Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 comes to an end. Looking at this blog it has been a slow year for things interesting enough to write and also a difficult year to find the time to write. When I started this it was not meant to be much more than a journal for me to record what I'm doing or interested in at any particular time but recently there's been little to add. I am going to keep it going, occasionally, but I'm also going to start doing something new, something that I am going to try and keep up.
A while ago, following on from reading about Wreck This Journal, I set up a notebook with an ever-growing list of creative challenges for me to do. Some were more successful than others but the principle worked - it got me thinking again, it got me writing and drawing again and it was fun. The journal is still with me - there are a lot of pages left to fill. But it's also the starting point for a new set of challenges for the year where I hope to be able to post something new every week on to a new blog. I do not know what that will be - whether a picture, a photo or a story, or something else. I do not doubt that a lot of it will be rubbish, but it is the doing that is the point.
So, I guess I'll see what happens.
If you want to see whether I manage it then point your favourite browser or news reader to:
Hope to see you there....
Happy 2008!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

As my last post hinted at my efforts towards Nanowrimo this year were slowly failing and I stopped writing anything towards it a couple of weeks ago. In between work, stress, illness and the demands of being creative something had to be left behind and that story was it. Which is a shame because I was enjoying it. I have written over 15000 words and I'm quite happy with what I want to do with the story now so at least it has put me in a strong position to write the novel at some point. A time that I hope will be soon.
Work has been very busy, with long hours, lots of stuff going on and it has left me feeling exhausted and very tense. I have done the occasional nice thing, though. It was good to see Soo when she came over for a writing weekend a couple of weeks ago. It was a very focused and non-boozy weekend but we also managed to go and see Beowulf in Imax 3d. I've heard rumours that 3d is supposed to be the next big thing, with James Cameron looking to release his next film in 3d, but after so many attempts I guess I felt a bit cynical about it all. Beowulf was not the best film I have ever seen but the use of 3d lifted it to be something more than the interesting but shallow film that it is.
Yesterday we went to see Ratatouille which surprised me more than I expected and which I enjoyed more than I expected. It is fairly standard modern kids fare but is greatly helped by a good story and a slightly subversive feel generated by the way that the rats always remain rats - they are not really anthropomorphised in the way of most Disney films so when, as happens a couple of times, you see a large number of them on the screen at the same time you do see them as rats. And despite that you still prefer them to the humans.
The other good thing that I did yesterday was get hold of the Black Dossier, a new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill which comprises variously of histories of various members of the League, details of an alternate history of the world that might just be true, a comic story of how the dossier is recovered by a couple of old members, related paraphenalia related to the fascist Big Brother government of IngSoc and a 3d adventure extravaganza at the end. I've barely started it and I already love it. It is something perfect for the coming dark nights over the next week. Assuming I can get home at a reasonable hour from now on.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

nanowrimo is not going so well. circumstances have conspired to allow me to fall well behind. so far it might be too hard to catch up. we'll see what another weekend of effort can do. despite this i am enjoying it. something about the excuse to just sit down and write despite a constant drive to look for reasons not to.
"The station is weirdly beautiful. Covered in blue light, the colour of neon reflected in a lover's eyes, it seems to be alive. Its web of collectors extend and contract along its length like a deep sea creature propelling itself along some dark sea bed, seeking and catching antimatter created in the tearing of the high energy rays passing through the planet's magnetosphere."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nanowrimo is almost upon us again. I'm looking foward to it. My laptop has shiny new flavoured Ubuntu (amazingly easy to do this time). I have a few vague and confused scribblings that barely make sense, let alone a plot. I have a big stack of tea and coffee. I have a pile of books by my favourite authors to star at and curse when I need inspiration (for the record: Alfred Bester, John Brunner, W S Burroughs, Joseph Conrad, Sam Delaney, M John Harrison, Ursula Le Guin and Gene Wolfe). It's going to be awesome.
If you're interested in joining in just head over to the web site and sign up. If you want to follow my progress then my profile is here:

