Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fscked website

Ian came round earlier and dropped off his rather broken pc, the hard disk is making clicking noises and isn't seen by the bios so I have a feeling there is little I can do to fix it.

He was amazed I have not been able to take the helicopter out for a spin yet, but the weather has been foul and I have been busy. I am hoping this weekend will be nicer.

I had planned to spend this evening going through www.johncooke.info/index.php and changing it to use the new styles. Unfortunately I only managed to get through a small number of pages.
I found I had an error, I had used the css attribute
height:100%;
It took me a while to track the problem down (in fact my friend Nekane spotted it). For some weird reason height:100%; made the pages render incorrectly in Firefox. Removing the style completely solved fixed it so the pages render correctly in Firefox. The delay meant I was only able to update a handful of pages. I think the new style looks cleaner though if you have any comments about the new site design or anything else please post them. Bear in mind the site is still a work in progress. It is far from finished some links and pages are broken.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

28 Weeks later

I have been off the airwaves for a while recently, I had to do a lot of set up for the lan party yesterday which ate into my time. The lan went really well its the 14th one we have held under the ejected brass banner, nearly 20 people turned up which is pretty good, considering they drag themselves and computers to a tiny place in the back end of Manchester to place computers games all day.

Today I went to see Bruce's new house, its a little 3 bedroom semi in Cheadle Hulme. I was kind of shocked at the state of the place when I walked in floorboards raised, wires hanging out all over the place and the kitchen ripped out. It looked more like something Nick would preside over. The wiring was a complete mess so its mostly being ripped out and replaced, ditto the kitchen and some of the floors which had rot and wood worm.

I was supposed to be helping Bruce do some wiring of the lights, we basically spent the day ripping out the old dodgy cabling and rerunning a new upstairs light ring. I say we, but really I did very little, apart from tearing out old cabling and fitting a couple of wires, acting a gopher for Bruce's dad when he was called out to go check on an alarm at his work.

After our days work we headed to the cinema for some light relief, well not that light we chose to see the zombie fest sequel to 28 days later, 28 weeks later. The premise is 28 weeks after the infection, the "infected" are dead and the epidemic burned out. London is being repatriated by a US led Nato force. However things gone badly wrong and soon the zombies are on the march again. Personally I felt the film was slick and true to the original. However it was so contrived, why were people going back? Why if the infection spreads so fast would your emergency procedure be to heard people together into a room where the doors arn't even secure. The family connection smacked of the sort of poor George Lucas thinking that had Anakin Skywalker build C3P0. I am probably being a bit harsh though, suspend brain enjoy the gore and mindless thrills and scares ;-)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Manchester 2.0?

Apparently Manchester is being recreated in the digital world of Secondlife for the big chip awards. More satirical coverage on El Reg.

Personally I think Manchester need all the advertising it can get, so many talented people are keen to leave for London and abroad its no wonder Manchester is sliding down the world city rankings by GDP. Its a real shame that the epicentre of the industrial revolution is such a nothing city these days :(

My night has been somewhat soured as some complete twa decided to use the ejectedbrass top level domain to send a load of spam out. The server has not compromised, rather someone sent out a whole heap of emails spoofing our address. Its a total ball ache and could result in us being banned by some ISP&s.

I have no idea why they picked on us, just lucky I guess! Hopefully it wont spoil any communication.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thin ice

I had a very busy day today. I was bombarded with stuff at work, so many projects seem to becoming due at the same time its almost ridiculous. I also really lost my cool with a colleague whom I don't feel is pulling their weight. Given he is a contractor and supposedly experienced I feel he should really be picking up a bit more of the slack.

After work was Japanese class. Our teacher was really pushing us to go over a lot of the areas we have learned. She also introduced one new particle and reintroduced a particle I (and most of the class) had basically forgotten. We can now use verbs and noun's, numbers and time so getting to be about pre school entry club level!

After class Phil and I headed into Manchester. Phil and I had planned to see the first Sandbox gig of 2007. We made it, just about. The gig was delayed thanks to a problem with the drums. Chief was looking a little stressed. Fortunately Emily was in a good mood though. She showed me the pictures from Saturday nights party. There were some very funny ones, apparently it went on for some hours after we left.

