is the case.  What does that mean?  What does Wittgenstein mean by the World?  Does he mean the Universe?  Was does case mean?  Does case mean all that is, i.e. reality?  Does Wittgenstein mean that the Universe is all there is?
  • Good riddance!  Someone, I loathe, is leaving Wuxi.  He was the classic transient worker, the teacher who was a body but not much else.  He couldn't show up on time for work if his life depended on it.  It wouldn't surprise me if he was returning to his Native country to take part in a Occupy movement.  It is about all he is good for.  I hope, for the sake of people who don't come to Wuxi to lie to everyone and anyone with an ounce of deceny, that he isn't late for his plane.
  • I overslept Monday morning.  I had to wake up early to get Tony on his way to school.  Because I slept late, I had to take Tony to a bus stop and accompany him to his kindergarten, instead of just putting him in the van that would have taken him there.  The bus took forever to come, and it was standing room only when it did. 
  • It was interesting for me to observe Tony at the Kindergarten.  When we got to the school gate, Tony took off his backpack, opened it and put a toy car, he had been carrying, in it.  He knows enough now to put his stuff away.  He then lead me to his classroom.  Entering it, he knew where to put to his backpack.  Tony ran into the class -- a foreigner teacher was doing his thing -- Tony grabbed an empty chair and ran happily to his place.  It surprises me how quickly babies become their own person and become socialized.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It isn't cold cold

  • It isn't really that cold in Wuxi these days.  It is cold enough for me to wear long underwear, but I fear I may be overdoing it with my fake Anapurna Jacket.  I find myself wishing it was another five degrees Celsius colder.
  • Christopher Hitchens has died.  I got this news from another trainer at school who then asked if I had heard of him.  I told him I had of course, and how I had read many of his books, sought out his writings on the Internet, and listened to him speak on many a podcast.  Hitchens, was a guy I agreed with about fifty percent of the time.  I wished he could have repudiated his previous Leftism more strongly.  I wished he wasn't such a rabid atheist.  Still, he was a guy you wish was on your side of any intellectual debate.  He supported the Iraq war as I did.  He saw Bill Clinton for what he was: a liar and a rapist.  He saw the vacuity of Obama's 2008 election campaign.  I wonder about his legacy.  He never wrote a classic book despite being a great writer.  His contradictions will always cloud the way many people look at him.  I can appreciate the many who hated him through and through.  But yet, I am with the many who admire him with reservations.
  • A student who I tried to teach on Friday evening told me he had just recently become a father.  I spent some time asking him about the details of his son's birth.  I learned that he wasn't at the hospital when his son was born.  His wife was in his hometown while he was working in Wuxi.  He heard that his wife was in labour about nine p.m.  She gave birth about six a.m. the next morning.  Hearing the news, the student immediately took leave from work.  He took a bus to his hometown -- the ride was five hours.  Try to imagine what it would be like to take a five hour bus ride to see your son for the first time!  I would be pushing the bus to make it go faster, or saying "screw this!  the bus is too slow!", and running to my hometown.  The student's wife was in his hometown so she could be looked after by his mother.  The student will be seeing his son once a month now that his maternity leave is over -- that I would find hard to take.
  • Podcasts I have listened to twice.  You make think of Marc Steyn as an arch right-winger -- not that I think that there is anything wrong with that.  But he does do these excellent podcasts about music that can be found on his website.  I have repeatedly listened to these two podcasts (part 1 and part 2) he has made about Hugh Martin who composed the song "Have yourself a merry Christmas!" -- Steyn manages to get Bob Dylan, Twisted Sister, and Judy Garland into the same podcast.  Steyn's taste in music is wide and wise, without being too snotty.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I suddenly remembered it was Frank Sinatra's birthday! Interesting Links!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What food is sour? No change in style? A fight of sorts.

