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May 29, 2011   

Picture:  My oral English classes are very free ranging as I teach English majors big words. The class began with a student presentation about ghosts and a poll on whether they really exist, then proceeded to discuss the recent non-event, The Rapture. The blackboard shows part of the discussion of "cognitive dissonance" and the reason people believe things that go against all reason.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China

Chinese Word of the Day:  哭鼻子
(kū bízi  literally cry + nose) = whine, which of course is crying through the nose.  Delightful.
This is the word for whine our Chinese teacher, Chen Fu, gave us, but it's not in Wenlin or in Pleco.  Wenlin gives "whine" as 吭唧 (kēngji literally "throat/utter a sound + squirt) which doesn't strike me as accurate.  Pleco does better with 哼鼻子 (hēng bízi literally "groan, snort; hum" + "nose").  I like that one, but I like the one Chen Fu gave us, which is probably very oral and may be regional.. 

May 29, 2011  All Clear,  Whew

This past Wednesday, Panda and I went back to the hospital to pick up the results of my MRI and my colon biopsy.  Both "normal" according to the doctors.  This is just what I expected, but it's always a relief to have the good health I am feeling confirmed.

Picture:  A microscopic view of the insides of the man in China. No sign of anything amiss, apparently.  Wuxi, China

One of the things I like about medicine in China is the openness they have with the results.  I think doctors in the west are afraid of being sued if they miss something, so they do not normally release X-rays or microscope images.  Here they just hand everything to you with their opinion.  Which is only fair since I paid for it all.  I have to say they don't cheap out on the images.  My MRI was very thorough, and I was given three large sheets of X-ray film, with at least a dozen separate images.

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Bullwhip 2011 Finished

I wanted to duplicate the whip I bought from an Australian importer in Seattle in 1974, but I really didn't know how long I needed the strands to be to make a twelve foot whip.  Turns out I played it too safe, and the new whip comes out at a whopping sixteen feet from the butt to the start of the fall, which is how a bullwhip is measured. 

Picture: The new bullwhip is finished, a whopping sixteen feet long. Picture:  The Turk's head knot on the butt of the new whip cost me many hours of effort.  Now I could tie it in ten minutes. Picture:  The Turk's head knot marking the end of the whip handle.  The white in the cracks is leather dressing, and it takes time to remove it or work it in.  It should be coloured a light brown.  I'll know better next time.
The five part four bight Turk's head knob cost me days of frustration before I figured out how to tie it and get it tight. I've left the tag ends on it for the moment, because I may want to give it one last tightening, but  it's never coming loose now.  The white spots are the leather dressing I mixed up yesterday - tallow, glycerin and bees wax.  It will disappear as soon as I start handling the whip, but I think I should add some colour for next time.  Maybe I can pick up some paint pigment this summer.

Sixteen feet is the longest whip I've ever handled.  My first attempts to crack it were a complete failure, and I thought I would have to shorten it to something more manageable.  This confirmed my opinion that Lash LaRue, my childhood cowboy hero, did not swing an eighteen foot whip.  Pure Hollywood exaggeration.  Or was it.  After I worked the whip a bit, and got the timing down, it turns out to crack just fine.  But it is much harder to control and crack.  The timing is completely different, and I haven't managed to crack it with my right arm yet.  Still, I'm now very happy with a sixteen foot whip.  It's impressive, far more impressive than the whip I made last year, and it's going to be fun to practice with it.
I'm afraid this hobby has me hooked now.  The new whip is not a very exact copy of the old one, and I still think the old whip has the most classic design and structure.  So I'm going to try again next year, assuming I can get another couple of kangaroo hides.  I've been keeping notes, and should be able to estimate the length of strand needed for the finished whip much more accurately next time. This kind of thing is addictive.

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Class Presentations

This term I've organized my oral English classes into groups, and each period a group does a presentation.  I'm mostly happy with the results.  We've had some fascinating topics - Ladyboys of Thailand springs to mind, as well as some total duds - topics with which all the students are very familiar, like popular TV shows.  It doesn't matter what they are saying as along as they are talking English. 
I would prefer them to choose topics a little less trivial than "Famous Ghosts".

Picture: The class poll on whether ghosts really exist, eleven to nine saying yes with five open to the possibility.  I suppose I shouldn't expect my students toescape their culture, but the rate of superstition among them is shocking.  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
The class voted on whether ghosts really exist.  Eleven to nine say they do, with five sitting on the fence.  And these are university students.  Imagine the superstition level in rural areas.

I told the class a story my grandmother told me when I was in my early teens.  She said she was living in Amsterdam and there was fresh snow on the ground.  The dog was barking at the door.  When she opened the door to see what was upsetting the dog, there was a strange little man wearing very old fashioned clothing standing on her doorstep.  She asked him what he wanted, but he just shook his head at her, so she closed the door again.  Then, thinking better of it, she opened the door and the little man was gone.  There were no footprints in the snow on her doorstep.
     Ooooh.  Spooky.  I told my mother about this, and how amazing it was that Grandmother had seen a real ghost.  My mother's response: "Your grandmother is a liar." 
     I got a great laugh from the class with that punch line.

Picture:  The class has named themselves "Dancing Lips".  This is the  group named "Sunflowers" in front of their presentation of "Types of Movies".  Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China
We've had some interesting topics, but "Types of Movies" was not one of them.

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