A productive day at the office

In a country of 1 billion people, productivity needs to be kept low and responsibilities divided up into the smallest tasks possible so that more people can be employed, which goes a long way in producing the ever-elusive harmonious society. This is why, despite having so many people, China’s per capita GDP is still below the U.S. (and also because American workers are supposedly workaholics and very productive). At any rate, let’s just say I have marveled many times about how one person could do everything faster and better — i.e., more efficiently — by himself than five people each assigned to one step in the production chain. The latter is how much of the work in China is done. For example, I have one coworker whose only job (to my knowledge) is to hand me stories to edit. She doesn’t write or translate anything. Maybe she schedules stories so that the more timely ones are edited first. But all of this can be sorted in a copy editor program, which is how things elsewhere are usually done. Drop in, check out, send through.

Anyway, in a normal day, I get maybe four or five stories to edit. Usually, it’s straightforward Chinglish and wordiness that I have to deal with, which takes me less than half an hour to fix. (Reporting holes are another problem entirely and are usually impossible to fix perfectly because we work with translators and not the actual reporters. My approach to these glaring offenses is determined by a complex equation involving my faithfulness to good reporting on that day, my boredom, my annoyance at the translator, and time.) Needless to say, to feel productive, I need other things to fill my time at work.

Today, I had five stories to edit, including one particularly long one where I had to track down the bits (all of it) that were copied (yet another problem) and provide appropriate citations. In between, I managed to go to the post office to mail the postcards I got you, my loyal readers, in England. Yes, it’s been four days since I’ve been back; no, I didn’t send them from England, sorry! I did put some nice, unusable-for-postcards English stamps on there, though. I bought them in a desperate bid to mail them off on my last day, a Sunday, before I had to leave for Gatwick. Then I learned that they were only good for 2nd-class postage of large envelopes within England. You see, the English stamp system is a bit weird and complicated: Unlike in the U.S., they aren’t just the monetary value you paid for, but also different colors and stuff that reflect the stuff you’re posting. So even if the stamp is worth 58 pence (haha, not cents!) and the cost of mailing a postcard overseas is 76p, I can’t just tack on two 4x2nd large letter stamps (which is what I bought) and stick the postcard in the postbox. It won’t get to you! I have to use special stamps for postcards. They are Grey/Ultramarine/Red, according to Royal Mail’s website. Like I said, weird! But there is a stamp there, so it’s almost the same as if I mailed your postcard from England. Be happy.

I also compared VPNs, purchased one (my old one no longer works) and got all the payment and program files and stuff sorted out. Now I can post pictures to Picasa and Facebook, so there’s something else for you to look forward to.

And most importantly, I got the air con man to fix the air conditioning in my apartment. Phew! It’s been 30+ degrees (that’s Celsius, you Americans) in there, despite only having one small window in the entire place, and it’s just been unbearably uncomfortable. It was a three-day affair that involved, first, calling to get him to switch the air con unit thing from heating to air con, which he wouldn’t do until the next day; then him saying I need to pay 350 kuai to fix some broken pipes connected to the air con unit; me not being able to OK the fix until I could get my landlord to agree to pay for it; me giving the go-ahead; me coming home to find that the air con was not actually fixed; and on the third day finally, calling the maintenance man again to tell him to fix it, whereupon he goes and finds out what the problem was and asking me to pay another 300 kuai to fix that problem, which I wish I could tell you, but I can’t because I didn’t understand his Chinese. I interpreted it as replacing the coolant in the unit.

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