Literally gloomy Sunday

No hot babes in bathtubs.

I knew the weather today would be awful for two reasons:

  1. I cleaned my bike yesterday.
  2. I went outside today.

I had hoped that we might be in for that dreadful light drizzle which is invisible and annoying, but not excessively bothersome. But instead, we had rain, which worsened while I was out. It did at least have the decency to get worse again after I got home.

There was an electricity bill stuck to my door, but it wasn’t so bad, and it can wait till tomorrow.

Grumpy Cat: humour with Chinese characteristicsI did do some more work for next week, but I also spent time linger­ing on G+ and trying my hand at adding to the excessive collection of grumpy cat memes on line. On reflection (what a good IB learner I am), satire doesn’t really work if your pot­ential audi­ence does not under­stand it because it’s not relevant to them.

While I was thinking about the word “pre­mo­ni­tion”, I wondered whether there was a related verb. The only similar words I could think of were “admonition” ~ “admonish”. The latter turns out to be the only –monish verb in English, although I wondered whether the verb *premonish might have popped up as a short-lived inkhorn term in the 15th or 16th century. But instead, “foretell” seems to have survived. Mind you, from a sociolinguistic perspective, I suppose the Anglo-Norman tyrants who ruled England in the Middle Ages were constantly admonishing their English subjects.

In Old English, the word was a-manian, a-monian (a-ma/onigan; also ge~), a Class II weak verb. There was also ge-mynegian, which was a Class II weak verb as well. It was probably etymologically related to a-manian, and words such as myne “mind” (the source of gemynegian) and the preterite-present verb, munan “remember; consider”.

Although Class II weak verbs were historically denominal, there appears to be no surviving noun  in OE corresponding to –manian.

Enough is enough

Or, China’s not for everyone.

My colleague, Mr B publicly revealed today what he hinted at yesterday, viz. he’s chucking it in and heading back to the Middle East. His two reasons were finance and working conditions. Obvious, he has expenses, which aren’t adequately covered. If I had expenses, I doubt whether I’d be being paid enough myself.

The other reason was A2 teaching. Mr B has got saddled with all of the A2 teaching. I’ve been around long enough to know that I want to have nothing to do with these soul-sucking demons. Fred had them last year and didn’t want them again. They’re lazy, arrogant, and still utterly oblivious to how awful their English is. As I’ve surmised before, they go overseas and probably have their tutors wondering what the hell we were teaching them. “English?!” roared the tutor. “I don’t think so.”

Mr B doesn’t leave until the end of term, but with any luck their lordships will have found a replacement for him, thus sparing the rest of us the dubious honour of having to deal with the A2s.

The weather was as dim as the A2s, but went in reverse order to yesterday, starting wet and eventually turning dry. Nonetheless, the cloud was so heavy this morning that there wasn’t even the slightest hint of daylight when the alarm rang. This is the part of the year that I loathe, although we haven’t got as far as the point where the sun’s only coming up when I arrive at school (and that’s still to arrive at school far too early).

And thus another weeks ends. What does the future hold? A brief respite from the foul weather, but only a brief one. I’m beginning to wonder whether we’re in for a dull, dreary and wet winter. Tomorrow will also see me migrate to winter quarters, I think, because it’s got too cold to linger in the bedroom too much longer.

Time to go and make tea.

Fouler than a witch’s knickers

What delightful weather.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t hear the proverbial plink-plink-plink which signifies rain. It was dull and grey, but it was at least dry. That lasted until sometime after lunch when the Chinese weather gods decided to make everyone’s lives just that bit more miserable, and since then, it’s mostly been relentless.

Tomorrow is meant to be more of the same, and Saturday, miraculously, is meant to be fine; but given the changeable nature of the weather, I’ll believe it when I see it.

I also think this is the weekend when I’ll shift my stuff into this room for the winter. That means dealing with the bric-à-brac which has accumulated on the bed since last spring. There’s not too much, but it needs a home, which probably means that it’ll need to winter over in the bedroom.

