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School security

Security at Zara’s school has been beefed up as the result of the current string of awful attacks at schools in China. There was another incident today, the fourth over the last few months.

The details of the attacks are too awful to even comment on, and any connection between seems mystifying (at least attacker had mental problems, which didn’t stop him being executed).

Zara’s school now has a ‘plain clothes’ security bloke hanging around outside, and any Chinese-looking people are monstered as they arrive to pick up their kids. It’s all pretty grim.

One down

Six (at least) to go.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (R) shakes hands with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Beijing, China, March 24,2010.Yang held talks with McCully here on Wednesday. (Xinhua Photo)

Maddening fluffy and catchy Diane Birch song

Okay, the last of this batch of time-wasters (my inbox is filling up with actual work).

First, watch this video for this light and happy song from Diane Birch (nope, never heard of her either. Have listened to the song about 10 times now, it’s driving me a little nuts)

then see how they made the video – it’s all one take, with many quick costume changes…

(via Gizmodo)

Right. Back to work.

Trailer For Every Oscar-Winning Movie Ever

A little late for the Oscars, but cleaning out a backlog of stuff I have lying about…

Via Spareroom

A scene from the greatest movie ever made

The movie (apparently) is called Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. Too lazy to find out if this is a real movie or not, but Sam – if you’re reading this, it made me think of you for some reason.

Lazy blogger

The sign of a lazy blogger is when they start publishing short posts that are basically re-posts of other people’s stuff.

But, y’know, occasionally I do come across stuff that I wouldn’t mind keeping around.

Like North Korean Traffic Police.

“Super Punch has rounded up a bunch of the best YouTube videos of Kim Jong Il’s “traffic girls,” who are dressed in snappy uniforms, which they wear as they perform an elaborate, robotic mime-show that directs North Korean traffic. They only turn counter-clockwise. Of course.”

From Super Punch via Boing Boing

Zac turns one

Zac managed to turn one year old today, despite what seems to be a very real interest in doing himself some serious harm. On Saturday he head-butted the floor and so now sports a very becoming bruise on the bridge of his nose, the latest in a long line of scrapes, garks and other imperfections he has accumulated while perfecting his rather extraordinary climbing skills.

He stands, at the moment, but doesn’t walk (apart from the occasional tottering fall, that charitably gets called ‘steps’), but has a huge interest in anything on a table. To get on the table to check it out, he will push one of our kid chairs closer, climb onto that, transfer to a higher chair, then onto the table. Destruction ensues. It’s not pretty.

Zac had several rounds of presents today and appreciated the wrapping and the presents themselves each time, but is a wee bit grumpy on his anniversary – I think he has a cold, probably the same cold Zara, Reid and I have been passing around for the last three or four weeks. I am writing on the plane to Bangkok, and have spent the first two hours trying to get my ears adjusted to the altitude. Can’t wait for the descent.

Zara is off school for two weeks for the Chinese New Year long break – by the time I get back from this trip on Friday I suspect the fire-crackers will have started in earnest. Someone let a few off yesterday afternoon in a small warm-up, and I though a bomb had gone off. Qing Mei, our part-time ayi, has joined the general exodus home for the holiday, which for her means 2 days on a train. Happily Yu Mei is Beijing ren so only gets the same holidays Reid does – 3 days next week.

Last week was also supposed to mark the start of spring – we’re all getting pretty sick of the sub-zero temperatures – but any progress there was dampened by more snow yesterday, and apparently more all week. We’re over it. Bring on the warm.

Reid is busy preparing for Foreign Minister McCully’s visit, which she is looking after – he will up here several times this year, along with the rest of the cabinet it seems at various times. Minister of Trade Tim Grocer was here last week, and he said the Government’s commitment to the Shanghai Expo and China in general could be seen in the number of ministers hurrying to pack their bags for Beijing. You could almost see the diplomats flinch.

And I’m in week 4 of a awfully intense 6 week sprint to the finish line of (this phase of) the Thai project. I haven’t been much fun lately. But the end is in sight.

I may have said that before.

Zara’s school report

For those desperate to read some highfalutin Montessori teacher-speak, here is Zara’s second school report.

(Zara loves school, and adores her teacher, Kay, who is fantastic).

Photos of snow

After the big dump a few weeks back Reid had a walk around Ritan Park and took some photos…. and I went snow boarding.

Shanghai and Tong Li

(Pardon the repost – the last version was a little garbled…. and this was actually written a couple of weeks ago: am a little slow with the ‘Post’ button)

We’ve just had three days away from the kids in Shanghai. It’s been fantastic – but as I write (in Pudong Airport departure gate #8, waiting our boarding call) I have to say it will be really nice to see to see Zac and Zara again. We missed those guys – but Helen (Reid’s mum) has been keeping us updated via txts on how they are, and the only crises seemed to be when the DVD didn’t work (momentarily).

