Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Week in the Life of an Expat living in Wuxi, China: May 13 to May 19, 2013

Gratitude:  I thank the powers that be for all the good food my wife has been feeding my this week, and the fact that I have determined two things this week. (Find out below)
Acknowledgment: I am a sour and bitter sort, even though I know damn well I shouldn't be. But what the hay! I still can laugh in my own way at my own jokes. Ha ha I type as I slap my knees at the same time.
Requests: 1)I hope that all goes well for my Aunt Dzridza in Winnipeg and my Uncle Maigonis in Minneapolis – my mother's and my father's eldest siblings respectively are apparently not doing so well. I was able to see them both last year, and it was nice of Maigonis to attend my father's funeral. We didn't think that he could make the long trip from Minneapolis to Manitoba, but he did. 2)Send emails to my new address:

An AKIC Glossary
Gratitude: will always be the first word of the AKIC weekly blog entry -- it is the key to happiness.
Acknowledgment and Request:  For me Acknowledgment means confession; and Request means request.  GAR [Gratitude, Acknowledgment, Request] are the simple stages of a prayer which I came upon following the Jewish World Review site.  I used the GAR format when I delivered the eulogy at my father's funeral last year.

Jenny is my wife. She is a Jiangsu woman.

J: I will sometimes refer to her that way.

Tony is my son.

T: I will sometimes refer to Tony this way.

TKIC: Tony Kaulins in China.  I may be referring to the TKIC blogs or to Tony when I use TKIC.  I  am sure you can figure out which way I am using it from the context.

AKIC:  Andis Kaulins in China.  The same applies to AKIC as applies to TKIC.  That is, I may be referring to the AKIC blogs or to myself.  AKIC aspires to be China's leading forum of Gómez-Dávilism and reactionary intransigence.

My School is HyLite English located on Zhongshan Road in Wuxi, China.

Casa Kaulins is what I call the apartment I (really my wife) owns.

California Villa: The English name of the apartment complex the Kaulins family resides. In Chinese pinyin, it is called Jia Zhou Yang Fang.

Train-spotting.  There is a high speed train track running near Casa K.  Tony & I, when we have a chance, love to go there to watch the trains go by.

Wuxi:  The city where Jenny, Tony & I live.  I sometimes call it the Wux.

Hui Shan: The district of Wuxi in which we live. Not to be confused with the Hui Shan Mountain that is in Xihui Park.

The Square:  The Hui Shan People's Square is nearby Casa Kaulins.

Central Park: Hui Shan Central Park is the park closest to Casa Kaulins. It has a playground area and a small lake with beach. The park is nothing special. The water in the lake is unbelievably foul. The playground's fixtures are following apart. The park is big enough that its narrow paths, that I would have thought were meant for pedestrians, have cars being driven on them. The sight of these cars honking at pedestrians to get out their way disgusts me as much as the park's lake water. Chinese people don't know how to drive and exhibit extreme selfishness when they get behind the steering wheel.

Yanqiao: a town of Hui Shan District -- not too far from Casa Kaulins.

Jiangyin: A city or district next to Wuxi.

Meicun:  A suburb of Wuxi city that is far from the downtown.

Shuo Feng:  Ditto!

Ditto!  Agrees with what has been previously said.

FB: A pervert (or seducer) I happened to know, but don't see much anymore, thank God.

LECTOR: I got the idea for Lector, a fictional sparring partner for my blog, from a Hillaire Belloc book I had read recently.

School Laptop:  I like to make note of where I make my notes for my weekly blog entry.  One of the four places is my school laptop.  The other three are: my home laptop, my Ipad Mini, and my Ipod Touch.

Python: Some kind of script-writing computer program I am learning to use.

Brandon, Manitoba, Canada is where my mother Aina lives.
Winnipeg, Manitoba is where my brother Ron lives.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA is where some of my father's relatives live.