I do find this climate quite intolerable. It’s uncomfortably hot and humid for about five months; improbably cold for this latitude for about five months; and vaguely agreeable for the other two months of the year. It also rains too much during the winter.

Another lot of Commando Comics have just come out, which includes some original stories which, in my view, are superior to the stories which were around when I was a regular reader about forty years ago. They deal with a wider range of theatres of war than the obvious ones – the war in Europe, the war in North Africa, and the war in the Far East. They seem to be more sophisticated stories as well. In one of the latest comics, Hell’s Cauldron, we have the following exchange:

“If we have spies in the Kremlin, Mister Tenby, do you think that the Russians have their own agents in Whitehall?”
“I hardly think so. Our Russian experts from Cambridge University would soon nail any that tried to penetrate our security services.”

Pure genius. Probably wasted on younger readers, but I appreciate it. (As an aside, I have to wonder what the average age of Commando readers is since I’m a little sceptical about the material appealing to the 21st century generation.)

Meanwhile, some of my kind neighbours are letting me and a lot of other people listen to their TV. How considerate of them.

Online Poll Asks Chinese Hopes for Future, And Democracy Wins in Landslide | Tea Leaf Nation

Online Poll Asks Chinese Hopes for Future, And Democracy Wins in Landslide | Tea Leaf Nation.

Not, I think a big surprise, since liberal Chinese appear to be well represented on Weibo.

I still believe that China needs the rule of law, freedom of speech, a free press, a massive reduction in Internet censorship, a government which doesn’t think that the people are the enemy, and a sense of personal responsibility before the Empire even bothers with democracy.

Of these, the last is, I think, of particular importance. So long as the Party Boys are holed up in their clubhouse and the people are left in ignorance outside, they (the people) can’t really have a sense that they matter.

One of the problems with democracy elsewhere seems to be that people have regained the sense that nothing they say, think, or do will ultimately affect the governance of their lives. Bankers and business buggered Europe, and the people have ended up paying.

I’m not blind to the fact that democracy is organic and the soil in which it grows is different from place to place. I doubt whether the Chinese government will ever grow out of its obsessive desire to control (i.e., democracy as a five-year plan), but look at the British government and some of its ridiculous obsessions over the past fifteen years or so; yet it claims to be democratic. Excuse me while I snort derisively.

Walk-down-the-cycle-lane Day

Why use the pavement when you can be a hazard?

Was today Walk-down-the-cycle-lane Day in the City of Pyjama-clad Clowns? I went to do some shopping at Carrafour after I’d had a chat to Mum and Dad on Skype this morning and found myself having to manoeuvre around even more zombies than usual. This wasn’t one of those instances when there were four-wheeled cretins parked all over the pavement and I’m inclined to be forgiving. No, it was one of those occasions when there was no need for there to be any zombies roaming around the cycle lane.

I don’t know whether I’m imagining it, but there also seem to have been a lot of zombie yokels around this weekend. In fact, they could be the ones walking along the cycle lanes.

10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling – The Oatmeal

10 Words You Need to Stop Misspelling – The Oatmeal.

I think I might’ve seen this before, or I’ve certainly seen a similar page from this source.

I’m guilty of many of the faux pas which the cartoon discusses, these are mostly just faux pas. In inattentive moments I’ll write “their” for “they’re” or “there”, but I’m not misspelling them because I don’t know the difference.

If I see something misspelt online, I don’t think, This writer is a complete moron, unless the appalling quality of the English justifies such a conclusion. Sometimes, though, I do think that some sub-editor should’ve been there to give the article the once-over, but from what I can tell, sub-editors have mostly been pensioned off.

With regard to “a lot of”, I’m just wondering whether we wouldn’t be better off spelling it “alottive” or “alotive” or “allotive” (I vote for the third one; < *ad-lot-) so that it looks like some pseudo-Latin adjective.

On second thoughts. I do like allotive, but unfortunately, it’d fall into the allative / ablative / relative pattern of stress assignment, being homophonous with allative /ˈælɪtɪv/. Alottive would be a better choice because I think people would naturally read it as /əˈlɒtɪv/. The only problem with that is that in Latin I believe -tt- > -ss- or -s-.

