Saturday, March 31, 2007

Why I like 24

This Chinese flu virus has me in its grips. My new cure for flu and colds is to watch DVD boxed sets and wait for the poison to leave my system. I am now watching "24" series 4. This is a lot of episodes to get through. I think one of reasons I like "24" is that the hacker programmers are important to the plot. I don't see my self in a gun battle. Although I could probably shoot someone in the back like the SAS do, because it wouldn't be too dangerous. I like the idea of hacking code and using google to look stuff up. I could write some code. I also wouldn't mind be tortured for a bit as well. The hackers are cool for that. They get tortured and then they go back to work. I don't think I want to do this for some weird sexual reason, I just like the idea of being a hero. Of course what would actually happen is that as soon as they get the torture tools out, I would burst into tears and wet my paints. Still it is fun to dream. I am going to sign off now, I have another 10 hours of episodes left.

The Great Wall of China

On the Wednesday I took a trip to the Great Wall of China. I booked this with Expedia. There was a driver and a tour guide and one other person on the tour. We went to the part of the all known as Simatai. This a quieter part of the Great Wall, without the huge tourist carnival. The drive took about three hours. I trusted the driver, but the driving on Chinese roads was fairly insane. Everyone was overtaking on the both the inside (using the layby) and the outside. People didn't always give much time to getting back in lane when they were overtaking. The climb up to the Great Wall of China involved a lot of steps. Frankly I had massive musscle failure after going up about 10 steps, so he tour guide spent a lot of time encouraging me to keep on going, while senior people effortlessly passed us by The other person on the tour was called Richard. He was traveling on some around the world tour. He was also working on some code to link in GPS with his mobile phone. He could still work, when he was travelling. Was I jealous of him travelling the world while still working on the laptop. Oh yes I was insanely jealous. There was a news story, that the Chinese authorities were going to clamp down on people making illegal maps with GPS. (I assume they worried about google maps like activity). I did toy with the idea of informing on Richard, stealing his laptop and his job. That would seem like the communist thing to do.

Thursday in Beijing

On Thursday, I couldn't be arsed to do anything in Beijing. I read my book and wondered around for a bit. Yes, I should have planned another big tourist excursion, but I was tired. Tourism is hard work! I can't remember exactly what book I was reading. I did read Mao by Clare Hollingworth during the holiday. The lesson I got from Mao was that he was a good military strategist in the guerrilla war. but he was not a good leader for peace time. I did like all the politics of the senior people in the Chinese Communist party as they positioned for seniority. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot about Mao's later sexual exploits. I have to get another book about this. Interestingly, the biography I did read did talk a lot about his last wife's sexual adventures. I bought a copy of Mao's little red book, that I will shake at people, if they disagree with me.

Tuesday in Beijing

On the Tuesday I took the metro to Tienanmen square. I then walked up to the park where the Temple of Heaven is. This was a temple where the emperor used to pray for a good harvest. Needles to say this was very impressive. The park was very big and restful. I didn't see anyone doing Tai Chi, but I did see a number of people walking backwards. I don't know why. The road from Tienanmen square to the park with the Temple of Heaven in it was meant to have a lot of interesting side streets branching from it. They have just knocked down all the interesting streets. They seem to be planning to rebuild with newer more modern buildings for the Olympics next year. Ummm, I will be impressed if they actually get buildings up by next year. On the way to the temple of heaven, I visited a natural history museum. There was a big exhibition of dinosaur stuff. They had a model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex eating some other kind of dinosaur. This freaked out a 4 year old, who was both fascinated, but also wanted to hide. There was also an external building that contained human body parts. Thanks to the Rough guide of Beijing for telling me this. The room had glass vases with body parts in it. There were human brains and some corpses with missing and rotting flesh. There were some embryos of different sizes. There was a very large and loud party of school children. They had no problem with the human body parts, but I think they were too busy playing games to notice all the dead people in vases. Children have no appreciation of death. I was actually tempted to take some pictures. This was forbidden for obvious reasons. On the way back, I stopped off at the Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant for my supper. One of speciality dishs in Beijing is Peking duck. This was a famous restaurant, where people such as George Bush (the old) and Fedro Castro had eaten there. The restaurant looked expsensive and complicated. Too many stars. I know my place in this world. There was a fast food place at the front -- that was also expensive, but was good. I lost my Peking duck virginity there.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Forbidden city