Sandbox were very good, they opened with one of my favorites a million Marlboro lights, and even played light blue, a rare treat indeed. LD the new guitarist was very good. He played very well adding a few little tweaks to the songs. They also played a rather natty new song, on first play it sounded very nice. I got a feel of arctic monkeys on the opening but then it shifted into a more Sandbox style, I good new adjunct to the repertoire

I don't know if its me being old here, but I didn't care for the Night and Day very much as a venue. I found the pa setup a little over-powering; it felt very, very loud, painfully so at time, my ears are ringing.

Well, Well

The kettle was broken this morning, I wasn't able to get my morning caffine fix, very upsetting. I went to Argos at lunch and bought a new one, deciding the Ferrari one was a little too expensive at near £100, so I just got a quick boil Kenwood.

Whilst I was out in Argos, Phil phoned me from Aria. He went down to buy pick up some more helicopters. Martin got four, one for little Martin, a replacement for the one Phil lost and a spare. Phil asked me if I wanted one and after yesterdays fun I jumped at the chance of getting my own, hopefully I can make it last more than the last few!

Ian and Nick were impressed with the helicopter. They had ventured round as well were all going for a few quiet drinks at the thieves. They were just in time to see me playing around with before putting it on charge.

At the Thieves one of the barmaids from ages ago had returned. She was complaining that the five of us (Bruce and Phil also joined us). It was nice to have a civilised drink and chat, Ian and I swapped storied about our recent expenditure fixing our cars. My body work damage versus the failure of his wheel bearing. He also found out one of his tired is a remould, I did warn him that place in Stockport is dodgy as hell but they were just cheap enough. Personally I don't skimp on tires, they connect your car to the road and make a huge difference in performance, handling and safety, so I would never use part worn or remoulded tires because frankly its not a risk worth taking as far as I am concerned. I am me own best asset so I like to take care of me, speaking of which its bed time.

Tomorrow I am off to Japanese then watching Sandbox play at the night and day cafe. It's their first gig of 2007 and they have a surprise, so it should be a good one.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Airwolf

It has been an eventful weekend, Friday night Phil and I went to the Unicorn for some drinks and a chat.

Last night was Andy Gilmore's official last days of Edgeworth drive party. Nick is selling the house so the chief` is moving on. His stuff is going into storage and he is going to be a sofa surfer. He will be working part time in London coming back to Manchester for the band.

The party was fun, not as well attended as previous ones thanks to the FA cup, many people had gone out early and were already too worse for wear by the evening. Nick made a surprise entry, been a while since I have seen him come out for a few drinks. The chief and Emily were on good form, her sister drank enough for the rest of the party put together I would like her hangover the next day.

I just got back from Martins house. A few of us went out for a pub lunch to celebrate Endo's birthday. Endo, his girlfriend Jo, Martin and Charlotte, Little Martin, Adam, myself and Phil all went to the Honey Bee in Wilmslow. It was a beautiful day, we all sat outside enjoying the sunshine and the crazy cars going past. We must have seen 4 Aston martins, 2 Ferrari's, and there was a Zonda parked in the pub car park. Add to that Adam's Menaro, and Endo's Celica and it was a car fest. We all had a nice lunch and a few drinks, mostly went for the roast dinner option, the food was pretty reasonably priced and tasted nice, not quiet upto home cooking standard especially the Yorkshire puddings but tasty never the less.

After eating we headed back to Martin's house, we had plenty of new toys to test out. First was guitar hero. It is a rather quirky play station 2 game, where you attempt to play along to songs. The guitar shaped controllers have 5 keys on the neck for cords, a strum button and have tilt sensors. Its all pretty good fun, especially two player on his projector. I was pretty poor to be honest only managed to hit 70% of the notes, but it was good fun playing along to Heart Shaped Box.

Next up were the helicopters, these are plastic electric powered beast from Aria on offer for pound;15 + vat, bargin!

