Oh No Metro

One of my favorite supermarkets to shop for imported foods like milk, cereal, lunch meat, butter, and cheese has been Metro. It’s a German company with stores in nearly every major city in China. The one nearest where I live is about a 45-minute walk each way, but it’s absolutely worth the trek, even if my shoulders nearly give out from carrying 4 liters of milk plus assorted coffee making ingredients.

On my most recent trip to my not-so-local area Metro, I was struck by just how empty the store shelves were. In fact, there were large empty spaces within the store where entire isles of goods had previously been displayed for sale. At first, I thought perhaps Metro had just been scrimping on the holiday pay during the Spring Festival my not having employees restock the shelves in order to save some money. But as I traveled deeper into the large warehouse, I found more and more such vacant areas. In fact, the entire office technology (my favorite) department was simply gone. It was at this point in the nearly fruitless shopping excursion that I hypothesized that the store must be depleting its stock in order to prepare for closure. Shit!

I continued to mull this idea as I continued shopping. I picked up 4 boxes of muesli cereal, 2 liters of milk from New Zealand, 2 plastic cereal/noodle bowls, and a bottle of Hersey’s Chocolate syrup. Other items on my list were nowhere to be found, including toothbrush, ham, cheese, butter, and bread. I suppose I’ll need to re-source these particular products because of what I found upon leaving the store after bagging my meager groceries.

Beside the exit stood a notification board (entirely in Chinese) which confirmed my hypotheses and explained why the store would be closing on February 25th. Of course, I had to use Google Translate to convert the text to English so I could understand it, and after doing so, a mild melancholic feeling descended over me as I trudged home, heavy with despair if not actual food-stuffs.

The next nearest Metro Supermarket location is at least a 45-minute metro (oh the irony!) ride away from home, but I doubt I’ll be making that trip anytime soon. I suppose I’ll just make do with the Carrefour, Bravo, Tesco, Lotus, and Walmart still within walking distance. Besides, I can spend the time I’ll be saving by not walking so far on less productive things like playing video games and binge-watching TV shows.


Expulsion Solution

In the past month, my school has expelled two students for entirely different infractions. The first student, Davis, was kicked out for bullying.  I was told that he had gathered a group of his friends (from other schools) to intimidate another boy outside the front gate on a Friday afternoon when the boarding students usually head back to their homes. In my opinion, Davis definitely deserved his punishment.

The other boy, Allan, was expelled for smoking both off-campus and in various location on-campus. While I agree that students should definitely not be smoking on the school grounds, I don’t believe he should be punished for what he does outside the prison school walls. The fact that he was caught smoking at school is certainly a serious problem, but I don’t believe the punishment fit the “crime.” Obviously, the boy has an addiction to nicotine, and by expelling him, the school really hasn’t done anything to help him break this addiction. He’s just been cast aside like he’s a flawed clay pot unworthy of being fired in the kiln of education.

Sometimes I think international schools in China are run too much like factories where the administrators view the workers (students) as interchangeable and replaceable. They just don’t seem to grasp the human aspect of teaching and shaping young minds. My school has such low expectations for these kids that teachers let them sleep in class, but try to force these same lazy kids to stay awake during the exams by making their tests harder.

There’s just no logic to international school education in China. If you want to create little robots, follow the Chinese curriculum, but if you want thinkers and creators, take a more westernized, holistic approach and stop throwing away kids just because they’ve begun heading down a wrong path.

What Flavor Is the Wrong Question

A couple of weeks ago I bought some purple hand soap in a pump dispenser because I thought my previous soap was getting low, and I didn’t want to live in a world without hand soap. So I bought this purple soap without really looking closely at the label or even giving much thought to what it might smell like. After all, soap is soap, and I’m a guy who’s not particularly particular about such things. As it turned out, my old soap dispenser apparently still had a couple of weeks of soap left in it (insert lame joke about me not washing my hands often enough here).

By the time I finally got around to focusing 100% of my tiny little brain on the daunting task of twisting, jerking, shaking, and pulling the nozzle up and open, I had completely forgotten why I chose the purple colored soap in the first place. I’ve never been a huge Prince fan, and I don’t like the Minnesota Vikings. I don’t even care for grape bubble gum. So imagine my confusion when I finally squirted a big foamy white pile of soap onto my hand; confused not because the soap suds were white but because they smelled super good!

