Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New Scientist Breaking News - Judge rules against 'intelligent design' in class: "Pennsylvania science teachers will not be forced to advocate 'intelligent design' after a judge ruled that that the theory is really religion in disguise."

So it seems common sense does sometimes intrude on reality. What's worrying is that there are moves to teach this in schools here in the UK. Especially when we know it's all really the work of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Well, I've joined a cult, well, kind of. I've been using GTD to help organise my life and my thinking for nearly six months now and I am amazed that it has lasted so long. More than that it doesn't seem a question of "using" anymore, more that's the way I do things. Basically, for me, it works and works well to complement the way I already organised myself.
Of course the system is under constant review and testing. Sites like 43folders offer ongoing ideas to add in and try. Some of the things I've done that I like are:

* Organising my Lotus Notes into GTD type categories and adding icons to quickly file mails into them. Notes isn't exactly the friendliest of email tools and it's hard to change much but the system works well for forcing me to deal with the massive amounts of mail I get at work and make sure that nothing slips by. Basically emails get read and then either deleted, replied to, archived or put into a Next Actions folder. I do have a waiting folder and a someday/maybe folder but they don't get used so much.

* Sharepoint site for my team. I have set up a to-do list for myself which I use to complement the email list. Everything work related should be in one or the other.

* Gmail. It shouldn't be as good as it is but it is. Emails are treated the same as at work. I've also set up filters to detect +... after my address so that I can use it as a kind of todo list for home as well as archiving writing, etc. I've also created entries in my address book for these filters so I just type in "todo" into the address bar to automatically save and file emails when using the Gmail to record stuff.

* Del.icio.us. Part of a general shift to keeping more stuff online. I use a "star" label to mark things out as something I want to look at later and added the feed for that tag into my rss reader. Or I could live bookmark it in Firefox.

Am still having a few problems integrating it into home life. It works well but I tend to find I'm not as focused outside the office. And I still haven't finished the book. It's good, but who has the time to read books on time management?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Recently found out that a story of mine, called "Empty Clouds," has been accepted for publication in the British SF magazine Interzone. My first sale and to a good magazine I've wanted to get published in. It feels like I really don't have any excuses now.
Also looks like I'm off to China in February, after a bit of prevaricating. No idea what that's going to be like but I'm looking forward to it, to change change in lifestyle and job even if it's just for a bit. Basically I'm going to be teaching English in a middle school in Ningbo, a city near Shanghai.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

BBC NEWS | Politics | Blair warned of party 'civil war':

I'm sure there's something not quite right about this but I can't quite put my finger on it....
"Conservative leader Michael Howard raised the prospect that Mr Blair may be able to rely on Tory support to get flagship policies through Parliament."

Bonfire Night

Originally uploaded by grazulis.
Went down to Lewes last weekend for bonfire. It's quite a big deal there with five bonfire societies all putting on various parades and firework shows. It has a very primeval feel with fireworks let off in the streets, displays that are the best I've ever seen, burning torches, and a controlled mayhem that doesn't sit well with our modern, nannying society. See the Cliffe Bonfire Society website

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Got the new Jah Wobble album last week. His first commercial release for a number of years (although he has been busy releasing stuff for the past few years on his own 30 Hertz label) it's not likely to be a huge hit but it is a nice continuation of the great music he's been creating. A couple of the tracks were a bit too "world dance" for me on a first listen but everything else leapt out. It's been a while since I heard an album that seems to just fill your head with music which may be something to do with the way it was mixed (see the website for more on that). But as with every release I only have to listen to it to five minutes to feel cheered up and like everything is good in the world - there can't be any higher praise for music than that. And I've even grown to like the subtleties of the tracks I didn't really like at first. See more details at the Trojan website including a download of a cheesy but funny video.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Fundamental Bushcraft course

The leaf shelter
Originally uploaded by grazulis.
Last week went on a bushcraft course with Ray Mears' company Woodlore. The course is a week long and covers a lot of basic survival and bushcraft info. It is one of the most challenging and intense things I think I've done but it was also extremely rewarding. From natural cordage (using nettles and roots) to wood carving and starting fires the number of skills and projects through the week just kept increasing and I'm going to need some time to absorb it all. The head instructor, Juha, was really good, as were all the other instructors as well, pushing you on with a mixture of encouragment, advice and bloody-mindedness.
It's given me a lot to think about when I'm out walking now about the land around me and how it can be used. In fact I can't wait to get out again, although I may have to wait until I've stopped aching quite so much...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Reference Card