  • Andis:  "What food is sour?"  Student:  "Potatoes!"
  • Tony and I had a fight.  We made up. Tony said he was sorry.  I said I was sorry.  We hugged each other.
  • This article I have come across is interesting.  The writer, Kurt Anderson, offers the observation that cultural appearances, which usually change dramatically every twenty years, haven't changed so dramatically recently.  Compare the dress of people in 1991 with 2011 and they don't look all that different,  and their cars look the same as well.  Try doing that with 1955 and 1975, and you would think that the author has a point.  
  • Thinking of popular music, the bands I liked from the late eighties and early nineties, Morrissey and New Order, don't look or sound dated now.  (I also remember thinking that Nirvana represented the the beginning of the end for my following pop music closely.  Nirvana didn't seem all that original and their popularity was an annoyance to me.)  My thoughts about alternative bands made me inclined to read what the author had to say.  
  • Kurt Anderson also offered the observation that all that the new tech devices that we have make us more nostalgic.  They do make me more nostalgic because it is now so easy for me to find the things I couldn't get in the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s like music videos.  I find I love to watch video and film of the NFL and the NHL before 1980.  I love watching all the old movies.  But this just might be due to my age.  I talked to a recent twenty-something who told me she didn't know who the Marx brothers were -- the young set is particularly nostalgic as far as I can see. (Could it be that the younger generations's creativity is being focused on their portable devices and less on their clothing?)  I bet she probably hadn't heard of Love and Rockets either.
  • This superficial resemblance between now and twenty years ago is what Anderson calls the first paradox.
  • Anderson, unfortunately, then tried to make the same observations about politics and showed himself to be a leftist by showing his misunderstanding of the Tea Party:  And, although the Tea Partiers began by nominally re-enacting the pre-Revolutionary early 1770s, they were actually performing a cover version of the New Left's would-be-pre-revolutionary late 1960s.  Really?  I would say in a sarcastic tone.  Anderson then said that Reagan wanted to take America back to the 1950s and talked about the economy having flat-lined in the last twenty years.  Nonsense!
  • Anderson then states what he sees as the second paradox.  The paralysis in style-change has been accompanied by an interest in being stylish.  He says that people are more interested in style than ever.  This of course contradicts his observation that the economy has flat-lined.  In China, people, I observe, are very style-obsessed because they are wealthier.  
  • Anderson then wonders if this "style stagnation" is because of economic factors.  Forces that be in the style-industry have grown so big that it is now awfully expensive for them to redo themselves.  Really?
  • Anderson then ends his article hoping some kind of dramatic change is in the wake.  Although he feels the stagnation will continue.
  • Anderson's article ultimately is one man's view, and like most cultural-observation articles, his is full of casual observations and superficial reasonings that one has to only think about for thirty seconds to discover their self-contradictions.  For instance, people didn't wear so many tattoos twenty years ago as they do now.  His views about politics, are too embedded in Leftism, to be useful.  But putting that aside, I do think some of his observations about style are correct.  
  • So why is this so?  Humans can only take so much change at once, is about all I can say.  And perhaps the population is older. 
  • Perhaps, I shouldn't wade in Macro-cultural observations.
  • A non-American person: "Those Americans spell tyre t-i-r-e!  They do things backwards!"  Me:  "No!  If they did it backwards, they would spell it e-r-i-t!  And besides who spells tire t-y-r-e?"
  • Tony and I had another fight.  This time it was about the train set.  Tony pointed to a PLA RAIL box and a picture of a particular train setup or track configuration.  I then started to dismantle the current track configuration and Tony became upset.  I continued dismantling because I thought that Tony's wailing would subside when he would see me put together another configuration.  But it didn't.  Tony only became more upset when I started to make a new one.  He then began to rip apart the track of the new configuration.  Annoyed, I helped him and put it the track in the plastic box in which we store his PLA RAIL things.  I asked him if this was what he wanted.  He said no!  I held him in my arms for above ten minutes trying to soothe and calm him down.  I eventually took the track out of the plastic box and tried to make another configuration, but the same scenario happened.  This time, I told Tony to tell his mom his complaint -- he can speak a lot of Chinese that I don't understand.  She told me that he told her he wanted me to make a new configuration for him.  Telling Jenny that that what was what I was trying to do didn't do anything to lower the contempt she had for me at that moment.
  • Actually, the second incident really wasn't a fight.  I did nothing aggressive towards Tony.  I just let him wail.  I even withdrew from him at one point to see what he would do.
  • During the withdrawal, I was hoping to see Tony run to me.  What did happen was he continued to cry and I couldn't stand it and so went back to him.
  • It took Mom giving him a Ipad to calm him down.

Tony and Andis

I was happy when this photo was taken.

