So now the end is near

The final curtain. Almost.

Having had the cold that was going around and having recovered, I got the unpleasant version just over a week ago, which I attribute to some germ-laden student. I seem to be a little better this morning. I’m hoping that next year won’t see a repeat screening of the flu/pneumonia which I got at the start of the year even although I’m fairly certain that about a year ago I’d succumbed to something vile, which I thought might give me a degree of immunity from subsequent colds. It didn’t.

Adrian left yesterday, although he did the same two years ago only to reappear at the start of the following academic year. This time he’s probably gone for good, and has a part-time job teaching at the UEA. I hope it all goes well for him.

While Adrian was meant to be leaving, Ian and Joseph have decided to get out of Dodge early. I wonder what our retention rate will be like at the end of the year. No sign of contracts, yet.

The past few days have been trying. On Thursday we had a one-off schedule to return the monthly tests. That meant wall-to-wall classes on what is one of my less unpleasant days of the week. This was followed by Friday, which is my least pleasant day of the week, which was followed by Tuesday, which drags on to the very end of the day. (Yes, that’s right. Yesterday was Tuesday. If you thought it was Saturday, you’d be wrong.) And thus yesterday was a multimedia day.

The weather hasn’t helped at all. We’ve had rain, rain, rain, snow, with the latter being sufficient to settle, although this morning there’s only a light coating on the ground, which has probably frozen solid. It turned so cold last night that there was condensation on the window in this room, which is saying something.

We now have a much needed break for a few days. I have some more DVDs to watch, but right now I need to take care of the music on my Walkman.

But before I publish this entry, I note that this will be the 2,100th. I also note that I had a spike of readers again the other day for no reason I can discern.

Bicycle boys

Premium Rush

Joseph Gordon Levitt plays the part of a cycle courier in New York who ends up with a delivery which a heavily indebted policeman wants so that he pay off what he owes; but the ticket belongs to some girl with a dodgy Chinese accent who is trying to smuggle her son into the States. Thus it’s all right for US immigration laws to be flouted.

Levitt rides around New York trying to evade pursuit. He is, of course, caught by the villain, but outsmarts and out-rides him (in spite of all his ribs being broken).

It’s the way the story is woven together which raises Premium Rush a little (but just a little). In one scene Levitt passes the villain before his identity has been revealed. Later, the scene is repeated, but the villain is now familiar.

From a wholly different perspective, the film is about idiots on bicycles who seem out to get themselves killed by riding like deranged maniacs. I couldn’t help but wince at the cartoon crashes, which would’ve inflicted a great deal more damage than “Oof!”

A beer-and-crisps movie. (And why is “movie” getting red-lined?)

The Christmas film review

An ancient tradition since this very moment.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter has Abe whacking vampires, and ultimately leading the northern states to victory in the American Civil War against armies of the undead from the south, who have been feeding off their slaves.

After Lincoln’s mother is killed by a vampire, Jack Barts, he vows to have his revenge, but on his first attempt to kill Barts, he encounters Henry Sturges, who trains him to kill vampires and then sends him to the town of Springfield where Lincoln takes out the undead and eventually gets Barts.

Life goes on and Lincoln goes into politics to become the president of the United States. In the Civil War, the north finds itself fighting armies of vampires to which there is only one solution: silver. A train carrying a shipment of silver is intercepted by a force of blood-sucking fiends who discover too late that it’s a decoy and the real shipment has been ferried along the underground railway.

Lincoln kills Adam, the leader of the southern forces, with a silver watch, and his wife kills Adam’s sidekick, Vadoma, with her dead son’s toy silver sword fired from a gun. Lock and load, Mrs Lincoln.

The film ends with Lincoln going off for a night at the theatre before cutting to the present day where Henry Sturges is sitting beside another man in a bar who has love or revenge on his mind.

Unlike the film about Abraham Lincoln the zombie killer, this one actually had production values because it obviously had a budget of more than £10.50.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter did not try to take itself too seriously, but nor did it head off in the opposite direction, which films of this nature are so likely to do.

If anything, it was a little boring at times when my attention drifted away from my DVD player to my computer screen. I can recall Lincoln in Springfield and eventually killing Barts, and then suddenly he was president, but the details in between were lost. The scene on the train could’ve been resolved more quickly. I think I prefer Adam’s demise to have been short and sharp rather than some prolonged punch-up. Vadoma’s death was like an appendix in a weak parallel to Adam’s.

Lincoln scooped some peas onto his fork. He paused for a moment and looking at his wife said, “I wonder what happened to Vadoma.”