Reference Card
Originally uploaded by grazulis.
A happy accident. I printed out a sheet from Douglas Johnston's DIY Planner for hipster but didn't realise that it shrank Letter size onto the A4 making the card a bit too small. But actually it makes a really good divider making it easy to mark a place that can be found quickly when riffling the cards.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bob Myers' Translations of Dogen Translations of Dogen available under a Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

One Bag (all about packing, luggage, and travelling light) Interesting lookig site for anyone looking to downsize their luggage when travelling anywhere. After years of struggling with a rucksack I've recently taken to a small Karrimor bag that is the correct carry-on size, although it's not mine, and I like it. Most of my rucksack is nearly always empty space anyway...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Aubergine Dip 35mins: "Aubergine Dip

250g/8oz Aubergine (Egg Plant)

1 tbsp Olive Oil

1 tbsp Lemon Juice

1 tbsp Tahini

100g/4oz Natural Yoghurt

1 Garlic Clove, crushed

1 tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped

Salt and Pepper


1. Preheat the grill to very hot then grill the aubergine for about 20 minutes, turning to cook evenly, until the skin has blistered and blackened.

2. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin place in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend to a smooth puree. Spoon the puree into a serving dish and garnish with the parsley."

Thursday, July 14, 2005

NextAction - TrimPath - Trac
NextAction is a web page that you can save to your computer and then use to track your tasks and projects for just about anything. It's free and, although still only in beta, seems pretty good. It doesn't save automatically at the moment so you have to remember to save the page after making changes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

43 Folders
Life hacks and home of the awesome Hipster PDA. I was using a primitve version of the HPDA at home for years but now I've found not only are other people doing the same but that actually I can use it for more than just remembering what bills I have to pay or that I need more washing powder.
Hipster PDA

Monday, July 04, 2005

TEFLChina.org -- job > intro > China EFL: An Industry Run Amuck?
What's interesting about this article is how little seems to have changed since I was last there teaching english, unless it's that the situation has gotten much bigger.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

BBC NEWS | South Asia | 'Enemy fire' downed US helicopter: "If the reports of hostile fire are confirmed, the Chinook will become the first US helicopter to be downed in such a way in Afghanistan."
I can't help thinking the Russian's are thinking 'been there, done that....'

Monday, June 20, 2005

MDN: Special: "American George Weller was the first foreign reporter to enter Nagasaki following the U.S. atomic attack on the city on Aug. 9, 1945. Weller wrote a series of stories about what he saw in the city, but censors at the Occupation's General Headquarters refused to allow the material to be printed." The stories can be found at this link.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Wired News: Rodents' Talk Isn't Just 'Cheep': '"What we're finding out about prairie dogs are things that we never thought other animal species could do," he says. "Functionally (the calls are) the same thing as words."

Slobodchikoff has identified more than 20 prairie dog "words" and says he has found prairie dog calls that describe shapes and colors. "We set up some experiments where we had humans wearing different-colored shirts," he explains. "We had these people walk through prairie dog colonies, recorded the calls and found that, sure enough, there was variation that was consistent." The prairie dogs across the board had the same distinctive calls for blue shirts, green shirts, yellow shirts and so on. '

Monday, May 16, 2005

Spatiotemporal gene expression - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Spatiotemporal gene expression refers to the activation of genes within specific tissues of an organism at specific times during development. Gene activation patterns vary widely in complexity. Some are straightforward and static, such as the pattern of tubulin, which is expressed in all cells at all times in life. Some, on the other hand, are extraordinarily intricate and difficult to predict and model, with expression fluctuating wildly from minute to minute or from cell to cell. Spatiotemporal variation plays a key role in generating the diversity of cell types found in developed organisms; since the identity of a cell is specified by the collection of genes activately expressed within that cell, if gene expression was uniform spatially and temporally, there could be at most one kind of cell."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Zapatista rebels woo Inter Milan: "The captain of Inter Milan football club says he would be willing to take up an invitation for the club to play a team of Mexican Zapatista rebels."

