From University

Reminiscences from my days at Durham University

Tan Kah Kee’s Scholarly Legacy

Jimei School Village

Xiamen covers a relatively small administrative region yet has three highly regarded universities and other educational institutions, many of which are historically linked to overseas Chinese philanthropists who sent money back for their construction. The photo above shows Jimei School Village which was founded by Mr. Tan Kah Kee who made his fortune through rubber plantations and manufacturing businesses.


He also donated millions of dollars to establish Xiamen University (above) and what would later become Jimei University (below) which both have particularly beautiful campuses well worth a visit just to stroll around and enjoy the old traditional buildings and a tranquil lakes. Interestingly the buildings use a  unique blend of Western and Chinese architecture with red brick walls and glazed tiles on more traditionally shaped roofs.

Jimei University Lake

Such was his contribution to education in Xiamen that a museum was recently opened (below) to chronicle his life’ work and there are many statues of him dotted around the city. There’s quite a lot of content translated in English but possibly a bit much for a short visit. The beautiful garden is the main attraction.

Tan Kah Kee Memorial Museum

One thing which struck me was how impeccably clean Xiamen is in comparison to most Chinese cities that are often more than a bit grimy around the edges. Apparently the city was recently voted China’s cleanest and one can imagine that student life here is pretty nice, something which I always appreciated and miss from my time studying in Durham (UK).

Back to School

It’s been a long time since I posted anything under the “University” category since I graduated over two years ago and whilst I may be a little older and wiser the learning never ends! Since visiting Korea twice this year I felt it was about time I learned a bit of the language so signed up for the Beginners Korean course at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Three lessons later and it’s not going to badly but I think I’m going to have to put a fair bit of effort in to be able to keep up with the work – somewhat reminiscent of when I studied Japanese!

Korean is significantly easier to learn than Chinese or Japanese as the alphabet (called Hangul) contains only 40 characters, compared with tens of thousands in the others! If it’s of any help to anyone I’ve put together a quick reference chart which contains the consonants (19) and vowels (21) along with English sounds to help with pronunciations.

Korean Hangul Chart

You can download the chart in a variety of formats on Scribd. Please remember that I’m in no way a language expert so can’t guarantee the accuracy of the chart (although it’s been fairly thoroughly checked by native speakers)!

Update (29/12): I’ve also updated a Korean Numbers Chart (Pure Korean & Sino-Korean) and Korean Verbs & Patterns Chart.


During my last week in Durham I took a few walks around to take some snaps of the surrounding area which is particularly beautiful at this time of year. Late morning on a very hot day I visited the Botanic Garden which is situated up the hill next to Grey College and took a few snaps some of which I quite like…

Botanic Garden
Larger Version

Botanic Garden
Larger Version

It’s worth checking out the larger versions to see the details on the plants which show some nice patterns and textures up-close 🙂


Been a bit quiet on the posting front the last couple of days – this might have had something to do with dressing up in silly robes and being paraded about Durham Cathedral. Yesterday I finally graduated from Durham University so am officially no longer a student! The author Bill Bryson is the new Chancellor of the university so was in charge of the handshaking bit (poor guy!). He gave a pretty good speech which thankfully wasn’t to long. I’ve ended up with a BSc in Software Engineering which I’m pretty pleased with!


Pollen Allergy


Although I have never had hay-fever in the past my eyes have been itching and watering almost constantly the last few days. Apparently it’s something to do with the current high pollen levels for which I was prescribed sodium cromoglycate eye drops. Whilst this is all well and good £6.50 for a tiny 13.5ml bottle of something which is little more than water (2% active ingredient) is pushing it in my opinion. You can easily see that for people who have persistent medical problems the costs are soon going to add up. Luckily for for us in the UK we have the NHS (National Health Service) which will cover you if you can’t afford to pay so I guess it all evens out in the end but I’d still like to know where the almost 100% profit from my eye drops goes.


We’ve been having a bit of a heat wave here recently and last Wednesday we went rowing on the river which was very pleasant. Today things took a turn for the worse but it’s still very hot and humid making it pretty uncomfortable around here. For better or for worse, the end of an era is coming – today I sold my academic gown and tonight is my last meal ever in college (although I can’t say I’ll be missing the food!). I graduate next Wednesday which should be interesting, if no a bit tedious probably! After that it’ll be time to finally say goodbye to Durham and move on to pastures new…


After a torturous journey up to Durham yesterday I received my exam results and was happy to achieve a 2:1 BSc degree in Software Engineering! No desmonds around here thank you! All I have left to now is to actually graduate on the 29th of this month then it’s all over. I’ll be sure to make good use of my student card in the next few weeks while it’s still valid (does this thing even have an expiry date…)! Now time to relax a bit for the next few months 🙂

Also… now avaliable in communist flavour!

Sushi Surprise


Last night we made sushi! Personally I had never even eaten sushi, let alone made it so it was a double first for me! Out able teacher/supervisor Kanako showed us how to do it. The actual preparation turned out to be more fiddly that the actual production of the sushi which in itself is quite simple. A blow-by-blow description here would be a bit pointless considering the number of sites on the net which do a much better job!


As for the sushi itself – I found it pretty tasty. We used raw salmon for the fish element which I guess is fairly harmless and tame compared with the weird and exotic that you might expect. As with all things it comes in a wide range of varieties and even has its own vocabulary. We made sushi rolls known as Norimaki (correct me if I’ve got this wrong). If I can do it, anyone can so go try it now!

Roast Pork

Roast Pork
Post cremation!

Roast Pork
A toast – faces cut to protect the innocent!!

Roast Pork
Setting the scene

Roast Pork
“Someone” sneaking off with the vin rouge!

Sunday night I put on my metaphorical chiefs hat and, with the help of an assistant, cooked up dinner for a few friends consisting of roast pork, roast potatoes, carrots & broccoli, followed by Carte D’or toblerone flavored ice cream (to die for!). Considering the lack of culinary resources (and wine glasses!) I’d say it went pretty well with the exception of the gravy which didn’t turn out quite right (but still tasted OK).


Durham Cathedral

The weather in Durham has been pretty good recently. I took the above photo last week on a short break from revision (one of many!). Whilst it’s a fairly stereotypical shot of the Cathedral I quite like the composition with the tree leaves silhouetted in the foreground. I’ve desaturated the shot from the colour original and used a ‘softglow’ filter to make the whole thing stand out more – you can see this better on the higher-res version.

At 11am tomorrow the exam nightmare will be over and I’ll be free forever from formal education (in theory at least!) so a small moment to mark in the history books! Expect more soon, very soon…

Coming Soon…



So busy… No time to post… Must not get distracted by Star Wars
Must. Revise.

Actually my next exam is nearly two weeks away but thats no reason to be complacent especially when it comes to the intricacies of the 3D graphics pipeline and distributed computation algorithms! Probably best not to mention the first exam – half good, half awful :-S