Guangzhou Theme – WordPress and bbPress

So finally, after an extended development period and many people asking ‘are you ever releasing it’, I’ve released the theme files for the Guangzhou WordPress and bbPress theme.

As I say elsewhere:

Guangzhou is a two-column fixed width theme for both WordPress and bbPress. It is highly configurable, with two widget areas (sidebar and bottom), as well as customisable skins and many other options. It supports threaded and paged comments, making for very flexible discussion pages, as well as separating pings and trackbacks from comments – essential to keep the flow of conversation consistent.

Guangzhou has been in use on this site for over a year now and drives the appearance of both the main website and support forum. One of the main reasons for selecting bbPress for the forum was it’s integration with WordPress, and this theme brings this even closer.

I even took some extra time to make a short video:

Note that this theme requires WordPress 2.8 or bbPress 1.0

Guangzhou Theme

I’ve had a lot of queries about the theme I’m using on this site and I’ve so far answered that it’s a work-in-development and not quite ready yet. I’ve finally spent some time cleaning it up and before making it publicly available I thought it wise to give it a quick testing cycle. As such, if anyone wants to beta test the Guangzhou theme then drop me a line and I’ll send it on over.

The theme requires WordPress 2.7 or 2.8, and there’s sister theme for bbPress 1.0 (alpha). You will also need a login to this site so I can give you access to the private bug tracker. While the theme has been in use for the better part of year it has been targeted at my own requirements and I’m sure that there will be some changes needed to open it up. Saying that, it is very customisable and allows very tight integration between WordPress and bbPress, as well as Sniplets. It’s fully localised, and if you use a plugin like WP Minify then it will also seamlessly allow you to reduce CSS and JavaScript overheads to a minimum.

London Dim Sum – Yauatcha

Living in Guangzhou had many advantages, and one of the biggest was the cheap availability of food. As the centre of Cantonese cuisine, Guangzhou (previously called Canton) is more than well placed to provide some tasty treats. My brief experience with Northern food revealed a somewhat stodgy bread-based diet and combined with my return to London I discovered that I missed real Guangzhou Dim Sum.

Since then I’ve tried several places in an attempt to find something satisfactory. First was an anonymous restaurant in China Town, which in retrospect is probably not a good place to find Chinese food (aimed more at tourists than anything else). Next up was a hopeful Chinese/Jazz fusion, courtesy of Shanghai Blues. I left here feeling disappointed – the dumplings tasted bready, the contents were indistinct. Prices were also too high.

Continue reading “London Dim Sum – Yauatcha”

China Freeze

I’m cold. Very cold. For the past two weeks China has been experiencing the worst winter in fifty years. Much of the country has been covered in snow. Living in the relatively warmer climates of Southern China you would expect winter to be a mild affair. Last year it was, but this year the temperatures have dropped to around 4 degrees (daytime). Now this isn’t such a low number when compared to other parts of the country, but the important factor is that the South is completely unprepared for such weather. For example, the building I live in has absolutely no insulation, the windows have gaps along the edges, the door leading to the balcony is an interior door, and there is no heating of any kind. The building itself is made of concrete and this only seems to intensify the exterior temperature. I can safely say that this is the coldest winter I’ve ever experienced – cold, damp, and miserable. Prague seems balmy in comparison.

The weather has affected the country just before the main Chinese New Year holiday, and right at the time when millions of migrant workers want to return home. Apparently 500,000 of them were stranded at the main train station here in Guangzhou, due to cancelled trains elsewhere on the network. The situation is so bad that the army was called in to calm the situation. The estimated cost to the country is about 18 billion yuan. Ouch.

All I can say is roll on spring.

Christmas in Bejing

After two years in China I finally managed to do something I’ve been planning to do for a long time, namely visit Beijing. As Southern China is such a very long way from the North, Christmas seemed as good a time as any, and after some last-minute clicking I had a flight and hotel booked to see me through the Christmas period.

Not only is Beijing geographically distant from Guangzhou, it’s also different in most other respects. The people look different, they behave different, they eat different, and they speak different. It would be easy to convince yourself you are in a different country entirely.

Continue reading “Christmas in Bejing”

Post-holiday slowdown

Malaysia and Singapore were great. What more can be said?

Singapore was everything I was expecting it to be. Big, modern, clean, efficient, and expensive (although not as bad as Hong Kong). I’ve read many people describe it as a little soul-less. Maybe if you live there for a few years the size of the place may feel restricting, but for a few days it was perfect. It was particularly nice for me to have access to all the modern conveniences I don’t have in Guangzhou, and not to be constantly viewed as a ‘gui lo’ (a somewhat derogatory term for foreigner).

