Saturday, October 3, 2015

September 2015 Notes (Part 2)

For the purpose of making an entry for, more or less, the second half of the month of September 2015, I will blog (or have blogged) about the following: the second Republican Debate, drinking a can of Coke very fast, composing an email to Mrs S, parking aggravation in Wuxi, something I saw while e-biking, Scott Walker, an Anne Coulter tweet, listening to a Keynesian, my son Tony not doing well at school, homeschooling Tony, reading the Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz, reading David Warren on raising children, Chinese children being able to roam not, a pair of stooped old men, a stolen shopping cart, Chinese men's caveman approach to walking with their girlfriends, an attempt at a joke, and Emily.

  • The Republican Presidential Debate took place while I was editing the September 2015 Part 1 entry. I suppose that opening my blog entry with a comment about old news is not the thing to do in a medium that seems to demand immediacy, but I, seeking to emulate my blogging hero David Warren, hope to be creating another sort of anti-blog blog by discussing things that happened more than five minutes or five hours or five days or five weeks ago.

  • I also didn't watch the debate live. I downloaded the video of the debate and watched it over a stretch of three days during which I published the September 2015 Part 1 entry. I have a number of comments to make about the debate, and because I can't indent them in the blog platform I use, this number of comments is numbered.

  1. Actually, I watched the first hour of the debate and gave up. I had more interesting things I could watch for two hours on my computer like the movie Carousel. So, I make but one comment.

  • We bought a blue Citroen C3 XR. They don't have a blue model in stock unfortunately so we going to have to wait a fortnight before we get it.

  • We bought the car when we went to this promotional event at the Citroen dealership on the day we made the purchase. I got roped into participating in a drinking a can of Coke race and I don't know what I accomplished by doing that.

  • Waiting for the vehicle, I am filled with foreboding. Or rather I can't get very very enthused about it.

  • As we wait for the Citroen, we have a small hope that it will arrive before the October 1 holiday. [From now on, I will refer to our vehicle as the Citroen or the C3 XR or the C3. That is, if I ever refer to it. I don't want to blog about driving in China. I am sure that it has been done before, and done badly, and I don't need to add to it.]

  • I write a reply to Mrs S who is a brilliant blogger and who sent me the email about considering Catholicism. It took me ten days to reply to her email. It was so beautifully written – her email – that I wasn't at all happy with what I had to say in my reply. On Mrs S's advice, I am reading The Confessions of Saint Augustine.

  • Parking! Aggh!!!!!!!!!! We aren't going to spend 36,000 rmb to buy a parking spot at our complex. We will have to find another arrangement. One option is to not buy or rent any parking and just take our chances everyday of finding free parking around the complex.

  • I was e-biking along Wenhui Road, which my apartment overlooks, when I saw two very stooped old men walking down the street. Blessed these men are for being pedestrians, I thought. One of the old men then pointed ahead, indicating the way to the other, and I had a sight that would have made for a great photo. As it is, I have recorded that I saw them and yet can't convey how remarkable the sight of them was to me.

  • I was disappointed to hear that Scott Walker had dropped out of the U.S. presidential race. Of the twenty candidates, including the Democrats, who were running, he was in my top five, and probably my top two (the other being Ted Cruz). It is not a good sign and I can't help but think that this election will have a disappointing result in the end: Hilary wins.

  • The Democrats don't have any viable not-so-stupid options besides Hilary. That one candidate Bernie Sanders makes her look like Ronald Reagan. [Over at my WCE blogspot sight, I have a theory about why Walker resigned.]

  • Is it possible to be anti-Semitic and pro-Israel? That is what people who jump on Anne Coulter because of that one tweet she made, where she used the words "Jews" and "______," are going to have to believe. She praises Israel's immigration policies but doesn't think that Israel, a subject which all the Republicans are generally agreed on, should be taking up such a huge chunk of debate time. She wants immigration to be the number one issue in the 2016 presidential election and hates discussion of what she sees as unimportant and minor issues.

  • As September ends, I am glad to report that there are still women wearing short skirts and shorts.

