彼岸

周末组织了”彼岸”本年度的最后一次活动,和出版人,代理人,媒体人见面,促进华人作家在英国闯入主流的文化市场,在英国出版自己的作品。这对于像我这样的第一代华人移民,或许永远是一个梦。不过生命还在,希望就在吧。

请来的业界四个嘉宾都给我们讲了好多实际的,真诚的建议。摘录几条和大家共勉:

“能把一本书写完就是一件了不起的成就,这个过程足以令你的人生丰富多彩。”

“写自己的最想写的故事,挖掘你内心深处的表达,总会有人和你共鸣。”

“每个人都可以写一部自己的故事,小说家的突破就是从写自己的故事到写别人的故事。”

“这个时代充满机遇,传播分享的渠道如此之多,但是机会最终会留给那些有准备的人。同时我们坚信好的作品是一定会被发掘的。”

“写作是一个孤独,艰难,充满挑战的艺术创作,任何一部好的作品都需要天分,需要技巧,需要不断的加工,打磨,需要始终如一的热情,如果能出版,还要有天时和地利。”

“一定要多和他人分享你的作品,请他们给你提意见,”

“写作是一个人的事,出版是一个合作的过程,这个过程可能会和写作一样不容易。”

“试着从小做起,参加各种写作比赛,寻找每一种分享作品的机会。”

……

做任何一件事,何尝不是这样呢?

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nextflow with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) – tutorial with a working pipeline

One week ago, I was googling a lot looking for a working example running a nextflow pipeline on a Kubenetes cluster, specially in Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), I could not find any.  Luckily,  I got a lot of support from nextflow gitter,  specially from Paolo Di Tommaso.  Finally, I made it work and now it is time to share this with you all.

Before start, I assume you have read the following to get familiar with the nextflow way of running a pipeline in Kubernetes cluster.

latest nextflow with Kubenetes

In summary, this new feature provided by nextflow (version 0.31.1 in this post) with Kubenetes has following three benefits:

a. It combines the deployment and execution of nextflow pipeline in one command.

 nextflow kuberun <pipeline-name> -v vol-claim:/mount/path

It  uses “nextflow kuberun” rather than “nextflow run”, all pipeline parameters can remain the same.

b. The nextflow pipeline is deployed from the cloud to the cluster.

The nextflow code is from GitHub and the docker image is from Docker Hub. In my opinion, this is a good limitation to facilitate the best practice of development of nextflow pipelines.

c. The deployment and execution of nextflow pipeline is independent from the Kubenetes cluster.

We can run “nextflow kuberun” in any kubectl-enabled client, as long as that client can run “nextflow” and “kubectl”. In my case, I have Azure CLI installed in Ubuntu, where I can run the nextflow locally like following.

$docker@ubuntu-docker:~/Code$ git clone https://github.com/nextflow-io/rnaseq-nf
docker@ubuntu-docker:~/Code$ $cd rnaseq-nf
docker@ubuntu-docker:~/Code/rnaseq-nf$ nextflow run main.nf -with-docker
N E X T F L O W  ~ version 0.31.1
Launching `main.nf` [sick_khorana] - revision: 1699921c4b
R N A S E Q - N F   P I P E L I N E
===================================
transcriptome: /home/docker/Code/rnaseq-nf/data/ggal/ggal_1_48850000_49020000.Ggal71.500bpflank.fa
reads     : /home/docker/Code/rnaseq-nf/data/ggal/*_{1,2}.fq
outdir    : results
[warm up] executor > local
[fb/901fd1] Submitted process > index (ggal_1_48850000_49020000)
[f7/5dd477] Submitted process > fastqc (FASTQC on ggal_liver)
[2d/b928a6] Submitted process > fastqc (FASTQC on ggal_gut)
[73/70bd77] Submitted process > quant (ggal_gut)
[ea/e9d3e7] Submitted process > quant (ggal_liver)
[38/602698] Submitted process > multiqc
Done! Open the following report in your browser --> results/multiqc_report.html

So, our goal is, to take this working pipeline to run it in a AKS using the “nextflow kuberun” command. To do so, we need to prepare:

  • a Kubenetes Cluster
  • a persistent volume claim, to access a storage account of Azure
  • configure this rnaseq-nf to have a profile for AKS

Let us start.

