Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Andis Kaulins in China Diary for December 16 to December 23, 2013

  • On Saturday, December 21st, I went to the annual school Christmas Party.
  • I lamented the fact that I was spending Christmas in China.
  • I watched the films Blowup and the Pink Panther.
  • I watched my first episode of Duck Dynasty.

Monday [December 16]
[Home Laptop]
  • I didn't work today but I might as well have. It was a cold and miserable day outside. There was nothing for me to do but stay at home and finish watching the 1963 Pink Panther movie.
  • The movie starred David Niven, Claudia Cardinal, Robert Wagner, and of course Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. I found myself liking the movie's style: it was filmed in that great early 1960s color, it had no swearing, it had good looking women who didn't have to take their clothes off, and good music. Peter Sellers was charming even if his humor was very physical. However, as the film came to an end, it was racked by a silly and illogical plot. I gave it three point five stars out of five.
  • Tony had the toy train track set up last night. This morning, he was awake enough to tell us to not take it down.
  • I visited Tony at his primary school during the lunch break. He also told his parents then to not take down the train set.
  • After seeing Tony eat lunch at his school, we went to a nearby restaurant in the area. It was a hole-in-the-wall of sorts. Because it was lunch hour, it was crowded and so Jenny & I had to find a seat on its upper floor. Walking up the stairs, we walked past stacks and stacks of empty beer cases. Once up stairs, we saw that the tables that hadn't been cleared of their empty beer bottles, and the floor hadn't been swept of its cigarette butts.

Tuesday [December 17]
[Home Laptop]
  • I lost a hour of my life, sort of, this morning. The girl, in the car that picks up Tony and takes him to primary school, was sick, we learned. So, we were going to have to get Tony to school by taxi – that was my job in fact. Jenny tried to phone the taxi hotline to get a taxi to come but had no luck; and so Tony & I went outside and walked along the street hoping to catch one.
  • We did catch one but not after three minutes of having to walk in the rain where I was holding Tony and an umbrella with my hands & arms.
  • In the taxi, I checked my mobile phone, which I had on silent setting, and saw that Jenny had phoned just as we gotten into the taxi. It turned out that the father of the girl was going to work and could have taken Tony to school.
  • I got this information too late and so I took Tony to the school. He was in turn late for school but so were many other kids.
  • The roads around the school at first bell time are jammed with cars.
  • I then had to walk to the bus stop and wait a while for a bus to take my back to Casa Kaulins.
  • Phoned my Mom last night. More about that anon.

[School Laptop]
  • The gloom and gray of yesterday is still in Wuxi today. The trip to school was depressing.
  • Talking to my Mom last night, I asked her about her trips to Ikea and Costco in Winnipeg. She said she didn't care much for Ikea. She thought it was too big and she didn't like how it forced you to go through the entire store to find something. Costco sold in quantities that were bigger than she needed.
  • Mom told me that mail carrier home delivery service is going to be eliminated in Canada. The carriers will be replaced by neighborhood depots or the what-not. An end of an era in Canada brought on by the Internet and competition from more reliable delivery services.
  • I have set my vacation dates. I will take the following days off: January 7 to January 11, January 14 to January 18, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 10, and February 11. In February, the plan is to go to Hong Kong.

Wednesday [December 18]
[School Laptop]
  • A week till Christmas, and it isn't even beginning to feel a little like Christmas anywhere I go.
  • I keep reminding Jenny that Tony isn't going to go to school next Wednesday. Jenny, being Chinese, has no idea of the importance of Christmas as a holiday to a Westerner.
  • I went to the dentist, at the Yanqiao Hospital, this morning for my third of five sessions to fix teeth on the upper right side of my mouth. He apparently worked on two of my teeth this morning, applying glue. In the next two sessions, nails and caps will be put in.
  • The next session with dentist is on the morning of the 24th (My birthday. Boo Hoo!)
  • Jenny suggested that I go the dentist on the morning of the 25th but I told her that there was just no way I was going to go to the dentist on Christmas morning.
  • Even going to the dentist on my birthday is sort of a sacrilege you would think but whatever... My 50th birthday is next year and I have had it up to here with birthdays!
  • I work 13:00 to 21:00 today.
  • My 1300 class canceled. Yahoo! I have more time for the things that are really important like studying Chinese, reading some Aristotle, reading the Bible, and boning up on my English grammar.
  • We have made a plan for Christmas. Tony will be pulled from school. We won't go out for supper because it will be too expensive – Christmas in China is a day for stores and restaurants, Chinese and Expat, to jack up their prices. We will instead go to the Beixiang (Xinjiang) restaurant for lunch.