  • A self-professed Keynesian, on a recent Milton Rosenburg podcast, asked how it could be that there were so many poor people when there was so much money around. It drives me crazy when people say such things about money like it was some sort of magic pixie dust. What is money? It is a tool. Money can't be eaten, it can't get you home faster.... Money is paper or plastic or special bits of information. It is an abstract concept that can't enrich people just because it is there. If the case was that there was lots of resources and many poor people, the Keynesian would at least be asking the right question.

  • Thought experiment for the Keynesian. Send a person to the Moon with nothing but a lot of gold. How will this person do? Probably not well, but it would be a mystery to the Keynesian as to why it is because, after all, the person has a lot of gold.

  • I have no complaints; I just have problems. Does this make any sense?

  • My son Tony is not doing well at school and so my wife Jenny is contemplating home-schooling him for the rest of the school year and then having him start grade three all over again next September. I am all for the idea. From what I understand, he is not learning anything. He doesn't understand what his teachers are saying; and his teachers, who have 39 brighter students in class, are ignoring him. The teachers only want Tony to be quiet and not disturb the other students. The teachers do put pressure on Jenny to get Tony to read and understand Chinese better but the result is that Tony says he hates school and only wants to play computer games all the time. When I asked what other things he is interested in, he is sullen and says "I don't know!"

  • That Tony should be falling behind his classmates is not an earth-shattering disappointment or shock to me. There are several factors for his falling behind which I had suspected would cause this to happen. The first is the fact of his birth date. He was born on August 23 which is but a week before the September 1 cut-off date which determines what grade a child can enter in China. Tony has always been behind in development from his classmates who are older than him. The second factor is his living in a cross cultural household. While he is bilingual, he is mediocre at both languages. In a classroom atmosphere where English is a minor subject and one has to be very good at Chinese, Tony is sitting in class, not understanding and falling farther behind. The third and fourth factors, I can think to mention, have to do with my being his father. I was 42 when Tony was born, rather late for me to father a child, and Tony may not so bright as a result. Such as he is, I can only hope that he is as he ought to be. [This phrasing I am copying from Mrs S] That is, I want him to be good whatever his talents and intelligence are or are not. For him to be good, I have to raise him so, and so the second factor in his unsatisfactory development that I can attribute to my being his father is trying to be his friend and not an authority. [I was going to say that I was negligent in my parenting style, but that is not true. I don't neglect Tony. Far from it. I spend my time with him trying to indulge him.]

  • I welcome the chance to home-school Tony in reading and writing English but it won't be easy. Jenny is only home-schooling him so that he can be in more conformance with the Chinese education system. I don't want that. I would like to home-school him forever. I want a keen kid, who is comfortable in his skin and not at all a cypher. I want to home-school him to the possibilities of learning without succumbing to its stupidities of progressive education or whatever the Chinese Communists want done in their schools. [The chance to home-school Tony also gives me a chance to do one thing on which I can rightly say I have been negligent with Tony: his spiritual development. I have to teach him to pray and think about God.]

  • September 25, the conclusion of the book The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz,and an older David Warren blog entry really hit home with me.

  • The Captive Mind's stirring concluding chapter discussed Latvia. (I am of Latvian descent) The book compares the fate of Latvians in World War Two to that of the Incas being conquered and then hunted down by the Spanish. The author made the observation, that he thankfully disavowed in his book's final pages, that the exterminations of many Latvians and the Incas was a minor thing on the pages of a history book, and that in the long run, it could be argued that they were necessary to allow historical forces progress toward a kumbaya world. It only took the sight of a rustic peasant from a backwater pouring tea for his child to squelch that notion for the author.

