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Why is Everything Yellow

August 10th, 2018

I’m back in the UK now but somehow things seem … different. When I left Heathrow in February it was snowing and around freezing. Now it’s 30+ degrees and all the grass has turned yellow. Weird.

Somewhere near Marlow

Went for a walk the other day between Loudwater and Henley. Just following the Chiltern Way like I did way back in 2011.

I have to admit the new scenery is rather photogenic, and the complete lack of mud is a welcome bonus.

Henley park

Barry Chuckle

August 5th, 2018

Was sad to hear Barry Chuckle, the shorter Chuckle Brother, died today. 1990s CBBC wouldn’t have been the same without endless repeats of ChuckleVision. And some of the jokes are surprisingly still funny (ish)!

Hong Kong

August 4th, 2018

I spent a few days in Hong Kong on my way back to the UK. Can’t remember how many times I’ve been here now, feels like a lot…

Street in Kowloon

The temperature is about the same as the UK, fortunately all the buildings have air-con.

Sunset by the harbour

On the second day it was a bit rainy and cooler which seemed suitable for a little hike. I did this route to Kowloon peak.

Kowloon in the mist

I wouldn’t really recommend it as it’s mostly just dull road, apart from a brief section where I took the photo above, and once I got to the top everything was hidden by cloud. Reminded me of that time I went hiking in Taipei. Although the information panel below suggests it’s quite scenic here in good weather.

Scenic spot (maybe)

Not Paris

June 19th, 2018

China has a bit of a thing for building extravagant replicas of western landmarks. One I found out about recently is this Paris-alike in the outer suburbs of Hangzhou, complete with Eiffel tower.

And these residential buildings modelled on the Champs Elysees. I actually rather like it, it transforms what would otherwise be an utterly unremarkable suburb into a mini tourist hotspot. And it’s probably quite fun to live in too.

Shanghai apparently has “Thames town” which is modelled on a traditional English market town, so might have to visit that some day too.

All Rain All The Time

June 3rd, 2018

I’ve discovered something very important about the summer here: every day it’s either 30+ degrees, or raining, or both. This rather limits the potential for outdoor activities so I’ve been going to a lot of museums recently. Which is a shame because I actually found some really good places west of Hangzhou to go hiking.

On Saturday it was raining less than usual and only 20-odd degrees so seemed perfect to go out of a walk. There’s a network of well-maintained paths that connect all the mountain ridges here. An information board said there’s 108km of them, but I got pretty tired after a few hours due to the extreme amount of up-and-down.

The route I was on links up with the Lingyin temple I visited back in March, so you could take the cable car up/down if you’re feeling lazy.

Carefully Slide

May 28th, 2018

Here’s an interesting machine translation fail I’ve seen a few times recently.

Actually “carefully slide” is a valid translation of 小心地滑, but presumably the sign writer meant something like “careful, slippery floor”.

小心 means “careful” and 滑 is either a verb meaning “to slide” or an adjective meaning “slippery” depending on the context. The problem is the character 地 in the middle, which if pronounced like is a noun meaning “ground”, but if pronounced like de is a special grammatical particle that connects adverbs to verbs (it’s a bit like -ly in English). So you can either read it like careful-ground-slippery or careful-ly-slide.

Interestingly I tried just now and Baidu gave me “Caution! Wet Floor!” and Google gave me “Caution: Slippery”, so I guess technology has improved a bit.


April 19th, 2018

When I went to Wuzhen a few weeks ago I missed the last bus on the final leg of the journey and had to take a taxi. I asked the driver if there was anything interesting in Huzhou, the nearest city, and he told me there was nothing there. Actually he was telling a bit of a fib because there’s another old water town on the outskirts called Nanxun 南浔 which is arguably a better day out than Wuzhen, much quieter at any rate, and nowhere near as commercialised.

百间楼 Baijianlou houses

The old town is split into two areas. In the north is the peaceful and picturesque 百间楼 Baijianlou (literally “100 room buildings”) area. There’s a bit of a story to this, apparently a guy in the Ming dynasty wanted to get married, but the bride refused because his house wasn’t large enough to accommodate her 100 maids, so he built 100 houses for them, and they lived happily ever after.

Southern part of Nanxun

The southern part of the old town is busier, with more shops and attractions, but also quite picturesque, especially in the late afternoon. One of the things I didn’t like about Wuzhen was the lack of museums and buildings that you could go inside (they were all shops or hotels). Nanxun has both! There’s a few small museums, an art gallery, a temple, and several preserved homes of famous former residents, none of which I’ve heard of. The day ticket to all the attractions costs 100元.

Some Qing dynasty furniture

Getting there from Hangzhou is quite straightforward, just take the long distance bus from the north bus station. Takes around two hours and costs 42元. I reckon it’s also doable as a day trip from Shanghai or Suzhou too, in fact it’s closer to those two cities. The last bus back to Hangzhou leaves at 17:30 so make sure not to miss it, and maybe buy a return ticket as soon as you arrive to be on the safe side…

Leaving in the evening

Some Walking Near Longjing

April 19th, 2018

Last weekend I felt like doing a bit of walking to went to a village called Longjing which is just outside Hangzhou and easily accessible on the local buses. This place is quite well known for its famous green tea, which you can see growing in all the photos below.

There was entirely too much walking up steps for my liking though, and my calves really hurt the next day.


April 8th, 2018

Someone reminded me recently that doof.me.uk has been pumping out content for over ten years now. Let’s take a moment to remember the heady days of 2008…

The first public release of xcowsay, happy times

Although judging by my visitor stats most of what I’ve written since has been read by almost no one. As of April 2018 my most popular articles are:

  1. xcowsay, obviously
  2. Various posts about my VHDL compiler
  3. A not very well researched post about getting FreeBSD to boot with GRUB2
  4. A random script I wrote back in 2011 to use BBC Weather with Conky (now broken)
  5. A cute trick to use objcopy to embed arbitrary binary blobs inside .o files
  6. My recent musings on coats without hanging loops

Not really sure what conclusions to draw from this… 🤔

Nick Samples the Peasant Life

April 5th, 2018

I’m doing a language course here at the moment and the school lets you take some optional courses. I’m doing one on Monday afternoons called 茶文化 “tea culture”. In common with other courses here, most of the time is learning vocabulary, but this one has tea sampling as well. And our teacher organised a field trip last Sunday! To go to the countryside to experience the 农民 life and make some tea. 农民 is a good word, it means something like “peasant” but without the negative connotations the English word has.

The tea growing area is rather scenic

Picking tea is great fun and very relaxing. It’s not totally mindless either as you’ve got to find the ones that have two leaves and a 芽 (“bud”?, “sprout”?, not sure) and pluck it just below the second leaf.

Some tea leaves I picked

After drying the leaves for a bit you have to fry it to remove all the moisture and stop whatever biological processes cause it to decay and rot. This is a surprisingly skilful activity, as I am about to find out…

Professional tea frying technique

I have no idea what I’m doing

The end result is supposed to be flat and and a light green colour. Mine are curly and a very dark green verging on burnt. I also messed up and took the leaves out too early and then guy told me to put them back in again because they still had water. The wok was scalding my hand though 😟. He also told me a lot of other stuff I was doing wrong that I didn’t understand.

Well at least it looks like tea

It’s not pretty and has an alarming unpleasant smell but surprisingly actually makes drinkable green tea when you brew it.

Not the best tea you’ll ever drink