The soap smelled so good that for an ever-so-brief moment, I wondered what flavor this soap could be that it smelled so delicious. Resisting the urge to dip my tongue sudsward, I looked at the bottle instead. I can’t read many Chinese characters but I’d have to be some kind of an idiot not to have noticed the picture of a flower on the label. Using the camera function on my phone’s Google Translate app, I was able to focus in on the words in the lower right corner to solve the mystery of what flavor, no that’s the wrong question, what scent this soap actually is. The answer might surprise you. Google says it’s “Blue flowers bleeding”. Mystery solved.

A Difference of Opinion

Today was the day we teachers at my international school were supposed to turn in our final exams to the heads of our departments. My exams turned out to be quite long, about 10 pages of mostly multiple choice questions plus a written section at the end.

I got a request from the head of the English department suggesting I change some of the multiple choice questions. Get this, the problem isn’t that my questions are too easy. Oh no. Her complaint was that some students will simply scribble letters into the blanks as quickly as they can, then use the remainder of the exam time to sleep.

Apparently, she and I have a different philosophy when it comes to designing tests. I prefer to test what the students may know. The head of the English department seems to think the purpose of the test is to keep students awake. WTF?! So, I guess I’m going to have an argument tomorrow when I meet with her, and I really don’t think her argument has a leg to stand on because students who can’t read can’t answer any questions regardless of whether they are multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank. I fail to see any difference except that my test at least puts the correct answer in front of them. Her way guarantees that the worst students will not even be able to write something relevant on their answer sheets, and I’ll have to wade through that garbage as though I’m actually measuring their knowledge and not just wandering through a landfill searching for pearls.

Remaining Ghost

After careful consideration, and after having read reports that all new Twitter sign-ups require registration of a phone number, decided to bite the bullet and hand over my Google Voice phone number to Twitter for the sole purpose of using that social network to promote this blog. There’s nothing social about it, I assure you. But because I have so few followers on Twitter these days, I don’t think it will make a difference one way or the other.

As for the other big American social networking behemoth, I’m referring of course to Facebook, not LinkedIn, I’m currently weighing the pros and cons of cross-posting links to my WordPress posts there. However, to my mind, the negatives of linking this very personal blog with my real name and very impersonal Facebook “friends” far outweigh the positives and probably isn’t the best idea for someone who prefers to remain a ghost, unknown, so nobody can touch me now. I prefer to remain a ghost or a shadow on Facebook at least. I don’t want random former school chums or co-workers creeping into the comments or worse yet, secretly stalking me in the attempt to discover how I take my coffee (cream and 2 sugars) or where I shop (Uniqlo). So, a ghost I remain.

Why I Hate Haircuts or How I learned to Accept Temporary Extended Invasions of My Personal Space By Haircut Technicians

Ever since I was a young boy, I haven’t enjoyed getting my hair cut. To be more precise, I loathe getting my hair cut, but at right around 12pm this afternoon, January 3rd, 2018, I think I’ve isolated exactly why I feel this way about getting my ears lowered.

Living in China has certainly taught me one thing about myself; I’m a person who is very protective of his personal space. I don’t like strangers, or even friends getting physically close to me. As a general rule, I’m not fond of physical contact that I haven’t initiated. Maybe that’s a control thing, or maybe it’s just out of habit (not being hugged enough when I was a baby). I seem to have subconsciously applied this personal space rule to barbers and hair stylists. So whenever one of these artists is touching my hair, I become acutely uncomfortable.

Armed with this new incite, perhaps I can grow as a person to become someone who doesn’t wait two to three months (which also happens to be about the time my neck hair begins to mingle and tangle with my back hair) for a trim. I guess I could add the following line to my secret index card of mantras: “Haircuts do not violate my private space in a detrimental way.”

Goodbye Twitter

Twitter is the worst of the “important” social networks in the western world. I say this not only because their new anti-auto-post policy locked my account, but for the more obvious reasons: they haven’t fixed their trolling problems, they haven’t blocked racist hate-tweeters (I’m looking at you grandpa Trump), and they haven’t solved the rampant bot problems. Other than that, Twitter must be perfect, right?

