Friday, March 31, 2006

My todo lists printed
Originally uploaded by grazulis.
Got an email from David I last night with a link to TaDa lists but also a comment wondering whether I needed GTD style tools anymore. Strangely this coincided this week with an effort on my part to use my lists as effectively as I used to, especially via my good old Hipster. Why? Well, my lessons are obviously structured around a weekly timetable but I find that outside of the everything gets kind of aimless and I am constantly thinking of things to do, or buy, or organise, that are then getting forgotten. Not that this is usually a problem but, you know, it'd be nice to keep the system going. Plus it means I'm taking a fairly random and shotgun approach to my writing and I want to be able to track and manage what needs to be done there. So I've started devising some new lists based around my current requirements. There's still some work to do but basically it comes down to:
  1. Writing
    • The novel
    • Other writing and fiction
  2. Work
    • Lesson plans and follow up work
  3. Shopping list
  4. Personal list, e.g. things I just want to do.
I had a look at Tada which does look pretty good but is fairly basic and then I remembered Remember the Milk. I haven't been to it for a while and it looks like it's undergone quite a few interesting changes. You can add tags, type in "Tomorrow" or "Monday" in the deadline and it'll automatically fill in the correct date and create "Smart" todo lists based on searchs of your existing lists as well as email to-dos to yourself. So I hammered out a few basic lists to get myself started (will probably do a full dump tomorrow) and printed them out for my wall so I can always see what I need to do next.
Hopefully this will stop me wasting a lot of time in the future. Of course, it's my time to waste and I don't plan on making myself manic with all this but it's interesting to work out how GTD is just as important and necessary within a low-stress environment as an intense and busy one.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Well, the big news of the week is that my resident permit finally arrived yesterday. , John Zhu, the bloke in charge of the foreign teachers, is incompetent and I have absolutely no idea what goes on in his head. One of the American teachers who has been here for five months still doesn't have his resident permit because this bloke hasn't been bothered to sort it out (otherwise known as doing the minimum of his job requirements) and has now been fined 5000 RMB even thought it's not his fault. So I'm pretty glad to get mine done and everyone else who arrived at the same time has also been sorted.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Had a pretty good week of teaching. After a couple of my classes the Chinese teachers even came up to me and said they thought they were good lessons. Now I just need to think up something for next week.
Overall things have been pretty quiet. Probably this is partly due to a need to watch my spending and partly as I got a cold on Thursday. It wasn't a bad cold or anything it just tired me out and I'm still a bit bunged up.Small canal, Moon Lake Yesterday the weather was warm and sunny so went for a walk around Moon Lake again with Zakiya and took some pictures. In the evening we went to one of the local market and had noodle soup where you pick what stuff you want to go into it and put it in a basket so it can be cooked. The chef then puts it into a small wire basket in boiling water with several others to cook it for you. Pretty tasty for 6 yuan. Also watched a pretty cool film by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean called Mirrormask.
O well, back to lesson planning...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Forgot I was going to write this about Saturday. Was walking, in the evening just after dark, over to the supermarket with Nick for some beer. We got to talking about how to explain living in CHina to people back home. Just that you can do normal things like go to buy shampoo or beer and yet it somehow transforms into a bizarre and surreal situation just by being in China. Like, it's buying a beer, just like at home, but then it's 5 degrees off. Just then we turned the corner into the supermarket car park. It was full of people watching an old anti-Japanese war film being projected onto the side of the building like a scene straight out of the 1960s. "Like this, then?" I asked. We stood and watched for a few minutes then went to get the beer.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Went to a local temple, the Seven Pagoda Temple, on Saturday afternoon. It was a very nice, small and peaceful place not too far from the centre of town. Lit some incense and then later ruined all my good karma by drinking wine and playing poker. Sunday was mostly a wasted day of hanging around waiting for things to happen but I did go out for a nice Korean bbq in the evening when Noah finally resurfaced from his weekend and met up with Thomas and Jade.
Watched "The Promise" (Wuji) last night. It's a new(ish) film by Chen Kaige who made Farewell My Concubine (which I haven't seen) and several others that I have. Generally I have found his films to be good but not great and this is about the same. A lot of it looks gorgeous, in an over the top kind of way. The CGI can be a bit ropey in places but is used consistently so that it doesn't jar and adds to a very dream-like film. Some of the fantasy stuff is a lot of fun and there is potentially a good story there except that it occasionally gets muddled. It's certainly a fun action adventure in the line of HK comic books and worth seeing - I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Great News: After fifteen years of searching I've finally found a way to make baijiu (Chinese spirits/paint stripper) palatable. Yesterday, as it was St patrick's we had a lot of green snacks and a sparkling apple drink. When I tasted the drink I realised that this was the exact taste to work with baijiu. I told Nick and he agreed and ran off to get a bottle. So we gave it a go and it worked.

Other than that it's been pretty much the same old. I cooked last Sunday for a few people, did spaghetti meatballs which worked out pretty well. We managed to get some fresh basil and parmesan for it as well. Had a fairly quiet week other than that. Started doing some tutoring of a couple of my Korean kids yesterday afternoon. It's easy enough and a bit of extra cash. John wanted me to do three days worth, Friday, Saturday and Sunday but I said no. I think if I want to do that much extra work I'd rather find some with one of the adult schools in town.