In other news, I had my birthday, it was strange at first and then fun, I bought an ipod, and spent a couple of hours in waterstones but didn't buy anything. and went to the art gallery. work busy.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Got back from a week in North Wales yesterday. Had a very nice time. Saw lots of castles which I haven't been to since I was a kid and did a fair amount of walking. Also did Snowdon. I am not sure I've actually been up it before but now I can definitely say that I have. We had pretty good weather and the views were really nice. You can view the route we took in Google maps here or, if you have Google Earth installed you can view it in 3d. We also went to the bird sanctuary on Anglesey at South Stack but it's definitely after the season for it and there were no birds, only a couple of climbers.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Work has been very busy. When I haven't been working I've been writing, which has been nice, but then it got to the point where I couldn't face being on a computer when I got home and email's stopped being answered and all I could managed was the odd zombie fight on Facebook.
But I have am off next week. After tomorrow, anyway, and we're going to North Wales. Looking forward to green and mountains even if the weather isn't great.
Had a reminder that it is nearly time once again for Nanowrimo, an annual competition to write a novel in one month. The prize is a novel that you have written in one month. I really enjoyed doing it last time and it taught me a lot. I don't have any ideas for it yet so hopefully I'll spend some time on it next week. If you've ever thought about writing a novel I recommend that you check out the web site and consider giving it a go. It's not like you have anything to lose.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The US currently uses 20 million barrels of oil per day. First we’re going to ban plastic bags, slicing away a giant 0.16% of that consumption. Now, bring on the plastic bottle ban, slashing a full 0.02% from the oil guzzling. Take that, global warming!
Reason Magazine
We have a reusable bag from Tescos. It's environmentally friendly and I get points when I use it and don't use a plastic bag. Some of these things are even fashion statements. The other week I emptied it out and was astounded by all the packaging that the food I had bought was wrapped in. There are at least enough there to make 10 plastic bags. Suddenly it all seemed rather pointless.

Monday, July 16, 2007

When Zak said that she wanted to go to Celebration Europe, the first official Star Wars convention outside of the US, I was a little bit dubious. The grown up part of me wondered whether I really wanted to be trapped for three days in a giant space filled with costumed, light sabre wielding lunatics. Afterall, much as I love Star Wars, I am not a true fan. I don't read the books, I don't care who shot first and I have no desire to dress up as a jedi or collect toys. Another part of me was quite happy with the idea. The part that loved Star Wars as a kid, that still gets that slightly irrational feeling whenever I hear those opening chords of the music.


We arrived on the Thursday afternoon and spent the evening in the centre of London gawping at Big Ben and finding somewhere to eat. The next morning we queued with everybody else to collect ticket and band before heading in. The first thing we saw inside was a big mock-up of Jabba's palace. Beyond that was row after row of shop selling almost any kind of Star Wars merchandise you can imagine. Fortunately that is not all there was. There were also long, long queues to collect autographs (at a minimum of a tenner each we didn't bother) and for chats or shows with various people involved with Star Wars. These were mostly hosted by Warwick Davies, who did an excellent job. (Warwick is one of Zak's heroes so she was particularly happy to be able to get a photo with him later that day) So we went to see R2 D2's controller, along with Kenny Baker. We saw the puppeteers behind Jabba's movements in Jedi, and an interview with a slightly crazy Mark Hamill. After that was the opening ceremony with a very smooth Ian McDiarmid and a showing of Star Wars on a big outdoor screen. It was nice to spend the evening drinking a few beers in the sun while watching the film. It then seemed like a good idea to go to the bar and drink some more. Chatted to some other visitors, eventually hooking up with a couple of Scots and a man from Barnsley until they kicked us out and we staggered the 100 yards back to the hotel.


