observations

As of Late

As of late I’ve been getting up in the middle of the night. Don’t ask why as there might be a plethora of reasons. I might say that I only need a few hours of sleep each night. I might say that all the caffeine consumed throughout the day has kept me awake. It may be that I’m a light sleeper and my child has kicked me back into consciousness at 2am. It also may be that I have tasks to do such as international calling. Maybe waking up in the middle of the night is just natural.

Anywho… if it gives me a chance to write a little bit, all the better.

On Calligraphy

Yesterday a student asked me if I wanted to participate in her Calligraphy club. I mused aloud how my handwriting must be so beautiful. Was this a low blow to the teacher? I do not have legible handwriting… what gives? She mentioned that last year we learned cursive together and that I might be interested. What a thoughtful student! The club held a competition the previous year- didn’t know it existed, let alone the competitions. It seems that it was an online thing. One plus was that the competition allowed for both Chinese and English calligraphy submissions! Hopefully in the future the will be some updates worth posting and sharing…

On 90 seconds of ‘fame’

So the fam’ was on television yesterday. Nothing primetime, just the local television station (…considering the population of the ‘city’ is 8.23 million, I’m sure a few people watched). It’s funny because one sees oneself in a different light in that situation. Totally unprepared and unrehearsed, my ‘performance’ was very ordinary 😉 I also noted that I have aged and almost remind myself of my grandparents though not nearly as aged.

la gente

Sometimes I wonder if people ‘get it’. I include myself in this, but lately it’s more other people who don’t register. The ability to divine what’s going on, the ability to pick up on the EQ of others is no small task, but one is within reason to expect people around you to be switched on or at least care…

The ol’ noggin hurts lately and there is much consternation around every corner as my basis for reality continues to be redefined by surprise turns and twists of events.

In the words of a Mexican teenage sage, wise beyond his years and undetected by the masses:

la gente…

The Ultimate Revolution

Delving into the third speech/interview I have seen with Aldous Huxley, this gem stuck out and seems to be very pertinent to today’s situation. The talk is on developments in science/technology that allow the controlling of the masses in ways that are not as blunt, and potentially more effective than those historically. Transcript of the speech here.

Quite clearly, if everybody were extremely unsuggestible organized society would be quite impossible, and if everybody were extremely suggestible then a dictatorship would be absolutely inevitable. I mean it’s very fortunate that we have people who are moderately suggestible in the majority and who therefore preserve us from dictatorship but do permit organized society to be formed. But, once given the fact that there are these 20% of highly suggestible people, it becomes quite clear that this is a matter of enormous political importance, for example, any demagogue who is able to get hold of a large number of these 20% of suggestible people and to organize them is really in a position to overthrow any government in any country.

Aldous Huxley – The Ultimate Revolution (Berkeley Speech 1962)

Anew

Despite all the tasks I have listed to do today, here comes a drop of rain after a long drought. Add to it the fact that I’ve decided to ‘write a novel’ in November (more on that another day) which requires something to the effect of 1000+ words per day. Here I am barely breaking 100 for an unrelated task…

Observations

camouflageMidway through my self-inflicted hour-long walk to work this morning which began shortly after 6am, I noticed a person rummaging through the rubbish bin; noticed them collect something- if memory serves it was a plastic bottle which at one point might have held at least 500ml but surely less than 1L of some diabetes abetting liquid; noticed them upon completing their survey of the bin continue on towards the intersection; and noticed them commence the fording of light traffic to eventually arrive at the other side of the street.

I never did see the person reach the other side of the street for as they began the first few footsteps onto the cold hard concrete my attention was drawn to the projectile that left their hand and landed smack dab on a stripe of the futile attempt to control the urban zebra.

I could go tangent about the fascinating complex mechanisms of ‘waste’ collection here in the Middle Kingdom- but I wont. Equally probable on my part would be a digression, nay an exploration of the habits of a random sample of citizens and their nonchalant attitude toward polluting the surrounding environment. Something else worth reflecting on but perhaps not expanding on at this moment is my own haughty perspective and hypocritical inaction of right-ing ‘a wrong’ (I did not put this plastic in its place…and don’t get me started thinking about the fact that it’s existence has not changed merely by placing it in the designated bin rather than on the street surface…!)