Continue reading

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Teaching Chinese

I am just back from a Chinese teacher training workshop. It was an inspiring and enjoyable experience. The instructor, Chris Webster, is a passionate Chinese trainer who developed a learning toolkit for students aged 11 to 16.

His toolkit is well thought and can be used straight way for Chinese teachers. As a native speaker, although I am confident to teach my students about everything about Chinese, the toolkit and his way of teaching is still fascinating to me.

The workshop starts with discussion on the challenges of learning and teaching Chinese in UK schools. We all agree it’s pretty difficult to teach Chinese. There are at least five aspects identified, Attitude, Behaviour, Support, Slow progress and Time Constraint. Most of us think that attitude is the biggest challenge as self-motivation is such important for learning anything. However, we do know most of our students are sent to school by parents, I guess no kids like to learn this language deep from their heart at that young age. It reminded my fear when I started to learn English in Year 7. I was so afraid to learn a new language. It is all for the tests, for the opportunity to go to a good university. My learning has never been self-motivated, deep in heart. So can motivation be built easily?

Chris showed us a good discipline for Teacher’s Talk, the 5Cs: Consistent, Concise, Checks Understanding, Creative and Communicative. And he is so good at those disciplines. Be consistent about speaking target language for teaching, this has been challenging for me for a while, I have never been consistent to use Chinese, English or both; Using simple and clear phrase to get students involved in the activities; Constantly checking and communicate with students about their understanding. And most important, he is so creative about the learning material, learning activity, such as using banter, rap with Dr Dre and all possible visual and art forms to teach. You can imagine how enjoyable the students are learning Chinese with him.

A few techniques from Chris that worth to explore:

  • Give your student an authentic Chinese Name, they love it
  • Use Think – Pair – Share for practice
  • Use 5,4,3,2,1,0 counting down to get student attention
  • Let the students to read aloud, explain the activities and correcting mistakes
  • And lots of 3 version of visual (with English, with Pinyin and without)

OK, learning never ends,even for teachers … the most important thing is the attitude. If we love Chinese training from heart, we are half way there.

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Radcliffe Camera

I am reading Shakespeare’s poem (my homework from Coursera) in Radcliffe Camera, a 270 years old library in Central Oxford. Only the university students and staff can come in. This is such a privilege! I like to come here to remind myself how lucky I am working at this best learning environment in the world.

While reading, I cannot help looking at the splendid dome, the beautiful carvings on every corner of the building and the statue of John Radcliffe, the notable doctor to the King. He funded this library, together with University College and JR hospital, where my office is.

I sit here right in front of John Radcliffe statue, admiring the heritage, the elite of the scholars whose work have been collected here and the well reserved artefacts. It is the human civilization we should all be proud of. And sitting here seem to be part of it and got inspired and encouraged.

At this place this moment, I am satisfied, contented and also feel humble from heart. There is no excuse to complain, to blame or to find any excuses for not being good enough.

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2018@上海

老同学为我们的上海聚会选了一家在上海南京路上的川菜馆,就在地铁口的旁边,特别棒的选择。除了地点,还因为我也特别喜欢川菜,在腐国有限的黑暗料理中,川菜算是最解馋开胃的了。当然,聚会,聚餐不是只为饱腹,能一下子见到那么多老同学,是件不容易的事。

从外滩到南京路,走在上海的街头,正是下班时间,和匆匆的路人擦肩而过,我想起拜伦说的关于去东方旅行的那句话 “去东方,看看那里的人们,而不只是在书本上读到他们”。用今天的话说,应该是,”去看看朋友,而不只是在朋友圈里读到他们”。