Alotive probably wouldn’t work because it might then be mistakenly connected with lotion and taken to be an adjective describing an ointment or balm (e.g. Made from the finest laboratory-created natural ingredients, this alotive preparation is 25% more effective in extracting money from gullible customers).

The dull and the dismal

Another delightful autumn day.

Today has dragged on and on. And on. And then on a bit more. It’s Mum’s birthday today. I hope her day was considerably more interesting than mine. It probably was because mine… [I think we get the idea. –ed.]

It has been grey all day. We started with that invisible drizzle which dampens the land and yet is a minor nuisance. That became a more major nuisance this afternoon, but the rain was less of a problem than the general dullness.

Dullness and writing.

I had my little darlings write a formal letter this week. The chance that such a thing is going to be in the exam is remote since the last time it turned up was winter 2008. They had to write an application for a job, but like their informal letters, most of them never really fulfilled the task.

Part of the problem lay in their inability to cast themselves as school leavers so that when they had to propose interview times, they became themselves and said they were only available at weekends. I wonder whether I should warn them of such pitfalls or not. (Of course, the reality is that between one year and the next I’ve forgotten about such things.)

Anyway, I managed to finish off PAL 2’s letters because Wednesday is mostly free, but because I don’t have a lot of free time on Thursday and even less on Friday, I only managed to get most of PAL 1’s done. I had to deal with the rump after class this afternoon when I was cursing the livid scene outside and hoping that I wouldn’t arrive home to find there was some shopping I absolutely had to do.

The Party boys’ meeting is over. They’ve been closeted in their clubhouse for the past week; they’ve buggered up the Internet for the past week; they’ve annoyed me sufficiently for the past week to make me find another way around their puerile blocks on the Internet.

I was having a look at the list of blocked sites on GreatFire.org last night. As far as I can tell from the URLs, there are a lot of sites which can remain blocked until the cows come home and then some. There are also some on the list whose inclusion utterly puzzling.

Once upon a time, I would’ve advised newcomers to China to bring a laptop so as to avoid local machines like the plague they are. I’d still advise them to bring a machine of their own, and these days I’d add “bring a VPN”. Just because the imperial government likes shoving its head up its arse, it doesn’t mean the rest of us should follow suit.

I saw something on G+ last night about zombies and tyrants. Guess which empire I immediately thought of.

All right, that’s enough incoherent rambling out of me. I’m tired, and when I’m tired, I get bad-tempered, especially when I’ve had to deal with mediocre student writing.

The next day. I really was tired. I had a brief chat with Linda on qq last night, and then went and had a snooze – for three hours –, although I don’t remember nodding off. I’m surprised this entry is even vaguely comprehensible.

Salt-and-vinegar crisps: special edition

Gone one day, there the next.

This is another tale of China’s obtuse supply chain. In 远东百货 or Carrefour, product X suddenly appears on the shelves. Expats like product X, which vanishes reasonably quickly. This particular item then vanishes altogether for weeks or months on end even although anyone with half a brain can see that it’s going to fly off the shelves even faster than a banker can smell an undeserved bonus.

The salt-and-vinegar crisps had long since vanished from the shelves of 远东百货, and as usual, it seemed reasonable to conclude that quite a lot of time might pass before we saw any more of them. Not so, it seems.

I went into 远东百货 this afternoon and spotted a display of them, on sale, but not in the usual place.

The attitude of retailers in China seems to be that if they’re selling it, the customer must want it, and when it’s all gone, the customer no longer wants it. I’m hoping there’s a sensible reason for this state of affairs, but I can’t help but suspect it’s a manifestation of chicken-coop mentality in China, viz. everyone is a petty tyrant in the Great Pecking Order, and those in inferior positions must put up and shut up.

It’s not just salt-and-vinegar crisps and Nutella, but all sorts of things which I wouldn’t normally go near which are affected by this odd culture of supplying people on a whim.

