Tag Archives: annoyances and irritations

The lights went out

The clocks all stopped.

Yesterday at lunchtime, Astrill stopped working. The connection was there, but nothing was getting through, and although I was hoping it might be a temporary problem, it remains dead this morning, with none of the connection modes working.It is hard not to conclude that Nanny is behind this.

There’s been no mention of this so far via, say, the Shanghaiist, which often reports such matters.

I recently saw an article via Facebook, reporting that some security expert thought that Astrill and Express VPN’s encryption had been cracked, but Nanny was allowing them to be used as a means of spying on the users (which won’t mean the likes of me, but rather the people who count for something).

The real problem is gmail, which has been my main e-mail address for about ten (?) years now, and which is where all my contacts are and a good deal of useful information. If Astrill really has been blocked, there will come a time where I will need access to gmail. As it is, my inbox will now fill up with messages I get from various sources on a daily basis.

I’ve also been wondering whether the block also has anything to do with the news that Tiβet will be closed to foreigners in March.

As for any news about the current state of affairs with Astrill, I’m unable to check Facebook to see whether there’s been any word about this, and whether anything is being done about it; or can be done. The timing does make it appear that third-party interference is to blame.

Oddly enough, I can access the Astrill website, but the message at the bottom of the page says “We’re offline” when usually it says the opposite.

As for WordPress, I’m surprised I can even access it, and even though I can, it’s only partly functional. The menu bar at the top of the screen has vanished, and I only have the option of logging out. I can, as you can see, post messages, but I’m having to write this in HTML because the visual editor doesn’t appear.

About an hour later. I’m now on Astrill in stealth mode, but on my old laptop. I’ve sent Astrill a message more as an advisory that there may be problems here. I assume the problem is probably China, but can’t be certain; nor can I say why Astrill works (to a point) on the 5755, but not on the V15. OpenWeb seems to be down. I was getting that old error message on the 5755 that OpenWeb had crashed. The other possibility is that W10 is working its magic.

Whether I use a VPN or not, the message on the Astrill site still says they are offline, which is a little unusual since there’s been no time I’ve ever seen that message regardless of the time I visit them.

The next day. Astrill seems to be all right again this morning. OpenWeb is now functioning normally. Scare over.

In the ensuing days. Well, Astrill is sort of working. OpenWeb was out again a couple of days ago, but has since returned with a heavily reduced number of servers available. In spite of this, it seems to be working adequately.

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If I had a hammer

I would not hammer in the morning.

Yesterday morning I woke up early again. I’ve been waking up too early all week. At 6.27a.m. (yeah, a.m.) I start hearing hammering coming from the island. Saturday, 6.27a.m.

This morning, same again. I wake up too early, and at around the same time the banging commences. It’s now over 2½ hours later and only in the past few seconds have the hammers fallen silent.

What are they doing over there? I don’t know. It must be over a week since the planks were taken up. As far as I can guess, the metal plates of the framework underneath might have got warped at the edges and they’re being hammered to make them flat again. But this is just a guess.

Is there a tool for the job? Probably, but the hammer seems to be regarded as a Jack-of-all-trades here. I think I mentioned the day I saw the frame of a shop sign being pulled apart using a combination of twisting and hammering. Ever hear of a hacksaw? (I have no problem imagining a hacksaw blade being used, but not the whole tool which I see in my mind when I think of a hacksaw.)

The result is that whatever they’re doing over on the island, it’s inefficient, labour-intensive, and noisy. It’s probably also being done on the cheap. Why spend the allocated money on the job, when a chunk can be pocketed instead?


No wonder Apple has made such a huge amount of money.

Out of curiosity, I bought a couple of albums from iTunes – selections from Leclair, Op. 5 and Castello and Fontana, Sonate concertate in stil moderno, which are not available via other sources in digital format. But the prices?! Eek! Apple are charging CD-level prices and providing the bare minimum in return. The albums didn’t even come with booklets.

I watched a piece on the Guardian the other day about how Apple avoids paying tax on its profits by sending them through Apple in Ireland, and I regret con­trib­ut­ing to Apple’s coffers.


Pizza Factory.

A hole-in-the-wall pizza place has opened in the block of shops outside Jinma, which makes real pizza at ¥8 or ¥9 a slice. There’s only a small range, but it’s nicer than, say, what you get from Pizza Hut.


Pacific Coffee.

Pacific Coffee opened in 远东百货 yesterday. I had a look as I passed by, but the mob of people deterred me from stopping and having a look. I was surprised that Daniel T. wasn’t there, fighting everyone else of to be first in line for the first cup of coffee.