As to Malaysia, well, it’s a much bigger country with a far wider array of cultures and geography than I could possibly fit into a short stay and a few paragraphs. The mix of cultures is really amazing, with people speaking countless languages, practicing many religions, eating all manner of different (and very tasty) foods, and all living in a fair resemblance of harmony. The people actually smile and talk to each, and I never once felt like a tourist. Super stuff.

Would I go back? I’m already considering it!

Malaysia beach

Site redesign and new plugin

A new design! I decided I needed a new and fresh look and the result is the still-in-progress ‘Guangzhou’ theme. My hope is that it’s both easier to navigate, as well as being lighter and more suitable for future work. Comments, as always, are welcomed.

In conjunction with the new theme I’ve made use of WP-Cache and Gravatar cache, which should result in a noticeable speed improvement. The site itself has undergone a good clean, with all invalid code being replaced, all dead-links now corrected, and the addition of new sections for software, articles, and about myself.

On top of that I’ve added a new plugin: HTML Purified. This plugin changes the default comment filter and replaces it with HTML Purifier, a very exhaustive library that checks, validates, and corrects HTML. Not that WordPress is insecure by default, but this just beefs it up a notch, and ensures that comments are both safe and XHTML valid.

Durian – King Of Fruits

It’s that time of the year again in Asia when the much revered and reviled fruit, the durian, is in season. If you’ve never come across the durian, it is a large spiky fruit somewhat resembling a bulbous cactus.

Here’s a quote showing the reverential awe it can inspire:

Imagine the best, most delicious, and sensuous banana pudding you can imagine, add just a touch of butterscotch, vanilla, peach, pineapple, strawberry, and almond flavours, and a surprising twist of — garlic! Like many of life’s greatest experiences, eating durian cannot be adequately described with words. Durian has a characteristic delicious flavour, creamy texture, and tantalizing fragrance that is just… durian! — the king of fruits, nature’s most magnificent fruit gift.Durian Palace

The taste is certainly very unique, being both appealing and slightly repulsive at the same time. It does make a great filling for a dessert, especially when cooked in durian tarts or inside pancakes. Raw durian can be very strong, and is equivalent to eating garlic – it’s a taste you’ll find repeating on you throughout the day.

On first tasting it I thought it like the flesh of some animal in a state of putrefaction.Henri Mouhot, French naturalist

Continue reading “Durian – King Of Fruits”

Small Yellow Inflatable Pigs

It was Chinese New Year a few weekends back and amongst the celebrations Guangzhou had its New Year Flower Fair. This is a local tradition going back over 500 years to the Ming Dynasty. I decided to check it out in the evening and went to one (of several) locations in the Beijing Road area of the city.

Continue reading “Small Yellow Inflatable Pigs”

Singing For Absolution – Muse in Hong Kong

It’s funny how the world works. Only the other day I was complaining to a friend about the lack of musical events here in Guangzhou (or, at least, musical events I’d want to listen to) and that if anyone did come over and play, someone such as Muse for example, I’d buy a ticket in a heartbeat. A couple of weeks later and I’m watching TV when an advert comes on for a concert… Muse are playing in Hong Kong – just two hours away. That’s close enough for my prophecy! It took more than a couple of heartbeats, but suffice to say that I’m already booked in and feeling pretty pleased.

According to the site I have this to look forward to:

Following 2003’s chart-topping masterpiece “Absolution”, the trio released their fifth and yet another UK number one album “Black Holes and Revelations” in July 2006. Hit singles include “Supermassive Black Hole” and “Starlight”: the former is a dance tune with a twist that sounds like a cross between Beck and Marilyn Manson with a dose of Studio 54 glamour while the latter is an Abba gig on the moon. “Knights of Cydonia”, a surf-prog number, is another favourite single taken from the album.

An Abba gig on the moon. Nice. Sure beats my ears bleeding from the more local Twins concert.

I’ve no idea what to expect from the concert itself. Hong Kong is not exactly known for it’s rock scene, and the concert itself is conspicuously on Lantau Island, far away from civilisation (next door is the airport). Admittedly this is because the Asiaworld Expo centre is located there (where the concert is playing), but I also suspect that Muse’s prog-rock warblings may cause a few puzzled looks if it neighboured any civilisation.

Hong Kong here I come (again)!