Anyhoo (now onboard the flight back up to Beijing)… we left on Tuesday morning, taking the car to the airport as the snow had caused all taxis to evaporate. In Shanghai we checked straight into the unbelievably fabulous Jia Hotel (Home Hotel) and started our tourist experience as we meant to go on, with lunch and a wee kip. A little later we managed to struggle down to the fairly underwhelming Shanghai Museum of Modern Art (a once-great building now looking a little tired, with content to match), and a brisk walk around the People’s Park and some shops… then back to the hotel to defrost and a glass of wine.

Then dinner. At the famous and much lauded M on the Bund, which (in summer) offers dinner on a terrace with incredible views over the Bund, the barges plying the river and the madhouse lights of Pudong. In winter, these things can been seen a little less dramatically from the warmth of the dining room. So – view: great. Dinner? Not so much. It ended up being another one of those incredibly expensive but not-that-terrific Western restaurants in China, where the size of the bill makes you think of how many times you could have eaten better at Logan Brown for a third of the price.

Wednesday… by about 11 we managed to extract ourselves from the lovely Jia to walk across to Tai Kung Lu, off which runs a network of twisty crowded lanes lined with shops and places to eat. It’s changed a lot since we went there last (with Marion and Mum in 2008) – the shops have got more touristy, I think, but that didn’t stop us buying some shoes for Zac and a dress for Zara (and eating a lovely lunch). Then back to the hotel for another snooze.

That evening we took the metro to Pudong, and had a drink at Cloud 9, in Jinmao tower. It’s quite high. First you take a lift to the 54th floor (ears popping all the way), where guests at the Hyatt inside the hotel can check in. You then take another lift to the 85th floor, where guests can eat at a cafe. You then take yet another lift to the 87th floor where you can have an expensive drink and try and convince your craptacular camera to do justice to the stunning view (I ‘enjoyed’ the lifts so much I had to have two drinks to help me back down).

We then had dinner at Hamilton House, which had been recommended by the Wallpaper Guide, and also by visiting Wellingtonians who said it was like the Matterhorn. It isn’t.

And today… was all about trains. We took the metro to the Shanghai Railway Station, where we got a really tiny taste of what railways stations all over China must be like during Chinese New Year (when everyone trains back to their home village). Thousands of people constantly flowed in all directions like migrating birds. After a couple of false starts, we managed to buy two ‘soft seat’ tickets to Suzhou and joined the hordes flooding toward Waiting Room #4, where we all bunched around the departure gate like expectant lemmings. Eventually the gate was opened and we all pushed our way down the stairs and onto the flash train, which ticked on to Suzhou at 200 kph quietly and efficiently. Once in Suzhou Reid practised her Chinese on the ticketing staff and got us sorted for the return, and we hired a bloke and his van to take us to Tongli, the Venice of the Orient.

Tongli is beautiful. It’s an 1000 year-old town laced with canals on the edge of a lake, populated by about 25,000 people who have managed to turn their town into a tourist destination without completely wreaking it. Reid bought a pair of boots for Zac off an ancient old cackling crone and we a great time strolled around the canals looking at houses that were building during the Qing dynasty. It must be awful during the summer rush, but in winter it is quiet and rather peaceful. We bought three paper-cut pictures as souvenirs from the Park of Eternal Solitude, then headed back to Shanghai by van, 200 kph train and metro to get our bags from the hotel.

Another metro trip later we transferred onto the MagLev, Shanghai’s white elephant of a bullet train. This wheel-less beast goes 30kms from a metro stop in Shanghai to Pudong International Airport, and can do it in 7 minutes at speeds up to 450 kph. For us, it took a more leisurely pace – about 300 kph. In Japan they’ve managed to get one up to 500 kph, and say they could go faster than airplanes if they could build one in a tunnel without any air in it.

Anyway, the Shanghai MagLev is a little useless since it doesn’t really go anywhere, and was really built to encourage the Chinese to install more of them – perhaps putting one in from Shanghai to Beijing. Unfortunately China went for a conventional fast train for that route, and they’re now having problems expanding the existing one, since the locals are worried the magnetic radiation can cause sickness.

Still, from a tourist point of view it was terrific, and that brings me to now, an hour into the return flight. Around me several exhausted guys have fallen asleep, snoring like beached walruses. I’m slightly worried I can’t remember where the car is parked. Or even if we will land at the terminal the car is at. And Reid is reading this rather dull and verbose missive with an impenetrable expression, so I may stop now. We seem to be descending through a snow-storm anyway.

Here are some photos….

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