Saturday, May 07, 2005

BBC NEWS | Magazine | 10 things we didn't know this time last week: "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie took �4.2m at the UK box office over the bank holiday weekend, mirroring its 'answer to life, the universe and everything' - 42."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Wired News: Lost Limb? Worm May Hold Answers: "Scientists have for the first time completed a survey of gene function in a highly regenerative species of worm that could offer important insights into cell regrowth in humans.

Putting the abilities of Wolverine in the movie X-Men to shame, a small piece of a planarian worm can regenerate an entire new body. The worm's ability to regenerate is so powerful that a tissue fragment only 1/279 of the worm's length can grow into a new animal."

Monday, May 02, 2005

Likely First Photo of Planet Beyond the Solar System

You go away for a few weeks and all sorts of things happen...
Well, back now. Yesterday headed for the airport in the rain, got on the plane and then had to wait for 2 hours to actually depart. I couldn't hear the pilot's announcements very well but I think there was flooding in the airport so there were big delays. Of course my flight on to Leeds from Amsterdam was supposed to be 2 hours after arriving so that left me a little concerned that i wouldn't get back. As it was I had to run to the gate and just managed to get on board. Am now waiting for my luggage to catch up.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Well, this is my last entry from China. Yesterday I roused myself to go up the Oriental Pearl TV tower (the big needle thing in the first Flickr picture). The best thing about it was the Bund Tourist Tunnel which is pretty close to indescribable but here goes: You get into a little pod, which goes dark as you enter the tunnel. Circular lights wrapped around the tunnel flash manically and voices announce the zone you are in like "Fossil zone" and "Paradise and Hell) as you move through increasingly bizarre lightshows. Brilliant, basically.
In the evening had duck, three meat soup and chicken in sesame oil and it was all vegetarian. There are several famous veggie restaurants in Shanghai which specialise in imitation meats. Apparently vegetarianism has close links with buddhism, daoism and gangsters. Takes all sorts...
Don't know what it is about me and Shanghai but it rained again yesterday.
Today went to the old town which is also a big shopping area and wandered around looking at bronzes, paintings and mao memorabilia which I had no intention of buying. My bag is full enough.
Fly tomorrow. Back by tomorrow evening courtesy of time zones. It's been fun.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Arrived in Ningbo about lunch time but there weren't any boats that day so I got ticket for the day after. With half a day to kill I wandered around the city a bit, seems like a nice place but not a lot to do. I did have an Indian curry for my tea, though, which was very nice.
Got the bus/boat to putuoshan the next day and ended up actually leaving an hour earlier as I managed to switch my ticket. Met Ray, who spoke english and helped me find a hotel and guide me round the island, visited a lot of temples and we climbed the mountain together before I had to leave on the nightboat to Shanghai. It was a really nice place, although I expect it is heaving at the weekends it was pretty quiet while I was there. Would have liked to have longer, especially as I can't actually tihnk of much I want to do here in Shanghai... O well. Fly back on Sunday.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Now into the last week. Arrived in Shaoxing yesterday after a short bus ride. after checking in I headed down to the Lu Xun museum/former home. Lu Xun is a famous Chinese author from the first half of the twentiest century. He was one of the first, and best, writers to write stories in baihua, the common language instead of formal literary styles and addressed many of the socail issues of the time with a very critical eye.
After that got a pedicab who wanted to give me a short tour of some of the streets and canals and wnet back to rest in the hotel a bit.
Today went out to the massively underwhleming East Lake, basically it used to be a quarry until a lake was created next to it. It's an ok place to visit but wouldn't put it on anyone's must see list.
This afternoon will do a bit more wandering around. Tomorrow head to the island Putuoshan.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Today got the bus to Lingyin Si, a Buddhist temple on the other side of the lake with a big statue of Sakyamuni carved from camphor wood. Being a Saturday the place was jammed with people so it was all a bit of a hassle. Had noodles for lunch and then decided to try and walk to Longjing village from there but ended up not finding the way (my map of Hangzhou seems to have given up for that area) so I ended up getting the bus there. Bought some tea - I think half my rucksack is now tea - Longjing tea is considered the best green tea in China. After that walked through the village following a path through the tea growing area before heading towards a big pagoda called Liuhe Ta. Stopped there for half an hour before heading back to town and am now very tired.
Tomorrow I head for Shaoxing for a day or so before going to Putuoshan.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Got some photos onto Flickr. Not the best as picked a bit a random.
Left Huangshan/Tangkou early yesterday to come to Hangzhou, a city south of Shanghai famous for its West Lake and because it's twinned with Leeds. On my last night in Huangshan I had been wondering what to do about accomodation as I wanted somewhere nice after some pretty grotty rooms the past week. I'd been visiting the wonderful Mr Hu's restaurant for evening meals - he is someone who in a town dedicated to ripping off tourists of all nations has decided his best way of making money is to be honest and helpful. So when I get there that evening, ordered a mountain of food and swapped the Clive Cussler book Mike M gave me for a Sherlock Holmes he says that a friend of his (Mr Hu 2) can meet me from the bus and take me to a nice hotel. Mr hu 2 has a cheap hotel in Hangzhou but is apparently happy to sort me out with somewhere else. He does indeed meet me at the bus and helps me get a map ensuring I know where everything I need is.
So I'm now in a nice hotel at below list price with internet access in my room. The hotel is pretty close to the lake and the main tourist shopping area which is an old part of town nicely done up to resemble olde worlde China so in the afternoon I went for a walk around to explore and look at the West Lake. Today I went on a boat trip on the lake to a couple of the islands and generally not do very much at all except sit back and soak it all up. Hangzhou is a pretty laid back place, not too polluted (by China standards, anyway) and where I am is close to lots of green. Little bit of rain this evening while sampling the delights of a food street but generally the day hasn't been too bad.
Still no GPRS coverage so no photos for a while. Will post a couple from Shanghai in a week's time but otherwise it'll be a case of waiting till I can download them from my camera back in Leeds.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Well, got up at 5:40 this morning (about bedtime in the uk...) to go to Huangshan. After some breakfast of rice porridge, pickles and boiled egg got on the bus to go to Huangshan. After it had collected everyone we set off and, as the weather was beautiful and sunny, I set off walking rather than using the cable car (I know, I surprise myself sometimes.) It is very beautiful up there and I have lots of photos although you do have to angle them right so they don't show the hotels or crowds of people. Actually, while wandering around the various peaks it wasn't too bad. Kept running into old people on the tour whose bus I'd used and having quick chats and my photo taken but also found some quiet spots to sit and admire the views or eat some lunch.
Headed down to the western steps to start making my way down to find it extremely crowded. There's a bit where the path is very narrow and traffic just stops with jostling and shouting and general overheated mayhem. Hate to think what it's like at a weekend or public holiday. still, past that wasn't too bad until, trying to find the way down I couldn't find a path that was not locked. So I ended up getting the cable car down which is probably a good thing because my knees probably wouldn't have enjoyed it and I'd forgotten to put any suncream on. It was occasionally chilly with the wind so I was generally covered up and wore a hat but I do have a couple of patches of sunburn :(
After a long wait am now back in town and soon to go to eat. But not snails.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

