Kindles to the left of him and Kindles to the right

Into the Valley of Kindles rode the noble Mr Bamboo.

Kirsten, Nick and I started by giving Dad a Kindle and a cover for his birthday today, and then Mum and Dad bought me one for Christmas. I’m hoping that this will free me from going to Hong Kong or other civilised places once every six months to buy books which I then have to lug back home with me and add to my already overcrowded shelves. (In truth, I really need to buy another bookcase because I have enough books to fill most of a fourth.)

I’ll have to get books via the Internet once I’m home. I have no WiFi in the Empire and doubt whether the connection is sufficiently good anyway. Too much silly infantile paranoia to contend with as well.

I’m charging mine at the moment (from the mains; I’m not sure whether it’s a good idea to have various devices slurping power through my laptop), but have downloaded all the foreign dictionaries via WiFi.

The weather has gone from brilliant to bitchy in a day. Yesterday was particularly foul with some very heavy rain and a heavy fall in the temperature, and although it’s been much less unpleasant today, it hasn’t been what I would call warm myself. First thing this morning, it was a mere 10°.

Yesterday, we went to a restaurant called The Mud House for lunch to celebrate Dad’s birthday. I ate mountain goat – seriously. It was in a pie (actually, it was more like a stew with some pastry on top) and all rather filling so that when I got to the cheese, I found that I was more bloated than a boardroom executive’s wallet.

Now, what am I going to do with my Kindle? For one thing, slap a bunch of pdf documents on it, which was why I started thinking about something like this three or four years ago. Of course, in those days I went out for tea and would take something to read with me, but my phone with its rather small screen, was a bit hopeless as a substitute for an e-book reader. These days I tend to have tea at home and the Kindle becomes a handy means of dragging a bunch of books around with me instead of just one, which I’m likely to read long before my holiday runs out.

Just before I post this, it has popped into my mind that my 2000th blog entry isn’t far away. There should be celebrations, but I suspect there will just be mundanity instead. (NB Firefox’s British English Dictionary, mundanity is a word. Stop red-lining it.)


Woke up this mornin’

Well, a couple of mornings ago now.

The trip to New Zealand started early and dragged on. Iris had me booked on the 6.50am bus to Pudong, which arrived at the airport at about 9.30am, which was far too soon for my flight in the afternoon.

I ended up having lunch at Ajisen partly for something to do before I went through the departure area.

Our departure was fairly prompt and I did quite a bit of snoozing before spending the rest of the time watching recent episodes of Bing Bang Theory and Mr Sunshine. I’ve never seen the latter, which is another of those quirky workplace comedies from the US with a dash of Larry Sanders, but with learning and hugging.

I’m so used to large numbers of people at airports that the flight I’d booked from Auckland was later than it needed to have been. I should’ve booked an earlier flight if one had been available.

I snoozed on the plane to Christchurch because I was seriously tired again, and having got to Mum and Dad’s place, I snoozed for quite a bit of the afternoon, went to bed at my accustomed hour only to wake up at around the time I’d normally be off to bed in China. I eventually fell asleep after it started getting light and woke up at 10.00am yesterday morning.

I’ve already dealt with the main thing: a new laptop. I bought the Acer Aspire 5755G and have been installing software on it without any questions being asked. I had thought I’d get stern warnings about various things being installed on another machine. My attempts to get Office 2010 have failed. For some, I can’t access the website. Oh well, I’ll have to go to the shops and buy it. I could transfer Office 2007, but I want to keep that on my old machine.

Acrobat is also an issue because I think I’d have to install 7, then upgrade to 8, and then to 10, which would mean having to hook the oldest laptop to the Internet to deactivate and uninstall 7. I think I might just bite the bullet and buy 10 from scratch. Again, it’d be handy to have it on two machines.

So far the weather has been so nice. Nor’wester yesterday, and utterly clear so far today. Clouds? What are clouds?

Anyway, there are plans afoot and I must foot off.

The Wanted Poster

Public Enemy No. 1.

A couple of days ago, I was reading an article on Chinese serial killers on Danwei. It’s a rather disconcerting piece which also mentions Zeng Kaigui, a former policeman turned bank robber who has been the subject of a massive manhunt after a bank raider in Nanjing in which he killed someone.

