One the subject of cheap....

I just had my cut for £3 (about $4.5) from about as expensive a place as we have locally (though a colleague had his hair cut at neighbouring place for £7, but it has to be said they saw him coming.

In addition, I bought a decent "Thank You Card" for 35p, so its' been a positively expensive day here in Zhenhai.

How is it possible....

that my average water bill is 35p a month in China. I'll grant that this is China, so that sort of thing's going to be cheaper. But 35p? Come on. It's not like I don't use it either. I don't feel I stint on it either.

Incidentally, my electricity bill is £5.60 a month.

I finished "11.22.63" by Stephen King.

I found this book all rather depressing. A Maine English teacher (Jake Epping) discovers a portal that takes him back in time (after talking to his diner managing friend). After a lot of thought, he decides to save JFK from his death in Dallas. We then watch as he spend the ensuing 6 years biding his time waiting to save Jack Kennedy's life.

As I said, I found the book rather depressing for a number of reasons. First, it takes a good while for the book to get to a point where Kennedy's saveable (which made the book a bit overlong, to me at least). Second, the non-Kennedy story was all rather sad with Epping seemingly moving from one tradegy to the next. Finally, the ensuing descriptions of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex made the residents seem mean spirited, which it something they aren't.

All in all, it's not a bad book, just rather depressing.

Well, that was scary.....

We've had a little bit of a riot here yesterday. They want to build an extension to a local chemical works, and the local Zhenhai residents marched on the government offices in Ningbo (because they're worried about pollution). On their way home, bricks were thrown, windows were damaged, and by all accounts tear gas was released. That all happened because no one judged the scale of the protects.

Now if you ask me, it wasn't really a riot, just some p****d off local resident, so I'm not really scared of that, even if I suspect that under the surface there might be some anti-foreigner sentiment. What scared me a little was the army's response.

I went into Ningbo today, and the police and army (if you can believe that) stopped anybody in cars getting back into Zhenhai on their return. Now the Chinese are never communistic. They never have been at heart, and never will be. They're always on the look out to make a buck, and so rickshaw riders were picking any who couldn't get in by car.

As the guy peddled me home, I can honestly say, I've never seen so many damn policemen and army officers in my life, and they looked pissed. That's what was scary.

School Sports Week

One of the weirder things that goes in my school is "School Sports Week." It usually lasts all week, with our associated middle school doing it for 2 days, and our school doing sports for 3.

Its strange for a number of reasons. First, it's at the wrong time of year. We should be gearing up for stuff, and Sports Day makes me feel like we should be winding down, yet we have to go through 2 days of qualification before we have a day of finals.

Second, it's treated as if it's a step down from the Olympics. They parade into the running track behind a girl who announces them. They get lectured at from a podium about the importance of following the rules and "being all that you can be" and after the anthem there are fireworks.

Thirdly, it's the students. They crack me up, they really do. We have the 1500m heats today. Kids we literally collapsing once they crossed the finishing line. I'm not kidding. Collapsing. Now I'm a believer in giving it my best, and "leaving it all on the sports field" if I'm taking part in a sporting event, but they weren't. Trust me, they weren't. The worst offender required 5 of his friends to carry him off the field. Yet 3minutes later he was goofing about with some mates. I mean jeepers, come on.

I asked a colleague about this and he told me that people in China are producing a generation of wimps because of the "one-child policy." To me that makes sense, but I was almost embarrassed to watch it.

Finally, I think it could be better organised. Why not hold all the heats during PE lessons? I asked a teacher this, and she told me that "That's be too hard to organise." A student told me that "That'd mean we had to go to P.E." I suspect there's an element of truth to both answers.

Well, I might have handled that badly........

We've a teacher in my department who's so-so teachingwise. He's not bad, but my head asked me to drop in to watch for something in one of his lessons. He'd asked me Friday, and he had a lesson with the class today so I told him this morning I was going to drop in.