After Nanjing I went to Jiuhuashan, one of the four holy buddhist mountains (although really a range of peaks). Arrived in the evening so the next day went out walking. To get near the top of one of the biggest ones I took the cable car (I had a painful blister from Nanjing, honest!) and met up with a couple of Chinese tourists. They didn't speak any english but took me under their wing and we chatted in my broken Chinese while walking and climbing around the top. They also bought me dinner and were overall top blokes.
This morning I came to Huang shan, a very famous mountain range which looks just like the China in the paintings (even more so than Jiuhuashan). Went out to visit some waterfalls and rivers this afternoon as I didn't have time today to go to the mountain. I climb that tomorrow!
Still no pictures, I'm afraid as the phone network seems not to like it. Heading to Hangzhou on thursday so I will try again there.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Looks like there's no more GPRS coverage for the moment so no photos for a while.
Yesterday I went to the Najing Massacre memorial and then to one of the main shopping districts called Fuzi Miao where I went on a pedalo on the river with some locals. Also went for a meal of dim sum (Chinese tapas) at a famous restaurant - Mao has eaten there. Reckon I know about half the ingredients including prawns, liver soup, some kind of bird leg, possibly snails and the beer, of course.
Off to Jiuhuashan tomorrow, which should hopefully be a bit more relaxing than the cities, but somehow I think it'll still be manic.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Well, hear nearly a week now. Flight was long and uncomfortable. Apparently KLM window seats are in the middle of the plane with a wall six inches in front of you... Very tired when I got to Shanghai so wandered around in a daze to try and keep awake in an effort to switch to China time. Shanghai is crazy, like someone picked up Hong Kong and dropped it over old China.
Second day went to the Jade Buddha (yufo) temple and then to the excellent Shanghai museum in the afternoon. The museum is big and has lots of ancient bronzes, paintings and more. I hadn't quite finished when it closed.
Wednesday got the comfortable train to Suzhou. Suzhou is famous for gardens and canals which I saw some of in the afternoon there. In the eveing went to have dumplings and ended up at an australian bar that had just opened for a beer before going home. The place was empty apart from the staff and some of their friends. Played table football with them (got beaten) and Chinese chess (got thoroughly beaten) and talked to one young journalism graduate for as bit until he had to go to his job as a waiter.
Next morning went to Hanshan temple, famous across Asia because of a poem and somewhere I wanted to visited as it's the place the crazy monks Han Shan and Shi De used to hang out.
Yesterday came to Nanjing and am staying in the massive Foreign Students dormitory in a very nice and cheap room. Going to be here for a couple of days before heading to the hills to do some walking.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