Thursday [December 19]
[School Laptop]
  • I work 10:00 to 21:00 today.
  • I will tell you one thing I hate. I hate running into people I know when I am have my Ipod ear-buds and am listening to an engrossing podcast. Truth be told, there are few people I know in Wuxi who I think are worth taking off my ear-buds for. [Only one person is worth taking my clothes off for, but that is another story]
  • I know the previous thought is very UN-Christian, but there it is. And that is why I hate the situation. It seems to much of a sacrifice to bear to have to take off my ear-buds and talk to these people. Truth be told, it isn't a sacrifice and I am just being selfish.
  • Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, miserable sinner.
  • I may have mentioned in last week's diary entry that there was construction taking place on Zhongshan Road. The past two days they have dug up a section of Zhongshan from the McDonald's to the Yu Pai Fu Hao restaurant for the purpose of laying some pipe, or so it appears to me.
  • I will finish my Christmas shopping today. I will go to Ba Bai Ban to buy Tony one more piece for the train set. There are three or four pieces I am thinking to buy him, but I can only buy him one.
  • [Later] I went to Ba Bai Ban and ended up choosing the cheapest of the options I had given myself for that last train set piece. I could have chosen a crossing but I reasoned that we had two already and that was enough – and plus I had bought him a siding already and so that was enough diorama pieces already. I could have chosen a train but I thought that the one I had bought was enough already. I could have chosen a trestle bridge but that required too much assembly and the chances were that Tony would break it. I could have chosen a more simple bridge without the girders, but I figured that Tony could get more options for making bridges if I bought the cheapest option which was six more support columns for bridges which would be buying him five more bridges at half the price of buying the single bridge piece.
  • I listened to a BBC podcast about the poet Alen Ginsburg. Not my cup of tea was this fellow. I just heard this bit of dialogue where the podcast host asked the admirer of Ginsburg what it was that the Beat Poet stood for, it being so obvious what he was against was bourgeois values and tradition and the CIA and the right wing. The admirer responded by saying that Ginsburg was pragmatic....
  • Detritus. I found this word in the writings of Theodore Dalrymple. It is a good word to use in China and at Casa Kaulins because there is a lot at these places.

Friday [December 20]
[School Laptop]
  • I work 11:00 to 21:00 today.
  • Today will be the day that I wrap Tony's Christmas present. I bought the batteries I need for his toy train this morning so everything I can get has been gotten.
  • Tony didn't go to school today. He had a fever. Jenny phoned his teacher and learned that many of his classmates have had fevers as well.
  • I was, like Tony it turned out, happy to see he wasn't going to school. It allowed me to stay in bed till 7:00 AM, something I can't on the mornings when he is going to school.
  • Tony was full of energy as soon as he realized he wasn't going to school. However, he was disappointed to learn that I couldn't stay home with him because I had to go to work.
  • They were tearing up the sidewalk on Zhongshan Road right in front of businesses like this small shop that sells cream puffs and other pastries. The shop is one where the pastries are put in bins right at the front of the store with the staff standing behind to serve the customers. And so, pastries sitting but a meter from a ditch where pipe is to be laid is not an appetizing sight.