Nope. First, let me explain how I unknowingly ran afoul of their new(?) anti-auto-post rule. I blog on WordPress. WordPress allows me to cross-post a link to new blog posts using a Twitter API. Apparently, Twitter has decided (in its infinite wisdom) to lock the accounts of users who do this. How did I find out about this policy? By email to my account based on my previous behavior of auto-posting? Nope. Twitter just locked my account, THEN sent me an email. Lazy idiots that they are, they probably think this is an effective way to inform their userbase. One auto-post per day using a Twitter API from WordPress, without regard to the content or any other circumstances = locked account. That’s a bad policy. It’s almost as if they don’t know what their service is used for.

Now that my account is locked, you’d think it would be a simple matter to get it unlocked, wouldn’t you? But if you thought that, you don’t know how dysfunctional social networks such as Twitter work. I had to click “I am not a bot” then choose the frames of an image that contained street signs. SUCCESS…right? Nope. My account remained locked until I “associate a phone number” with Twitter to be confirmed by SMS. Guess what. I’m never going to do that. I’m not going to give Twitter, that broken down old has-been of a social network yet one more piece of information about me that no one else has to hand over, as payment for my having broken a new Twitter policy that they never informed me of.

So…that’s why I’m done with Twitter. It’s not for the obvious reasons that they don’t apply their own rules equally to all users. It’s because they continue to break the accounts of the type of users who they should be encouraging to use their service more.

What’s New Tuesday?

For the Love of the Game
Let’s see, what’s new? That’s really not a rhetorical question. I got bashed in the right eye by an errant elbow this afternoon in the school gymnasium while playing basketball with some hyper-aggressive (and slightly uncoordinated) teachers who visit from other schools every Tuesday to play basketball. This wasn’t my first basketball-related injury this group has inflicted upon my face. Last Tuesday a teacher went all viper-style on me, springing from his coiled position straight up into the bridge of my nose giving me a swollen schnoz and a black right eye. I’m sure I’ll have another shiner come tomorrow morning despite my early exit from the gym to ice down my face. Many of the players messaged me on WeChat to check if I’m OK, so that was nice. The sad thing is that I’ve already begun to change my playing style; becoming less aggressive on defense. Now it’s time to stop being such a ball-hawk on the boards as well.

The Taobao of Pooh
I recently joined the zillions of Chinese shopaholic in properly setting up a Taobao account, complete with online debit card payment (please don’t hack it!) and a correctly entered shipping address. Not only that, I successfully ordered a few things, and already received my first package, a replacement USB type-C power cable for my notebook computer. I know that doesn’t sound very impressive, but it’s going to save me from packing and unpacking a power cable every single working day. Now I’ll just leave one of the cables on my desk in the office. Yeah!

To a Brighter 2018

Year of Promise
Although the particular events of 2018 have yet to be written, suffice it to say that it being an even year, and because 2017 was such a horrible year in America, 2018 hold the promise of a brighter, more positive tomorrow.  One thing I’m definitely going to consume less of in the new year is Twitter. I may post a tweet or two from time-to-time, but I’ll certainly be reading fewer Twitter posts than ever before.

Bloggier 2018
Blogging is going to be a bigger part of my life in 2018. Though I’ll be quite busy with the demands of my new job, there are several hours each day when I’ll have no one to talk to but plenty to say. What better place to say it than here on a WordPress blog? Nowhere, that’s where! I’ll be writing about TV series I’m hate-watching and love-watching, films I’m thankful for, and many of the inevitable media disappointments, I’ll experience in 2018. With that said: I hereby proclaim Dark Mirror Season 4 GOOD!

Year of Happiness
With a lot of help, this year I’ll put make every effort to put all of the regret and resentment of 2017 behind me.

Getting Better Every Day

Used to be that for me, blogging came fairly easy. I’d just sit down and one of my computers and bang away at the keyboard until enough words had appeared upon the screen that I could click post without batting an eye. But nowadays, it seems I’ve become too serious about my blog posts, too nervously reserved about my choice of topics and words, self-censoring and redacting to the point of silence.

I haven’t yet regained that old elation the freedom of unleashing my thoughts onto the world used to release within me. I haven’t yet broken completely free from the curse of she who shall not be named. Although I feel like I’ve excised that cancer, one never knows when it might once more rear its evil head and fuck up one’s life all over again. But I’m working on it and getting better every day.