Now £15 dosn't buy a lot of helicopter but there are still great fun. They do need lots of open ground though they travel high and as we found out can easily get lost. Within 30 minutes we destroyed one and lost another. We went into the recreation area behind Martins house. Little Martin had lost chopper the night before after accidentally piloting it over onto the railway line. We meant to be careful, however within 5 minutes Martin managed to crash land little Martin's copper and snap its rotor. Phil had a go next; taking over the controls of Martin's copper he flew high, really high. As it got higher it moved closer to the houses, too close. Disappearing over the treeline, over the houses, road and into the next set of buildings somewhere. Martins neighbour told is he saw it fly over and took cover in the shed.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Black Mirror

Put my car into have the dent pulled out today, and expensive mistake. I was working at the Cheadle office on my one day per week visual studio job. Thanks to the gap since the last time one I spent most of the day simply familiarising myself with the code. To be honest I felt pretty useless I seem to be falling further behind the development curve.

This evening Phil and I went to try out Kendo which is Japanese sword driven martial art. Coincidently a Japanese 6th Dan was visiting this evening so many people had turned up to view. I found it incredibly difficult to try and organise my body to move in the correct ways, especially to use my right side more exclusively. I have never been the most coordinated person and trying to use the wrong side was weird. I think I must have looked rather a state. The Japanese guy and the English Sensi were so fluid and impressive to watch they made it all look very easy, when in actual fact I found even the simple exercises very difficult.

I found them a pretty friendly bunch though a lot more welcoming than the Akido crowd, we had a drink with them aferwards and it was all very civilized.

cigarettes and alcohol

Had a software update this morning, a few minor changes, thankfully it all went off without a hitch. This afternoon we had a long and tiring but potential promising meeting in the boardroom regarding some for future development. I arrived home late though after having a debrief with one of my colleagues.

Getting home late and starting early was all a it of a pain because this evening I planned to go to the Zanshin flair competition. Held at Classroom in Altrincham, it was Zanshin's way of having a little fun and generating some buzz. There were 9 contestants to start, four went into a final event, the winner got big cheque (big as in size not amount, like the charity ones).

Zanshin were running the event, so Ian and Ben looked a little stressed organising everything when I arrived. The quality of the contestants was pretty high especially the Fox (who represented Zanshin) and a guy from Southport.

I went down to the compition with Alison, she was in high spirits. I saw a few faces there but I don't know the Fridays crew very well. Shania came and said hello, she was bubbly and fun as usual trying to drag me out for more drinks in town. I guess I am getting old but I already felt tired and I find it harder to get up for work after nights out these days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Motley Fool gives linux thumbs up

Personal Finance website Motley Fool has a rather interesting money saving tip, use an old pc running Linux (Ubuntu).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In search of cheap deals

I know I only got back to the rain and greyness of Manchester last week but I am feeling like I need something to look forward to. I have been scowering a few websites looking for deals, I usually use expedia travelocity and airmiles (I used to get quiet a few airmiles with my fuel when I commuted to Accrington for work each day).

I detect that the price of online trips might have risen a little since I started using them a few years ago, however I still think the value is slightly better than travel agents. I have seen a few deals to Turkey and to Tunisia. I had some carry over holiday from last year so even with my trip to China I have still got quiet a lot of holiday left to use this year. I think I might take another trip soon and get some rest, and sun.

My big boss was up in these parts today I picked him up from another one of our customers, and we went for a coffee and a chat. He is basically very happy with my performance and told me a little of the plans for the future. He wants to employ someone else to take over my current role, and over the next few months have me train them up and slowly move to another project. I might be working on a web project we have which is all about providing information and reporting to people. This would be a pretty big increase in my responsibility and so would mean some extra cash and an expanded role. This is great from my point of view as I don't really feel there is much room to grow in my current role. Unfortunately it wasn't all positive I need to shape up my interpersonal skills more as its felt I am not very good under pressure. Personally I think this is somewhat down to experience, I am at a customers site, and I am lacking in backup as to know how to handle people as a representative, I think I have done pretty well but could do better on this score. Tomorrow is another day so hopefully I can start to try to improve and connect with the customers better :)

This evening I went out for a couple of pints with Bruce, we had a chat about his house, which is going well, and course he has been on. He is currently wiring up his new pad it seems to be going well if a little slower than he expected, I still haven't seen the place I might go take a look this weekend. Apparently he has had to rip a lot out in order to get started so its going to be interesting to see. It was nice to have a relax and a drink and have a natter Bruce is always good company.