Woke up a little later than planned so got up, ate breakfast and made it inside in time for a showing of the Clone Wars, a new CGI cartoon animation coming out next year. Looks good. Then made it in to Anthony Daniels, who played C3PO, who gave a great performance. He knows that all the people in the room watching him are probably certifiable but that they also have a great affection for him. Unexpectedly interesting was the chat with Rick McCallum who produced the prequel trilogy. He came across as intelligent, keen and happy to be there with an honesty to questions that seemed quite refreshing compared to the usual spin of DVD extras. Finally that day we went to see the Battle of the Bands which was between Darth Elvis and a death metal band called Anchorhead. Anchorhead won with a crazy reworking of pretty much the whole of the Star Wars theme. I am not a fan of metal but they did deserve to win. We went for a drink after that but felt pretty tired so decided to take advantage of having a TV for the first time in months. Not that there was anything worth watching.


Sunday started with a quick trawl of the shops before the crowds arrived to see if there was anything worth buying. After that it was an interview with Ray Parks, who played Darth Maul, along with a crazy reenactment of his death scene. After that we went to look at the Vader Project. A bunch of young artists had all been sent a Darth Vader mask to decorate however they wanted. There were some brilliant results. That set us up to watch an interview with Billy Dee Williams who was tired, intelligent and, of course, smooth. That about wrapped it up for the day. We wandered around a bit more, took some photos, tried to get in to see Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) but had to leave before it started it - it was running about an hour later than planned.

So, overall, I had a good time. It was interesting to get some real insights into what have been incredibly important and influential films. It was fun to meet some other fans and I'm glad that I went. But, if they have another one in a couple of years time I don't think I'll go again. Fun as it was it did feel like there could have been a lot more. Not just in terms of guests but also organisation. From the beginning there seemed to be few people who really knew what was supposed to be happening and who could help. There were few instructions to guide people. There were fan films being shown upstairs that could have been playing alongside the (inevitable) queues to make them more fun. There could have been more free stuff. Probably next time it will be better. But even so, for now, once is enough. And no, I did not buy a light sabre.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Work has been very busy and looks set to remain so for at least the next couple of weeks. However I am feeling much happier about it than I was last week.
We went to see Monkey;Journey to the West on Saturday. It is an opera directed by Chen Shizheng with music by Damon Albarn and animations by Jamie Hewlett. It also has an outstanding cast of fantastic actors and acrobats which all combined into a fantastic, wonderful experience. The set and costume designs were great - really matching the artwork - and the movements of the actors amazingly well choreographed so it actually felt almost seamless as it switched between live action and animation. And this is despite having crappy seats with restricted view.
Much, much better than the Mahabharata.
And despite being busy and tired am making myself do some writing at last and work through my own, personally developed (and stolen) journal. Drew a picture of an apple today and some origami. And as soon as something is good enough to show I'll be sure to upload it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"There could not be another person on earth who read these things with more intense interest than he did, for to him these were questions of immediate practice, influencing what he might do that very day. To him every paper had the unwritten subtitle How Should I Live Right Now?" Kim Stanley Robinson, Fifty Degrees Below Zero.

I've been thinking a lot about creativity lately, as well as trying to push it all into practise using GTD as a framework to capture everything and free me up to observe the world in as many different ways as I can while dosed up on repeats of Ze Frank's Show and random inspiration from the internet and books.

The most important thing is simply making the time to do things. (Easier now I don't have a tv.) Even when you are engaged in something else, like walking to the shops, listen and look about you for what is new, for the elements of beatitude around you in the pattern of clouds, the feeling of weightlessness at the top of an assisted chin up in the gym, the flicker of rain on a window, the thoughts fired by an article on the internet, the blank page in a notebook, overheard conversations on buses. Creativity is a habit. I'm also trying to do more than just write. While I am not a photographer I thought it would be nice to wander around Manchester with a camera a few weeks ago and I think I'll do it again. I also make sure I have coloured pens around for creating colourful things and am trying to make time to do some sketching.

Yesterday I read in Fifty Degrees Below Zero about Freegans. Checking my 30 Signals vs Noise feed later that morning I came across an article on Freegans in a nice piece of synchronicity. When I took the rubbish down I had a quick poke around and found a pair of almost new swimming goggles (worth 12 quid) which are perfect for Zak, who had said earlier that very day that she needed some.

