Monday, March 26, 2012

Sarcasm made in China

I love being sarcastic.  It is my favorite thing in the world.  I love it more than my family and everything else that has ever existed.  The problem with my love of sarcasm is that it doesn't go well here in China.  China is a no-fly-zone for sarcasm.  All of the sarcasm produced in China is produced by expats and is 100% for export purposes.

The best use of sarcasm is when you are angry or annoyed.  Often, in these cases, sarcasm is a great replacement for pouting, having a fit, or extending your middle finger.  I find that, as I am an adult, sarcasm is the most socially acceptable of the options I have listened.

And so it was, when I was at the local PSB office and they refused to help me get my landlord to come in to sign some sort of random form for the third time, knowing that my landlord is a stick in the mud.  After 2 hours of waiting for the form, knowing that we needed our new visas the next day, I gave up and my frustration boiled over into... sarcasm.  I got up and as I was leaving the office I announced in Chinese,

"Ok, well I guess we're going back to Canada.  Thanks." 

The women in the office looked at me.  They were all confused.  What tare you talking about?

"Since we can't get a visa we need to go home.  Thanks for your help."

This time they looked at each other.  What is he talking about?

Thus, I left feeling even more frustrated.  Not only did I have visa problems, but now I had sarcastic joke problems, which are debatably worse than visa problems.  To them, I was a bumbling idiot.

A few weeks later I hail a cab, and as I walk towards it a lady sprints past me and gets into the car.  I walk up to the car and shout over and over in Chinese,

"Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!"

I smile the whole time, waving at her.  Finally, she turns and there it was again... confusion.  Why is this guy thanking me for stealing his taxi?

If there was a sarcasm class at the University I would enroll and go back there to study this stuff in Chinese.  There has to be some form of equivalent.  As a foreigner, it is a way of life, and most of us would have a much more satisfying life if we could be sarcastic in Chinese.  Really, it's one of my dreams.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Compost/Garden Update

As we roll into Spring, I figured that we could take a look at my little apartment set-up.

About a year ago, I started a vermicompost.  It was really easy to set up and surprisingly effective.  In fact, I am contemplating getting another bin for my worms.  I think that I might have too many of them now as, apparently, all they have been doing for 12 months is eating, pooping and making worm love.  That being said, since there are a lot of them, the compost is going very well.  I will admit that I have probably been overloading it a bit too much, but so far it seems to be holding up.  Here it is:

Compost Bin almost a year after starting

The one danger that I have had to battle is the lack of brown foliage to add to the greens.   The greens are easy; we have more than enough vegetable peelings.  Coffee grounds and egg shells are also regular visitors to the compost.  Though, I must add that a good thing to do is let your egg shells dry out and crack them up a lot before you throw them in.

What I do for brown stuff is I go out to the field behind our apartment and a pack a bag full of dead leaves.  The back field is basically a garbage dump and public bathroom so I need to tread lightly and with caution.  So many people poop behind our apartment.  Yesterday, while whisking some eggs I looked out just in time to see a man's crack appear out from under his pants into a full moon.  I was careful not to look out again for a good amount of time.  What makes people think that they are pooping in privacy when a 28 story building stands right next to them... with all of the kitchen windows facing them... at breakfast time?  They think that they are sneaky but they are not.  Anyways, going out, dodging the "landmines" and scouring the ground for useful compost products has turned these little endeavors into my own little private Hunger Games.

Back inside, I load up the bin.  After a few days, the browns moisten and mix with the greens and the worms.  If I leave it for a week then what I am left with is sludge.  Those little worms work fast and back out I go for more browns.

A second bin would be for the more advanced product.  I have a hard time keeping things separate in one bin.  Though, a second bin takes up a lot of room, so I will have to think about it.

As far as the garden, it stands at about 1.5 feet by 2.5 feet.  Last year I lugged the pot and the dirt home in a taxi.  That was a miracle in itself since most taxi drivers will never let you put dirt into their cars.


Last year I mainly grew basil, peas, mint and cilantro.  This year, I am going back to the peas and basil. Even though everything in the pot seemed to die over the winter, I am seeing little sprouts of mint make a comeback.  From the grave they will rise!

Resurrected Mint!