I have an upgrade to do tomorrow so I better get to bed.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Employee of the month

After last night enjoyment today was a little flat, I didn't really achieve much. Finally managed to solve a little html issue which means I can start the revamp of my website proper expect to see the "facelift version" soon.

I found out Firebug is a very powerful tool for examining webpages its a free plugin for Firefox. It is a excellent helper when examining pages.

I cleaned out the fish tank I think the heater is broken its making thing tank too hot, even on the lowest setting its running at over 30c far too high. That causes all sorts of other problems with faster growth of algae on the glass, upset fish not eating and faster decomposition of the plant matter.

I watched the film "Employee of the month" basically about a guy drifting with his life until he is inspired by the arrival of a new checkout girl at the store where he works. It had some funny parts but like Talladega nights it was a little over done with a lot of unfunny sequences and an overall message that made me squeamish. I guess maybe I identified too much with the guy drifting along not fulfilling his potential. Talking of potential I realise in order to move on I need to be able to prove my worth with the newer technology. As it dosn't look like I will be working on those projects after all I think I might have to go on some courses and get the certificate instead. I priced it up at around £3000 for the MCAD course. I just need to work out it the money is better spent on that or on some other investment. Or do I invest in myself or do I look for something to invest in like some shares?

Heavyweight Champion of the World

I finally started to feel like myself again today, I have felt so ill the last few days it great to be me again. Though I felt better I tried to keep it low key today just read and watched TV. Watched Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest. I felt they whilst there were some great moments, the comedy was well timed, the film was filler. Like Back to the Future II, not quiet a great film in its own just a glue in between the first and the next film.

It pretty good that I am feeling better, as I had been asked to go for a meal tonight to celebrate Martin's birthday. Part of the lyrics from the song that inspires this post title repeat the phrase "Be like everybody else". One person who is certainly unique is Martin, who wasn't on top form tonight but he seemed to enjoy the fact we all turned out to wish him well.

The evening started with us meeting up at t the farmers arms in Poynton. Present were Endo, his girlfriend Jo, Simon, Adam, Steph, Bruce, Nina, Phil and myself. The event was supposed to be a surprise, though I am not sure how surprised Martin was to see us there when he turned up with Charlotte.

We headed off for a meal at the nearby Italian restaurant the Tarantella. The group had grown from the original booking so we had to wait a little while to get a big table despite the booking. Once we got sat down it seemed like everyone was having a birthday, the lights dimming and the birthday song played for each one. Martin and Steph (we found out its her birthday tomorrow too) got theirs when we ordered desert. Cheesecakes with sparklers!

I had garlic bread to start and a seafood Spaghetti, my food was very tasty and I from what I could tell everyone enjoyed theirs, it is a slighty more expensive place so its a good job it tastes nice. We chatted, I bored people with my Shanghai stories, Adam Martin and Simon swapped work and technology stories, Philip talked about Japan and Martial arts. I felt a little tired towards the end even the coffee hardly picked me up I guess I am still a little sick.

I got home and found an album I just bought from ITunes was already in my collection on another pc! Oh well I guess its better I gave the artists some money.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Getting better all the time

Well today I finally start to feel better, it really wonderful not to feel so ill all the time. I haven't got much to write about though as I have just been resting. I did start a little facelift for www.johncooke.info, I would be interested to know anyone's thoughts on it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Photos from Shanghai

I have finally finished uploading all of the photos from Shanghai please take a look here.

Ill

Oh dear I am feeling so sorry for myself, since coming home from Japanese class on Tuesday I have had a really bad bug. I had the shakes I haven't been able to hold down food and I ache all over. I guess it is some virus. I spent yesterday in bed unable to do anything, today I feel a little better but very fragile, so I called in sick.
It's been pretty horrible either sat in bed or in the living room but not able to properly relax because of the uncomfortable ill feelings.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Last night in Shanghai

I sit here in my room having mostly packed my bag, just got a few more bits to squeeze in there. Today has been a strange day really, I visited two places of worship, eaten more different things, and went bowling.