I fly to Shanghai tomorrow. My packing is all ready and almost done - although it doesn't feel like I'm taking enough I seem to have everything I need. Currently looking forwards to three weeks away from the UK with the plan currently being to head out to Suzhou then Nanjing, Huangshan and Jiuhuashan before heading down to Hangzhou and relaxing by the West Lake. Finally hope to spend a couple of days on Putuoshan, a small island off the coast, before back to Shanghai for a bit of shopping and then back home.
I've been reading two guidebooks mainly; the Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet. While the Rough Guide is newer and seems to have much to commend it in terms of layout I have found it difficult to get some of the basic information I need. It's also a better "read" than the LP but too often it seems to adopt a slightly weary or even downbeat tone that contrasts with the LP's enthusiasm. So I've decided to take the Lonely Planet and leave the Rough Guide at home.
As well as occasionally updating my blog I'm hoping to post pictures from my camera phone to flickr so that I don't spend too much time in internet cafes. I guess we'll see how successful all this technology is over the next few weeks...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Malham Tarn

Malham Tarn
Originally uploaded by 悟空.
Went for a walk around Malham today with Anthony. Bit dubious about going up Gordale Scar at first as it looked very wet but then we went for it and it wasn't that bad. Lunch at the tarn and then back down via Malham Cove. Nice day out.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Question Time | Chinese audience joins TV debate: "BBC Television's Question Time staged a ground-breaking political discussion programme in China.

The audience in Shanghai were able to interact with a panel including a government spokesman as well as critical voices."

Saturday, March 12, 2005


Originally uploaded by 悟空.
Test flickr blogging

Friday, March 11, 2005

New Scientist Monarch butterfly in sudden trouble - News: "It is so abundant that biologists measure its population in terms of the area it covers, rather than numbers of individuals. But the iconic monarch butterfly is in sudden trouble. Numbers overwintering in Mexico are at their lowest since records began in the 1970s."

Monarch Butterflies, AngangueoThis photo is from my visit to Angangeuo, Mexico in 2001

Monday, February 07, 2005

MediaMonkey Free MP3 Jukebox Player, Music Library Organizer, looks like a very useful application for sorting out your mp3s - it can reorganise the files into folders and filenames that you want as well as easy bulk editing of tag info.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

New Scientist Breaking News - 'Bio-barcoding' promises early Alzheimer's diagnosis: "Combining magnetic and gold nanoparticles with strands of DNA could allow the early detection of Alzheimer's disease. If successful, future treatments could then be used to prevent symptoms from ever appearing."

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Firefox Tips and Tricks
I use Firefox because of all the extra features it gives me (like Live Bookmarks to news sites). This page has a lot of stuff you can do to tweak Firefox to make it even better, but is not for the faint of heart....