The AKIC Week in Brief: It is hard to make each week seem distinctive from the other. There are rarely deviations in my weekly routine which sees me take the bus to work and then the bus home. So. Let's face it! I lead a dull life. Not that there is anything wrong with that. World War Two was an interesting time and I am glad to have just heard about it. A life where we get all we want is not interesting to others anyway... it is all about how you feel about it. So... What happened in AKIC land this week? I took the bus to get to school and back. At school, I had lots of spare time so I studied Chinese and Python computer programming – I only left my office to teach classes. I also did a lot of reading, and I got two things from it. First, I know what I am going to put on my gravestone (If there is any money for such a thing. My funeral will be on the cheap like my father's was.). Second, I think I have a purpose for this blog. I first thought, six years ago, that this blog would be the authoritative record of Wuxi Expatdom. That quickly fell by the wayside because that meant me rising to the level of a social animal. I have spent too much of my life as a loner, stuck on the margin, being a sour and bitter observer of human affairs. This leopard can't change his spots. It is not in my nature to say things are sunshine and lollipops when they aren't. My blog entries got a lot of people annoyed at me. So my blog couldn't be the authoritative guide to Wuxi Expat living – I fell out of the loop. It had to be something else...

About Me (Andis):

I in in China!  我 听说 张艺谋 有 很多 儿子。我 问 一个学生。你 是 张艺谋的儿子吗?

Politically I am Conservative!  There was more proof this past week that Obama sucks as a president.  I take no joy from it however.  The electorate in the U.S. should have been made aware much earlier. And I am stuck on a planet where far too many people think highly of Obama however terrible he is.

I am Canadian!  I wonder what happened to the Leafs in game seven against Boston.

I teach English!  When I can.
I like to Read! Here is what I am reading this week:
Don Colacho's Aphorisms:  There are 2,988 of them in this book that I compiled myself.  I read ten aphorisms at a time.  I cut and paste the better ones -- they are all profound actually -- and I put them in my weekly blog entry. (See below) This week, I learned, was his birthday
Ulysses by James Joyce:  I am following along with  Frank Delaney  as he slowly guides podcast listeners through Joyce's hard-to-read novel.  Delaney figures he will have done his last ReJoyce Podcast in about 22 years.  Now that I have caught up to Delaney's podcast (he completed episode #153 this week), I am getting ahead him as far as reading the book.  I will be finished reading it, I figure, in a year.

The Holy Bible King James Version:   I am reading a chapter a day of the greatest book of all-time. I am now reading the Acts of the Apostles.
University Economics:  Elements of Inquiry Third Edition by Armen A. Alchian and William R. Allen:   A great Economics textbook. 
The Hobbit by JR Tolkien.  I hadn't read this book before.  I have seen parts of the recent movie based on the book.  But it was reading Father Schall's praising of Tolkien that really inspired me to read the Hobbit.  Tolkien, says Schall, is more than just the creator of the genre of Fantasy fiction.

I like to take photos
I publish them in the following blogs:  AKIC wordpress , TKIC blogspot, and TKIC wordpress.

I like to make videos

I like to cut and paste quotations:
In honor of Don Colacho's Birthday, I will publish more of his quotes than normal:

2155 Sins that appear “splendid” from afar are from close up nothing more than small sordid episodes.
2157 The politician, in a democracy becomes the jester of the sovereign people. [Joe Biden is not the first clown to achieve high office, and he won't be the last.]
2160 Whoever appeals to any science in order to justify his basic convictions inspires distrust of his honesty or his intelligence. [People who do talk about science, or say they are scientists, seem to think they think they have halos around their head.]
2162 When nothing in society deserves respect, we should fashion for ourselves in solitude new silent loyalties. [That is what I am doing with my life these days.]
2168 The left is a collection of those who blame society for nature’s shabby treatment of them. [Since I stopped being a left-winger, I realize that most of the shabby treatment I have received in my life has been deserved. I have also realized that a lot of shabby treatment isn't really so shabby after all.]
2174 Profound convictions are transmitted in silence. [Best to shut up and let the other guy talk and make a fool of himself.]
2202 Our denouncing the imbecile does not mean that we wish to get rid of him. We want diversity at any price.  But the charm of variety should not prevent us from judging correctly. [I don't want rid of them either, but at the same time I don't want anything to do with them and I rue having to set sight on them.]
2207 He who does not know how to condemn without fear does not know how to appreciate without apprehension. [That is what is wrong with trying to be cool.]
2215 Believe in God, trust in Christ, look with suspicion. [I want to put those words on my gravestone.]
2227 Humanity longs to free itself from poverty, from toil, from war—from everything which few escape without degrading themselves. [Walking around Ikea, looking at the Chinese acting like middle class consumers, I think this quote was kind apt for what I saw.]