The first place we went to was Saint Ignatius Cathedral, this is a Christian Church built by the Jesuits. It is a rather striking building, this totally western Church next to the hear of Shanghais computer retail sector. We arrived just in time for Sunday mass, and Lulu said she wanted to stay. So I sat through something I haven't attended for a very very long time, I never even got to be confirmed as a Catholic so it was a strange for me especially as the service was conducted in Chinese. I could make out the tunes of some of the hymns so it was weird to hear them in Chinese. I tried my best to explain how the service worked to Lulu seemed pretty interested in the process, but it has been so long it was very hazy to me. I cant say I felt any sort of rapture for going, I did feel peaceful afterwards.

As we were in the area we went for a walk round the technology park, it was very interesting, one part of it where they sol computer components reminded me of the computer shows back in the good all days, when you really could get bargains and any sort of computer part you were after. After looking about a bit we found a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, Lulu ordered pork balls, clam and eels. I was a bit worried about the ells but they actually turned out to be ok, much better than frogs!

From the Christian world of worship we now headed firmly firmly back to Chinese tradition at the Jingan Temple. This is a traditional Buddhist temple, part of which is wonderful the other part looks like some sort of concrete nuclear shelter. We bought some incense sticks and made a prayed to the Buddha's there then wondered around. The bell room and Buddha's were very ornate and interesting, I cant say I really understand it but I can see the beauty and power in it.

Near to Jingan Temple is a little park where and a the first building Lulu worked in, the Apollo building. The park is very beautiful and ornate, full of lovely little places to sit and enjoy the day. Apparently it is a favourite for couples to take their wedding photos; in Chinese society wedding photos with the bride and groom are usually taken before the wedding in a specially staged photo shoot.

We had some time left over before Lulu had to depart and visit her cousin before he left to go home, so we went for a walk around an older district of the town, then hit a few shops. We planned to have a game of badminton or tennis but there were no courts available so we went bowling instead. I totally sucked and Lulu beat me in the first game. In the second I won but more due to her throwing it away then my good bowling.

This evening it was a flash back to the first day of the trip as we went back to the mall we visited on day one, as I have been struggling with chopsticks all week Lulu decided we should go for stake so she could see if I could use a knife and fork. Twan Twan, Lulu's boyfriend joined us for dinner. He was explaining about the martial arts traditions in China, and that I had been by no means adventurous with my choices of food, snake. boiled monkeys head, pigeon and various body parts should also be tried! Unfortunately our food wasn't very good the stake was tougher than old boots, however the company was nice and a great way to spend my last evening.

I am now sat in my room I have pretty much packed and ready for tomorrow mornings flight, I must admit I never would have thought it after the pain of the culture shock but I think I am going to really miss Shanghai, and I hardly even scratched the surface. Lulu asked me one word to describe it, at first I thought crowded, but on reflection I decided enigmatic. This place is a riddle, I have take a look at it but I am far from solving the puzzle.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Nearly over :(

I just got back from my first foray alone on a night out in Shanghai. I have been a little bit of a coward o far not really wanting to go out alone. In the end it was quiet enjoyable, however I guess I did not find the right places as there wasn't really much happening (perhaps I went out too early?).

Anyway more about going out later, I have had a strange day today. Lulu and I visited two temples, ChengHuang Temple(Town god's Temple) and Longhua Temple Fair. At the Cheng Hang we saw the bridge of nine turns and many market stalls where I bought a few gifts for the people back home, and got myself a really nice stylised "Cookie" sign. The temple structure was very pretty and well worth looking around. I threw a coin onto a tree in the centre for good luck with my career I hope it will come true ;)

At the second temple we went in to see the Buddah's, you could not take pictures but they were very ornate and different well worth seeing. There were huge crowds at both of the temples though, got jostled and pushed around the place.

For lunch went went to a Shechuan (not sure on the spelling) diner near Lulu'ls old college. The food was very spicy and quiet nice, except in an effort o spice up the meal she ordered frogs. They came served in spices on hot pebbles. I have to say I found them tough and not very tasty, though Lulu's opinion was they were not well cooked.

Lulu wasn't feeling the best today so she went home early, and why i ended up going out by myself into the city. I was quiet worried about it, Lulu has been my guide, she has made up for my lack of Chinese. So I was worried I wouldnt be able to function without her. Fortunatly using my guide and some poinitng at things I managed to get into the city, walked around the shops on the South Chongqing road, then went for a few beers in some of the bars on Yandang road. I didnt managed to meet anyone though wih was a shame people seemed mostly in groups and it wasn't really very busy.