“Oh, her,” said Mrs Lincoln. “I whacked her sorry, bitch ass.” She fingered the silver sword hanging on the chain around her neck.

“Ah.” He paused. “Excellent peas, by the way.”

I’m not sure what the message was. Were the vampires meant to represent American bankers, for example? Was this simply a piece of wish fulfilment?

Overall, the film is all right, but get someone else to pay for a ticket to see it or buy you the DVD; or just wait for it to be shown on the telly.

So what’s next for President Lincoln? Abraham Lincoln, Bane of Werewolves?

Sovereign territory

Or when in Rome?

Reports about the interview between Gavin Esler and the Chinese ambassador to Britain on Newsnight say that (not surprisingly) censorship of the Internet got mentioned. That got me thinking.

Embassies are a piece of foreign soil. Since that’s the case, is Internet access from Chinese embassies around the world subject to the same levels of paranoia to which it is subject in China, or are such blocks blithely ignored by the Empire’s representatives? If I searched, would I find the Chinese embassy in the UK has a Facebook page? A Twitter account? A WordPress or Facebook blog? Videos on YouTube of Vimeo of the office Christmas party?

I hate to think what an office Christmas party with Chinese characteristics would be like. I’ve never heard of an office Spring Festival party. The closest they probably get is some sort of enforced, state-regulated, rigidly structured “fun”.

Finally, the weekend

Thank you for stealing it from me.

Another weekend, another lost day. Well, lost in that I spent five periods in darkened rooms showing episodes of that old stalwart, Reaper.

It was interesting to watch the reactions of the classes. PAL 2 didn’t react much until the scene in which Sock is chasing the dogs with the leaf blower. Generally, the verbal humour flew over their heads. PAL 1 were much more responsive throughout. AS 2 were largely vegetable like, laughing at much the same moments as PAL 2, but showing their usual amount of enthusiasm – very little.

I then had to deal with another of the IB Extended Essay (EE) students this afternoon, which meant that I was stuck at school all day.

There was a leak

Sssssshhhhhh.

It was time to go to bed last night, but I needed to go to the loo because if I don’t, my body will nag at me until I do. I went into the main room and could hear the sound of running water, but couldn’t tell where it was coming from until I went into the bathroom to discover that the tap had sprung a leak. The thing has been dripping for almost all the time I’ve ever been here, but this time there was squirting. (Watch me get inappropriate hits for “squirting”.)

Although the sink and the basin have taps to enable the water to them to be shut off, the bath does’t. I guessed that the only way to kill off the water flow was in one of the cupboards outside, but they all appeared to be locked. With nothing particularly useful at my disposal, I shoved a towel underneath the leak to staunch the flow.

By this morning, things were worse, and the leak had gone from a squirt to a stream. I worked out how to write that I needed the water to be turned off in Chinese, and went to the security office at the main gate. The woman there said nothing would happen until 8.00am, but my rather insistent 现在 sent her off to get one of the security guards who opened the cupboard outside where the water mains are, and turned off the flow to my flat.

I went and saw Polly as soon as I could, who phoned the landlord (who was, fortunately, in town). He came round this afternoon and then went to buy a new tap, and will be back this evening with someone to replace the old tap.

But when I went back to school, I thought about what I’d seen this morning. When the security guard had unlocked the door to the water mains, I’d noticed there was a latch. I hadn’t thought about it at the time, but it struck me as a little odd to latch a locked door, and before I got in the lift, I tried the door myself. It wasn’t locked, and possibly hadn’t been locked last night. At least I won’t have to get some security guard to turn the water back on once the tap has been replaced.

I’m not the only one to have plumbing problems. Daniel’s loo had a major blockage problem, and Brendan’s plumbing has also needed repairs this term. (I hasten to add that I am referring to the water bearing infrastructure of the building and none of this is some euphemism about malfunctioning boy parts. [Watch me also get inappropriate hits for “boy parts”.])

I’d also brought AS 2’s tests home and managed to mark my way through just over half of them while I was waiting for my landlord, which was a good use of my time. AS 1&3 have done quite well in the reading test, and AS 2 are doing even ridiculously better. On the other hand, I was brutal with their writing because they deserved it.

There’s not been a lot happening of late. We had another (pointless) monthly test last week, and will have the end of term test in about three weeks from now. The weather has reverted to being clear and cold instead of dull and cold as temperatures slide towards the January-February nadir. The duck ponds have yet to freeze over, but I have no doubt they will shortly.

The headmaster continues to be a miserable sod by not allowing the heating to be turned on in the classrooms. I can’t say why, but being a cynical old bastard, I’m inclined to suspect someone wants a new Series 7 BMW, and heating would prevent him from skimming that little bit extra off the top to get the heated seats, electric windows, and a cup holder.