Anyhow, I dropped in. Afterwards, he's gone ballistic, threatening that he'd resign to the boss, saying he'd never had any complaints last year (even if he was observed a lot more than anyone else, which should have set off alarm bells), so why's it all kicking off now?

Part of me's inclined to think he's kicking off because he can, we're short staffed. Maybe I could have handled it better, but my boss say he mentioned it him, the kids are generally good kids, so part of me is thinking "Awww for God's sake, what's the problem really?"

I finished "Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver" by Scott Stossell

This book is about Sargent Shriver, the guy who married into the Kennedy clan, ran the Peace Corps, started the Jobs Corps, and "Head Start", waged the "War on Poverty", and stood in as Vice Presidential candidate when Thomas Eagleton was removed from the Democratic ticket.

In many ways Shriver was a remarkable man. He, more than anyone, could claim to have had more fingers more "liberal pies" than anyone in the American politics of the 1960s.

That said he was also hideously disorganised (getting by on passion, drive and intelligence) than any other subject of a political biography that I've read.

When his disorganisation is coupled with shabby treatment at the hands of his in-laws (as an example, Ted Kennedy would only refer to him as "Eunice's husband" in a stump speech to avoid saying his name), his general "niceness," and lack of "political killer instinct," it's probably not surprising he didn't achieve all he could politically.

That said, it's a good book, you'll just finish it wondering "What if...?"

I went to see "Taken 2"

I went to see the Liam Neeson film "Taken 2" today. In the first film Neeson, a former CIA agent, saves his daughter from the Turkish-Albanian mob who plan to sell her to the highest bidder. In the process of saving her Neeson kills 8 Turks, and they vow revenge in response to it. That is where this film picks up.

Neeson take his ex-wife (Famke Jansen, who has to be the most successful Bond girl by some way now), and daughter on a holiday to Turkey (which is really dumb if you think about it, Neeson's killed 8 Turks after all) there the Turkish-Albanian mob try to take his family before Neeson fights back.

It's not bad as films go. There's one obvious mistake about the holiday a daughter plans to take ("Spring Break" became "Autumn Break") but if you want brainless fun, this isn't bad.

I went to see "Headhunter"

I went to see "Headhunter" and it was rather good. It's a Norwegian film about an insecure headhunter who feels he's married above himself (i.e. he's married a tall, blond, leggy, Scandinavian who men stereotypically want to many). In an attempt to keep her he steels artwork, so that he can buy nice stuff for her.

Things start to go pear shaped when he attempts to steel an expensive painting from a client he is trying to place in a job. The break in goes mostly to plan, but soon after he realises that his client isn't too happy about the situation.

It's a really good film. The translations/sub-titles can seem a bit random (at one stage someone says "I charge more for tractor drivers") but overall it's a good film.

I went to see "Upside Down"

I went to see "Upside Down" today, and that was a bad bad film. It stars "poor world" Jim Sturgess (Adam) and "rich world" Kirsten Dunst (Eden) who live on parallel plants that rotate round a single sun (and moon) in such a way that two cities (one rich, one poor) are permanently hovering over one another (resulting in a building being built between the two. Thereby allowing the rich to strip mine and plunder the poor world, destroying it in the process.

This set up introduces 3 major problems into the film, before we even get to the love story. First, in the 5 minute breathy introduction to the movie by Sturgess, he sounds like a teenage girly girl who's having to present a science project to class, and that's not very attractive. Second, it's never a good idea to introduce something that's complete bunk the second we start watching the film. We've nothing invested in it, so why should we buy into it? Thirdly we're told that gravity only works on the things from a particular world. So up world attracts up things (like Dunst), while sh**y down world only attracts how things. That beggers the question, how is it possible to have "up world" strip mine you of your stuff? How in the world are they going to hold onto it, while they purify it?

The two do meet and fall in love, but by that stage, it all feels contrived, and so far beyond belief that you've stopped caring any more. There are analogies aplenty in this film, it's just by the end, you'd have wished they'd stopped trying to tell you a morality play, and just had fun with it all.