On Monday I went to tour the Forbidden city in Beijing. This was the huge palace that the emperor of China used to live in. When I say huge, I mean it is of the order of 1 square km. There are many really cool buildings. My guide book said that you need a day to explore it. The forbidden city is at the back of Tienanmen square. Of course the really important issue was whether I went to the Starbucks coffee shop in the Forbidden city. The Chinese are sensitive about the influence of US in one of their cultural icons. I was told they were debating the issue of Starbucks in the forbidden city in some kind parliament. Look, I am sorry, but I really needed a latte. Coffee is not regularly drunk by the Chinese, so it is hard to get hold off, outside Tourist areas. I found that if I walked into the door of a cafe near a tourist site, the Chinese servers would look at me with a happy greedy face and they would excitedly offer to sell me a couple of coffee. Yes, the mark up on coffee is really good. The actual Starbucks is a small counter in a book shop. It was full of westerners getting their fix of coffee. I was talking to someone about this. They told me they couldn't find the place when they toured the forbidden city. Me, I just closed my eyes and let my coffee starved body guide by me in. I don't think the Chinese need to worry about cultural imperialism. I used the Beijing subway for the first time. It was designed with English maps and the station names were announced in English before the stop. The people on the trains just stared at the floor and didn't make eye contact, just as we do on the London tube.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sunday evening in Beijing

The Sunday was also my birthday. It was one of those birthdays that ended with one of those dreaded 0s at the end. As my cousin noted, I had travelled a long way to hide from this fact. I was sitting in my hotel room, reading a book, when I heard a knock on the door. Some of the hotel staff had noticed it was my birthday, so they had a brought me a plate of fruit. This was pretty sweet of them, although I guess they felt sorry for me ... Obviously, I would have been happier to spend my birthday in some kind of opium den, or slumped in some exotic bar. Then this blog entry would have been about chasing the dragon. Unfortunately, opium dens no longer exist in China. I don't think China has developed enough to have crack houses yet. Still when the economy gets stronger they will exist. I did read about a opium den though. The book was "The chinatown death cloud peril" by Paul Malome. This was an action type book that had Ron Hubbard of scientology fame as a character.

Sunday in Beijing

On the Sunday I walked from my hotel to Tienanmen Square to have a look around. In principle it seemed easy, I had to walk out of the alley my hotel was in and go left and keep on walking. I passed the main Beijing railway station. I would like to say that I was freaked out by the number of people, but it wasn't so bad. I have actually walked on Oxford Rd in London close to Christmas. Man, there were a lot of people on Oxford Rd in London then. Somehow I thought I was lost. I always have problems reading the crappy maps in the Rough guides to cities. I was just staring at a map posted on a wall, when somebody helpfully sold me a bigger map to Beijing for 20 yuan (you can buy a cheap meal for that amount). I then walked 20 yards and I found that I was at Tienanmen Square. It is a really big square. I walked around it for some time. The museums at the side of the square were closed for refurbishment. There were a lot of people selling flags and other tacky souvenirs. The hassle from the street sellers wasn't any worse then in any European city I have been to, but you may be surprised that in a "communist state" that there were any people selling stuff on the streets at all. A good thing about Tienanmen Square was that there were a lot of free toilets around. Even though I didn't drink any beer (because there were no bars around), access to toilets is a big deal I am willing to admit that my political priorities may be a bit skewed, when I am happy about the free toilets in a city square that is famous for a recent massacre. I am willing to admit that my political priorities may be a bit skewed, when I am happy about the free toilets in a city square that is famous for a recent massacre.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I slept badly last night. I kept dreaming that I was part of the space program to put a man (or woman) on the moon. The dream was confusing because I couldn't work out whether I was working for the Chinese or the British program. I remember that I had problems sleeping one night in Beijing. There was the constant dripping of water in pipes. Oh dear, my brain is no longer my own. China has a bad civil rights record and they banned this BLOG from being read in China. There were a lot of police and army on the streets, but they didn't see any hostility. I did see one guy handcuff some old woman on the ground at the entrance to a metro station. The woman was screaming abuse. A whole crowd of Chinese ran up to watch. I don't so mind so much being brainwashed by the Chinese government to betray secrets of western missions to the moon or mars. I feel weak that I didn't resist then pressure to be involved in any manned space flight. Frankly it is a waste of money. It just a publicity stunt. This is why the manned mission to Mars is supported by anti-science people like George Bush. Why can't the Chinese have brainwashed me to take money from the space program and to put it to the linear collider project?

