Divine smiles

The benevolent face of the gods of pedagogy.

It seems that the gods have smiled on us suffering mortals, whose term has dragged on beyond its tolerate-by date. We have Friday off. Why? Don’t know, but in one respect we’re lucky because we subsequently heard that the main school was going to be back on Sunday. It was noted that we, on the other hand, would be unavailable to hate the main school for stealing time from us again.

But the gods decided to gild the lily because next term doesn’t start till the 20th, which is now two days on from the original date.

This has been a tryingly long term overall, which was made worse by the eight-day week following New Year. Even two weekends later, I’m not sure we’ve recovered at all.

The term has also been trying because it seems to have been characterised by one thing giving way to another. Thus, for instance, it took me a month to mark some writing because every week there was something else which demanded my more immediate attention. I don’t seem to have done quite as much as I was hoping, but perhaps that’s an illusion. Possibly, I’ve done as much as ever, but I don’t feel I’ve  done a sufficient amount of it.

Perhaps part of that feeling stems from groping our way through the first term of actual IB teaching. Perhaps part stems from PAL 2, whose academic performance is a concern, which is not helped by changes to the exam which mean that students will probably have to do that little bit better to achieve the same sort of marks as previous years. (I don’t know how the grade thresholds will affect things.)

I also signed the new contract today. Quite a jump in my pay on this occasion, and there’s now a new package which includes the cost of two flights a year. None­the­less, the amount I’m being paid is going a mere step below the top of my scale while being somewhat south of the scale for teachers. While I’m not greedy, this continues to be an insult to how long I’ve been doing EFL teaching and the higher level of my academic qualifications.

After some improvement in recent days, the smog worsened. It started out clear, but the cloud came over, the smog built up, and the day turned chilly. I won’t be sorry to see the back of this dirty and disgusting place for a couple of weeks. Like many of the other reprehensible things about China, the government will make a lot of noise, but achieve nothing because there are too many indifferent, pyjama-wearing barbarians to contend with.


75 not out

Dad hits three-quarters of a century.

I must wish my Dad, who is 75 today, a Happy Birthday. I hope the weather is clement and you enjoy the celebrations.

Apparently, there’s whisky, which, I suspect, will be followed by falling asleep in front of the TV.

Be quiet, foolish amateurs

Or are you at the forefront of language evolution?

I’m reading Hottest English portmanteaus with Chinese characteristics on the Ministry of Tofu site. The article is about blends of English words which are popular on the Chinese Internet. The entry explaining yakshit (< yaxshi “awesome” + shit) it says

Yaxshi is an expression in Uyghur, a lingua franca spoken by Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic minority in the northwesternmost part of China, which means ‘Awesome’. (My emphasis.)

Do you even know what a lingua franca is? Let’s call it a slip of the pen. The rest of the article is yaxshi.

The Alexandrine Term

That like a wounded Snake, drags its slow length along.

I keep coming here with the vague intention of writing a post, keep looking at the admin page, and keep leaving. This has to have been the worst end-of-term ever because of the way in which various breaks and stolen weekends were intermixed, especially the eight-day week from which no one seems to have recovered. Instead of the term winding down, it seems to have been as relentless as ever.

(I’ve realised just now that I need to go back to school because I meant to bring home the remaining AS exams which I haven’t marked. Once again I’ve had neither the time nor the energy to deal with them this week. They’re not especially onerous, but they will take time.)

I keep having students come to me to write them references for summer programmes in the States. In fact, I’ve had a lot of these things this year and am now wishing that I’d been a deal more honest, viz. that almost none of the little darlings could be described as gifted. There was one exception. I could say nothing nice about one of this year’s special pupils (and I mean “special” in the wrongest sense of the word) who was deluded enough to think I might write something nice about him. I did start writing vacuous nonsense on some of the forms, which partly came from being so tired.

Ian did a runner. At first, as far as we were aware, he was seriously unwell again, but time passed and we then heard he’d gone. He sent a mail message to everyone yesterday with his reasons which, I’m fairly certain, are completely erroneous. (When Beverley resigned last year, there were no consequences.) It means that people are having to babysit the remains of the A2 classes, and I’ve acquired more students for my pre-IB oral class. Ian’s replacement is going to be Tom the Maths Teacher’s mum. I have sitcoms running around inside my head.

There are two other departures this term, one of which has implications, but that story has yet to resolve itself.