Look what escaped from the vegetable garden

A Tale of Cabbages.

Carrefour. The moving walkway to the first floor has come to an end. What next? Keep moving? No. Stand waiting for the floor to carry me to my destination because I’m too stupid to think of the impediment I am to others behind me, and too lazy to walk? Yes, and wonder why the electric coolie is no longer ferrying me to my destination.

Later at the checkout. The nice man or lady has given me my receipt. What do I do now? Move hastily on so as not to be a brain-dead nuisance? No. Stand gawping stupidly at the receipt because I’m sure that the shop has made a mistake, and thus get in the way of other customers? Yes, and then wonder why the aliens have blown the planet to pieces because they concluded it wasn’t inhabited by any intelligent lifeforms.

The monthly tests are finally over. We need to do something about factoring in the writing tests if we’re going to do them separately because I’ve had a total of 8½ hours of invigilating over the past two weeks. It’s part of the job I utterly loathe because it’s a colossal waste of my time. Sooner we get professional invigilators in, the better.

I’ve had the time to finish marking PAL 1’s reading tests today, but it never takes that long to deal with reading. It’s writing which is the pain because that’s more likely to send the marker into a mouth-foaming fury from encountering the same inane statements over and over again, which ten years have still not erased from the arsenal of dimwittedness with which Chinese students arm themselves

Oh dear god. Shut up, Mr Needlessly Shouty Person. I don’t want to hear you in the morning or the evening. Your shouting is irksome, annoying, and unnecessary, and not a form of exercise. Perhaps you’re shouting because you’re angry with Mrs Needlessly Shouty Person, who has you under her thumb, or perhaps you’re pissed off at another 60 years of abuses on top of the previous 2,500 years of unenlightened, authoritarian rule. I don’t care why you’re shouting. You can rage ineffectually on Weibo and give the rest of us some peace and quiet.

In which Mr Tucker is mentioned

From 0 to somebody in a blog entry.

Daniel has been complaining that I haven’t mentioned him on my blog. I’m not talking about Daniel the Maths teacher, but Daniel the English teacher. New Daniel…

[Here the rest of the manuscript is fragmentary and often illegible. What can be read is reproduced below.]

…improper cat [cod?]… unicycle… incident with elf princess [mss. α, β, ζ prince]… mutant geneticist in bag of iodised [ionised?] salt… gas mark 6… blank sheet of paper… scrawl [scroll?]… night with camel [mss. γ, δ, λ camera] in remote oasis…

The manuscript ends with

…which thus makes Mr [T]ucker [most mss. F_cker] much more interesting than popular histories would have us otherwise believe.

In which Mr Bamboo breaks his land speed record

The train was so fast that it was in bed pleasuring my wife half an hour before I was.

Shanghai from the 43rd floor
Grey, gloomy Shanghai

I went to Shanghai yesterday for a workshop on IB assessment. As the picture shows, the view from the window was magnificently grey. It rained a little, but was mostly just dull and cold.

Some boy insisted on his mother sitting with him in the seat beside mine, and then knocked a plastic bag containing some horrible sticky drink off the tray table, causing it to go all over the floor of the carriage. It could’ve been worse. It might’ve been Shit 皇帝 from Guangzhou.

I was wondering what the speed of the train was, glanced up, and saw the display said 272kph. Before the end of the journey we’d hit 300kph, which is almost certainly the fastest I’ve ever travelled on land. I had no feeling that the train was going so fast, and even looking out of the window didn’t betray the actual speed. It could just as easily have been going at 80kph.

I see the recently famous nail house has gone. It’s demise seems to have been much more rapid than other instances of the same thing. We have one on the land on which the school wants to build a swimming pool, but no one seems to be in any rush to do anything about the situation. Perhaps someone had a word with the headmaster and explained how much swimming pools cost, and the impact that would have on his cut of the swag.

There have also been quite a few stories going around about the unhealthy condition of the nation’s youth. As I’ve said before, I always tell my lot to go and play outside, but very few of them move. Morning exercises are, by and large, a joke. In Fuzhou the students flopped about, but when it’s somewhere in the mid-thirties at 9.30am, flopping is about all anyone would want to do.

I also wonder how some of them stand up since they look like the poster boys for excruciating skinniness. In the days when I used to frequent school dining halls I noticed a lot of girls would perhaps eat a spoonful or two of something and abandon the rest. Mind you, they had probably also been scoffing nutrition-free snacks between classes.

Right, time to get on with my half-weekend.