Some thoughts on Taxis in China

The Internet travel business has made travelling simpler. No longer do I need to arrive in a city with no place to stay, as I have done in Mexico City and Tokyo. Expedia now link to some fairly cheap hotels. So I can usually amaze friends and colleagues by staying in some cheap hotel. I have noticed that people start to get nervous about staying in a hotel that costs under 25 pounds a night. However, I still needed to get from the airport to my hotel... I did more preparation for this trip than I normally do. I actually sort of knew the price for the taxi between the hotel and the airport. And yet somehow, I still ended up paying five times as much as I should have done. The flight from Amsterdam to Beijing took about 9 hours and I didn't sleep so well, so I was confused and waylaid by an English speaking unofficial taxi. As the driver turned off the main road down into a grubby alley, I certainly remembered the promise I had made to my mum, not to go off too much on my own while in China. The hotel was actually down the alley (because it was cheap), so thankfully I didn't get murdered. The next time I used a Taxi I got overcharged by 3 times the proper fare. Also, two of the taxi driver's burly friends got in the car as well as we set off with no explanation. When the guy next to me pulled out a 20 Yuan note, I knew he was hitching a ride, so I wouldn't have to elbow him in the head.Now that I live in Scotland I know that the English are an evil race. Somehow this evil gets passed onto to English speaking Taxi drivers. The English language is like an evil virus. The only time I payed the correct amount was in a cab driven by someone who spoke no English. That is my proof of my conjecture, that people who speak English are passing on the original sin, completed. Also, people who are experts in English grammer are always so annoying and patronizing. Perhaps the message is: only use taxis with working meters, if you don't want to spend 90% of the journey time worrying about being hit in the head and robbed. Anyway now that I have got my anti-taxi rant out, we can continue my tale of tourism in the capital of the middle kingdom. The hotel was clean and the staff were friendly. The hotel was close to the main railway station of Beijing. My room overlooked the railway tracks. One night I looked out to see 20 men pulling a locomotive with a rope. Every time they pulled it they shouted. This was passed 11:00 pm.

An introduction to my trip to Beijing

This is my record of my trip to Beijing. Just like Marco Polo's "The Travels of Marco Polo", I am not writing at the time of the trip, as I normally do. I am writing it in the comfort of my own home. There was only a single computer in the hotel I stayed, apart from the computer in my room. I couldn't understand the instructions on the computer in my room, because they were in Chinese. If I wasn't on holiday, I probably could have got it working. I did actually read "The Travels of Marco Polo" while I was in China. Hopefully, my report will be more accurate than Marco Polo's. I certainly saw no cannibals, men with tails, or heard of any tales of Noah's ark. Apparently, some people now speculate that Marco Polo never went to China, because he never saw the Great Wall of China. The scholars think that Polo made up some of his book. However, one of my guides said that he felt that the great wall of China was in a state of disrepair when Polo passed through. Perhaps, I didn't goto China. I could be making this up. My trip to China could have been a cover for me to lock myself in my flat to watch the first 4 box sets of "24".

Monday, March 26, 2007

Give the anarchist a cigarette

I am stuck in Amsterdam airport waiting for my final flight back to Glasgow. I think I managed to blow a huge amount of snot around the plane from Beijing. I picked up a wet cold before I left. I will post about my experiences in China later. As part of my holiday reading I read the book "Give the Anarchrist a cigarette" by Mick Farren. This was a sort of hippy who was around the counter culture in the late 60s. Some how he managed to survive the 70s as well, given that every story involved hime drinking a huge amount, doing LSD and snorting cocaine. Somehow he also wrote novels, edited a magazine, and was in a band called the socal deviants. He also organized a free music festival in theUK where the MC5 played. I am going to check out some of his music, but amazon tells me that some of it is collectable (that means expensive). He liked to party but he was actually very insightful about the counter culture as well. I did get a bit tired of the pages about getting wasted, but he did seem to achieve as lot. Thismay have been because he stayed away from the needle. He mentioned a band called the fuggs -- that I will also search out. Time for beer. Only another 4 hours to kill before my flight.

Friday, March 23, 2007

banned in China

You will be happy to know that this blog is actually banned in china. How did this happen I don't know. I was about to rant on how tasteless torfu was, but I couldn't get to my blog from the computer in the hotel. The torfu incident was caused by me pointing at a picture in a fast food restauramt. I thought the white things were chicken. Frankly torfu doesn't taste of anything. It seems a bit extreme that I can't post on this important topic. I am sure that in a nation of one billion people a complaint about the lack of taste of torfu (that is no doubt efficient to produce) relative to the yummy taste of chicken is an important political issue, but one of the reasons to go to China is for novel and spicy food. I did see my blog and made my first post from China. The next day I just saw a page of chinese charcters. Perhaps, I will get deported. I still have the edge.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


So here I am in China, blogging on the hotel computer. Let us hope that the Chinese authorities let me post some comments here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The host

Last night I watched a great DVD from Korea, called "The Host." This is a modern version of a Godzilla like story. A family battles a monster around a river, when it takes one of their children. The monster was believable, but there was a lot of slapstick humor too. This is a recent DVD release. One of the few Korean things I know about is Wonhyo the monk, so I was pleased that the film included the Wonhyo bridge.