Also went to Urbis where there is a nice exhibition of modern Hong Kong artists and a exhibition called Play. Play looks like it would be good if you were with a kid or two and if it had all been open.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Filofax hole punch
Originally uploaded by grazulis.
Yesterday went in to the Arndale centre to find some bits and pieces. I had a quick check of the filofax section in Smith's but didn't really see anything I want (I'm looking for quadrille paper, a world map, printer paper and some other stuff but shops never have it for pocket size, only the larger sizes). Then I found the hole punch. That was pretty much top of the list because with it I can create my own pages and really start to customise and prettify what can otherwise be an overly drab and practical object. The photo shows the punch and a page I create from a flyer for Journey to the West opera that is coming up in July. Much better to see that rather than gun-metal grey.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Finally got around to joining and then getting to the gym this morning. So I am now tired and vaguely cheerful while quietly ignoring how much I am going to hurt tomorrow.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Had a nice weekend. The weather was really nice so I decided to spend a couple of hours wandering around taking photos. The light wasn't great as it was around midday that I was out but some of them are ok. Mike came over from Leeds for lunch at a good little veggie cafe here in Manchester then we wandered back through town looking for somewhere that wasn't full for a beer and ended up at our apartment. For the evening Zak and I went to see a dance/show based on the Indian epic The Mahabharata. Some of it was ok but apparently modern dance is just another term for formation walking which kind of took any excitement to be had out of the whole affair. The music, by Nitin Sawney, was pretty good, though. After that went to Canal St. and had a beer sat outside, by the canal. All very European. Sunday decided not to do much except get the shopping done and play some PS2. Final Fantasy XII for those who are interested.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Been a very GTD heavy week. Really enjoyed listening to the podcast with Merlin Mann and David Allen mentioned a couple of posts back and have now tricked out my filofax for proper GTD use. I'd never really gotten to grips with how the filofax could be organised and it's been a very organic process. Still not entirely happy with it but it's definitely getting there. A couple of interesting comments that pinged in my mind were that can take two years for GTD to really take hold. The other was to remember that it's as easy to fall back on to GTD as to fall off.
The other GTD-related observation I have for the week is in the use of place labels. That is, organising next actions by location or person: Stuff I want to ask my boss goes on an @boss list. I started consciously doing this a few weeks ago because I need to be in regular contact with several people who are not based at the same site as me and it was a convenient way of organising. Of course, this is not some new GTD thing, it's always been there but I just never had a great need to do it before. And now that I've recognised it I can start implementing this in other ways. So if I have a bunch of phonecalls to make they go on an @phone list, or websites on an @internet list.
Went to see Pirates 3 this week. It was all right, better than the second one. I feel about it much as I did Spiderman 3. It's a fun film, not art. Bad reviews come along because it's supposed to match some ridiculous artistic ideal that it's not really striving for. The main problem with it is that it's just a bit too silly and the macguffins are generally poorly explained and come across as just plot devices we're supposed to suck up without questioning. Which is ok unless you're remotely tempted to ask yourself, erm, why did that just happen?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Heftier stars are more likely to host planets - space - 29 May 2007 - New Scientist Space
Reading this article it struck me that, while we have long supposed that other stars must have their own solar systems, we are now in a position where we know it to be true and we have photos of them. That's pretty awesome.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Now that I am taking the bus to work I have time to catch up on all those podcasts that I've been hearing about. There are plenty out there and I'm slowly making my way through ones that have caught my eyes, from award-nominated SF short stories, through Zen, to intellectual discussions about just about anything.
Today I started listening to one I've been wanting to hear for a while: discussions on GTD between Merlin Mann and David Allen. I heard the first two today on my way home and they really got me thinking about my current GTD implementation. The second episode looked at how things can leak out of the system when reviews are not properly done and longer-term goals are not looked at leading to a kind of background level of stress or distrust of the system and this really struck a chord. Since starting work I have been pretty rigorous about getting my system together and keeping it going there and that has meant that I do feel pretty on top of all that. This, in GTD terminology, is all runway stuff, things that are directly in front of me that need dealing with now. However that hasn't left me feeling less stressed or helped me come to terms with stuff going on outside the system. Something I haven't really done before is use the system for long-term goals and things that I want to do with my life in the future, like making progress with my writing. In short it is time for me to get through the book and conduct a serious review. I'm looking forward to seeing what it throws out.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

