Saturday, February 7, 2015
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Having a wife who doesn't care one fig for western New Year's, I stayed home on New Year's Eve.
Mature people stay home on New Year's Eve. And I must say that I am fortunate to have a wife who is mature beyond her years.
I started 2015 with Jenny & Tony at the Lavit Mall which we can easily get to now that the Wuxi Metro Line #2 is in operation.
My first day of work in 2015 was spent organizing my work area at my school's new location. I taught my last class at the old location on December 30th. On December 31st, the move to the new location took place.
I didn't feel all that sentimental about leaving the old location even though I had spent ten years of my work life there. When I started there, I hadn't meet Jenny and Tony wasn't even a twinkle in my eye. Those events didn't happen at the school and in fact happened in spite of it. My years at the place really only served to further reduce my faith in the human race.
Our school's new location is not that far from the old location. In fact, I will be able to see the old location when I teach classes. We are located one floor down and across a lane from the old location.
The new school location affords all a great view of Zhongshan Road. We lost, however, nice views of the church, of a nearby park as well as of the Ba Bai Ban department store.
It will be my honor to be able to sit next to the redoubtable Edith, star of the school's commercials which appear on the Wuxi subway train video screens. [As it turned out, those commercials are coming to an end. They didn't do anything to increase enrollment at our school. Also, getting what I wished for has turned out to be a curse.]
I have a new computer at the new school location. My eleven year old Compaq Presario will sit on a shelf at Casa Kaulins. [I have three laptops now. The old Compaq, a three year old Dell, and a new MBP (my birthday present)]
One of the hosts of a podcast, I was listening to, said he celebrated his fiftieth birthday on Christmas Eve. So, I wasn't the only one.
I awarded myself the Wuxi Expat of the Year Award in 2014. Previous winners of the award included Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Gorzo the Mighty, my son Tony, and a blogger named Andrew Cowlinch.
Meanwhile, Paul Rudkin won the Shanghai Expat of the Year award for the second year in a row.
At the new school location, the foreign trainers and the Chinese teaching assistants are now in the same office, and so there will be a battle about whether to keep the windows open or not. Foreigners want the office to be warm, or not so cold, and so would like the windows to be closed. The Chinese want the windows to be open because they want fresh air. So, there has been an opening, followed by a closing of, followed by an opening of windows all the day long at the office. I have no strong opinion on the matter either way. If I am dressed for the cold, I want it to be cold.
Tony has been been saying s*** when he has an accident or mishap. He also has been saying WTF to express surprise at situations. Who has he picked up these bad habits from? From his parents and his video watching habits, I would suspect.
I did a commercial, for our school, in which I got to introduce baseball. I was filmed pitching a ball to an actual catcher and I didn't do so bad, managing to lob the ball over the plate with my unpracticed pitching motion. The players I was with were locals: one of whom told me his favorite player was Ichiro (who I have seen play in Seattle.) [The video is on my Youku Channel and will soon be on my Youtube Channel.]
In a Speaker's corner I did – topic Germany – one of the students said that the Germans shouldn't be ashamed of WW II. I immediately asked him why and he said they had apologized.
I boarded the 637 shuttle bus the same time as this old man, whose appearance made me think to write this blog entry. As he sat down on the bus, he looked at me and gave me a thumb's up sign. And so I studied his appearance. He was dressed in tightly fitting clothes. On his knees, he had strapped on these pads which e-bikers wear to keep their legs warm; on his feet, he had cheap thinly-soled cotton slippers that were ready for the trash heap. I reflected how he was a more interesting specimen of humanity than all the fashionable working and business types that I see on a constant daily basis.
I first heard about the Charlie Hebedo attacks when reading an email newsletter from the National Review. The reaction to the attacks has been intriguing and I have to admit that I can't give you a specific opinion on what I think about the attacks. But that won't stop me from trying. Here is a collection of thoughts that I do have about them:
I should say, right off the bat, that the murders were wrong.
I say that because, be that as it may, I don't join in with the "I am Charlie" crowd. This Charlie Hebedo magazine did things that bordered on bad taste. This doesn't mean I would want to suppress what they did, but I would heartily denounce them all the same. And from what I have heard, this magazine was France's version of South Park , a TV show which I mostly hate.