I like to keep a journal of my daily activities and any thoughts that occur to me.

Monday [May 13]
[Home Laptop]
I didn't work today.
With summer-like weather having come to Wuxi , I had to rearrange my closets, putting my summer clothes towards the front, and my winter clothes in the back. I also bought suntan lotion at the supermarket.  (I had gotten sunburned on my arms and legs over the weekend).
I spent the day farting around on the computer.  In the morning, I published my weekly blog entry. (At this time, 28 have viewed the entry.)  I then loaded four more books on the Ipad (Three by John Ruskin and the other by Richard Epstein)  The rest of the day, I wrote code so I could play one twenty-team league of my tournament. That is, I now can play a tournament with a round-robin round followed by a playoff round that determines the league champion.  But I would like the results to look prettier and be able to save the scores and standings of the tournament.
I took Tony out for a bit of train-spotting.  When he came home from school, he asked me to take him.  We went to our newest train-spotting site which is on the Jiangyin side of the Wuxi-Jiangyin Bridge.  There, we saw structures whose purpose I could not determine, a pond teeming with fish that Tony could throw rocks and bricks into, and fast trains closeup.

Tuesday [May 14]
[Home Laptop]
I work 1300-2100 today.  Ah!   What fresh horrors await?

I do like the 1300 kickoffs.  It allows me to take my time as I get ready to go to work.  Of course, I don't take the morning too easily.  I try to get some of my daily requirements done at home, so as to be able to check them off on my to-do list at school.  Things I like to have done everyday:  Chinese flashcard study, Chinese textbook study, Chinese pinyin to character typing practice, python computer language study, GAR, e-book readings, and other projects I have set for myself.

The government is going to inspect Tony's school today.  J tells me that the teachers have to hide the fact that they are teaching the students letters, numbers and English -- apparently it is against the law.  As well, the teachers instructed the parents to keep their childrens' backpacks at home -- it is necessary to clean up the school for the government people.

As I type this, there are two game sevens in the NHL playoffs:  the Leafs are playing the Bruins and the Rangers are playing the Capitals.

What would I do if Toronto and Ottawa both play in the quarterfinals.  Like the Iran-Iraq war, I would have to hope both lose.

Does Loneliness kill?  It is not a good thing but it is but one of the many unpleasant things one can experience in life, and it can be bad for us and our health like many other bad things.  I think of the question: Does a man drink because he is lonely or is he lonely because he drinks?  The point being of course, that studied in isolation loneliness can seem fatal to us as drinking can, when studied in isolation.  Anyway, I have these reactions to the article that was published in the New Republic about the science of loneliness.  I only got halfway through the article when I saw that it was left-wing, self-pitying, I-should-feel-sorry-for-myself pseudo-scientific claptrap.  I stopped reading the article at this passage: "Evolutionary theory, which has a story for everything, has a story to illustrate how the human species might benefit from wide variations in temperament. A group that included different personality types would be more likely to survive a radical change in social conditions than a group in which everyone was exactly alike."  Evolution explains everything?  Does Evolution have laws?  I hear talk of the laws of Economics and Physics that one can't violate.  What about laws of Evolution? Are there such things?

[School Laptop]
It was hot on the way to work.

I see I don't have to worry about both the Senators and Leafs playing in the second round of the NHL playoffs.

It is all fun and games till someone gets offended.

It is all fun and games till someone takes excessive precaution against the remote possibility that someone might lose an eye.

The heat is getting to me already.  This summer is going to be tortuous.  I can barely stay awake for the heat that's going on.

Wednesday [May 15th]
[Home Laptop]
I am up.  I have sent Tony off to school.  I have showered.  I have ironed my clothes for work.  I don't go to work for another hour or so, yet.  So!  What do I do?

[School Laptop]
Well here is what I did.  I looked at about 300 flashcards on my home laptop.  I would have looked at more flashcards but my wife was doing housework and I was feeling guilty doing my study on the computer so I shut it down, and left the apartment early so I could resume my study at school.

