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。

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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 shortsighted.

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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生命那些事儿

又到年尾,参加圣诞聚会,准备圣诞礼物,和小朋友一起装扮圣诞树…… 小朋友已经知道耶稣不存在,圣诞老人也不存在。孩子们就这样不知不觉的长大了,好像这一年比一年过得快。

记得年初的时候,读了两本书,《When Breath Becomes Air》 (《当呼吸变成空气》),《The Things You Do For Love》(《因为爱》)第一本书关于死亡,第二本书关于爱。选择这两本书读,不是偶然的巧合,死亡和爱就是那段时间我想探寻的话题。

三十六岁的保罗,神经外科医生,刚刚结束了长达十年的专业培训,被诊断出晚期肺癌,《当呼吸变成空气》是他在生命的最后一年,写下那些文字。拥有文学,哲学,历史学和医学学位的他,无论是文字的魅力和他的经历和视角都是非常独特的。书中描述了他成为神经外科医生的艰难,成为外科医生以后面临一个又一个频临死亡的病人,他要和他们一起面对那些绝望的时刻,这其中包括他的同事因为压力而自杀身亡。当然书中笔墨最多的还是他如何面对自己的死亡。他说:“接受现实往前看是显而易见的,问题是我不知道我的生命还剩下多少时间。如果是三个月,我就选择和家人在一起,如果是一年的时间,我会写一本书,假如有十年的时间,我会回去继续做医生治病救人。” 他不知道他有多少时间,他选择了继续做他的外科医生,他还选择了写书。他不再去寻找剩下多长时间的答案,他所知道的就是时间不多了,就争取每一天做最想做的事。如果和广袤的宇宙相比,我们每个人的时间都不多了。

《因为爱》是一本小说,探索女性职业生涯和兼顾家庭生活双重挑战话题。书的作者是女外科医生,Rachel Crowther。小说中有绘画,有雕塑,有音乐,有英国,有法国,当然还有爱,有背叛,有挣扎,有报复,有宽容,有和解 … 吸引我的除了小说中的人物和故事以外,还有作者本人。Rachel 在做了二十年的医生以后,辞职写作,在接近五十岁的时候出版第一本小说,她还是五个孩子的母亲,热爱文学,音乐,绘画… 我欣赏她这样丰富的人生。

圣诞前,有幸观看到 AlphaGo 的记录片。那不是关于生命的故事,但像生命的故事一样让人感动。因为片中给观众留下的思考似乎和生死一样深刻,那就是人和有智能的机器的关系。片中记录了在 AlphaGo 在伦敦的办公室第一次的人机大战,那时是AlphaGo 战胜了当时的欧洲杯冠军樊麾。然后片中详细跟踪 DeepMind 公司核心人员奔赴首尔,记录了AlphaGo和李世石的世纪大战。李世石在赛前的发布会上自信满满的说,他相信他可以胜,他预估结果是五场中或许会输一场。然而我们看到输了第一场的李世石。一路没有微笑走出来的他真的应该不只是难过,更多的是困惑吧,他不相信这个事实,但是还要面对这个失败。在接下来的两场比赛中,我们看到了一个无助的世界冠军,不断的皱眉头,搓手指,中途,他还会要求停下来,去酒店楼顶阳台抽烟。三场都输了之后,在新闻发布会上他第一句话说的就是向大家道歉。现场的观众还有电视机前的韩国人甚至更多人都留下泪水。不过李世石毕竟是天才,他在第四局的第78步下的一手妙招,搬回一局。那时候全场沸腾,(当然 DeepMind 团队除外,他们都在电脑前看数据,找Bug)赛后有记者问到这78步李世石是怎么想的。他非常自信的说,那个位置就是那一步最佳的选择,他很确定这一点。因为这一步,李世石得到了全世界的尊重。这场比赛结束了,结果刚好和李世石预测的相反,他赢了一场,机器赢了四场。令人感动的是,李世石赛后真诚的感谢 AlphaGo,感谢它让自己对围棋又有了新的理解,激发了他更多新的想法。虽然 DeepMind团队胜利了,这时候的观众都在为李世石鼓掌,祝贺。或许有一天,人类也会放下那些恩恩怨怨,一起面对未来威胁整个人类的挑战。

新的一年即将开始,生命的挑战,生活的挑战,未来的挑战,都会无情的到来。应对它们,借《唐顿庄园》里一段精彩对白:

“I suspect she’s quite a tough nut.”   (“我猜她是个难缠的胡桃。”)

“And I am quite a tough nutcracker” (“我可是那个绝对锐利的胡桃夹子啊。”)

无论遇到的挑战是什么,就把它当作nut, 做一个自信满满的 nutcracker 吧。2018,祝大家新年快乐!

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Jam Factory

02/11/2017 Jam Factory

I was with the research group in a factory-transformed restaurant in Central Oxford. It was a King assigned marmalade factory in 1800s.

The building was well preserved and has been decorated with paintings, crafts and photographs. These art works are also labelled with price for customer to buy. It is a gallery but serving food.

I wondered if the owner was an artist or a business man or woman with passion for art. My friend walked me around the place, from corner to corner. There was another group of people gathering for drink as well and they then joined an art workshop in the art centre, a well equipped meeting room.

The menu includes burgers, streak, fish etc. I ordered a medium steak with half naked chips. I was amazed with the name of chips. The British tried very hard not call French fries French fries. They can be skinny chips, naked chips, finger chips etc etc. How creative, or defensive. After a long waiting, finally, the food was served, “steak with french fries”, I said to my English friend. To further entertainment, we discovered that the French fries actually originally created in Belgium in 1600s.