Monday, March 12, 2007

china blues

Although I am looking forward to my trip to China, I am starting to get nervous about it. I have just bought a good guidebook for China: "The Travels of Marco Polo," so I should be well prepared. From the rough guide to Beijing, it looks as though there is a fairly high prospect to get ripped off by Taxi drivers. I can see a huge international incident, based on me getting in fight with a taxi driver, because the fare is too high by 2 pounds. Also there seems to be a lot of counterfeit money circulating in China. Also I managed to pick dates to visit, during the peak season for dust storms. Anyway the trip should be fun, but probably not so relaxing.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Prereview of Grinderman CD

I am looking forward to getting the new grinderman CD. I stopped always buying the latest Nick Cave CD sometime ago. I was getting a bit bored of Cave's slow whinings. I am quite happy to listen to slow sad music. but Cave doesn't have the right voice. The one Grinderman track I have heard sounds more agressive and mean. I did buy a CD by birthday party (Cave's first band), but somehow I didn't really get it. The birthday part sound made more sense when I heard that Cave was influenced a lot by Johnny Cash. Anyway Grinderman sounds more birthday party than Nick Cave.


Ok, so I now agree that this Internet business is a good thing. I have been wearing some stronger boots, but the shoelaces typically came undone twice a day. This was getting annoying, because I had to keep stopping on the street to tie them up. Most people learn how to tie their shoes, when they are about five. I have always known that I wasn't tying my laces optimally. Somehow I wasn't trained correctly. Anyway as you get older it does become harder to ask people to show you the correct way. Anyway, I decided to end my hidden and secret shame. So I logged on and found this useful site. I now walk to work and I don't need to stop to tie my shoelaces. One of the reasons I never wanted kids was that I worried about the time when I had to teach my son to tie their shoelaces, knowing that I didn't know how to do it properly myself. The curse would be carried on for another generation. Although this shoelace tying issue may sound a bit trivial, BUT what if I was tieing my laces and someone came up behind me, and like violated me. I wouldn't be able to sit down for a week, and I would be emotionally scared for life. Also, what if I got into a fight, and I needed to accidently kick someone in the head. What if my boot fell off -- frankly it would be uncool, no matter how many Ninja butts I had just kicked. I feel like a new person. No longer do I slink around Glasgow, scared that my boots would become unravelled and I would have to bend down and do the tieing ritual. For the first time in my life I feel like a real man.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


I have finished reading "Scotland - a short history", by Christopher Harvie. I can't say I have a much better feeling for the history of Scotland. I am not sure I take much in when I read books on plane journeys. Of course English history is much simpler. You just have to say "1066", and recall that England won the world cup in 1966. If pressed, you can always say "the Manga Carta -- did she die in vain", and then look superior in a well bred sort of way. I studied the history of the long march in China when I was at school. (OK, we also studied English castles). Anyway, what Chancellor Brown is thinking, when he is proposing to have citizen tests for new immigrants. The immigrants will know more British history than we do. That will change Britain, because ignorance of history is part of our national heritage.


The high point of my weekend was going to be finding ASDA. In principle there is an ASDA store fairly close to me, but I still have to find the place. The executive summary of long boring slog was that I got lost and coudn't find the store. Actually, as I was walking up a deserted road I found that I needed a p*ss, so turned back into the warm arms of Tesco in the Maryhill shopping centre. I did find that I am living very close to a big fire station, a police station, and a bingo hall. When I lived in Liverpool, close to the end of Park Road, I also lived close to a police station, fire station, and bingo hall. Coincidence? I don't think so. I certainly don't plan where I live based on where the fire station in the city is. It is clear that I have not actually moved from Liverpool to Glasgow at all. Both places don't exist, and there has just been a slight rearrangement of the reality set where I live. I have read enough Philip K. Dick novels to know that it may be time to get seriously paranoid. However, I have a very Zen attitude about this. Even if I am the center of some vast alien experiment, I can still buy CDs. Also Tesco is selling 5% cans of larger for 62p, so why rock the boat? That Judas character in the first matrix film had a point, if you don't know that reality is not real, do you really care? I am disturbed that the Aliens seem to want to put a Bingo hall close to me.