My impression of the place was that it’s too exposed. I’ve been to one in Harbour City, which has no walls, but feels as if it has an interior. (So, too, one in Time Square, although that was a little more exposed.) The Pacific Coffee here feels like it’s on a traffic island, and lacked a sense of cosy intimacy with lines of tables next to the aisles because there isn’t the room for an interior.

I’ll pass by again today when I go shopping and have another look.


The weather.

I haven’t posted anything here for two weeks because I’d largely be posting about the weather, which continues to be fairly awful. I’ve cleaned my bike twice in the past two weeks, and two or three days later, it’s started raining again. The temperature is still showing a wide diurnal range, and quite a bit of variation from day to day. It was 17° to 19° a couple of days ago.

Another, more annoying pattern is when I look out of the window and it’s dry. Two minutes later, I look out again and it’s wet.

So much for flaming June.


The Internet.

A few days ago, I had a message from Google informing me that Buzz was being put down. I told Google to delete what little I’d ever said on Buzz and got sent to my G+ profile page. I thought that was odd, and I tried G+ itself, which was unexpectedly accessible, but the next day, it was blocked again. I tried it yesterday, and again, I could access it; but this morning, it was obviously blocked.

Perhaps Nanny doesn’t care that much about G+ which was refurbished recently, but still feels impersonal to me. (In an aside, I’ve also heard that gmail is going to be refurbished again.)


Shopping news.

I went into the supermarket in the basement of Parkson just recently and found the place was having a sale, with the prices of certain wines (Australian and Chilean, for example) being slashed by over 50%. I’ve rather indulged because this has saved me quite a bit of money, and the wines are much nicer than the stuff I usually buy.


Last week.

Last week was entirely exam free. I gave the AS students classes on the interview text type, but only a double for each because the rest of the week, numbers of them were off in Hong Kong doing SATs. We’re giving them an IB English exam (reading) on Tuesday, and after looking at the form over the next two weeks, I find I probably can’t give them the writing until Friday next week. Ugh. Mind you, it’ll give me something to do in class.


Signing out.

And the hammering continues. It’s lessened over the past hour and a half, but nearly four hours after it started, they’re still going strong. I’m hoping that they’ll stop after lunch because I need a snooze.

Only 50ml more to England

Supply and demand.

A fairly frequent topic on this blog has been supply and demand with Chinese characteristics. When there’s a demand, there’s no supply, and when there’s a supply, there’s no demand. (It seems to be true when I’m the customer.)

Thus I’ve bought products which have vanished from the shelves, apparently for good, only for them to reappear sometime later with a substantial gap between the two points. I don’t know whether the coffee I used to buy is still available, and I know that Smoovlatté, which may be in evidence at the moment, could vanish next week.

A recent reappearance was Tim-Tams, which are now back in Walmart after a long absence. Why? Who knows?

The exception to the rule would appear to be Weetabix, which have been coming and going, and have now gone because of the poor wheat harvest in the UK. In this case, the absence of Weetabix products has nothing to do with local quirkiness.

The Lipton’s Italian-style lemon tea has been coming and going on a short cycle. One moment it was in the Far Eastern; the next it was gone; then it was back; then it was gone again; and so on. About a month ago, it was back, but didn’t last long. Then, about a week ago, I spotted something which seemed to be the same, but was now called English-style lemon tea, which came in a different-shaped bottle. The stuff seemed to be the same.

When I was in Walmart looking for some lemon tea, I found that far from the English-style one being a replacement for the Italian-style one, they were both on the shelves. In addition to the name and shape of the bottle, the former is 50ml larger than the latter.

I don’t suppose that I’ll ever know why the supply of most goods here is so ca­pric­ious.

It’s Sunday… It’s Tuesday…

It’s Sunday and Tuesday.

Finally, this awful week (weeek?) is over. I supposed it could’ve been worse because today might have been Friday. Instead, it was Tuesday, which lasts till period 10 and ends with the pre-IB speaking classes, which have even less point to them than a sphere. (I suppose someone will probably tell me that a sphere has an infinite number of points; since it’s Tuesday or Sunday or something, don’t expect me to be coherent.)

This morning I felt jet-lagged. If I hadn’t made myself put my shoes on, I’d probably still be sitting here saying to myself that I should put my shoes on. (Although you won’t see it, I just repeated myself in that sentence without noticing until I re-read it, which just goes to show that Mr Bamboo’s brain is somewhere beyond out-to-lunch.) I did go so far as to insist on class since the exams are too close for them to be slacking off.

With that in mind, Daniel and I looked at what time we have left before the English exam. Even if there are no exams to interrupt our classes, the answer is “precious little”. Besides, it’s too late in the day for any further improvement. At best the little things such as topic sentences and paragraphing, or the final sentence in Ex. 3 might stick.