  • The Warren blog entry discussed raising kids. I had actually copied it from the Internet, a few months ago, and placed it in a file that I was to work with for an English Corner I was to do about raising children. I read the entry again after earlier reading the final chapter of Milosz's book. The Warren entry really hit home with me because I also came upon it again only hours after I had had a big argument with Jenny about the entry's very topic: raising children. If we home-school Tony, it would seem that Jenny and I are of not of one mind on how to educate him. I want to teach him English but also give him even freedom to find the skills he needs to get on in this life. I don't want to be drilling him to read some textbooks, just so he can get high marks. I do have – and on this score Jenny is right to be angry with me – to be more stern with him. However, after admitting this and other errors to Jenny, I got frustrated because Jenny didn't have any suggestions to correct the problems. So, the Warren entry was an answer to my prayers. Warren advocated a counter-intuitive (at least to me who has been poisoned by progressive notions) sort of tough neglect when raising children. His approach is tough and yet gives children the freedom to deal with the consequences of their actions.

  • Warren in that entry wrote that his mother was very laisez-faire (malapropism: lazy fair) with him about school. Warren's mother was quite willing to accommodate his truancy from public school, but she did teach him to read and write. This is how I would like to be with Tony (I say this between looking up how to teach a child to read on the Internet). I don't want him to be an ideal student in a Chicom system, but unfortunately Jenny does.

  • Thinking about the home schooling of Tony and re-reading Warren's entry about raising children, I am bubbling forth with ideas about how to school him. I want him to take more responsibility for himself. I want him to be able to clean up after himself. I want him to be able to do some things in the kitchen. I want him to teach him to be an adult who can look after himself till he finds a wife. I want him to be able to take some initiative. I want him to help me clean our new car.

  • Chinese children aren't allowed to roam free. When I make this observation to Chinese parents, they tell me how dangerous the urban environment is. For example, when I told Jenny that when I was in grade three, the opening of the back door of the house was all that was needed to send me and my sister off to school, she balked and asked if I could imagine Tony dealing with all the cars and e-bikes if he walked home by himself. She has a point. Chinese drivers being what they are, I would have a hard time letting my one child roam freely in any neighborhoods where there are cars or e-bikes.

  • What spurred all the thoughts about home-schooling was my coming home at 9:00 PM on evening and seeing Jenny tiger-mothering Tony as she was helping him do his homework. It seemed to me that Jenny was being hard on Tony and I grumbled. The fireworks then started to fly. I won't attempt to paraphrase what was spoken during the discussion but relate this one anecdote. Jenny told me that when she was young, she did poorly in a math test and her mother knocked her on ground and then dragged her by the hair for two km home. Jenny grew up a decade or so after the cultural revolution.

  • I was all gung-ho, full of spit and vinegar, to home-school Tony in the morning, but when the evening came and I was tired and Tony was wanting to play computer and Ipad, I quickly compromised on all that I thought I would do with him.

  • Nothing much happened to me in the last days of September, 2015 that was bloggable. We saw our vehicle but weren't able to drive it because it wasn't insured yet.

  • On the last day of September, I saw two sights pass by the window of Casa Kaulins that faces onto Wenhui Road. First, a grandmother was piggyback-carrying a big child on her back. Talk about spoiling a child! Then, another older woman was pulling a shopping cart containing bags of groceries. It was the first time I had seen someone use a stolen shopping cart in China. And she took it down Wenhui Road, which runs in front of a big police station and then past another government building, in broad daylight.

  • From my desk at school, which allows me to look down on Zhongshan Road pedestrians, I see a man walking with his girlfriend and holding onto her ponytail. Chinese men walking with their female companions can look quite brutal to this blogger's eyes. I have seen local men have their arms around a girl so that it looked like a head-lock, or as if the fellow was genuinely scared that his girlfriend was going to leave him.

  • A possible funny exchange. Me (To a co-worker): Did you ever write a letter, put it in an envelope with an address on it, put an stamp on the envelope, and then put in a mailbox? Co-worker: Ah. Yeah.... How old do you think I am? Me: 24, 25. Co-worker: What ho! I'll have you know I am 37. Me: 37? You gots to be joking. I mean, like how do you measure your age? The metric system? Everyone: Ha Ha Ha.

  • Marketing workers at our school have a dirty job. They have to go on the street to try and get people to come into our school. One of the girls seemed sweet enough in a forlorn sort of way and was making an effort to study English. They let her go for some reason and she has been coming to the school to get the pay owed her. Heart breaking to see her walk to the pay office.

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