I work 1300 to 2100 today.

It has cooled down from yesterday.  Thank God!

When not preparing for classes, teaching classes, and studying Chinese, I am occupying myself with Python.  I am trying to figure out how to save the results of my tournament programs to text files. [LECTOR:  Who cares!]

Thursday [May 16th]
[School Laptop]
I work 1000-2100 today.  It is my long day.

It has been wet the past two days which I suppose is to be expected after the three days of very hot weather we had.

Yesterday, it started cool but became muggy as the day went on.  One could feel that it was building up to a deluge of rain.  I hoped it would come and finish before nine pm.  As it was, it came about seven and I had to suffer through it on the way back home from school -- at least it wasn't that heavy.

My last class of the evening was with an older student with whom I can talk politics.  We discussed the news and China in general.  He worried, he told me, that the corruption in China would result in chaos and a breakup of the country.  This breakup would, he said [and I am paraphrasing], make the things that happened in Russia and Eastern Europe in 1989 look like picnics.  He had heard, like me, the news that one of Chairman Mao's granddaughters was a mega multimillionaire.  Granddaughter Mao used the relationship with the Chairman to her advantage, the student told me  The student also told me of party officials who have been forced to not flaunt their wealth.  Apparently, one official got in trouble because he was shown in different photographs to wearing different expensive watches.  I also learned from the student that Yao Ming's child, who was born in America, has been made an American citizen.  The student and I then talked about the food scandal involving the rat, fox and mink meat being made to look like lamb.  He said the government is going to have to punish these cases very severely if they ever hope to stop them from happening.  [At this point, I mentioned how the government can't seem to monitor the schools very well as the schools are openly flaunting their educational policies.]  Still, with all these problems, the student said he still supported the Communist Party and their one party rule because the alternatives seem worst.  As I told him, many Chinese with their middle class lifestyles and cars don't want the kind of chaos that would make their lives uncomfortable.

Last night, as I walked home, I saw a car parked on the street.  I first thought the car was stopped because it was in a driving lane of the roadway and not off to the side.  But as I got closer and I saw the lights weren't on (many Chinese drivers don't put their headlights on at night), I had to look and see if anyone was sitting in the car. There wasn't, and the engine was definitely not idling.  It was a mystery more ponderous that the shoe on the road. [And if it was broken down, why didn't the driver put on his four ways?]

If the Chairman had been a monkey, Monkey's uncles would be very rich in China these days.

Yesterday afternoon, I did an English Corner.  I do one a week these days.  The topic yesterday was "Two."  I asked questions and taught some expressions using the number two.  One question I asked the students was what were two things they avoided.  I said I avoided the taxman and the undertaker.  The truth is, I try to avoid a certain type of person and stop-and-chats.

I achieved a goal of sorts with the Python programming language.  I can now stage one of my "tournaments" and have the program print the results to a file.

The local government has told the local media to not report on the Zhang Yimou scandal, I learned from a student who is a local journalist.  The government has imposed the ban because it makes Wuxi look bad.  However, other parts of China are reporting the story and everyone in Wuxi is talking about it.

I was surprised and saddened to hear that Quentin Tarantino’s Civil war movie is playing in Wuxi cinemas.

It is about 500 pm and it is raining like a son-of-a-bitch outside.  It is one of those Asian monsoonish heavy rains that I hope subsides by 1700.

Friday [May 17th]
[School Laptop]
I work 1100 to 2100.  I arrive at school at 945 am.  I get here early so I can do my Chinese and Python study.

In Python, I am now in the chapter in my textbook dealing with GUI's -- that be Graphic User Interfaces.  It is not so easy to deal with because there are apparently so many GUI modules for Python.  Each textbook I have uses a different one for demonstration.  Some of these GUI modules have already come with the Python software I have already downloaded.  However, some have to be downloaded and then added on, and being in China, some of the sites from which I can download GUI modules don't have a solid connection to China.  The module that I have found on my version of Python is not used in the textbooks I have.  I will have to look for documentation about it on the Internet.