Its kind of strange today is the first day I am getting a little bit of a handle on Shanghai and yet my trip is nearly over. Its a very different place, the customs are strange, Anglo-Saxons are a minority. Life feels like someone turned up the volume and the colour's especially at night you are bombarded with neons, horns, shouting and noise. The smells are very pungent, with the cooking, the rotting waste, the smells of the many construction sites. I cant even describe the crowding its unreal! Yet for all that Shanghai has a charm, a real spirit, I feel very alive, possibly because I feel lucky ever time I make it from one side of the road to another. I think its the most varied place I have ever been too there are whole different sides to the place, different sights and sounds and feelings to experience. I have been here a week and not even scratched the surface of Shanghai, one city in a country as big as the EU with a population equal to one quarter of the world, with a culture established when western Europe lived in caves so there is a lot to see, do taste and experience.

I got home about 23:15 tonight, just been sitting here blogging, and a storm started up, first the wind picked up, whistling though my (closed) windows, then rain now lightening. Being on the 25th floor I am getting quiet a show :)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Xitang

Today the plan was to go and visit a "traditional" Chinese village called Xitang (pictures here). I got up at 6am as we had to catch the bus at 8am from the stadium about 6 stops away on the metro.

After just over an hour on the bus we arrived in a really run down town, walked a little down the road then the narrowest street I have seen in some time. So narrow we had to hide in a door way as one of the tuc tuc style bikes pasted through.

Xitang is a maze of small streets separated by rivers, with a large collection of bridges of all shapes and sizes. The bridges are both useful as Xitang sprawls over the river but also beautiful adding a real magic to the place.

Just walking around is amazing the sights and smells, the constricted space on the pavement and the crowds of tourists give the place an otherworldly, sad but proud feeling. The bridges and buildings are wonderful to look at. The places stinks, and not just the tofu, rotting garbage and the river smells and looks horribly polluted.

There are many little exhibits to view whilst walking about, a wine museum informed us the Chinese have over a millenia of wine making tradition. There is a Buddhist temple, a place called the Drunk Room home to some excellent calligraphers, and a grand house complete with courtyard, rockery and splendid Chinese architecture.

The trouble with chopsticks for a western guy is that whilst the Chinese have used the sticks since they were young, I am struggling with the sticks themselves and with the fact its normal to chew food and spit bits out, something that is no-no in the UK is normal practice here. Today i was trying to eat shrimp, I found it very difficult Lulu torn off the her in her teeth, spat it out, did the same with the tail then stripped the rest of the shell in her mouth and spat it out. I found it difficult and unusual, ended up eating mostly the salad and other bits.

There were many little stalls selling all sort of traditional Chinese goods, foods, and curiosities. I bought a rather natty Tea set with a spout shaped like a dragon. I also bought some nice Chinese paintings depicting Xitang in the four seasons. I also sampled smelly tofu, a rather foul smelling fried tofu, it actually tastes pretty nice especially with a little sauce on.

The poverty of Xitang is palpable, from the people working the stalls to the townspeople outside, it is very different from Shanghai. I was approached by a shoe cleaning women whilst we were sitting waiting for the bus, she cleaned my shoes for 5 Yuan then went off looking for more customers. I guess underemployment must pretty high here.

This evening we were both tired after the early morning, so we went back to the apartment and cooked up some of the leftover dumplings from the party. Along with an Elizabeth melon and some crisps.

It was early evening so although slightly tired Lulu took me out to Xintiandi. It is a modern shopping complex built inside a renovated Shikumen (stone houses) part of the old French concession. The place is full of trendy shops and restaurants and had about the most western faces I had seen so far on the trip. I think that maybe goes along with the western prices!

We grabbed a coffee, at one of the brand chain coffee houses. I had to go and order, first time ordering anything, it took ages but not because for me more due to the queue inside. I think Lulu thought I was messing about! We sat outside and had a rather deep and meaningful conversation about life which was rather enjoyable, however we were both tired. So Lulu went off home and I was so tired I went to the apartment and crashed out.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hidden Skype

My friend Kelly sent me this link to some hidden Skype emotions.