David came over yesterday evening so we went for a meal in Chinatown (not bad, generous portions, but not awesome) and then on to check out some Futuresonic events.

edit The MySpace page for the live act we saw: (Thanks David)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

No blog posts recently as I moved into my new apartment a three weeks ago and it has taken me this long to get broadband set up. My own fault for going with BT who have been rubbish. You'd think it would be easy to do something that they specialise in and do hundreds of times a day. They messed up setting up my phone line too. Now they want to charge me... I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry but have decided to wait a couple of days before calling to discuss everything with them again. Although what's the point? They don't care about their quality of service.

Which has been a major grumble for the past few weeks but also about my only one. Work is going well, the new apartment (just near Picadilly station) is very nice and things are trundling along nicely. I even managed to install Feisty on my laptop, despite more than a few problems with my ATI graphics card, and have now got it all more or less setup how I want it. (verdict - the ATI card thing is a real pain, some things are a bit easier but overall not a great deal of difference from Edgy, especially as I already had many of the new features already installed).

So, quick rundown of what's been happening: Went to Leeds got drunk, came back, went to Leeds again to see sister, work, work, work, work and saw Sunshine at cinema, work, Soo and Ant came over and we got drunk, felt terrible, parents came over for roast dinner, work, work, work and saw Spiderman 3, work and watched Pan's labyrinth on DVD (thanks Soo!).

Work is going well and I am enjoying the job. It's quite nice to be able to get my teeth into some of this stuff again and the feedback has been positive too. Sunshine was pretty good, really enjoyed it and glad I went to see it at the cinema because the vision of the sun is religious in the way it is used. There's a bit of a shift in tone at the end away from character that is a little disappointing though. Spiderman was better than I'd expected from some of the reviews and basically no better or worse than the others in the series. Pan's Labyrinth is really cool. Hard to believe it's from the same director who brought the world Hellboy (a film I enjoyed but came out of the cinema with no desire to see again. Feel maybe I should now, just to check).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