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Karate

07/10/2017 Karate

I am sitting at a corner of a community hall, watching my boys in a karate session. The groups started with running in a circle, following instructions of a master, running forward, sideways, pushups, situps … I love this part, which reminds me a lot about my childhood sports training. Mine was much tougher than theirs. It was full of painful stories.

Kicking, punching, shouting, they started practising more advanced forms. It is amazing watching British participating an Asian art. They look like falling in love with the sport so much and I can see their dedication on every move.

Half of the group are adults, in their 30s, 40s or even 50s. Some of the beginners are adults too. I wonder what made them to start to learn a new sport at this age.

They started to work as a pair, practising defencing skills with a partner. They talked a lot, not sure all related to the skills, but look like enjoying the discussion.

Everybody lined up in rows now. They are performing all the forms they have learned starting from the basic. Although everybody does the same move, you would not expect the performance like our soldiers marching style, in which everyone is in one rhythm like one person. They are performing in their own pace and the master will wait for everybody complete and then start another instructions.

Now it is the last bit of the hour, everybody running in his own spot as fast as they can and then do situps. It is the toughest part as this session goes. You can hear their heavy breathing and sweats from their foreheads.

Now, everybody sits with eyes closed, as the master said, “It is the time to reflect what we have learned and what you will practise at home this week.”

Then everyone stood up and bowed to the master and to their peers. Kungsu! Everyone shouted with their fist up in air. 空手道,万岁?!

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Observation Notes @ Clinical Decision Unit

This week, I had an adventure visiting local hospital A&E. With most parts of my body still working well, I was curiously watching the operations there and the following are my notes and thoughts. It might not make sense at all but it might be interesting to share……

At A&E, soon after a few checks, I was sent to Clinical Decision Unit (CDU), where patients need to be watched, checked and wait until a duty doctor can make a decision on their cases. Normally this should take a few hours or more as the decisions are made based on some test result come out. And a decision could be taking more tests based on the results. My case fell into the latter scenario and I was there for totally 36 hours.

During the time, I was regularly checked by nurses on body temperature, blood pressure etc. I was also given pain killers regularly based on my feeling of the pain. There are about 30 to 40 patients in two large rooms with beds and a waiting area with seats. I believe there are about 10 staff at one time, including nurses, managers and doctors. To take care of every patient by different nurses and doctors, the operations in general are quite efficient and smooth, how do they do it?

Every patient is allocated a bed, a folder with a bed number, which has all the medical information, different forms, doctor and nurses’ notes, test reports etc. A doctor or a nurse have to take care of multiple patients and a patient will be taken care by definitely more than one nurse or doctors. During the time I was there, my case has been reviewed by three doctors and I have been taken care of by seven different nurses. Every time, different nurses come to me, asking my name, my date of birth before he or she conducted any action, such as taking blood for tests or giving medications.

There is a big screen in the room, showing the patient and their medication measures which I cannot fully understand but I believe that screen show an overview of the Unit, the capacity, the progress etc. If some patient needs to be sent home by an ambulance, the Unit manager will arrange the transportation. Every so often, we can see the patient were sent in on a medical bed by a crew of ambulance and the duty manager of the Unit helps to arrange a slot for the bed. Patient sent from the A&E room should sit in the waiting area first to wait until a bed is available. The managers also take care of the staff who are responsible for food and clean the bed.

The interesting moment is the doctor review time and how they make decisions. This could happen case by case or by a routine review in the morning or evening. When all the results come back and check-up completes, a doctor will review the case. In the morning session, the doctor came with trainee doctor and his medical student. They discussed each case based on the information of patients’ folder, talk to nurses and then talk to the patient. I believe this is very much evidence-based decisions as the doctor will discuss the patients’ symptoms, the test results and the decision, which could be more time to watch and monitor, more tests to do or discharge from the unit. They also will ask how the patient feel and see if they can help in any way. All sounds not that hard if the symptoms are not life threatening and most of the time the patients got discharged with assurance as every test results show the body is reasonably function well.

At this point, you might wonder why I am interested in this? What is my point?

Let us compare this operation to a live defect fix scenario in a software development team. Dealing with live defect is like working at A&E. A system with live defect has to be fixed or a work around has to be applied by a developer at a limited time. Sometime the defect can be fixed quickly but sometime the defect takes ages to investigate. The live defect fix process is not as smooth as the Clinical Decision Unit. Most of the time, we will see following scenarios:

  1. Sometime, the systems are too poor to be fixed. This kind of systems are often called Legacy. I don’t know why this beautiful word is used to describe something going to be dumped soon. Often it is quite difficult to fix a live defect of a legacy system as the technology is outdated and nobody really knows what is going on inside.
  2. Sometime, the investigation can be time consuming as the developer need to reproduce the live issue in a development environment and sometime it is quite tricky to do so.
  3. It is quite common that one system can only be fixed by one or two developers as they have all the knowledge and it will take too much time for others to do the same job.
  4. It is also quite common that a live defect fix can trigger another defect as the quick fix applied with time pressure might not be technically sound and often it overpasses a development pipeline because of time constraint.

Compare to the CDU, the systems with live defects are like patient registered in A&E. The developers are the doctors, we have managers to take the defect in but no nurses to do the check-ups or specialists to do all kinds of tests, or analyse the results, such as blood specialist, heart specialist or radiologist to look at the X-rays etc.

There are more differences comparing the live defect fix with A&E operations, see the following:

  1. No nurses
  1. No routine tests
  1. No specialist
  1. The system cannot talk
  1. The systems are all different comparing to a human body
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