Saturday [December 21]
[School Laptop]
  • I work 10:00 to 16:00 today. The shift is short because the school is holding a six star Christmas party at what I assume is a six-star hotel. Jenny & Tony won't be going. They would have to pay and the hassle of going there on a Saturday evening wouldn't be worth it. I really don't want to be going either. I will be working on Sunday and celebrating tonight won't do me any good in the long run.
  • The inflation of standards involved in giving a hotel a six star rating has got me thinking. When are students going to be getting 110 ten percent marks on test or A+++ scores on report cards? The dumb students only getting A's. Or will the denominator on scores be shrunken so that a pass, for example, would be sixty out of sixty.
  • Our school has gotten around this problem by not assigning grades at all, or at least meaningful grades. We give but three grades: Excellent, Pass, or Repeat. The passing grade doesn't tell the students anything for it is so arbitrary. We tell them to pass but to focus on a weak point like grammar, vocabulary, or fluency....
  • Tony still has a fever. He told me that he didn't feel okay. Jenny told me that he hadn't eaten much at dinner.
  • I finished wrapping Tony's Christmas present yesterday. The box was big enough to require me using two sheets of wrapping paper. The first sheet was wrapped around the box. The second sheet had to be cut into sections in order to cover the spots exposed from using just one sheet. In China, wrapping paper seems to be available in sheets, not rolls.
  • The parcel is at school in a locker. The plan is to take the parcel home on the 24th. I will be a sort of Santa Claus riding public transportation.
  • My preparations for Christmas has been minimal. I have instead been wasting a lot of psychic energy on thinking about Christmas and the fact that my birthday is on the 24th and I am working that day, won't be getting home till very late and that I have to go to work early on the 26th which makes my effective Christmas holiday but a brief moment.
  • I was listening to the latest John Derbyshire podcast last night. He reported that Barbara Walters, a lib-Dem progressive media type, said or confessed, in an interview, that she and many others of her ilk had thought that Barack Obama was “the Messiah.” Many thoughtful observers, who were of course all Conservatives, said at the time of Obama's election that many on the Left were looking on Barack as if he were Jesus. I remember one conservative saying that Obama's election was like watching Jonestown.
  • Walters confession has to rank up with the “tingle up my leg” comment made by that MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews.
  • It is astounding that Walters made the confession without couching it in language that would exonerate her from directly admitting her stupidity, but she didn't. And she didn't just say that she thought Obama was the Messiah. She said she and a whole bunch of others who thought like her were stupid as well.
  • Perhaps her excuse was that she was caught up in the excitement of the moment...
  • Python update. I am been making my five team round robin GUI better and better. Today, I added a new tourney button so that I can play tournaments to my heart's content. Previously, I had to start the program over to play another tournament.
  • Five teams I had play in one tournament: Reagan, Carter, Obama, Clinton, and Bush.

Sunday [December 22]
[School Laptop]
  • I am working today at school, doing some overtime. My first class starts at 10:00. My fifth and final class ends at 17:00.
  • Tony wanted me to stay at home an set up his train set.
  • I am suffering a headache on account of last night's school Christmas party.
  • For the party, we went to some big international hotel in the suburbs of Wuxi (big international hotels in the suburbs of Wuxi are a dime a dozen), had a six star buffet meal (six stars out of twenty if you ask me), watched some performances (every Chinese function needs to have the attendees sing – always one has to be very charitable in one assessing them.), and had to deal with a hall that was heated (which was uncomfortable when you are dressed for halls that aren't.) I wanted to leave after an hour.
  • A lot of people were disappointed that Tony didn't come.

[Home Laptop]
  • Nothing but detritus at work.
  • Last night on the bus to the Hotel that was near the City Hall, I saw another huge new mall in Wuxi that I hadn't known existed. Wuxi hasn't finished its mall construction.
  • I am downloading episodes of Duck Dynasty.
  • Tony is building a train set as I type this.
  • Jenny is getting me a birthday cake for my birthday. Blah! Chinese cakes contain too much cream – even the Chinese complain about this.
  • Finished watching a 60s Mod movie called Blowup. It looked cool but had no real plot. The best scene had the Yardbirds playing Stroll On. I had to go to Baidu to get the MP3.

Monday [December 23]
[Home Laptop]

  • I am not working today.
  • I am making this diary entry eight days long. I just didn't have the energy to read over my diary entries and publish them last night.
  • Merry Christmas to my rare readers and those who have read this diary entry to the end.
  • Joy to the world. No joy for the bad person in the car who cut me off as I was crossing an intersection where I had a green walk signal. Even if you honk, you have to wait for me to proceed, don't assume I am going to yield my right of way to you!
  • For the first time, I watched a full episode of Duck Dynasty. I liked it. It wasn't supremely profound in any way, but you have to admire a show where the best Christmas present you can buy the guys is beef jerky and bullets.
  • Tony went to school but Jenny brought him home at lunch time. He had no energy and was coughing.
  • Temperatures are around zero degrees.

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