I am also trying to grow some flowers, which for some reason is very difficult to do.  I have some California Poppies in there right now but so far not much, if any, growth.  I also have some sort of purple flower but nothing there as well.  I am wondering if the seeds are bad or something.  Do seeds expire?  I thought that laying dormant was what they did well?  I don't know.

In any event, the peas are growing and I hope that they produce more than the 6 pods we got last year.  Maybe there will be enough for some sort of salad.  Wouldn't that be nice?

For the dirt, I mix in some of the compost product with the existing dirt.  I think that it's working well.  The peas are growing faster than before, and there are less weeds for some reason.  I'm not sure if my methods are wise, right or foolish, but they are my methods until further research and notice.

A great book to read with your eyes, brain, heart and kidneys

If you would like to get inspired to compost and garden, then read a book.  The book you should read is called "Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community" and it is written by the American Farmer Writer Wendell Berry.  I know that the title may sound a little scandalous but it's really not that kind of book.  I had bought it a few years ago and finally got down to it.  I read it in a week.  It's a very enlightening, interesting and educational collection of works that attempt to explain why the world is the way it is, and how it could be a whole lot better if the world still held high the values of community.  Along with that, it is a great overall encouragement for composting.  I highly recommend it, and if you live in Xining, for a limited time only, you can borrow it from me for zero dollars!

Too many mint photos?  impossible.

And finally, I got a little glimpse of the article I wrote for my vermicompost in Geez Magazine.  The glimpse is here:

Thanks to sister Becky for the photo

So, if you are in Canada and can get your mitts on a copy then please do.  After reading and enjoying, write them and tell them how awesome my little blurb is and that you want more, more, more from this Brett Gitzel character.  You like the cut of his jib, etc.

Seriously, I was also surprised to see all 4 photos I sent them made the grade.  I didn't even know if they were going to include them or not.  Maybe I should take up hand modelling.  Becky, too!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene

I watched this movie about a week ago.

I went in not knowing what it was about.  I think that was the best way to go about it, so I won't say much in the area of plot.

What I will say is that I really liked how it was written.  It jumps back and forth between the main character's past and present a lot.   The present is very confusing; the way she acts, the situation she's in, her relationships, etc.  Yet, as her past is revealed you begin to understand why she is this way.  At least, you think you do.  The confusion is purposeful, I believe, with the intention of trying to help you understand her world and then, at least for me, realizing that there is no way any of this could be understood.

Elizabeth Olsen is a really nice actor in this film.  I was pretty surprised to see that.  The rest of the cast does a great job of giving a 'remote' feel to things.  John Hawkes is kind of Winter's Boney but not really, but maybe, but if so then this time he is pro-meth, metaphorically speaking.

I must clarify that I love movies that you would not call "pick-me-ups".  For some reason, when I think about it, I come down to movies such as No Country for Old Men and The Shining for being my favorites.  They aren't happy endings, but I find some sort of satisfaction in watching sad things happen on screen.  Maybe they help me appreciate my own life.  I mean, could you imagine being Llewelyn Moss in No Country?  I could.  You know why?  Because it's a great movie and it made be run the way Llewelyn ran.  It made me wince when Llewelyn get's shot and almost eaten by a dog.  I felt sorry for Llewelyn.  But most of all, I was thankful that I'm not Llewelyn.

Also, I think that loving these films might have more to do with their specific looks than their stories.  The stories are great, but the look of a movie really stays with me.  Martha Marcy May Marlene has a look that stays.  And to push it even further, I would add that the subject matter and the creative and insightful way that it was portrayed are probably bigger reasons for why this movie keeps peculating in my brain.

Finally, the final scene is subtle and I love it.  I want to talk about it with someone.  Anyone.

So, if you can relate to any of what I am saying and find sad/thriller/dramatic movies interesting, then climb into your Delorean, head back to 1993 and pop this video cassette into the ol' VCR and watch it.

PS. This film is rated R, so you know how that goes.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Oh, Canada

So, we all know that Canadians like hockey.  Many of them, including this one, might like it a little too much.  But what about one guy, who sent a text into the sports radio show last night regarding his opinion on the possibility of Edmonton beating their rival Calgary tomorrow night so that they don't make the playoffs.  Said the Edmonton fan:

"If I knew that giving up 1 testicle would guarantee a win for the Oilers tomorrow night against the Flames, further pushing the Flames from their chances at making the playoffs, I would do it.  Every day, all day."

