Tongli Rocks, the best desktop picture ever

I’m particular about the appearance of my computer, and a good desktop picture (also known as “wallpaper”) is essential not only for aesthetics, but for contrast and readability. Over the years I’ve searched a fair bit for pictures that fit my criteria. I think a good image must:

  • be generally dark in tone, no only to aid in readability of the textual labels of  desktop items, but also to provide contrast and framing for application windows;
  • look good at the edges, which is usually all I can see of the picture;
  • be beautiful in and of itself.

I’ve made a number of my own over the years; NASA’s high resolution pictures of Mars and Saturn in particular can make great desktop pictures. But there is one image that, in my opinion, tops them all. It is called Tongli Rocks. Here it is:


The description says simply, “A completely unedited photo taken of rocks in a garden in Tongli, China.”

I believe I first found this image at InterfaceLIFT, which at the time was called Xicons. I keep coming back to it. Unfortunately, its useful life is about to come to an end, at least for me: this year I expect to replace my display, which is 1920×1200, with something quite a bit larger. 1920x1200is the highest resolution of this image I’ve been able to find.

InterfaceLIFT lists “Amaus Design,” as the creator of the picture, and links to, which no longer exists. Looking at, there’s a copy of from September 16, 2008 and it’s apparent from the few pages in the archive that the owner of the site was a David Ward in Melbourne. I’ve done a couple of quick searches but have not been able to find a Mr. Ward who is obviously the right person.

So my search resumes. Perhaps one day I’ll travel to Tongli and try to find the gardens. More likely I’ll go out to the Nitobe (Japanese) Garden at UBC and see if I can get a similar effect.

Oregon July 2013

Back from a week driving mostly through Oregon; I’ve long put off exploring Highway 101 and visiting Portland. I really love our part of the world and believe it’s unfairly dismissed; I would honestly rather be on our cool, wet coast than sweating it out in the tropics.

After a two-hour border wait, left I5 and drove Route 12 to the coast. Bypassed Aberdeen via Route 107, a quiet wooded drive that reaches 101 which eventually hits the coast. It was a muted foggy evening and crossing the Columbia was beautiful in early twilight. Eventually got to Cannon Beach—longest drive of the trip, even excluding the border boredom. It was dark but the outline of Haystack Rock was visible and the rush of ocean a welcome sound.

Next day started overcast but beautiful.


The sky cleared and I rode Waffle, a gentle old Belgian (get it? <groan>) from Sea Ranch Stables, north on the beach.


After some sleuthing, found Newmans at 988, a well-hidden contrast to the greasy spoons on the main drag (the shops were nice, though; Cannon Beach is what Sechelt could have been rather than a crass big-box centre, sigh). Besides great service—sat outside and had wine and bread forty-five minutes before opening—they prepared a great vegan meal for me. Excellent food, and a nice little room.

In the evening, rented a tricycle and cycled many miles south on the beach. It was magical: a beautiful evening, birds, sand, waves, and a few people, including a photographer and his dog taking pictures of gulls circling over their sea stack.





It’s difficult to convey how beautiful this place is; the photos only jog the memory. It’s worth the trip.

On to Newport the next day, with some beautiful sights along the coast.



Newport was a nice little town; not as beautiful as Cannon Beach, but the dunes at the beach were something I’d never seen before.


Drove down the coast a bit further the next day to Devils Churn and Thor’s Well at Cape Perpetua. (It’s interesting, isn’t it, how in such an insanely religious country the most beautiful natural features are named after “the devil” while destructive forces such as hurricanes are “acts of ‘god'”.) Actually got right up close to this fascinating feature—a little nerve-wracking as the tide was coming in, but worth the risk.


Left the coast and drove the quiet and beautiful Route 20 and up through Willamette Valley wine country—unfortunately a little too late in the day for many tastings, but Firesteed kindly re-opened and I bought some nice Pinot Noir and a good Riesling from them.

On to Portland and the Ace Hotel. This is hands down the coolest place I’ve ever stayed. Amazing atmosphere, inventive hip old-timey décor, and good service.



Reading The Dog Stars, a great book, in 207, a “standard back room“:


Visited the Portland Japanese Garden, which was lovely. I love Japanese Maples.



Bought some wine at Vinopolis: all Pinot Noir, all Willamette Valley, recommended by the helpful staff:

See my CellarTracker account, where I’ll post tasting notes as I work through these.

Second great meal of the trip was at Portobello Vegan Trattoria. I had Beet Tartare (roasted beets, carrot aioli, and capers with cashew cheese and baguette) and Portobello Roast (portobello roast, creamed kale, polenta, sundries tomato jam, roasted garlic cashew cream), accompanied by 2009 Cana’s Feast Pinot Noir. Lemon-Thyme Cheesecake for dessert (pistachio crust, lemon thyme cashew-coconut cheesecake, raspberry coulis). An excellent dinner.

But Powell’s Books was the highlight of this visit. I posted to Facebook, “There are approximately a trillion books here. All interesting. I am never leaving.” The place really requires days to appreciate. Bought a few: Dave Eggers’s A Hologram for the King; Chuck Klosterman’s I Wear the Black Hat; David Sedaris’s Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (I guess I’m in a comic mood); and How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti, which I’d not heard of but looks interesting.

That was pretty much it: spent a night in Seattle on the way home, and ate—twice!—at Plum Bistro, my favourite. Vegan grilled peach pancakes, yum!


And of course an obligatory trip to The Elliott Bay Book Company, which while not nearly as massive as Powell’s is certainly no less inspiring. I picked up Neal Stephenson’s Some Remarks on sale.

The only sour note of the trip was upon returning: the !@#$ Canadian Border Services Agency levied a “provincial liquor mark-up fee” and other miscellaneous bullshit charges which amounted to over 88% (!!!) of the value of seven of the nine bottles I brought back—they allowed me to claim the two most expensive. I knew I’d pay something, but this is ridiculous. I am even more steamed now about the antiquated, Prohibition-era alcohol policies in BC, that results in our having probably the most expensive wine prices anywhere. A couple of years ago I wrote Jenny Kwan, my MLA, about the issue and received a non-answer. I generally agree with the NDP, but I expect the BC “Liberals” will be more likely to show progress here. I’ll write the Minister of Justice, who appears to be responsible for the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. I am left-leaning, and I really don’t mind paying taxes, but I feel that drinkers, and wine enthusiasts in particular, are being penalized for reasons I can’t fathom—probably history and inertia. See Free the Wine in BC for some good information.

At any rate, it was a great trip. I really was able to leave work behind completely for the first time in probably a year. Now, with Monday morning looming, I have to try to remember what it is I do for a living.