All plastic is not treated equal. This thought led me to action and it was as simple as that. To be willing to dig through the rubbish bin to collect a plastic bottle and in nearly the same moment in time to discard a plastic bag of sorts blatantly without disregard in the middle (ok, near the curb) of the street was intriguing, enough to document and write about 16 hours later.

Okay, I lied. I may digress a little because hell, all things are connected. I don’t have the mental energy at the moment to ‘research’ about the ethical treatment of plastics in all the bio? diversity. It does remind me of an hour-long podcast compilation about the toxic nature of the world we live in, one part focusing on plastics.

“Plastic is a term that we give to hundreds of different materials…”

…anyway (it is now about at least an hour later and I somehow have sidetracked myself into lesson planning and arranging media for class later this week…)

A proposed class

Next class will be themed under cultural diversity. It seems that as of late, I happen to be coming across multiple sources that coincide with what we are studying in class:

I’m hoping to do something different in class with this material. One student’s comments/complaints/criticisms/observations is that class time is inefficient as far as time is concerned. Teachers are taking an hour to do what students can supposedly do in 20 minutes of self-study or revision. If this is the case, perhaps s/he has point. If strictly conveying knowledge is best done individually and books/other inanimate material can manage to facilitate this process in an effective way (students are able to understand and then retain that knowledge) perhaps classtime is better spent on higher order manipulation of the ‘content’. Hopefully some of that is happening in class already, and hopefully teachers are not underestimating their students’ abilities insomuch as teachers become living conduits of information…

Reading

I’m into that reading mode at the moment, very eclectic, devouring much of anything at a great rate. This again comes after a relative drought. Perhaps it is the seasons that have prompted this change in behavior- the cold rain, the weather the shift in habit.

Bookshelf at the moment (though a little outdated):

My book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (currently-reading shelf)

2:11AM Ending

As much as my little engine that could would like to go on it can’t. Or rather it will migrate to a softer surface, lay out horizontally and read a book until unconsciousness is met… hello Mr. Sandman… hello. The last little bit left is to update the ol’ wordcount for my ‘novel’ which is slightly cheating but anything that gets me writing, whether it be a blog or a book, is a positive step forward…

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Internet articles read today:

a three-thirty a.m. cultural bonanza

yesterday was busy- many classes, tutoring and the commute home. took a three hour power nap instead of a solid night’s sleep and, shortly after midnight, started preparing for today’s oral english lesson.

in the past i’ve done a little lesson on the logo, the motto, as well as an activity in which students innovate an imaginary product or service. why? in order that this and this don’t happen as much in class (and in society). the kids are creative but tend to go with what they know.

so today i heard about a chinese talk show that basically ripped off the intro to Conan O’brien’s show, Conan. It’s absolutely funny- the story- and i think he took the right attitude toward it. a clip from the show has gone viral on the Chinese twitter/blog-o-sphere and it’s pretty funny, amazing, interesting this cross cultural communication.

This isn’t the first time Conan has reached across to Asia. He has also had a ‘feud’ with NMA.tv, a Taiwanese Animation company that ‘reports’ the news. The exchange includes several funny video clips from both parties. What started the ‘feud’ was a mock animation Conan’s team put up here.

i think today i’ll show some video clips, introduce the ideas i’ve done before and hopefully spark a conversation or activity that will be fine example of edutainment. i should really be sleeping in the wee hours of the morning, but there’s so many things to spend waste my time doing…

Cigarencil

A quaint surprise left by father…

A new semester, but familiar faces. I help out in a little kids phonics class once a week. It’s fun to hang out with little kids, to ‘play’ as we ‘learn’ English. I’m not sure if we are actually learning anything,  but I think so. The trick is to treat children as little adults. And smile. And laugh a lot. And to make sure you treat them as equals, and not unimportant. But as we were saying, familiar faces and surprises…

The teacher’s assistant asked everyone to take out a pencil to write with. Everyone was busily getting out their instrument except one girl. Question: How could you come to class without a pencil? Response: I thought I had one in my bag. But when I looked just now, it was my father’s cigarette.

Queue the giggles and laughter. The way it was phrased in Chinese was funny. Even the idea of writing with a cigarette is funny. The whole situation is ridiculous- ten kids and one of them finds a cigarette in their bag. Something completely out of place.

Nonsense that really happened.