I had breakfast at McDonalds.  They put a coupon flier on my tray on which I saw the following:  妈妈的标准。我们的标准。  I knew enough of the characters that I thought I would take a stab at figuring out what it meant. So I brought out my Ipod, went to the notes app, and turned on the simplified mandarin keyboard.  I figured out that the pinyin for the two sentences was mamade biaozhun.  womende biaozhun.  The first words in the two sentences were Mamma's and Ours respectively.  The question was what did biaozhun mean?  Going to work, I immediately consulted my Berlitz Chinese English Dictionary and learned that it meant standard.  So Mom's standards are McDonald's.

I don't know if all the noise I am hearing from America about Benghazi, the IRS and the Tea Party, and the Justice Department doing some kind of harassing action on Media groups will amount to much in the long run.  For me it just shows what I have known all along:  that Obama and his ilk are incompetents and dirty political operators whose airs of righteous indignation would be laughable if they weren't in such positions of authority.  The question is the ultimate political fallout from it.  I suspect that the people of my political ilk will talk about these things forever while the low information voter who doesn't pay attention won't care and think highly of Obama because he looks cool.

I listened, this morning, to some podcasts where the subject was the Leafs loss to the Bruins in Game Seven of their recent playoff series.  The Leafs lost in disconcerting fashion, having had a three goal lead late in the game, only to lose the lead and then the game in overtime.  I had to send my brother, who is a Leafs fan, an email about it.  I almost felt sorry for the Leafs.  If forced to choose between them and the Senators -- I would choose the Leafs.

Going home last night, I double-bagged my Ipad.  That is, I put it in two plastic bags before putting it in my backpack.  It was raining that heavily.

I had to leave two of my three USB sticks at home.  Tony wanted to watched the Shaun the Sheep and Fireman Sam episodes that were on them:

Tony likes Shaun the Sheep
Tony likes Shaun the Sheep
And if he unable to watch, he will fall into a heap
He loves Shaun the Sheep
He loves Shaun the Sheep
Oh! Tony really likes Shaun the Sheep

Having composed the following song, I went back to my Python programming and learned a few things about those GUI's.  I was able to create a GUI with three buttons.  The first button was a quit button, the second button was a one-game button, and the third was a tournament button.  Press the first button and the program quits.  Press the second button and you can play one tossing game.  Press the third button and you can play an entire tournament with twenty teams.  To get this to work, I had to refer to the modules chapter in one my Python textbooks.  I figured out to get the program to call up another program I had previously written -- only three lines of code were needed to do this.

Two braying donkeys came into school but then they, thankfully, left.

Student: "Only me?"  Andis:  "No!  I will be there with you!"

Student #1: "I want to take my wife and son to a desert island with me."  Student #2 "I agree with him [student #1]"  Andis: [to student #2] What?!?  You want to take his wife and son to a desert island with you?!?"

What's with the old people here in Wuxi?  When you board a bus, some of them will shove you or will bud in front of you in a very aggressive manner. [Since I am getting old, I will be able to get away with shoving these seniors out of my senior way.]

Saturday [May 18th]
[Computer Laptop]
I work 1000-1800 today.  It is my fast and busy day.  That is, I have a lot of classes and not enough spare time to do what I really want to do: study Chinese and Python.

Lunchtime in downtown Wuxi on a Saturday is not a good time to go to a restaurant.  They are all too crowded.  So, not having brought a lunch, I went to a  nearby convenience store and bought some snacks.

This Saturday presents even less inviting prospects for eating because it is raining.

Every time I do a salon class about celebrities, the students will always try to tell me that Chairman Mao is a celebrity.  He isn't because he is dead and he was a political leader.  So, Xi Jing Ping is not a celebrity, but his wife is.


I will celebrate his birthday modestly by drinking a pineapple beer.  Colacho is the greatest thinker I have ever come across.  No other thinker has so accurately described the Modern Age.

But at the same time, I feel a tinge of sadness as I realize what an intellectual wasteland I am in.  Colacho, Jenny & Tony are all that sustain me these days.  There isn't much else for me to draw on.  I live in a corrupt place where I can't trust anybody.

David Warren, who I have linked to above, wants his site to be "Canada’s leading forum of Gómez-Dávilism, & all-round reactionary intransigence." Similarly I hope I can make AKIC China's leading forum of Gómez-Dávilism.

