24 September 2012

I recently moved over to Tumblr. You can now find me here: http://mfperkins.tumblr.com/

18 July 2009

Review: China Shakes the World

China Shakes The World China Shakes The World by James Kynge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Since living in Beijing (2003-05), I've become obsessed with China. I read everything I can get my hands on. The strange thing about James Kynge's book, is that it neatly chimes with many of my observations and feeling about about China's rise. His style is anecdotal yet informative. It's easy to read, carefully researched, gently opinionated, and illuminating. A highly recommended introduction to anyone who wants to understand the impact of China's rise more fully.

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24 May 2009

Spokane, WA

Spokane is an odd place. Washington's second biggest city sits about 300 miles east of Seattle on the I-90 right on the river of the same name. It's featureless. A grid of big streets and relatively charmless buildings, modest houses, and little soul. We parked Randy at the Travelodge (cheap and cheerless, but did the job) and went out to find some life, a few people, some bars, etc. We found none. What is in this city? Finally, after a run, we settled for Azteca Taco (great Mexican food - weird) and Terminator Salvation (gotta love Christian Bale). Laters Spokane.

23 May 2009

Yachats, OR

It was a long day. Wolfman dragged me out of bed at 5.45am. We were crossing the Bay Bridge just after 6am. Ten hours later and 600+ miles, Randy was cruising the Oregon coast. The road sliced through the edge of think boreal forests and snaked alongside massive sand dunes.

I'd heard loads about how beautiful California is, but no one had told me about the Oregon coast. Out running along the beach in Yachats the next morning revealed a little gem. The white sand stretched for miles towards the horizon, cool air blew in from the ocean bringing whiffs of the salty sea. People walked their dogs. Kids played in between the rocks.

Of course, the weather was gorgeous which helped. But as the sun warmed my back, I could happily forget what it would be like in deepest, darkest February.

21 May 2009

Yosemite, CA

You get your first glimpse of Half Dome through the tall pine trees coming in from the west. The giant granite wall catches the evening sun, lighting up in a brilliance of yellows, pinks, and reds. Perhaps more than anywhere else, Yosemite personifies America's natural beauty. The sweeping vistas of El Capitan, the Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, and the Merced River, stun and awe.

The gang spent three days in the park, soaking up the magical views and pushing our bodies to the limit.

Day 1: the upper Yosemite Falls, a 3-hour climb of interminable switchbacks leading up through the wooded walls of the valley. We climb 1,500m vertical meters to the top and peer out over a ledge towards the valley floor. A huge torrent of water thunders passes us, explodes into a spray of white, and plunges hundreds of meters to the canyon floor below.

Day 2: A 5.30am start. Half Dome our objective. It's a long gradual climb alongside the rampaging Vernal Falls, swollen with snow-melt and then off into the forests than flank Half Dome's rump. Five hours of trail trudging lead up to a rocky outcrop below the snow-capped rock outcrop. From afar I see a small ant-like trail of people slowly crawling their way to the top - we've arrived at the "cables". People gather in front of the two steel ribbons that guide hikers up over the final rock bulge to the mountain's bald head above. It's near vertical and the granite is worn slick by thousands of rubber soles. Climbing the cables requires an odd arm-leg hauling technique and a strong stomach (the steep drop offs to the valley floor are not for those scared of heights). It's a virtual cauldron of human emotions: bullish husbands castigate fearful (and tearful) wives; teenagers debate the risks of slipping with the rewards of summiting. For some it's hard to accept that they cannot conquer their fears and struggle up the final 500 feet, but for others the views of the snow capped Sierras and the gurgling rivers are enough.

Day 3: I crawl out of bed after the deepest of deep sleeps and mow in a hearty breakfast - have to fill the calorie deficit after conquering Half Dome. We drive down to the Mariposa Grove to walk amongst the ancient sequoia trees. These red-barked giants are impossibly huge. The oldest - more than 2700 years - have gnarled stubby trunks, their soft, fibreous bark insulating them from regular fires and disease. Time moves slowly in these forests. Nature will be around long after we are gone.