Tag Archives: the Empire

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.

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.

Working from home at the weekend?

Sir, yes sir!

Well, all right. If you like. I have an American student in PAL 2 who needs to be doing native-speaker English and not the pale (but practical) shadow of the English language which is the mainstay of the IGCSE ESL course. Fred and I decided to have her read Heart of Darkness.

I thought I’d (be a good boy and) go online in search of study questions for the book, but apart from brief visits to the usual sites (thisnotes and thatnotes), I was getting nowhere and I’m not sure why. At best the sites were only loading in part, but seemed to be tripping up on ad. serving which, failing to get through, was jamming everything up.

There was a story on the Register which said that Google had had some problems, which may be why Google Reader and Google Bookmarks were misbehaving (more with Firefox than with Chrome). The fault is supposed to have been fixed, but that doesn’t seem to have happened in the Empire where Reader has been there one moment and gone the next.

Of course, the current dog turd in the imperial soup bowl is the story about the obscenely huge amounts of lolly which Wen Jiabao’s family is supposed to have made, which has led to all or some of the NYT website being blocked. I had thought that that might be why Reader wasn’t working, but I don’t know.

Actually, that’s what’s bothering me: my ignorance. If I knew what was causing the problem, I might be able to find a solution or at least know and accept that there’s no solution. Instead, I get more and more annoyed as a consequence of my frustration. Instead, I’m more likely to start blaming Nanny when the mad old bat may not be responsible.

As for the big China story, I’ve long wonder how much the boys at the top might have. I knew it would be large sums, but I didn’t know how much. I don’t know why anyone’s really that bothered about it. It’s been happening in China since forever. If my sources aren’t unreliable, eunuchs used to set fire to imperial palaces and make a killing on the insurance and the rebuilding. In other words, the Wen family is following an age-old practice. It doesn’t excuse them, but it’s the way things are here.

It would probably be better if the Party embraced corruption as part of the Empire’s culture and stopped feigning horror every time it became public knowledge. A little more “Yeah, whatever” and a little less “Think of the children!” Since everyone knows the Party boys are corrupt, where’s the story?

You can say whatever we tell you to

Or, The Heir Apparent and the ex-PM.

I got up this morning to find a news item on the BBC about the Empire blocking the Bloomberg website. I wasn’t at all surprised to find that the article on the BBC site was also blocked. Talk about a red rag to a bull. I just had to open channel D and find out what was going on.

The fuss was about an article on Bloomberg detailing (as far as possibly) the wealth of the family of the heir apparent, who himself is outwardly squeaky clean while the rest of the clan have millions, including some place in Repulse Bay in Hong Kong. (I know exactly where, too.)

Contrast this story, which will be rigorously suppressed on the Mainland, with the tale of the former Dear Leader, Mr T. Blair, and his tax affairs published in The Guardian. (Tony Blair insists that he does not avoid paying tax.) The two stories are about politicians trying to at least hide their wealth and information about it. In one case, the state connives to aid such concealment; in the other, the press can report such a thing provided the facts have been checked and nothing inappropriate has been said. The Empire and the UK may share a few too many things in common (secret­ive government obsessed with controlling the people; surveillance state), but here’s one point where the two differ in what people may know about their former and future leaders.

It’s also ironic that the Empire aids and abets Blair as well because The Guardian website is blocked beyond the front page.

I’ve finally seen a picture of CY Leung, the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong, who looked to me like the very model of an oily imperial governor. I expect that sooner or later he might be badly photoshopped into some picture where he floats, godlike, above some anonymous stretch of road as his oily counterparts often do on the Mainland.

Time to open channel D.

Did he fall

Or was he pushed?

So, the guy with the visual problems. What’s going on? First he doesn’t want to leave when he ought to have; now he wants to leave when, it seems, he probably can’t. The facts are unclear and the situation murky.

Freegate is getting battered. No time for an extended commentary.

Later. An article I saw about reactions of people from Hong Kong very much mirrored my feelings. There’s too much uncertainty to know exactly what to think about the situation.

Even later. Possibly while China’s treatment of Chen Guangcheng may be deplorable, his apparent attitude and the company he appears to be keep­ing aren’t helping, either.

Gentleman with visual impairment leaves embassy

BBC News – China activist Chen Guangcheng leaves US embassy.

Remember that fellow, Comical Ali, from Iraq? I think he’s working for the Empire. The BBC report says

The spokesman said Beijing did not accept the “interference”, and re­minded the US to obey international and Chinese law.

Since the Chinese don’t obey Chinese law, I think the rest of us are off the hook. As for international law, the imperial government probably thinks it only applies to foreigners.

New Keys to the Middle Kingdom: Luxury SUVs – China Real Time Report – WSJ

New Keys to the Middle Kingdom: Luxury SUVs – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

I quote

“When we buy a luxury car, we’re telling the world that we’re rich,“ Cai explains. “But with a luxury SUV, we’re saying look at me: I’m rich – and different and powerful.”

What Noddy forgot to mention is how vulgar and arrogant SUV drivers are, and how ghastly these things look.

No, what SUVs say in China is that the driver is some coarse, ill-mannered, lower-middle-class parvenu.

Sunny, sunny again, and then…

Grey and hazy.

I returned to the Empire yesterday after a journey which involved rather a lot of inertia as I waited to resume my journey. For example, it took me seven hours to get home from the time the plane landed at Pudong. Four of those were simply waiting at the airport, first for the ticket office at the coach station to open at 8.30am and then for the first bus to Wuxi, which left at 10.10am. Unlike last year, I didn’t have a hotel room to which I could retreat, and I ended up almost falling asleep on the seats near arrived in Terminal 2 because there’s no seating along the paths between the two terminals, I didn’t fancy sitting around in the squalid waiting room. The other three hours were the journey to Wuxi, which is punctuated by a stop at Hongqiao to collect passengers from there.

Contrary to the forecast which I looked up on Baidu a couple of days ago, the weather was bright and sunny with barely a cloud to be seen. After New Zealand, of course, the air lacks that sparkling clarity. Even the temperature wasn’t so bad and it wasn’t until I did some shopping late yesterday afternoon that I recalled my thermal knickers and found that I didn’t need them.

That was yesterday. This morning, though, the forecast has been less amiss. It’s very, very grey and moderately hazy, and as I write, it could be any time o’clock.

As for the flight itself, there’s little worth mentioning. It was an overnighter, which meant that I spent a lot of the flight nodding off, tipping forwards, and waking up again. I need to find some way of strapping myself to the seat so that when I do nod, my head doesn’t tilt and the rest of me doesn’t try to tumble forwards. Actually, vertical straps would sort of do the trick although that leaves my rather wobbly head flapping about like a mad woman’s knickers on a clothes line in a force 9 gale.

I did have one weird dream, though. I was sitting on a chair in a room when a mortar bombardment began. It was so heavy that the chair and I were shaken several metres across the floor. The my wobbly head probably wobbled and I woke up. (As a side note, not unrelated to mortar bombardments, there has been a plethora of fireworks going off this morning. No sooner did one lengthy barrage end a couple of minutes ago, then a new one commenced. Lantern Festival today?)

Anyway, the washing has done, I’ve inflicted more trivia on the world, and there’s an empty drying frame out there which isn’t going to hang the washing out itself.

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.