十五年前,也是怀着这样的好奇,一张维真航空的单程票,把我带到遥远的英格兰,那时候,就是想看看那里的人们,想知道他们的生活真的像书本里写的那样吗? 转眼间,十五年过去了,回到东方,这里倒变得陌生起来,时空的交错,给我一种幻觉的感受,在上海的街头,我被魔都迷住了。这是我人生中第四次来上海。1986年,1998年,2008年,2018年,大约每十年,我都和这个城市有个约会。来这里,感受她的变化,体会她的底蕴,尝试着理解她,爱上她。这座承载着近代中国历史的城市,次次来都有令人难忘的发现。

最近的十年这个国家进入了史上空前繁荣的时代,”中国梦” 让所有人心醉神迷。在追梦的路上,这个城市展现了这个阶段特有的风景: 街道上奔跑着豪华的私家车,路边有随处可见的共享单车,还有那些无畏风雨的,机敏穿梭在狭窄弄堂里的电动摩托车。在外滩,精美的西式糕点店和清晨炸油条的拐角小屋只有几步之遥。南京路上,豪华的哈根达斯冰淇淋店里热闹非凡,新华书店在一个无人问津的角落里冷冷清清。浦东的摩天高楼,气派的机场,先进的高铁,十八条地铁线;科技馆里的中英文讲解,妙趣横生的机器人展览;免费向公众开放的上海博物馆和中华文化宫都无疑的向世人展示这是一个超级现代化,国际化的大都市。一位爱聊天的出租车司机跟我说,上海是一座二十四小时不停歇的城市,有朝九晚五的上班族,也有晚九朝五的服务族,还有全天候的网路一族。在追梦的路上,大家都不能停歇。仅仅用一个游客的眼睛去观察这个城市肯定是不够的。遗憾的是,我从没有在这里工作,生活过。这是一个令我仰慕的城市,似乎自己配不上她,只能偶尔来看看,短暂的拥抱她,然后可以愉悦的回忆十年。

是的,这场聚会也可以让我愉悦的回忆十年,昔日的老同学,个个都是时代的缩影。他们不仅在事业上的打拼,对老一辈,下一代的一丝不苟,也是这个时代特别的印记。饭桌上,大家只能简短的说说自己这些年的经历,幽默诙谐间,我们知道,每个人的这些年都不简单。在毕业二十多年以后,我们都努力成为了想成为的自己。

那个晚上,回到外滩,久久不能入睡,我的耳边一遍遍的回荡李宗盛的那首歌:

       为你我用了半年的积蓄,
       漂洋过海来看你
       为了这次相聚,
       就连见面时的呼吸
       我都反复练习
       言语从来没有将我的情意
       表达千万分之一
       为了这个遗憾
       我在夜里想了又想
       不肯睡去 … …

毕淑敏有一篇散文叫”旅行使我们谦虚”,说的特别好。旅行帮我们打开尘封的记忆,唤起我们对世界的好奇。每一次旅程都是一次奇妙的体验,在一个陌生的城市,在一个新的时空,在慢慢感受她的不同的时候,也慢慢看到一个不同的自己。感谢各位老同学的到来,我们相约十年后再见!

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乐声悠扬,体验东方

2018年二月四日,和每个周日一样,我带小朋友去利兹华人中文学校学中文。不过今天除了上课以外,中文学校有一个特别的活动。学校来了一群远方的客人,来自广州六中暨六中珠江中学民乐团的朋友。他们一行几十人来利兹华人中文学校和小朋友们做音乐文化交流。这是一个曾经两次在国际级音乐殿堂——星海音乐厅进行专场演出的乐团。我和小朋友一样,对今天的活动充满期待。