I also think the "I am Charlie" crowd are all hypocrites. They don't support unbridled free speech. They would gladly silence white right wingers. And they would probably not have the courage to put their lives on the line for freedom of speech. These hashtag gesturing folks are probably all pacifists.
Some of those Charlie Hebedo staffers who were murdered did have some courage. I have heard that they prophesied their murders.
Were The CH staffers martyrs? I would say not. They did immoral things.
One commentator, who I read regularly, said that the rally at Paris, where the leaders walked arm in arm, was another case of Princess Diana dying hysteria. I would have to agree. The mobs were responding to a media driven event. They may as well have been celebrating the victory of a Football team for the connection that it had to their life.
There is a clash here between Western Progressive Secularism and Islamic Fascism. But the Western Progressive Secularists don't seem to realize this. Or don't want to. Some of their first thoughts after hearing of the shootings were that they didn't want Westerners to hate Muslims and how they feared that nefarious right wing elements would even carry out reprisals. They were wrong of course. It was the Jews who had to worry about being attacked by these same Fascists who had attacked that magazine. The secularists are blind, probably willfully, to the nature of these Islamists.
Moderate Muslims have to worry more about being killed by extremist Muslims than by right wing westerners.
In fact, right wing westerners are the least of a moderate Muslim worries. Left wing secularists who are cowed by Muslim extremists are their biggest problem.
In another article I read, it was pointed out that the vast majority of Muslims argument used against voicing concern about Muslims in general would be akin to arguing that the vast majority of Germans weren't Nazis as a reason for not feeling concern about Germany in 1938.
The Bolsheviks were a minority of a minority in 1917 but look at the damage they did to the world in the 20th century.
For what cause were people going to the huge rally in Paris? Free speech? Secularism? Anti-terrorism? Pacifism? It's unclear to me.
Someone read my list of books read in 2014 and asked me where I got the time to read all sixty of those books, especially since I have a family to support. Well, I can say that I have a lot of down time at work thanks to preparation for classes that I have done over ten years. Also, I have a long commute at work which I take advantage of to read; and, as I said in my ten years in Wuxi article, I have abandoned the dissolute ways of the English teacher who goes to the pub every night or sits at home and plays computer games. [I read 60 books in 2014 and watched 61 movies. Late in January, I published the second list.]
I looked at my 2014 and lamented that I hadn't travelled much. The last time I got out of the Wuxi – Beixing corridor was in February.
Student working in a hotel was telling me how hotels will give discounts to people who don't want tax receipts.
To make some extra money, I have been transcribing videos of lectures. This month, I have been transcribing these journalism lectures from an Australian University, Latrobe. The lecturer is a fellow named Chris Scanlon. His Australian speaking patterns and his habit of saying "you know," "kind of" and "sort of" drive me crazy. This is the way that a modern university professor speaks?
A student tells me that she borrowed money from her mother to attend classes at our school. Another tells me that a teacher taught her the words "hung over," and "vomit."
From a classroom, I was able to look down and see a woman push an e-bike which had a pair of crutches propped on one of the handle bars. She pushed the e-bike to a parking spot, locked the bike up, and then took the crutches which she proceeded to use. One of her legs was bent at an angle. It was possibly broken.
I very rarely entered the squatter stalls at our old school location. Now that I have to use a squatter, I have seen some disgusting things. I hope I don't see anything more disgusting than what I saw one Saturday when someone had left a nine inch long, 1.5 inch thick piece of excrement behind the hole in the ground of the squatter stall. I couldn't close the door to the stall quick as I was quickly overtaken with nausea by the sight.
I mean like, who misses? I can say with full confidence that I don't, and I am a rank amateur.
I told a colleague[sic] about that sight. He went to take a look, said "wooo!" and quickly closed the door. He then went back to take a photo of it. We also got a Chinese staff member to look and he was disgusted as well.
So the mystery. Who is Long Dung?
Moderate Muslim is a patronizing term. The people who say such things would call any religious person who prayed constantly and gave off an aura of sanctity, an extremist or a religious nut job. [I get this thought from David Warren's blog.] These moderate religious types are in fact extremely religious. You have to be extremely religious to achieve any sort of sanctity.
I happened to see an old man at the 85 Bakery, grab a thick was of napkins, put them in his pocket, take a cursory glance at the cake display case, and then walk out of the store.
