Wednesday, July 27, 2016


This could be the high point of my trip to Greece.  Today we went to Olympia, the site of the original Olympic Games ~2,700 years ago.  And I ran in the original stadium of the Olympic Games.  

It was hot. I had hiking shoes on me.  I was carrying a fairly heavy backpack.  But I didn’t care.  I would hate myself for passing up the opportunity to run in the original Olympic Stadium.  I ran from one end of the stadium and back.  Runkeeper said I ran 320 meters in 1 minute 43 seconds.  Not very fast, of course. But I did run.  

There was also the place where they light the Olympic Flame, in front of the Temple of Hera, the wife of Zeus.  

This place is great.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016


I moved out of my office which I have occupied for 22 years. Because I have retired from the Department of Computing to work at the Office of Service-Learning.  I moved the books that I need to my new office, and then, following the good practice of some of my retired colleagues, piled the rest of the books outside my office to pass on to other colleagues and research students.  There were probably ~250 of them.  

The stuff that I threw away - papers, proposals, reports, theses, student assignments, and various documents, etc. - filled 3 big green dumpsters.  That’s how much stuff I have accumulated in those 22 years.  Academic papers deserve special mention.  While you remain an active academic, academic papers in respectable conferences and journals are treasured, indeed, critical for survival and respect - both from yourself and otherwise.  Once you are retired, however, do people still care how many papers you published?  I doubt it very much.  Hence I recycled the hardcopies without a shred of regret.  Of course, that is also because I have practically all of the soft copies in my computer.  

A lot of thoughts and memories came to mind while I was going through my staff.  Right now, I am just relieved I managed to clear out 22 years of stuff in 4 days. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Amazing Frog

At the Manchester Museum, we met Dr. Andrew Gray, an expert on frogs, and other amphibians.  He showed us a sleeping frog, which, from a distance, was almost indistinguishable from a green leaf.  

Then he woke the frog up, and it turned into this amazingly colourful little critter. It climbed onto my hand, and sat quietly.  Amazing.  

We fought to take photos and to hold it. The frog turned us all back into little children. 

Then Dr. Gray brought out a chameleon and a python.  More Awe!!! Ah!!! Wow!!!  Some, however ran away.  If only we can spend more time with nature.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

History in University of Manchester

Our group went to Manchester to learn about the amazing social responsibility program at the University of Manchester.  

I have always had an impression that UM has a strong history in science and technology.  I also knew that after the Second World War, Alan Turing worked on computers at Manchester. Hence I was very happy, when I got there, to see the many references to Alan Turing.  

I was even more excited that one of our meetings was held in Rutherford’s laboratory.  It  is amazing that I can sit in the room where Rutherford and his associates probed the atom with alpha particles. When some of the alpha particles were deflected, it was an evidence that the atom has a heavy nucleus.  His experiments and the resultant model advanced our understanding of the structure of the atom tremendously.  It is a great privilege to be able to sit in his laboratory and discuss advances in university education.  I did not realise it at the time, but I can see my computer on the table in the photo.  

One of the many social responsibility projects at UM is the study of the hundred+ languages spoken in Manchester, a result of the huge influx of immigrants from the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, South Asia, Middle East, Asia, etc.  Languages are of course associated with specific ethnic groups.  We met the project team in the Indian restaurant “Shere Khan”, obviously named after Shere Khan the tiger in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book stories.  Shere Khan left a deep impression in me because I watched with my daughters the Jungle Book movie by Disney many many times when they were young.  

I wish I can take my family here one day.  

Saturday, July 16, 2016

English food

In a short 3 days, I have already encountered a number of iconic, or at least unusual, food in Manchester.  At the first dinner in a famous local pub, I had bone marrow for appetiser.  It is basically fat and occasionally eaten in China.  Hence I was mildly surprised when some of my Mainland Chinese companions ordered the same but could not stomached it when it arrived.   

Yet many cultures treasure it as nutritional, and even medicinal.   In Isaiah 25:6 in the Old Testament in the Bible, “On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food … full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.”  To me, it tasted … just like pure fat.  

On the following day at breakfast I encountered again black pudding (a black disc), which is basically a sausage made with blood as an ingredient. 

On the final day, before going to the airport, I had fish and chips for lunch.  The fish was cod, soft and white, with a mild taste.   

In between, I had a memorable lunch of Indian cuisine.  There were sumptuous amounts of curries, meats, spices, sauces, breads, …  It was a feast of aromas, colours and tastes.   

No, I did not eat Chinese food in Manchester. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Works, Manchester

The Works is a project by University of Manchester to match workers with jobs.  Workers looking for jobs register with The Works.  University of Manchester posts its jobs with The Works.  Applicants who need certain skills required for the jobs are then given the appropriate training to help them qualify for the jobs.  Some times applicants work as volunteers at the organization to acquire job experience and build up confidence, to prepare for real jobs.  In the three years since its opening The Works has helped thousands of people find jobs.  A senior human resource manager at University of Manchester manage The Works.   When he spoke of the benefits to the unemployed, the community, the society, …, he spoke with passion, more like a social worker or government official rather than an administrator.  

The benefit for the university?  Better relationships with the community, better reputation in general, better recruitment of students, … - for a modest investment of resources.   It sounds like something that applies to any large employer. Why aren’t more universities doing this? Why aren’t more employers doing this?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Black Lives Matter

The University of Manchester made Social Responsibility one of its 3 main strategic goals, alongside research and teaching. I am here to learn about that in an event organised by the University Social Responsibility Network.  Last evening, when the program is over, I went out of the hotel around 8:45 PM to run a few kilometres before it gets dark.  I was immediately confronted by a big crowd marching and chanting up Oxford Street from the south.  

At first, I wasn’t sure whether I should stay away.  As I watched from the distance, the marchers seem peaceful even though I could not make out what they were saying.  There also seemed to be just a few police officers around and they did not look tense or threatening.  So I walked along the marchers a bit.  

It turns out it was a “Black Lives Matter” march.  They were protesting against police brutality, apparently triggered by the recent killings in the USA.  Some of the marchers seemed angry, shouting repeatedly demanding justice, stop to the killing, etc.  But there were no violence and the marchers were orderly.  The buses and cars stopped, the marchers passed, and the traffic resumed.  There were probably several thousand people, certainly more than just hundreds. 

There was one thing that was a little disturbing.  Some marchers were holding a banner demanding the release of Munir Farooqi.  The newspaper described him as a “former Taliban fighter given 4 life sentences for trying to recruit people to fight in Afghanistan.”  But some people claim that he was just trying to build bridges amount communities.  

The University of Manchester has 30,000+ students.  More than 10,000 are foreign students.  Among the British students, however, many are ethnically Chinese, South Asians, Africans, Arabs, …  Diversity is celebrated in the university.  The majority of the marchers were black.  But there were quite a few whites.  I saw no Chinese as far as I could tell.  In this society, ethnic issues are a serious matter.