Now, I know that people exaggerate on a lot of things, and maybe this guy is just trying to be funny.  But with the situation the Oilers are in (Last place hockey for 3 straight years and sell-out crowds for 4 or 5 years straight) you know that a lot of the fans aren't thinking very clearly.

I'm rooting for the Oilers, but at the same time, I don't have any surgeries planned for anytime soon.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jonas Video

Here is a little video of Jonas on the Tony Little glide thing.  He's really good at stunt moves like purposely falling off.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shockingly Clean: a couple of movie recommendations

Hey there.

I've been thinking about this for about a week now.

It all started when I watched the movie The Big Year.  It's a movie about bird watching, or "birding" as they like to call it.  It stars Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black.  I didn't know what to expect, and to tell you the truth I was overly pleased with it.

It wasn't overly funny, it wasn't overly hilarious in any way.  The best way I could describe it would be to say that it is like a romantic comedy without the romance.  There is somewhat of a romance in there, but it is not central to the film.

To be even more truthful, it was shocking to watch a completely clean movie.  I think that Owen Wilson flips the bird in there somewhere, but it was a joke applicable to the topic.  Other than that, it was clean.  Squeaky.

If I would compare this film with other more recent comedies, I would say that this one should get more buzz than it does.  An example would be The Hangover.  I saw it.  It was funny at times.  Yet, to make a movie like that you need a lot of "fart" jokes, a lot of potential for nudity, drugs, alcohol, and other ridiculous acts for the camera.  To me, it's too easy to make jokes like that.  This coming from a guy who made a 'melons' joke in his first short film.  What was I thinking?!

It is so refreshing to see a good story in a comedy movie.  The Big Year is not unique in too many ways save for the fact that it is about birding.  I found it interesting the whole time, learning about this subculture.  I just might take more notice of the birds that fly into Xining this Spring.

Along these same lines I would say that The Muppets movie is a really nice movie as well.  There he is again... Jack Black being funny and seemingly cooperative in making things funny for everyone.  I got an "all in good fun" vibe from him.

When I watch Owen Wilson in the Wedding Crashers, or The Muppets star Jason Segel in I Love You, Man, I went away feeling dirty.  I felt advertised at, and even exploited a little bit... all because of the sexy jokes.  I, being a 30 year old man, am the type of guy that they target for these films.  Well, me and maybe the younger crowd.  Throwing some sex and dirty jokes at me and I'm sucked right in.

It's cheap and I really do feel like it's a copout to really 'trash up' a comedy movie.  I understand that all of the 'raunchy' comedies grew out of the 80's and all of the trash that they produced.  Yet, they seemed to have swayed too far on the side of cheap jokes and left the story to your own imagination.

The Big Year is a nice movie, a nice story, an interesting topic, and stars funny people.  Is this the new formula for a great comedy?  I hope so.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Math Error

On behalf of the people here at ABC I would like to apologize.

The New York Jets signed Mark Sanchez to a 3 year extension.  So, I guess my math was off by a bit in my last post.  Dr. Smithsonian has since been fired from the staff and we euthanized all of the monkeys...

or was it the other way around?  I can't remember.

Good luck, Mr. Manning.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Math Lesson

This guy's article is void of the details.

I've crunched the numbers.

Actually, with the help of Professor Wilbor Smithsonian, head of the mathematics department at Rystrnrom University in Stockholm, and 20 lab monkeys,  I have put together a formula.

It's quite simple when you think about it:

Mark Sanchez + Bench = A

Peyton Manning + NYC = B

Now, since A is the common denominator, and B is carried over from the root variable of unknown X, the formula we have developed goes as follows:

A + B = Superbowl

I know what you're thinking:

"But Dr. Smithsonian, Dori, Bobo, Brett, what about the lowest common multiple of dividing the remainder of the thermal coupling?"

Yes, we considered this, and predicted this very question.  Let me put you at ease.  The thermal couplings aren't capable of generating the 1.21 jigawatts of electricity that is necessary to bring B into NYC to play for the Jets.  I mean, what we would need, is a bolt of lightning... yes, that's right, a bolt of lightning!