Seven police motorcycles, driven by a uniformed cop and a uniformed passenger, ride around the government building in the area near my apartment.
Tony & I got a ride home one day from a motorcycle cab (peddycab) driver who had MS. At the end of the ride, the driver asked me, in Chinese, where I was from. After answering his question, I told him that Tony was my son and that his mother was Chinese. The driver said this was good, and he seemed elated at meeting a foreigner. Dumb sentimentalist that I am, I decided to shake his hand.
After getting off the train one night at the Yanqiao station, I was walking to the shuttle bus stop and listening to music (Plastic Bertrand) on my Iphone 4, when I noticed a man beside me trying to get my attention. I wasn't sure what he wanted. I at first thought that he was someone wanting to practice his English on me. But the man said to me, as I took off my earbuds, that he was a foreigner too. He was from the Philippines, he told me, and was teaching math and English at the Xi Shan High School.
Jenny was moody this month. She has been alternately kind and angry with me. It has me on edge.
Much was made of Obama or any high-ranking American official not having attended that rally in Paris. The rally being so full of hypocrisy, self-congratulatory moral preening, and self-exultation, I won't hold it against any politician who did not attend. So I would give Obama a pass on this. Though from what I heard about Obama's motivations or lack of motivation for not going, it was a case of a broken clock being correct two times a day.
Obama is great at self-congratulatory moral preening.
I came home one evening from work (I work late four nights a week) to find Tony in bed studying a Lego catalogue. Seeing me, he asked me something about glasses. Not knowing what he meant, I asked him to repeat what he said. He asked if I had my glasses and I realized he wanted me to put on my eye glasses so he could show me something in the Lego catalogue that he liked and thus that he wanted me to buy him. He remembered another instance when I had told him I needed my glasses because I couldn't see what it was that he was trying to show me he liked then in the Lego catalogue. I told Jenny about this the next morning and she was amused.
A student told me that her company was holding a Chinese New Year Company Dinner for its senior level staff only. This company was too cheap to hold one(s) for their entire staff. The owner of her company, said the student, was Chinese and cheap. I was surprised to hear this because I had always assumed that companies in China hold Spring Festival dinners for all their employees as a matter of course.
Someone has broken into my blog sites and posted entries. The entries are spam like and not meant to be read but to make the site looked like crap. So, after having deleted the entries, I have changed passwords and whatnot to stop 'em.
A student tells me that the Chinese are the second most taxed people on earth after the Swedes. I don't believe that the Chinese are now, but I believe they will be when the government discovers that its stimulus won't be paid for by market forces.
The student also told me that businesses in our area are being broken into because the thieves need money to get back to their hometowns for the Spring Festival.
An aphorism attempt: Only two kinds of people are talkative: women and imbeciles.
I talked to a student who had more bathrooms than bedrooms in his apartment. There were three bathrooms and two bedrooms in the apartment he rented, he told me. Each bedroom was equipped with a bathroom and these was an outside bathroom.
As far as I can recall, he is the first student to ever have told me he was in such a situation. I remarked on his uniqueness to me and then told him I envied him. (In my apartment, there are two bedrooms and one bathroom)
Instead of taking the subway home, I took the 25 bus on the last Saturday evening of January. I did so for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to see how the area along the 25 bus route had changed since I last ridden through it. Secondly, I wanted to save some money and see if I could possibly save some time. For less than a yuan, I realized I could take the 25 bus and get to the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza, where the wife and my son were having dinner. Taking the subway to meet up with them would cost me at least 3 yuan and not get me directly to the Wanda Plaza. Once I got to the Yanqiao station, I would have to decide on one of three way to get to the Hui Shan Wanda Plaza. Firstly, I could wait fifteen minutes for a shuttle bus and spend another one yuan. Or I could grab a peddycab and spend another five yuan. Or I could walk to Plaza which would take about twenty minutes.
The area that the 25 bus went through didn't seem to have changed much other then that were more empty apartment buildings and more vacant areas being prepared for the construction of more apartment buildings.
I did a get a seat on the 25 bus and happily read a book on the Ipad while taking occasional glances up to do my survey of the area. I had planned to take the subway and incur the extra expense to get to dinner with the wife and son, if there were no seats to be had on the first 25 bus that pulled into the stop near my school. But there were. And my being on the bus did result in a few of the passengers saying laowei. And as luck would have it, the 25 bus was, as it took me home, for a brief instance, right next to– less than 10 feet from in fact – the subway train I could have taken.