Just in case it goes offline here is a listing

(tmi) Unsure looks like peekaboo
(fubar)
(swear) Skype swearing
(bug) Skype bug
(poolparty) Skype Pool Party
(bandit) Skype Bandit
(headbang) Skype Headbang
(banghead) Skype Headbang
(mooning) Skype Mooning
(rock) Skype Rock
(ci) Skype Smoke
(smoking) Skype Smoke
(toivo) Skype Toivo
(drunk) Skype Drunk
(finger) Skype Finger
(makeup) Skype Makeup
(kate) Skype Makeup
(heidy) Heidy
(myspace) MySpace (latest skype)
(flag:ca) Skype Flag Canada
(flag:us) Skype Flag US
*Update pretty much any flag can appear just use (flag:xx) where xx is the two letter code e.g. (flag:gb) or (flag:eu)

Oriental Pearl

Thanks to the fact it was so busy yesterday we decided to get up early and catch the Oriental Pearl as it opened and avoid the queue. We arrived at 8 and we able to just walk in and head up to the viewing platform. We had tickets to the second highest level, I decided the extra 50 Yuan for a few more meters didn't matter so much at there was a little cloud / smog in the air, plus the guide book said it really wasn't worht the extra money.

The view was really good despite the poor visibility. You could clearly see the Bund in a lot better detail than from the Jan Mao.
After a good look about we made our way back down. At the bottom of the tower the queue was already beginning to grow.

Next stop was people square, when the communist took power they took what was a racetrack and turned it into an area for the people. A sort of soviet style park with the museum in the middle. The museum has "unique architectural form of a round top with a square base, symbolizing the ancient Chinese philosophy that the square earth is under the round sky" - Shanghai Museum. It is actually pretty impressive and had some nice exhibitions of Chinese art in, I enjoyed the paintings, th caligraphy and the statues but the currency and seal
exhibits were a little dry. They also had an exhibition of American art, from the 20s, and 30s so a lot of pop art, realist paintings from the Guggenheim. These stylized art if mostly not to my tastes although the odd the piece stands out some I just thought were jokes, I deformed (poorly drawn) circle in a square canvas, is that really high art?

After the museum we headed down Nanjing market it was very very crowded though. We gave up before long in the face of massive crowds, and went for lunch. We went to a rather tasty diner I had a spicy beef dish it was lovely.

In the afternoon Lulu arranged for some of her friends to come to my apartment, and prepare a Chinese meal. I even helped with the preparations! We prepared dumplings, I think I got quiet good at making them in the end. We had a hot pot on the table into which went all manor of food, prawn balls, port, vegetables dumplings and vermicelli . The food was good but it was hard for me, they were all chattering away in Chinese I had no idea what was being said or what was happening, they seemed a nice enough bunch was just a clique not including me. I felt a bit bored after they left though. Lulu said they needed to get home as they lived far away, though I doubt it somewhat, they didn't want to go for a drink so as of 9pm I was alone. Chinese people seem very different, if i got invited to a party I would expect a few drinks and some fun not just food and home. Tempted as I was to go out I'm up very early to go on a village tour to Xitang, I saw some pictures and it looked very pretty.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

How many people!

Today I woke up early, too early in fact. I think it must be down to the jet lag.

Lulu arrived and brought breakfast, her Grandmothers Yuanxiao dumplings. They were incredibly tasty sticky rice balls with a filling. We set out for the metro line on route to the Pearl TV tower. Unfortunately on arriving at the metro line we got the first taste of just how Crowded Shanghai can get. The trains were totally crowded. When I say full I mean so full you could not physically fit in another person. In fact we saw two people injured on the trains. One guy got his hand trapped in the opening door, and a girl passed out on the station. In the end the crushed were to bad so we got a taxi.

The taxi took us to the Bund on the wrong side of the river. So Lulu bought us combined tickets for the tourist tunnel, Jin Mao Building and the Oriental Pearl TV tower.

Across the river from the Bund is Pudong, this is the special economic zone which has helped to power Shanghais incredible growth over the last decade. In a total contrast to the Bund Puong is full of new buildings, mostly skyscrapers. The Oriental Pearl seems to be the centre piece to a showcase of huge imposing corporate monsters.