Then, Tony and I had a disagreement.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Saudi Arabian Chinese Food and other observations

  • I asked some students what the worse meal they ever had was.  Many of them said every meal at their school cafeteria.  One student told me he that he had his worst meal about two weeks previously.  The time frame piqued the interest of the students and this teacher.  He told us he was in Saudi Arabia when he and his companions walked into a restaurant with a sign that said Chinese Food.  They had the worst Chinese food in their lives.  The restaurant, which had no Chinese working in it, just didn't know how to make Chinese food.
  • I had told the students that my worst meal was at a hotel in Beijing in 2003 where I had the worst Western Breakfast ever.  I don't know how they cooked the eggs, but it wasn't in a Western fashion.  The eggs were runny and liquidy and couldn't have been fried using butter.
  • Another student, when I asked her, the favorite food question, told me she had a favorite food for each season.  She then proceeded to tell me her favorite food for each season.  Usually, students won't offer up so much information, so I was very impressed by her answer.
  • Students have written down the following words when I mentioned them in class:  hibernation and vomit.  Hibernation is a wonderful concept for a place when many think sleeping is a hobby.  Vomit is a good-sounding word to describe cafeteria food.
  • From the school's third floor, I was able to look below to see a worker carrying a sack of rice on his shoulder while holding onto another heavy bag with his free arm.  With his head down, he was running to his destination as fast as he could -- he had to carry the bag from a van parked on the street 50 meters to his restaurant.  I felt sorry as I watched him.  When he got to the restaurant entrance, a man was waiting for him.  "Thanks asshole for helping him!" I thought.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


  • Tony wants Ultraman
  • It was cold enough in Wuxi on December 9th that I wore a parka.  That is, it was cold enough that my wife ordered me to wear a parka.  Thankfully, it was cold enough to wear a parka.  My biggest complaint about the weather is that it sometimes doesn't make my wardrobe.
  • When it rains, you have to be the sunshine.  Or maybe it is that when it rains, you ought to be the hail.  But in practice, most of us, when it rains, are worms coming out of the soil.
  • It was chilly enough on the evening of December 8 that people waiting at the bus stop were hopping in order to keep warm.
  • I have a sore back.  I was sitting on the bus, on the way to work, for forty minutes during which I was quite satisfied.  I read a chapter of my Chinese textbook all the while listening to a China History Podcast.  After listening to the history of the Xia and then the Shang Dynasty, I put on country music that I had loaded on the phone (American Soldier by Toby Keith is a great song -- something you can play to annoy Leftists, Anti-Semites, Terrorist-sympathizers and Anti-Americans).  The bus got to the end of route.  Getting out of my seat was an ordeal.  A spasm of pain made the getting up slow.  I could have used a cane to get off the bus.  I'm getting old.
  • Meanwhile, Jenny has a sore neck and shoulder, and can't sleep.  I give her massages.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blogspot entry 4007: Peanuts and Ketchup. Creating Consists.

  • I have made as many entries in this blog as Joe Namath threw for passing yards in the 1967 American Football League season: 4,007.
  • This is wordpress entry number 3848.
  • Someone was telling my I was brave to voice my political opinions in my blog. If only I was brave enough to voice my political opinions in conversation!
  • I have lost readers by bravely voicing my opinions, but every one needs a place where they say how they think instead of just keeping their thoughts to themselves.
  • Often in conversation, I am shy to voice my opinions, often stewing inside rather than saying that I disagree with something others say. Sometimes, I can't be bothered with arguing and, to be honest, I shirk confrontation. But since this is my blog and my place, I say what I believe. There is no point worrying about losing readers who don't like what I think. This blog will last longer than anything I say in conversation.
  • Tony and his father's laptop.
  • The menu, at Grandma's, said peanuts and sauce. That is, the Grandma's that is down the street from the Blue Bar. Anyway, we ordered the peanut dish. The sauce was ketchup but I ate all the peanuts anyway.
  • Miscellaneous Photos.
  • The weather in Wuxi is strange. Here I am wearing a toque (knit cap) and long underwear (long johns) on a December day. I feel like I am in Vancouver.
  • Wuxi Construction Photos.
  • I am trying to find ways to put more trains in the Microsoft Train Simulator program I loaded on my laptop for Tony. I have figured out how to make new train configurations or consists. That is, I can now add all sorts of cars and engines to my trains. For instance, one configuration consists of five engines and alternating passenger and freight cars. Since, passenger train service often is money losing in reality, I figure all passenger trains that I design should deliver freight in order to make a profit.
  • Anyway, I figured how to make new consists or configurations using the Wordpad program. I was trying to download a consist editor with no success. Looking through forums about the matter, I came across a posting saying the best way to edit consists was using Wordpad. And it was easy, I would open up .con files and then cut and paste code.
  • Trying to put new trains in the Train Simulator program is not so easy. I downloaded a file for a Percy train (one of the trains from Thomas and Friends) followed the installation instructions in the readme file, but the train doesn't show up in the Simulator program.
  • Tony and my laptop.

Miscellaneous Photos

Construction near the Moresky360 building.