While at Stell's birthday do a couple of weeks ago Ant and I found out that Damo Suzuki, ex-lead singer with Can, was playing at a pub in Huddersfield over the Easter weekend. So, after helping my dad with various bits of DIY, drove over there to see it on Saturday night. First up was a psychedelic band which was pretty nice. Next came a band who produced a sound very similar to white noise for half an hour. Damo looked like he was sleeping through it all sat at the cd table until he bounced up to the stage to create an hour and a half of inspired audio lunacy. At one point I thought my brain was melting.
Went back to Anthony's after that and had a beer to relax. Sunday had a roast dinner at my aunt's, which was cool because we do not have an oven at the moment and roasting or baking anything is impossible.
Monday finished off installing the window sill my dad (with a bit of help from me) had put together for the front room and headed back to Huddersfield to meet up with David and Ant for a 9 mile walk in the rain and mist over some good Yorkshire moorland. Fantastic stuff.
All of which set me up quite nicely for today when I started my new job. Walked from the station to the mill where the office is, with my legs slightly aching from yesterday, for a gentle day of introductions and a look at the project I'll be working on. So far it all seems ok although there are a couple of things that need sorting, like access to Subversion, but the work itself looks like it's going to be interesting. It will be pretty challenging and the hours are quite long too, especially with the journey from my parents' house, but that should all be easier when we (hopefully) get an apartment in Manchester centre.
The journey home was a bit of a nightmare tonight. Got on the Metro with a lot of United fans going to tonight's match against Roma only to have it stop after one station because of a failed tram ahead. This meant waiting to be told to get off for twenty minutes and then getting the bus home making the total travel time back about 2 hours. Hopefully the next few days will go a little easier.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Oh, yeah. Google have done something unthinkable. They've made the personalised home page actually look nice, if you really want. See
It has been a strange week, particularly on the job front. I had to finally get into gear and sign on so I telephoned the number I had been given and arranged an appointment for the next day. I was told to be there at 9:45 so I could start filling in the forms because their computer system was down and they could not do it for me. I turned up but the office does not open until 10, which was a bit frustrating. I had to agree my contract for getting back to work, to apply for so many jobs a week and so on, and then my application had to be sent off to assess my eligibility because I had been out of the country for a year, in case I might be foreign or something. I was also given a few jobs to apply for that they found for me on the computer. Apparently they can only look locally but if you go to the website yourself,, you can do a national search. One of the jobs had to be applied for that same day so I emailed them my CV. Got asked to come for interview the next day (in Reddish, near Stockport), which I thought went pretty well but I always feel the pressure on the technical side because I simply haven't done any programming for a year. And yesterday they phoned up to find out if I would be interested in taking the job. Nothing has been absolutely confirmed yet but it looks very positive. Good opportunity, good salary. Should find out more details the start of next week.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Recently finished Nova Swing by M John Harrison, one of my long-term favourite writers. No surprise, then, that I really enjoyed it. It's a brilliant piece of writing mixing noir tropes a slightly surreal sf story about a group of people whose lives are affected by the site, a kind of quantum interzone where the rules of our universe are broken. The writing is amazing, filled with light, drawing characters that whose motives are often difficult to perceive but are never less than real. In short, do yourself a favour and buy it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Seems hard to believe that we have been in the UK for three weeks already. One question that keeps coming up is how weird is it being back which I never really know the answer to. In the first few days, still jetlagged and ragged, it was a bit weird but, for me, it's also coming home. I've done it several times before and I know that it is going to be weird. Probably the strangest thing so far has been standing in the cheese aisle in Sainsbury's paralysed by the sheer amount of choice. Just how many types of cheddar does one person actually need?
Spent the second weekend back visiting various friends in Chester and Leeds. It was nice to see everyone although I did drink rather a lot both times. Cheers to everyone for making us feel very welcome everywhere we've been. Other than that it was mostly just looking for jobs and brushing up on some of my skills.
Last weekend was the time of the move. My parents had agreed to exchange houses with my aunt and her family. My parents had a small, three bedroom terrace just for themselves while my aunt had a large two bedroom flat and two kids so the exchange seemed a fair one. The flat also backs on to a really nice park so it should be a good place to live... once it's been sorted. There's a lot of work to be done and both Zak and I have spent a lot of time cleaning, scrubbing and moving stuff around. Still, it's about at the point where it's livable now and the real work can begin once the windows have been replace. Noddy, our cat, arrived yesterday and is a bit freaked out by it all but he came out to play this morning. He's sulking under the bed again now.
Job-wise things are progressing slowly but they do seem to be progressing. I've had one interview and have another next week so I guess will have to see how it all goes.
It was also really nice to see Interzone with my story in it. It looks really cool and I'm very happy with it. Have to get on with some more now.
Favourite meal so far is probably the grilled wensleydale sandwich I had yesterday with tomato and fresh basil on ciabatta.

Friday, February 16, 2007

So last week my time at the school drew to a close. Got some nice cards from the kids and an incredibly heavy tea caddy from my boss. Went out for one last night at Le Cargo and spent most of Saturday sorting, packing and throwing things away. On Sunday we got to Shanghai by train and went to the Metropole. Had a nice meal at the veggie restaurant Gongdelin and a drink in the Captain's Bar overlooking Pudong by night. Next day we did the cultural thing and went to the museum (but it's a really good museum!) and went to the Yu Gardens place for a look around the shops even though both our bags were heavy and full enough to dissuade us from buying anything.

In the evening we met up with Sly and then went to meet Victor and his new wife (Victor being my friend who is also into GTD). Victor also invited a friend of his who works for Microsoft and we had a bit of a chat about programming, GTD, etc while everyone else looked on, slightly bored. But they also invited me to join with them in working on, a Chinese lifehacking site and I found today that Victor has set up a Backpack area for us to use.