In order cross the river we used the Shanghai tourist tunnel, this is basically an underground car which goes under the river. To jazz it up they have added some weird special effects like you on some sort of weird acid trip.

The Oriental Pearl TV tower is the third tallest tower in the world and the tallest in Asia. It has multiple viewing platforms, you pay more the higher you want to go. We joined the queue, and waited, and waited and waited. After an hour we realised the line stretched all the way around the building and inside. We asked how long and were told at least another 30 minutes maybe an hour. This was too long we were hungry by now so we decided to go for lunch and see what the queue was like later.

We ate lunch in the shopping centre opposite the Perl. Its called Super Brand Mall, nice Chinglish name ;) Inside the mall you could almost be somewhere like the Trafford centre, apart from the odd more authentic restaurant and shop the brands and names are global.

After lunch we went to the Jin Mao building. It has an observations deck on the 88th floor, which includes a post office where you can send a postcard to the people back home. There was a little more more queuing, but nothing like at the Pearl. The view from 88th floor was great but due to the haze (I am not sure if the haze was weather or pollution) it was difficult to take a decent picture. The Jin Mao has a central atrium running all the way to the top its a vertigo inducing look down from the centre of the observation deck.

After the Jin Mao and some time spent gaming inside the shopping mall. We won a pair of chopsticks, which was quiet funny as Lulu was only laughing at me trying in vain to eat my lunch with them earlier. Then went back to the Pearl, but the queue was bigger than ever. They did however have a free outdoor show we watched. Traditional Chinese entertainers, I think they said they were from the circus world troupe, which I went to yesterday. The also had some fantastic Russian dancers from St Petersburg.

We left the to meet up with a friend of Lulu's. Taking took the tunnel back to the Bund and walked along the riverside. It's quite amazing view at night, everywhere lit up with neons the Bund buildings one side Pudong's great skyscrapers on the other side of the river. The only problem was there were so many people it was a like a river of people. Difficult to stop and take pictures you just got pulled along in this big mass. It was also very difficult toto find a taxi then its so busy, eventually we made it back Lulu's friend Twan Twan was even kind enough to shout us dinner.

I will post all the pictures when I get back. Pictures here

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Days to go zero, arrival!

Ive been ticking down for a month and yesterday am was the beginning of the epic trip. I arrived at Manchester Airport for 9 and from there hit Helsinki then Shanghai on time at 7am in the morning. I sit here typing this at 9pm Shanghai Time. I haven't slept since

The filght was somewhat long and uncomfortable. Airbus A380s suck compared to the Bowing 747s I have traveled on. The Finnair staff were helpful and Polite and the food only sucked as much as usual. Two things really sucked the lack of parental control over the two brats sat in the aisle next door, and the two old women in front talking loudly enough for people in China to hear them.

Without any sleep i arrived in Shanghai tired but willing myself to go on. Lulu met me in the arrivals lounge it was great to see her there. We then rode on the Maglev train into the city, it cost quiet a bit 50yuan for a 10 minute trip but it is petty funny seeing the speed race upto 300kph.

Had to catch the metro train from the Maglev station this was cheaper but packed. We arrived at the apartment just before 9. I was quiet impressed it needs a clean and is quiet compact but no more so than some of the ones in Manchetser. The finish on the fittings an design is a little poor now. I nice place to have a holiday but not to live in I think.

We went together to the Circus, I thought it would be a nice relaxing and simple thing to do and its right nearby to the apartment. They had lots a of trained animals, bears, tigers a lion, dogs and lots of clowns. It was very entertaining, though I felt a little sorry for the animals the tigers in particular looked drugged.

Sent the afternoon walking about with Lulu, we visited the Shanghai university where she used to study. Its a modern mega university purpose build in the 1990s. We walked round the amply sized grounds, ate a meal int he canteen and fed the huge fish that live in the river snaking through the campus.

By this time I was fading fast, my eays can hardly keep open but im desperately trying to go to bed a normal time and get into the Shangahi timezone. Next to the campus there is a large shopping area we walked round tried some miniature lobsters nd killed a bit of time before heading back to my apartment. I just wanted to write something to help clear my own head its been a real head mash all the traveling then the culture shock. It really is a different world, people were staring a little at me as I walked around with Lulu. On the metro and in the circus I hardly saw any westerners.