And so the week ends. I might have had hopes to do something productive during the May Day Bank Holiday, but I think I’ll probably end up wasting most of it.

Tomorrow is some other day

Normal happens in other countries, Part LXXVII.

In the normal world, tomorrow will be Saturday and the day after will be Sunday – in the normal world.

In 梦国, Monday and Tuesday will be arriving this weekend as the tyrants ruin another holiday weekend and steal time off us.

Because I needed to prepare something for class while I was dealing with speaking exams, last Sunday was a work-at-home day.

I’m seriously knackered (had snooze when I got home after school, and had to give myself a kick to stop doing that and deal with other things) and we still have another two days of fun and games. In addition, another week has passed and I haven’t been able to leave school early as I’d normally be permitted to do on Wednesdays.

“Work, work, not dare to shirk…” as the goblins sang in The Hobbit.

Thursday, Saturday, some day

It’s a day of the week.

It’s Qingming (清明) when the Chinese go and tidy up the tombs of their ancestors unless corrupt developers have sunk the lot beneath a new Party HQ while the locals struggle in grinding poverty. Ah, cynicism in springtime. You just can’t beat it.

I know it’s meant to be Thursday and everyone’s wondering whether this new version of bird flu is going to turn out to be SARS again (though worse), but just to compound that Saturday feeling, I did some washing this morning. It’s going to be Friday on Sunday because (yes) we’re have our free time stolen from us as usual.

Once again, I wish we’d just get the official time off so that we wouldn’t end up with weeks that are six or seven days long after the event; and even before the event is intolerable. But ever doth common sense get lost or forgotten at the back of the imperial cupboard along with humanity.

I also did some marking today, but not a lot. You don’t go “to everywhere”. Pluralise “car” when you’re writing about them as a class of things. Excuse me while I quote directly:

[W]e can driver a car to everywhere which place we can do and car is very faster than the business.

Apparently “Tax is fast” as well. This is seriously painful (and rather extreme even by the appallingly low standard of English prose I have to tolerate) and yet even this level of brainless drivel will often result in a fairly respectable mark. (Actually, not on this occasion.)

It’s also that time of the year when I’m always reminded of how pitifully small this desk is (because I need to be marking here and not while I’m sitting on the bed), which then reminds me that I want to go to Ikea and buy a nice chair, but need to find the bus that goes there. (To Ikea, that is, and not to some chair.)

This is also the time when I move back into the bedroom even although it’s still winter in the morning and spring in the afternoon.

When the empress is musical

Checks and imbalances.

For some reason, certain music sites have been being slow. I went to Classics Online this morning, whose main page appeared without much bother, but after that it was excruciatingly slow. I tried the Chandos site, which was also clunkingly slow. However, the moment I switched Astrill on, there were no problems. So, what was the problem?

My answer is that I don’t know, but it seems odd that two music sites should both be being slow; and knowing that the new empress is a singer, I wonder whether the sites are being subject to an extra level of paranoia. National security, of course.

My browsing led me to The Trio Sonata in 18th Century Italy, played by London Baroque. This is the seventh album in a series dedicated to trio sonatas from the Baroque era.

I’ve also been browsing the Hyperion website quite a bit, but shy away from buying stuff because the prices there are higher and subject to VAT. I’m damned if I’m going to let that twerp, George Osborne, get his incompetent hands on any more of my money than I can avoid. However, if the UK’s credit rating gets cut again, sterling might drop in value sufficiently to make their albums less pricey.

I seem to have hit a whole bunch of harpsichord albums on my Walkman: three of pieces by (François) Couperin, one of pieces compiled by MRN Couperin, and two albums of keyboard sonatas by Scarlatti (because my Walkman alphabetises by “Domenico” and not “Scarlatti”). I prefer not to listen to so much harpsi­chord music all at once and usually alternate between keyboard albums and something else. In this case, it’s going to be lute music by Dowland.


Satan’s Panamera.

As I was heading to 远东百货 from Carrefour this morning, I was just passing the bus stop when I heard a turbo-charged engine roaring away. I was a little concerned because I was just passing the bus on the inside as it sat at the stop, and had to swing out to get round some car when this happened.

Some idiot in a white Panamera drove past at speed followed by his retarded friend in one of those hunch-backed BMW SUVs. I was waiting for one or both of them to have an accident, but they hurtled towards 中山路 and turned left long before I reached the intersection myself.

When I reached the side gate into Jinma, I saw another white Panamera, but as the reg. plate revealed, this one was being driven by Satan. I feel a little sorry for Satan for being made to drive such an awful car.

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.

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?