Yesterday evening went out to the Irish pub in town for a pint of Guiness with Zak and Noah. It was pretty crowded in there, lots of businessmen so we left after one and went to LBBs instead, which is a bit more low rent as a place but the music was better and the beer is a lot cheaper. Met up with a few of the people I've seen around before, which was good, as haven't seen them for a couple of weeks. Also met the bloke who runs so check it out if you want to see a bit more about Ningbo.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Haven't done much this week. Weather has been generally warm but it's predicted to turn cold again tomorrow. My grade one classes are still challenging but I think I'm getting there. Picking up some tips from the Chinese teachers and have found some useful web resources.

Yesterday evening went out with Nick, his girlfriend Rowena, Noah and Zak to 348, a Chinese disco/nightclub. Inside, after walking through the metal detector and the corridor of flashing lights the place was full of people sat around a stage with women dancing and singing. We got some beers and were taken to a table. After an hour or so of the floorshow the music started and the dancefloor filled up instantly. The music was pretty exclusively happy house, mostly Chinese stuff but a few things I recognised. Went up to dance and it was chaos. The dancefloor was bouncy so you didn't really have to dance, just stand there and let the thing move you. Is was also so full of people that you couldn't really move anyway. I think we left about one, ears ringing, and came back.

Today just went into town and walked around Moon Lake, which is a park in the middle of town and a nice place to visit. Also bought some memory to try and speed up my computer. Seems to work.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

ok, back to teaching. the weather has been nice, sunny and starting to warm up. the teaching has been mostly fun as well. the second graders are a lot of fun but i'm struggling a little with the first grade. it's kind of hard to find stuff that is simple enough and yet not so repetitious that they get bored. i've found some useful stuff on some websites so i'll probably give it a try.
got hammered in town on friday night and played some pool. then had a much lighter night over at noah's place on sat. on sunday found out my working hours have changed. my lunchtime has been reduced to just under two hours but i don't have to start until 8 and now finish at just after 3.guess i'll find a way to cope. probably by watching copious amounts of series 4 of 24.
ok, file o fax (fof) vs hipster, the great debate. i like my new fof on the whole but today the little clasp that closes it kind of separated a bit making me worry a little bit about longevity. it's great for jotting down notes and dates and general info keeping but the hipster still wins out on portability and general all round usefulness, whether it's keeping lists of people i need to email (you know who you are) or recording items i need to research for my book (yes, have finally gotten around to doing some writing). the fof is also difficult for writing long bits in because of the ring binder style. so, for day to day i might switch back to the hipster for now as i don't really have that many appointments to track. so long as it has my timetable that should be good.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Am thinking about volunteering my services to the UN. They can send me to drought areas and, hey presto, rain will probably follow. Arrived in Hong Kong to warm weather and sunshine. The next day was overcast and rainy. Guangzhou was a deluge.
Anyway, arrived in Hong Kong, got the flash train into the centre and a taxi to Chungking Mansions, all the while marvelling at how easy Hong Kong is. Got myself a room/broom cupboard for a couple of nights and went out for a walk. HK hasn't really changed all that much; still very busy, full of shops and neon and people selling you stuff. In the evening went for an Chicken Massala in Chungking and ate rather too much.
The next morning headed over to Wanchai on HK island where the Chinese Visa office is. Sat in the queue for an an hour and applied for my Z visa - turns out I did have the correct papers, which was nice, but also meant that the one sat on John Zhu's desk for Manchester should havce been sent to me and this whole trip could have been avoided. Hung around Wanchai for a couple of hours, collected my passport and got the ferry back over to Kowloon. Got some samosas for lunch and took the MTR (underground) to north Kowloon to check out a Taoist temple up there. Interesting but mostly just killing time. Back in Tsim sha tsui I wandered a bit more and ended up in a Spanish bar called La Tasca. Kind of reminded me of places in Granada when I went with Tan. Was going to have Tapas but they didn't have patatas bravas so i settled for some olives and a "chiken fajita." It came with thick potato wedges instead of tortilla wraps but was very nice.
Next morning I got a taxi to Hung Hom station and took the train straight to Guangzhou. Getting the taxi from the train station there to the good old Youth Hostel on Shamian was nice - I was amazed at how much I remembered and how little it's changed. Guangzhou is still very green, slightly shabby and, on the surface, I still like it.
Got caught in a monster downpour after checking in and then headed to the Guangxiao temple. There I ended up talking to two old women who help look after the place and they ended up giving me a tour around, some books, and a bag full of fruit, biscuits, sweets and nuts. O Mi Tuo Fo. Said I'd say hello if I go back to Guangzhou in the summer.
In the evening I stayed on Shamian and went to eat a hamburger. Shamian is still full of couples who have bought (sorry, adopted) Chinese babies which I still find leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I'm sure there are many benefits for all concerned but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
And now am back at the school and, I guess, back to teaching tomorrow. I shouldhave stayed away an extra day - tomorrow is my busiest schedule...