Next day we met up with Sly again, went to the post office to send some of Zak's stuff back and sold her broken laptop before moving out of the hotel and to Sly's sister's apartment at the end of the number one Metro line. Sly took us out to Windows in the evening, it being a cheap place to drink in Shanghai. Next day Zak and I went up the Pearl Tower and enjoyed the views through the smog on what was quite a nice, if chilly day. Then we went back, cooked some steak for Sly's brother in law and got an early-ish night.

Up at six the next day to get to the airport. Bit of bother there as Zak has two violins and baggage restrictions are pretty tight, especially as we were transiting through the UK. Our plane to Heathrow was delayed so we were able to Fast Track through the security. They didn't even look twice at the violins we were carrying (well, except through the x-ray) which is a bit infuriating with the bother we had in Shanghai. There is no policy on instruments
which is what causes the problem. Anyway, we missed the flight to Manchester, got booked on to the next one and that was delayed an hour as well. So, finally got back home almost exactly 24 hours after leaving for the airport. A long journey.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Just submitted my first bug report to Ubuntu as my Firefox keeps crashing.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Went to poker for the last time yesterday evening. Kind of sad, but I won two games out of three so it was fun too and I am immortalised in the book for my last week. I suppose I should say that Zak won a game too.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Frying peanuts
Originally uploaded by grazulis.
Entering into the final stretch now, only a few days until we leave Ningbo and head to Shanghai before flying back to the UK. Everything seems to have taken on a kind of serene calm before the storm, helped by the unusually warm weather making it feel like spring, although there have been a few goodbyes, boxes have been posted and some tears and arguments along the way.
Monday night was fun. We invited William, a chef, over to our apartment along with a few other people to have a night of learning how to cook. It was all a bit hectic but I now have the recipes for some of my favourite dishes, including gongbao jiding, a really nice sweet and sour soup, tofu and pumpkin, as well as a couple of things I wouldn't have known what to really do with before.
Not really sure how much chance I'll have to get online between now and going. I imagine I'll be able to use my laptop to connect wirelessly in some cafe in Shanghai but I hope to have more interesting things to do than that. Like visiting museums.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

LOL. Should I switch back now?

BA strike called off
Union abandons strike but British Airways says it is too late to prevent widespread disruption.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Phoned BA today and changed my departure date to be the 15th Feb instead of the 13th. Pretty sure I'm about to read that the trade unions have come to an agreement with BA and the strikes are off but a couple of extra days in Shanghai aren't necessarily a bad thing.
Buddhism can be regarded as a fairly negative religion, especially when reading the Mahayana teachings of emptiness. This can lead to many misunderstandings as to the nature of that emptiness and what enlightenment is. Often when one hears about a Zen master or someone who has had a satori experience there is a sense in which that person is enlightened, that they become a moral authority without peer. Yet there are also many instances of masters, from all traditions, behaving in ways that do not suit them. It is as though the teaching absolves them from moral absolutes by virtue of their own experience combined with a thorough disdain for the normal world in which the rest of us live. This can lead to people abusing their position in various ways, even leading to views that seem very much at odds with Buddhism's peaceful reputation, such as described in the book Zen at War.

Over the past year I have been slowly making my way through the Vimalakirti Sutra, which tells the tale of a layman known as Vimalakirti and describes his complete understanding of the doctrine of emptiness. At the start of the book he is pretending to be ill in order to encourage visitors to come and listen to his teaching. At one point in the book he is visited by a number of bodhisattvas from a different realm of existence where enlightenment is easy to attain. They go together to meet the Buddha from our realm and put to him a question as to how he can teach in this world when there is so much wrong with it. The Buddha's answer is interesting and it addresses something of the correct way to approach emptiness. That is, while we should hold on to emptiness as a method for understanding the nature reality it is important for us to remember the rules of the world around us, of what the best of us should try to be in our relations with others. Emptiness, in other words, is not some kind of all-purpose get-out clause for our actions even if we are enlightened, and more so if we are not.