音乐教育是英国学生的必修课,英国政府规定,五岁到十四岁的在校生必须接受音乐教育。2004年,英国政府还公布了“音乐宣言” (The Music Manifesto ),保证为每一个年轻人提供学习音乐、了解音乐的机会,并培养出世界一流的音乐教师,让所有的英国青少年都能掌握音乐技能。虽然小朋友在学校有不错的音乐老师,学习乐器,但是对中国的民族音乐,民族乐器他们就不了解了。中文学校能提供这么好的机会让小朋友有机会看专业乐团的表演,不少家长也和孩子一起来了,不想错过这么好的体验机会。

盛大的音乐工作坊在学校的礼堂举行,为了欢迎远道而来的客人,中文学校的小朋友表演了一段热情洋溢的舞狮表演。接下来,乐团的老师和学生一起给大家介绍各种中国的民族乐器。

最先出场的是二胡,老师和同学们用英文给我们介绍二胡的历史和经典的曲目,然后乐团的同学给大家演奏了阿炳的《二泉映月》,虽然小朋友们都不熟悉这个乐器和这首曲子,但是他们都在仔细的听,感受两根琴弦创造出来的美妙音乐。

接下来出场的弦乐器还有琵琶,中阮。虽然知道琵琶有“民乐之王”之称,我还是第一次现场听到琵琶的演奏,可以说被乐团同学们的童子功惊到了。因为天气的原因,乐团老师和我们解释说同学们的手不能像往常那样灵活,我们可都是陶醉在音乐里,没觉察出来呢。清脆的琵琶和浑厚的中阮把我们带到了一个美轮美奂的东方世界。

弦乐过后是吹管乐,率先出场的唢呐。乐团的小朋友虽然年纪不大,高亢嘹亮的唢呐声在礼堂里回响,真的像有喜事了呢。

唢呐过后,我们有幸听到乐团指挥郑明君老师给我们表演的笛子家族,包括洞箫,长笛和短笛。最后还有用笙来吹奏的一曲《草原巡逻兵》,悠扬的乐曲把我们带到辽阔的内蒙草原上,仿佛听得到远处的马蹄声声。

音乐坊的小高潮出现在接下来的《送别》,这是一首中文学校的同学为客人们准备的小合唱。虽然乐团的老师和同学和中文学校的小合唱团的同学从未谋面,他们即在现场为合唱团用钢琴和笛子伴奏,来了一场完美的合作演出。

正如“音乐宣言”中说:“音乐是神奇的,它呼唤着和表现着人类的美德:想象力,约束力,合作和决心,它丰富着我们,引领着我们”。

Music can be magic. It calls for and calls forth all human virtues: imagination, discipline, teamwork, determination. It enriches and inspires.

虽然,“送别”了远方的客人,我们的音乐旅途仍将继续,让我们一起和孩子们在音乐中成长吧。

Posted in 诗文歌赋, 人生感悟 | Leave a comment

Chess Club

I am in the local chess club with my two boys. It is a community centre in outskirt of Leeds. The children meet every Sunday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 at term time. There are about 25 kids, from age of 7 to 18. I have to say Chess is not a popular hobby among children, comparing to foodball or even drama in this country.

The club is run by three volunteer teachers. One is retired chess coach Nick, who is well over 70 years old. One is John, who also organises Yorkshire chess association. The third teacher is David, a young man who assists John on most of the events. Because the three teachers are volunteers, the club fee is almost nothing comparing to music tuition or other after school club.

The community centre is not very well equipped. Parents have to help the kids to set up tables and chairs at the beginning and move them back to the store room at the end. Nick has a portable projector to show his chess puzzles on the screen. But as the projector is in low spec, the image is not clear to me possible because I am badly nearsighted.

The meet starts with a warm up play session. Kids sit randomly playing a game or two before the tutoring session begins. As the kids are in different levels, the three teachers are leading a group each, say beginners, medium players and advanced players.

Watching all the kids in the dimmed room, amazingly, the kids look quite contented. They interact with their teacher actively. They think and smile. They enjoy as that is their hobby from heart. I guess playing chess is the joy of game itself than anything else.

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