Coffee, anyone?

 For a short moment today, I was happy. OK, maybe for two moments. I received my Bialetti Moka Express stove-top coffee maker today. Many years ago I had one that my mother gave me, and I loved it, but it was eventually abandoned in an apartment in Evanston, Illinois.

Funny how the global economy works: I bought an Italian coffee maker on eBay (U.S.) from a seller in Israel, who shipped it to an American teacher living in China. I’m now enjoying some Mexico Altura coffee produced by a Chinese company and sold in a Japanese department store in Chengdu. If it all sounds too complicated, it began with the low price and free international shipping for the Moka Express. The cost was about half what the same product sells for in most of the Chengdu stores where I’ve seen it.

When I rode my bike downtown today to buy coffee, I also stopped in at Bread Talk, a halfway-good bakery chain, for some cheese cake. Well, I wasn’t expecting an authentic New York deli version, but still it was more bland than any slice of cake has a right to be. Then I did some (imaginary) shopping at a couple of expensive stores, and ended up at the bookstore, where I bought Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast to read while I sip coffee from my new machine.

Whose bank is it anyway?

I’m having international banking problems. Up to a few months ago, my Citibank online account worked just fine, and I’ve had no problem making international money transfers. Then, when my old debit card expired, I lost access to my online banking. The mailing address I use is in Arizona, so I never received my new card, and repeated attempts to call Citibank’s international number (using a China Mobile pay phone center) have been unsuccessful. A letter sent 6 weeks ago got no response. I now have no control over my automatic monthly payments, can’t check my balance, and flew into a frenzy of financial jitters. All will be resolved eventually, but I still feel a lot better about my money when I can check on it once in a while to make sure it’s safe.

OK students, our new word for today is lipogrammatic, which I discovered by way of this photo (not mine) on Flickr, which shows French writer Georges Perec’s novel La disparition
I’ve heard of liposuction, but not lipograms. According to Wikipedia (thankfully no longer blocked in China):
A lipogram (from Greek lipagrammatos, “missing letter”) is a kind of constrained writing or word game consisting of writing paragraphs or longer works in which a particular letter or group of letters is missing, usually a common vowel, the most common in English being e. A lipogram author avoiding e then only uses the 25 remaining letters of the alphabet.

Perec wrote his entire lipogrammatic novel without using the letter e. The e‘s were even left out in the English translation . 

The end of the semester is upon us. I gave my students fair warning this week of the final oral evaluations, which will start in two weeks. Their task will be to have a conversation in pairs on an assigned topic, with only 3 minutes to prepare. I also did one of my favorite classroom activities, “3-minute partner conversations,” which is always popular (or at least fills the room with the sounds of spoken English). Students talk to a partner for 3 minutes about a given topic, then stop and switch partners. Depending on the time available, each student will have talked to 6-10 different people by the end of the activity. During the final conversation, each student must summarize what they talked about with all their previous partners. 

That’s all, folks.

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