A future stop on the Wuxi Metro line.

Tony takes off the balaclava.

Daddy puts on the balaclava.

Jenny eating.

Some of Tony's toy trains.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blogspot Entry #4005: The Marxist versus the _____? The China History Podcast mentions me!

  • This is entry #3847 at akic wordpress.
  • I garnered a mention in this episode of the superb Chinese History Podcast.  No!  I haven't done anything of historical importance in China.  I did mention that I had found the podcast in a previous entry.  I hope my rare readers have taken my advice and downloaded some episodes.  I have about 50 to listen to of the 66 that are available.  So far the podcasts, I have listened to, have been very informative.  If you haven't started listening to the podcast, I would recommend you listen to the first three podcasts about Deng Xiao Peng before you listen to the fourth one in which I am mentioned.  Then refer to the entry and see how I got my mention.
  • Laslzo Montgomery, who does the podcast, has the life.  He can shuttle back and forth between the China and America.  I have to admit I envy that.  I need a little bit more of Canada than I get at the moment, and but I know I would hate to be back in Canada away from China.
  • It is depressing to see how the Republican Nomination process seems to be unfolding.  I use the word "seem" because the reporting of the process is survey driven, not based on actual voting. 
  • I am disappointed by my first choice Herman Cain having to withdraw from the race.  I can't help but think that there was some Chicago-style skulduggery from forces sympathetic to Obama involved in Cain's downfall.  Still, the Cain candidacy did some good.  I think it has chipped away at the use of the race card by the Democrats.  I hope it will convince a few Blacks that the Democrats are not their friend but the 21st century version of the Plantation owner.
  • I now place my hopes on Michelle Bachman.  I know the polls say that she has no chance.  But ultimately the anti-Romney forces can't rally behind Gingrich.  Gingrich, in his infinite wisdom, decided to sit on that park bench beside that Nancy "Stretch" Pelosi.  And his personal life will take some explaining too.  Bravo to him for converting to Catholicism but he still has the politician's habit of trying to use sophistry to try to explain away his past sins, of which he has many.  Still, he does have better ideas than the current resident of the White House, and he would be an improvement if he got to move in there.  But his ideas are all over the place like a Futurist.  Gingrich may do something good by accident, but he also seems he will be able to easily find rationales to explain any Squishy moves he would make.  Can't the Republicans do better than him?
  • Mitt Romney again would be a better President than the current resident of the White House, but, like Gingrich he has a history of squishiness.  If somehow a President Romney had a son-of-a-bitch aspect to him, like Nixon and Obama's supporters, there may be hope for the American Republic.  But I am afraid Romney isn't.  He is just a technocrat who thinks he can fix a sinking ship.
  • So the U.S. Presidential election will pit the Marxist against the Futurist?  Big Ears against Big Hair?  The Marxist against the Mormon?  The No-Hoper against the Flip-Flopper?  The Liar against  Mister Multiple Personality?  The Marxist against the Conservative?    The last matchup is devoutly to be wished for but it may not happen alas...
  • To be Mister Rodgers or Vince Lombardi?  That is the question for me as I think about teaching.  I would say that the choice depends on the students.  Some come to the class motivated, disciplined, and enthused so that a teacher can be nice.  But others need a kick in the ass. The students who come to class with no motivation, no discipline, and no enthusiasm have to be either dealt with Vince Lombardi style or purged a la KGB, OGPU pr the NKVD.  Being a humanitarian, I should turn Vince Lombardi on those latter types.
  • I wanted these students to leave the class.  Clever little bastards pretended not to understand me.  What could I do?  I took away their toys.
  • A lot of English teachers spend their spare moments playing X-Box games.  How pathethic!
  • On my Youtube Channel: 1,617,697 views.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Happy Birthday to Ron Kaulins, brother of Andis Kaulins

That's my brother Ron in the foreground. His sister-in-law Jenny and his nephew Tony are in the background

Ron is living in Winnipeg. He now owns my Aunt Ritma's old house.

Smarter than me he is. He got himself some practical skills.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blogspot Entry Number 4002

  • This is number 3844 entry on my Wordpress blog.
  • My fantasy NFL football team is 7-5, one game out of first in its division.  This weekend's game is big -- if the Wuxi Metro lose, I don't think they will make the playoffs.
  • It is becoming cold in the Wux.  I am wearing long johns now.
  • Thirty million Wuxi Expats have done their Christmas shopping.
  • Back to using my nine year old laptop at work.  The school fixed it for me, putting in a new hard drive, free of charge.
  • What is up with Canadians?