"What is meant by saying that the bodhisattva does not dwell in the unconditioned? It means that one studies and practices the teachings on emptiness, but does not take emptiness to be enlightenment. One studies and practices the teachings on nonform and nonaction, but does not take nonform and nonaction to be enlightenment. One studies and practices the teachings on nonarousal [of causes], but does not take nonarousal to be enlightenment. One views things as impermanent, but does not neglect to cultivate the roots of goodness. One views the world as marked by suffering, but does not hate to be born and die in it.... One views the world as something to be cast off, withdrawn from, yet with body and mind one practices goodness.... One embraces the view of emptiness and nothingness, yet does not discard one's great pity.... One embraces the view that all phenomena are are void and false, lacking firmness, lacking personality... yet while one's original vow remains unfulfilled, one does not regard merits, virtues, meditation or wisdom as meaningless."
Chapter 11, Vimalakirti Sutra, trans. Burton Watson, 1997, Columbia Press.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

so, it's been an odd week again. a friend of mine has fled ningbo to look for work in shanghai and try and become a better person by squatting in his sister's house. turns out i've booked a flight on a day that BA might be striking. my boss has spent a considerable amount of time trying to convince me to stay, badly. ("O, go on. It'll be great because I still don't have any kind of business development plan, want you to do more work and would you mind switching to a bonus scheme so i don't have to pay you because we will make a profit. honest."). had some nice comments about my story on the interzone forum. and i've been recording my moods in one of the best online apps i've ever seen -
flying back on the 13th Feb, strikes permitting.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Democracy works! Probably...

"You recently signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to
"create a new exception to copyright law that gives individuals
the right to create a private copy of copyrighted materials for
their own personal use, including back-ups, archiving and
shifting format."

The Prime Minister's Office has responded to that petition and
you can view it here:"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Can't quite believe that I haven't posted since before New Year. So I guess a belated Happy New Year is in order. I guess that partly it's because the internet is still a bit rubbish. It gets a little better every day but a lot of stuff is still either extremely slow, times out or is inaccessible. This includes my googlepages website (although as the rest of Google has been strangely unaffected by the whole event may not be because of the earthquake), which is a bit annoying because I wanted to take a good look at it and fix a few things up as the address will be appearing in Interzone this month. That's right - any moment now your local supplier should be putting out the latest copy of Britain's best science fiction magazine with my first published story in it. Erm, buy it. Borders usually has it.

On the flip side it looks like my time in China is coming to an end. Things here at the school have not improved and so I feel it is definitely time to move back to the UK and be happy about the experience instead of trying to drag it out and getting more frustrated.

In the meantime we had an ok, drunken new year visiting various bars in Ningbo of varying quality (low to bad). Dmitri is back from Japan and it was his birthday last weekend so we went out for that. First he and Sly came over and we took them to the mall, Wanda World. Sly has never been in a B&Q before so we had some difficulty getting him away from the cordless drills. Had some nice seafood and went to play chess and drink coffee afterwards. Then we went and got drunk.

I have ordered suit which is being finished this week so that I can collect it on Sunday. I also have a number of things to sort out before my return to England, such as posting some boxes of stuff, buying some presents and booking our flights. Which I can't do until the school has confirmed what it is doing about my visa. If they don't let me know soon I'm just going to book a flight as soon as possible because I can't afford to wait around seeing as it's Chinese New Year soon.

I've also started teaching myself Ruby with an idea for developing a Rails application for writers. It's mostly just to get me back in the right mindset before going home but it's been really interesting. It's pretty well worked out as a framework for developing web applications but it's hard to find any decent reference material. Guess that will have to wait until I can get to a good bookshop.

Just finished reading "Looking for Jake" by China Mieville. It's a collection of modern fantasy short stories that are mostly set in London. I enjoyed it but it somehow felt like looking at old, sepia photographs; they look nice and you get an impression for the place but you sometimes wish for more.