I saw his picture on one of the other expat sites, and that’s what turned up on the door to our building yesterday after I got back from buying lunch. Of course, it’s all in Chinese and if I’d not seen articles about Zeng, I’d merely have assumed he was some local villain, perhaps trying to scam the elderly out of the stuff they scrounge from the bins.

His story reminds me of one I saw in the South China Morning Post several years ago about some crime boss in Guangdong who managed to conduct his activities with apparent impunity for years and years before he was finally “caught”. In Zeng’s case, it seems to be flaws in the law enforcement system which have allowed him to evade justice. In this latter case, I suspected that he was in thick with the Party boys and only got arrested because he’d become a liability for some reason and his connections had been cut. I couldn’t see how he could’ve done what he did without having some people in his pocket.

They knew it was going to be all over

It is now.

Finally, the term has ended. Well, not exactly. It officially ends on Monday, but we don’t have to go in for one last and enormously pointless day.

Looking back on this term I can say that the PAL classes have done much better than I was expecting, but the AS classes I teach, especially 3, have been disappointing, and the syllabus isn’t really working with them. The problem is that they were supposed to do IELTS and TOEFL before some were supposed to move onto SATs next term. It hasn’t worked like that. Students have been going off and doing IELTS or TOEFL just as they please, which makes a mockery of what we have been trying to do.

The weather (to reduce this post to an even more mundane level) has been comparatively mild so far. The ice on the duck ponds outside has only slightly frozen once or twice, and the January plunge has yet to arrive.

Meanwhile, the cats of Jinma are facing hard times as the wheelie bins are encased in locked containers which prevent them from scrounging. I wonder whether this has come about because some woman has decided (as many of my students’ mothers do) that cats are dirty and must be discouraged. I assume that the cats are more beneficial than harmful because they keep down the rodent population. This new measure is also preventing some of the elderly residents from scrounging in the bins themselves for anything they can sell as scrap.1 I’m surprised there hasn’t been a mass incident involving cats and geriatrics protesting about this imposition on their livelihoods.

The latest supercar sighting just recently was a matt-black Audi R8, possibly the same one I saw being parked outside the brothel spa next to Jinma a few weeks ago.


  1. Since Jinma isn’t exactly Peasant Hovels™, it might seem a little strange that any of the elderly residents would be bin diving, but they do. I guess that a lot of them are put up here by their first-gen corrupt offspring, who can afford flats in Jinma. 父母 are still peasants at heart and think “vulgar” might score some decent points in Scrabble if you can place it on the right squares. Wuxi may be a quite opulent place, but it lacks the sensibility to raise it from the rustic depths.

Could our forecasts be more wrong?

Day 3.

For the past three days we’ve been threatened with rain 明天 and have mostly had blue skies and sunshine instead. The forecast for today was quite inaccurate a couple of days ago (rain) and a little more accurate yesterday because it eventually turned cloudy this afternoon. We’re still threatened with rain tomorrow. However, in spite of a little ice forming on the ponds over the past few days, the weather has remained comparatively mild.

The next day. Well, it really did rain a little at long last. That means, yes, I have to go and do some shopping at Carrefour. It does seem to have stopped, but it’s hard to tell with drizzle because it’s impossible to see against a background of billions of microscopic particulates.

It’s a marking weekend, sad to say. I have made some progress with PAL 1 this afternoon although I find the word “social” associated with “society” (in the broad-brush sense) rather than “socialise”, which is the intended sense underlyingly. This may be a sign of the little darlings’ lack of English, but I think there’s also a cultural dimension in that in the minds of my pupils, a Social Club must be socially useful. I doubt whether most native speakers of English would think of a Social Club as a specifically charitable organisation.

I’m also being stricter with Diarrhoea Answers™1 because I don’t think I ought to be dishing out marks for answers which are obscured by irrelevant content.

I took the Impreza down to 运河公园 for a spin, but found the area outside the Olympic Museum being used as a car park. It appears that I’ll have to go later in the afternoon or in the early evening once the motoring morons have gone.

We had a boys’ night out yesterday evening to celebrate Mark’s impending nuptials. This involved sailing up the canal from 南禅寺 drinking toasts and then going to an Indian restaurant called Ganesh. I liked the lamb biryani, but it didn’t like me back. I’ve been past 南禅寺 often enough, but I’ve never ventured inside. It was the usual kind of olde [sic!] Cathay kind of thing (1300 year old site; no building more than 20 years old). I not only found a branch of Watson’s there, but also a 7-Eleven. If there are any more of the latter in the city, I don’t know where they might be.