The one item which is currently missing from Carrefour is red pens for adults (and even Walmart had none the last time I looked). For example, you can’t buy the red equivalent of the M&G R1 for love or money, and even the red version of any other brand has disappeared from the shelves. There are some red pens, but these are the sort of thing which only appeal to shallow-witted people. In this case, demand far exceeds supply.

Milking it for everything it’s got

It’s what the 太太 want.

I went shopping after school knowing that among other things, I needed to buy some milk. I don’t normally buy milk from Carrefour, but since I was going there, I thought I’d grab a carton.

Being a cheap bastard discerning shopper, I buy the local stuff, but today, there was none to be had. It was either New Zealand milk at twice the price (around ¥19 for one litre; NZ$3.74 at the current rate of exchange; I have no idea whether this is good, bad, or other; tick a box) or those irritating kiddie cartons.

I was heading to 远东百货 anyway, and know that I can usually get milk there; but instead, I found more New Zealand milk alongside other exotic, overpriced milks from around the globe. Since the prices in 远东百货 are even higher than those in Carrefour, I was damned if I was going to sigh in defeat and accept that I was going to have to pay well over the odds, or be inconvenienced further.

Instead, I went home via Vanguard, which had milk at a less disagreeable price.

Once again, I have to go to three different places to get everything I need. Once again, it’s one of those occasions when the supply chain goes funny and that which I expect to be able to find has vanished without being restocked. The situation must be especially bothersome for people who don’t have my mobility and must simply tolerate the annoyance of paying twice as much for milk because the financial damage to their wallets exceeds the inconvenience of traipsing all over the city for what they want.

There you are, Internet

I’m back and I’m irate.

Because of the raging case of paranoia which has surrounded the ascendancy of a new emperor to the Chinese throne, it’s been next to impossible to access the Internet via Freegate or Ultrasurf. Even services such as gmail have come in for a kicking as we found last weekend when it was completely inccessible, and, in general, connections to the real world have, at times, been annoyingly pitiful.

At school the connection to the Net has gone beyond pitiful to an adjective which doesn’t even exist in English. I assume that schools (especially ones full of pesky foreigners like mine; pesky foreigners who might insist on thinking for themselves in programmes which encourage independence of thought; yes, a bit of irony in that statement) and universities have come in for a particular hammering because these are places where the Chinese might just be able to think for themselves (briefly) before they’re finally and completely assimilated to the Borg collective.

This afternoon, having discovered that I could access the Astrill website (secure connection), I signed up for pay-per-view Internet. Admittedly, it’s adding about a third again to my bill, but I don’t care. I’m fed up with being unable to see the Internet. It’s not that Freegate isn’t a decent piece of kit, but that the link to the real world is fragile and easily disrupted. Since term started, Freegate has probably been out for the count more often than it has been ducking and weaving around the ring. I’m hoping Astrill is a stable alternative so that, among other things, I can post here regularly, watch YouTube and Vimeo videos instead of wondering what the little black rectangle hides (such as George Alagiah’s piece on Wellington College in Tianjin, where the fees make us look like the bargain basement), pop over to Facebook or G+, look stuff up on the IMDb, and generally surf the Internet as normal people do.

The news from the Party boys conference is a resounding declaration, viz. the 12th century is here to stay – forever. Honestly, I wasn’t be expecting any change. I wasn’t expecting to hear that the government had suddenly announced an end to censorship or even a slight relaxation of the imperial anus. Necessity may force change, but it’ll be change with Chinese characteristics. That is, no real change at all.

In fact, “<noun> with Chinese characteristics” should be treated as a colossal joke because whatever the noun might’ve meant, it no longer means that. For example “socialism with Chinese cha­rac­te­ris­tics” means the worst sort of capitalism.

I don’t know how regularly I’ll be posting here, but perhaps it’ll be a little more frequent now that I don’t have to hope that Freegate might work.

Finally, is it time for me to get a Twitter account, not because I give a damn about Twitter, but because I can have one?