Be honest with yourselves.  Any-way-you-cut-it, if we break it down, no matter what continent we're on, no matter what unit of measurement we implement...

A + B = Superbowl.

or, the same equation another way:

Jets' Superbowl Parade + (A + B)  = Highly likely.

Actually, we sent the results to a lab in Switzerland and they just got back to us with their findings.  It turns out that this formula would work for the next 3 years.  After 3 years, B would dissolve into itself, leaving A to float back to the surface.  Brilliant!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It happened one night: Twitter and the Street Hawk Opener!

Today, we've got a couple of new things to discuss.

First of all, I have started to dip my big toe into Twitter.  The water is cold, but I think that I'll eventually get used to it.

My inspiration for signing up to Twitter was the NHL trade deadline day.  If you follow hockey as much as I do then you will know that this year's deadline day was boring to the extreme!  I think that there were a total of 15 trades during the 8 hours of live coverage on TSN.  What that means is that the panels and the reporters and everyone else talked about what might happen all day, and in the end, nothing really happened.  It was, by far, the most boring deadline day in a long time.

For me, the coverage started at 8pm.  So, you can imagine how happy I am that I went to bed at 1am.  At that point there had been 2 trades.  I spent 5 hours following blogs and Twitter and listening to people talk about all of the possibilities.  In the end, I got some sleep.  I woke up to discover that, if I had stayed awake all night, I would have found out that a bunch of boring teams traded a few boring players.  So, for this one night only, I defeated my hockey addiction!  Well, I guess I gave into it for 5 hours, but in the end, I was finally able to draw the line.

In case you missed it, my method for following along included following the blog of my favorite TSN anchor Jay Onrait.  Since there were no trades to speak of, Jay and the rest of us chatted about many things, including great 80's TV shows such as Air Wolf, Knight Rider, and The Littlest Hobo.  I included Street Hawk into the conversation, but got no response.   Here is the trailer for Street Hawk, as show that only lasted 13 episodes, but will last forever in my heart:

The only response I got the whole night was this:

It was nice to get a response, and funny enough, my little prediction turned out to be not that far off.  Jay sure is a funny fellow.  In fact, I am now following him on Twitter.

I'm not sure what my Twitter life will look like between now and the next trade deadline day, but I must admit that it is yet another quick and convenient way to get information.

So far, things look like this:

As you can see, I have yet to "Tweet", but somehow I do have 13 followers!  Who could they be?  Well...

All of my followers are Sexy Spam.  I am now curious to see how many Sexy Spam followers I can get before my first Tweet.  I really have no reason to Tweet, and they have no reason to follow me, so we will see just how long this lasts.

Thus, this me on Twitter.  I am @brettgitzel if you are interested and on there.  I don't even know which of my friends are on Twitter.  Also, I don't really know how to utilize it.  If you have any tips then let me know.

While on Twitter I came across this:

This Linsanity is pretty funny stuff, as I have mentioned before.  So, when I found out that he was getting his own ice cream flavour I thought it was just the next step in this Lincredible story.  Well, as it turns out, I am out of touch with all of the PC rules that have been set in place these days.  

I guess I just don't see what's wrong with making an ice cream withe fortune cookies and lychee in it to honor an American Born Taiwanese basketball player.  In fact, Jeremy was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, which also happens to be where the fortune cookie was introduced to America... by a Japanese guy, no less!  The point?

Well, people call Jeremy Lin a Chinese American, when in fact other people would just call him an American.  Further still, other people would argue that he is just Chinese, when in reality he would be said to have a Taiwan heritage, which as a lot of people know, has been the source of a long running "rightful owner" dispute between China and Taiwan.

I know a Taiwanese lady, who is married to an American, who got hassled at the American border because she wouldn't admit to being Chinese.  He said, "You can't fool me.  You're all Chinese."  Pretty crazy stuff.

Furthermore, most people associate fortune cookies with Chinese food, but Wikipedia seems pretty clear that this Japanese cook introduced them in his Benkyodo bakery over a hundred years ago.  

Obviously, it is difficult to say exactly who Jeremy Lin represents in the NBA.  Ask the billion people I live amongst and they will say he's Chinese.  The argument will never end.  The same could be said for the fortune cookie, but nobody seems to care about it as much.

In conclusion, a little bit of cookie mixed in with lychee swirls sounds delicious!