  1. A Diarrhoea Answer is typically the entire sentence in which the actual answer is to be found. Normally I allow these to pass, but they’re not showing me that the student really knows what the answer is.

Rain and snow?

What rain and snow?

A couple of days ago, the forecast on qq claimed that it was going to rain today. This morning, I could see a little cloud in the sky and I checked the forecast via Baidu, which said that there’d be heavy cloud with rain and snow. Knowing that, I packed my over-trousers in my rucksack.

The day progressed without the slightest sign of rain or snow or, in fact, the clouds which might’ve been bearing such a burden. Apart from some high cloud this morning, the day has been utterly clear.

Today was also the first day of the end-of-term exams. Since I had nothing this morning, I managed to deal with the reports for the PAL classes, and this afternoon, I used the AS Chemistry and Maths exams to mark this morning’s Listening, thus putting them to far better use than merely being a bored observer of the class.

Supposedly and (un)officially, I have tomorrow off to compensate me for taking over the classes of teachers who went off on their hols last week based on our original info., viz. that Friday would be our day off. (That became Monday and Tuesday.) But with rather a lot of marking, the only thing I’ll be doing tomorrow is lolling about in bed beyond the usual hour and then going to school to deal with the marking of the Reading and Writing paper. (You might wonder why I didn’t bring it home, but if I had done that, I’d be likely to dump the pile of papers on my bed and ignore it.)

However, my prediction is that that weather which did not arrive today will arrive tomorrow to add insult to injury.

Supercar sighting of the day: a yellow Lamborghini Gallardo crossing the intersection of 县前街 and 中山路. (Top Gear says £149-£162Ks worth of kit.)

Helicopter hijinks

Happy landings!

I took the Ferrari California to 运河公园 just before and as I was driving around beside the Olympic Museum, some guy and his wife turned up. I thought they were just passing through, but he was out to try his RC helicopter. It rose up in the air, the LEDs flashing along its sides and looked very impressive. It rose a little further and briefly hovered above the passage at the side of the museum and then dropped down. I thought it’d fallen through the roof, but on closer inspection, I discovered that there’s a narrow open area on the far side of the passage.

The Red Baron went and retrieved the helicopter (I wonder if he was charged admission) and brought it back out, but did not exactly display 1337 flyin’ skillz as the machine rose off the ground, flew towards his wife, sank down, and then tipped over. I’m not sure where our man was going wrong, but it seemed that he needed more power; and flying lessons.

I got spiked again

But not in the way that would make a boy cross his legs.

It seems that I owe CTB something for the traffic I’m getting as a result of mentioning him. There was a second spike for him on New Year’s Day although I still don’t understand why. A quick search of Google News for him reveals that in the middle of December he accepted that Imogen Thomas wasn’t trying to blackmail him, and anything more recent is about Manchester United.

A news search for Imogen Thomas yields the same results but for “football” and “Manchester United” read “dressing up” and “reality TV”.

I like driving in my car. It is not a Jaguar.

No, it’s a Ferrari 458 Italia. I found that Silverlit had added the 458 to their range, which is well represented in 远东百货. The electric motor in the car runs much more smoothly than in the other models, and the overall quality of the vehicle is quite good. The speed seemed a little slower, but in  a drag race against the F430, there was no difference in performance. The cars always felt a little faster. The controller is in the shape of the tail-end of a sports car, complete with a Ferrari logo.

As I was passing the canal tours terminal with the 599 yesterday, I had a group of small children chasing after the car, including one girl (?) who was most aggrieved that she couldn’t get her hands on it; and when she did pick the car up (which is what all toddlers do), she was very reluctant to let her go. Her mum tried to bribe her with a mandarin (clementine, satsuma; I can’t tell the difference; is there a difference?), but in the end, had to prise the car out of the child’s hands, and there was more wailing.

There was also a little boy who peeled away from his parents the moment he saw the car and started pursuing it, but thought it was the most fun a boy could have on New Year’s Day. He, too, picked the car up, but was much more sanguine about its departure.