The smog here may not have been as horrendous as it was in Beijing, but it was possibly the worst I’ve ever seen it. I did have (do have?) a satellite image of a big brown cloud sitting over much of China from a couple of years back, but this time the smog seems to have been more widespread. It has had its effects. There’s been a burning sensation in my throat now and then, and Lisa the Librarian’s persistent cough has continued to persist.

But the school is trying to do its bit for the environment. About three weeks ago some holes were dug at various corners around our building. They sat for some time before they were filled in with concrete, and I guessed that we were getting new lights or signs. Earlier this week a truckload of lampposts and poles with loops was delivered, but apart from the basic function, there was no obvious rhyme or reason to the whole thing.

When the workers started assembling these things the other day, the whole became clear. These will be lights powered by the wind and the sun. On top of the poles are solar panels; in the loop there will be a wind turbine. Peter R says the latter will be silent, but I’m waiting for high-pitched screeching from them because they’ve been allowed to rust. Also, if we get another Haikui blasting us, I’m having visions of the turbines spinning off the posts and scything through our building.

The school agreed to the new package for teachers, which now includes airfares for flights out of 烟雾国 twice a year and a renewal bonus.

Term has another tedious week to run before it’s all over, which can’t be soon enough. Everyone is at the end of their tether, but we somehow have to keep the flag flying, even if now looks like a pair of matron’s tatty knickers sliding lazily down a drooping flagpole.

Out with that broom again

The Incredible Hulk.

He’s wet, he’s weedy, and you don’t want to make him angry. But what sort of film would this be if Bruce Banner didn’t turn into a huge, raging, green-skinned monster as the ultimate expression of nerd rage? Who could possibly provoke the inner beast?

Step forward the American military, who has their own version – huger, raging-er, greener-skinned.

There’s a big fight. The Hulk wins. The end.

Halo 4: Forward unto Dawn.

It’s another day at the academy filled with the usual stuff which you’ve seen in every other American film with military academies and cadets. That’s most of the film until some nameless alien enemy spoils the party, but only about half an hour before the end of the film.

The sword-wielding alien is about to skewer some cadets.

“The end of the film is nigh,” says the alien. The audience feels a wave of pleasure wash over them.

“Not if I have anything to do with it. Take that!” The audience’s buttocks collectively tighten.

“Sir, you have done me to death.” [Dies.]

“Who are you?” says Cadet Lasky.

“Call me Master Chief.”

“Great! Could you whip something up for me? Running away from the aliens has made me really hungry.”

“That’s chief, not chef.”

“There’s a difference?”

“Just for that, I’m going to rescue you, but not your love interest.”

And off they go with Master Chief making snacks of the aliens as they head off to be rescued – mostly rescued.

My first thought as I was watching this was Starship Troopers, but it had none of that film’s redeeming features. [Such as…? –ed.] It was really just the usual bunch of clichés about such a setting.

Obviously military intelligence was asleep at the wheel because the aliens managed to invade and conquer the planet in minutes. Yet someone must’ve known because there’s Master Chief turning up just in the nick of time to rescue a few cadets. The aliens must’ve driven there in Veyrons while he thought he’d trundle along in his 2CV.

My recommendation: go play the game and avoid the time lost watching this.

It’s the New Year. Where’s my broom?

Cloud Atlas.

I didn’t managed to finish watching this DVD and don’t mind at all. This was the film version of a novel called Cloud Atlas which weaves together six stories across time. It sounds jolly clever, but also like some piece of authorial showiness which has publishers saying, “Very good, but now write us something readable.”

It’s also clearly one of those books which is unfilmable in that a film can be made from it, but it’ll never be a successful piece of cinematography. The film was apparently trying to be faithful to the book, but in the end it was merely six vaguely related stories spliced together and using the same cast to save the studio money.

I had a mail message from Amazon this evening. They were inviting me to buy a book called The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve never heard of it or the author. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive. I ended up at Good Reads (which is blocked from here because the imperial government just hates people having their own opinions about anything; 14.11.13. Seems to have been a temporary blip; I was back on the site without a VPN) where the reviews were so positive that if they were a programming language, it’d be called C++++++++.

Instead, I started having a look at the one- and two-star reviews on Good Reads (because the reviewers are likely to be bluntly honest), and from what I’d read about the author, I’d say the protagonist of the book is the author himself. Again, like the author of Cloud Atlas, Rothfuss is clearly talented, but he’s puked up an overindulgent, George-Martin-sized tome.