On the #1 Wuxi Metro line, the point where the track rises above ground is just alongside Xicheng Road: a road I had been taking often to Casa Kaulins for many years before the Subway was operating and even being constructed.
Less than a month and I have already gotten used to the new school location. I like it because it is a change and it has heating that works. I can't complain much about being able to sit next to the redoubtable Edith. My only complaint is the lack of western toilets. Worse than not having become anywhere near fluent in Chinese, I have not acquired a passable squatting technique.
Two English teachers walk into a bar in China. One says to the other: How was work? The other was mystified and asked what was work. The other teacher then went on to say that he had been drunk in his classes.
You know, I actually got a good thing going with this teaching in China gig. But I can't say that I take any pride in it.
The gig has made me cynical. I have become like Benjamin the Donkey, in the novel Animal Farm, who having seen it all, laid his head low and maintained a cynical attitude, not buying the bosch put forth by the pigs while at the same time not doing anything to rebel against it.
It snowed briefly in late January and the snow stayed on the ground in the Hui Shan district for a few hours. It just so happened that one evening I had to ride the e-bike home and thus had my first experience of riding a bicycle in snowfall. I didn't care for the sensation of having snow strike my eyes like cold pins.
After all these Chinese classes, I despair at the prospect of my ever being able to have a proper conversation in Chinese. I find that if I think about the tones of the words, I am not thinking of their meaning; and conversely when I think about the meaning of the words, I forget about their proper tones. My habit of speaking, in any language, I have discovered is to talk in flat but rising tones. The fourth tone in Mandarin, which falls quickly, requires my speaking very fast in a nattering manner to say it properly. I would find this hard to do in a conversation for even a minute without getting tired and annoyed.
The bus, I was riding, was three quarters of the way through the intersection when a car made a left turn in front of it. Incredible.
I then saw an e-bike do this to another bus I happened to be riding. Even more incredible.
Democracy went off the rails when they gave votes to women and the uneducated. There is no way of salvaging civilization as a result.
Thank God, I am married. If it wasn't for Tony and Jenny, I would do things that I would quickly regret.
At the Chinese New Year Dinner, it was the best that I could do, to keep silent. I didn't have an excuse to not attend it this year. [Last year, I was in Hong Kong.]
From now on, if anyone wants to make a comment about my blog they can email it to me. It is cowardly to insult me and not put your name behind it. That is something I have never done to other people on the Internet. Never.
If I must suffer in this life, I hope I deserve it. If I must suffer in this life, I hope it is for a good cause... To be honest, the first sentence is true of my life now. The second isn't. My right attitudes haven't translated into right actions. I am still too much of a secularist. My convictions haven't turned into actions and so my suffering is merely deserved without even the tiniest bit of righteousness.
I thought it would be amusing to put on my balaclava (which I had bought for riding my e-bike in winter) and pose for a photo holding one of Tony's toy guns. The idea was to use the photo for mock stickups on social networks. I am not completely at ease which having gone through with the idea.
I got an newsletter email that mentioned that Chairman Mao's Little Red Book was turning fifty years old. Rather auspicious for me I thought, having celebrated a similar milestone recently. So, I am older than or practically just as old as Mao's Little Red Book. No one I know of takes that book seriously now. It is considered a joke in the manner that North Korea is a joke. And yet during my lifetime, millions upon millions of people, in the land that I am in now, had to know this book or die.
On the last day of January, someone tried to steal our e-bike which Jenny had parked at the Wanda Plaza. The bike which we have had since 2008 is a piece of crap now. The thief while not being successful in stealing it, did succeed in breaking the only part of the e-bike that hadn't been broken: the back wheel lock. The e-bike is held basically together with tape. But the tape does have a second purpose. It serves as a sure means for us to able to spot the e-bike when it is parked in among hundreds of other e-bikes. Our e-bike is so distinctively ugly looking that I have to wonder why anyone would want to steal it. But someone did. Thieves, needing money for the Spring Festival could get 200 rmb for our bike, said Jenny.
What do I believe? The Nicene Creed.