[Home Laptop]
After work, we went to Ikea.  I first step 35 minutes waiting for the Ikea bus and then rode the bus for thirty minutes.  Upon arrival at Ikea, I went straight to the cafeteria and had Swedish Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes.  I spend a brief time looking around the place while thinking it was pointless because our apartment was too small for any more stuff as it was.  We then waited about 20 minutes for the bus that was to take us downtown.  In the latter interim, Tony annoyed me because he was playing with a new umbrella we had just purchased.  When He almost stabbed J in the eye with the end of the umbrella, I lost it and slapped him hard on the wrist.  I made him apologize to J but he then wanted me to give him back the umbrella so he could play with it again. [LECTOR:  You child abuser!.  Apparently you hit him so hard, you left a bruise on his wrist.  ANDIS: He has to learn to behave and listen to his father.]

Sunday [May 19]
[Home Laptop]
I don't work today, so I linger in bed. It is nice to be in a warm bed with two other bodies.

The weather outside in a stage between sunny and rainy. I would classify it as blustery.

I took Tony out in the afternoon so he could play with his water gun toy. He broke it before we had even got anywhere near a pool or body of water. The toy consists of a long tube in which there is a plunger. Pull the plunger of the toy when the bottom end is in water and water will be sucked into the tube. Pushing the plunger will cause the water in the tube to fly out in an impressive jet. Tony broke the toy by pulling the shaft of the plunger out of the tube so that the plunger shaft and the plunger end, which makes a seal in the tube, became separated. It had been glued together so what I did was go to a store and buy some glue. Four attempts to glue the plunger shaft to the end didn't work. The glue would only hold for about ten minutes.

Not being able to fix the toy gun was one of several factors that made my afternoon outing with Tony seem grim. For whatever reason, chemical imbalance in the brain perhaps, I was in a foul mood. I would have been content if Tony had played with his water gun at an isolated spot where there weren't other people about, but Tony insisted on going to the park and the square where the sights only fed my misanthropy. I would have been willing to overlook the squalor of the area in which we but Tony was being peevish and petulant as well. He cried when I told him that he was going to have to wait for the glue to dry before he could use the water gun. He also got annoyed at me when I insisted that we get away from a certain area because I had seen the rotting corpse of a dog. The dead dog, like the hang dog or whatever it was that was said to have fouled Churchill's mood, disgusted me, and I became fixated on the thought I had before that China is a bunch of buildings and apartments constructed within a garbage dump, or rather I should briefly say China is a garbage dump with buildings. The area I choose to spend some time while Tony played with his toy gun was dirty beyond belief. It was supposed to be a park area, but after being built, the park had gone to seed. The walkways had weeds appearing amidst the cracks. The water in the canal, that the park was beside, was dirty and stagnant like a swamp next to a dump. (Here is a photo of the scene.) Unbelievably, still to me even after eight years of living here, someone up the canal was stripped down to his underwear and was about to go for a swim in the canal. Going past the pool where I saw the dead dog, a man had parked his car, and was using a bucket to take water from that pool to wash his car. Tony insisted that we go to the nearby central park. I gave him ten minutes. We had an argument where we argued about whether the park was dirty or not. Tony insisted that it wasn't and I disagreed. It saddened me to think how Tony is a little too Chinese for my liking. After escaping the central park, I placated Tony one more time and took him to the nearby public square. There was a stage set up there, and I saw a show was being performed under the auspices of the nearby Hui Shan Wanda Plaza. [The plaza is going to open on June 21st] I didn't watch the show. I took Tony to the pools behind the stage so he could play with his water gun. I listened to him whine as his water gun toy kept falling apart, and then briefly to the overly-familiar wailing of a speaker playing the song “Gangnam Style.” I had to go home and ignore Tony's pleas to be taken to a playground he had seen. “I see a playground!” said Tony. “I don't!” I replied. “I see a playground!” whined Tony in response. I continued on my way home and Tony found something else to whine about.

Thinking about the squalor of the park gone to seed, I am reminded of the swamp that Frodo and Sam had to make their way through in order to Mount Doom.

For Dinner, Jenny made meatballs and hot dogs.

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