North Face Flurry

One of the schools I work with frequently bestows gifts to their staff (I say ‘their staff’ because, in effect, I do not qualify as ‘staff’.) An explanation is in order. First, their staff’s salaries are quite low for teaching at such a prestigious institution: recently the government decided to hold true to its communistic values declaring that all teachers, whether here or there, experienced or less so, should have equal salary. The sounds of jaws dropping at such a notion could be heard through the halls. They also are forbidden by contract to teach outside of their school which, despite all intentions, happens anyway. Here is the plight of the best of the best, the most skilled and once highly paid, now forced to equally share in the fate bestowed upon them.

This episode of life I playfully named the North Face Flurry.

As a snowstorm might sweep in from the north, certificates appeared like gentile snowflakes fluttering down from the heavens. But as we know, each snowflake is unique. And this is where our analogy stops and amusement begins.

Each morning for about two weeks a different teacher in the office would show up with their North Face purchases. Proceed to the ritual of everyone else in the office comparing the design, the color, and the price. Each day another person would be the center of attention, each day the routine would proceed accordingly.

The ironic nature of the whole experience is that most of the people in the office don’t wear that style of clothing, most would not have bought the articles if it hadn’t been for the certificate, few, if any, have ever done any serious trekking (myself included) and, with fashion- is it fashionable if everyone is wearing it? For most it was a symbol of status, expensive clothing that cost the average person a month of salary or two or three.

And perhaps I am a hypocrite because I, too, was the end recipient of some North Face clothing- but not the actual certificate. Quite frankly, there was little desire for me to end up with an expensive jacket. I’ve already three more than I need in the closet. Added to this fact is that I couldn’t possibly show up wearing the same goofy outfit as everyone else. Instead of a practical jacket like everyone else, I almost went for a Russian top hat (apparently called a Hoser Hat) but in the end decided that I might offend people if I make light of this treasured gift certificate experience.

Short story made long story made short- if you stumble into an office and everyone is wearing outdoor hiking gear, and these people don’t look like your typical outdoor enthusiasts- congratulations, and welcome to my upside down world. (In other words, there’s no point to these rambling save to amuse myself either now or in the future.)

Open ‘er up!

Yesterday The day before yesterday, December 31st I finally got the chance to really open her up. Traffic was abysmal yesterday, with Nanjingers leaving town for the three day holiday. I visited some relatives in the southern part of the city- they just had a new baby boy so we said hello and dropped off the red pocket money. Getting there took nearly an hour or so, and that was at two thirty in the afternoon. Dare we head back through the city during rush hour on a holiday? I dared not…

This was a chance to hop on the toll roads that surround the city. It was my first time driving on one of these things and I have to say- Damn are they nice! They feel nearly pristine, as smooth as a river stone, almost freshly paved it seemed like. Traffic was almost non-existent- I felt I was on a snowy freeway in Sweden (minus the snow plus the pollution) rather than in populous China.

With no traffic and a safe road, I was able to top out at 110! (kph, not mph which is about 68) haha! I didn’t top out per se but I didn’t want explode the little 1.6L engine that could either! Plus the posted speed limit was 120 so there you have it.

About the scenery: I couldn’t see any. Apparently a lot of the pollution in Nanjing comes from those factories I saw in operation along the freeway. Puff, puff, puff out came the black smoke visible against the grey sky. I prayed the engine did not explode, forcing me to breathe the air outside my bubble of a car.

Long story short: I sped around the city on a toll road, slightly longer distance and made it back to my humble abode in suburban Nanjing in under 30 minutes (in contrast to an estimated 1h30m through the thick of it).

That may have very well been the best $2 (15元)I have splurged to use a road (I take it back: it definitely was!). Thank god the masses are not willing or able or in the know!

Rediscovered

Last week I came across some teaching preparations I had done from a year ago, sometime around April or May. As I leafed through the notes, I stumbled on some of my thoughts on a particular day. It doesn’t seem that I shared it (with myself for my own sake later down the line)- I’ll do so now:

No ambition to drive me sane
No desire to fit the mold
To be normal, to be the same
Push or pull, choose your vice
Society uses you to her own device
Neither grow nor shrink
No time to pause
No time to ask a question
Or reflect on things that are
We go and go but do we get that far?
Where are we going?
Why don’t we want to stay?